Minneapolis and the Twin Cities are the epicenter of protests demanding change in the wake of the death of George Floyd. There have been so many positive protests in the city we call home, and there have also been some that have crossed the line in terms of legality. We can’t possibly understand your anger, your fear or your distrust of law, but we can empower you to know your rights when it comes to peacefully protesting in Minnesota. Below, we talk about your rights as a protester and how to avoid partaking in an action that could warrant an arrest.
What Are Your Rights As A Protester In Minnesota?
We can’t cover every single instance you might encounter as a protester in one little blog, but we are going to cover the basics so you’re aware of some of the more common situations you may find yourself in if you choose to legally protest. Here’s a quick look at your rights based on a few common scenarios:
Your Rights On Free Speech
- Your right to free speech is limited if your are trespassing, disobeying or interfering with a lawful order from police. For example, you can protest in a public area, but if you are on private property and fail to heed directions to move the protest to a different location, you can end up arrested.
- Speakers cannot be punished for arousing a crowd, but they can be arrested for advocating imminent violence or provoking others to violate the law. You can see how this can be up to interpretation, and it’s at the heart of why we’ve seen videos where public protesters have been arrested for seemingly no reason.
- False or obscene speech about public officials is not protected.
- Demonstrators who engage in civil disobedience — peaceful, but unlawful, activities as a form of protest — are not protected from prosecution by the First Amendment.
- If you endanger others while protesting, you can be arrested. A protest that blocks vehicular or pedestrian traffic is illegal without a permit.
- You do not have the right to block building entrances or physically harass people or engage in speech activity on private property, including outdoor malls, without consent of the owner.
If Stopped By Police
- Stay calm and remember that anything you say can be used against you in court.
- Keep your hands visible.
- Do not run or physically resist, even if you believe you’re innocent. We’ll prove that in court.
- Law enforcement may stop and detain you only if they suspect that you have committed, are committing or are about to commit a crime.
- Ask if you are under arrest or free to leave. If arrested, you have a right to know why you are being arrested.
- Mass searches of bags at demonstrations are lawful only if there is a potential threat. If you do not wish to have your bag searched, you should be allowed to leave the area. Again, if you run into an issue with an officer over this point, let us handle the legality in court.
- If you are arrested, immediately ask for a lawyer.
Right To Protest
- It is a crime to intentionally obstruct, interfere with or make passage dangerous on any public right-of-way.
- You can be charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing an assembly, speech or conduct that is likely to provoke a violent reaction, or inciting an immediate breach of the peace.
- You can be arrested for not leaving an unlawful gathering. Police should explain why the gathering is unlawful, unless that is already clear, prior to making any arrests.
- Illegal trespassing includes interfering with signs that mark a legal boundary, entering private property without a claim of right, or refusing to leave when the owner demands it.
Much of this information was taken from this card provided by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota. Please share this information so we can continue to voice our concerns legally. And if you find yourself facing criminal charges as a result of a protest or rally, reach out to Avery Appelman and the team at Appelman Law Firm. We can provide you with a free case review and help get the charges thrown out in court. For more information, contact our office today at (952) 224-2277.