Top 5 Tips for Protesting (Legally)

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on July 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been the site of countless protests and counter-protests by both demonstrators and delegates inside and outside the convention. And if you're wondering about the legality of these protests, we've got you covered. (If you're wondering about the legality of plagiarizing a speech, or using a band's song without permission, we've also got you covered, here and here.)

To make sure you don't violate the laws while making your voice heard, check out these five things you need to know about legally protesting, at conventions and elsewhere:

1. Planning an 'Occupy' Protest? Criminal Consequences Are Possible

Occupy protests began in New York in 2011; they are essentially mass sit-ins of public spaces. But just because your protest is on public property doesn't make it entirely legal. Here's what you need to know before you plan on occupying anything or anywhere.

From the earliest marches to recent attempts to block freeways, political protests on the nation's roads have been a common theme. While, for the most part, law enforcement will allow marches and street protests as long as they remain peaceful, there are some other legal aspects to consider.

3. Protest Arrests: When Free Speech Becomes Disorderly Conduct

The First Amendment protects your freedom of speech. But it is not absolute. The Supreme Court has found that certain speech can be limited in specific ways, even in the context of political protests. Here's what you need to know to keep your protest speech legal.

4. Arrested at a Protest? What Are Your Rights?

If you're arrested while protesting, you still retain your rights as a citizen, even if you broke the law. Learn what rights you have as a criminal defendant, and how to exercise them after a protest arrest.

5. When Can Police Open Fire on Protesters?

It is, hopefully, the last resort of law enforcement when a protest turns violent. While the majority of political protests are peaceful affairs, they can turn ugly, and police can respond, but within certain legal boundaries.

The best way to protect your legal rights during or after a protest is to consult with an experienced civil rights attorney in your area. You can call or meet with one today.

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