2016 Republican National Convention



2016 Republican

National Convention




The 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC) is a

National Special Security Event (NSSE). This means that

security will be coordinated by a number of federal

agencies, rather than the Cleveland Police alone. The U.S.

Secret Service Major Events Division will design and direct

a master security plan in partnership with local law

enforcement. Additionally, partner federal agencies will

likely be involved in planning and overseeing the event,

including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal

Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Emergency

Management Agency, the Department of Justice, and the

Department of Defense. For example, the Federal Aviation

Administration will oversee air control, and likely institute

strict airspace regulations. Additionally, Cleveland will

contract with other agencies for security purposes.

The NSSE designation comes with $50 million to pay for

heightened security measures, including expanded law

enforcement and surveillance. Measures used in the past


• Less-lethal ammunition. Weapons are named “less-lethal”

when the government does not consider them deadly

(e.g., guns, bombs), even though they can cause death.

These weapons include rubber or wooden bullets,

Tasers, tear gas, sound amplifiers, bean bags, sting ball

grenades, pepper spray, physical or hand-to-hand force,

and other devices. Less-lethal weapons are commonly

used at these events.

• Free speech zones. Security plans often include zones

or pens to contain protestors. These tend to be small

enclosures where law enforcement can monitor

demonstrations and control their volume and size.

Constitutionally, a designated speech area should,

at minimum, allow the protestors’ messages to reach

the target audience.

• Security perimeters around the event. Generally, there

are two levels of security perimeter, one restricted to

the NSSE attendees, and the other open to individuals

employed within the perimeter but not the public.

These large security grants from the federal

government also allow cities to purchase

military grade equipment of questionable

value in policing municipalities, referred to

as militarization. An over-reliance on high

performance weaponry means less effort is

made to provide speech venues and employ

tactics that avoid confrontations.


Protesting WITHOUT a permit

1. Everyone has the right to peacefully protest on

public property, including parks and sidewalks.

2. No one has a right to protest on private property

(for example, a business or private residence)

unless the owner gives permission.

3. Protest activities protected by the Constitution

include: handing out literature, chanting, signholding,

and engaging in verbal debate.

The following activities are not protected:

endangering or harming others; blocking

building entrances, traffic, or pedestrians

on the sidewalk; and disobeying laws. Civil

disobedience (violating the law to make a

political statement) is not protected speech

and can lead to arrest.

Protesting WITH a permit

1. A permit is required to walk in the street, block traffic,

or take up a lot of sidewalk space.

2. In Cleveland, impromptu demonstrations that would

otherwise require a permit are allowed without one,

if police are notified of the demonstration eight hours

in advance.

3. For more information about Cleveland’s parade

permit process, visit http://www.acluohio.org/


Q & A Specific protest activities

1. Can a demonstrator carry signs?

Yes. Sign holding is almost always protected. But posting

signs on public property, including over highways, is illegal

except by permit.

2. Can a demonstrator distribute literature?

Yes. Distributing literature, in public places is legal without

a permit. But littering of these documents, including leaving

them on cars, is illegal.


3. Can a demonstrator put a table on a public sidewalk?

Probably not without a special permit, particularly if it

blocks pedestrian traffic.

4. Can a demonstrator use chalk on a public sidewalk?

Probably. No law prohibits chalking public property.

5. Can a demonstrator use speakers or other sound amplifiers,

such as a bullhorn?

Probably not without a permit.

6. Can demonstrators wear a mask as part of their protest?

Yes, but an officer may require them to provide identifying

information (like their name, address, and date of birth)

if they are suspected of having committed or witnessed

a crime. However, they do not need to show identification.

If you do not provide the requested information, you may

be subject to arrest.

Q & A “Occupying” public spaces and buildings

1. Can a demonstrator hold an overnight demonstration

in a park?

No. But other public areas, like sidewalks, are usually

open 24 hours.

2. Can a demonstrator sleep on the sidewalk?

Probably not. Similar to setting up tables, sleeping on

the sidewalk would illegally block pedestrian traffic.

3. Can a demonstrator pitch a tent on public property?

Not without a permit, unless tents are generally allowed

at that location.

4. Can a demonstrator remain inside a closed public building?

No, this is trespassing.


Q & A Privacy protection

1. Can police lie to infiltrate an organization?

Yes. No law prohibits police from lying, including posing as

civilians in person or on social media.

2. Can police search an organization’s meeting place?

Generally, not without a warrant. However, government

agents may try to enter a place based on health, housing or

other government regulations to spy on a group’s activities.

Police cannot search an area to retaliate against a person’s

or group’s political views.

3. Can police collect fingerprints for identification?

Police have fingerprints on file for everyone who has ever

been charged with a crime. Unless someone demands that

their fingerprints be destroyed, they may still be on file,

even if their record was sealed. Police usually do not collect

fingerprints for minor or misdemeanor crimes, except first

degree misdemeanors.

4. Can police make a demonstrator unlock their cell phone?

No. Cell phones are protected by the Fourth Amendment,

and police cannot look at phone data without a search


5. Can police arrest a demonstrator for using a cell phone?

Under the City’s flash mob laws, which prohibit groups from

organizing spontaneous gatherings via social media or

text to commit a crime, cell phones and other devices are

categorized as “criminal tools.” This means that police may

arrest someone for using their phone if police reasonably

believe that the phone is being used to commit a crime.

6. Can police track a person’s location?

Yes. Federal and some local law enforcement have been

known to use devices to track individuals using their cell

phones. These devices can acquire cell phone numbers,

locations, and metadata. When combined with unauthorized

software, it can also collect message content.

Demonstrators and others should be aware that police may

or can:

• track and infiltrate activist groups.

• infiltrate organizations, secretly film or photograph

individuals, or keep records of activities. When in public,

assume that police are monitoring all activities.

• track protest planning on social media, including

Facebook and Twitter.

• track individuals using their cell phone location.

• collect information about a person’s identity, including

fingerprints and criminal history.

• briefly stop and question a person in public,

if the police have reason to believe that person committed

a crime.

• search someone’s belongings, home or other location, but

generally must obtain consent or a warrant from a judge.



Everyone has the right to photograph, video and

audio record the police.

Q & A

Mass arrests and dispersal orders

1. Must police warn protestors before making arrests?

Yes. Before arresting protestors taking part in mass

demonstrations, police regulations require officers to warn

protestors to leave the area or face arrest. This warning must

be loud enough to be heard by everyone and provide clear

instructions about where the protestors should go.

2. If a demonstrator “goes limp” in police custody, is that resisting


Yes. State law prohibits “going limp.”

3. Can police use force to disperse a protest?

Probably. At large demonstrations, police have used

“less-lethal” force against protestors, including sound

amplifiers, Tasers, pepper spray, wooden or rubber bullets,

and physical violence.

4. Can demonstrators advise others of their rights during arrest?

Yes. If a person is being arrested, another individual can inform

that person of their rights. This is protected speech, so long

as what the person is saying is true and there is no direct

interference with police conduct.

Q & A

1. Can people record police activities?

Yes. Everyone has a right to openly videotape police

while in public.

2. Can police confiscate photographs, videos, or devices?

No. Police cannot view or seize property without a

warrant, unless they make an arrest.

Q & A

Documenting police encounters

Police searches and identification

1. Can police require individuals to identify themselves?

Yes. If the police suspect that a person has been

involved in or witnessed a crime, the police can require

that person to provide their name, address, and date of

birth. However, they do not need to show identification.

2. Can the police search a person or their belongings?

Not without consent or a search warrant. But if an

individual is under arrest, or there are dangerous

circumstances, the police may pat down a person or

look through their vehicle to search for a weapon.

3. When can the police stop or “detain” someone?

A person is stopped or “detained” when an officer uses

enough force that an individual does not feel free to

leave. To detain a person, the police must reasonably

believe that person committed a crime.

ACLU of Ohio

For Know Your Rights resources please visit


Email contact@acluohio.org

Phone (216) 472-2200

For citations and more information please visit


Follow us on Twitter (@acluohio) and

Facebook (www.facebook.com/ACLUofOhio)

April 2016


Demonstration permits

Planned protest

To apply for a permit, access





Complete and send the application to the

Cleveland Department of Public Works,

Office of Events & Marketing, 500 Lakeside Ave.

Cleveland, Ohio 44114; or to LLAW@city.cleveland.oh.

us. For more information, call (216) 664-2484.

Spontaneous protest

Call the Cleveland Police 8 hours in advance

at (216) 623-5011 (Field Division)

or (216) 623-5000 (general line)

County sheriff and jail booking

Call (216) 443-6000

Legal and arrestee support

Jail support

Tracks protest arrestees and provides

post-release support.

(216) 505-0654

See also www.clemovementlaw.com

National Lawyers Guild

Offers legal observers for protests

and may provide representation for

protest-related charges.

Call (216) 505-0654 (that is, 5050-NLG),

or email ohio@nlg.org.

Cuyahoga County Public Defender

(216) 443-7583


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