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How to prepare for a protest

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

All art by Eden Greene

Eagle’s Scream is not responsible for any injury incurred by any person attending a protest.

1. Research:

It’s imperative that you are well-versed in how your protest will be run to avoid any surprises, and above all, stay safe. Research whether the city you are in has approved the demonstration you are attending, who the organizer(s) are, and whether the cause is one that you fully support before you attend.

2. Buddy System:

Bring a friend or go with a group of people you know. They can be helpful for documentation in the event of a medical emergency or if you or someone else gets arrested. Additionally, staying in contact with someone who is not going to the protest can help you escape a sticky situation (like the deployment of tear gas, arrests, or anything else that makes you feel uncomfortable), and aids your overall safety.

3. Supplies:

Don’t bring anything to a protest that you can’t lose. Wear shoes that are comfortable for walking long distances and running and clothing that is close enough to the skin that it can’t be easily grabbed (this applies to hair too). Bring enough water and snacks to sustain you and your group while walking, standing, and shouting for what may be hours. If you menstruate (or if someone in your group does), bring and wear menstrual pads instead of tampons. If you are arrested, you may not have an opportunity to switch out your menstrual product while in custody. You do not need to bring any kind of weapon to a protest, and you should be careful about which items you bring may be considered a weapon by the police. (This includes things that may appear safe, like the bottoms of signposts, which can be sharp.) Consider whether or not to bring a phone: It can be useful for communication and documentation, but can end up lost or damaged, and may be used to track you.

4. Tear gas:

Tear gas (referred to as a riot-control agent) is a non-lethal airborne chemical sometimes deployed by police on protesters that can irritate the skin and eyes. To avoid exposure, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, and bring goggles and a face mask, gas mask, or respirator, which can keep gas out of sensitive areas like your nose, mouth, and eyes. In a pinch, you can also use a wet bandanna over the mouth and nose, to trap irritant particles. Don’t use lotion before a protest, and -- if possible -- don’t wear contact lenses, as both can trap tear gas and lengthen your exposure. If you do come in contact with tear gas, do not panic; simply get away from the gas, try not to inhale more, and flush your eyes with clean water. Try not to rub your eyes, especially if your hands have not been thoroughly cleaned of irritants.

5. Knowing Your Rights and Dealing With the Police:

Regarding the rights of protesters, Amnesty USA states: “Everyone has the right to carry their opinion to the streets. [...] If you are injured, you have a right to medical assistance without delay.” Regarding the police, they go on to say: “Law enforcement must facilitate and not restrict a peaceful public assembly. [...] In the policing of non-violent protests, police must avoid the use of force. [...] If you are arrested you have a right to be told of the reason for your arrest, you also have the right promptly after your arrest to have access to a lawyer and to your family.”

Remember that you are safest in what the American Civil Liberties Union calls “traditional public forums” (essentially, public property), where you have the right to photograph or video anything “in plain view,” including the police and federal buildings. If you document an instance of injustice and wish to share it online, consider how it may be used to identify you, and if there is an identifiable civilian victim, ask their permission before you share anything. If you are stopped by the police or arrested, do not argue or resist. You may not be searched without your consent (though the police may do a “pat down” of your clothing if they suspect that you have a weapon) or have your photos/video viewed or confiscated without a warrant, or deleted under any circumstances. If you feel that your rights have been violated, you have the right to file a complaint.

Linked here is the ACLU’s article, to learn more about your rights as a protester:

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