With so many protests resulting in violence, mass arrests and illegal use of force, what exactly are your protesting rights? The Scottsdale attorneys at Corso Law Group explain your rights and how to stay safe while participating in demonstrations and protests.
Threats and Violence
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, which includes the right to protest. While this does mean that there are no restrictions on the content of your speech, it does not protect all types of speech.
While you are certainly within your rights to express your opinion, no matter how extreme or unpopular, threatening or violent remarks could be considered criminal threats, which could result in jail time.
You’re legally allowed to protest government actions and participate in demonstrations individually or in a group setting, but there are specific rules and restrictions to follow.
Typically, if a protest is large and involves loud speakers or any special equipment, a permit is required, even if the demonstration takes place on public property, while smaller, unobstructive protests do not.
These rules apply only to public property such as streets and sidewalks. The moment a protest moves onto private property, the owners of that property have the right to ban or restrict protesting altogether. If protesters do not comply with the owner’s rules, they can face trespassing charges.
Even if a protest takes place on public property, police can limit protesters to protesting zones to keep other citizens safe.
For example, blocking roads, obstructing traffic and closing off entrances to businesses could create a dangerous situation, and doing so during a protest could get you arrested.
Although media coverage can help bring attention to whatever cause a group may be representing, some protesters are reluctant to interact with or even allow media coverage to take place during a demonstration.
Recently, during protests against racial injustice at the University of Missouri, mass media professor Melissa Click was recorded confronting photographer Mark Schierbecker, telling him to leave the demonstration.
Click was recorded threatening force to get Schierbecker to leave, saying “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”
Even if a protester doesn’t want to be filmed, members of the media have every right to cover public protests. The First Amendment, the same right that protects the right to protest, also protects freedom of the press and allows reporters the right to cover public events.