The protests against police brutality and systemic racism—sparked by the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others—have been historic and inspiring. They are a testament to the power of free speech and the right to assemble. Sadly, the protests and the journalists covering them have been met with a deliberate and at times violent disregard for the First Amendment freedoms of speech and of the press. Safeguarding these freedoms is essential to the public’s ability to hold their government, and their police departments, to account.

In the digital age, protecting your right to protest often involves securing your data and your technology from overreaching government surveillance. Below, we have assembled and organized guides from other organizations to help you understand your First Amendment right to protest and protect yourself and your data before, during, and after a protest.

(Note: This information is not legal advice.)

For Journalists

Protecting Your Data and Technology

These resources cover how journalists can protect themselves and their sources by securing their data and technology before, during, and after a protest.

Quick Reference
  • Attending a Protest (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 6/2/2020) contains a concise list of steps to take before and during a protest to protect your data and identity.

Deep Dive

Protest Prep

These resources cover a variety of steps that will help you prepare for a protest.

Quick Reference
Deep Dive
  • Safety Kit (Committee to Protect Journalists) provides physical, digital, and psychological safety resources and tools for journalists working in potentially dangerous contexts.

  • Resources for Media Makers and Citizen Journalists Covering Hostile Environments (International Documentary Association, 6/5/2020) is a compilation of resources related to documenting and reporting on protests and other potentially hostile situations. It focuses on video broadcasting and recording from the field.

Know Your Rights

These documents brief journalists on their legal protections during a protest.

Quick Reference
  • This concise Know Your Rights 3-pager (University of Georgia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic, 6/2/2020) includes a list of suggested items to bring, how to respond to various degrees of police interaction, and what to do if you’re arrested.

Deep Dive
  • Police, Protesters and the Press (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 2018) helps journalists understand their rights at protests, summarizes the press legal landscape, and provides strategies and tools to help journalists avoid incidents with police or navigate them should they arise.

  • The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker (Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists) is a digital index of threats to journalists in the field including arrests, attacks, denial of access, equipment damage, and more. Follow their Twitter account, @uspresstracker, for the most up-to-date coverage of attacks on the press. For reports of incidents of journalists impeded at recent protests see Press Freedom in Crisis. To report an incident, email: tips@pressfreedomtracker.us.

If you have additional legal questions relating to your rights, securing legal representation, or submitting a FOIA request, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press runs a hotline for journalists. Submit inquiries through this portal. **Note this is not a way to automatically secure legal representation.**

If you are a student journalist and have legal questions or concerns, call the Student Press Law Center’s Legal Hotline at (202) 785-5450 or fill out the online form here.

For Protesters

Protecting Your Data and Technology

These resources cover how protesters can protect themselves and their fellow demonstrators by securing their data and technology before, during, and after a protest.

Quick Reference
  • Attending a Protest (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 6/2/2020) contains a concise list of steps to take before and during a protest to protect your data and identity.

Deep Dive

Know Your Rights

These documents provide protesters with easily accessible information about their legal protections during a protest.

Quick Reference
  • This brief Know Your Rights (ACLU) is an overview of protester’s rights. It includes information about what to do if you’re stopped by the police while protesting, planning on taking photos at the protest, or organizing a protest. It is available in English and Spanish. There is also a quick video and list here.

  • This Know Your Rights Guide to Protesting for Non-U.S. Citizens (Tamizdat, 9/2/2020) informs non-US citizens of their First Amendment rights, the risks of protesting, and how to prepare for a demonstration in the United States.

Deep Dive
  • You Have a First Amendment Right to Record the Police (Electronic Frontier Foundation, 6/8/2020) contains recommendations on how to record police activity safely and within the correct legal parameters.

  • A Citizen’s Guide to Recording the Police (First Amendment Watch at New York University, 06/2020) details constitutional protections for recording police conduct, summarizing relevant appeals court decisions across numerous jurisdictions. It also addresses the limits of these protections, including permissible time, place, and manner restrictions.

 

We will continue to update this resource. Please send recommended materials to Madeline Wood, Communications and Research Coordinator, madeline.wood@knightcolumbia.org