Guide to the Law on Protests and Protesters in the United States

People who protest, whether against the government, corporations, or individuals, have certain rights under the law. In particular, the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to “peaceably assemble.”

That said, this right is not absolute, and there are some limitations and exceptions.

Laws related to protesting involve areas including free speech, police and government action, harassment by individuals, and privacy law. We have developed guides on each of these areas. If you are planning to protest or demonstrate, or you are simply interested in the laws for protesters, you need to know the following areas of law:

1. Free Speech

We have strong protections on free speech and freedom of assembly, but there are limits. See our Guide to Free Speech.

2. Police and Government Actions

There are limits to what police can legally do to stop protesters. See our Guide to Police Conduct, and our guide on Can the Government Do That?

3. Harassment

Protestors are sometimes harassed by people other than law enforcement, whether by those opposed to their message, or by corporate security or other agents. Here’s what you need to know about harassment: Guide to Harassment Law.

4. Privacy

Protestors may be concerned about their privacy. We have many rights to privacy, both online and offline. See our Guide to Privacy Law.

5. Obeying the Law

If a law is unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, do I still need to obey it?

Generally yes. See our Legal Basics.

6. Taxes

If I want to protest the government’s funding of certain programs, can I deduct it from my taxes?

No, it doesn’t work that way, and doing so can subject you to penalties. See our Guide to Tax Laws.

Exercise Your Rights

Find a great 1st amendment lawyer or civil rights attorney.

Related Pages


Photo credit: Occupy Wall Street demonstration December 2011. From Bigstockphoto.com

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