There is a significant history of protesting in the United States, as many people have used it as a way to stand up for what they believe in. People have the right to protest so that their opinion can be publicly heard to influence change in the world. Any person planning to take part in a protest should understand their rights ahead of time. Continue reading to learn more.
Can my Free Speech be Restricted?
In the United States, the First Amendment of the Constitution gives individuals the freedom of speech. This means restrictions cannot be made regarding the content of the speech, even if it is controversial. However, it is important to note that this does not protect all types of free speech in all circumstances. For instance, police officers and government officials can place non-discriminatory restrictions based on “time, place and manner.” These apply to all speech, regardless of an individual’s point of view.
Counter-demonstrators maintain these same rights as well, but should not physically disrupt the event that they are protesting. In these situations, police officers are permitted to make sure both groups stay separated but can coexist in the same vicinity with one another.
Where Can I Protest?
Various expressions of free speech are protected in traditional “public forums.” This includes streets, sidewalks, parks, etc. Protests can also take place in public locations that the government allows similar speech activities to take place. This can include plazas in front of government buildings and offices.
Can I Protest on Private Property?
Protests can take place on private property. However, the property owner can designate their own rules regarding a person’s freedom of speech on their grounds. If their rules are disobeyed, the property owner can force the protester to leave their property and have them arrested for trespassing if they refuse.
Is a Permit Needed to Protest?
Generally, permits are not needed for protests unless a certain event requires it. This can include the following:
- 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
Permit procedures usually require an application to be filed weeks before an event. However, if it is in response to recent events, the First Amendments prohibits the advance notice requirement. A permit cannot be rejected if an event is controversial or expresses unpopular views.
Can I Take Pictures or Video of a Protest?
When photographing or videotaping a protest, a person has the right to do so of anything in plain view if they are lawfully present in a public space. This can include photographing federal buildings as well as the police. Similar to freedom of speech, property owners can designate their own rules regarding taking pictures and videos. Under no circumstances do police officers have the right to confiscate or view the content of a person’s pictures or videos without a warrant. However, the police do have the right to order citizens to cease activities if they interfere with legitimate law enforcement work. Those who are videotaping should know 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 do to seek justice. The first thing you should do is take pictures/video of the injustice you witnessed or experienced and any injuries you may have sustained. Also write down every detail you can remember, such as badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and the agency in question. In addition to this, be sure to obtain the contact information of any witnesses who also saw the injustice, This can include their name, phone number, email, etc. After completing these steps, you can file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. Do not forget to contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney who is prepared to help if your rights have been infringed upon.
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