By Hayley Crandall
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin will be hosting a free virtual training session Wednesday, Aug. 12 for those planning to demonstrate during the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
“Know Your Rights: Demonstrator’s Rights Training” will be held via Zoom at 6 p.m. and cover rights for demonstrators, information regarding lawful protesting and the basic dos and don’ts for demonstrating at the large event, according to ACLU of Wisconsin organizer Hope Owens-Wilson.
Even with the DNC going virtual, there is still an expectancy of protestors, Owens-Wilson said, and knowing where the security and surveillance sections can be helpful for attendees.
“These trainings are mostly about an opportunity to give our audience information about what it’s like to be a demonstrator and then what are your civil rights as a protestor,” Owens-Wilson said.
The training also serves to give general advice for protesting anywhere, Owens-Wilson explained.
“There’s always going to be something that you have to demonstrate about,” said Owens-Wilson. “Whether it’s something as big as the DNC or something as small as your neighborhood.”
This is a family friendly thing and all ages are encouraged to take the training.
“Protestors come in all ages,” said Owens-Wilson. “Any age from middle school to like 70 years old, however old, are welcomed to attend.”
One major point of discussion during the training is protest and security zones. With the DNC being virtual now, the information regarding that is still being figured out but the ACLU plans to update as it can.
Knowing the rules that can come with certain areas can help people make knowledgeable choices, Owens-Wilson said.
“We talk about protest zones and how that might affect how you can execute your First Amendment right in these spaces,” said Owens-Wilson. “There’s no hard and fast rules but it’s just about recognizing that your First Amendment right may have different repercussions for everybody.
The training covers legal rights such as First Amendment rights and how they can show up in local law enforcement when protesting and interacting with the law. However, the legal portion is not to be taken as law advice, Owens-Wilson noted, since a lawyer is not running the program.
“This isn’t legal advice, said Owens-Wilson. “But a lot of it is information that’s compiled through practices and what we know to be factually true on the basis of the law.”
But she still finds that something like this can be a good place to start for those wanting to demonstrate or just get a variety of information for future use.
“Providing people, a good starting point on their journey when they’re trying to figure out information to get is always really helpful,” said Owens-Wilson. “So, in case they’re in a situation where something doesn’t feel right, they can have a few tips to maybe make the situation turnout better.”
The virtual format even helps get the information out there, Owens-Wilson said. In addition to being hosted on Zoom, the training will also be published on Facebook, which can be easily shared.
Largely, her number one piece of advice for anyone planning to demonstrate is to be equipped with knowledge.
“Information is your biggest tool in your toolkit when it comes to any civil rights,” said Owens-Wilson. “Make sure you take time to read through laws and ordinances. It helps in the long run.”