Charlotte Protests: Legal Services & Help for Protesters
Like the rest of the county, protests are happening across Charlotte, rightfully condemning the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in Minneapolis one week ago. Protesters have taken to the streets of uptown Charlotte and along SouthPark Mall in the last few days with marches that have started out peaceful, but at times become violent and led to dozens of arrests.
Like those that have taken to the streets, we are disgusted by the actions of the police officers in Minneapolis that led to the death of George Floyd, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the efforts made by prosecutors and law enforcement, in both cases, to avoid arresting and prosecuting “one of their own”. While we join those bringing attention to these injustices, we cannot stress enough that it is important to do so in a peaceful manner, so that our collective voices are heard, and are not silenced by violence and chaos.
With crowds reaching the thousands and tensions boiling over throughout Mecklenburg County, people are looking for answers about their legal rights in a protest and what to expect if they are arrested.
Regardless of the charges, you shouldn’t have to live with a criminal conviction or possible jail time for peacefully exercising your rights and speaking out against injustice. If you or a loved one are charged with a crime at a Charlotte-area protest, contact Randall & Stump, PLLC at (980) 237-4579.
We’re available 24/7 and offer free consults. Let us explain what’s going on, get you released, and help you deal with things the right way.
Free Speech & Tips for Charlotte Protesters
The First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views. However, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police or other law enforcement agencies can restrict how demonstrations operate. The purpose of doing so is to protect others and their property. If restrictions are put in place or orders to disperse are not followed after a protest becomes violent, interference with police actions or disregard for lawful orders to disperse can lead to a protester being arrested.
Protesters Should Plan Ahead
If you’re planning on attending a protest anywhere in Charlotte, find out where it is being held, if it has permits, and who is organizing it. Also, find out what roads or sections will be closed, and try to keep the area clear for pedestrians.
To help avoid conflict with the police, do not carry heavy objects that could be viewed as weapons. Signs are usually fine but do not carry large sticks or other menacing items.
It is often a good idea to bring an official ID, which can help speed things along if you are stopped by the police.
In addition, you should consider saving the contact information for a local defense attorney in your area. Some organizations partner with groups like the ACLU of North Carolina, but you should think about having your own attorney in mind. One who will make your release from custody their top priority.
Stay Alert & Cordial with Police
In a protest or any political demonstration, you should be mindful of your environment. For example, your First Amendment rights are largely protected on public property, but on private property, you are exposed to possible arrest for trespassing.
When it comes to interacting with police, either as part of the protest or if you are stopped, it is wise to keep your emotions in check and choose your words carefully. While we understand it can be hard to do so in a heated situation where you want to express anger and frustration, expressing yourself calmly and without threats limits the possibility that your words and/or actions may be misconstrued as eliciting or threatening violence.
On the other hand, if an officer makes a lawful request or tries to speak with you amicably, you may want to return the gesture. This often deescalates situations and allows for more meaningful dialogue.
If you are stopped by police at a protest, calmly ask if you’re free to go. If the officer says no, you should comply. Simply follow their instructions because the best way to deal with charges is after the fact and with help from a criminal defense lawyer.
Stay calm & keep your hands visible. Don’t argue or resist even if you feel they are violating your rights. Just remain silent and ask for an attorney the first chance you get.
Be Ready for the Police to Disperse the Crowd
While this is usually their last resort to end a demonstration, the police may not break up a lawful gathering unless there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, or other immediate threat.
If officers issue an order to disperse, they must also provide a reasonable chance to do so, which means giving protesters adequate time to obey the order and allow a clear way to exit. They cannot order you to leave, keep the street blocked, and fire tear gas. Officers must also explain that failure to disperse will result is arrest.
Arrested at a Protest in Charlotte? Call Randall & Stump.
These demonstrations against police brutality should be a wakeup call to improve systematic problems in our society and in our legal system, but with National Guard troops in Raleigh and curfews being issued, Charlotte will likely see more arrests.
At Randall & Stump, we want to be part of the solution and want to ensure your First Amendment right to be heard is protected.
If you were arrested in a protest or plan to attend a demonstration and want legal help, an experienced and highly skilled lawyer is ready.
Call Randall & Stump, PLLC at (980) 237-4579 24/7. Consultations are free and confidential.