Protest Safety Tips

Updated: Jun 16

When most of us think of protests, what we actually picture are organized marches and rallies. These events are organized months in advance, permitted by the city, and generally peaceful. They have timetables, guest speakers, food vendors and restrooms. And they are all basically incapable of creating any change whatsoever.


Real protests are different. They are the manifestation of raw emotion coming out of a community screaming for justice. They are uncontrolled, unpredictable, and often violent. And they can be terrifying.


If you're going to hit the streets and fight for change, you're going to need more than a pink hat and an extra phone battery to protect you. Below is a list of tips I have gathered since this all began. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and if any of the information is incorrect I am happy to correct it. Please leave your own tips and resources in the comments. Let's do what we can to keep each other safe.


WHAT TO DO:

• PLAN AHEAD. Think about your essential needs and what supplies they require.

• Know what you're getting yourself into, and RESPECT THE SITUATION.

• Know how to get assistance - both legal and medical.

• Know how to get in touch with your group if you get separated.

• Have a backup plan in case your phone dies.

• Be calm and focussed when things get most intense.

• React to danger and warning signs sooner, not later, but do so calmly.

• Watch for signs of physical and mental problems in yourself and others.

• Cool down others who exhibit panic behavior before it escalates.

• Document police actions, brutality and injuries. Stream it. Film it. Take a pic. Write it down.

• Park away from the protest epicenter and walk to the active area. Remember where you parked.


WHAT NOT TO DO:

• Don't put vaseline, minderal oil, oil based sunscreen or moisturizers on skin as they can trap chemical

particles.

• Don't wear contact lenses. They can trap irritating chemicals underneath them.

• Don't wear things which can be easily grabbed (jewelry, ties, loose hair) or easily identified.

• Don't go alone if you can avoid it. Stay with people you trust.

• Don't forget to eat food and drink lots of water.

WHAT TO BRING:

• Water in a plastic bottle with a squirt top - to drink and wash off skin or eyes

• Energy snacks

• Identification and/or emergency contact information (for you, your lawyer, medic, etc.)

• Have a hard copy on you in case your phone dies or you are arrested. Many people write important

phone numbers, such as local layer guilds, on their arm or other easily accessible location in

permanent marker. Pick an area that won't get too sweaty.

• Enough money for pay phone, food and transportation

• Watch, pen, paper for documentation if needed.

• Inhalers, epi pens, insulin and several days of any prescription medications you take. If you are

arrested over the weekend, you may not get out until the courts reopen.

• Menstrual pads if needed. Avoid using tampons. If you are arrested you may not have an opportunity

to change them.

• Basic first aid kit.

• Wet wipes and tissues

• Gas mask / respirator if you have one.


WHAT TO WEAR:

• Shatter resistant swimming goggles or safety glasses. Swim goggles will help keep chemicals out of

your eyes, but if not available safety glasses will help protect your eyes from projectiles. You can easily

lose an eye if it is hit with less lethal rounds. Make sure anti-fog holes are sealed. Epoxy works nicely.

• Comfortable, protective shoes that you can run in.

• Bandana to cover nose and mouth. This is both to help aid breathing during chemical exposure and

to protect your identity. Assume everything you do at a protest is being filmed.

• Fresh clothes in a plastic bag in case yours get covered in chemical particles.

• A helmet if available. If not, a hat to protect you from the sun.


DEALING WITH TEAR GAS:

• Avoid use of oils and lotions because they can trap the chemical and thereby prolong exposure.

• Gas masks provide the best facial protection if properly fitted and sealed.

• Alternative to gas masks include: goggles, respirators or a wet bandana over nose and mouth.

• Beards can prevent gas masks from sealing properly

• STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary.

• DO NOT WEAR CONTACTS TO A PROTEST. If you are wearing contacts, they need to be

removed as soon as possible after exposure. Make sure this is done with CLEAN hands. Get someone

to remove them for you if necessary. Destroy the lenses after exposure.

• DO NOT RUB IT IN.

• ONLY USE WATER IN EYES. Squirt water from the inside corner near the nose outward towards

the ear. You want to push the chemicals out of the eye. You are not trying to neutralize the chemicals.

NEVER put anything other than water in the eyes. (In addition, milk and other remedies will leave a

white film that clearly identifies you to police.)


KNOW YOUR RIGHTS:

• FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSEMBLY.

- Everyone has the right to carry their opinion to the streets

• PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

- Law enforcement must facilitate and not restrict a peaceful public assembly

• FREEDOM FROM EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE

- In the policing of non-violent protests, police must avoid the use of force.

• RIGHT TO MEDICAL ASSISTANCE

- If you are injured you have a right to medical assistance without delay.

• FREEDOM FROM ARBITRARY ARREST AND DETENTION

-If you are arrested, you have a right to be told of the reason for your arrest. You also have the

right promptly after arrest to have access to a lawyer and your family.

• RIGHT TO COMPLAIN

- If your rights have been violated, you have the right to file a complaint and be provided

information on how to do so.



PLEASE NOTE: Your rights as described above are constitutionally guaranteed, but that does not mean they will be respected by police. There are many loopholes used by police to justify violation of these rights.

• The mere claim of objects being thrown is enough to change the definition of a gathering from

peaceful protest to illegal gathering.

• Curfews are put in place to automatically make protesters guilty of a crime and subject to arrest. Be

especially careful in the last hour leading up to a curfew going into effect. Police have been known to

corral protesters into a confined area and then wait for curfew to hit so that they can make arrests.

• Some police simply do not care about your rights. They will not hesitate to violate them. Their peers

will not stand up against them, and there will be little to no consequences for violating your rights even

if you take it to court.


IF YOUR RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED: Document. Document. Document. Locate witnesses if available. Contact a lawyer. If you do not have one or cannot afford one, there are many groups such as the National Lawyers Guild who may be able to help. Find someone in your area BEFORE you go to the protest and take their contact information with you.


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