Over the last few months, protests have erupted in major cities across the United States in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. These protests have often resulted in protesters sustaining injuries caused by law enforcement authorities as well as protesters getting arrested. Here, we want to discuss the rights that protesters have in these cases and what you can do if you are arrested at a protest.
What are your rights?
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has outlined the rights that protestors have when they take to the streets to speak out against injustice.
As a protester, your rights will be the strongest when you are on what is considered “traditional public forums,” including sidewalks, streets, and parks. You are generally allowed to protest so long as you are not blocking pedestrian or vehicle traffic. You have the right to march in the street or on the sidewalks without a permit so long as you are not obstructing car or pedestrian traffic.
Most people also have the right to protest in front of government buildings, so long as they are not blocking access to the government building or interfering with other purposes that the property was designed for.
Private property owners are allowed to set rules for speech on their premises. No government authority can restrict this speech if it is taking place on private property with the consent of the property owner.
It is important to recognize that counter-protesters also have the right to free speech. Police must treat protesters and counter-protesters equally in these situations. While the police are allowed to keep antagonistic groups separated, they should still allow them within sight and sound of one another.
When you are lawfully protesting in a public space, you have the right to video or photograph anything it is in plain view, including law enforcement officials and federal buildings. This video and photo evidence could be invaluable when it comes to potential criminal or civil cases.
If you believe your rights have been violated
If you have attended a protest and believe that your rights have been violated or you have been arrested, you should keep the following steps in mind:
- When you are able to, write down everything you remember about the incident. This includes the officers’ badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and the agency that arrested you.
- Get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses to the incident.
- Gather photographic or video evidence and make sure this is secured in a safe place. This includes photographs taken of any injuries you incur.
All of this information will be beneficial when you need to file a complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division for a civil complaint board, as well as any personal injury lawsuits that arise due to the incident.
Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices
If you or somebody you love has been arrested at a protest and are not sure what to do next, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices today. We are standing by and ready to help you get through this situation. You can contact our team by clicking here or calling (610) 692-8700. We have offices across Pennsylvania. See All.