How to prepare for a protest – and what to do if you are arrested

How to prepare for a protest – and what to do if you are arrested

Patty Lamberti

Protests erupted in at least 75 cities after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis on Monday.


If you plan to join a protest, here’s what you should know before heading out.


We encourage you to read this, even if you’re planning on joining what you expect will be a peaceful, daytime gathering. 


Protests can get out of hand quickly – through no fault of your own. 


Pack several face masks.


Remember the Coronavirus? It’s still around. Be sure to wear a face mask to protect yourself from getting sick. 


In some states, wearing a face mask is required when social distancing isn’t possible. And it won’t be possible in a protest.


There are other reasons for wearing a face mask. 


You may be photographed or videotaped, by other protestors, journalists, business owners, and the police.


Facial recognition software is getting more advanced every day. Law enforcement, including police in Minneapolis, regularly use it


Most law enforcement officials say they only use to it help identify victims


However, in other countries, activists have said facial recognition software is used by the government to crack down on free speech


And finally, a face mask will offer at least some protection from all of the smoky stuff you see on TV when protests get wild.


Only Darth Vader type masks will protect you from tear gas.   


But a regular old mask may help you if police, and fellow protestors, throw smoke canisters or fireworks. 


As for the rest of your outfit…


Wear comfortable shoes you can run in. 


Sure, you may be planning on just walking, but it’s unclear where a protest may lead. 


So wear shoes you can take off in, and make sure they’re closed toes. 


Chances are, even the nicest of your fellow protestors may step on your feet. 


Stuff to put in your backpack.


Eat beforehand, but also bring along snacks and water.  


Many stores haven’t reopened, and those along protest paths may temporarily lock their doors. 


It won’t hurt to bring along a small first aid kit either. Hopefully, you’ll only need to open it if you get a blister on your foot. 


Most experts suggest you bring along your I.D. Should you be arrested, you’ll be detained even longer if police need to figure out who you are. 


The cell phone debate.


Some say a cell phone is a must. If you get split up from your friends, you’ll want a way to contact them. 


A cell phone can also help you document any bad stuff you see and call people for help. 


Others say police can confiscate your phone, and use it against you, although they’d technically need to follow proper procedures to do this. 


If you do bring your cell phone, protect it will a complex password.


Don’t forget to bring along a portable battery charger. 


Remember that in bad circumstances, you may not have access to your cell phone. 


If you are arrested, police will likely take your phone before you can use it. 


If a crowd gets wild and you must run, you can’t ask everyone to hang on for a second while you call a friend for help. 


So memorize important numbers, even ours: (866) 653-3017


If you encounter police at a protest, remember these are your rights (write them down and stuff them in your pocket so you don’t forget):


 The ACLU offers these suggestions on their web site:

  • Stay calm. Make sure to keep your hands visible. Don’t argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if you believe they are violating your rights. Point out that you are not disrupting anyone else’s activity and that the First Amendment protects your actions.
  • Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly walk away.
  • If you are under arrest, you have a right to ask why. Otherwise, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. 
  • Don’t say anything or sign anything without a lawyer.
  • You have the right to make a local phone call, and if you’re calling your lawyer, police are not allowed to listen.  
  • You never have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. If you do explicitly consent, it can affect you later in court.
  • Police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon and may search you after an arrest. 
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant, nor may they delete data under any circumstances. However, they may order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.

Most importantly, stay safe. 


This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.

Patty Lamberti

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