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Protocol At Demonstrations – If An Arrest Takes Place

I have been getting questions lately from allies about what to do during and immediately after an arrest at a demonstration. These protocols, meant to serve as a quick guide, are best practices for responding to arrest of demonstrators. They should be applied based on the particular type of demonstration. Some demonstrations are not “permitted” and  involve civil disobedience or direct action will have a higher risk of arrest. In addition if an arrest is planned other protocols may have been set up to replace the ones below which will mainly be focused on unintended arrest.

Participation in demos may vary and the circumstances of an arrest will also. Therefore, use these protocols as a guide and make adjustments based on how organized the contingent is, how much time there is from the calling of the demo to the actual demo, and whether members are attending as an official contingent of an organization. Even if not attending demos as an official member/contingent of a group, it is wise to alert friends that you are going to participate a demo so they can provide additional support in case of an arrest.

If going to a demo as a contingent of an organized group
• Gather all “legal” names of persons attending, phone numbers, date of birth, address and emergency contact (members should designate whether a simple arrest should be classified as an emergency for calling person on emergency contact list) before going to demo, call this a “master list”
• The master list should be given to a designated person who is not attending the rally, has access to a phone and has access to a criminal attorney who has agreed prior to demo to be on call in case of an arrest and access to local organizational members
• All persons attending demo should have the phone number to the person with the master list/and or a designated ‘legal entity” that has agreed to handle arrest at the particular demonstration in case someone is arrested
• All persons attending demo (unless otherwise agreed to because of the agreement to engage in jail solidarity) should have an id on them, again the number to someone to call in case of arrest, and change for phone calls
• People should avoid – wearing clothes that are expensive; clothes that tear easily; carrying heavy loads, shoes with high heels; propaganda/information that you would not want to fall into the wrong hands; weapons
• Once at demo contingent members should contact master-list holder to confirm arrival and to confirm who is present
• A security protocol should be set to keep track of members who came as part of an organized contingent

Master-List holder
• Should have the number to lawyer who is on call
• Should have the number and email leading members of your group
• Should have access to a list-serve/emails of members and allies
• Should have number/emails of friendly media and corporate media

If someone is arrested next steps
1. If an arrest takes place, other members of the contingent should follow arrestee as long as possible without putting themselves in position to get arrested, until person is placed in a police vehicle

2. Contingent members should take pictures/video to document arrest and any physical abuse or injury sustained

3. If possible ask where arrestee will be taken

4. Contingent member(s) should call person with master list/or designated person and give as much information as possible

5. Master List holder should call the attorney on call and the leading members of your group

6. If and or when precinct where arrestee is taken is identified it should be shared from contingent group to Master list holder or vice versa

7. Contingent members should make their way to the precinct once it is identified

8. Master-list holder should begin alerting, via list serve, that a member of group was arrested

9. Members should start proceeding to precinct

10. Based on circumstances of arrest designated attorney may come down to precinct

11. Once at precinct contingent members should work together and remain calm depending on numbers. Rule of thumb is that the less there are of you the calmer you should be if you are trying to get information.

12. Contingent members should ask the precinct “desk sergeant” (commonly known as the most unhelpful cop in the world) if the arrestee is there and if the person will be issued a desk appearance ticket or taken to central booking.

13. Contingent members/master list holder should also get the number of the precinct and have members call the precinct for more information until they are informed to stop by the master-list holder.

14. A decision should be made by members and leadership of group – based on circumstances of arrest, charges and condition of arrestee on whether to enact a rapid response protocol

15. If arrestee is allowed to make a phone call at the precinct or later at central booking (where normally there are pay phones to call out) they should call the Master list holder and report on their condition and possible charges, but never on the details of the arrest.

16. If it is determined that a desk appearance ticket will be issued the arrestee will be released from the precinct with a future court date

17. If it is determined that arrestee will be taken to central booking, that means they will be held for upwards of 24 hours from arrest time and decisions should be made as to when to start getting people to go to central booking for when arrestee will be arraigned (see a judge, have charges read and a possible bail imposed)

18. If a rapid response protocol is enacted that means a determination has been made that the circumstance of the arrest, charges and or condition of arrestee is of such a serious nature that allies, friends, families, media contacts, elected officials and community allies should be alerted and asked to proceed to the precinct and then later to central booking. The group/leadership will designate members to do specific task, i.e. writing a press release or such. Other than that members should act by calling contacts of the type listed above, unless otherwise instructed not to.

19. After arrestee is released, via desk appearance ticket or arraigned in court a follow up meeting should be held to debrief and plan next steps.

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About Kamau Franklin (80 Articles)
Kamau has been a dedicated community activist and organizer for over twenty years, first in New York City and now based in the south. He has been a leading member of several grassroots organizations dedicated to the ideas of Malcolm X on self-determination. He has organized on various issues including youth organizing and development, police misconduct, and creating sustainable urban communities. Kamau has led and developed community cop-watch programs, freedom school programs for youth, large scale community gardens and alternatives to incarceration. He can be followed on twitter @kamaufranklin.

1 Comment on Protocol At Demonstrations – If An Arrest Takes Place

  1. Kamau Franklin // September 4, 2012 at 8:26 am // Reply

    Reblogged this on Grassroots Thinking.

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