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Tips for protesting: what to wear, bring and do to protect yourself

The right to protest is enshrined in the US Constitution. In recent years, more and more people seem to be rising up, both at home and abroad, where protesting can be more perilous.

A recent study looking at protests between 2006 and 2020 reported that the number of protest movements around the world more than tripled during that time. A leaked Supreme Court draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade, stripping away the abortion rights established half a century ago, suggests an upcoming court ruling that could further entice Americans to take to the streets.

But the rise in protests has also been accompanied by an increase in incidents of police brutality, use of chemical weapons, mass arrests, violent clashes with counter-protesters and other dangerous situations.

This does not mean, however, that the act of protesting is inherently dangerous. There are precautions people should take when they go out and demonstrate. Below, we share some expert tips.

Know your rights

“The First Amendment protects our right to make our voices heard, including gathering in public and protesting,” said Vera Eidelman, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “The restrictions that government actors can place on public protest are limited, but the reality is that they don’t always play by the rules. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re prepared by refreshing your rights before you hit the streets.

Eidelman highlighted some key rights that are important to know before participating in a protest. (The “Know Your Protest Rights” page on the ACLU website offers more details.)

“You don’t need a permit to protest in response to breaking news,” Eidelman said. “You also don’t need a permit to walk on streets or along sidewalks, as long as you don’t obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic, or access to buildings. If you don’t have a permit, the police may order you to move to the side of the street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.

If you are legally present in a public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain sight, including federal buildings and any police officers present. If you believe your rights were violated during a protest, take a moment to get contact details for witnesses, photograph injuries and write down any details you remember.

Eidelman noted that the primary job of police during a protest should be to protect your right to protest and defuse any threat of violence.

“If you are stopped by the police, ask if you are free to leave,” Eidelman advised. “If they say yes, walk away calmly. If you are arrested, you have the right to ask why. If not, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Do not sign, say or agree to anything without the presence of a lawyer.

Dress for safety

“Even though we are entering a hot season, you should still wear a long sleeve so that your body is covered as much as possible to protect you from both the sun and tear gas,” said Ernest Coverson, campaign manager for End Gun from Amnesty International. Violence, HuffPost once said. “You want long pants, comfortable shoes—something with a tie rather than a slip-in—and nothing loose that can snag, tug, or tug.”

Coverson recommended against applying oils or lotions because they can “intensify the lingering effect” of agents such as pepper spray or tear gas, which can cause rashes and burning, watery eyes and burning eyes, blurred vision, chest tightness, swollen nose and other irritations.

In addition to comfortable shoes and clothing that covers your skin, Amnesty International advises wearing a bandana soaked in water, lemon juice or vinegar to cover your nose and mouth, which can make breathing easier during a chemical exposure. Bring a plastic bag with a change of clothes in case of contamination and wear glasses instead of contact lenses.

“If you get gassed or crushed in the contacts, the irritant can get stuck underneath and mess up the lens itself,” Coverson said. “If you are able to bring goggles (swimming goggles are fine) that would also provide extra safety.”

Tie your hair back and wear a face mask or face shield, which can provide protection against COVID as well as other potentially harmful exposures. Cover identifying items like tattoos and try to wear generally nondescript clothing. And of course, check the weather forecast.

Be aware of what you bring

When packing your bag before an event, keep health and safety in mind. Be sure to eat and hydrate at home, and bring extra snacks and water to drink. A water bottle with a nozzle is also useful for washing your skin and eyes if you are exposed to tear gas or other chemicals.

Bring cash and coins, carry ID, and write your emergency contact information on your arm or elsewhere on your body. Medicines and first aid supplies are also useful.

If you decide to bring your cell phone, turn off Face ID or Touch ID modes so that no one can force you to unlock it without your consent. Experts also advise backing up your data beforehand and turning on Airplane mode.

Before heading to a demo, research the event to see if the organizers have any tips on what to wear and bring, and other expectations. Also take the time to learn about the organizers of the protest, to make sure the movement aligns with your values ​​and does not promote violence or any other issues that could harm your health and safety.

Do not go to a demonstration alone, if possible. Try to befriend someone, meet an affinity group, or at least let your loved ones know where you will be in case something happens.

And don’t forget to make a sign with the message you would like to share at the event.

stay alert

From violent attacks by counter-protesters to instances of police brutality, there are many ways protests that start out peacefully can turn dangerous.

When you participate in a demonstration, be vigilant. Pay attention to the people around you and what they are doing. If someone shows distress or panic, try to calm them down or help them to safety.

Locate the nearest exits in case you or your peers need to leave the protest quickly. Take note of any cars with drivers nearby.

Resist the temptation to engage with counter-protesters, who often shout and hold up signs with inflammatory messages in an attempt to create conflict. Don’t make them happy.

Try to stay calm and focused, and pay attention to any instructions or requests from the leaders of the manifestation.

Be prepared to face tear gas or pepper spray

Police are known to have deployed pepper spray and tear gas against protesters. Although they are chemically different, both have irritating effects.

In addition to the previously mentioned preparations, you can learn what to do if you are exposed to an irritant like this.

The best way to deal with pepper spray or tear gas is to rinse it out of your eyes with water and move away from the area. Blink rapidly and resist the urge to touch or rub your eyes.

Pour your water bottle into your eyes (being careful not to transfer any more chemicals from the surrounding skin in your eyes) as soon as possible, but then try to get to a sink or shower for a more thorough rinse.

We “spill gallons of water, potentially, into [a patient’s] eyes until they feel better and we feel like the chemical is out,” Dr. Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Center, previously told HuffPost.

Although many people suggest using milk to rinse their eyes, doctors generally do not recommend it.

“Will it hurt to pour milk into your eyes instead of water?” No, it won’t, but it probably has no advantage over water or saline irrigation,” Calello said.

In addition to cleaning your eyes, try coughing, spitting, and blowing your nose to flush as many chemicals out of your body as possible. And if the burning and itching persists for several hours, even after you’ve showered, changed, and decontaminated, consider seeing a doctor.

Coming into contact with tear gas or pepper spray can be painful and traumatic, so once you’re done washing them off and taking care of your physical health, make time for other forms of self-care while you process and recover experience. .




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Sara Adm

Amateur tv aficionado. Freelance zombie junkie. Pop culture trailblazer. Organizer. Web buff. Social media evangelist.
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