Link

Link What to bring to a protest

Supplies

  • Drinking water
  • Energizing snacks
  • Cash, change, ID
  • Prescription glasses (NOT contact lenses, to avoid further chemical weapon irritation)
  • Permanent marker
  • Easy-access backpack or tote bag for all supplies
  • Sunscreen (oil-free, to avoid further chemical weapon irritation)

At any protest, you should plan for the possibility of arrest or medical emergency. You will want to bring:

  • Several days of prescription medication, in its labeled original container if possible
  • Menstrual pads (no guaranteed access to change tampons)
  • Rescue medication you use (inhaler, epipen, etc.)
  • Assistance devices you use (cane, etc.)

Clothing

Plain, solid-color long-sleeve shirt and plain, solid-color pants

Dress for anonymity. Cover as much of your skin as possible to a) prevent chemical weapons from sitting on your skin, b) obscure any identifiable tattoos or markings.

Mask or bandana

Shield your face to protect your identity and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Comfortable shoes

Only wear closed-toe shoes that are easy to walk, stand, and run in for hours.

Sealed change of clothes

Keep a change of clothes in a plastic bag inside your supply bag. You can use these to change to avoid continued skin irritation from tear gas. Changing your clothes will also protect you against surveillance after the action.

Protection

The more geared up you are, the more likely police will want to start shit with you. Protect yourself to your own comfort level.

Shatter-resistant goggles

Any eye protection that won’t shatter is better than no eye protection. “Less lethal” ammo causes permanent injury and death. Improperly-deployed tear gas canisters causes permanent injury and death. Pepper spray aimed at the eyes from a point blank range can cause blindness. Use swim goggles or safety goggles instead of safety glasses. Your sunglasses or prescription glasses are NOT enough protection.

Look for products with the following ratings:

  • ANSI D5: filters fine dust (for tear gas)
  • Z87+: particles + high impact (an in-between option at a lower cost)
  • MIL PRF 32432 — military-grade ballistics (for rubber bullets)

Head and face covering

Hong Kong protestors use standard yellow construction helmets for protection.

Consider using helmets made for high-impact or extreme sports.

  • Hockey or football helmets effectively protect against head trauma.
  • Airsoft metal mesh half-masks protect the lower half your face. They are designed to withstand BB shots when worn with a mouth guard.

At the very least, wear a hat and hoodie to help cover the top of your head and face from surveillance and direct pepper spray.

Padding

The more space between you and a rubber bullet, the better. Consider knee or elbow pads to protect joints from injury during falls. Adult diapers can be used as padding. Keep your gear light for your own stamina and speed.

Link What do before a protest

Know your rights

Be as informed as possible before you head out for an action.

Remember our goals are not aligned with law enforcement. Remember that anything you say can and will be used against you and others.

Consider your arrestability

Consider your own private legal concerns, jeopardy of employment or professional license, and obligations to your family or work. Keep to those boundaries.

Find a buddy and commit with them

Don’t go alone! It’s always better to have a partner. Talk about your vulnerabilities, comfort level, and special skills. Determine and agree to your desired risk level and stick to it.

Determine your place

Every action has many roles to fill — figure out where you can help the most. You don’t need to be a hero, you just need to be a body.

Learn about weapons that will be used against you

“Less lethal” ammunition American police use is banned elsewhere in the world because they cause permanent harm and fatality.

  • Tear gas (RCA, CS gas)
  • Pepper spray (OC pepper)
  • Rubber bullets (rubber baton rounds)
  • Wooden bullets (wooden baton rounds)

Get familiar with their effects, potential complications, and how to care for yourself after the fact ahead of time. Do not provide medical care beyond your training. There are many urban legends about how to best treat tear gas and pepper spray — water is safest. Your goals are to keep it out of your eyes, keep it out of your lungs, and keep it off your skin.

Protect your identity

Take steps to protect your digital data security and your physical safety. You cannot over prepare for this.

Coordinate with an emergency contact

Determine an emergency contact who will not be on-site. Let them know you are demonstrating and let them know when you are safe at home. This person may be your phone call in case of arrest or who the hospital will notify in case of medical emergency.

Make a jail support plan

Look up your city’s legal aid options for civil rights protestors. If you aren’t sure where to start, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) is a nationwide network. Write the legal aid phone number on your arm in permanent marker. They are equipped to help in the event of arrest.

Determine escape routes and meeting sites

Have at least one escape route planned with your buddy. Have a meeting place if you and your buddy/group get separated. Consider agreeing on a meeting time as well. In a high-stress situations, you want to avoid improvisation.

Additional ways to help that require preparation

  • Participate in street medic training: If you have a minimum of 20 hours of healthcare/medical training (nurse, EMT, herbalist, etc.), consider volunteering as a street medic to assist protestors on site. Find a bridge training happening near you by an established group of street medics, like NYC Action Medical.
  • Donate supplies to organizers and street medics: Get in touch with your local activists to see where you can help with supplies. Often money is the best donation so organizers can get exactly what they need.
  • Bring extra supplies to hand out: Consider bringing universal supplies like snacks without common allergens, extra water, bug spray, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, bandages, etc. to help where you can.

Link What to do during a protest as a non-Black person

Take on as much risk as you can so that risk does not fall on the shoulders of Black protestors. Do everything possible to protect the identity and security of trans and undocumented Black people. White folks MUST leverage their privilege to protect Black folks from harm.

Be a human shield

If you see a Black person approaching law enforcement with no barricade, place yourself between the protestor and the officer. If they are on the ground, get on top of them. If they are kneeling or standing, get in front of them.

Lock arms as a human barricade

Stand at the front line between Black protestors and police. Create a barricade by locking arms with others. Announce your intention: “white bodies, lock arms!”

Be a wellness volunteer

Support your fellow protestors without specialized training. Distribute supplies like water, snacks, and sunscreen. Drive people. Move supplies. Receive training in basic first aid or eye flushing and shout “MEDIC” when someone needs more advanced help.

Just show up

There is strength in numbers. Be part of the mass crowd — that’s what makes a protest a protest! Wield a sign. Chant. Be a champion of the cause. Show up.

Link What to do during a protest

Participate

More important than anything else, you’re there to show up for your cause. Participate and follow the direction of organizers.

Protect your identity

Guard your anonymity. Conceal as many identifiable characteristics as possible. Avoid surveillance. It might sound like overkill, but it’s not.

Protect the identity of others

DO NOT upload photos or videos with metadata, protestors’ faces or identifiable markings. Consider not taking photos or videos at all. Take a screenshot of your photo instead of posting the original photo directly to remove identifying metadata.

If you are a photo journalist or videographer, follow responsible practices.

At larger demonstrations, Legal Observers will be on site to document events.

National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Legal Observers wear neon green. Alongside legal observation, NLG members often provide legal defense.

Locate street medics

Street medics are trained volunteers providing first aid care. They wear the universal red cross symbol on their clothing, bag, or body with duct tape.

Stay as calm as possible

If you start to get stressed, take a minute to relax. Even if your rights have been violated, try to remain calm. Your adrenaline and survival instincts will kick in. Remember your cause goes beyond this one action. The movement needs you.

Link What to use at a protest

Your tools and equipment depend on what type of role you have at a protest.

Umbrella

An open, sturdy umbrella can conceal activity and protect against chemical weapons.

Heat-resistant gloves

Deployed tear gas canisters are hot. Heat resistant gloves include oven mitts and gloves for hair-styling tools.

Lightweight shield

Shields protect against rubber bullets and other impact. Use foam (like a camping pad) to cover a garbage can or plastic storage bin lid to make your own.

Laser pointer

Handheld, high-powered laser pointers can hinder aim, obscure vision, and block cameras.

Spray bottle or flip-top bottle

Fill the bottle with either:

  • clean water to flush eyes and clean skin from chemical weapons, or
  • a baking-soda–water solution to help break down the tear gas particles.

Traffic cone

Traffic cones can be set on top of a deployed tear gas canister. Pour a baking soda–water solution through top hole of the cone to help neutralize the tear gas particles.

Oil paint, thickened acrylic paint, holi powder

When thrown, these pigments can obscure shield/visor vision. Thicken acrylic paint with flour or cornstarch.

Leaf blower

Leaf blowers can diffuse tear gas out of the way of protestors.

Plywood board

Sturdy marching signs can double as a shield.

Bricks, stones, fencing

Strategically placed (and glued) debri can create barricades to block movement/vehicle traffic.

Link Share

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Link Glossary

Unsure what a word or phrase you’ve seen floating around means?

Action
Also direct action. General term for any act where activists use their power (bodies, freedom, safety), leveraging risk, to directly reach certain goals of interest. May be nonviolent (including obstructing sit-ins, strikes, street blockades, which may be considered civil disobedience) or violent (political violence or assaults). The opposite of direct action is diplomacy.
Learn more at Beautiful Trouble direct action tactics
Demonstration
Mass group of people organized at a specific place and time to call attention to a specific issue.
Learn more at Kansas University’s Community Tool Box
Jail support
Showing solidarity and providing support to people who have been arrested. Being physically outside of the jail to provide comfort to folks who are released after arrest. Finding out and following up with people who have been arrested to check in on location and bail.
Learn more at Up Against The Law

Link Additional resources

Keep learning. Keep advocating.