Like cities across the county, Houston is reeling from protests and unrest following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. This has led to hundreds of arrests, thousands of additional officers deployed, and the National Guard set to assist local law enforcement.
Despite having the constitutional right to free speech, the current situation is leaving many wondering, “What are my rights as a protester?”
No one should have to live with a criminal conviction for exercising their right to be heard and speak out against injustice. If you or a loved one are charged with a crime at a Houston area protest, contact attorney Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 right away
We’re available 24/7 and offer free consultations. Let us explain the situation and help you deal with it the right way.
The State of Houston Protests
According to KHOU 11, as of 12:15 pm on Monday, June 1, 2020, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said that on Saturday night there were 275 total arrests and Friday night there were 137 total arrests during the weekend protests. He added that on Sunday night, there were two arrests related to the demonstrations. One was for criminal mischief and one for aggravated assault on a peace officer.
Legal Help for Protesters
The First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views. But the police can and will place restrictions on demonstrations. These restrictions are meant to protect citizens and their property, and interfering with these actions can be cause for arrest.
Avoid Trouble & Be Prepared
If you’re going to a protest, find out if it is organized by a credible group and if it has permits. Find out if roads or sections are closed, and try to keep the area clear for pedestrians. A lot of conflict stems from blocking impeding traffic.
To help avoid clashes with police, do not carry heavy objects that could be seen as weapons. Signs are typically fine but do not carry large sticks, bats, or other threatening items. You should also think ahead and bring an official ID and contact information for legal help.
Some organizations partner with groups like the ACLU of Texas, but you should consider a private attorney who will make your rights and release from custody their top priority.
Be Aware of Your Environment
Make sure you are conscious of your surroundings. Your First Amendment rights are protected on public property. But if you are on private property, you can and likely will be arrested for trespassing.
Interact with Police Carefully
When it comes to speaking with officers, it’s best to think clearly and conduct yourself with an even temper. While the situation is understandably volatile and you are under no obligation to be polite, the best way to avoid conflict is to firmly, but calmly state your case without making threats or comments that may be construed as eliciting violence.
However, if an officer makes a lawful request or tries to speak with you cordially, return the gesture. This is a good way to deescalate difficult situations.
In the event that you are stopped by police at a protest, calmly ask if you’re free to go. If the officer says no, you should comply and avoid resisting.
Take Photos & Keep Documents
When arrests happen, there is virtually nothing you can do at the scene. In fact, aggravating the situation can make things worse for you and may even put people in close proximity in danger.
The best place to fight criminal charges is in court and always with a lawyer’s help. This usually means collecting and presenting evidence.
If you are hurt by the police’s actions, request medical attention, and take photos as soon as possible. Try to remember the officers’ names, division, and keep anything relating to your charges.
Arrested at a Protest? Call Attorney Barnett
The protests in and around Houston should be a wakeup call to improve systematic problems in the legal system, but you should not have to live with a conviction for exercising your First Amendment right to be heard.
If you were arrested in a protest or plan to attend a demonstration and want legal help ready, an experienced and highly skilled Houston defense lawyer is available.
Call attorney Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767 24/7. Consultations are free and confidential.