Know Your Rights, Ferguson, Missouri

Outside of the Ferguson Police Department, protesters continue to exercise their right to protest in response to the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, on Saturday. In a show of solidarity, they hold up signs encouraging drivers to honk their horns in support of justice for the young man's family, just a day away from starting college.

On Wednesday, Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU of Missouri, and I went down to meet with demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights across the street from the police department. We handed out "Know Your Rights" cards to inform participants of their rights and protections when interacting with law enforcement.

During the course of that meeting, Mr. Rothert informed the participants that suppressing their right to peacefully assemble is unconstitutional. "Intimidating people to give up their First Amendment rights is no better than prohibiting their First Amendment rights in the first place," he said. "So, the militarization is very troubling."

Since Brown's shooting on Saturday, Ferguson and St. Louis County police have reacted to the largely peaceful protests in an overtly militarized and confrontational way: body armor, armored cars, SWAT teams, tear gas, snipers training their assault rifles on protestors, and K-9 units. Particularly at night, it's hard to tell the difference between the intersections along West Florissant Avenue and Tahrir Square.

In response to a comment that Ferguson police are intimidating members of the media, Mr. Rothert stated that, "If there are journalists who feel they are being shut out and if the media are intimidated or pushed out, then the story doesn't get told. That's an offense to the First Amendment as well." Since then, disturbing reports of police teargasing and assaulting and detaining journalists have gone viral.

When asked what the ACLU's involvement was, Mr. Rothert informed the participants that a public records request was made to obtain the police reports connected to Michael Brown's death. He told them that our request was denied. "The lack of transparency is troubling," said Mr. Rothert. "The incident report is a public record that should be disclosed. It sends a bad message when police are asking people to obey the law and they are violating it by not releasing these public documents."

No police action was taken during our visit, and there did not appear to be any police officers or representatives near the protest.

We left around 4:55 p.m. All was quiet. Unfortunately, it didn't remain so as night fell.

The ACLU of Missouri is currently on the ground in Ferguson, Mo., observing police conduct and educating protestors of their rights. You have the constitutional right to not only protest peacefully in public, but you also have the right to record police officers as they carry out their duties to serve and protect you, the citizen. For more on how police forces have become so excessively militarized, please see the ACLU report, "War Come Home."

Sign our petition asking the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice to stop funneling billions into the militarization of state and local police forces.

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William Hamilton

These photos of "stormtroopers" and "brown shirts" in Ferguson look more like a scene from "Star Treck" than a local law enforcement agency. This kind of "George Zimmerman" mentality demonstrates the "cowboy" mindset of these punkie assed "local" cops. Have we learned nothing since the 1960s when we had the same problems with the head busting "PIGS?" Always vote against more funding for your County's Sheriff to prevent the purchase of armored military vehicles.

Edwin Bonilla

No one who is 18 or older is a "teen", regardless of the suffix. Michael Brown was a young man and not a "teen". Every article I have read has referred to him as a "teen" but he is not a "teen" because he's a young man. People should defend their first amendment rights. Using ageist terminology against young people is intolerance.


Rights according to the ACLU:
The right to loot.
The right to firebomb.
The right to throw bricks at police.
Forbidden by the ACLU:
Telling the truth if it looks bad for people the ACLU supports.
The police telling their side of the story.
The police trying to protect innocent people.
Anyone who stands up for the rights of the police officer.

Ralph robbie Ho...


​I have created a theory that the government refuses to address concerning racial profiling, called theory of "Matching the Color of Skin". Together we can defeat racial profiling world wide, by,
​Changing the color of the uniform of the judges and the color of the court room--based on my theory of setting a pre-racial mind set in the judge and jury. My theory that authorities and judges in the early stages of criminal justice were put in uniforms of very dark color–simple minded people with simple minded psychology, to assist the authorities and judges in having a pre-racial state of mind of “matching the color of skin” (White Brown or Black) with defendants of African American or African heritage, to make them feel more mentally satisfied in prosecuting them. Given the fact that most of the justice and authorities were white males in the early development of criminal justice systems--some being very racist, might have found more reason in pushing their racism onto others, without them knowing it. Thus providing those in authority to feel more just in seeking criminal punishment on those whose skin color matched their clothing in court and in the field (White Brown or Black). There are more prisons in America than in any other country and we have more minorities and African Americans in prison than white individuals. The other reason for this theory was based on my awareness of the authorities (police) having black or dark colored cars and clothes, in the early stages of criminal justice as well as in the modern system, sheriff’s having brown colored cars and clothes as well as judges having the black capes working in brown court rooms. The chances of this, and having the largest prison system with more minorities and African Americans, is a little to quaint. When you add in minimum education, this could be problematic. All evidence to the contrary. Example: would be the beating of Mr. Rodney King. If the police that pulled up to Mr. King would have pulled up in a Barbie Car and wearing a pink Leotard with a pink gun, would the police have used the unnecessary abuse tactics they did? This theory put in place would eliminate all colors that match the color of any color of skin (White Brown or Black).​

​Take care
Luxemburg Wisconsin​


Why does the Aclu hate the police? Why do they protect the criminals? Especially black thugs. The protest are not peaceful. They have left the city in ruins. But that is the way black people act.

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