“The right of the people to peaceably assemble” is a hallowed right enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Since the creation of our country the right to protest has been one of the tantamount rights that citizens of the United States enjoy. This right does, however, have limits. With the ever-changing political movements, it is always a good idea to understand how to safely and legally protest. This article is intended to give a brief “best practices” guide to protesting. This is neither a complete nor an exhaustive list, but if you are considering protesting, this is a good “starters guide.”
Know the Laws
Even though the right to protest is protected by the Constitution, there can be limits to when and where you can exercise this right. If you are the organizer of a protest, you should investigate the permit process for organizing a public protest. Simply filing the proper paperwork may make a big difference in how a city and the police will react to your protest.
If you are attending a spontaneous or non-organized protest, you could be in violation of city laws. We understand that often, large public protests arise from an event that recently occurred. This often doesn’t allow for the time to get permits. If you attend one of these protests, do understand that the police may not be particularly pleased with the presence of a large non permitted gathering.
Do’s and Don’ts When Encountered by the Police
Do be respectful at all times.
Do ask if you are being detained. If not, calmly and slowly walk away from the officer.
Do record your interactions with police on your phone.
Do give your name and address when asked.
Do have an attorney’s phone number available.
Don’t give any statements to police.
Don’t resist arrest.
Don’t damage or destroy any property.
Don’t escalate the situation. Always be calm and try not to aggravate the encounter.
Don’t touch the officers or make sudden movements.
Other Protesting Considerations
There is always a risk of being arrested when protesting. Because of this, it is best to be prepared. The police won’t let you bring your phone into the jail if you are arrested. Memorize the phone numbers for those you may wish to call, such as family or friends to bail you out. You should also consider carrying cash on you so that you have some money to put in an account at the jail to allow you to buy calling cards or even just money for the canteen. If you have any prescription medication that you need to take, make sure you have it with you in the original prescription bottle, this will increase the odds that the jail will give you the proper medication. Lastly, call your lawyer early and keep fighting for a positive change in our society.