KNOWING YOUR RIGHTS AS AN ORGANIZER

By Marlene Sanchez,
Center for Young Women’s Development

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THE POLICE STOP US?

If the police stop you, you have the right to remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions, just give them your name, age, and address. It is best if you provide the basics.

You do not have to tell them anything else or give them permission to search you. If you are arrested, it could affect you later in court. Let them know you will not talk unless you have a lawyer present.

Never physically resist. The police will stop you anyway and pat you down for weapons on the outside of your clothing, but nothing else. Let them know that this is not cool that they are searching you without your permission. They may say that they have a warrant to search you - they might say anything. Ask to see that warrant; whether or not they have one, you can still protect your rights by making it clear that you do not agree with their search. If the police search you anyway, do not interfere; they can use it against you and arrest you even if you know that search was illegal. Instead, file a complaint after the incident.

Always ask if you are under arrest. If you are not, you should be free to go. Demand that they let you go if you are not being detained. Never run from the police because they can then take action, and can hurt you.

YOUR RIGHTS WHILE ORGANIZING OR PROTESTING

All of the above apply.

In addition:
Make sure that while organizing, at a protest, for example, you do not carry any materials that may contain confidential information, numbers of people you work with, drugs or weapons.

    Make sure that you have:
  • Legal observers who will watch your back, make sure that your rights are not violated, and provide you with legal assistance in case of an arrest. Some nonprofit organizations offer free legal observers.
  • A police liaison, someone who is trained about how to deal with the police.
  • A tactical team. This is a team of people that know how to move a crowd and are trained to deal with situations involving lots of people.


© 2000 by Individual Authors
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