On Monday January 9th, 2012 and Friday, January 13th, 2012, Nigerian-Americans, Nigerians and Friends of Nigerians based in the USA will gather in New York and Washington DC to protest against the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria. As one who has handled a large amount of criminal defense cases within the past ten (10) years of practicing law here in the USA, I know when people protests, it increases the likelihood of altercations and arrests at the venues where such protests occur. Accordingly, this is a cheat sheet on what to do if you are arrested in the USA while protesting against the removal of fuel subsidy on the aforementioned dates.
I frankly hesitated to write this as I do not believe or anticipate any issues here in the States. However, it is always prudent to be safe. Share this article with as many people as possible and tell them to share with others that will also be protesting.
What You Should Know if Arrested While Protesting in the USA
- The US Constitution gives you the constitutional right to a freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. This is a guaranteed right and means you may assemble and protest peacefully against the removal of fuel subsidy, as you intend to.
- There should already be a permit obtained and local rules complied with by organizers of the protests with appropriate law enforcement agencies alerted and ready to ensure your safety and that of those around you.
- Your right to a freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is not absolute. You can be arrested for criminal activity which includes, breach of the peace, unlawful assembly, resisting arrest where a police officer believes you did not cooperate in an arrest. etc.
In the Unfortunate Instance that You are Arrested, Below are the Basics You Need to Know:
Understand What it means to be arrested?
When you are arrested, it simply means you are not free to leave the scene. It is not uncommon for criminal defense lawyers to advise their clients to inquire from the arresting officer a simple question, “Am I free to go.” If the answer is “yes” then there is no arrest. If it is “no” then you are under arrest.
Can you be detained without being arrested?
Can the police detain you i.e. hold you for questioning if they believe you might have been involved in a crime? They certainly can. Such detention should only be for a short period. It does not amount to an arrest.
Do I have to Answer Questions the Police Ask Me?
No. In fact, it is prudent to speak to an attorney, first, before answering the questions police officers might pose to you. This is also where you have probably heard about the “Miranda” warnings . . . common in many legal television dramas and movies. When you ask for an attorney, it automatically invokes your privilege to remain silent.
Officers will read the following rights to you and then ask if you understand the rights and if you waive them. If you waive them, then you can be questioned without an attorney present. If the police begins questioning you and you decide you do not want to answer any further questions, they must immediately stop asking further questions. If they ignore this and continue to ask questions and you continue to answer, understand that the statements you make can and are usually used against you in a court of law to prosecute you.
The Miranda Warnings typically take the form below:
1. You have the right to remain silent
2. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you do and say can and will be used in a court of law against you
3. You have the right to speak with an attorney of your choice before questioning, and to have the attorney present during questioning.
4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you by the court before any questioning, if you so desire. The attorney will not cost you anything; the services are free.
The police will also typically ask:
5. Do you understand each of these rights as explained to you
6. Having in mind and understanding your rights as explained to you, are you willing to talk to me (the police)*
Get a Lawyer
If you are arrested, get a criminal defense lawyer ASAP!!
If you are just getting wind of the #OccupyNigeria Fuel Subsidy Removal Issue causing Nigerians and friends of Nigerians to protest worldwide, watch a few clips below. Also listen to the plight of Nigerians as stated in a compelling speech by Dr. Tunde Bakaree below.
“We Nigerians are Idiots” says Dr. Tunde Bakaree