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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bust card is a small card that provides information on what to do if you’re arrested.
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.
BLACK PROTEST LEGAL SUPPORT
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: coordinatorBPLS@protonmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter & Instagram: @blkprotestlegal
NETWORK FOR POLICE MONITORING (‘NETPOL’)
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
Address: Durning Hall Centre, Earlham Grove, London, E7 9AB
GREEN & BLACK CROSS
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
Green & Black Cross Manchester facilitates legal observers and arrestee support for protests in the Manchester area.
Telephone (Protest Support Line): 07761 911 121
BRISTOL DEFENDANT SOLIDARITY
Bristol Defendant Solidarity provides support (at police stations and court) for arrested protesters.
Telephone (via ‘Signal’ app): 07510 283 424
Other pages you might be interested in
- Your right to protest
- How to organise a more accessible protest
- General practical protest tips
- Practical tips for disabled protestors
- More information about protesting
- What if I’m arrested?
- How should the police treat us?
- Disabled people’s rights
- Policing Act 2022
- Public Order Act 2023
- Monitoring & reporting on protests (for journalists & legal observers)
What are my rights on this?
Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them
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