The freedom to protest is a long-held right, protected by the First Amendment, which is at the heart of the ethos of the United States. New York City in particular has long been a hub for protesting, home as it is to a range of diverse, vibrant communities, all with a passion for changing the world. You have a right to practice dissension, but if you find you need a Bronx personal injury attorney dedicated to your safety, our firm can help.
Staying safe when protesting is an important consideration; these situations often involve large crowds, and can get out of hand very quickly. In addition, some officials can tend to be a little over-zealous when it comes to dealing with protestors, especially in the case of more controversial or passionate causes. Knowing your rights helps you to stay safe, and offers the ability to assert yourself in a confident, calm manner.
What Are Your Rights?
All citizens have the right to protest in New York, reviewing these rights and the laws with a Bronx Civil Rights Lawyer can only help, but when it comes to protesting, there are no official permits required to do so, as long as no pedestrian traffic is blocked. You also have the right to hold signs, and hand out any flyers.
Permits may be required if you wish to gather in a city park, or march in the street, potentially blocking traffic.
Citizens have the right to record the police and any police activity, as long as you are not interfering with the discharge of their law enforcement duties. To help with this, make sure that you are at a safe, respectful distance away. In addition, a police officer does not have the right to confiscate your footage or videos without a warrant. They also have no right to view the footage, or to delete any data you have gathered.
What If You Are Arrested?
Being arrested can be frightening, but it is important that you are aware of your rights to ensure that you can advocate for yourself. There are a few things to remember during the arrest and immediately after:
- You have the right to remain silent; anything you say to the police has the potential to be used against you if the case goes to court. Only speak to confirm name, address, and date of birth.
- You have the right to legal representation, and this should be your first action. Your lawyer will not only be able to assist you, but may be able to arrange support from a bail fund in the event that you are unable to afford the amount set.
If you are stopped by the police, the officer involved is legally required to disclose their name, rank and command, as well as a valid reason for deciding to stop you. Once your interaction is over, they should also provide a card with their name, rank, badge number and their command.
These conditions apply if the officer suspects your involvement in criminal activity, if you are searched or frisked, or if you are stopped at a checkpoint or roadblock.
Do I Need A Permit To Protest?
Ensuring that you have the correct permits and documentation in place is a crucial part of staying safe and reducing police involvement during a protest.
The following actions will require you to acquire the appropriate permit from the authorities:
- Hold an event which will include more than 20 people in a New York City Park
- Plan to use amplified sound, such as megaphones, speakers or sound systems, on public property
- March in a public street as part of your protest
- Conduct any procession which involves 50 or more bicycles or vehicles in a public street
How Can I Stay Safe?
Protesting for your cause is important, but you must also take steps to protect yourself and those around you.
These can include:
- Know Your Rights
Having a clear, solid understanding of your rights and responsibilities allows you to express these calmly if required. It also means that you understand your freedoms, and cannot be bullied or intimidated into leaving the protest. This is important for keeping yourself safe.
- Stay With A Group
Where possible, always head to a protest as part of a small group, and all stick together during the main event. This means that you have a solid circle you can rely on, as well as back up and support if things go wrong. If one of you is injured, taken ill, or arrested, there are also solid and reliable witnesses to offer assistance at the scene.
- Read The Crowd
For most people, protesting is a chance to defend or fight for a cause they feel passionately about, and so tensions and emotions can run high. Sadly, in some cases, individuals may enter or join a protest with the sole intention of causing trouble, drama, and harm. Make sure that you read the crowd; if the mood has turned and things are getting dangerous, it is always a better idea to walk away while you can, and allow your personal safety to be respected. There is no glory in ending up seriously injured, and crowds can turn in a second.
- Protect Your Privacy
The increase in mobile technology has made it easier than ever before for individuals to spread information and share data. This can, however, be detrimental if used for the wrong reasons. Mobile data can be used to track your movements, placing you at a particular location using cell phone towers and reception. In addition, appearing on video or in a photograph could have negative consequences if these images fall into the wrong hands.
How Can We Help?
As we mentioned, the first thing to do if you are arrested at a protest is to get legal advice. Here at Thomas Lavin, we have a wealth of experience in aiding individuals who have found themselves at the wrong end of law enforcement. Get in touch today, and see how we can help with support, advice and representation.