In light of the protests championing around the country, we have put together a guide to keep you safe while protesting.
By Audra Heinrichs.
Since May 25th, thousands of people have poured onto the streets of cities across the United States and beyond to protest the murder of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.
Like Floyd, Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman from Louisville was murdered after police opened fire in her home as she slept, and Tony McDade, a Black transgender man from Tallahassee was gunned down in mysterious circumstances that have remained unreported by the police.
Over the past week, social media has been permeated with upsetting footage of the violent measures police have taken with protestors. Tear gas, rubber bullets, and unnecessary force have become almost commonplace for anyone gathering. Many protestors have sustained critical injuries and a few have even been reported dead.
For several people, attending a protest is new. However, whether it’s your first or your fourteenth, it’s never been more important that you know how to protect yourself and others, as we stand against racism, oppression, and all police violence. It’s critical to note that we are doing so amid an ongoing pandemic and additional safety measures should be taken.
Activists, organizations, and media outlets have taken to social media to share tips for protesting safely and effectively. We’ve rounded up some of the best:
What to Wear:
Many infographics have been shared about what to wear. Most of them suggest solid, nondescript clothing that isn’t easily distinguishable from the crowd or in any photographs or videos that may be captured.
It’s important to have as little exposed skin as possible, and layering with substantial material like denim or leather is useful in protecting against both rubber bullets and tear gas, the latter of which will linger on the skin until you shower.
Goggles, even ones you might use for swimming or a science project, are crucial to shield your eyes from these threats as well.
Because the Black community has been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, white protestors, in particular, should not attend any action unless they are wearing a mask, gloves, and an additional face covering. This is recommended not only to help protect your identity, but also your health and the wellbeing of those around you – especially those leading this movement.
What to Bring:
A backpack is useful for holding necessary supplies. In preparing for potential arrest, you will need cash for bail, a valid ID, and any phone numbers you anticipate needing. Writing them in permanent marker somewhere on your person is recommended.
Band-Aids and an easily transportable first aid kit can help assist those around you should you be witness to harm or injury.
Water bottles, snacks, and pain relievers are essential if you plan on demonstrating for a long time. Earplugs, too, if you are sensitive to loud and unexpected noises.
Because exposure to tear gas is possible, bring plenty of water, baking soda solution (three teaspoons of powder for every 8.5 ounces of water), milk, and canola oil to neutralize the effects it will have on your eyes, mouth, and any exposed skin. Be sure to bring a bandana or cloth to wipe with. Remove and wash any clothing that has been exposed as soon as possible. Shower immediately when safe.
The Y-Stop app is also worth downloading if you have a smartphone, as it offers free, accessible information on knowing your rights if you or someone near you is stopped and searched.
Traditional protest signs are useful so long as you are prepared to carry them.
How to Ensure Privacy (Both Yours + Others):
Avoid using data on your phone. To maintain communication with loved ones and friends, WhatsApp is a fantastic tool as it is encrypted, thus making it difficult for any outside sources to access messages or private information.
During protests in Hong Kong last year, police took advantage of accessibility options like Face and Touch ID to access protesters’ phones without permission. Be sure these functions have been disabled.
If you choose to post about the protest you attended on social media, do not include the faces (or any identifiable characteristics) of organizers or fellow protestors. Many easily recognizable Ferguson organizers and activists have either been jailed or died mysteriously since journalists and fellow protestors made their faces go viral.
What Not to Do:
Don’t carry anything you wouldn’t want to be arrested with, especially valuables. Jewelry is not necessary, nor is makeup, particularly if it’s oil-based, as it might just end up in your eyes.
Contacts could also cause permanent damage to your eyes if exposed to tear gas.
Protestors should be mindful of coronavirus and maintain as much social distance as possible. Self-quarantining for two weeks after attending an event has been recommended by organizers.
If you live in a particularly vulnerable community or household or have underlying health conditions, please consider other options to take action. Making donations to organizers, activists, and grassroots organizations, volunteering to post bail, updating people on crucial information, acting as a point of contact, offering support to those in your community, and creating or sharing content that fosters awareness or solidarity are all just as valuable as showing up in person, and the least we can do.
We encourage you to listen to and follow the Black architects of this movement.