Protest organizers must obtain a permit from the City and are encouraged to communicate with the Police Department to ensure public safety during the event.
The City of Berkeley facilitates the peaceful expression of First Amendment Rights, including safe and legal protests, marches, demonstrations, rallies, or labor actions. The Police Department has an obligation to ensure public safety during such events, and has guidelines for event organizers, participants, and members of the media to ensure their safety.
Protest organizers should obtain a permit from the City
If you are organizing a protest, you will need to apply for a special event permit. You may also need to apply for additional permits, such as an amplified sound permit.
We encourage event organizers to contact the Police Department’s Special Events Coordinator by calling (510) 981-5821. The Special Events Coordinator can help you plan safe routes, provide safety tips, make preparations to facilitate your event, and answer any questions you might have about police response.
When advertising your protest to the public, encourage participants to engage peacefully and lawfully. Discourage them from bringing dangerous items that could be used as a projectile or weapon.
During the event, make sure that organizers and monitors are wearing clearly identifiable clothing. Communicate with officers during the event and notify them of any changes in plans. If you had planned to march, stick with the planned route. Stop marching if you experience any issues with unwanted groups including looters, arsonists, vandals, or people fighting with or intimidating members of your event.
Participants should follow police guidelines to ensure a safe event
The recommendations below help the Police Department ensure public safety during a protest.
- Stay six feet back from a police line. Officers need six feet of space to assess the overall situation and to ensure public safety. If you are too close, officers will give you a verbal warning and may also push you back with a hand, arm, or baton.
- To communicate with police during the event, call the non-emergency line at (510) 981-5900 or find a supervisor. Officers in the police line will not respond to questions as they need to be actively monitoring the scene.
- Comply with a dispersal order. Police may issue a dispersal order if members of the crowd pose a danger to the public, including looting, assaults, lighting fires, or throwing objects at people. Everyone in the area is required to leave (including bystanders) and the group is not allowed to stay together. If you do not comply with the dispersal order, you may be cited or arrested, or the police may choose to use force, including batons.
- Do not confront looters. We do not recommend confronting people who are looting, lighting fires, causing damage, or fighting. For your safety, back away and call the police for assistance.
- Avoid freeways and train tracks. Entering freeways and train tracks is extremely dangerous. Officers will attempt to prevent your protest from entering these areas to ensure your safety.
- Do not block driveways, deny worker or vehicle access to businesses, or enter private property. Demonstrators are not allowed to enter or block access to private property that is closed to the public. However, they can engage in protected activities (such as rallies, picketing, or leafleting) on private property that is open to the public.
Members of the media should follow police recommendations to ensure personal safety
The City of Berkeley supports the right to peaceful assembly and values the role of the media in covering protest events. However, when protests become violent or chaotic, it can be difficult for officers to identify members of the media. To ensure your personal safety during an event, follow the recommendations below:
- If this is an area you routinely report on, it’s a good idea to make contact with the Police Department Public Information Officer before the planned event/demonstration.
- Officers in the area may not be able to ensure your safety.
- Have your media credentials clearly visible for officers.
- Try to cover the event from the side of any established police lines.
- If that is not possible, ask an officer or police supervisor to be let through the police line to cover the incident from behind the police officers.
- If you experience difficulty getting the access and freedom of movement you require, contact the Department's Public Information Officer for assistance.
- If you are photographing or video recording in the midst of violent and assaultive activity, consider moving away from the situation to a safer place.