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What Rights Do Protesters Have in Illinois?


From George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the tragic deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement officials has sparked national – and even global – outrage for many years, resulting in protests that include demanding police departments holding their fellow officers accountable for their misconduct and significant changes to the criminal justice system. 

Although every American citizen has the right to assemble and protest, you must understand all the rights associated with protesting. In fact, it is possible you could be arrested during a protest. 

Illinois Protest Rights 

First, you need to know that you have the right to protest on “traditional public forums,” such as government buildings, parks, streets, sidewalks, or other public property. As long as you do no block access or interfere with the purpose of the property, you may legally protest without issue. 

When it comes to private property, however, only the owner can approve whether a protest can take place on the premises. If an owner consents to have a protest on their property, the government is prohibited from restricting the protest. 

Counter-protesters also have the same free speech rights as protesters do. Yet, the police can make sure each group maintains its distance from one another. 

When Can You Get Arrested for Protesting? 

While the Constitution preserves our right to peacefully assemble, there are certain limits to those rights. For example, if law enforcement officials determine that a protest has become dangerous or violent, they can arrest protesters. 

The following are other ways you can get arrested at a protest in Illinois: 

  • Violate a curfew or emergency order 

  • Violate an order to disperse, if the police declare the protest an “unlawful assembly” 

  • Block traffic 

  • Obstruct law enforcement officials 

  • Trespassing private property 

  • Vandalism and looting 

If you or a loved one has been arrested at a protest in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Steven Fine today at (312) 436-0638 for a free consultation. 20+ years of legal experience!