A federal court in Atlanta ruled last week that a police officer had infringed on the free speech rights of a minister when the officer arrested the minister for refusing to leave a protest rally. Too often, police officers violate individual’s constitutional rights, including free speech and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure. These violations can lead to improper arrests or the attempt to introduce items into evidence which were discovered as the result of an illegal search.
In this case, the minister was simply heading to a federal building to use the post office. When he arrived, he saw a group of protesters, already at the scene, waving signs. Apparently disagreeing with the protesters, the minister began waving at them and loudly expressing his own opinion on the matter.
A police officer then approached him and asked the minister if he had a permit to protest. The minister stood his ground and would not walk away. At that point, the officer threatened to use a stun gun. The minister was subsequently arrested on charges of disorderly conduct.
Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the minister, the judge determined that the city never had any legal grounds for his arrest. She explained that there was no indication that he had made any threatening comments or gestures. He had simply expressed his disagreement and his intent to remain on the sidewalk.
Understanding your rights is vital to protecting them. Many people assume that once a police officer as at their front door or driver’s side window the officer can basically do whatever they want to. But police officers are required to follow the rules and avoid infringing your rights.
Source: The Houston Chronicle, “Judge: Ga. officials violated minister’s rights,” Greg Bluestein