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What to do if you are stopped or arrested at a demonstration

This has been a year marked by many public marches and demonstrations. As Americans, we have the right to peacefully assemble and protest in public places and, with property owners' permission, on private property.

However, too often, people who intend only to exercise their right to free speech end up under arrest, sometimes for serious charges. This October, a documentary filmmaker was arrested on felony charges as she filmed the protest of the Keystone Pipeline.

If you participate in a demonstration, it's essential to know how to avoid arrest and what to do if you are arrested. Too often, people make the situation worse for themselves because they get caught up in the heat of the moment. Remember the following tips, which are also helpful in any encounter with the police:

-- If you are questioned by police, be polite, respectful and calm.

-- If asked to provide your name or identification, comply with the request.

-- Police have the right to pat you down over your clothes to ensure that you aren't armed. However, they don't have a right to any further search of your body or belongings without your permission. Respectfully decline to provide that.

-- If you are placed under arrest, don't resist. You have the right to ask what you're being arrested for. Tell the officer(s) that you're invoking your right to remain silent, and ask to contact your attorney immediately.

-- As soon as possible, document exactly what happened and contact anyone who witnessed or videotaped your arrest.

Arguing with law enforcement officials about your rights being violated won't help you and could lead to additional charges and possibly endanger your safety. If your rights were violated, it's your attorney's job to make that case for you in court.

Source: ACLU, "Know Your Rights: What to Do if Your Rights are Violated at a Demonstration or Protest," accessed Dec. 28, 2016

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