Protest Rights & Safety

This post contains rally and protest safety tips from legal experts such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and advocacy groups such as Indivisible, BlackOUT, Rural Organizing Project, and more. It also contains discussions of violence, police aggression, and discrimination; please practice self care while reading this information and while you are at any rally, protest, or demonstration. Please note this information is provided for educational purposes only. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

Rally Safety Tips

ACLU: Know Your Protest Rights!

From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

  1. You do not need a permit to protest in response to breaking news and you don’t need a permit to march in the streets or on sidewalks as long as you’re not obstructing traffic or access to buildings.
  2. When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police.
  3. If you believe your rights have been violated, when you can, write down everything you remember, get contact information for witnesses, and take photographs of any injuries.
  4. If you get stopped by the police, ask if you are free to go. If they say yes, calmly walk away.
  5. If you get arrested, you have a right to ask why. Otherwise say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t sign, say, or agree to anything without a lawyer present.

Rally Safety Tips

  1. Read this list, plus the one from It’s Pronounced Metrosexual before every action
    • Knowing this information top of mind is a “perishable skill” and we need to refresh our memories, every time. Yes, every time.
  2. Use the Buddy System and create action agreements before you go
    • Have a Plan for if you get separated from your buddy
    • Have a Plan for if you need to disperse and get to safety
    • Have someone who is staying at home that knows the plan and knows how to follow-up; your “Ground Control” person.
  3. Memorize 1-2 phone numbers of folks you trust in the event that you are separated from your group, without your phone, and/or detained by authorities, especially your Ground Control Person
  4. Avoid bringing any unnecessary tech or unnecessary personal items
  5. Bring a bag with supplies you might need
    • Items may include:
      • personal first aid kit
      • portable charger
      • water
      • gloves, masks
      • ID, small amount of cash
      • hat / sunscreen
      • snacks
      • keys
    • I prefer a cross-body bag for all-day comfort
      • I have seen video footage of my local police department drag peaceful protestors by their backpacks and therefore I do not recommend backpacks for rallies and protests; but it’s up to you
    • Check with the event organizers if bags and water bottles have to be transparent / clear
  6. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
    • Be Mindful
    • Use your “panorama vision”
  7. DO NOT ENGAGE Hecklers or Counter-Protesters.
    • This is harder than it sounds! Some moments and some heckling will take all of your yoga practice to not react to it!
    • Conversely, do not heckle or harass others yourself
  8. Dress for the weather; layer as appropriate for the temperature. Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes.
  9. The basic gist is that everyone has the right to protest peacefully without blocking access to sidewalks, streets, buildings and that is all. Please see the ACLU page for more details

More tips from “It’s Pronounced Metrosexual” and hat tip to BlackOUT Collective as well.

A Note on Safety and Privilege

Adapted From Indivisible Project

“We do not always know how [the opposition will respond to responsive and direct actions], but we have seen enough to be very concerned that [people from vulnerable populations] will targeted or singled out. Plan your actions to ensure that no one is asked to take on a role that they are not comfortable with—especially those roles that call for semi-confrontational behavior—and be mindful of the fact that not everyone is facing an equal level of threat. Members of your group who enjoy more privilege should think carefully about how they can ensure that they are using their privilege to support other members of the group. If you are concerned about potential law enforcement intimidation, consider downloading your state’s version of the ACLU Mobile Justice app to ensure that any intimidating behavior is captured on film.”

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