Protestor’s Rights


  • Your rights are strongest in public spaces. The first amendment grants you the right to assembly and free speech on public property as long as you are not blocking access to private property.
  • In a public space, it is legal to film and photograph anything in plain view—including the police.
  • You don’t need a permit to protest in the streets or on sidewalks, as long as attendees don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. However, if you don’t have a permit, police officers can ask you to move to the side of a street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons. Permits are required for an action that will block traffic, uses sound-amplifying devices, or uses a certain amount of a park or plaza. A permit cannot be denied because the event is controversial or will express unpopular views, but permits can take a long time to get.
  • The law says police may not break up a gathering unless there is a clear and present danger of riot, disorder, interference with traffic, or other immediate threat to public safety. Individuals must receive clear and detailed notice of a dispersal order, including how much time they have to disperse, the consequences of failing to disperse, and what clear exit route they can follow, before they may be arrested or charged with any crime.


  • Be strategic. We are committed to ensuring that all action and event benefits will always outweigh the risks. Before organizing or attending a direct action, analyze the risks related to safety and security of people involved in the action and others who might be affected by it and ensure that all members taking action are trained and supported.
  • Inclusivity must be prioritized. Show up in solidarity for other movement organizations seeking justice and recognize the role privilege plays in ally-ship. If applicable, use your privilege to protect and amplify the voices of others, and never overlook the ways in which supporters may be alienated from or impacted by a direct action.
  • Do not engage with counter-protesters or aggressive media. If you must, never do so alone and stay on message.
  • Never put yourself in danger, physically or legally. Never get violent or damage property. If you feel unsafe at any point during a direct action, leave (and bring others with you).


  • If you witnessed or were involved in a legal or physical incident during a direct action, photograph and record the incident if possible and write down everything you remember from the incident as soon as you can—including contact information for any witnesses and, if law enforcement was involved, the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers and the agency they work for. Whether you were able to gather this information or not, file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division, civilian complaint board, and/or a superior officer and help get you any additional support you need.
  • If you are confronted by police at a protest:
    • Stay calm and be respectful. Ensure that someone from your group is videotaping, if possible.
    • Ask: “Am I being detained?” If they answer in the negative, ask: “Am I free to go?”
    • If the answer is in the positive, do not resist the arrest and immediately plead the 5th. Comply with orders and don’t tell the police anything except your name and address. Do not give permission to search yourself or anything you are carrying. Ask for the card and badge number of all police officers involved in your arrest.


  • Any infringement on a voters’ right to vote should be reported to the Election Protection Hotline and local election officials.
    • Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
    • A directory to find your local election official can be found at:
  • Document the incident and contact us at our press form to help alert the media.


  • Photograph the Know your Rights, Protocols for Emergencies, and Voter Disenfranchisement Resources sections of this document and keep it easily accessible on your phone.
  • Write down emergency contacts in your skin in Sharpie—including contact information for your Regional Organizing Director.
  • Coordinate with your chapter on how you will communicate with each other during the action. Signal and WhatsApp are encrypted from end to end and have group chat functionality.
  • You’re welcome to wear MFOL merchandise, also here’s a list merch that support Black movements.
  • Bring water for drinking and tear gas.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen.
  • Take COVID-19 safety precautions. Wear a mask and, if possible, gloves. Bring hand sanitizer. Physically distance as much as possible.
  • Do not bring anything you don’t want to be arrested with.
  • Do not wear contact lenses.


Join the Movement