New York Protestors: These are Your Rights

New York Protestors: These are Your Rights

Katie Lyon
 | 

Following the police killing of George Floyd, New Yorkers took to the streets in droves to express their outrage. 

 

Given the long history of poor relations between Black New Yorkers and the NYPD, protests got tense at times. 

 

Between March 28th and 29th, close to 300 protesters were arrested in New York City.

 

Many have alleged unlawful acts by police officers attempting to “control” protests, including the use of physical force against protesters and commandeering public busses to transport arrestees

 

This is why it is critical that protesters know their rights. There are certain things police are not allowed to do during protests. 

 

Now that New York City’s curfew has been lifted, there should also be fewer legal barriers in the way of New Yorkers exercising their right to protest.

 

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

 

New York entered its first phase of reopening on June 8th. Shelter-in-place policies are not a reason for police to disband large gatherings of peaceful citizens. 

 

That said, health experts suggest you follow some safety precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. 

 

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

 

If police threaten to shut down your demonstration for lack of a permit, don’t believe them. 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s guide to Protesters’ Rights indicates that you can march on sidewalks and cross streets without a permit from the city.

 

However, you cannot legally block pedestrian or vehicular traffic. As long as you stay out of the way of cars and keep sidewalks passable, you can protest. 

 

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

 

In public places, courts have ruled that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Therefore, New York law allows individuals to record conversations, with both video and audio, in public place. 

 

You can also photograph anything in plain view, including police, as long as you are in a public space. 

 

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

 

As long as you are remaining calm and recording from a respectful distance, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which you’d be stopping police from doing their jobs.  

 

In the event that you are interacting with police in a more private setting, outside of the public eye, you still have the right to record. 

 

New York is a one-party consent state, meaning that if you are conversing with police in private, you have a right to record (both video and audio) the conversation without the officer’s consent. 

 

However, New York law prohibits eavesdropping. You may want to disclose to the police that you are recording the conversation. 

 

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.

 

A warrant is a legal document obtained by a judge. The warrant must have your name on it. There’s almost no way a police officer would have gotten a warrant with your name on it before a protest. 

 

Police cannot shut down a peaceful protest without a really good reason. 

 

You have the right to protest peacefully and legally. Police cannot shut down your protest because they disagree with your cause. 

 

They are allowed to end a protest, but only if there is a “clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic, or other immediate threat to public safety,” according to the ACLU.

 

And if they do order the protesters to disperse, it must be a last resort. All other options to control the public safety threat must first be exhausted before police can order an end to the protest.  

 

Even if the protest gets shut down, you still have rights. 

 

You may not be arrested or charged with a crime until after the police have informed you of:

  • The details of the dispersal orders
  • The consequences of failing to disperse
  • How much time you have to disperse
  • A clear exit route you can follow
 

Until the police have clearly informed you of all of these, you have the right to stay at the protest.

 

If you believe your rights have been violated:

 

The ACLU encourages you to: 

  • Write down everything, including officers’ names, badge numbers, and the agency they work for if possible
  • Ask witnesses for their contact information
  • Collect evidence of any injuries, including photographs
  • File a complaint with the civilian complaint board, or with the agency’s internal affairs division  
 

If you believe your rights were violated and want a lawyer to help you out, Court Buddy can help you find one. 

 

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.

 
Katie Lyon

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