Disabled people’s protest rights: what you need to know

Disability Rights UK has worked with Liberty to create this resource on Disabled people’s protest rights. Downloadable versions of this resource, including printable cards to keep on you during protests, can be found below. 

For a more detailed explanation of your rights and the law in this area, refer to Liberty’s Advice and Information articles on Disabled people’s rights






Can the police take away assistive equipment at a protest?

What if the police kettle a protest?


You have the right to a lawyer if you’re detained

Do you need to answer police questions?

What if the police believe I’m “vulnerable”?

What assistance, in addition to reasonable adjustments, should be delivered at the police station?

Can the police use force against me?

Can the police share my information with the Government?






  • Everyone has the right to protest.

Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (freedom of expression and freedom of assembly) protect this right. 

But, the police can place restrictions on protests if they believe it will cause:

  • Serious property damage.
  • Serious public disorder.
  • Serious disruption to the life of a community.

They can also place restrictions on protests if they think the noise level would cause: 

  • Serious disruption to the activities of a nearby organisation. 
  • Harassment, alarm or distress to people nearby.

The police will also soon have new powers for dealing with so-called “disruptive protests”, including: 

  • new powers to stop and search protesters
  • orders that ban people from participating in protests and control where they can go, what they can do and who they can see. 

However, the police should always consider the importance of your right to protest. Any limitations they place on your protest must have this in mind.

For more information, see Liberty’s articles on ‘How does the new Policing Act affect my protest rights?’, ‘Your right to protest’ and ‘Your right to protest: Disabled people's rights, as well as their explainers on the new Public Order Act.




The police should take your needs as a Disabled person into account. This includes when:

  • Deciding to place limits (conditions) on protests.
  • Deciding any crowd control measures, like kettling.



  • The police should not discriminate against us.

Article 14 of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010 make discrimination illegal.

This means that you shouldn’t be treated worse than a non-disabled person just because you’re Disabled. This is called direct discrimination and it is unlawful.

The Equality Act gives you additional rights. You should never be made to feel bad or embarrassed about being Disabled. This could be harassment and is illegal under the Equality Act.

The Equality Act also means that:

  • You should not be disadvantaged due to your disability. The way the police work shouldn’t have a worse impact on you, compared to non-disabled people. This is called indirect discrimination.
  • You should not be treated worse because of something connected to your disability (e.g., using a mobility aid) if the police know you’re Disabled, or they should have known. This is called discrimination arising from disability.

Both indirect discrimination and discrimination arising from disability are unlawful unless the police can give an objective justification. This means the police must show they have a good reason for treating you differently. 


  • The police have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for us.

If the police’s approach has a worse impact on Disabled people, they must take reasonable steps to reduce this. It could mean things like:

  • Giving you extra time to follow instructions.
  • Waiting so you can understand their instructions.
  • Providing information in another way, like writing things down.
  • Taking steps so that Disabled people are not impacted worse by crowd control tactics, like kettling


  • The police must follow the Public Sector Equality Duty.

This means the police should:

  • Not do anything that breaks the Equality Act 2010.
  • Take your needs into account as a Disabled person.
  • Take account of the fact that you’re Disabled.

For more information on discrimination, see Liberty’s page on ‘Your right to protest: Disabled people’s rights.


It’s important to remember, the police’s legal duties don’t change whether you’ve broken the law or not. 

You are always entitled to reasonable adjustments and direct discrimination is always illegal. You should always be treated with dignity and respect. See Liberty’s page called ‘How should the police treat us?’ for more information.

You can complain any time the police treat you badly. You have the right to complain if the police don’t carry out their legal obligations (e.g. if you are made to feel bad for being Disabled, or what they’re asking you to do is inaccessible to you).

Read Liberty’s guidance on ‘How to complain about the police: Disabled people’s rights



Can the police take away assistive equipment at a protest?

  • If the police reasonably believe the equipment would be used to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”. 

The police can seize items that they reasonably believe would be used to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Section 37 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 allows them to do this - and it’s often used to take away equipment like megaphones and loudspeakers. 

They should not be using this law to take away your assistive technology, mobility devices or independent living equipment - but there is a possibility that they could. 

If they take your equipment: 

  • They must communicate this clearly. 

If the police want to seize equipment under section 37, they should communicate this to you in writing, including telling you where you can get your items back. They must tell you that it’s a criminal offenceif you don’t hand over the item.

  • Equality law still applies.

If they do seize your equipment, they must still follow the Equality Act and Human Rights Act. Therefore, if seizing your equipment would discriminate against you, or if the police are refusing to consider your reasonable adjustments, then the police are breaking the law. 

If after 28 days you haven’t come to get your equipment, the police may destroy the item.



What if the police kettle a protest?

‘Kettling’ is when the police contain protesters in one place for a long time. The police surround the people and don’t let them leave. It’s a tactic to control and manage protests.

The Equality Act and Human Rights Act mean that the police should anticipate (and plan for) the needs of Disabled people, and no crowd control tactics should have a worse impact on you because you’re Disabled. 

Outside of equality legislation - the police also have a legal duty to ensure those being kettled have essential utilities (like drinking water and toilet facilities). They must also have a release plan that allows vulnerable or distressed people, or those accidentally caught up in the kettle, to leave.

For more information on these rules, see Liberty’s page on ‘Your right to protest: Disabled peoples rights’.




You have the right to a lawyer if you’re detained

You have the right to communicate with them privately. If you can’t communicate with your lawyer due to language, hearing or speech difficulties, you have the right to have an interpreter.



Do you need to answer police questions? 

Most of the time, you do not need to answer police questions, nor do you have to engage in casual chit-chat with police officers. 

  • You must give your name and address if you’re engaging in anti-social behaviour.

Section 50 of the Police Reform Act means the police can ask for your name and address if they believe you are (or have been) behaving anti-socially. Anti-social behaviour is behaviour that causes “harassment, alarm or distress”. If this is the case, then it is a criminal offence not to give your accurate name and address. But you don’t need to give any other information. 

To use this power, the police officer must have a reason to believe that you, specifically, are engaging in, or have been engaging in, anti-social behaviour. They are not allowed to question everyone in a crowd just because they suspect that someone in that crowd was involved in anti-social behaviour.

For more information on our rights during a stop and account see Liberty’s Article ‘Stop and account: Disabled people's rights’.

  • If you are not acting anti-socially, the police can’t use section 50 to make you answer their questions. 

If the police believe you might have broken the law and you are questioned as a suspect, you don’t need to answer any questions. However, the police can arrest you to find out your name and address. 

If you are arrested and taken to the police station, you might be questioned formally. This is called an interview. Even if you are formally questioned, you still don’t have to answer. You always have the right to legal advice for police interviews. In certain circumstances, you will have the right to an interpreter.

For all the details on answering police questions, including information on Stop and Account, read Liberty’s article ‘Do I have to answer police questions?’

Remember: when it comes to answering (or not answering) questions, equality laws still stand and you always have the right to reasonable adjustments. For example, you might need more time to think about your answer, or to have things written down.



What if the police believe I’m “vulnerable”?

Being “vulnerable” means you need help understanding or communicating - but there are specific things the police must look out for. These rules apply when the police are detaining you, taking you into custody, or arresting you.

If the police believe you are “vulnerable”, you have extra rights, on top of your rights under the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act. If the police think you’re vulnerable, you have the right to an appropriate adult. Their job is to look out for you and make sure the police are respecting your rights.

See Liberty’s article on being detained or arrested: Disabled people’s rights for more information on what it means to be “vulnerable” and what support is available. 



What assistance, in addition to reasonable adjustments, should be delivered at the police station? 

 As explained in the section “Our right not to be discriminated against”, you should not be made to feel bad about being Disabled and you are always entitled to relevant reasonable adjustments. 

However, in addition to reasonable adjustments, the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) Code C entitles you to the following: 

  • Support for blind people and people with low vision

You should get someone to help you read documents, explain them and sign them (if you want them to). This person could be your lawyer, a relative, an appropriate adult, or someone else who looks out for you but isn’t involved in an investigation.

  • Interpreters

If you are deaf, you find it hard to speak, or you don’t know English, you have the right to an interpreter - unless the interview is urgent. Read more about this in Liberty’s article: “Being detained or arrested: Disabled people’s rights”.

  • Assistance dogs

The police should let you keep your assistance dog if you are in a cell. If they can’t keep it with you, they should tell you that your dog will be kept in an office. The police should never put your dog with other dogs or in kennels. 



Can the police use force against me?

  • Yes, within limits.

The law allows police to use force in limited circumstances. The police should only use force if it’s necessary and proportionate. It should always be the last resort.

  • Human rights and equality law matter.

You have the human right to privacy (Article 8) and freedom from torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 3, although this is a high bar). Reasonable adjustments and discrimination also still stand. Police should be asking what force is necessary, proportionate, and doesn’t harm Disabled people more than non-disabled people. 

For more information on this read Liberty’s article: ‘Can the Police use force against me?’



Can the police share my information with the Government?

Everyone has the right to privacy, which is protected by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It can only be interfered with under strict rules. 

  • The police can share your data for law enforcement purposes:

This includes - preventing, investigating, detecting or prosecuting criminal offences, carrying out criminal penalties (like fines or prison sentences), and safeguarding against and preventing threats to public security.

If sharing your data is not related to these reasons, they can only share it if: 

  • An additional law allows them to share your data - For example, the Immigration and Asylum Act allows the police to send information to the Home Office. However, if you request more information, the police must show what law allowed them to share your data. 


  • They follow data protection law - the police, and whoever they share your data with, must follow all UK data protection laws. This includes having a reason under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) for sharing your data. This includes things like the need to protect others’ rights, or to comply with a legal obligation.

If the police don’t do this, or you feel that your data was shared unlawfully, you can complain to the police and the Information Commissioner’s Office. Complaining may not only be essential to defending your rights, but it may also challenge police practice and help others in future. 

  • You have the right to ask for information about your data. 

For more information on your rights if the police share your personal data, including making a subject access request, see Liberty’s articles ‘Can the police share my personal data?’ and ‘How do I make a Subject Access Request?’

The following additional resources provide more information on data sharing and how to complain: 




  • Managing medication (and avoiding confiscation).

If you take regular medication, even if you expect to be back home by the time you’d need to take it - make sure you have it with you. Also make sure you have any emergency medication with you. This will mean if you are unable to leave, or are arrested, you will be prepared.

The police have powers to stop and search people if they suspect you are carrying drugs. You may want to bring evidence of your prescription, such as bringing medication in a prescription box or bottle. This is to show that you have a right to carry and use your medication.

Read more on Stop and Search on Liberty’s website, and more information about equality laws during stop and search is here.

  • Voice your access needs.

If you are attending a protest, you don’t have to tell anyone that you are Disabled. You also don’t have to tell them any details of your condition or impairment. However, you might want to tell the organiser of any access needs you have to help them better support you. 

If you know who is organising the protest, you could even contact them in advance for peace of mind. Some groups may be able to offer additional support on the day if they can arrange it in advance. Making those you’re attending with aware of your needs might also protect you if facing discrimination. 

  • Come prepared with essentials.

Remember the essentials like extra chargers or batteries - either for your phone or other equipment. Bring extra food and water in case you get stuck somewhere. 

More practical tips can be found on Liberty’s website, as well as general good practice for when you protest.




  • Prioritise accessibility in your planning

It is everyone’s responsibility to make protesting more accessible to Disabled people. 

Read Liberty’s article ‘How to organise a more accessible protest’ on their website. 

  • Provide notice where necessary 

When you organise a protest, sometimes you have to tell the police about your protest beforehand.

If you are marching, instead of staying in one place, you normally give the police minimum of 6 days’ notice - unless it isn’t ‘reasonably practicable’ (i.e. feasible). If you are stationary – no notice is required.

For more information on this, and more, read Liberty’s article on ‘How to organise a protest’. 


Downloadable resources

Protest rights - need to know A4 resource

Protest rights - need to know cards

Liberty and Disability Rights UK
Equality & Rights Participation