What are your rights as a protestor?

What are your rights as a protestor?

Photo by David Reed / The Vermilion “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive.” These words, spoken by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, speak to the necessity of discourse amongst Americans as a necessary vehicle for American sustainability. Nearly 60 years later, we find ourselves waist-deep in a tide of social change, and our discourse has escalated into its more extreme form: protest. As racially-driven protests across the nation continue, proper treatment of participants has come into question. Many argue protestors’ rights are being short-changed, while others say law enforcement should crack down harder on protestors. So what rights do protestors legally have? Rick Swanson, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, emphasized the legality of the locations of organized events. He expanded on the term, “public forums,” as sidewalks, streets, and parks. In certain instances, however, organizers must attain a permit in order to occupy these locations. According to Swanson, an activist is more likely to encounter legal resistance when their actions become individualistic. “You couldn’t do anything like harass people individually or threaten them,” he said. “You couldn’t block the entryway to a building, because that would be interfering with the function of that building. You can’t go on any private property.” If a participant were to violate the legal restrictions within a protest, the punishment depends on many factors, according to Swanson. “It depends greatly on if it’s a city ordinance you’re […]

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