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How to Protest Safely and Responsibly

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Right now, in this very moment, we are standing on a precipice. It’s absolutely critical that folks understand that our current coordinates place us directly in the center of a terrifying moment of history. One which screams for action. For participation. For all of us to take a long hard look at ourselves and collectively declare, as one, that we do not agree with, support, or condone the hate filled agenda that will be descending upon our beautiful city.

Charlottesville protest turned violent. image:

If Charlottesville has taught us anything, it is that these people are not fucking around. They place a different value on life, on violence, and on decency. For those of us who are able to go, we need to understand this cold reality of their thought process. We cannot sink to their level of base behavior, but we need to intelligently prepare ourselves for what very well may come.

At the Alt-Right Rally at Crissy Field this Saturday, pedestrians will thankfully be screened by police for a number of banned items, including guns and weapons of any kind, helmets and shields, balloons, selfie sticks and pepper spray.  That does not mean their will not be violence from protesters or the police.

White nationalists in Charlottesville. (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

We’ve talked to a number of veteran protesters and medics and have put together this check list so you can help ready yourself, for Saturday, and every subsequent day, that we stare down these harbingers of hatred and racism and say “Not today mother fucker, not today.”

Know Your Rights
Protests are prime spots for your rights to be infringed upon. Shit can go south real quick, and that leads to cops getting mean and taking liberties. This means preparing yourself. If you have a thumb print sign in on your phone, remove it and opt for the manual password. This will keep someone from accessing your phone with ease. You’ll want to have the number for the National Lawyers Guild (415-285-1011) written on your arm in the event you are arrested. Know that you don’t have to answer any questions and if you are unsure if you’re being detained, it’s your right to ask if you can leave.

Police Presence
Time and again, it has been disappointingly proven to us that the police don’t behave in our best interests, and a protest can very easily devolve into a police-driven melee. What does this mean for you? You need to be extra mindful of your body, your actions, and how you present yourself. If things start to heat up, take a look around, identify the police and how they are behaving and use your best judgment. Some things that are important to remember: you do not need to answer questions, you do not need to answer questions if arrested, and if you are unsure if you’re being detained it’s your right to ask if you can leave.

Police used a chemical irritant to disperse protesters in Charlottesville.  Photo:

Police Conduct
If a police officer gives you a lawful instruction: such as to stay behind barricades, disperse from an area declared an unlawful assembly, or to not resist arrest. It is technically against the law to disobey a ‘lawful order’ given by a police officer.  If you believe your rights have been violated by a police officer or a public official, ask for his or her name and/or badge number and it is your right to file a complaint.

Pepper spray and tear gas
If you get hit with pepper spray or tear gas the first rule is try and STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary. If you see it coming or get a warning (e.g. police are putting gasmasks on), put on your protective gear and if possible move away,get upwind, or get to higher ground above tear gas clouds.  Then, blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough and spit. Try not to swallow.  If you wear contacts, you must remove the lenses or get someone to remove them for you, with CLEAN, uncontaminated fingers. Destroy the lenses after exposure, they are not cleanable.
Rememedy: rinse or flush your eyes several times with water, if someone has L.A.W (an antacid formula) it has been shown to neutralize the effects of pepper spray.

Eyeflush with L.A.W.  Image:

Camera Time
When it comes to protests, cameras are an important tool to collecting information and evidence against both the alt-right protesters or police. Know right now, it is YOUR RIGHT to take photos at a protest if they take place in a public space, which Saturday’s most certainly will. Police will often ask for cameras to be put away, but you DO NOT need to.  Your photos and videos can be critical evidence if someone is harmed or if the police begin behaving unjustly. Your photos can also be used to dox alt-right protesters, which is turning into a very powerful means of bringing accountability to these hatemongers. With all this said, bear in mind, this means your photo can be taken too, so be mindful of your conduct.

Filming the police at Seattle fair housing protest, 1964. Image wikimedia

Buddy System
If you’re planning on going to the protest on Saturday, go with friends. It’s always a safe bet to roll into a situation with folks who have your back. If none of your friends can make it, be sure you tell some folks you trust you are going. Check in with them throughout the day.

Be Prepared with the Basics
As we’ve said, Saturday will be unpredictable. This means you need to be ready. Make sure your phone is fully charged and if you can, bring a back up power source. You’ll also want to spend some time looking at a map of the area. Familiarize yourself with places you can go if things get to heavy. This includes not only looking at a map, but also studying what public transportation you can use if you really need to take off.

Dress For Success
Believe us, we know this sounds counter-intuitive, but in this doxing culture we live in, keeping anonymous is tantamount to keeping safe. In other words, dress in simple clothes that don’t stand out. Blend into the crowd. You’ll also want to bring a motorcycle or bike helmet, goggles, or scuba mask. Be sure to leave any valuables at home.  Oh, and wear comfortable shoes, you’ll be on your feet all day.

Michael Dwyer / AP  Counterprotesters stand on the periphery of a “Free Speech” rally staged by conservative activists on Boston Common, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Boston. One of the planned speakers of a conservative activist rally that appeared to end shortly after it began says the event “fell apart.”

What Not To Bring
Do not bring weaponry. DO NOT bring guns or weapons of any kind. First off, you don’t want them turned on you, but in the instance the cops get hyphy, you don’t want to be popped for possession. Same goes for drugs and alcohol. Sure, there is something appealing about getting yourself into a frenzy, but it helps no one and it makes you a vulnerability to those at your side.

Prepare A Medic Kit
Everyone rolling into a protest should have a medic kit. You can never be sure the direction things will go, and it is a far better thing to be safe than sorry. Medic kits should include bandages, gauze, any medications you might need, and latex gloves.

Self Care
There is no other way to put it – for those who have never attended a large, potentially violent protest, Saturday is going to be a high stress, unpredictable situation. With so many unknowns hovering in the atmosphere, many of us are stressed to the god damn gills. Before, during, and after, check in with yourself. Is your anxiety too much? Are you hydrated? Do you need a snack? Do you need to take a breather? Listen to what you need and act on that.

Together, we are going to show these people that their hatred and bigotry has absolutely no place in our city, in our state, or in our country.  Sure, facing the unknown is scary, but hopefully these tips will help you feel a little more safe. Remember, you are not alone. We are here together.

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I am a writer, DJ, musician, vandal and I travel a lot.