This week, protests are continuing across the country in response to the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police – and as further killings by law enforcement occur, including the murders of David McAtee in Louisville, KY and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL.
Activists like you are taking to the streets to express their pain, their outrage, and their demands for racial justice and an end to police violence against Black people. As this happens, we want you to have what you’ll need to know your risks and know your rights.
Emerson Sykes, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, & Technology Project, shared these essentials in a video direct from the New York City protests over the weekend.
Please, share this video on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook for anyone in your circle who may need it in the coming days – and educate yourself on its crucial message below.
As you come out to protest, here’s what our video encourages you to keep in mind:
- The right to protest is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.
- If you get stopped, ask if you are free to go. If the police say yes, calmly walk away.
- You have the right to record. The right to protest includes the right to record, including recording police doing their jobs.
- The police can order people to stop interfering with legitimate police operations, but video recording from a safe distance is not interfering.
- If you get stopped, police cannot take or confiscate any videos or photos without a warrant.
- If you are videotaping, keep in mind in some states, the audio is treated differently than the images. But images and video images are always fully protected by the First Amendment.
- The police’s main job in a protest is to protect your right to protest and to de-escalate any threat of violence.
- If you get arrested, don’t say anything. Ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not sign anything and do not agree to anything without an attorney present.
- If you get arrested, demand your right to a local phone call. If you call a lawyer for legal advice, law enforcement is not allowed to listen.
- Police cannot delete data from your device under any circumstances.
We understand that even with the legal protections laid out above, protesting has real risks – especially for Black and Brown people. We’re also still in the midst of a global pandemic and know that your health and the health of others may take priority.
Whether you choose to physically protest this week or not, you can still ensure others are as informed and prepared as possible by sharing our video on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
And no matter what – remember your rights and stay safe.
The ACLU Team
P.S. Over this past weekend alone, we’ve seen a number of potentially unlawful actions on the part of law enforcement and other government entities during these protests – targeting journalists and endangering all of our free speech rights. Make no mistake: The ACLU will not allow these attacks on reporters to go unanswered. We’ll be keeping you updated in our efforts moving forward – and in the meantime, thank you for staying informed.