The purpose of this post is to share helpful tips for those interested in participating in protests or direct actions taking place in their area. This can help anyone regardless of their level of experience with protesting. If it’s your first time, it’ll help you avoid some very HARD AND PAINFUL lessons or if you’re someone with experience under your belt, it’ll help you add to your repertoire of knowledge. The tips listed below are resourced from across the globe; this is not to serve as professional legal nor medical advice. I hope that this post will help people be safe, be vigilant, and help people take care of themselves.
- Chose appropriate clothing.
- Wear comfortable shoes that you’re able to walk and stand in for long periods of time.
- Try to cover as much of your skin as you possibly (and comfortably) can.
- I HIGHLY recommend wearing all black. It’s not just a great color for the Movement for Black Lives, but the color black helps manipulate the appearance of our bodies. Historically, people have been identified and punished based on wearing easily identifiable clothing. Black is common, it blends, and helps detour anyone from easily identifying you. If you’re comfortable with being identified that’s ok too. I want to put this recommendation here because I acknowledge that these protests challenge the power of the state, and the state will seek to punish anyone they can.
- At minimum, wear heat-resistant gloves because many of the lethal weapons fired at you will be HOT. If you find you’d want to remove them from the proximity of the community, the glove will help you protect yourself. I don’t recommend touching these things at all since they can cause serious injury, however I know some people will so please protect yourself.
- Avoid wearing contacts because any chemicals such as tear gas or pepper spray will make them extremely difficult to pull out.
- Avoid wearing make up because this is make any chemical burns worse.
- Either commit your local jail support or legal representative’s number to memory OR write it somewhere on your body.
- Consider having a “protest bag” (more about this in section 2).
- Wear a helmet. Rubber bullets can cause a lot of damage to the body and eyes. If you need funds for one, consider raising support. Additionally, there may be organizations already prepared to provide helmets for protestors, so consider seeking out if anyone is already doing this work in your area.
- Invest or raise support for a gas mask in order to protect your eyes and face. I acknowledge that this may not be accessible so you can put together a tear gas mask or a balaclava mask using materials at home. Remember, we are not only protesting for black lives, but there is also a pandemic so you’ll want to cover your face. Here’s a diagram for using a 2-liter bottle:
Here’s a video about using a t-shirt:
*If possible wear protective goggles, however if these are not accessible to you, try using shades.
2. Supplies for your protest [black] bag:
-Snacks such as smoked or dried meats, nuts, granola bars, apples, oranges, etc. Anything that you could easily carry without it being too much of a burden on your back. Keep in mind that there will be heavy surveillance, so when you eat (you’ll need to remove your mask) be mindful of all cameras and find a safe spot to eat. This could be using each other’s bodies to hide behind for a quick food break or finding a building or tree to duck behind.
-Cell phone and an extra battery or portable charger. Try to have everything at 100% before getting to the protest location.
-Carry only the cash that you’ll need (for food, or gas, etc). We’ve literally witnessed people get detained and money taken out of their pockets. We’ve also witnessed racist vigilantes try to steal from protestors. Keep the minimum on you such as your ID and only necessary cash. Personally, I leave my entire wallet at home and carry only my ID & nothing more than $40 during the protests. I keep my medical insurance items locked in my car just in case I need to seek medical care.
-Don’t forget any personal medical supplies you may need such as your prescriptions, insulin, etc.
-Materials to treat the impact of chemical weapons:
A. Maalox is helpful for tear gas.
B. Hong Kong protestors have been using a mixture of baking soda and water to neutralize tear gas (3 tsp of baking soda per 8.5 oz of liquid). I don’t personally have any experience with these but I want to share what other organizers are using. I want to say that I REALLY love this idea because there have been times when medical supplies have been stolen or damaged. It’s nice to put together quick and affordable solution whether as first choice, or as an alternative if medical supplies or no longer available due to damage or theft.
C. Milk aids with relieving burning from pepper spray. It does not flush it out, it just alleviates the pain.
D. Saline flushing is the recommended method by medical professionals.
IMPORTANT: Sometimes people mix up treatment for tear gas with treatment for pepper spray, please note that when pepper sprayed treating with water will only intensify the pain. However, when dealing with tear gas, a cold shower may help. Do not mix up the two.
3. Aftercare tips: So now you’ve left the protest and want to go home…..
1. If you have a porch or balcony, place your shoes outside. Remember, those chemicals hit everything you had on you, and they remain for days. Leave those outside and do not bring them in to your enclosed area.
2. If you were hit with tear gas, make sure to wash your clothes with JUST water first. If you do not have access to a washer and dryer, you can try soaking them in water in your sink. Once you’ve complete the first rinse, then you’re able to wash with mild detergent.
3. If you were hit with tear gas, shower with cold water for at least 20-25 minutes
4. Remember to breathe and be gentle with yourself. These protests are traumatizing. If you don’t already have a process to unwind, I strongly recommend establishing your personal process. This could be coloring, yoga, journaling, binge watching, talking to a friend, etc. Anything that helps YOU. Commit AT LEAST 15 minutes to YOURSELF for your AFTERCARE. Yoga, journaling, meditation, thanking my ancestors, and cooking helps me. If you don’t already have your own process, try out some of those and see if they help you discover what works for you.
5. If you find that you need to seek professional medical attention, it is not advised to tell them that you received your injuries at a protest. Your decision is yours, but I’m putting this here because it may help someone. It has recently been announced that there may be a plan to use contact tracing to determine who organizers are associated with when they’ve been arrested. Just be mindful and take care of yourself.
-When possible avoid bringing your transportation too close to active protest areas. Cars are items that can easily be used for surveillance and tracing purposes. If you decide to use this tip, try to meet up with a friend so you all aren’t walking back to your transportation alone. I would also recommend pubic transportation WHEN possible, however I acknowledge how public transportation is intentionally stopped early for “curfews” in order to cause harm to communities that rely on it.
-Consider leaving your smart phone at home and purchasing a secondary device with you for protests. My “burner” phone costs me about $25 when I initially purchased it. The way I used this phone is by only turning it on during protests but when I left, I make sure to turn it back off again while my main phone remained at home.
-Protecting your face is not just about the chemicals, but it’s also a deterrent against facial recognition AND mainstream media that may misuse your image. (Don’t forget we’re in a pandemic)
Petitions and Signing Documents:
-Do not fill out any documentation that requires you to expose your identity and your personal information such as your address, date of birth, etc. This could be a petition or a voter registration card. There are a lot of people and organizations that use this opportunity to campaign for their causes, while some may be legit, in the best interest of your safety, say no. You can always go research the organization or person at later time. If you decide you want to proceed forward after vetting them, you can. Avoid signing anything during the protests, because you may be inadvertently participating in your own surveillance.
-Consider subscribing to https://nazar.substack.com for more information about survelliance
-Keep in mind that your role is to document the actions of the police and military. I want to double down on this and say your role is to document the actions of the police and military. This is the group of people you want to focus on, the police and military.
-Additionally, because you are documenting, this makes you a HIGH RISK target for arrests. I recommend maybe establishing a team together. This way you all can rotate shifts from the same account with your respective devices. One targeted arrest should not stop the community’s ability to document.
6. Active tear gas canisters
I do not recommend handling tear gas canisters at all, however I realize that some people are interested in doing this work so it is unrealistic for me to have the “do not touch them because they can burn you” expectation.
-Please wear heat-resistant gloves.
-Protestors in Hong Kong have been using the traffic cone method. The object is to trap the canister under the traffic cone and use the open hole to pour water over the canister.
-Alternatively, if a traffic cone is not available, some protestors simply pick it up and pour water over it. Others may want to throw them. In either case, please wear gloves.
-In an effort to keep gases and chemicals away from the community, organizers have been using leaf blowers to blow the gases away from the direction of the protesting community.