Protest rights are protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, but that does not mean a person cannot be arrested at a protest. As civil unrest and protests continue across the country, it is important to understand what your rights are at a protest and what you can do if you have been arrested while protesting. There are various scenarios under which a person could face a lawful arrest at a protest.
First Amendment rights are powerful, but they are not unlimited. The most significant limit on a person’s right to protest comes from the use of the word “peaceably” in the Amendment itself. We, the people, have the right to assemble and protest peaceably. However, the US Supreme Court has long recognized that the government has the right to stop a demonstration that presents a “clear and present danger” of violence or a threat to public safety.
In the event that officials determine that a protest presents a danger or if violence erupts at a protest, it is very likely that the police will make arrests.
While this is controversial, it is not uncommon for government officials and law enforcement authorities to order a protest to disperse, particularly if they determine that the assembly is unlawful. Those who violate these orders could be arrested by law enforcement officials. However, court decisions have long held that officers must give a clear warning that protesters can hear, provide an unobstructed exit route, and allow protesters time to leave.
In some cases, state or local officials may issue curfew or other emergency orders limiting people’s movements during certain hours or in certain areas. It is not uncommon enforcement officials to arrest protesters who are violating curfew or other emergency orders.
In general, protesters have the right to peacefully protest so long as they are not obstructing traffic or other official business. However, blocking traffic will very likely result in arrests being made.
Over the last few months, activists have successfully petitioned to have various monuments removed, particularly those commemorating the Confederacy. However, there have also been arrests made of those who vandalized these monuments before they had been moved. Vandalizing any structures or buildings during a protest will likely result in an arrest.
If you or somebody you care about has been arrested at a protest, you need to speak to a Riverside criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Any charges a person receives it while they are lawfully protesting need to be taken seriously. At the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC, our qualified and experienced team is ready to get to work investigating every aspect of your case so we can get the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Time is of the essence in these situations, and you do not need to let an overworked public defender handle your case. You can contact us for a consultation on your case by clicking here or by calling as soon as possible.