HOLMBERG: If you’re protesting, respect the laws that give you that right

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RICHMOND, Va. -- It appears likely that Richmond is going to be a destination in our culture war over Confederate monuments and other symbols.

How can we keep this from spinning out, like it did in Charlottesville?

It might be helpful for as many of us as possible to know the rules of engagement, or non-engagement, to be more accurate.

The 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution give us the right to peacefully assemble and protest.

You don't even have to have a permit to peacefully assemble. But if you're crowding sidewalks, parks or streets, you should get one because the government can require it, by law.

Peacefully is a keyword.

If your protest or counter-protest turns violent, you're no longer protected as a "peaceful assembly."

The Supreme Court has ruled that the government can put time and place restrictions on these gatherings, say for safety or conflicts with other events, as long as there is no hint of singling out one group or another due to their message.

For example, you can't delay a protest for people who like the Washington Redskins because of a Philadelphia Eagles parade nearby, but allow Dallas Cowboy fans to hold a rally in the same spot.

The 1st Amendment does not protect assembly at which there is a clear and present danger of riot disorder or interference with traffic on public streets or other immediate threat to public safety or order, according to an footnoted analysis by the U.S. Law Library of Congress.

Which is why Governor Terry McAuliffe had the legal right to put a temporary hold on demonstrations at Richmond's monuments after the disaster in Charlottesville.

While you can wear masks during protests in some other states, in Virginia it's a no-no. The law is very clear and dates back to the KKK.

But Claire Gastanaga, executive director with the ACLU of Virginia, believes that law is still open to interpretation, especially in cases where bad weather or potential tear gas or pepper spray is involved or when there's no intent to conceal your identity for criminal purposes.

(Go to ACLUva.org for helpful protest and assembly guidelines.)

And everyone - police AND citizens - should know that anyone can film you in a public place. (Except for places where there is an expectation of privacy, like public bathrooms.)

While filming, you should take care not to get in the way of police making an arrest or quelling a riot, or impede another citizen's progress. But otherwise, film away.

If you don't want to be filmed taking part in a rally, protest or counter-protest, don't go! If you attack someone for filming you, you'll get the charge.

And remember, free speech applies to a wide variety of viewpoints, no matter how objectionable you may find them.

Our country is built on the premise of free speech and assembly. Please respect it!

I believe more and more of us understand there are elements among us who would like to see another Civil War, revolution or anarchy.

Given the temperature of the social divisions in this land, it's going to be up to grown-ups of all ages to safeguard free speech, free assembly and civility.

I don't think we're going to get through this without it.

Let RVA be a guiding light through this mess.

Watch for Mark Holmberg's Take every Thursday on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m.

Watch for Mark Holmberg's Take Thursday's on CBS 6 News at 11 p.m.

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