9 Things Every Protestor in California Must Know

Cassidy Chansirik

Following the police killing of George Floyd, Americans took to the streets to express their desire for police reform. 


Since then, protests have occurred in each of the 50 states and in at least 700 different cities. In California alone, there have been protests in 91 cities


If you live in California and have been protesting, you may be wondering what police can and can’t do. 


Here’s a quick guide. 


1. Police should not use batons or rubber bullets on peaceful demonstrators. 


In the past few weeks, Los Angeles police officers have been seen using batons and rubber bullets against unarmed and peaceful protestors. 


At a protest in the Fairfax District, news cameras even recorded footage showing an LAPD vehicle driving into a crowd of protestors. 


LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore stated that there would be prompt independent investigations into the incidents of violence against protestors. 


In a separate statement, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that he has directed the LAPD to minimize the use of rubber bullets while policing protests. 


If you see police using violent tactics against peaceful protestors, document it from a place of safety.


Later, file an official police misconduct report. 


2. Police should not use tear gas or release police dogs on peaceful demonstrators. 


In San Francisco, protests have largely been peaceful. On June 3, 2020, more than 10,000 protestors gathered at Mission Dolores Park to walk together in the Mission District. On June 6, 2020, two Bay Area students organized a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge


However, not all protests in the Bay Area have been peaceful.  


At an Oakland protest at Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland Police Department officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets at nearly 1,000 protestors. 


In Walnut Creek, protestors said they were being tear-gassed and bitten by police dogs.  


Following the numerous complaints filed against the Oakland Police Department, Oakland City Councilmembers have formally requested that tear gas not be used during protest policing. The City of Walnut Creek and the Walnut Creek Police Department have yet to comment or release a formal statement on the incidents. 


3. Don’t let anyone tell you the Coronavirus means you shouldn’t protest. 


You have a right to protest, even during a pandemic. 


Health experts suggest you follow some safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. 


4. You can distribute leaflets, flyers, or other literature on public sidewalks, parks, and plazas.


5. You can picket or protest on public sidewalks, parks, and plazas.


However, you cannot legally block building entrances, pedestrians, or vehicular traffic.


6. You can chant or sing protest songs on public sidewalks, parks, and plazas.


However, the First Amendment does not protect libel, slander, obscenity, or speech that incites violence of illegal activity.


7. You have the right to photograph and record interactions with police. 


Police cannot force you to stop recording unless your actions are legitimately inhibiting law enforcement operations. 


8. You do not have to hand over your recordings without a warrant.


Under no circumstance can the police take your phone or delete your recordings without a warrant.


The warrant must have your name on it. 


9. You do not need a permit to protest, as long as you don’t block traffic. 


Some larger venues require you to obtain a local permit before protesting.

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.


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