Your voice is so important to the future of our country that our forefathers wrote an amendment guaranteeing your rights to freedom of speech and freedom to peaceably assemble. The Second Amendment does not guarantee the rights of protesters do what they want where they please, though. This means it is up to you, the protester, to understand what you can and cannot do during your protest in Seattle.

Location Restriction Considerations

You can express your views on streets, in parks, and in other public spaces. You cannot protest on private property that you do not own unless the owner has given you explicit permission.

The City of Seattle lays out clear guidelines regarding free speech activities and events. It defines a free speech event as a “solely expressive activity” that does not include commercial food or sales. Protest marches, religious processions, and pickets are free speech events. The city does also allow “mixed free speech events” that do allow commercial food and sales. Fees may apply.

While the law allows protesting in most public spaces, you may need a permit to demonstrate, depending on where you will protest and what you do during the demonstration. This is especially true if you are planning a large-scale protest, such as a march or parade that will likely inhibit traffic flow, or one in which you will use megaphones, microphones, or loudspeakers.

Know Your Rights

As a general rule, law enforcement cannot punish or discriminate against you because you are freely expressing your views. Keep in mind, though, that the First Amendment does not protect every form of speech – it does not cover obscenity, fraud, child pornography, defamation, and incitement to violence, for example.

Your rights as a protester may have been violated by law enforcement if:

  • Law enforcement has allowed a different group to speak freely and in a similar way as you, and they took action only against your demonstration

  • The police asked you to refrain from handing out flyers, books, pamphlets, or other constitutionally protected literature

  • The police searched your body without your consent, and you were in not a situation where they had a reason to search you

  • Police demanded you show them photos or videos, despite not having a warrant to do so

  • Law enforcement attempted to end your protest, even though you had the required permits and had met all the applicable restrictions

Most protesters in Seattle engage in peaceful protests, but sometimes things get out of hand. The most common charges facing Washington protesters include disorderly conduct, obstruction, trespassing, resisting arrest, or disturbing nearby activity.

If you are arrested or are facing charges relating to your participation in a protest, keep in mind that you have the right to remain silent.

You are required to give your name and address, but nothing else. You also have the right to an attorney; ask for one right away and do not discuss the case with the police until your attorney is present. You have the right to go to court, and to see a judge the next day that the court is in session. Contact Lennard Nahajski to discuss your rights.