Suggestions for Legal Protest
Litigation - Article Series from Articles Archive

FROM Jerold D. Friedman, Attorney, Activist
May 2020

Some basics about legal protesting from a U.S. attorney.

Animal Rights protest
Animal Rights protest...

I was asked to post suggestions for legal protest. There is a lot more to say but here are the basics:

General Advice for Protestors

1. DO NOT TALK TO POLICE. Under the best circumstances, talking to police pulls you away from your protest. Under the worst circumstances, talking to police will incriminate you or someone else without your realizing it.

2. Safest to stay on public sidewalks and public parks. Public streets that are closed to traffic are also safe.


4. If tensions are high or at high pressure protests, safest to keep at least six feet from any adverse party including police. Closer than six feet might prompt a false arrest.


6. Obey all laws. If you are driving to/from a protest and roll through a stop sign, if youíre not wearing your seatbelt, if you step off a curb into traffic, police may use these infractions to interrupt protests and give you a bad day.

7. Bring no weapons or contraband. Prescription medication should be in the prescription bottles or, if youíre arrested, they will keep you in jail longer while they verify the drugs are legal. Even Swiss Army knives can keep you in jail longer.

8. Do not give your ID to police under any circumstance unless (a) you are placed under arrest and police demand your ID, or (b) you are operating a motor vehicle and police ask for your driverís license.

9. DO NOT TALK TO POLICE. Do not give them your name even if they ask, unless you are arrested.

10. If you are tricked into talking to police, DO NOT LIE TO POLICE. Lying to police is a crime.


12. If you are arrested, DO NOT TALK TO POLICE.

13. If you are arrested, contact the National Lawyers Guild. Find your local chapter here and write their number on your arm:

National Lawyers Guild

14. If you are arrested, do not tell anyone except your lawyer about the circumstances of your arrest. For example, if youíre in jail, donít talk about your arrest. Donít talk to your friend on the phone about your arrest. Jail phone calls are recorded.

15. If you are not arrested, DO NOT TALK TO POLICE.

16. If you are filming/photographing, do not give your film/video to police. You may tell police, "My film/video will be broadcast." This will protect your film/video from police search under the Privacy Protection Act (42 USC ß 2000aa). Police may not search your film/video if it's intended for broadcast in any way that might affect interstate commerce.

17. Use a password/passcode for your cell phone. Do not use biometrics (fingerprint, etc.). Police cannot force you to give them your password/passcode but they can force you to give your biometrics to open your phone.

18. Any video or pictures you take of protest activity should be uploaded to the cloud or sent to another account, like a friend's account, to keep it safe. Even if your phone is taken by police and not legally searched, it might be illegally searched or your phone might be "lost" by police.

19. Megaphones: A city can impose reasonable restrictions on using megaphones. This tends to mean not using them outside a hospital, in a residential area at night, etc.

If you are using a megaphone that is not unusually loud and you're using it to communicate rather than to injure (you're not waking people up with it, etc.), police should not interfere. If they do, you should obey police commands if you want to avoid citation or arrest.

You may and should ask which law is being violated. If the police don't know, then they are probably lying to you. But they don't have to tell you before citation/arrest.
Other things factor in here too. If the target of your protest is using amplified sound, like at a rodeo, police cannot tell you not to use amplified sound and allow the target to use amplified sound. The police must treat you both equally. Most police don't understand this.

Stay safe today and protest again another day.

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