Protests are sweeping the nation and many people are getting arrested as a result.
Numerous charges are being filed for many of the hundreds of people in North Carolina who have been taken into custody by the police. According to the Charlotte Observer, resisting a public officer and failure to disperse are two of the most frequently charged offenses.
If you choose to attend a protest, then you take the chance that you may be arrested. That’s why it’s crucial to understand just what your rights are at a protest as well as what some of the charges against you may mean. Here’s what you need to know.
Your Rights at North Carolina Protests
If you plan to attend a peaceful protest, then you have certain rights granted to you by the U.S. Constitution. At a protest, the ACLU says you have these rights:
Right to Be in Traditional Public Forums
According to the ACLU, public forums are places such as sidewalks, parks, and streets. You can be in front of a government building, too, as long as you don’t block access or interfere with business.
Right to Free Speech
Being on public property provides you with the right to free speech. You cannot have your speech restricted, but counterprotesters cannot have their speech restricted, either.
Right to Photograph
When in a public space, you have the right to photograph or record anything in plain view. This includes buildings, even federal ones, as well as police officers.
Right to March Without a Permit
It’s not required for you to have a permit in order to march on sidewalks or in the streets. As long as you don’t obstruct the flow of traffic on either, you are good to go. Just keep in mind that police officers can ask for you to move if others need to pass by.
Important to note: you do not have the same rights on private property.
Understanding your rights is vital when at a protest, but it’s also a good idea to have a lawyer on speed dial in the event you do get arrested. As has been witnessed for many weeks, simply because you have the right to protest doesn’t mean you will not be arrested.
What Can North Carolina Police Charge You With?
Even though you have rights under the Constitution, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t be taken into custody at a protest. The most common charges that are brought against protestors include:
Disorderly conduct is when someone engages in behavior that is considered a breach of the peace. Basically, it’s engaging in conduct that causes a disturbance. That broad definition makes it a commonly filed criminal charge no matter where you are or what you’re a part of.
Failure to Disperse
Failure to disperse is when two or more people congregating together in a public space are disorderly, presenting a risk to others, or if others are inconvenienced by the act. If you’re told to disperse by the police and you don’t do so, then you can be charged with this offense.
There are some instances where you must have a permit to hold a rally, parade, or march. Local laws surrounding permits vary wildly, so it’s in your best interest to check out the status of permits for peaceful protests if you’re trying to organize one so you don’t take the risk of being arrested and charged with this offense.
Knowing your rights helps to ensure they are not violated.