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SD Delegates, Protesters Meet at RNC

As thousands of officers from several states gather in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this week, legal experts are reminding protesters of their rights and responsibilities. (iStockphoto)
As thousands of officers from several states gather in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention this week, legal experts are reminding protesters of their rights and responsibilities. (iStockphoto)
July 19, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. -- South Dakota's 29 delegates are among the thousands of people in Cleveland this week for the Republican National Convention. Protesters are also on hand, voicing concerns over the Republican platform and the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

In light of the recent tensions involving police and communities around the country, experts say it's important that demonstrators know their rights and their obligations. According to Michael Benza, senior instructor of law at Ohio's Case Western University, all people have a First Amendment right to protest and march.

"Where the problems come in,” Benza explained, "is when their exercise of their rights to protest start to either interfere with other people's ability to go about their daily lives, or start to impeded law enforcement's ability to control the situation and keep everybody safe."

A 1.7 mile event zone is set up downtown with security restrictions. It includes a designated speaker's area, a parade route for those with a permit, and two parks for protests and displays. About 2,500 police officers from other states will be joining Cleveland police in patrolling the city during the RNC.

Protesters are only obligated to answer questions from a police officer if they are suspected of a crime, Benza said, and only need to show a photo ID if driving a vehicle. Furthermore, police can only perform a search if a person gives consent or there is a search warrant or probable cause. Benza also emphasized that citizens have a right to record police.

"They cannot tell you, 'Turn off your recording.' They can't ask you, 'Why are you recording?' They can't ask who you are to do the recording,” Benza said. "They are simply to allow you to do that recording."

Cleveland officials have developed plans to respond to the possibility of mass arrests including designated jail facilities and extended court hours.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - SD