The current political climate has led more Americans than ever to take to city streets in protest of a variety of perceived injustices. Inevitably, some of those protesters will be arrested after they engage in acts of civil disobedience or other perceived misconduct. It is important that these Americans know exactly what to do if ever arrested at a protest.
Individuals planning to take part in a protest should take a little time to do a little research first. When the demonstration is a mass action it is important to know what permits are involved as well as the conditions attached to those permits.
When an individual demonstration is being planned, it is important that the protester understands what areas will be off-limits while being sure to choose a spot in a public place that is open to pedestrians. Protesters can avoid attention from law enforcement personnel by not using anything to cover their faces and being sure to not possess large or heavy objects not related to their protest.
Protesters can also benefit by bringing a lawyer’s phone number with them in case the need for legal support arises.
Remain Calm and Say (Almost) Nothing
When being confronted by an officer, protesters unsure whether or not they are being arrested can ask simply if they are free to leave. If the officer responds with a “no,” that is an indication to the protester that an arrest is underway.
The best way to fight an objectionable arrest is in court while being represented by competent legal representation. Do not fight an arrest once it is happening. Be compliant and do not resist.
Also, do not say anything except for the limited statements below. As the police will tell anyone while reading the well-known Miranda warning, anything you say can, and will, be used against you in a court of law.
There are only a few very specific things that a protester can safely say once an arrest is underway.
- If protest organizers have legal observers in place, a protester can shout his name out along with the name and contact information of his lawyer, so that observers can take note and follow-up if necessary.
- If a law enforcement officer is hurting the protester, the protester may say so. But, difficult as it is, the protester should not resist.
- The protester may politely request to speak with a lawyer.
Saying anything else will do the protester no good and may do a lot of harm.
Secure Legal Representation and Continue Saying Nothing
A protester who has a lawyer lined up should contact that lawyer as soon as possible after being arrested, or have a family member do so. The stress and boredom of jail cause many individuals to run their mouth to either the police or other individuals being detained. Individuals arrested at protests should refrain from doing this.
Lee Roland of the American Civil Liberties Union points out that an arrest does not necessarily mean that a protester will have a criminal record as a result of the incident. Roland explains that it is commonplace for protesters to face arrest only to be released shortly afterward without being arraigned.
Document All Evidence
Roland also advises that protesters have the right to record law enforcement actions while in public and should do so in order to prepare their fight against their arrest in court. Protesters who suffer injuries while being arrested at a protest should be sure to document these injuries with photographs from multiple angles. When injuries are serious, protesters should seek medical attention immediately.
Call in the Professionals
If you are planning on taking part in a protest, carry the contact information for Richard Rizk with you. If you have been arrested while protesting, contact him immediately online here or by phone at (503) 245-5677.