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At the RNC? Know Your Rights!

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August 28, 2012

After a brief weather-related delay, the 2012 Republic National Convention is finally getting underway. Although crowds of protestors are smaller than initially expected, as we recently pointed out, in past years, political conventions have sometimes become “constitutional black holes” that stifle free speech and other First Amendment protected activity.

It’s important to note that while the First Amendment protects our rights to free speech and assembly, police and government officials are allowed to place certain nondiscriminatory and narrowly drawn “time, place and manner” restrictions on the exercise of First Amendment rights. Any such restrictions must apply to all speech regardless of its point of view, but this does mean that how these rights manifest themselves do vary from state to state and city to city.

That is why the ACLU of Florida has put together a series of RNC related resources, which can be found on their website at Some of these resources include:

First Amendment toolkit (view here, print here), produced specifically for the RNC with information about the right to protest, permits during the convention, and what to do if stopped by the police.
A Rights of Protestors brochure, which details rights to protest, limitations on speech and action in Florida, and your rights when encountering police and if you are arrested.
A Know Your Rights guide for photographers, which details rights to public photography in Florida, special considerations when recording video, and photographing police encounters.
RNC in Tampa: What You Need to Know slideshow, which was presents information about what to expect at the RNC, as well as information about event zones and parade maps.
ACLU of Florida First Amendment Forum: Focus on the Tampa RNC, videos from a forum organized by the ACLU of Florida in Tampa with community leaders and First Amendment experts on the impact the 2012 Republican National Convention would have on the people of Tampa and their rights (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7).

Representatives from the ACLU of Florida are live on the ground at the RNC, and will be tweeting updates from @ACLUFL. You can contact the ACLU if you’re interested in volunteering at the RNC, or if you need help because you believe your rights have been violated.

We hope you’ll join us in calling on the Mayors of Tampa, Florida (as well as Charlotte, North Carolina – where the upcoming Democratic National Convention will be held) to actively protect and defend free speech at the conventions.

Stay tuned for updates from the RNC, and information about your rights at the DNC!