ACLU prepares protesters for Tampa RNC - FOX 13 News

ACLU prepares protesters for Tampa RNC

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The American Civil Liberties Union hosted a webinar Tuesday night, telling demonstrators what to expect during the Republican National Convention.

The webinar was scheduled to go over everything from where they can protest to what happens if they are arrested.

Roughly 10,000 to 15,000 protestors are expected to fill Tampa's streets, ready to voice their concerns, loud and clear, and the ACLU wants them to know the rules.

Many are coming from out of town, so the ACLU's Dr. Joyce Hamilton-Henry says they've been working to spread the word.

"There are rules. You can express yourself, free speech. But also, civil disobedience is something that is not constitutionally protected," she said.

The ACLU's webinar lets protestors know they can peacefully protest on sidewalks, parks and in three areas that are designated "protest zones."

And while they might not like the restrictions, the protestors need to be aware that they are the parameters the city has set up.

"We want people to be able to exercise their rights, know what their rights are, but also to know what the parameters are, as determined by the ordinance—good, bad or indifferent," Hamilton-Henry said.

Tampa police, the city's attorney and the public defender's office are all participating in the webinar.

"We want to be part of the process. It's very important for us to be involved, because it's our job to create a safe environment. They should be able to express themselves," said TPD spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

The ACLU is also advising demonstrators what to do if they're arrested. They say protesters don't have to answer questions, but they do have to positively identify themselves.

They advise protesters not to resist officers, and say they should be arrested, booked and released within a 24-hour time frame.

"We are preparing for those who are coming to make their statement and want to enjoy and experience democracy in action, and we'll let the police and the city deal with those who are here just to cause trouble," Hamilton-Henry said.

"It's not First Amendment for survival of the fittest, it's First Amendment for everyone," McElroy said.

The ACLU says their webinar is not an endorsement of the city's rules—rather, it is a way to make sure everyone knows what the rules are.

The ACLU is already planning to host another webinar because Tuesday night's session maxed out with the number of attendees at 250.

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