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How to Safely Prepare for a Protest

By Corinne Dorsey

On May 25, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man was brutally murdered by a Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin. Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for approximately 8 minutes and 46 seconds, including three minutes of Floyd being completely unresponsive. Floyd’s untimely death has sparked a chain reaction of protests, as activists demand justice for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other victims of police brutality. 

In the middle of a global pandemic, local city residents and Black Lives Matter activists began to speak out against the unjust deaths in the black community. This is not the first model of national protesting and it will not be the last, but the recent national outrage has incited a wakeup call to the often-overlooked deaths within the black community. 

As protesters begin suiting up in masks and designing tactical signs to stand up against the violence of police brutality, New Face Magazine has compiled a list of things to know when safely preparing to attend protests and what to do when things don't go as planned. 

One of the biggest risks when deciding to protest remains to be the possibility of being arrested. This possibility has become more likely with the creation of extended curfews and protests taking place on unpermitted blocks and streets. This isn’t mentioned as a ploy to scare possible protesters, but rather to grant a full understanding of the stakes at hand. Another factor to take into account when preparing to attend a protest safely is the danger of COVID-19. Here is a list of things to do before, during and after a protest to ensure safety for yourself and others. 

Before the Protest:

  • Self Reflection: Decide whether marching is the best way for you to show solidarity in the fight to end police brutality and systematic racism. Some things to consider that may be exacerbated when choosing to protest include: if you suffer from a severe medical condition, if you have any outstanding warrants, if you are undocumented, especially in areas known to have ICE raids, or if you are homeless. This is a limited list, but still useful when understanding particular risks. 

  • Make Signs: Signs ideally become a unified voice to the cause, and they help depict what you are protesting. The recent protests have been nationwide, so check social media for possible phrases and themes to write on the sign. 

  • Tell someone who isn't going to the protest: Let them know when you will be going to the protest and have a set check-in time to ensure your safety. This should be someone you trust to be your emergency contact. Consider writing their contact number on your body, in case there is an emergency.

  • Plan an exit strategy: Decide how you are traveling to the protest and what your exit strategy is in case things go left. If you are using public transportation or being picked up, set travel plans a few blocks away from the protest.

  • Charge your phone: Although your phone may not work 24/7, it is still important to have a 100% charge before heading to the protest. 

  • Pack water and snacks: Eat beforehand. Once at the demonstration it’s hard to know how your day will end up going. Make sure to bring water—a march is the last place you want to find yourself dehydrated. 

  • Do Research on your city's police authority: Focus on how local authorities treat people who are protesting in your area so you can have a full idea of what to expect. Police departments usually have policies or even track records that indicate how they handle large demonstrations.

During the Protest:

  • Go with a friend: When preparing to attend a demonstration, make sure to never go alone and bring a friend. This person will be an accountability buddy in case anything goes wrong. 

  • Dress Comfortably: Demonstrations tend to last for hours at a time and you’ll want to be comfortable while walking or even running throughout the day.

  • Cover Up and Wear a Mask: This is essential when dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and to avoid revealing your identity to both law enforcement and opposition groups. In protests, people often use bandanas, standard masks or scarves to provide protection. It is also important to avoid revealing tattoos and to wear generic unmarked sneakers and clothing. 

  • Attempt to maintain Social Distancing: While taking part in a demonstration, try to keep social distance. It may be the least of your concern but it is important to try to stay six feet away from fellow protestors, if possible. 

  • Avoid taking films or photos that identify other protestors’ identities: This goes hand and hand with wearing a mask to conceal your identity. If recording other protestors, it is essential to blur faces. What you can film instead are cops that are violating laws or doing things that seem wrong. It is better to have the footage than not to have it. 

  • Know what substances help with tear gas and pepper spray: Law enforcement often use Pepper Spray and Tear Gas on protestors at demonstrations. Water isn’t the best option for healing, so look into products to have on hand in case they choose to use force. Some common aids are milk and lemon juice. 

After the Protest: 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help: If you do not feel safe and sound, don't be afraid to ask your community or fellow protestors for help. The demonstration is based on unity, so don't feel pressured to deal with everything on your own. 

  • Share your experience: Tell your story on social media, create a blog post or tell a friend through word of mouth. 

  • Follow-Up: Reach out to local organizers and ask if there is any immediate action needed to help fellow protestors or future initiatives that are taking place.

If the police take you into custody, refer to these four steps:

  • Do not attempt to resist. Refrain from attempting to fight back or even going limp, this will possibly cause more violence and aggression from the officers. 

  • Make it known to the public observers that you are being arrested. Let your name be known, so that other demonstrators can log your arrest. 

  • If your Miranda Rights aren't read to you ask three questions: “Am I free to go?” If “no”, ask, “Am I under arrest?” If “yes”, then ask “Can I speak to an attorney?” 

  • Ask for an attorney. If you feel that no one is listening, continue to request an attorney. Refrain from saying anything else. 

As a black woman in America, the effects of police brutality and systematic racism have considerably impacted my life for years. I was born into a country that promised me freedom, yet I have to fight for its full benefits, due to the color of my skin. From my experience, I’ve come to the sobering and numbing truth that eradicating the visible oppressors in society is only the first step of true freedom. I often remind myself in this particular period that change is never comfortable and often requires sacrifice.

As we move forward it’s important to remember that the work doesn’t stop at this moment, these protests or donations. We must become a unified body against the systems that have oppressed Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color for years, to truly see a change in our society. Moving forward it’s important to remember that this movement is about speaking up for people that can’t speak for themselves. This is bigger than all of us, and we must ensure justice for everyone.

For those who choose to show your form of support through protesting, The New Face Fashion Magazine and I hope that you make it home safe, untouched, and protected.

Corinne Dorsey is an editorial writer with a focus on black womanhood, culture, and fashion writing.

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Dec 13, 2021

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