Protests have become more and more common place in the past few years, or at the very least I’ve been more aware of them in that same time. These actions can be effective in bringing the conversation around to important issues and for voices to be heard. But riot police are often used in response to protests around the United States and dangerous tactics have been used against protesters in Ferguson, North Dakota, New York City, Seattle, and more. For example, water cannons sprayed cold water at #NoDAPL protesters in North Dakota in the middle of a winter night and tear gas has been repeatedly used against protesters in various cities.
With how the next few years are shaping up to be like under the Trump administration, odds are that there will be many protests. This Saturday, there are numerous marches and protests planned, including the Women’s March on Washington and their sister marches in other major cities. To find a sister march or protest near you, go here and to find any related resources regarding the Women’s March, go here. Similarly, the Portland Mercury has a resistance and solidarity calendar that highlights the different events happening around the Portland, OR area.
If you are going to a march or protest this weekend or at any point in the future, there are a few things to know and do to keep yourself and the people around you safe. Amnesty International has a graphic that is a great place to start before you head to a protest – the important things include knowing your rights if you are arrested or stopped by a police officer, the things to bring to a protest (like water in a plastic bottle to drink or wash your skin or eyes, prescription medication, and emergency contact information), and how to deal with tear gas. The Willamette Week in Portland just published a piece about what one activist has in her protest bag. Similarly, Chris O’Conner wrote a piece about some of the things to consider before going to a protest, including why you should write down some phone numbers:
Memorize and write down some phone numbers. Your phone will die given all those selfies and tweets, and you might not have access to your phone post-protest or post-arrest. Get a Sharpie and write on your arm the landline number of a person you trust and who you know will be available. Make sure that person has other relevant numbers (and your bail money). If the National Lawyers Guild or other groups are organizing a communication number, Sharpie that on your arm as well.
One important resource is the National Lawyers Guild, which has a free pocket sized know your rights booklet and in some areas, provides a legal support hotline in case you are arrested during a protest. The National Lawyers Guild Portland chapter, for example, already has a jail support hotline to call if you are arrested or experience police brutality or if you witness either. To find other legal support hotlines for different areas from the National Lawyers Guild, go here.
Yet another resource is the American Civil Liberties Union (commonly referred to as the ACLU), which also has a wide range of resources and support systems. They have a range of resources about knowing your rights in various situations but also have some information about your rights during a protest and any potential arrest or questioning.
I don’t want this post to be discouraging in any way but rather, I want it to be a resource and starting point for being prepared during a protest. While not universal, there’s always the slight chance of excessive force and/or arrest if you’re on the streets during a protest and it’s important to be prepared for any sort of situation. Make sure you know your rights and to have access to things like warmer clothes and water while chanting.