Civil unrest ignited across the country and around the globe when a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. The injuries caused by the officer led to Floyd’s death soon after he was taken away in an ambulance. Shot on Memorial Day during the incident, a video that went viral captured the abuse and showed three fellow officers who failed to intervene. Floyd’s alleged crime was trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
The outrage over another unarmed African American man’s death at the hands of police sparked hundreds of thousands of people to protest in the streets. While some of those demonstrators used these events to start fires and loot businesses, most protesters remained peaceful. But, many who remained non-violent were tear-gassed, hit by rubber bullets and taken into custody by officers.
Here in Colorado, officials are now looking into law enforcement’s response to the protests, proving that the issue of police brutality and accountability is a global issue. This applies to alleged lawbreakers as well as protesters.
What rights do protesters have?
Protests are typically chaotic, disorganized and hectic environments where officers may respect your constitutional rights to peacefully assemble, but many don’t. If an officer attempts to place you under arrest:
- Ask them what law you are violating and why they are arresting you.
- If they refuse to answer, ask them if you can walk away.
- If they still refuse to respond and use force, don’t resist and stay calm.
- You do not have to consent to officers searching your belongings.
- Police cannot order you to delete pictures or videos from your phone.
- Try to record, or at least remember the arresting officer’s badge number.
- Have plans in place with a fellow protester to record, or otherwise document, each other’s arrest if it happens.
Other steps to take before the protest
Before going to a rally or demonstration, communicate with friends or family or other emergency contacts that you may be arrested. If you can, do some research about the police station where you will likely be taken so they have an idea where they can find you.
Also, organizers recommend you bring at least a two-day supply of any medications in the bottle issued by the pharmacy. It will likely be taken away from you during processing, but it should be available in an emergency.
Have legal counsel in mind before the protest begins
Protecting your future is essential if law enforcement disregards your rights to assemble peacefully. Have the phone number of an experienced criminal law attorney handy and write their phone number on your arm or elsewhere in case they confiscate your phone.
Criminal charges can have devastating consequences jeopardizing employment and educational opportunities. Your lawyer will challenge local government and law enforcement’s actions, question the methods used in your detainment, and diligently work to ensure that your rights are protected.