What Rights do I Have as a Protester?

Throughout United States history, there have been many people who used their right to protest as a means to stand up for what they believe in. All individuals planning to take part in a protest should have a thorough understanding of their rights. Continue reading below to learn more.

Can my Free Speech be Restricted?

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the freedom of speech. This means no one can make restrictions on the content of a person’s speech, even if what they are saying is controversial. However, it does not protect all types of free speech in any circumstance. For instance, police officers and government officials are able to place non-discriminatory restrictions on speech based on “time, place and manner.” These must apply to all speech, despite the person’s point of view.

It is important to know that counter-demonstrators maintain these same rights. While this is true, they should not physically disrupt the event they are protesting. Police officers in these situations are permitted to make sure both groups are separated but can be in the same vicinity as one another.

Where Can I Protest?

Different expressions of free speech are protected in traditional “public forums.” This consists of streets, sidewalks, parks, etc. People can also protest in public locations where the government allows other speech activities to take place, such as plazas in front of government buildings and offices.

Can I Protest on Private Property?

Protests can be held on private property at the discretion of the property owner. They are able to make their own rules regarding a person’s freedom of speech on their property. Property owners also have the right to force a protester to leave if they disobey the rules. If they refuse to leave, they can have them arrested for trespassing. 

Is a Permit Needed to Protest?

Permits are usually not needed for protests unless a specific event requires it. This may be in the following situations:

  • A march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and requires blocking traffic or closing down a street
  • A large rlly that requires the use of sound amplifying devices
  • A rally at a designated park or plaza

Many permit procedures require an application to be filed weeks before an event happens. However, the First Amendments prohibits the advance notice requirement if it is in response to a recent event. A permit cannot be rejected if an event is controversial or expresses unpopular views. 

Can I Take Pictures or Video of a Protest?

Individuals have the right to take pictures and videos of a protest if they are lawfully present in a public space. This can include capturing federal buildings and the police. In these situations, property owners can also place their own rules regarding taking pictures and videos on their grounds. At a protest, police officers do not have the right to confiscate or view the content of a person’s pictures or videos without a warrant. However, they do have the right to order citizens to cease their activities if it interferes with law enforcement operations. Those who are videotaping should understand there is a legal distinction between a visual photographic record and the auto part of a videotape. 

What do I do if I Believe my Rights Were Violated?

If you believe your right to protest was violated, there are certain steps you can take to seek justice. Make sure to take pictures/video of what you witnessed or experienced as well as any injuries you may have sustained. Also write down all details you can remember, such as badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and the agency that is in question. Before leaving the protest, be sure to get the contact information of any witnesses to the injustice, This can include their name, phone number, email, etc. Once this is all done, you can file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. Do not forget to contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney who is prepared to help if your rights have been infringed upon.

Contact our Firm

Marc N. Needelman is an experienced attorney working throughout the state of Connecticut. If you need an attorney who is ready to fight for the financial compensation you deserve, please do not hesitate to contact us to set up a free initial consultation. Our firm deals with matters relating to real estate, personal injury, criminal defense, estate planning, and more.

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