The police killing of George Floyd has shaken the country to its core. Americans all around the United States have taken to the streets, exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and stand up against the law enforcement agencies that have failed to protect all people equally.
Protests have sprung up here in Sarasota, too. Floridians are coming together to insist on a just system for all people.
Although peacefully protesting is a right of all Americans, the events of recent weeks have shown that such movements can quickly turn ugly. Police officers across the United States have been responding to protesters with arrests, tear gas and rubber bullets.
If you are planning to join a peaceful protest, it’s important for you to understand your rights and to have a plan in place – in case things head south.
- Tell your family and friends where and when you’ll be attending the protest.
- Look up the police station in that area and let your loved ones know where you’ll likely be taken, if you’re arrested.
- If you rely on prescription medication, take a two-day supply with you to the protest – in the original prescription bottle. If you’re arrested, your medication will likely be confiscated, but you should be able to get it back in the event of an emergency.
- Have the phone number of a criminal defense lawyer you trust – and call them if you get arrested. Remember that your phone could be taken from you, so it’s a good idea to have their number written on your body as well.
- If you’re attending the protest with a friend, make a plan to have them document your arrest – and vice versa – if necessary.
If you get arrested:
- Ask the officer the reason for your arrest – specifically, what law you have broken.
- If they do not answer you, ask if you can leave.
- If they proceed with the arrest, stay calm and do not attempt to resist.
- Try to photograph, write down or mentally record the badge number of the arresting officer.
- If the police use excessive force against you, take pictures or videos of your injuries. Eye-witness accounts are also helpful.
Know your rights:
- Remember that you do not have to consent to letting an officer search you or your belongings.
- The police cannot order you to show videos or pictures from your phone – or to make you delete them.
- Once arrested, you have the right to make a phone call. It’s a good idea to call your lawyer at this time.
- The police cannot punish you for refusing to answer questions. It’s usually a good idea to talk to your lawyer before agreeing to answer any questions.
You have the right to stand up for what you believe in. Understanding how to act responsibly within the law can put you in a stronger position if you face unfair treatment by the police.