The right to protest peaceably comes with responsibility - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

The right to protest peaceably comes with responsibility

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The response to protests in Ferguson, Missouri this week have some asking if the police may be too militarized or even violated people's rights.

KSFY News spoke with an attorney about our rights as citizens.

KSFY News first spoke with local police and county leaders last fall about whether some of their heavy-duty equipment is better suited for battle than the streets of Sioux Falls.     

Some believe it's wrong for police to have that much hardware, while others have concerns about our rights.

As many of us have watched the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, it brings into question, what are our rights in that situation.

Swier Law Firm attorney Chris McClure said "interestingly, your rights don't change a whole lot, even in that situation. It's the situation itself that changes. Your rights, they're the same as they always were, however, when the situation becomes dangerous, the police do have a little bit more authority to exercise force and to arrest individuals than they would otherwise."

And some police departments, like Ferguson or Concord, New Hampshire, have been accused of militarizing officers of peace.

In a YouTube video from a city council meeting in Concord, a local citizen said "I don't know where we're going to use this many vehicles and this many troops. Concord is just one little cog in the wheel. We're building an army over here and I can't believe people aren't seeing it. Is everybody blind?"

Here in our area, the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department, and County Emergency Management, along with the Sioux Falls Police share a fleet of response vehicles.

Sioux Falls Police officer Sam Clemens said "I think you have to look at the bigger picture of that, and that really involves being prepared. And that's what these people have done when they've looked to buy these pieces of equipment, they're looking down into the future.   And what could happen, what's happened elsewhere, it's certainly possible that it could happen here."

Which is why our constitutional right to peaceably assemble can be lost if a protest seemingly turns violent.

"The problem is when it comes out of a big crowd of people, they don't know who threw the object and all of a sudden they need to worry about keeping everyone submissive instead of just the one perpetrator," McClure said.

But that's not all police might be looking for during a protest.

"If you don't have a permit, usually the police will show up and tell you have to go home. It's important to listen to the police when they tell you to do that," McClure said.

The attorney KSFY News spoke with said to check with your local laws to find out if you need a permit to protest.

In Sioux Falls, the city defines assembly as any gathering of ten or more people or cars having a common purpose in a public place.

And if that gathering blocks the flow of people on a sidewalk or traffic in the street, you'll need a permit.

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