How to organise a protest / Protest

How to organise a protest

What are the rules for organising a protest? Do I have to tell the police? Do I have to pay?

Disclaimer:  this page explains the law and guidance which applies in England only. It’s for general information and isn’t intended to be used as legal advice. For information on how to get legal advice, please see our page here.

Everyone has the right to protest and to organise protests. This right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR).

Your right to freedom of expression is protected under Article 10 of the ECHR. Your right to freedom of assembly is protected under Article 11.

You can also read more about:

Legal obligations for protest organisers

You do not need permission from the police to protest. The Human Rights Act and Articles 10 and 11 of the ECHR mean that the police have a legal obligation to facilitate your protest. When the police are deciding how to police a protest, they should be trying their best to allow everyone to protest.

Instead, you sometimes have a legal obligation to notify the police when you are organising a protest march.

Notifying the police

Protest marches

You normally have a legal obligation to let the local police force know that you are organising a protest march. A protest march is a protest that moves from place to place.

You need to do this in writing, which is called giving written notice. You should do this at least six days in advance.

You don’t have to do this if isn’t “ reasonably practicable”. This might be the case if the protest march is an immediate response to something.

When you provide notice, include details of the timing and route of the protest – and the name and address of at least one organiser.

If you organise a protest without properly notifying the police, or give the wrong details, you could be committing a crime.

Stationary demonstrations
You do not have to notify the police if you are organising a stationary demonstration. A stationary demonstration is when or more people protest in one place. For example, this could be on the pavement outside a local council, or in a public square.

Since there is no legal obligation to notify the police, you can choose not to notify them. This could

  • make it less likely that the police will impose conditions or ban your march in advance, and
  • avoid or reduce how many police officers show up to the protest.

Organising a protest on private land

The rules about this can be complicated.

Please read the Liberty guide to your right to protest or contact us for more information. Please note that the Liberty guide has not yet been updated.

The police may be able to prohibit your protest if they reasonably believe it is likely to be trespassing and may cause serious disruption or damage. For more information on this, see our page on your right to protest.

Also you might also be at risk of arrest for aggravated trespass, if your protest is:

  • trespassing and
  • obstructing or disrupting lawful things that are happening or
  • intimidating others, which puts them off from doing something that’s lawful.

Do I have to pay the police to attend my protest?

Sometimes, the police will suggest that you need to cover the cost of policing the protest. This is not true.

The police do have powers to make people pay for them to police events like football matches or street festivals. But these events are different from protests.

The police have to make sure members of the public can protest safely and freely. They should not ask you to cover the cost of policing your protest.

Sometimes the police (or local council)say that you must get public liability insurance for your protest. This is also not true.

Contact us if this has happened to you and you want help with what to do next.

What if the police break the law at a protest?

The police should not break the law. If you’re at a protest and you think the police have broken the law, you have some options.

Complaining and taking the police to court

You can complain to the police if you don’t like how they treated you. This includes if you feel they discriminated against you.

Please see our pages on police complaints for more information about how to do so.

If you think the police broke the law at a protest, you might be able to take them to court. Visit our page here on how to find legal help if this is something that you’re thinking about.

Legal observers

When organising a protest, it’s a good idea to have legal observers. Legal observers are independent, legally-trained volunteers who

  • monitor and record what the police, and
  • provide legal information and support to organisers and protesters

If you are at a protest that has legal observers, you can ask them for information or support. They normally wear bright, hi-vis jackets with “LEGAL OBSERVER” written across the back.

Bust cards

A bust card is a small card that provides information on what to do if you’re arrested.

We have made protest bust cards with Black Protest Legal Support. These are aimed at Black protestors and other racialised protesters. They are available here.

We have also made protest bust cards for migrants with Migrants Organise and Black Protest Legal Support. They have been translated into 9 other languages. They are available here.

We have made bust cards for Disabled people and their allies with Disability Rights UK (DRUK). You can download it on DRUK’s website here, along with a summary of information and advice for Disabled protestors.

You can print all these cards off or keep them on your phone, but remember our practical protest tips on bring phones to protests.

Other organisations



Black Protest Legal Support (BPLS) helps provide legal observers for protests that Black people and other racialised people organise or go to.

They also have a large network of lawyers. These lawyers can provide legal representation to Black people and other people of colour who are arrested during protests.

Email: or

Twitter & Instagram: @blkprotestlegal



Netpol is a network of people who

  • monitor public order, protest and street policing
  • challenge the police when they act too harshly, when they threaten people’s civil rights, or when they discriminate against people

They also legal information resources on their website.


Twitter & Facebook: @ netpol

Instagram: @netpolCampaigns

Address: Durning Hall Centre, Earlham Grove, London, E7 9AB



Green & Black Cross (GBC) is an independent grassroots project that

  • provides legal observers for protest
  • delivers protest rights training
  • make guides on protest rights, which are on their website
  • helps provide arrestee support. This is where volunteers go to police stations to support people who are arrested at protests

Telephone (Protest Support Line): 07946 541 511


Twitter & Instagram: @GBCLegal



Green & Black Cross Manchester facilitates legal observers and arrestee support for protests in the Manchester area.

Telephone (Protest Support Line): 07761 911 121


Twitter: @GBCManchester

Instagram: @gbc_manchester



Bristol Defendant Solidarity provides support (at police stations and court) for arrested protesters.

Telephone (via ‘Signal’ app): 07510 283 424


Twitter: @BristolDefenda1

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