GUIDE FOR DEMONSTRATORS
First Amendment Activity And Potential Consequences
You have a constitutionally protected right to express your views in public spaces. This includes sidewalks, parks, as well as other locations
that the government has opened up to similar speech activities, such as the plazas in front of government buildings. Because these and other
activities are constitutionally protected, there is little risk of arrest when holding signs, leafleting, marching (or standing still) and chanting,
drumming, singing or dancing when demonstrating.
Some activities are illegal, and you can be arrested for them. Since Police Officers usually warn demonstrators to stop if they believe that
the demonstrators are engaging in illegal activities, demonstrators will sometimes participate in activities that may subject them to arrest
without being arrested. There is some risk of arrest nonetheless. Other demonstrators engage in peaceful but unlawful activities to be ar-
rested as a form of protest called “civil disobedience.” A short list of activities engaged in at demonstrations is provided below.
Drumming, dancing, singing, chanting
Standing still in a group
Approaching pedestrians on a public sidewalk with leaflets, newspapers,
petitions, and solicitations for donations
Setting up tables on public sidewalks for these purposes, so long as the walk
is not blocked
Wearing a mask or concealing your face
Blocking street traffic
Blocking pedestrian right of way
Harassing or accosting poassers -by
Inciting a crowd to imminent violence or illegal activity
Entering or remaining on other property after being informed that you are
Violence against any person
Destruction of property
However, wearing a mask or concealing your identity, while engaging in
unlawful activity, can act as a penalty enhancer.
Other activities seen at demonstrations that may be illegal include: Resisting arrest or obstructing an officer (see reverse), fastening signs
(other than to bulletin boards generally open for posting information), littering, or using excessive noise.
If you are an immigrant, you still have the right to protest. However, Immigration officials can target non-citizens for deportation because
of their First Amendment activities, as long as it could deport them for other reasons. If you are an immigrant and are targeted by law en-
forcement, you should assert your rights. It is also a good idea to carry the name of an immigration lawyer who will take your calls – and
talk to the lawyer before talking to law enforcement or signing any papers.
W hat to Do if You Are Stopped by the Police
You are not required to talk to the police, unless a judge orders you to. If you don’t want to talk or answer questions, ask “Am I under arrest or
free to go?” If you are not being detained, you m ay go. Walk (don’t run) away calmly. If you are not released, do not fight or try to run away.
(You may be sentenced to jail for resisting a lawful arrest (physically or verbally) or obstructing an officer in the performanc e of her duties, inclu d-
ing when arresting you or another protester).
Make note of and remember the officer’s badge number and name,as well as the c ontact info of any witnesses.
Do not consent to being patted down or searched. The police can pat you down to check for the pr esence of a concealed weapon. Say, “I do not
consent to being searched.” You don’t have change your mind or give in, but don’t resist physically or attempt to run away
What to Do if You Are Arrested
The most important thing to remember: If you are ar rested, you should provide the officer with your name and address, and then you should
state, “I choose to remain silent. I want to speak to an attorney.”
If you say this, the police should stop trying to question you. You do not need to already have an attorney to request one. Do not believe the
police officer if he/she tells you anything to the contrary. You are entitled to remain silent and to consult with an attorney. You do not have to
answer the police officer’s questions, other than your nameand address.
Always remember: Anything you say will be used against you and against others.
Do not try to “educate” the officer or “explain” your situa-
In Milwaukee, a clearinghouse of attorneys willing to consider representation for those arrested or ticketed during demon strations has been created.
If you need legal assistance, please contact the ACLU- Wisconsin intake coordinator at the number below.
The ACLU of Wisconsin and the National Lawyers Guild are interested in developing a comprehensive database of police response to demonstra-
tions. Therefore, even if you do not need legal representation as a result of an arrest or a ticket, please call the following number if you witnessed
police conduct while you were demonstrating that caused you concern:
414 -272- 4032, ext 14