If you're planning to take part in protests, know your rights. Read this.

Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT) June 3, 2020

(CNN)Every American has the right to demonstrate peacefully. It's right there in the First Amendment. But it's not as simple as showing up with a sign.

There are some measures officials can use to limit protests, and it's easy to accidentally tiptoe into legally murky territory if you don't know the specifics.
So before you go, read up.
Timothy Zick picture
Timothy Zick
Professor of Government and Citizenship at the College of William & Mary Law School
Emerson Sykes picture
Emerson Sykes
Staff attorney for the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project
Timothy Zick is a professor of Government and Citizenship at the College of William & Mary Law School. He specializes in constitutional law and the First Amendment, and he's written several books about both, including 2009's "Speech Out of Doors: Preserving First Amendment Liberties in Public Spaces."
Emerson Sykes is a staff attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Technology and Privacy Project, who studies free speech protections under the First Amendment. Previously, he worked at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law to protect free speech in Africa.

Jump to a question

What are my rights as a protester? Where can and can't I protest? Can police or local leaders tell us to disperse? What can I record? Someone took a picture of my face at a public protest. Is that allowed? What should I pack to stay safe at a protest? What can -- and can't -- police do during a protest? What can I do if a police officer stops me? What can I do if I get arrested? What can I do if I feel law enforcement or other officials violated my rights? Can my workplace fire me if they find out I attended a protest?

1. What are my rights as a protester?

The First Amendment gives Americans the right to assemble peacefully and air our grievances. Historically, we've relied on protests to hold power to account -- think the March on Washington in 1963 for civil rights or the March for Our Lives demonstration in 2018 for gun control.
The government can't stop you from peacefully protesting, but they can impose some restrictions on the time, place and manner of the protest -- for example, barring protesters from walking onto a public highway or instituting a curfew that affects when protests end, Sykes said.
They can't block a protest simply because of its content, though.
If protests are planned in advance, organizers may obtain a permit so law enforcement can block off public spaces for them to demonstrate, Sykes said.
There are protections, though, for "spontaneous protests" that spawn in response to current events, like the protests that spawned after George Floyd's death, he said.
The First Amendment does not continue to protect protests that escalate to violence or the destruction of private or public property, he said.
That's when law enforcement has the obligation to respond and deescalate threats of violence, he said.

2. Where can and can't I protest?