The right to protest and express your opinions is one of the most basic and important rights in the United States. Protests play an important role in preserving democracy by raising awareness and bringing about change. Recognizing the historical and central importance of protests and demonstrations, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects your right to protest, assemble, and petition.
The right to join with fellow citizens in protest or peaceful assembly is critical to a functioning democracy. But it is also true that governments and police can violate this right – through the use of mass arrests, illegal use of force, criminalization of protest, and other means intended to thwart free public expression.
Standing up for your right to protest can be challenging, especially when demonstrations are met with violence. Knowing your rights is the most powerful weapon you have against police abuse. Read on to learn what you need to know before heading out to exercise your constitutionally protected right to protest.