As protests continue for a second week across the United States, increasing incidents of brutality are somber reminders that the police do not always protect and serve the public. To keep you and your friends as safe as possible, we’ve detailed some of the recommended actions you can take if you have a run-in with the police.
Hundreds of years of structural racism, militarized tactics, and insufficient training have created a well-armed force that often threatens the safety of civilians, particularly black people. And since the death of George Floyd, over an estimated 10,000 protesters have been arrested by police who have been shown to use pepper spray, rubber bullets, teargas, and batons on protesters, media, and peaceful bystanders.
Nevertheless, protesting is one of the most effective forms of resistance for many Americans — but being prepared and knowing your rights is vital if you are arrested during a protest.
Here’s how to protect yourself if you get arrested during a protest
Life Hack spoke to lawyer Maryanne Kaishian, a senior staff attorney at Brooklyn Defender Services, about the correct steps to take if you have a run-in with police. Watch the interview below and scroll down for her key pieces of advice.
Write key phone numbers on your arm
Before you head off, write the contact numbers of an attorney or legal service on your arm so that you can still make contact if the police confiscate your phone.
Good Call is an NYC-based nonprofit that exists to protect the rights of overpoliced communities by providing free and instantaneous legal support for anyone who gets arrested through a 24/7 hotline. If you’re arrested at a New York City protest, call 1-833-3-GOODCALL. They will connect you with a free attorney in under a minute. This lawyer can invoke the arrested person’s rights, contact loved ones, and give them the support they need for a fair outcome.
For more information on companies offering legal advice and bailing out protestors throughout the United States, head here.
Invoke your right to remain silent and ask to speak to your lawyer
Make sure you invoke your right to remain silent. You can provide your name and address, but don’t answer any other questions. Instead, ask to speak to your lawyer.
In the video above, Kaishian suggests using phrases like: “My lawyer said I can’t talk to you, I need to call her.”
Don’t let the police search your phone
Although police are allowed to confiscate your phone, they can’t actually search your personal devices unless you give consent. They need a warrant for that. They may try to pressure or even scare you into unlocking your phone, which is why it’s better to set a complicated password before attending a protest.
Don’t give a DNA sample
An officer may try to make it seem like it is a standard procedure to take a DNA swab from your cheek. It’s not. Do not consent to give a DNA sample. Try not to accept anything from police that can be used to extract a sample, including water bottles, cigarettes, or gum.
Keep an eye on each other
Try to go to a protest with a friend and agree to watch out for one another. If, for example, a person you know is arrested or apprehended by an officer, start filming and make sure you get the officer’s badge number.
If, on the other hand, you are arrested and someone starts filming, try to loudly narrate the situation. This will give context and could help your case down the line.
Authorities may claim it’s illegal to film an arrest, but unless you are physically impeding an officer, you’re well within your rights to stand to the side and capture the entire moment.
Recent incidents of police brutality are reminders that police officers do not always follow the rule of law. Even if you invoke your rights and obey the law, you may still be in danger. You may also be at increased risk of contracting or spreading coronavirus if you are detained in cramped conditions.
Learning from others can help prepare you for some of those dangers. Four New Yorkers spoke to the Face about what it was like to be arrested at the protests. Read their accounts here.