Questions about Protests

Questions about Protests
by Susan Basko, esq

I was just looking at the Google Queries that led people to this blog today.  These include the following questions, which I will answer.  I am taking the google search queries exactly at they were written: 

how long do protesters go to jail 
Protesting is legal in the United States.  It is our right under the Constitution.  The vast majority of people that participate in protests do not get arrested. Some people do get arrested at protests, usually for such things as blocking traffic, trespassing, or property damage.  It is also possible to be arrested at a protest for no reason other than being targeted by the police.  In most cases, those who are arrested are let out after a few hours or within a day. Sometimes they are charged with a crime and sometimes they are not.  If they are charged with a crime, then they are usually given a date to go to Court.  If a person was arrested at a protest for something more serious, such as breaking windows or starting something on fire, then they will probably be held and should go before a judge within a couple of days to set bail.  If a person is arrested and has an outstanding warrant from something that happened before, they will usually have to be in jail until they can clear up that warrant.  That has been known to take weeks.  If you know you have an outstanding warrant, then you should probably avoid going to a protest or being arrested.

KEEP IN MIND that many people who are arrested at protests are doing so intentionally as a form of CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.  They intentionally break the law because they want to be arrested as a form of protest. If you do not want to get arrested and if people start talking about "Civil Disobedience," then avoid participating with them since their goal is to be arrested.  Don't be swayed or coerced by what they say.  If you don't want to be arrested, do not participate in activities that are geared to get you arrested.  A lot of people leading such activities fail to plan for or take care of those they have caused to be arrested.

how long does it take to get a permit in nyc to have a protest
 I don't know, but in most cases, you do not need a permit to hold a protest.  If you keep the protest in a public space, such as a plaza, or on the public sidewalk, you don't need a permit.  Applying for a permit in other cities I do know about can take months.  That all makes no sense since the thing you are protesting about will most likely be over before a city gives you a permit.  If you are planning a really big protest tied to a future event, then it makes sense to apply for a permit.  International law says that cities are supposed to accommodate the rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, even if this inconveniences others.

can fbi search a computer if not listed on search list
The FBI is supposed to have a search warrant before it can search a computer.  Ask to see a warrant and read it carefully.  As you note, the search warrant has a list of places to be searched and items to be seized. If the computer is not on the list, then it is not supposed to be searched or seized (taken).  If the FBI doesn't have a valid search warrant that lists the computer, then any evidence they find on the computer might be suppressed as being gotten without a lawful search warrant.

HOWEVER, if you give permission to the FBI or to any other police agency to search your computer or to search anything, then you are forfeiting your rights and protections.  Never give permission to allow any police or agency to search anything. If police or an agent ask you "Do you mind if we look?,"  the answer is, "Yes, I do mind.  No, I do not give my permission for any type of search."  I know of an instance where law enforcement agents asked to search and seize computers during a swat -- a false emergency call to the police.  If asked for permission, say no.

chicago protest permit
In Chicago, you do not need a permit to protest unless you are in locations where a permit is required to gather a large group, or if you plan to block the street.  Even then, international law standards say that if a protest is large, it should be allowed in the street.  See the article on this blog about Where You Can Protest in Chicago.   Getting a permit in Chicago is a lengthy process and should be reserved for times when you are planning well into the future.  If you are just holding a simple protest -- go out and do it.  If you want it to be legal, keep it to the public sidewalks and publicly-owned plazas.

do protesters have to have a permit to march on streets
To march on the sidewalk, you do not need a permit.  To march in the street, you do need a permit in most cities. HOWEVER, the international law standard says that the police should accommodate a large protest and let them march in the streets.  If a protest blocks traffic, often there will be arrests.  Something may be the "right" of a protest, but that does not mean protesters won't be arrested.  If there is a big group, sometimes police will follow the international law guidelines and accommodate the protest so it can be held on the street.  Not always, though, so you need to gauge what is happening and listen to instructions if you want to avoid being arrested.

do you need a permit to protest
 No,  Protest does not require a permit if you keep it on the sidewalks or in a publicly-owned plaza.

do you need permits to protest in california
No, see answers above.

find a place to protest
You can protest on a public sidewalk or in a publicly-owned plaza.  Look where others in your area have successfully run protests and use that same space.

how long do you sit in jail protesting
Most protesters do not get arrested.  Of the few that are arrested, most are released within a few hours.  A very few will be kept up to 2 days, if they are facing charges and need to go before a judge to set bail.   If a protester has an outstanding warrant for their arrest from something that happened before, they might be kept until the warrant is cleared up, which can take weeks.

how much does a protest permit cost
A protest permit should be free.  You don't need a permit if you keep your protest on a public sidewalk or in a publicly-owned plaza.  If you are running a big protest for a specific event and you do want to get a permit, there is usually no cost in most cities -- but a city might insist on such things as insurance, porta-potties, etc.  International standards state that a city should bear the cost of policing and should not require insurance. If your protest is just a rally or march held on short notice in public spaces and on public sidewalks, then you will be doing that without a permit.  Sometimes a big protest is also held without a permit.  If there are many people and they do not all fit on the sidewalk, sometimes it will be held in the street, even without a permit.

why are people being arrested for protesting
Protesting is legal, so the vast majority of protesters do not get arrested. Sometimes protesters do get arrested. Sometimes the arrests are targeted by police who are looking to harass the people they perceive as leaders.  Sometimes police act crazy at a protest and engage in what are almost random kidnappings of people. But that is pretty rare and more confined to cities where the police are poorly trained.  But it does happen, so it is good to be aware of.   AND. . .

Other than that, the main reasons protesters get arrested are:

  • Being in the street when they've been told by police to get out of the street.
  • Blocking traffic or blockading a roadway.
  • Sitting in traffic or in the street.
  • Writing on anything with spray paint or markers.
  • Carrying any fire-creating device such as fireworks or a road flare, or using one to start fire.
  • Causing any damage to property or people.
  • Climbing on any vehicle.  Rocking or tipping any vehicle.
  •  Harassing or menacing other people walking, in shops, in cars, etc.
  • Trespassing onto private property.
  • Blocking an entry, exit, elevator, public transportation, etc.
  • Not following police orders during the protest.
  • Possessing a bottle bomb, bat, gun, knife, etc.
  • Throwing anything.
  • Not leaving if the police have announced it is an UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY. Once the police call this, then anyone that stays can be arrested.
  • Not leaving if police announce it is a RIOT.  Once the police call it a RIOT, then they can also announce that everyone there is "Under arrest."