What To Do If You’re Arrested at an Occupy Protest

What started as “Occupy Wall Street” has quite literally turned into a worldwide movement. People across the country and the globe are picking up signs and gathering together to protest greed and corruption. The movement remains most pronounced in the United States where the common rallying cry is, “We are the 99%”, referring to the distribution of wealth at the top 1% of the population. But at these rallies, some people aren’t leaving of their own accord; they are being carried away by the police.

There are YouTube videos popping up every day that show arrests bordering on brutality. In the initial days, a NYPD administrator in a white shirt could be seen pepper spraying a crowd who had done nothing but exercise their right to protest. The protests strive to be completely peaceful, though it seems as though the cops are sometimes the ones disrupting the peace.

Scanning the headlines of major city publications, you can find that scores are being arrested on any given day. Earlier this week, 100 were arrested at Occupy Boston, more than 20 in Denver, and more in San Diego, New York, and other American cities.  These arrests are largely being made in the name of crowd control and keeping the peace and are largely being made on people who have never been handcuffed before.

So, what should you do if you are arrested at an Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Atlanta, or any other Occupy protest?

When being arrested, particularly if you believe the police have no legitimate reason to arrest you, it can be difficult to remain calm. Many acts of force by the police are in response to the arrestee resisting, wiggling around, or mouthing off. This doesn’t necessarily make the force justified but it certainly doesn’t help you make the case that you are an innocent victim of police brutality.

The best piece of advice to heed when you are being arrested is to remain calm. You may not like how you are being treated and you certainly won’t like the fact that you are being arrested, but physically resisting the arrest will only make things worse. You have the right to remain silent and you have the right to refuse consent for a search. Yes, even when you are arrested, you have rights.

Most arrests being made at these protests are likely to fall under disorderly conduct statutes. While the exact wording of this crime varies from state to state, it often includes things like the impeding of traffic, failure to disperse after being given an order to do so, creating annoyance or alarm in public, and even loitering. Most of the time this is a misdemeanor charge with the potential for jail time and a criminal record.

It seems no matter how peaceful a protest is, when the number of participators swells, the likelihood of arrests also grows. While it is our right to peacefully protest, it is also within the job description of the police to look for reasons to maintain an “upper hand” and strategic arrests certainly remind protesters who is, in fact, in charge.

If you are arrested at an Occupy protest, you will likely be taken to the jail, booked, and possibly released or held for an arraignment hearing. You’ll likely be facing a criminal charge and discussing the case with an attorney is your best bet at understanding those charges and any options that may be available to you.

If you are insistent on getting back on the streets to Occupy and protest more, be aware that every subsequent arrest could bring you harsher penalties. If you aim to act in civil disobedience, it wouldn’t hurt to put someone on alert that you may get arrested. You could even get the I’m Getting Arrested app that will send a text message when you are getting cuffed.

The majority of people protesting at these movements will not end the day in handcuffs; they will either go home or snuggle down in their sleeping bags on the cold pavement. But for those that are arrested, understanding your rights and the limitations of those rights when you disobey the law is crucial.