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Know Your Rights: Protesting and Community Safety

October 1, 2021 Guides & Reports

Protesting is an important way to exercise your right to free speech and to make your voice heard on issues that matter. However, it can also be intimidating, and so we encourage you to familiarize yourself with your rights before you and your loved ones go out to protest.

With CAIR California, we put together a short guide to help community members know their rights while attending a protest. You can also find tips for what to wear and bring, what to do if the police stop you, and what to do if you believe your rights have been violated.

Your Rights While Attending a Protest:

  • Your rights are strongest on the streets, sidewalks, and parks. You also likely have the right to speak out on other public property, like plazas in front of government buildings, so long as you are not blocking access to the building or interfering with other purposes.
  • Freedom of speech protects the content of your speech, no matter how unpopular. Freedom of speech does not protect slander, libel, obscenity, “true threats,” or speech that incites imminent violence or breaking the law.
  • Megaphones and bullhorns may be used. Permits may be required for music, drums, and loudspeakers. Check local ordinances for permit information.
  • Counter-protesters also have free speech rights. They cannot physically disrupt the protest they are against. Police must treat both groups equally. Police are permitted to keep antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within sight and sound of one another.
  • When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph or video anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police. Owners of private property may set rules related to photography or video.
  • Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant. They also cannot delete data under any circumstances. However, they may order you to cease activities that they determine are interfering with law enforcement operations.


Know Your Rights for Protesters (produced by NLG): English, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi