While most of the protests have been done within the legal guidelines, an increasing number of groups have been enacting civil disobedience to call for an end to injustice. This has resulted in hundreds of arrests nationwide.
If you have already participated in previous protests, or are seriously considering it in the future, there are numerous laws you should become acquainted with to protect your rights, your safety, and the safety of others.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Agencies such as the American Civil Liberties Union have established go-to guides to familiarize yourself with for protests that did not end well due to improper planning or permits or excessive police force, or if you are seriously thinking about participating in a protest. According to their site, we all have a right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly, as a fundamental function of our democracy.
Here are a few nuggets of information regarding your right to peacefully demonstrate:
1) Your free speech cannot be restricted, as the Constitution completely protects all types of speech. You are, however, not allowed to place anyone in the apprehension of fear or threaten them, or violate “time, place, and manner” restrictions put in place by your local government.
2) You can engage in free speech in traditional “public forums” such as streets, sidewalks, and parks. Be cognizant of whether a permit is required and the time frame of such permits. If you do not have a permit, please stay on the sidewalk and do not obstruct or detain fellow pedestrians.
3) You may engage in free speech on private property, as long as it is yours or you have been given consent by the property owner.
4) You may distribute leaflets and other literature on public sidewalks, but you may need a permit if you require tables or other physical structures to be set up.
5) If you are stopped by the police while peacefully demonstrating, you are required to identify yourself, but you do not have to provide an ID or other paperwork.
6) You may photograph anything in plain view. This includes pictures of federal buildings, transportation, and the police. Police may not confiscate or demand to view your digital photographs or videos without a warrant. However, if you are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations, you may be ordered to cease.
7) If you feel your rights have been violated, do not PHYSICALLY resist the police. Spew all the knowledge about your rights if you so choose, but do not resist physically. Be certain to obtain all of the arresting officer’s information (badge number, patrol car numbers, agency information, etc). Also, take pictures of any injuries you may sustain. You have the right to make a formal complaint to the agency’s internal affairs.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
As our communities are consistently seeking ways to change what seems to be a defective blueprint with how law enforcement handles African-Americans, the starting point is always a protest or peaceful demonstration. They allow like-minded individuals to voice their opinions, gather ideas, and present a unified presence that injustice will not be tolerated. Peaceful demonstrations and protests are the spark that ignites change. You have a right to speak up against injustice. Do not allow your voice to be silenced by false arrests, extreme intimidation, or assault.
Please understand the rights you have, but be mindful and lawful when it comes to adhering to local ordinances, statutes and/or other laws that help make peaceful protests and demonstrations just that: peaceful. If you feel you have been falsely apprehended or arrested, or you are a victim of police brutality or intimidation, make a claim to your local police department and seek agencies in your community that fight against those who unlawfully seek to silence you.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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