There comes a time when you are standing up for what you believe in and trying to spread the message of what you know is right when you will face people who will go out of their way to restrict your first amendment right to free speech. Sometimes, it is the people you are exposing, other times its people who are there to protect your rights, such as police officers.
It is important when faced with these issues to remain professional and get the names and badge numbers of the officers who are being restrictive and those who are being helpful. If you have a video camera, make sure you document all conversations, the locations of where you feel you have the right to be and the area where you are being contained. Always, do as the officer asks but feel comfortable asking questions about the situation and explain this is in violation of your rights to free speech. At no point should you become aggressive or provoke the officer. Do not get yourself arrested.
These are important things to remember because it can work out in your favor. Here’s a recent example from one of my own leafleting experiences.
We arrived at our leafleting location and were approached by a very aggressive police officer. He proceeded to tell us we could only be in a blocked off area, far removed from anyone passing by.
Knowing our rights to distribute leaflets to the public were being trampled on I immediately put down all my leaflets and picked up the video camera. I needed to document the area to show that we were not given a proper area to reach people with our message.
There have been times in the past and similar moments like this one, where no matter what you say and it doesn’t matter how ‘in the right’ you are it only makes their veins in their head pop out and they throw spit from their mouth like bullets from a machine gun. This time was no different.
During all of this chaos, we wrote down names and badge numbers and took video and photos then made calls to the proper authorities. After a series of phone calls and emails I am glad to report that we were allowed to hand leaflets out in an area where we can reach people.
Oh, the sweetness of our first amendment rights!