Your Right to Protest: You Have More First Amendment Protections Than You Think

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You have the right to exercise your right to free speech and to protest. However, depending on the conditions under which you protest, the police may choose to arrest you. Since the right to protest is an important and cherished right, you should do whatever you can to have the charges dropped.

You Can Protest as Long as You Aren't Breaking the Law

Protesters are sometimes arrested when they trespass in order to carry out a protest. Protesting is protected in traditional public forums, such as parks and sidewalks. However, you may try to protest in an area that appears to be public, but is actually private. Still, if you were given consent to use the private property for a protest, you can use this as a defense if the property owner later revokes his or her permission.

Another reason you may be arrested is because you were disobeying the order of a police officer. For instance, if the police ask you to disperse from a particular area and you refuse, you could be charged with disobeying a police officer.

While you are allowed to peacefully protest, you are not allowed to cause violence or destruction. Also, you cannot issue threats. If your behavior places others or yourself at risk, such as if you lie down on the street and block traffic, this would not be protected under the First Amendment.

You Can Express Any Views

You are allowed to express any views, even if they are considered to be controversial. However, you may be told to lower the volume of the protest. If the protest requires that you use an elevated volume, you may need to consult with the police regarding the time and place that you would be allowed to engage in such a protest.

Permits Are Sometimes Not Required

Police officers will sometimes argue that you need a permit. However, permits are only required if your protest is not being conducted in an area that isusually protected. Therefore, if a police officer arrests you when you do not actually need a permit, your legal right to protest can be used as a defense.

If you are arrested and you believe it is for an unlawful reason, make sure that you only provide your name and address to the police officer. If you provide any other information, anything you say could be used against you. If you call a friend or family member, do not discuss the situation because your conversation will be recorded. Instead, if you have a criminal defense lawyer, ask to see him or her as soon as possible.