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What to know about protesting in Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Administrative Policy 17-02 details the do’s and don’t’s of protests, vigils, speeches, and other expressive activities within the city.
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Posted at 10:40 PM, Apr 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-11 22:41:10-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As people continue to protest the police killing of Patrick Lyoya, FOX17 decided to look into the rights guaranteed to those who participate.

Grand Rapids Administrative Policy 17-02 details the do’s and don’t’s of protests, vigils, speeches, and other expressive activities within the city.

According to the city’s website, administrative policies are created by the city manger and city executives.

Policy 17-02 was enacted on October 1, 2017.

Under the policy, no advance notice is required for demonstrations within Grand Rapids. However, it encourages organizers to do so to ensure public safety and properly allocate city resources.

Protests are different from special events according to the policy. The city cannot charge fees or require insurance for protests, however that’s only in cases in which participants stay on the sidewalk. Additionally, if another counter-protestors show up to wherever protestors are gathered, the policy requires the city to guarantee counter-protestors space too.

If event coordinators want to march in the street, reserve a certain location, etc., a special events permit is required. Fees and insurance requirements may apply.

Policy 17-02 allows for sound amplification devices, like a megaphone, but it must be no louder than the “average conversational level” 100 feet away from the sound. A special events permit allows for use of the equipment without restrictions.

“At the same time that people have a freedom of speech, other people also have the freedom of movement,” said Sarissa Montague, a criminal defense attorney at Levin & Levin in Kalamazoo.

Montague says while the United States Constitution guarantees a person’s right to express their opinion and other rights, the government holds an interest too that allows them to create certain regulations for expressive activities, although it varies in each city.

“Those regulations usually have everything to do with the time, place, and manner of the protest, but they can’t just be very broad regulations,” said Montague. “The regulations have to be narrowly tailored in order to make sure that the constitutional rights of each of us is being upheld even when there’s governmental involvement.”

According to policy 17-02, there are also standards of conduct that each person at a protest must follow, regardless of a special events permit.

Conduct rules include people not blocking access to a building or other facility during a protest and obstructing car and pedestrian traffic. It prohibits littering or posting materials on city property.

Any violation may lead to criminal charges.

Montague advises people research a community’s policy before protesting and move forward in a peaceful manner “no matter what” during a demonstration.

“You certainly have the right to your speech and your right to the protest, but at the same time, law enforcement is tasked with the job that people are safe and the community is safe,” said Montague.

To go into more detail about a person’s rights if a police officer stops or detains them during a demonstration, click here.

To read Grand Rapids Administrative Policy 17-02, click here.

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