Protestors continue to march in the streets after unarmed black man George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police May 25, 2020. Video and reports from around the country say some demonstrations have unfortunately taken a violent turn, where police have physically engaged with dissenters, even here in San Antonio.
According to the Express-News, protestors were marching peacefully in San Antonio but started running into each other and screaming Saturday night, with some reporting the police were shooting at them with rubber bullets. The clash escalated when people started throwing objects at buildings and officers started using tear gas to move the crowd. The growing clash between police and protestors moved the mayor to sign a disaster declaration and instill a curfew. The police chief held a press conference at midnight and told reporters that police were hit with bottles, bricks and other objects.
While it is illegal to harm the police with objects, protestors should remember they have a right to peaceful assembly under the First Amendment. Demonstrators have a right to meet and speak in public spaces like streets, plazas and government buildings, so long as the crowd does not block entrances and exits. Protestors who enter private property may be charged with trespassing if they enter the property without permission. Owners can also restrict filming and photos on the property.
People do not need a permit to march. However, if an organization or group of people would like to designate a specific public space for their event, they will most likely need to secure some sort of permit from either the police or city hall. Permits cannot be denied because the event is unpopular with police or politicians.
Demonstrators should also know police cannot dictate what people chant or write on their signs. Police can arrest someone however if they believe that person is going to do harm or is encouraging other people to be physically harmful.
Officers may deny it, but people are well within their rights to photograph and record the police. Destroying phones or arresting people for recording police is a violation of freedom of speech. Police are also not allowed to delete data nor are they entitled to see your media.
If your First Amendment rights are violated by the police, try to write down their name, badge number and police department they work for. Save photos and video of the incident. If you can, get contact information from eyewitnesses who can confirm your story.
Those who believe their rights have been violated during a protest should seek attorneys who strongly believe in First Amendment rights. The San Antonio criminal defense attorneys at Goldstein & Orr have been fighting for clients’ rights in the courtroom for decades. Call Goldstein & Orr at (210)226-1463 or contact us on our website. You have a right to peaceful assembly and to protest against injustice, whether the police endorse it or not.
The photo above was taken by Steven Sanchez.