Weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, have turned into weeks of arrests. Police in cities across the U.S. have arrested protesters when their means of dissent went from simple marching and chanting to violence and destruction and property.
In Philadelphia, after protests turned into terrifying riots, police arrested more than two dozen people in one Monday evening.
More than 700 people have been arrested in conjunction with Philadelphia protests, but the majority of those arrested were only given only civil citations. These citations can usually be resolved without a court hearing.
Approximately 200 people face criminal charges after being arrested at the protests. These mainly are related to being caught looting from businesses, a second-degree felony charged as “commercial burglary.” There were, however, also rioters who were charged with gun crimes or with assaulting police or other serious charges.
In New York City, thousands of people have been arrested for activities at protests, creating a backlog in processing them through the legal system. Some were arrested while looting, others were arrested for clashing with the police. The protesters were housed in city jail cells, where there is increased fear that the cramped spaces will put them at risk for contracting and spreading COVID-19. Most of the people arrested at the protests had to wait in jail for more than a day before seeing a judge, though some waited for more than three days.
In cities nationwide, police departments, wary of letting the protests get out of control and allowing widespread destruction in their communities, are arresting protesters who engage in dangerous or destructive activities. Protesters and rioters are being charged with crimes that include burglary, arson, aggravated assault, rioting, looting, defacing public property, and violating curfew. Law enforcement agencies were put on notice by the federal Department of Homeland Security in early June that violent protest movements will grow and domestic violent extremists and others will seek to take over government facilities and attack law enforcement.
In Los Angeles, 1600 people were arrested over a three-day period early in the protest movement. In Minneapolis, where the protests began and where rioters set fire to a police precinct building, more than 500 protesters were arrested in the early days of the movement.
People around the U.S. have been arrested while protesting and charged mostly with engaging in violent or destructive behavior, including in Phoenix, Arizona; Richmond, Virginia; Chicago, IL; Dallas, Texas; and Louisville, Kentucky.
Protesting is a constitutionally-protected, time-honored, American freedom. Every American has the right to engage in peaceful protest. However, when peaceful protests turn destructive or violent, law enforcement officers have a duty to protect the public by arresting the people causing the damage or posing a threat. Protesters who are arrested many face nothing more serious than a civil citation, but they could also face felony charges that carry stiff prison sentences and hefty fines.
It's easy to get caught up in the moment at a protest, especially when you see others engaging in bad behavior, but don't let a moment's bad decision lead you to a lifetime of regret.
Whether you were lawfully exercising your rights and are facing consequences, or made a mistake or poor decision, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento at 888-535-3686 or online for help.