Protest has always been an invaluable form of expression in America, perhaps never more so than in the early 2020s. As the need for protest continues to grow, the tactics of speaking out have diversified, and many have questioned when lawful protest crosses the line into illegal behavior. Questions of greater urgency loom regarding the rights and obligations of police in relation to protests.
Two men have recently filed a lawsuit against Chicago police for alleged excessive force, false arrest and conspiracy during a protest in May of 2020. The suit alleges that police officers beat the protesters with batons, inflicting injuries to the head, legs and arms.
Excessive force is never justified, especially at a lawful protest. What advocates for change need to know is how to keep their activities safe and legal.
Keeping protests above the law
The ACLU has published a list of tips about making sure protest activities do not leave organizers or protesters vulnerable to arrest. Some of the key takeaways include:
- The right to protest is most strongly protected on streets, sidewalks, parks and other “traditional public forums”
- You have the right to photograph anything on public property
- You generally do not need a permit to protest, provided you are not impeding traffic or access to buildings
- If your rights have been violated by police, obtain as much information as possible, including badge and patrol car numbers, eyewitness contact information and photographs of injuries
As Americans, we have a strong network of civil rights laws protecting our right to assemble, speak and protest. When police officers or other parties use intimidation, excessive force and other illegal means to deny us our rights, we must fight in the legal system. If you have been arrested for protesting or for any alleged criminal activity in the Chicago area, enlist the services of a skilled and passionate criminal law attorney.