With protests occurring throughout the country, arrests for curfew violations and vandalism are on the rise. Clashes between police and demonstrators are turning ugly, and the news has been flooded with images of police using disturbingly violent methods against protesters and vandals alike.
A police encounter is stressful even without the added pressure and chaos that ensues when police attempt to arrest mass numbers of people at once. At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, we are committed to protecting the rights of our clients and holding officers accountable for questionable and unethical arrests. Keep reading to learn what your rights are and what do if you are arrested at a protest.
What Are My Basic Rights at a Protest?
You have the right to exercise free speech at traditional public forums, which are areas like streets, sidewalks, and parks. While protests can occur in front of government buildings, protestors cannot block access to the building or interfere with other purposes the property was designed for. Additionally, protestors have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view at a lawful, gathering. If a protest turns into a march, demonstrators do not need to have a permit to use the streets or sidewalks. However, police can order protesters to move to let pedestrians or traffic pass safely.
What Should I Do If Police Stop Me After the Protest Disperses?
Arrests often occur when police shut down protests and order crowds to disperse. It is important to note that police should only use a dispersal order if the protest is clearly turning into a riot, interferes with traffic, or poses other immediate threats to public safety. Police must also give protesters a reasonable opportunity to comply with the order. This means protestors should have sufficient time to clear out, as well as an unobstructed exit path. Police should also specify the consequences if the crowd fails to disperse before they make arrests for violations of the order.
If you are stopped or arrested by police at a protest, affirm your rights by doing the following:
- Remain calm and don’t argue or resist. Acknowledge that you are exercising your first amendment right and are not disrupting anyone else’s activity.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says you are free to go, walk away. If the officer places you under arrest, remember that you have the right to remain silent. Ask for an attorney and do not say or sign anything without first speaking to your legal representative.
- If the police ask to search you, you have the right to state you do not consent. Consenting to a search can affect your case if it goes to court.
- Do your best to remember everything you can about the arrest. Try to memorize the officers’ badge or patrol car numbers. If possible, get contact information for witnesses of your arrest.
- If you are injured during the arrest, take clear photos of your injuries as soon as possible.
Our law firm is here to fight for you if you or a loved one have been arrested at a protest. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense lawyers, please give us a call at (800) 462-7160 today.