The Power of Assembly: Know Your Rights

people protesting

By Freedom Forum

This First Amendment-friendly toolkit includes links to primers, classes and advisories about how the rights of free speech, assembly and petition work when you step outside — or go online — to protest and be heard.

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Things To Note

  • When protesting, there is no First Amendment-based right to disregard a direct order from a police officer — even if you believe the order is illegal.
  • The First Amendment rights of petition and assembly do not give you permission to cross or occupy private property; that’s trespassing. And as to occupying public property: Since the Occupy movement years ago, many jurisdictions updated their policies regarding public squares, parks and such, with many outlawing overnight stays or blocking the space so that others are unable to pass through it.
  • Blocking traffic on a public street, whether an individual effort or a mass protest, likely is illegal. Again, there is no First Amendment shield against arrest, though police action may well depend on balancing the taking of protesters into custody versus clearing the thoroughfare.
  • The rights of assembly and petition on National Park Service property have certain limitations, with permits required if your group is 25 or more or – pay attention to this — the protest is likely to attract a combined audience of participants and those watching of more than 25. A court decision some years ago cleared the way for individuals to protest with no permit conditions if the person is not blocking others from using the park.


Download your own poster (PDF) for the next time you go to a march!

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