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 when those people feel that the government and its various institutions are no longer upholding those rights. The U.S. government is created by the people, for the people, which is why you deserve to know your rights as a protester so you can safely have your voice heard. Here are some of the questions you may have about your rights as a protester:
Where am I allowed to protest?
You are allowed to protest on what is known as a traditional public forum. This includes public sidewalks, public streets, and public parks, to name some of the most common types of traditional public forums. Additionally, you may photograph or record anything you see in plain view while protesting in a traditional public forum. If, however, you are marching on the street without a permit and are blocking traffic, the police may ask you to move to the side of the road or onto a sidewalk so traffic can safely pass by. Counterprotesters are also entitled to the right to protest in a traditional public forum (or while lawfully protesting on private property), however police are allowed to keep protesters and their detractors away from one another, though these groups may stay within sound and sight of each other.
Can I protest on private property?
You may only lawfully protest on private property with the explicit consent of that property owner. You also may only take pictures or videos with that property owner’s explicit consent.
Can I protest in front of a government building?
In most cases, the answer to this question is yes. As long as you are peacefully protesting and are not blocking access to the property or interfering with the building’s purpose, you are allowed to protest in front of a government building.
Do police have the right to break up a protest?
Generally, the police do not have the right to arbitrarily issue a dispersal order on a peaceful protest. However, if the crowd is posing a clear and present danger to others, such as a riot, the police may demand that you disperse. When issuing a dispersal order, the police must provide all protesters with a clear and safe exit, as well as a clear explanation of the consequences/potential charges they will face for not dispersing before they may charge anyone with a crime.
What should I do if my right to protest has been violated?
If your right to protest has been violated, you should record the injustice you witnessed or encountered, and write down everything about the incident that you remember, including patrol car numbers, police badge numbers, and the agency the officers work for. You should also ask all those who witnessed the accident for their contact information and file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or the civilian complaint board.
Lastly, understand that if your rights have been infringed upon or you are now facing criminal charges, our firm is on your side.
Contact our experienced New Jersey firm
Thomas DeMarco & Associates, LLC is an experienced Camden County criminal defense law firm located in Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey. We understand how potentially damaging a criminal can be, which is why we pride ourselves in our willingness to fight for our client’s rights. Our firm handles all criminal matters and is ready to provide you with our knowledgeable legal counsel. Do not hesitate to contact our firm to discuss your legal situation.