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Colorado Criminal Defense Blog

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Protests have sprung up in cities around the United States, and even around the world, in response to the death of George Floyd.

These protests have largely remained peaceful, though some of them have unfortunately spiraled out of control. This has been used by police around the country as a pretext for arresting protestors and shutting down rallies. Too often, this has been accomplished through violent means.

As a protestor, you have rights that the police are obligated to protect, and in this post, we’re going to examine protestors’ rights and the different protections in place to ensure they are not violated. Then, we’ll take a look at a new Colorado bill that may further enhance the rights of protestors who run into issues with the police.

What Are the Rights of Protestors in Colorado?

For protest organizers collaborating with BLM activists, it’s important to understand your rights and the rights of other protesters.

The United States Constitution lays out very clearly that US citizens have the basic rights of free speech and freedom of assembly. This means that every person in the US has the inalienable right to gather and speak out.

There are, however, certain regulations that limit the actions of protestors. These primarily have to do with where you can protest and prohibited actions. You can’t, for example, block off a highway so that ambulances and other emergency vehicles can’t get through. You also can’t block government workers from entering federal buildings.

If you are protesting on private property, your rights can be limited by the owner of that property. Under the law, they can dictate where you can be and can also seek to have you legally removed.

With the exception of these few limitations, the rights of protestors are quite broad. The ACLU clearly lays out what these are in order to help protest organizers:

  • “Your rights are strongest in what are known as ‘traditional public forums,’ such as streets, sidewalks, and parks. You also likely have the right to speak out on other public property, like plazas in front of government buildings, as long as you are not blocking access to the government building or interfering with other purposes the property was designed for.
  • Private property owners can set rules for speech on their property. The government may not restrict your speech if it is taking place on your own property or with the consent of the property owner.
  • Counterprotesters also have free speech rights. Police must treat protesters and counterprotesters equally. Police are permitted to keep antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within sight and sound of one another.
  • When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police. On private property, the owner may set rules related to photography or video.”

The ACLU also recommends that you retain an experienced attorney if you feel your rights have been violated during a protest. A knowledgeable Colorado criminal lawyer can help you to file any complaints against the offending enforcement agency and navigate the sometimes tricky legal waters.

How the New Bill in Colorado Could Help Protestors

The new bill going through the Colorado legislature seeks to implement changes in the way police respond to use of force incidents. It includes requiring all law enforcement agents to wear body cameras.

This will mean any use of force incidents will be recorded on camera. Also, going forward, all footage from a use of force incident will be required to be released within 14 days of the incident occurring.

How the New Bill in Colorado Could Help Protestors

These changes may be beneficial to protestors going forward. The changes will ensure that protestors’ rights are not violated. In the event that a protestor does have their rights violated, the changes make it to where these protestors’ rights violations will be documented and the evidence released.

 

About the Author:

Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state.  Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.

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