Protest and Police Intervention Tips in the U.S.

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Be Prepared

Protest and Police Intervention Tips in the U.S.

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Be Prepared

Know Your Rights

While the police may violate them, having a working knowledge of what your rights are is crucial.

Read up ACLU’s guide on a Protestor’s rights.

Wear the Right Clothes

  1. Closed-toed shoes.
  2. Wear 2 layers of clothes. Your bottom layer should be long pants and long sleeves (in case you are arrested and put in a cold cell).
  3. A mask (stop the spread of COVID and helps when tear-gassed).
  4. Write a local lawyer or emergency contact phone number on your arm with a permanent marker.
  5. If possible, wear glasses instead of contacts if you suspect tear gas or pepper spray may be used.

Don't forget to bring:

  1. Water
  2. Phone/camera 
  3. Alcohol wipes – if you or people near you are tear-gassed, rub the wipe under your nose. Onions can also work.
  4. A solution of baby shampoo and water and/or Maalox and water.

Have a buddy system

  1. Before you go to a protest talk with your buddy about:
    • What triggers you, and what you need if you are triggered?
    • What makes you feel nervous about going out?
    • Are you arrestable and what you want to be done if you are arrested?
  2. While you are out: 
    • Checkin with your buddy.
    • Keep an eye out for your buddy.
    • If you get separated, plan a safe meeting point.
  3. After the action
    • Debrief with your buddy.
    • What was inspiring?
    • What made you feel uncomfortable?
    • What would you do better next time?

Principles in Bystander Intervention

  1. Remember to show support and allyship to the targeted person. You are not a savior.
  2. When you approach the situation, do not touch the targeted person.
  3. Ask the targeted person what you can do to support them.
  4. Do not tell the targeted person how they are supposed to respond to being attacked.
  5. Work at de-escalating the situation to keep people safe.
  6. Appeal to the police’s humanity.
  7. If possible, talk to the targeted person, avoiding the police. The police may lose their power if they are not getting attention.
  8. Film the situation and tell the police you are filming for accountability.
  9. Before you go to a protest get your phone ready for filming.
    • Ensure you have enough storage on your phone before you go.
    • Make sure your phone is charged.
    • Disable facial recognition and fingerprint login. 
    • If possible, have all footage immediately stored on a cloud (in case you lose your phone or if it is confiscated).
    • Practice getting your phone out to film quickly.
  10.  When filming conflict:
    • Remember to film the police’s actions and try not the protestor’s face who is confronting the police.
    • Readout loud the police officer’s name/badge number while you are filming, so it is documented.
  11. Stay calm
    • Grounding Exercises: Use your one hand to squeeze your arm OR curl your toes in your shoes. This moves the blood flow away from your heart (and will keep it from racing).

Plan an exit strategy!

Pay attention to various side streets and options to ‘escape’ if you need too.

  1. If you are in a stampede, try and get to the outskirts of the crowd.
  2. Run with one arm in front of you to keep a safe distance between you and other people.

Self Care

Prepare a self- care ritual for when you get home like a glass of wine, a hot bath, or ice cream.

  • Pepper spray will irritate the skin, wear 2 layers of clothing to stop the spray from irritating your skin.
  • Use a mixture of Maalox and water or baby shampoo and water to wash off.
  • Do not use straight water.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Bring alcohol wipes to rub under your nose. OR smell a raw onion!
  • Pay attention to the wind – go in the opposite direction of the wind.
  • Stay low!
  • Don’t attempt to grab the canister with your bare hands.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water and any other skin that was exposed.

Most rubber bullets are a misnomer. The bullets are actually steel balls covered in a thin layer of rubber. They are intended to be shot at the ground to bounce and hit the legs of protesters. However, militaries shoot them directly into the crowd. They can cause blindness, brain damage, and death. If you are being shot at, take cover quickly!

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Photo: GotoVan, Flickr CC BY 2.0