The death of unarmed black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has sparked protests all across the U.S., including here in Colorado Springs. While much of the protests have been peaceful, there are reports that police have become physical with demonstrators. With more protests planned for this week, should be aware that they can be charged with inciting a riot if they fight the police.
The Gazette reports demonstrators held peaceful marches over the weekend. By Sunday evening however, police clashed with marchers after they were asked about their position on hot-button issues across the nation. By midnight on Sunday, reporters say police pushed back crowds as dissenters threw objects including water bottles at officers. Under state law, police could say the protestors became rioters when they started throwing debris at them.
Riots are defined as “a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs the performance of any governmental function.” under Colorado law. Other riot-related charges include “arming rioters” and “disobedience of public safety orders under riot conditions”.
While protesting is allowed under the First Amendment as free speech, protestors who engage in violence can be charged with inciting a riot. Colorado law allows police to charge anyone who engages in a riot with a class 2 misdemeanor. However, if a rioter injures a person or damages property, the accused can be charged with a class 5 felony. A conviction for a class 5 felony can result in a fine of $1,000 to $100,000 and one to three years in prison. If the accused uses a deadly weapon during the riot, he or she may be charged with a class 4 felony, which is punishable by $2,000 to $500,000 in fines and 2 to 6 years in prison.
Even if you don’t participate in a riot but provide anything that can be used as a deadly weapon, you can face serious repercussions. Providing deadly weapons to rioters is a class 4 felony, which is punishable by $2,000 to $500,000 in fines and 2 to 6 years in prison.
Protesting and marching are protected under the First Amendment. However, given the high tensions between police and protestors, it’s easy to see how a peaceful demonstration can become a violent outburst in the course of a day.
The Gazette reports more protests are planned for Monday. They may extend to the rest of this week, possibly all month. Protesting and expressing dissenting views are American rights. But should protestors find they’re engaging in destruction or caught in a group that is acting violently and destroying property, they should expect the possibility of facing criminal charges.
If you have been charged with rioting while you were protesting in Colorado Springs and the nearby area, you’ll need experienced attorneys to represent you and ensure your rights are intact. It’s possible for the police to misidentify you as a rioter if you were part of a protest group that become violent after officers intervened. Call the Law Offices of Clifton Black at (719)328-1616 today to learn what our attorneys can do for your case.