Peaceful protests are an important part of democratic society. Many of the rights and freedom we now have were gained through protesting. It raises the profile and brings awareness to a campaign and helps you to build networks and alliances with persons who may share your views on the matter. So yes, you have the right to hold a peaceful protest in Jamaica as long as you do so lawfully, abiding by all the conditions set out by the Police which are outlined below.
In general, it is best to hold your protest in a public domain as this does not require a permit. Protests being held within the vicinity of government buildings will need special permits from the police within the area. Also, protests being held on private property can be considered ‘trespassing’. Although it is not exactly considered illegal to be on private property, the owner and/or affected person may make a case if your actions intimidate, disrupt or obstruct someone engaged in lawful activity (aggravated trespassing) or if your actions cause alarm or distress (harassment).
There is a reason they call it a ‘peaceful protest’. Act peacefully. Fighting or going against police requests (or in some case, orders), blocking or obstructing roads and threatening to or actually damaging property are all offenses under the law which may get you fined or arrested. The best approach is to inform everyone involved with your protest to stay calm, reason with the police or non-supporters of your cause and, in general, be polite – even if others aren’t.
The police may impose conditions regarding the place of assembly, the maximum duration and the maximum number of people involved in your protest but only if this is necessary to prevent ‘serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community’.
There is no need to get rowdy and confrontational during a protest. A simple gathering of persons passionate about a matter is usually enough to gain attention, invite other supporters and influence a change in decision. Illegal behaviour only leads to focus on the behaviour, instead of the matter-at-hand.
What are your thoughts on this matter? Do you think these guidelines are too strict? Too relaxed? Did you know about these before reading it here? Let us know your views.