A woman clashes with a Philadelphia police officer during a protest on Wednesday, July 6. The demonstrators were protesting the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Credit: Photo by Durrell Hospedale

Philadelphia is expected to see between 35,000 and 50,000 protesters every day this week, and while Cleveland was relatively tame compared to what was predicted, it’s hard to say how Philly will fare.

The 2000 RNC was a disaster — some 400 people were arrested; only a handful were convicted. Protesters should know their rights so Philadelphia can avoid what happened 16 years ago. For instance, the First Amendment allows you to swear at cops. The First Amendment does not allow you to incite violence against a cop. You don’t need a permit to protest in the city. But the city would like if you just had one anyway.

Point is, there are some intricacies here in dealing with the robust protesting scene this week. If you plan to exercise your right to protest, bookmark this guide and use it as a reference.

Where you can protest

Luckily the situation regarding Broad Street was settled, but the city expects most of the protesting to occur at:

  • FDR Park
  • Marconi Plaza
  • Independence Mall
  • The plazas outside City Hall and the Municipal Service Building
  • Broad Street and Market Street (largely marches)

The majority of the protests and demonstrations that were approved are for FDR Park in South Philly, which is near the Wells Fargo Center. This is what the city’s deeming a “free speech zone,” though it hasn’t been without controversy. Some groups have felt they’ve been relegated to an area that isn’t really within eyeshot of the Wells Fargo Center.

But still, FDR Park is split up into zones and there will be bathroom access, road closures, food trucks and mist machines in the area for demonstrators. Here’s what that looks like:

Credit: City of Phladelphia

The rules at FDR Park include: No swimming, no camping, no open fires, no drugs or alcohol, no firearms and no smoking.

The permit situation

All groups protesting were asked nicely by the city to submit a request for a permit through the Office of Special Events in order to demonstrate. But they’ve also said they won’t arrest demonstrators and protesters simply for doing so without a permit. So why get one?

The city says there are two main reasons to get a permit: 1. You can lock down the spot you want to protest in and you’ll take precedence over any other groups that show. 2. If you submit a permit, the city can better place its emergency services.

But at this point, the convention is coming up. If you haven’t submitted a request for a permit yet, you still technically can. City spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the city asks for five days notice on permits “but we will consider demonstration permits submitted under a shorter time frame – so people should still submit if they haven’t yet.”

The cans and cannots of protesting

The cans

  • Free speech protects protesting, marching, chanting, carrying signs, beating drums, wearing T-shirts and the like — even if the opinions expressed are polarizing or controversial.
  • In Pennsylvania, you usually can’t record someone without their permission. However, the police aren’t subject to that rule and everyone has free reign to record and take photos of police.
  • This is more of a should do. But you should carry ID. If you’re arrested, not having an ID could cause serious problems.
  • If you feel you’re being arrested, you have the right to ask an officer if you are being detained
  • You can tell an officer you don’t consent to a stop-and-frisk.
  • You always have the right to remain silent.
  • You are entitled to ask for a lawyer if you’re arrested.

The cannots

  • The first amendment doesn’t protect civil disobedience, so you can’t block access to businesses or government buildings and you can’t sit in traffic without the possibility of arrest.
  • You can’t encourage violence or commit it, and you can’t mess with anyone else’s property, whether it be a private citizen or public property without the possibility of arrest.
  • Even though you can make it clear you do not consent to stop-and-frisk, you can’t resort to physically resisting being stopped and frisked if it puts the officer in danger. You could be arrested.
  • You can’t disobey a dispersal order from police without the possibility of arrest. Police are allowed to ask for even a generally peaceful crowd to disperse if they believe there’s a safety concern.
  • Don’t try to enter a secure area without having your bags searched. The Secret Service has a right to search your bags in the secure area, and if you don’t want your bags looked through, you can’t go in.
  • You can’t carry drugs or weapons. Well, you can. But if you’re arrested, you could face additional charges.
  • The First Amendment does not protect lying to cops. Either tell the truth or, if you’re under arrest, remain silent.

What to do if you’re arrested

Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill that should cut down on this by decriminalizing nuisance offenses, meaning you’d just get a fine rather than being detained. But still, we’ll let the experts take this one. The American Civil Liberties Union offers this guidance on what to do if you’re arrested:

  • Ask for a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, you’re entitled to one before you’re questioned.
  • You have the right to remain silent. You can say, “I am going to remain silent and would like a lawyer.”
  • Avoid talking about your case over the phone, as these conversations are recorded.
  • Avoid talking about your case with other people being held.
  • Don’t make a decision without consulting a lawyer.
  • The judge may set bail, and bail could be denied if you don’t have ID on you.

Who will be protesting

The DNC has already approved dozens of permit requests, including for a March for Bernie, a Trump for PA rally and a Westboro Baptist Church demonstration. We’re updating this post with information on the status of those permit requests.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.