Tulsa Attorneys Volunteering Legal Support to Local Protesters

Jun 5, 2020

Protesters lie in the street on Brookside in late May during a demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice.
Credit Black Wall Street Times

Members of the Tulsa legal community will offer their time and knowledge to help protesters and protest organizers understand their rights.

Attorney Laurie Phillips said there are a lot of misconceptions about what First Amendment rights do or don’t cover, and their goal is to make those protections clearer in meetings with organizers and webinars.

For example, the First Amendment does not cover protests on private property or highways.

"I have heard — not necessarily organizers but just from other protesters and people up there — that it’s their constitutional right to close the highway, they can walk up there. Well, that’s one of those things under the law that is not covered by the First Amendment," Phillips said.

The attorneys will also offer guidance about potential legal consequences of different forms of protest. Phillips said the goal is giving protesters enough information that they can make informed decisions about their chosen form of demonstrating.

Several local attorneys are also stepping up to offer representation for protesters who get arrested, but that will be on a case-by-case basis.

"Somebody who’s obviously looting, who is maybe throwing things through a window, I would not expect an attorney to represent that person pro bono," Phillips said.

Phillips said attorneys see firsthand that law enforcement and the criminal justice system often treats black people differently.