Protesting Tips: What to Bring, How to Act, How to Stay Safe


Reproductive rights in America have drastically modified. The US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, which opens the doorways to states criminalizing abortion and blocking entry to details about it. Certain legal experts notice that the language used within the present draft from Justice Samuel Alito may additional erode protections surrounding contraception, homosexual marriage, and interracial marriage, which means extra civil rights are underneath risk.

This information to secure protesting was initially written in 2020 through the nationwide outcry over police brutality, which overwhelmingly targets Black folks like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade. Whether you’re marching for racial justice, reproductive rights, or local weather conservation, our recommendation applies to most protests.

If you are serious about becoming a member of a protest close to you, there are some essential elements to contemplate: Police brutality is an summary idea for some however a stark actuality for others. Similarly, few folks think about abortion access until they need it. There are methods you possibly can contribute to police brutality causes or to abortion funds and independent clinics if you happen to do not feel secure protesting or are in any other case unable to bodily achieve this. You also can donate time to group teams, drop off provides for protests, or contact native legislators.

That being stated, protesting is a proper of all Americans underneath the First Amendment (extra on that beneath). Before you head out, you need to know that police across the country have acted with unnecessary force, together with driving vehicles through crowds, partially blinding a photojournalist, and macing children. The list goes on and on.

If you continue to need to take part, we have gathered some recommendation, in addition to a listing of things it’s your decision to deliver with you. Be cautious, and keep secure.

Table of Contents


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What to Bring (and Not Bring) to a Protest

It’s good to have provides readily available for a day of protesting. We advocate the next. You in all probability have every thing you want round the home, and if not, this stuff will seemingly be accessible at your native shops. We’ve included some hyperlinks to on-line retailers to your reference.

  • A bag and/or backpack: You’ll want one thing small and sturdy. I, Louryn, use an inexpensive daypack from Walgreens for many provides, and I additionally strap on a belt bag, which I take advantage of to maintain the important gadgets I’d want if I have been to lose my backpack. Use no matter you’ve got readily available that permits you to preserve your fingers free. If you do not have something, now we have a listing of our favorite fanny packs. And whereas your bag ought to be sufficiently big to maintain all of the provides you want, make sure to keep away from something too cumbersome.
  • Water: There’s a very good likelihood that your protest will embrace a march, so that you want to listen to correct hydration. Carry ingesting water. Bring the most important bottle that you would be able to slot in your bag. Water can be used to clear wounds and flush the eyes of anybody who’s been hit with chemical fuel or pepper spray.
  • A face masks or bandana: There’s nonetheless a pandemic happening, with over 1 million Americans lifeless from Covid-19. Take precautions and canopy your face with a masks or bandana. Face coverings additionally take pleasure in shielding your identification from cameras and police surveillance. (We have a separate information about digital privacy throughout protests.). Bring an additional masks when you’ve got one.
  • A hat and/or sun shades: Aside from shielding you from the solar throughout an extended day of marching, hats and sun shades can obscure your face from surveillance and shield your privateness. If you put on a hat, and also you’re focused on additional defending your identification, preserve the brim low.
  • Snacks: You are seemingly in for an extended day. Pack light-weight, nutritious, protein-rich snacks. Jerky, energy bars, and nuts are all good picks.
  • Protest indicators: If you need to carry an indication, there are some issues to contemplate. Ensure that your slogan is in huge, daring letters that may be simply learn from far-off. Short and punchy sayings are arguably higher than a block of script. Poster board is versatile, however stiffer foam board is extra sturdy. You can affix paint-stir sticks or different flat, wood sticks to the signal utilizing robust tape to create a deal with. You would possibly need to make extras to hand out to fellow protesters. Don’t litter—if you’re finished along with your signal, get rid of it correctly, or donate it to one other protester.
  • Suitable clothes: It’s a good suggestion to put on all black, each as a result of that is what the organizers of most solidarity protests recommend and since it helps you mix in with a crowd. It’s additionally recommended that you simply cowl any tattoos, if you happen to can, and that you simply cover your hair if it is dyed a particular colour.
  • A change of garments: If you are protesting on a very sizzling day, it’s your decision to have additional garments. These also can come in useful if you happen to’re uncovered to substances that may harm your pores and skin or if you happen to’re splashed with paint, gross highway water, or different folks’s sweat. I often carry a pair of shorts, a tank prime, and an additional pair of socks in my backpack.
  • Hand sanitizer: You would possibly end up holding fingers with a stranger, grabbing onto gunky road indicators, or tripping and falling right into a puddle. All these eventualities coupled with Covid-19 make hand sanitizer a vital factor to carry. Most shops now have at the least some type of hand sanitizer in inventory, however we even have a guide on making your own.
  • Good strolling footwear: This is nonnegotiable. Wear closed-toe footwear which can be damaged in and good for strolling lengthy distances.
  • Your ID (perhaps): If you are detained, not having your ID on you would possibly preserve you caught for longer. However, in some states, you might not have to show the police your ID if they ask for one. Use your finest judgment, and contemplate trying up the legal guidelines to your state for extra particular steering.
  • Your telephone (perhaps): To protect your privacy and prevent surveillance, one of the best factor you are able to do is go away your telephone at house. Consider utilizing a secondary or burner phone as a substitute. If you need to deliver your telephone, keep away from utilizing conventional telephone calls and texts if in any respect doable. Signal is a safe, end-to-end encrypted messaging app that provides the choice to delete messages after they’re despatched. You also needs to disable biometric unlocking, like FaceID or fingerprint options, and use a six-digit passcode as a substitute. If you do want to carry your major telephone, preserve it turned off till you completely want to use it. This will make it tougher for legislation enforcement to observe your actions.
  • Cash: Just like your telephone can go away digital breadcrumbs indicating your whereabouts, utilizing your debit or bank card will make it simpler for the authorities to observe your actions. Instead, deliver money. Separate your payments; stash some in your bag, and preserve some in your particular person, both in your shoe, your bra, your pants pockets, or some place else safe.
  • An influence financial institution: If you or members of your group may have a telephone, you want to just be sure you have a approach to cost units. Other protesters might have to cost their gear as effectively. If you do not have one already, I actually like this option from Anker. The firm additionally makes one other good power bank that is a bit smaller.
  • Other issues it’s your decision: A cooling towel. Duct tape or gaffer’s tape. A flashlight or a headlamp. Ibuprofen. Goggles. Blister-prevention patches. Extra hair ties. A pen and paper. A Sharpie. A laser pointer. Bandages or different first help provides. Ear plugs. Saline answer. Extra face masks. A duplicate of emergency telephone numbers and a card declaring essential medical info that somebody might have to know if you happen to’re unable to inform them your self (for instance, when you’ve got bronchial asthma or if you happen to’re onerous of listening to). Medications that want to be taken on a schedule (in a labeled prescription bottle if doable) with the understanding that you could be be away from house for much longer than anticipated.

We requested some organizers and civil motion consultants about key issues to perceive about protesting. Here’s their recommendation.

Educate Yourself

Do not go to a protest with out figuring out what it’s you are combating for. Don’t present up and ask somebody there to educate you. If you are an ally, do the work your self and examine as a lot as doable—not solely in regards to the actions you are protesting however the context round them. You would possibly know that reproductive rights are threatened, however have you learnt in regards to the historic combat for entry to abortion in America? There are several books you can read proper now to acquire extra information about this matter.

Realize It’s Not About You

Tony Williams, a member of MPD150, a Minneapolis-based coalition that has studied the historical past of police exercise and seeks police-free options to group security, shared essential recommendation for anybody who isn’t personally impacted, however needs to attend a protest. “The most important thing to realize—especially if you’re a white person going out for the first time to protest police brutality against Black people—is that you’re showing up in solidarity with other people,” stated Williams. “It’s not your job to decide how things should go. It’s your job to show up and listen and be in support. Deprioritizing yourself is an incredibly important part of the experience.” Be ready to amplify what others are saying. Be ready to pay attention. If you are not snug with probably bodily intervening, shielding susceptible protesters from police violence, and listening greater than you converse, your efforts to be an ally are seemingly higher spent elsewhere.

Get within the Right Mindset

Mental preparation is necessary. Protesting may be bodily grueling and emotional taxing. You might expertise sheer pleasure. You would possibly cry. You would possibly get indignant. You would possibly get scared. Most seemingly, you may expertise the entire above. Take the time to put together your self earlier than heading out. Make positive to drink some water, apply sunscreen, and eat a meal.

In the US, it’s entirely within your rights to peacefully show in public. The primary act of assembling and protesting motion by the federal government is definitely protected, in accordance to the First Amendment Coalition, a California-based nonprofit that’s dedicated to defending freedom of speech. Also, as a common matter, “people have the right to film or otherwise document things that are happening in the public space,” says David Snyder, director of the FAC. “If police demand that you turn over your notes, I would say that you can assume they don’t have the right to seize that.” That stated, if it comes down to a matter of pressure and you might be bodily outmatched, you’ll have to weigh the dangers to your fast private security, probably have your notes or telephone stripped from you, and pursue authorized motion afterward. Also, Snyder notes, the First Amendment to the Constitution doesn’t shield protesters who have interaction in illegal exercise, which incorporates destroying property or assaulting different folks.

Form a Group

If you possibly can keep away from it, do not protest alone. It’s necessary that you simply go along with at the least one different particular person so you possibly can have one another’s backs. There is energy in numbers. Know your “roles” inside the group earlier than you go so that you may be ready for something. For instance, perhaps one among you is ready to drive the group house if the state of affairs will get dicey, perhaps one among you has first-aid coaching, or perhaps one among you is hyper-observant and ready to monitor your environment to preserve tabs on the vibe. Stay shut to your group. Meet up beforehand, stick collectively your entire time, and go away the protest collectively. If you do not have a bunch, test social media websites—there are in all probability discussions the place yow will discover folks to meet up with domestically.

Make a Plan

There will probably be lots of people and a number of feelings. You want to have a plan for what to do if the state of affairs escalates. Pick a spot to meet in case your group will get separated for a sure period of time. (For instance, if you happen to get separated for greater than half-hour, you meet again at a chosen road nook.) It is likely to be good to have a couple of spots to meet at in case one is inaccessible. You also needs to have a number of routes deliberate for if you happen to want to go away and streets are blocked off. Is there a curfew the place you reside? Have earlier protests in your metropolis escalated to violence? Will there be transportable bogs stationed alongside the route, or must you map out locations to relieve your self after chugging water all day? Prep a plan.

Take Out Your Contact Lenses

If you are uncovered to tear fuel or pepper spray, contacts will make the expertise a lot worse. Wear glasses when you’ve got them. If you put on contacts, shield your eyes with sun shades on the minimal, although ideally you may be carrying goggles or holding them helpful. For the identical motive, keep away from carrying make-up or oil-based merchandise like lotions, because the irritants in dispersion measures deployed by police can stick to them.

Write Down Emergency Numbers

Write down your emergency contacts’ info. Write down the variety of emergency authorized counsel—a number of legislation corporations provide professional bono illustration for arrested protesters. Research the corporations in your space. You can also need to write down the variety of an area bond fund. You ought to have two copies of those telephone numbers in your particular person—write them within the notepad stashed in your bag, on the hem of your shirt, or on a notecard that you simply preserve in your pocket. As a redundancy, you may also write them someplace in your physique (like your forearms), ideally in everlasting marker.

While You’re on the Protest

Once you arrive and take part along with your fellow protesters, comply with this recommendation on how to behave and the way to keep secure.

Study Your Surroundings

You can designate a sure particular person in your group to make this a prime precedence, however no matter who you are with, you need to keep consciousness of what is going on on round you. This is necessary for quite a few causes. Is somebody carrying steel-toed boots, a coloured armband, and a listening to system, and likewise displaying the define of handcuffs of their pocket? That particular person is likely to be an undercover cop. Is somebody carrying a bag of provides emblazoned with a giant crimson cross? They is likely to be a road medic. Did a protester fall down and get harm whereas marching? Open eyes and ears will aid you react extra rapidly when wanted.

Help Those Around You

If you are marching, you are in all probability going to be in shut proximity to a couple of dozen different protesters. These are the folks you may be chanting with, strolling with, and closest to if the state of affairs escalates. Be pleasant with them. Offer them water if you happen to’ve obtained additional, or maintain their stuff whereas they tie their footwear. Solidarity can begin small. Remember that you simply’re in an enormous crowd; assume your actions are being watched and that your phrases are being listened to.

Consider the Ethics of Taking Photos

It is your proper to take photographs at any protest within the streets or on public property. However, a protest isn’t a social media picture op. You ought to keep away from taking photographs of protesters that clearly present figuring out info like their faces or their tattoos, since these photographs may make them susceptible to abuse or retaliation. Law enforcement can also reply with pressure if you happen to level your digicam at them, despite the fact that it’s effectively inside your rights to movie their actions.

A Note on Engaging With the Police

If you are white, you need to use your privilege to your benefit. Your presence within the crowd can forestall extra police brutality in opposition to folks of colour and Black folks specifically. You can shield people of color with your body if essential and if you happen to’re snug doing it. You also can movie arrests and police exercise normally—it’s your right to do so. But we won’t put together you for each state of affairs you may encounter. Study up on the results of the nonlethal weapons that might be used in opposition to you. Do what makes you snug and what is smart on the time.

When you are protesting, the actions you do not take may be simply as necessary because the actions you do. Here’s some recommendation about what not to do whereas demonstrating.

Don’t Run

Humans, similar to different animals, may be profoundly influenced by this tough factor referred to as collective behavior. When you are in a bunch, your mind takes cues from stated group, and you may react to issues primarily based on how the group reacts. This is why, if somebody begins working whilst you’re in a crowd, you mechanically get the urge to run as effectively. You won’t even know why they’re working, however a message in your mind says, “OK, it’s time to go.” Running additionally attracts consideration to your self and people round you, which is not excellent at an indication the place protesters are being focused for violence. For these causes, it is necessary that you simply chorus from working whereas protesting—you would possibly incite a panic, harm somebody, or harm your self. If you want to transfer rapidly, that is OK, however strive to keep away from working if you happen to may help it. If you want to go away the bigger group, transfer rapidly and calmly to the sting of the gang, out of the throng of individuals. When returning house, strive to discover a aspect road or a route that is out of the way in which, and keep along with your smaller group.

Don’t Police Other People’s Behavior

You are going to see a number of of us behaving in a number of other ways. If someone’s conduct makes you uncomfortable to the purpose that you simply’re contemplating asking a fellow protester to cease doing one thing, it is time to go away. This contains emotional public talking, tagging, looting, or frightening the police. If you are not snug with what’s occurring, take that as your cue to head house.

Don’t Participate in Protest Tourism

Do not journey to one other location to protest. Now is the time to strengthen your ties with your individual group. You can nonetheless donate to organizations in places shut to your coronary heart, however when it comes to bodily actions, your power and efforts are finest spent inside your individual locale.

We cannot put together you for each doable situation. In unknown conditions, your frequent sense and your finest judgment ought to information you. But for the circumstances listed beneath, the following pointers might aid you kind a plan.

… You’re Exposed to Tear Gas

Tear fuel is a thick, powdery fog that sticks to moisture like saliva, sweat, tears, and mucous membranes and causes an intense burning sensation. If fuel is used, it is necessary to keep calm, as a result of panicking will worsen the results. Follow airplane guidelines: Help your self earlier than serving to others. If a tear fuel canister is deployed, transfer away from the cloud, rapidly and calmly. Try to preserve your respiration sluggish and even. If you are in a position, strive to assist these round you progress away from the cloud. Tear fuel is heavier than air and finally falls, so transfer to increased floor if you happen to’re in a position.

You’ll want to flush out your eyes. The neatest thing to use for that is water. Protesters and road medics have used what’s referred to as a LAW answer, which is a mix of fifty % unflavored liquid antacid and 50 % water. Protesters and road medics have additionally used a baking soda answer consisting of a teaspoon of baking soda for each 8.5 ounces of water. These options are absolutely efficient provided that they’re totally combined. Blinking quickly encourages pure tear manufacturing and may help flush the eyes. Do not use milk; it is much less efficient, can spoil rapidly, and may trigger infections, particularly in eyes. You also needs to blow your nostril and spit—and keep away from sniffing or swallowing, as this may occasionally worsen signs. Change your clothes as quickly as doable. Take a bathe as quickly as doable too, however use chilly water, as sizzling water could make the burning sensation worse.

… You’re Exposed to Pepper Spray

Some of the identical recommendation applies right here. Move away rapidly and take a look at to stay as calm as you possibly can. Change your garments as quickly as you possibly can. Avoid touching your face or some other space that was uncovered. Pepper spray is oil-based, so it may be trickier to take away, and it spreads over the pores and skin simply. Water will assist with signs, but it surely will not take away the irritating oils. LAW answer, baking soda answer, or diluted “no tears” shampoo are more practical.

… You Encounter a Violent Police Officer

Say as little as doable. You are not obligated to have a conversation with the police. In most states, you want to give an officer your title and handle in the event that they ask for it. This is why it is necessary to lookup the particular legal guidelines to your location earlier than the protest. Stay calm, preserve your fingers the place officers can see them, and contemplate filming the interplay as unobtrusively as doable as a safeguard. You might have the opportunity to make a plan with the members of your group the place these not concerned in a police encounter can movie it as a bystander. Try to write down or bear in mind the officer’s badge quantity and any defining traits (like top, eye colour, or tattoos) if the badge quantity is not seen.

… You Encounter the National Guard

Listen to and comply with the orders being dictated by the National Guard. If you might be planning to have interaction in civil disobedience, be ready for the very sensible situation of encountering crowd-dispersal measures like tear fuel or less-lethal rifle rounds, and getting detained or arrested. Understand the implications that will pertain to you particularly; if you happen to’re undocumented, an individual of colour, or belong to any marginalized group, your plan of action right here could also be completely different from that of a white protester. Use frequent sense, take cues from the protest organizers, and preserve your security and the security of others round you in thoughts.

… You’re Arrested or Detained

Since you probably did your analysis earlier than you left, and also you know your rights, you are ready for this. According to the ACLU, you need to say you want to stay silent, and instantly ask for a lawyer. Do not resist arrest, even if you happen to suppose what’s occurring is unfair. Write down the badge variety of your arresting officer, if doable. Ask for a telephone name. Note that arrests throughout protests do not at all times comply with the everyday sample of arrests that may ensue from one thing like a visitors cease. You is likely to be left ready for hours with out entry to a telephone. You won’t have any details about what is going on to occur subsequent, or when. Try to keep as calm as doable, and comply with directions given to you. If wanted, you possibly can pursue authorized motion when you’re house and secure.

… You See Someone Getting Arrested

If you witness an arrest or police brutality occurring in public, you have a right to film it. Do not intervene bodily, and don’t strive to cover the truth that you might be recording. If you are white, your presence alone might deter extra police brutality, and filming interactions might additional bolster that deterrence.

If you have been motivated by a selected trigger or name to motion, don’t simply go house after you’ve marched and contemplate it finished. Follow up with the organizers and ask if there’s extra motion to take or the way you would possibly proceed to push native leaders towards insurance policies you contemplate extra simply. Even if you happen to weren’t in a position to present up in particular person, there’s nonetheless so much you are able to do from house, says Lila Eltawely, who sits on the board of the Minneapolis-based advocacy group Reviving Sisterhood. “Buying supplies and food for people who are on the ground works too. It’s all a chain,” she says. “Protesting is on a spectrum. Some of us have the ability to go outside and hold up a sign, and some of us are not able to. So whatever helps the overall goal of the current situation helps.”

Additional reporting by Reece Rogers.





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