Engaging in peaceful protest has always been a right of Americans, but recent arrests at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Phoenix have tested the limits of this right. Four hunger strikers are continuing their protest, they say, until they see their loved ones walk away from an ICE detention center where they are being held in Eloy. There have been protestors outside the detention center since February 17. Protests were scheduled to continue until March 3.
Three of the demonstrators were arrested recently after they allegedly trespassed on private property. Police say they had already warned the three earlier in the day. Other protestors were also warned and were given the option to leave. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona claims that the police used unnecessary force in arresting peaceful protestors.
The police removed tents where some 40 to 50 people were set up and returned the property to demonstration organizers. The street was also closed to the public during the arrests. The arrests took place late in the day when many of the protestors were asleep. Some of the protestors as well as those being held in the detention center are on a hunger strike to draw attention to the federal government’s immigration policies.
Can Protestors Be Arrested?
The Constitutions Bill of Rights gives everyone the right to peacefully protest. However, there are limitations to a person’s or group’s ability to protest, particularly with regard to location.
Generally, as long as protestors do not hinder others from enjoying unrestricted use and access of a building or roadway, there is little police can do to stop them. However, protestors ca be arrested if they are on private property or if they in some way interfere with others, or if they cause a dangerous situation such as a riot.
Ultimately, whether a protestor has broken the law is a question for a jury or a judge in a criminal trial. If a protestor is wrongfully arrested, he or she may have cause for a civil rights lawsuit.
What Should I Do If I Am Arrested?
If you are arrested as part of a peaceful protest, it is likely that you will need the help of a lawyer to represent your interests. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help you have your charges reduced or dismissed. Contact Alex Lane for Phoenix criminal representation for all types of charges, including trespass and other charges related to peaceful protest.