From George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, the tragic deaths of African Americans caused by U.S. law enforcement officials have resulted in protests in Tennessee and every state, demanding lawmakers to defund the police and create new laws to address the injustices within the criminal justice system.
Although every American has a right to lawfully protest – and the government cannot infringe upon this right – there are certain restrictions the government can enforce that can potentially lead to serious criminal charges.
The following is an overview of the protest laws in Tennessee.
How to Protest
The First Amendment protects your right of assembly and protest. However, city, county, and state governments can regulate how you may perform both activities.
Often, protesters are prohibited from blocking the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Yet, protesters may march the streets if they obtain a permit.
Ensure you find the specific regulations of protesting in your county or city, based on local ordinances. Although the police might be lenient with these laws since protests against racial injustice have been popular and wide-spread, they can still legally enforce local and state ordinances.
Places Where You Can Protest
In general, you can legally protest on property that is government owned and operated, such as streets, sidewalks, and public parks. However, your First Amendment right does not apply to private property, such as homes and businesses. Only property owners have the authority to allow who can be on the premises at any given time.
Crimes Related to Protesting
One of the most common crimes you could be arrested for during a protest is “failure to obey,” which means intentionally failing or refusing to comply with a police officer’s lawful order. This offense is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail term of 30 days and a fine no more than $50.
Another common offense is “disorderly conduct,” meaning intentionally causing public alarm and annoyance, engaging in violent or threatening behavior, creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition, or refusing to obey an official order to disperse for the sake of public safety. This crime is also a Class C misdemeanor.
Lastly, you could be charged with “resisting arrest” if you intentionally obstruct or prevent an officer from making a lawful arrest. Resisting an arrest is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to six months and a maximum fine of $500. If a deadly weapon was involved, however, it is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail term of 11 months and 29 days and a fine not exceeding $2,500.
If you have been arrested for protesting in Johnson City, contact Meade Law Group today at (423) 464-7779 and request a free consultation. Serving residents throughout East Tennessee.