Am I Allowed to Protest in the Streets?
The First Amendment of the Constitution gives people the right to have their voices heard. People are permitted to peacefully assemble and make their concerns known. In the aftermath of the recent presidential election, hundreds have taken to the streets to voice their opinions. In many cases, these assemblies have been peaceful. In other cases, the protests have turned into riots and caused property damage and injuries.
While people certainly have the right to assemble and shout their opinions to the masses, they do not have the right to damage anyone’s property. There are guidelines that dictate how protests should be organized and undertaken. Failing to adhere to these guidelines could have people arrested, property damaged and innocents injured. Here is a brief outline of your right to protest peacefully in Atlanta.
1. First Amendment Protection
In general, activities like speeches, handing out leaflets and attending rallies are all protected. These activities can be limited by law enforcement officials with regards to the place, time and level of activity.
2. Type of Protected Activity
Not all activity is protected. People may speak, play music or videos, dance, wear costumes, and carry flags and other items that will not harm people or property. People may not undertake activities that cause damage to the property of another or cause injury to any person. To do so could lead to charges being filed.
3. Public Forums
Public forums are the areas in which people can assemble and protest. Public forums are considered to be sidewalks, auditoriums, fairgrounds, plazas, parks and government buildings. Public forums are not any pieces of property that are owned by a private person. This means, for example, that a protest may be held on the sidewalk in front of a person’s home, but cannot be held on the property of that person. In addition, Georgia law states you may not block the entrance to any government building with your assembly or protest.
In some cases, protesters will need a permit to conduct their activities. This is typically true when a protest will take place on a public street or in or near a government building. Any person wishing to organize a protest should call their local city offices to determine whether or not a permit is needed.
It is not atypical for protests to get out of hand and property to be damaged. If protesters notice that the assembly is getting out of control, it would be in their own best interest to leave the scene. Protesters are encouraged to not join in on any activities that could cause damage or injury.
The United States is a great country to live in where we are given rights that others around the world do not have. We have the right to express our opinions publicly but peacefully. It is when “peacefully” turns to violent that people are hurt, property is damaged and arrests are made.
If you have been arrested for criminal damage to property in Atlanta, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Reach out to our team today and schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. We will review the details of your case and advise you how to proceed.