How to attend a protest
There are two kinds of protesters: the leaders and the followers. This article’s aim is to help the second kind. Should you be moved to join a protest that is already organized, consider the following before you leave your house and take to the street.
If you don’t know the answers to the following questions, you may want to do some more research on the event you are planning to attend.
Who organized the protest?
Is there a history of protests involving this group?
What is the group’s reputation?
Are the protests peaceful?
Personal Safety should be your number one concern. Most protests are peaceful and go without incident; some do not. It’s a good idea to bring a friend and keep the following in mind when you find yourself surrounded by a group of people that you may not know. Your eyes, ears, mouth and nose should be of concern.
Pepper spray has become popular with police forces and can irritate your respiratory system, along with your eyes. Good eye protection should seal around your eyes and prevent contamination from chemical weapons like pepper spray and tear gas. Lab supply companies sell commercial goggles that offer excellent protection. If you’re on a budget and don’t have access to a lab supply store, a swim mask or goggles would work as well.
Now that your eyes are protected, let’s think about your nose and mouth. Pepper spray’s effects can be minimized using common N95 “dust masks” that are sold at most construction stores or you can use a good old bandanna. Masks can be soaked in vinegar, which helps temporarily neutralize pepper spray while preventing the spread of bad breath.
Pepper spray can irritate your skin so it is a good idea to wear long sleeves and long pants. A sweatshirt with a hood can also help protect your neck and ears.
Something else that you may want to consider is your hearing. Ear plugs are cheap and could prevent hearing damage caused by “flash bang” grenades or other sound weapons such as the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). Keep in mind that you should not completely mute all sounds. It may be necessary to hear police orders or the people around you if things get out of control.
Possibly the most important aspect of personal safety, is your ability to flee dangerous situations. A comfortable pair of shoes or boots that provide good support and protection from broken glass or other rubbish that you may have to step on or run through in the event of a “get out of dodge” situation. It should also go without saying that if you’re protesting; you may find yourself on your feet for long periods of time. Wearing proper footwear can prevent blisters or other ergonomic injury.
Now that you have your personal protective equipment, put it all in a bag. You don’t need to go out in public wearing a vinegar soaked bandanna just yet. It’s one thing to be prepared; it’s another to go about as if you are expecting things to get out of hand. A backpack works well to store your protective gear, as well as a couple bottles of water and some food. Remember you may be there for awhile, so come prepared.
Granted, this is extreme preparedness. If you are a teacher and your union is protesting, I doubt you will encounter pepper spray or “flash bang” grenades. Your safety concerns would be more focused on the weather and how to dress appropriately to avoid frost bite or hypothermia.
Do your research, think and be heard.
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