Here Are Some Helpful Tips You Should Know Before Heading Out To Protest
The protests have stayed packed for nearly two weeks now, so here are some precautions you should take before you head out.
by Jon Greig
June 10, 2020 at 8:53 pm
The Black Lives Matter protests have shown no signs of slowing down either, and each weekend the marches seem to grow in size and impact.
Now that protesters are getting some demands met through new policy and business decisions, the demonstrations will most certainly continue.
Here are a few tips for anyone going out to protest or trying to organize a group for a public demonstration.
Know your rights
The ACLU released a breakdown of the basic rights afforded to all protesters.
If you're in charge of organizing a protest, you should look to host in parks, sidewalks, streets, or other public places because the owners of a private property "can set rules for speech on their property," according to the ACLU.
The government is not allowed to stop free speech, so you are allowed to hold protests near government buildings. You may have to fill out a permit if you're blocking traffic or sidewalks or if you're making excessive noise, but police are not allowed to deny permits due to any inability to pay or the level of controversy caused by the topic.
If you feel your rights have been violated, the ACLU says to take down all the information you can, including any badge numbers, license plates of law enforcement vehicles and government emblems. You should also record all injuries and keep a contact list of witnesses if available.
A persistent issue occurring during recent protests has been law enforcement's violent enforcement of curfews and dispersal orders. The ACLU says using force to end a protest "must be law enforcement’s last resort" and that if protesters are given an order to leave, "they must provide a reasonable opportunity to comply, including sufficient time and a clear, unobstructed exit path."
"Individuals must receive clear and detailed notice of a dispersal order, including how much time they have to disperse, the consequences of failing to disperse, and what clear exit route they can follow, before they may be arrested or charged with any crime," the ACLU wrote.
In its guide, the ACLU notes that if an officer ever stops you, immediately ask if you are free to leave. If not, "ask the officer what crime you are suspected of committing."
If you are arrested while protesting, the ACLU says to decline speaking or signing paperwork without a lawyer present.
"You have the right to make a local phone call, and if you’re calling your lawyer, police are not allowed to listen. You never have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. If you do explicitly consent, it can affect you later in court. Police may 'pat down' your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon and may search you after an arrest," the ACLU wrote.
Become familiar with who you're protesting with
Before you head out to your local protest, you should have a clear knowledge of who you're protesting with and what the specific cause is.
While some people simply join in with demonstrations taking place around them, it is always good to make sure you have a plan of action with the people you are marching with in case of an emergency.
Right-To-Protest.org has created a lengthy list of things people should consider before protesting. They write that it might be a good idea to find specific groups that you align with and see where they plan to be or where they are planning to organize.
For those protesting in the United States, it is also important to note that you should understand who is on the other side of the protests.
— Pierre G. (@pgarapon) May 31, 2020
Police have been caught on video brutalizing protesters in a variety of ways. If you are going out to a protest, be prepared for a heightened police presence and possible police violence. It is important to protest with a group of people you know if possible, just in case something happens and you need assistance.
While some enjoy the spontaneity of participating in a protest, others create detailed plans of where to meet up in case you lose contact with a friend or where to go if the streets are blocked off. It is also important to know whether your city has enacted a curfew so that you know when things might turn up.
There is now a website that tells you where protests are happening in your state called 2020Protests, and you can search "George Floyd protests" and your city name on social media to find local demonstrations, too.
What you should bring with you
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, you should absolutely be wearing a mask or face covering at all times. Wired also suggests you bring a backpack, hand sanitizer, extra clothes, water, hats, snacks and signs.
If you have a portable phone charger, bring that, too. Organizers who spoke to the outlet also suggested a variety of other things like bandages, towels, cards with emergency numbers and extra face masks.
Here's the whole spread.
It looks like a lot, but it compresses really well. pic.twitter.com/1g1OkDv009
— Gwen Snyder is uncivil (@gwensnyderPHL) June 6, 2020
Emerson Sykes, staff attorney for the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, told CNN that if you do bring a bag, you should "prepare for it to be searched."
Because of the themes of the protest, most organizers say you should wear black and that, even though it may be hot, you should try your best to cover any distinguishing body markings or tattoos.
A tattoo parlor recently tweeted that government officials came to them with photos of protesters looking to identify people by their tattoos.
to all yall posting pics at protests, delete that shit like we told you pic.twitter.com/Nd4JNxkWpi
— weet woo sleen (@sangresantos) June 9, 2020
There has been a lot of debate about whether to bring your phone with you to a protest. While it may be great in an emergency, it can also easily be tracked and leave a simple digital trail that police can trace with little problem. Wired suggests you bring a burner phone if you have one.
But if that is not an option and you have no choice but to bring your phone, remember to deactivate your fingerprint scanner or FaceID phone lock before you leave. Police can easily use them to open your phone without asking you.
In case your phone dies, gets lost, or is stolen, The Markup suggests writing important phone numbers on your arm with a sharpie. Be sure to jot down numbers to legal aides and organizations that assist those who have been arrested while protesting.
In an explainer for USA Today, journalist Jennifer Jolly said you should turn off location tracking and download encrypted messaging apps like Signal to stay connected. If you are going out more than once, it might be a good idea to download the Citizen app for up-to-date information about police activity near you.
Also, Wired says to leave the cards at home. Like your phone, your debit or credit cards leave a trace, so try to stick with cash if possible.
hk protests would also leave prepaid transit tickets and cash for other protesters that have to flea in a hurry. Its is rlly important to buy tickets using CASH instead of metrocards/credit cards or any other payment
The police can track u down and know all of ur personal details pic.twitter.com/HUL1NI8xAp
— kylie⁷ (@jjkisbabie) May 30, 2020
While you are free to take photos in public, be aware that these aren't photoshoots — they're protests. So, know that you're not just there for a good time or to get out of the house. As mentioned earlier, law enforcement agencies are using photos posted online to track protesters, so be aware of who you photograph.
What to do if the police use chemical weapons
Tear gas and pepper spray have been police mainstays at protests. Throughout the country, police officers and members of the National Guard have used chemical weapons to disperse crowds.
Organizers who spoke to Wired said tear gas exposure can be treated with a "LAW" solution. Wired said it is "a mixture of 50 percent unflavored liquid antacid and 50 percent water."
"Protesters and street medics have also used a baking soda solution consisting of a teaspoon of baking soda for every 8.5 ounces of water. These solutions are fully effective only if they are thoroughly mixed," activists told Wired.
But, before you do anything, if tear gas is shot near you, you need to leave the area as soon as possible. If you can, move people with you out of the clouds of gas and up to higher areas. You should breathe slowly as you walk away from the crowds as well.
While dozens of photos have shown protesters using milk after being pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed, that is actually not the best solution because it can spoil quickly in the heat and cause eye infections. Activists emphasize that you should try your hardest to keep the chemicals out of your system, so don't swallow or inhale it if possible.
There is a lengthy thread on Twitter about what demonstrators in Hong Kong did when they were shot with tear gas and pepper spray.
i’m from hong kong and protesters here have some of the smartest tactics when fighting with our own police brutality. Here is an example of how they put out tear gas. I’ll share more if y’all need pic.twitter.com/FrQdhry7tk
— kylie⁷ (@jjkisbabie) May 28, 2020
again, how they put out tear gas pic.twitter.com/E4szSIxooe
— kylie⁷ (@jjkisbabie) May 28, 2020
These protests are historic, and you should absolutely get involved however you feel inspired to. So, stay safe and stay prepared.