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Over the past week, mass protests have taken place around the country in the wake of the untimely death of George Floyd. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution gives all U.S. citizens the explicit right peaceably assemble when they feel government institutions no longer represent their best interests, so it is important you fully understand these rights before you decide to take to the streets. Please continue reading to learn more about your right to protest in the United States.

Where am I allowed to protest?

People can legally protest without a permit anywhere that falls into the category of a traditional public forum. Public streets, parks, and sidewalks are all traditional public forums. Additionally, you can take pictures of anything in plain view while protesting in a traditional public forum. You should note that police do have the right to tell people marching in the street without a permit that they must move to the sidewalk if they are blocking traffic. That being said, counterprotesters are protected under these same rights, though police can keep protesters and counterprotesters apart, as long as they remain within sight and sound of one another.

Am I allowed to protest in front of government buildings?

People can legally peaceably protest in front of a government building as long as they do not block access to the property or affect the building’s purpose/functionality.

Am I allowed to protest on private property?

To protest on private property, and to take pictures/videos of anything in plain view on private property, you will need explicit consent from the private property owner.

Can the police break up a protest?

Police cannot break up a regular peaceful protest, however, they may break up a gathering that displays a clear and present danger, like a riot. That being said, police must issue a clear dispersal order that informs everyone of a clear, safe pathway to exit the scene, and they must give those protesters enough time to leave, and inform them of the consequences of not leaving before charging anyone with a crime.

What should I do if I believe police have violated my right to protest?

If you believe that a police officer violated your right to protest, you should jot down everything you remember, including badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and more. Additionally, as long as you are on public property/lawfully on private property, ensure you record any injustice you have experienced or witnessed. Finally, ask anyone who saw the incident for their contact information, and file a written complaint with the civilian complaint board or with the agency’s internal affairs division.

If you believe your rights have been infringed upon or you are now facing criminal charges, do not hesitate to give us a call today. We are here to help.


Here at McNerney & McAuliffe, we understand how confusing certain legal matters can be, which is why we are here to provide clients from all walks of life with the experienced, compassionate legal guidance they need. If you require the legal assistance of an attorney to help you through a criminal law matter, personal injury matter, family law matter, and more, you can turn to us. Contact McNerney & McAuliffe today to learn more about what we can do for you.

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