What You Need to Know About Your Right to Protest

What You Need to Know About Your Right to Protest

In the wake of the mass protests due to the untimely death of George Floyd, our firm feels it necessary to convey your rights to protest here in the United States. To start, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees all American citizens the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. This means that when American citizens feel governmental institutions are no longer upholding their rights, it is their right to protest. Please continue reading to learn more about how to protest safely, peaceably, and according to the law.

Am I allowed to protest on a public street?

The law states that people are allowed to protest in what is known as traditional public forums. These can include public streets, sidewalks, and parks. You are also allowed to photograph or document anything you see in plain view in a traditional public forum. Furthermore, counterprotesters are also granted the same right, however, police are allowed to separate protesters and counterprotesters, as long as they allow them to stay within sight and sound of each other. Lastly, you should note that police can tell you to move to the side of the street or onto the sidewalk if you are marching in the street without a permit and are blocking traffic.

Am I allowed to protest on private property?

You cannot protest on private property unless you have the consent of the property owner. You may also not take pictures or record videos on private property without the consent of the property owner.

Am I allowed to protest in front of a government building?

You may protest in front of a government building as long as you do not block access to the property or inhibit the building’s purpose or functionality.

Can the police break up a protest?

Though police do not have the right to disband a peaceful protest, they do have the right to disband a protest that displays a clear and present danger. Therefore, if there is a riot, the police may issue a dispersal order. That being said, dispersal orders must come with a clear and safe pathway to exit the protest, and police must inform all individuals of the potential consequences of failing to disperse before making any arrests or charging anyone with a crime.

What should I do if I believe my rights have been violated?

Those who believe the police have violated their right to protest should write down or record any details of the incident, including badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and more. Also, ask anyone who saw the incident for their contact information, as they may corroborate your claim at a later date. Finally, you should file a written complaint either with the agency’s internal affairs division or with the civilian complaint board.

If you are now facing criminal charges or you believe your right to protest has been infringed upon, please do not hesitate to speak with our firm today. We are here to help.

CONTACT OUR EXPERIENCED PENNSYLVANIA FIRM

If you are facing criminal charges, you need experienced legal counsel on your side to ensure your rights are protected. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help you. 

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