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Throughout history, many people have stood up for what they believe in through protesting. This is done to publicly make their opinions heard in order to influence change. When participating in protests, it is important to have a thorough understanding of your rights. Continue reading below to learn more.

Can my Free Speech be Restricted?

It is important to know that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution allows the freedom of speech. This means that restrictions cannot be made based on the content of the speech, even if it is controversial. While this is true, it does not protect all types of free speech in every circumstance. For instance, police and government officials can place certain non-discriminatory “time, place and manner” restrictions on exercising this right. These restrictions must apply to all speech, no matter what the point of view is.

Counter-demonstrators maintain these same rights. They can be present and voice their opinion. They should not physically disrupt the event they are protesting. It is important to note that the police are permitted to keep both groups separated from one another, but allow them to coexist in the same general vicinity.

Where Can I Protest?

Generally speaking, all expressions of a person’s right to free speech are protected in traditional “public forums.” This can include streets, sidewalks, and parks. In addition to this, free speech can take place in public locations that the government opens up to speech activities, such as plazas in front of government buildings.

Can I Protest on Private Property?

The owners of private property are able to set their own rules limiting a person’s freedom of speech on their grounds. If the property owner’s rules are disobeyed, they can order the protester off their property. In addition to this, they can have the individual arrested for trespassing if they do not comply.

Is a Permit Needed to Protest?

Permits are usually not needed in order to organize or engage in a protest of any kind. However, there are certain types of events that do require permits. This can include the following:

  • A march or parade that does not stay on the sidewalk and requires blocking traffic or closing down a street
  • A large rally that requires the use of sound amplifying devices
  • A rally at a designated park or plaza

In order to receive a permit, many procedures require an application to be filed weeks ahead of the event. However, in the event that the protest is a rapid response to recent events, the First Amendments prohibits the advance notice requirement. A permit cannot be denied if an event is controversial or expresses unpopular views.

Can I Take Pictures or Video of a Protest?

Individuals who are lawfully present in a public space have the right to photograph anything that is in plain view. This includes government buildings, and the police. On private property, however, a property owner can designate their own rules about pictures or video. Police officers do not have the right to confiscate or demand to view the content of any pictures or video without a warrant. They also cannot delete the video under any circumstances. The police can order citizens to cease activities that are interfering with legitimate law enforcement work. Those who are videotaping must keep in mind that there is a legal distinction between a visual photographic record and the audio part of a videotape. There are laws in Maryland, and some other states, that prohibit recording audio of an individual without their consent.

What do I do if I Believe my Rights Were Violated?

If you believe your right to protest was violated, the first thing that you should do is to take pictures and/or video of the injustice you witnessed or experienced, as well as any injuries you may have sustained. In addition to this, write down every detail you can remember, such as badge numbers, patrol car numbers, and the agency in question. It is important to receive contact information from any witnesses, such as their name, phone number, email, etc. Once this is completed, you can file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. Furthermore, contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney who is here to help if your rights have been infringed upon in any way.

Contact our Firm

The Law Offices of Debra A. Saltz has decades of experience representing clients in Howard County and Anne Arundel County, Maryland who have been charged with a crime or injured by another party’s negligence. Contact the Law Offices of Debra A. Saltz today to discuss your case.

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