How to Stay Safe During a Protest (your rights, how to prepare, what to bring along, e.t.c)
When police brutality sky-rocket in Nigeria recently, countless Nigerians took to the streets to protest the deaths and bring awareness of police brutality in Nigeria with the hashtag #ENDSARS. In some cases, the protests were peaceful and unifying, and in other incidences, hoodlums hijack the protests.
And this is not always the case, while you can attend a demonstration expecting it to be peaceful. Protests, irrespective of the purpose behind them, attract all sorts of individuals with different motivations. So, from an environment of unity and purpose to one of confusion and uncertainty, things can quickly turn.
This article will help you to understand your rights, how to plan in advance, and include advice on how to stay healthy during a protest.
Be Aware of Your Rights
In the form of a rally, the First Amendment guarantees your freedom to gather and share your thoughts and opinions.
Where You Can Protest
It is necessary to note, according to the American Civil Liberties Union ( ACLU), that the police and other government officials are permitted to impose such limits on the exercise of these rights of expression. For this reason, in "traditional public forums," such as highways, sidewalks, and parks, they suggest protesting.
In front of government buildings, you can also talk as long as you do not block entry to the building or interfere with the building's other purposes.
However, keep in mind that owners of private property may create rules for speech on their property. So, you do not attempt to stage a demonstration on the property of anyone else, even a private corporation. If you want your message to be understood, stick to the sidewalks and other public places.
The Police Could Get Involved
It's also necessary to note that there is also freedom of expression protections for counterprotesters. While all groups of demonstrators must be treated fairly by the police, they are permitted to keep two opposing groups apart, especially if there are safety concerns.
Similarly, the ACLU notes that if there is a "clear and present danger of a riot, disturbance, traffic interruption, or other imminent threat to public safety," the police are permitted to break up a meeting. But they must explicitly warn individuals of the dispersal order, including how much time they have to disperse, the repercussions if they fail, and what escape route they may follow before or before.
You Can Take Pictures
Furthermore, you have the freedom to photograph everything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police, while you are legally present in any public room.
The owner can set rules related to videos and images on private property. So, you have to abide by their laws if you are on private property. Breaking them could lead to you having problems.
Police are also not authorized to confiscate or claim, without a warrant, to see your photographs or videos. They will not erase any of your details under any conditions, either. But if they interfere with lawful law enforcement activity, they will order people to cease actions like these.
Several takeaways are:
- Your rights on the streets, sidewalks, and parks are greatest, essentially called a "traditional public forum" anywhere.
- You have the freedom to take pictures of something in plain sight, including police officers, while you are out in a public place.
- If you're just marching on the streets or sidewalks, you don't need a permit as long as you don't block traffic.
- Keep your hands visible and do not protest or fight if you get arrested by the police, even if you think the cops are violating your rights. Calmly point out that your First Amendment right is exercised by you.
- For your belongings to be searched, you do not have to give permission, and cops can not take or display photographs or videos without a warrant.
How to Get Ready for a Demonstration
It's important to think about it and make arrangements to stay safe if you are thinking of joining a protest. Although showing support and getting your voice heard is important, ensuring you make sound decisions is equally important. Here are a few tips on what you can do to plan ahead of time.
Go With Other Individuals
Amnesty International says that it's better to go with a friend or a small group if you're going to protest. Similarly, make sure you have contact details with everybody. In the event of someone's phone being lost or broken, some people think that writing the numbers on their bodies with a permanent marker is the best choice.
If you get separated and how you intend to leave the protest area if things turn messy, you can also discuss where you can meet. And, if you are unable to attend the protest but still want to help your mates, if anything happens like they're hurt or arrested, you could offer to be someone's offsite touch.
Making Knowledgeable Decisions
Before taking part in a protest, make sure that you understand who is organizing it and what the strategy is. Also, make sure that the community you join is supporting a cause you support and that mixed signals are not sent.
To weigh the pros and cons of participating, think about the threats, opportunities, and legal consequences. You also want to make sure that you know what special directions they have, such as where to meet, park, etc.
If you want to bring your cell phone with you should also be considered. Although getting a phone is a good safety measure, particularly if your phone is set to tag your location in photos and videos, it can also be used to infringe on your privacy.
You may want to make sure that your phone is password protected as a safety measure. You will disable the capabilities of fingerprint and face recognition to sign in. This way, without the passcode, no one can access your phone.
Make sure your phone is backed up and delete everything you don't need to take with you. If you need to, you can always put the details back on your phone later.
Find Other Ways to Lend Assistance
There are still ways for you to participate if you are unable to attend a demonstration due to work, health conditions, or childcare problems. For example, an agency that supports protestors with needs such as bond funds or other organizations may be sponsored.
Another way to help the protest is to supply the people that you meet who will be participating in snacks and drinks. With a few first aid supplies, such as bandages and pain relievers, you might also put together small care packages.
You may also send letters to your elected authorities to encourage them to take action. Or, by operating a phone bank or raising money, you might consider volunteering with local organizations. The key is that, to help the cause, you don't have to be present at a demonstration or rally.
What You Can Take With You
The trick to keeping healthy is to be prepared when it comes to joining a rally. One way to do that is not only to ensure that you pack light, but that you carry stuff that you really need. Here are some tips for items that you might consider bringing with you:
Items for Health and Safety
Protesting during the COVID-19 pandemic raises some unique questions about health and safety that you need to answer. Here is some stuff that you should consider carrying along:
- Covers for faces. As hot as it is, to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19, it's still important to cover your nose and mouth with a mask. Consider just carrying a few spare masks so that if one is dirty or infected, you have extras.
- Alcohol-based sanitizer for palms. One of the easiest ways of avoiding the spread of coronavirus is to keep your hands clean. So, make sure that you've got enough to get you through your day.
- A bottle of water with soapy water. You can use the soapy water to clean off any pollutants like pepper spray, according to the NYC Health Department. Of course, you would still need to clean with regular water after rinsing with the soapy water.
- Medicinal goods. Make sure you pack your personal drugs, such as inhalers and epi-pens, in addition to packing some pain relievers and a few bandages.
- Shield from the sun. It's important to protect your skin, regardless of whether it is a sunny day or not. So be sure to bring some shade with you with sunscreen, lip balm, a hat, and maybe even an umbrella.
Especially because you are likely to have to walk a long distance, it is important to pack light. Protests are typically attended by a lot of individuals. So, before you get to your destination, you could walk a good distance. Here are some personal things that you should consider taking with you:
- Identification. You must have the necessities like your state-issued ID or driver's license, even though you do not need to carry your entire wallet. If there's an emergency, you will still need your insurance cards.
- A plethora of water. Ideally, you should put your water in an insulated squirt-top cup. And, you should stop discussing it with other individuals. To help keep you cool, you can also fill a spray bottle with water.
- Snacks. Consider packing bars of granola, protein bars, or other snacks that are not perishable. Choose something compact and lightweight that will sustain you until you can eat a real meal.
- Oh, Cash. It is important to have a small amount of cash on hand, especially if you need to take a cab or buy a snack or water from a local vendor. There is no guarantee that a credit card will be available for you to use.
- Your phone's Portable Charger. If you plan to bring your phone with you, make sure that you also have a cable and a portable charger. There would actually not be a lot of places to charge your phone if it fails, so you should have your own backup.
- Eyeglasses. Owing to the dangers associated with tear gas and pepper spray, Amnesty International urges individuals not to wear contact lenses. Likewise, if you think you are going to be in an environment where tear gas is possible, you might want to consider wearing shatterproof swim goggles.
As the nation wrestles with how to control the coronavirus, this summer poses some additional risks for demonstrators. You must take precautions to prevent yourself from having the coronavirus if you're planning to attend a protest.
If you can remain socially distanced from people you don't know, even though it's not always convenient, this will help you stay safer and reduce the risk of having COVID-19.
To make sure you can remain as far from people as possible, try to be aware of where you are standing. Make sure that you keep your mask on if you are unable to, and refrain from unwanted interaction with others, including friends and relatives.
Keep clean clothes and personal products
Other precautions that you can take to protect yourself include changing your clothing before you get home. When you get home, you can put your dirty clothes in a garbage bag and load them into the washer. Or, before you get to the laundromat, keep them in the bag.
Leave your shoes outside or disinfect them once you get home. You can also take a shower and, as soon as you can, wash your face. While taking these measures will not do anything to prevent you from having COVID-19, they will help you protect someone who has not attended the protest in your home.
To express their messages, the NYC Health Department recommends that demonstrators use noisemakers, drums, and written signs. To limit potential exposure to others, they advise individuals to restrict how much they scream or chant. Bear in mind that yelling is like coughing and that someone who is asymptomatic could potentially spread the virus.
Depending on the location, the situation, and the cause, protesting comes with varying risks. Consequently, in any case, it is important to know how to stay healthy, particularly when you protest during a pandemic.
And while there are measures you can do to will your risks, you need to understand that this does not guarantee your protection from injury or disease, even though you fully intend to protest peacefully. For this reason, if you intend to protest, it's important that you do whatever you can to defend yourself. STAY SAFE