In the wake of the untimely death of George Floyd, many people across the country have taken to the streets in protest. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution explicitly grants individuals the right to peaceably protest when they feel governmental institutions are no longer upholding their rights. Please continue reading to learn more about how to protest safely, peaceably, and within your legal rights. Here are some of the questions you may have:
Am I allowed to protest on the streets?
Generally speaking, people’s rights are strongest in “traditional public forums,” which include public parks, sidewalks, and streets. You do not need a permit to peaceably protest and take pictures/videos of anything in plain view within a traditional public forum. Counterprotesters are also protected under these rights. However, police have a right to separate protesters and counterprotesters, as long as they allow them to stay within sight and sound of one another. Police also have the right to tell those marching in the street without a permit to move to the side of the road if they are blocking traffic.
Can I protest in front of a government building?
You may peaceably protest in front of a government building as long as you are not blocking off access to that building and do not interfere with the building’s function/purpose.
Can I protest on private property?
To protest on private property, as well as to take pictures/videos on private property, you must have that property owner’s explicit consent.
What rights do police have?
Police do not have the right to break up a peaceful protest. However, if the protest poses a clear and present danger, such as if it turns into a riot, the police may issue a dispersal order. That being said, the dispersal order must provide protesters with a clear and safe exit, give them enough time to disperse, and state the consequences of refusing to obey the order before making any arrests.
What should I do if my right to protest has been violated?
If you believe your right to protest has been violated, the first thing you should do is take pictures or videos of the injustice you have experienced or witnessed. Next, you should write down anything about the incident that you remember, such as badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and more. From here, you may file a complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board.
If you believe that your rights were infringed upon, or you have been charged with a crime, please do not hesitate to give us a call today. We are on your side.
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Our firm proudly represents clients in New Jersey who are faced with matters of family law, criminal defense, business law, real estate law, or estate planning. If you require strong and dedicated representation for any of your legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of George J. Mardinly to schedule a consultation.