What Are My Rights to Protest in New York?

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution specifically guarantees people the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances when those people no longer believe the government and its various institutions are upholding their rights. As mass protests over the untimely death of George Floyd sweep the nation, we believe it is very important that you should know your rights before taking to the streets. Those rights are as follows:

  • Public Property Protest Laws: To start, your rights are most protected when protesting in “traditional public forums.” These are defined as public sidewalks, streets, and parks, for example. If you are protesting in a traditional public forum, you are most likely acting within accordance of the law. While protesting, however, please keep the following in mind:
  1. You can lawfully protest in front of government buildings, though you are not allowed to block access to the government property or interfere with the government building’s purpose.
  2. When protesting in a public forum, you have the right to take pictures or videos of anything in “plain view.”
  3. Police officers are permitted to ask all those who are marching on the streets without permits to more to the side of the street or sidewalk, so long as they can prove that they are obstructing traffic. However, if you are not obstructing traffic or causing a safety concern, police do not have the right to ask you to move or leave.
  4. As long as they are protesting peacefully in a traditional public forum or while lawfully on private property, counterprotesters are also protected under the same rights as protesters. That being said, the police may keep protesters and their detractors/counterprotesters apart from one another, though the groups can be within sight and sound of each other.
  • Private Property Protest Laws: Those who wish to protest and/or photograph or take videos of anything in plain view on private property must obtain explicit consent from the private property owner for both of those things. If they do not, they are not acting within the law and may face consequences.
  • Police Rights: Generally, the police may not demand that a crowd disperse unless that crowd poses a clear and present danger such as disorder, interference with traffic, or a riot. However, if, say, there is a riot that jeopardizes people’s safety, the police may lawfully issue a dispersal order, wherein they will have to give protesters enough time to leave the scene while providing them a clear exit to do so, as well as clearly state the consequences for not dispersing before charging anyone with a crime.

What to do if You Believe Your Rights Have Been Violated

If you believe your rights have been infringed upon, you should take pictures or videos of the injustice you’ve encountered. Write down all facts of the incident, including badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and the agency the officers work for. Additionally, ask anyone who saw the accident for their contact information, and then file a written complaint either with the civilian complaint board or the agency’s internal affairs division.

Finally, if you feel your rights have been infringed upon or you are now facing criminal charges, give us a call today so we can help you fight those charges.

Contact our experienced Rockland County firm

Those facing criminal charges in New York need a strong Rockland County defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of the criminal justice system. Fortunately, our firm is ready to put over 30 years of experience to work for you. Call today or contact The Law Office of Carl Spector online to schedule a free confidential consultation. We are ready to help you go on living life positively, happily, and free from the burdens of a criminal conviction–all you have to do is ask.