One of the risks that comes with protesting in the U.S.—even peaceful protesting—is that you might end up getting arrested. Yes, the First Amendment gives us the right to peaceably assemble—but just because something is in the Bill of Rights doesn’t mean that you won’t find yourself in a situation where those rights are violated.
Before you go to your next protest, it’s a good idea to read, save and/or memorise the ACLU’s list of actions to take if you are stopped by the police while protesting. These include tips like “make sure to keep your hands visible” and “when you can, write down everything you remember, including the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers and the agency they work for.”
The ACLU also offers this important piece of advice:
If you are under arrest, you have a right to ask why. Otherwise, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t say anything or sign anything without a lawyer.
Of course, most of us don’t have a lawyer we can immediately reach out to if we are arrested during a protest—and you might not even be sure whether you can cover the cost of a lawyer’s fees. Which means that before you go to your next protest, you should also save or memorise the phone number of a pro-bono lawyer who is ready to help protesters.
Twitter users have already begun compiling lists of lawyers ready to help protesters in need:
Lawyers offering pro bono services for arrested protestors. Minneapolis, Houston, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles. I know there are far more doing the same thing in other cities please add them to this thread pic.twitter.com/rRCODVDr8q
— Roy Wood Jr- Ex Jedi (@roywoodjr) May 30, 2020
— Attorney Brenda DeRouen (@brendasmylawyer) June 2, 2020
Hi all, I have created a spreadsheet curated from other threads listing names and screenshots of pro bono attorneys for protestors. Thank you to @riyakatariax @JayJohnSoFresh and @noelleacoss for their threads. I went through and tried to confirm firmshttps://t.co/qik5ftkXGz
— Ashley Holub (@ashtroid22) May 31, 2020
Right now, Ashley Holub’s pro-bono lawyer spreadsheet includes 60 lawyers representing 18 states and the District of Columbia—and if you don’t see your state or city on the list, a quick Twitter search of “pro-bono” and your city’s name should help you find additional resources.
Because if you’re going to participate in your right to peaceably assemble, you’re going to want to know how to contact a lawyer before you need one.