Interacting with police

This guide covers how to effectively interact with police at a protest. Though this won't arise at every protest, sometimes police will intervene. It's important to maintain a non-violent approach and work with the police as much as you can. Typically police are present at rallies simply to watch and make sure that it stays peaceful. The following guide will explore:


Basic rights in Canada

What to do if arrested



Before a protest make sure friends and family know where you're going, so they can contact legal support if they suspect you've been arrested. Don't bring drugs, weapons or personal information (such as address books) with you.

Keep a pen and paper on you to write down the names of anyone who might be arrested. Afterwards you can go to the station and ask what they are charged with. Write down the number for your province's legal aid, either on a sheet of paper or in marker on your arm.


Know your rights

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association created a simple guide about your rights as a protester in Canada. It covers how to deal with being stopped by police, when you can be searched and much more. OPIRG Carleton also has a great guide.

An Activist's guide to the law is a general overview of your rights as an activist.

This basic guide to interacting with police can be distributed before a protest. It goes over what to do in common situations where activists encounter police.  

The Law Union of Ontario's post G20 action guide is an essential guide for Canadian activists who have been wronged by police. Though it focuses on Ontario, it is a useful primer for all activists to understand their rights. Included in it are details about what your rights are, how to file a complaint or sue the police and making human rights complaints. 

The biggest exception is Quebec, where privacy laws are much stricter and you must get permission before taking a photo of someone on the street.


If arrested

Co-operate as much as possible.

Ask for legal counsel.

Ask to know what you are charged with.

Do not lie. It is your right to not talk to police, but if you lie you could be charged with obstructing justice.

Explain if you require specific accomodations or have a medical condition right away and where others can hear. 



You can walk away from a police officier unless they have detained or arrested you. If you are detained you have a right to know why. If police are questioning you while you are detained you do not have to answer.

Always document any incidents with police. Record the officier's badge number, name and get contact information from any witnesses. Legal observers can be a big help. 

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.