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The Rights of Protesters in Michigan

Dec 19th, 2017 OWI The Rights of Protesters in Michigan

Under the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States, people have a legal right to protest through a demonstration, a march, or a similar public gathering or event. In part, this is because the First Amendment also protects the right of the people peaceably to assemble. While there are some legal restrictions on these types of assemblies or protests, Michigan is currently trying to infringe on the rights of protestors.

Any type of peaceful protest is lawful under the First Amendment, but it is illegal for any protestor to break the law while they are demonstrating. This means that violence will not be tolerated as part of a protest, and protestors cannot sit in the streets to block traffic because this is unlawful. The right to protest is most protected in public places such as parks and sidewalks.

Protesting on private property is another matter altogether. In order to protest on private property, the owner of that property needs to give their permission for the protest to take place. This includes properties such as shopping malls and airports.

Protests, marches, and rallies that are very large and may not be able to fit onto the sidewalk can still occur, but the organizers need to obtain a permit beforehand, sometimes days in advance. Permits cannot be denied when based solely on the fact that the protest concerns a controversial event. When an unforeseeable circumstance arises and people decide they would like to protest, advance notice may not be required.

Protesters that remain on the sidewalk have a right to be there and will not typically need a permit. They must, however, leave enough room for pedestrians to pass and not block the way of or in any way harass anyone trying to get through the protest. At times, police or other local authorities may try to force protestors to lower their sound level or to change the route of the protest. This may be lawful if the protest is interfering with traffic or creating a dangerous situation, but these conditions may also violate the First Amendment if they are deemed to be unnecessary.

If the enforcement also restricts the protestors from communicating their cause, this could also violate rights protected by the First Amendment. Police cannot search a person or their belongings, or ask them to present identification simply because they are part of a protest.

They may search a person’s belongings if they have reasonable cause the person has or is about to, commit a criminal act. In the case of presenting identification, this is only legal if the police have set up a secure area. If protestors are within that area while it is being secured, they must be given the option to leave before being asked to present their identification.

Under the First Amendment, protestors have a lot of rights when it pertains to them making their voices heard. One problem with large protests is that they cost taxpayers additional sums of money in protecting the protesters and in cleaning up after the event. Ostensibly on this basis, in December of 2016, Republicans in Michigan wrote a bill that some people viewed as an attack on this right. This bill passed the House of Representatives would charge protestors $1,000 each for every day that they protested.

Sponsors of the bill argued that this $1,000 per diem charge would cover the costs of police officers that were required to be at the protest to protect the safety of the general public. While the House of Representatives passed the bill, it has been shelved by the Senate for the time being.

Everyone in the country has the right to protest. It is a right protected by the Constitution. While Michigan is currently trying to infringe on those rights by passing laws making it much harder for protesters, everyone in the state still has the right to protest, as long as the protest is peaceful and no one is breaking any laws while protesting. If your rights have been threatened, consult a determined Michigan attorney that can advocate for you.