Prince Lobel Provides Pro Bono Legal Assistance, Tips for Journalists Covering Weekend Protests in Boston

Media lawyers from the firm of Prince Lobel Tye LLP will provide pro bono legal assistance to journalists (print, broadcast, and online) covering Saturday’s “Free Speech Rally” and counter-demonstrations in Boston.  In cooperation with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition, Prince Lobel’s volunteer attorneys will be available throughout the weekend, 24/7, to advise reporters who are arrested or experience other difficulties with law enforcement or others while covering the rally, demonstrations, or related events.

The hotline will be in operation from Friday, August 18, 2017, at 3:00 p.m., through Sunday, August 20, at 5:00 p.m., and longer if events warrant.  The phone number is 888.428.7490.  If for some reason you are unable to get through on that number, try our backup number: 617.456.8018.  You can also email hotline@princelobel.com or tweet @PLT_Media.

If you wish to be on an email mailing list for more information, advice, and updates about press access, please send an email to hotline@princelobel.com with “SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line.

TIPS FROM PRINCE LOBEL AND THE REPORTER’S COMMITTEE FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS FOR JOURNALISTS COVERING SATURDAY’S EVENTS:

  • What should I bring?

We recommend you bring two forms of identification: a newsroom press pass or other documentation (such as police-issued press passes from prior events, or your employer-issued ID), and a government-issued photo identification card like a driver’s license or passport.  Also bring at least $40 cash, which you will need if you are arrested and released on personal recognizance.  More may be required if you are picked up on a significant charge and need to post a bail bond.

  • What is prohibited?

Study the BPD Media Restrictions and Guidelines, which lists the many items that will be prohibited from Boston Common and the march route.  Note that the prohibited items include cans, glass containers, pre-mixed beverages, drones, bicycles, poles or sticks, and any item which could be used as a weapon.  Backpacks are discouraged, and will be subject to search.

  • Can I bring my camera tripod or boom mic?

No.  According to the BPD Media Restrictions and Guidelines, “Camera stands/tripods, microphone stands, lighting stands/poles, boom mics, or any other item that is used to hold or secure camera or sound equipment is prohibited” both from Boston Common and from the planned march area down Tremont Street to the Common.

  • Where can I park?

Good luck.  Many roads will be closed, and media parking areas will be severely limited.  See the BPD Media Restrictions and Guidelines for more details.

  • Should I wear my press pass?

We generally recommend it.  While the press have no greater access rights, and no greater immunity from arrest, than any other citizen, if police are aware that you are a member of the media they may be inclined to give you somewhat greater deference, and they may be less inclined to sweep you up with a group of people being detained.  For that reason, it may help to wear a press badge around your neck, or to have the word “PRESS” prominently displayed on your hat, headband, helmet, or shirt.

  • Where should I stand?

Stay within the public areas as defined by the Boston Police Department.  Do not go beyond the yellow safety tape unless you have explicit permission from a police officer.  There will not be a designated media staging area inside the Common.  Media will not be permitted inside the barricaded area around the Bandstand.

  • Can I mingle with protestors without getting arrested?

You can certainly mingle, so long as you’re within an area that police have not declared off limits.  When you follow the crowd, however, you want to stick to the periphery whenever possible; be wary of getting caught in the middle of things, lest you be swept up in violence or a mass arrest.  If an event becomes the subject of law enforcement activity, the best way to avoid being arrested is to report on those activities in a manner that does not obstruct the law enforcement activity, and to folllow all police orders.

  • Can I plant myself in one place throughout the afternoon?

One of the more interesting aspects of the BPD Media Restrictions and Guidelines is the prohibition on the press being stationary, lest crowds be attracted to the cameras or be inclined to confront the media.  “Media members are expected to remain mobile and refrain from long term stationary reporting which may incite and attract participants.”

  • Who can I photograph, record, and/or interview?

Because this is a large-scale public event occurring on public property, you generally have the right to film, photograph, and record your surroundings.  Be aware that there will be numerous police surveillance cameras, and undercover officers, throughout the area.

  • What if I am put in danger?

If you feel threatened by a participant in the rally or demonstrations, move somewhere else and/or work to de-escalate the situation.  Notify police.

  • What if police order me not to take photos or video, or not to conduct certain interviews?

Explain calmly and politely that you are a member of the media and that it is your First Amendment right to cover the rally.  Don’t pick a fight with a police officer, at least not if you want to have the opportunity to continue reporting the day’s events.

  • What should I do if police direct me to move?

The Boston Police Department has notified the media that they should not remain in stationary positions for any significant period of time, but rather should move throughout the crowd so as not to become the center of demonstrators’ attention.  If an officer asks you to move, you should obey.  However, if an officer requires you to move to a position where you can no longer adequately cover the events, patiently explain that you are a member of the press and calmly ask to speak with a supervisor. If you are unable to reach a supervisor or captain, take down the officer’s badge number and report the encounter at a later time.

  • What should I do if a police officer seeks to seize my camera or other reporting equipment?

A police officer should not interfere with your equipment. If it is taken, politely ask for it back. If you are detained, police have the right to hold your equipment but they should not interfere by damaging or destroying your notes or camera images.  You should politely inform police of any steps necessary to preserve such material.  Most police officials know that they cannot lawfully destroy or otherwise ruin such materials.  Under virtually no circumstances should police be taking out your memory card or viewing your digital photos or your notes.

  • What are my rights if I’m arrested?

Identify yourself as a journalist immediately. Cooperate in giving your name, address, and other basic identifying information, but remember that other statements you make can and will be used against you in later proceedings. Tell police – again, calmly – that you believe there has been a mistake.  Ask the detaining officer(s) to inform a supervisor or captain that a reporter has been taken into custody. Request to call your newsroom, or this hotline, immediately in order to notify your editor of the situation.

  • What if I’m arrested and told I have to appear in Boston Municipal Court on Monday for an arraignment?

Obtain legal counsel, whether from Prince Lobel or elsewhere (the pro bono hotline services will not necessarily extend to arraignment or post-arraignment proceedings).  Then, on Monday, ask to continue the arraignment date and seek dismissal of the charge before arraignment.  If that can be done, the matter probably won’t be entered into the court’s database and there will be no record of its existence.