If you’re planning to attend a protest, march or demonstration in the coming weeks, it’s important to make the right preparations and to know your rights.
If you’re planning to attend a protest or march in the coming weeks, it’s important to make the right preparations and to know your rights.
This information, particularly around your legal rights, is subject to possible changes, you should check the UK Government website for the most up-to-date information around your rights and police powers.
For a good guide to preparation, Liberty have an article of practical tips; some dos and don’ts they recommend:
- Dress comfortably and practically, ideally something waterproof. Definitely wear comfortable footwear.
- Wear dark colours and cover any distinctive markings or tattoos.
- Switch off Face/Touch ID on your phone, or even bring an older phone with essential numbers only.
- Wear pads instead of tampons if you are on your period and bring a spare.
- Write essential phone numbers on your arm so you can contact people you need to even if your phone battery dies.
- Wear or bring valuables.
- Wear contact lenses, bring your glasses instead.
- Bring anything that you wouldn’t want to get arrested with.
You should also take water and snacks (lightweight snacks like energy bars are a good choice), and might want to bring hand sanitiser, a power bank to charge electronic devices, plasters or blister patches, and a pen and paper.
If you have a medical condition or medication you should bring a card with any necessary medical information and have your medication in a labelled prescription bottle. Make sure you bring sufficient medication in case you’re delayed or detained.
We also recommend you take a lateral flow test before you travel to any protest or march to avoid putting others at risk.
What if I’m arrested?
You should only be arrested if the police have a good reason to think you’ve committed a crime. Liberty have a guide to what happens if you’re arrested at a protest. Importantly:
- You should be told that you are being arrested and why you are being arrested.
- The arresting officer should tell you their name and number, along with which station you’re being taken to.
- You may be searched. Unless the police have reason to believe you have weapons, drugs, or something similar, this will be a ‘pat down’. If you are strip searched this should be in a private place and done by an officer of the same gender or a gender of your choice if you are trans/non-binary.
- There are other stages of the custody process that may also take your gender into account, Liberty have more guidance here on your rights as a trans or non-binary person under arrest.
If the police have reason to believe you have acted in an anti-social manner you have to provide your name and address, but otherwise you don’t have to provide any personal details, this includes when you are processed at the police station after an arrest.
Liberty recommend you answer “No Comment” to any questions or conversations until you’ve spoken with a solicitor.
The organisers of the protest you’re attending may have prepared a Bust Card (there may be people handing these out on the day too), which usually include a summary of your rights, police powers, and contact details for protest solicitors.
Liberty also have a list of solicitors offering 24/7 support to protestors in London, as well as other support options. One of your essential phone numbers should be a solicitor specialising in protests.
What about the University?
You need to be aware that the University can also take?disciplinary action when students breach regulations and it is your responsibility as a student?to be aware of these. Actions or behaviours that could trigger disciplinary action include:
- The disruption of University activities whether?on University premises or elsewhere (including online spaces).
- Preventing the legitimate exercise of free speech at the University.
- Behaviour (on or off campus) that could damage the reputation of the University.
- Conduct (both on or off campus, including online) that causes physical or mental damage, harm, alarm or distress to others.
- Criminal offences on University premises, affect members of the University community, or damages the reputation of the University.
If you are subject to a University disciplinary, support is available from Your Advice Service.
If you are protesting, please stay safe!