Let’s say you’re a U.S. citizen exercising your constitutional right to peacefully assemble.

It’s mid-November and you’re standing as close to the Hale Koa Hotel as the “secure zone” will allow. You’re carrying a sign that reads “Hu Jintao Sucks!” and wearing a T-shirt that says “APEC is the Devil.”

Suddenly, an officer with the Honolulu Police Department stops you on the street to ask a few questions. What do you do?

The American Civil Liberties Union — protector of First Amendment rights of everyone regardless of political bent — has some advice for you:

You do not have to answer any questions. You can say, “I do not want to talk to you” and walk away calmly. Or, if you do not feel comfortable doing that, you can ask if you are free to go.

That’s just one bit of advice.

Locally, the ACLU of Hawaii is putting together an APEC First Amendment tool kit and at least one public event to educate would-be protesters.

Leaflets, Sidewalk Marches OK’d

The tool kit, which is under construction but expected to be completed before the APEC summit Nov. 7-13, already has a few useful tips, like this one:

You have the right to engage in peaceful, protest activity on public sidewalks, in public parks and on public streets in Honolulu. This includes the right to distribute handbills or leaflets; the right to hold press conferences, demonstrations and rallies; and the right to march on public sidewalks and in public streets.

The tool kit points out that the City and County of Honolulu “can and does impose certain restrictions on these activities, and in some instances one must obtain a permit before engaging in certain activity.” So, the guidelines are basic and general in nature — “For legal advice, consult an attorney,” the group says.

However, ACLU Hawaii hopes to provide answers for a variety of questions such as whether there will be permitted APEC “protest zones,” whether vehicle or bicycle processions will be allowed in public streets and what rights exist for the taping of video and audio.

The ACLU appears to be covering as many contingencies as it can, as seen in this question:

What if I want to use props or theatrical tools like: human chains, flash mobs, non-permanent modification of buildings and statues (i.e. draping a statue in black cloth), masks, signs, puppets, tape, chalk, rope, flags, fake weapons, liquids, or fire?

The answer as of late Wednesday was “TBA,” but check back later.

Info Session Set

Meanwhile, ACLU Hawaii has scheduled a presentation on Oct. 26 titled “Know Your Rights: Documenting Law Enforcement Interactions in Hawaii.”

The informational session will discuss general guidelines on photographing, video recording and documenting interactions with cops in public spaces.

Co-sponsored by the Palolo Community Media Center and Olelo Community Media (which plans to record and broadcast the presentation), it’s free and set for 3-4 p.m. at the Palolo Community Media Center at Jarrett Middle School.

HPD has been invited to attend. A spokeswoman for the department did not immediately return Civil Beat’s inquiry Wednesday afternoon asking whether they would take up the offer or provide their own First Amendment training to cops.

Know Your Rights

More information about First Amendment rights is available under a Know Your Rights link on the group’s website. You can also follow ACLU on its Facebook page and Twitter handle.

The national ACLU also has a “Know Your Rights: When Encountering Law Enforcement” pamphlet, from which we excerpted the advice noted above on cop-protester encounters.

The 24-page pamphlet has a lot of useful information, including sections on “Stops and Arrests” and “Searches and Warrants.”

There is also a Q&A section, which includes entries like this:

Q: What kind of law enforcement officers might try to question me?

A: You could be questioned by a variety of law enforcement officers, including state or local police officers, Joint Terrorism Task Force members, or federal agents from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security (which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol), Drug Enforcement Administration, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or other agencies.

As with the local ACLU’s tool kit on APEC protests, the national ACLU’s rights pamphlet addresses basic rights and “is not a substitute for legal advice. You should contact an attorney if you have been arrested or believe that your rights have been violated.”

The ACLU has some advice in that regard as well. Just click on the link titled Need legal help?

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