Social unrest is a part of American democracy. That is how the nation was born, and periods of unrest have led to significant changes in our constitution and laws over the last few hundred years. Right now, there has been significant social unrest across the country. Since the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, there have been thousands of protests across the country and many here in Arizona. If you or a loved one will be or have attended a protest, it is important to know your rights if you are injured.
On July 27, 2020, seven people were arrested after demonstrators clashed with police at a protest in Tempe. This protest was organized by Tempe Against Police Violence, Black Lives Matter PHX Metro, Young Democratic Socialists of America, and Direct Action Arizona.
The protest began peacefully had around 5 p.m., but things became unsettled after officers ordered protesters back on the sidewalks as the crowd moved over the bridge to Tempe Town Lake. Eventually, various scuffles broke out. Tempe police say the seven people were arrested and that one officer was injured. At one point, police officers were seen tackling a protester who is wearing a football helmet and carrying a skateboard. Other protesters were sprayed with OC spray (pepper spray).
Protesters have a right to engage in peaceful protests in what is considered “traditional public forums,” which includes streets, sidewalks, and public parks. The government may impose some restrictions on these protests, including how large they are and prohibiting unreasonably loud demonstrations. However, the government cannot impose restrictions simply because they do not like the message of the protesters.
If a group plans an event that involves closing down streets, this will certainly require a permit. However, a march that stays on sidewalks and obeys traffic signals will usually not require a permit.
If you sustain an injury while protesting, and you believe that injury was caused by the careless or negligent actions of another person, you may have the right to recover compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. If your injury was caused by the actions of a law enforcement official, you may think there is no way for you to recover compensation. However, that is not necessarily the truth. While police may have some form of “qualified immunity,” that does not give them the right to act grossly negligent or with the intention of causing harm to somebody.
If you are injured in a protest, you need to speak to a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can use their resources to conduct a full investigation into the case and work to secure any compensation you are entitled to. This could include coverage of your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering damages, and more.
In addition to filing a lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses, a civil lawsuit will work to hold any negligent party accountable for their actions. This is particularly important for any government official who had a part and causing an unreasonable and unwarranted injury. These civil lawsuits are an important part of changing the system and preventing others from going through the same thing in the future.