Know your rights
- Your rights are strongest in what are known as “traditional public forums,” such as streets, sidewalks, and parks. You also likely have the right to speak out on other public property, like plazas in front of government buildings, as long as you are not blocking access to the government building or interfering with other purposes the property was designed for.
- Private property owners can set rules for speech on their property. The government may not restrict your speech if it is taking place on your own property or with the consent of the property owner.
- Counter-protesters also have free speech rights. Police must treat protesters and counter protesters equally. Police are permitted to keep antagonistic groups separated but should allow them to be within sight and sound of one another.
- When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police. On private property, the owner may set rules related to photography or video.
- You don’t need a permit to march in the streets or on sidewalks, as long as marchers don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. If you don’t have a permit, police officers can ask you to move to the side of a street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.
What to do when detained by police
- Stay calm. Make sure to keep your hands visible. Don’t argue, resist, or obstruct the police, even if you believe they are violating your rights. Point out that you are not disrupting anyone else’s activity and that the First Amendment protects your actions.
- Ask if you are free to leave. If the officer says yes, calmly walk away.
- If you are under arrest, you have a right to ask why. Otherwise, say you wish to remain silent and ask for a lawyer immediately. Don’t say anything or sign anything without a lawyer.
- You have the right to make a local phone call, and if you’re calling your lawyer, police are not allowed to listen.
- You never have to consent to a search of yourself or your belongings. If you do explicitly consent, it can affect you later in court.
- Police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect you have a weapon and may search you after an arrest.
- Police officers may not confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video without a warrant, nor may they delete data under any circumstances. However, they may order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
What to do when your rights have been violated.
- When you can, write down everything you remember, including the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers and the agency they work for.
- Get contact information for witnesses.
- Take photographs of any injuries.
- Once you have all of this information, you can file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board.
Your vehicle is recognizable and so it is recommended to walk or take public transportation to a protest. Park away from the event and plan for a quick getaway should things go south. Check the weather beforehand and make sure anything you carry is light enough to not wear you out over time. Enable airplane mode when you are at the event.
License plates can be read so use caution when driving to an event.
- Wear something comfortable but not identifiable.
- No bright colors, designs, patterns, etc.
- Conceal any visible scars, tattoos and marks.
- Wear a mask. Don’t stick out.
- If you make signs, keep them to an average format. Try not to be flashy, if you can avoid it.
- Don’t photograph yourself with them so as to not be identified.
- Wear basic items such as generic glasses, shoes, backpacks, accessories. Nothing memorable or that be traced to you from social media.
- Lock down your social media and let friends know not to tag you or mention you when discussing protests. Public accounts are far easier to gather information than locked ones.
- If you do take photos, try not show yourself somewhere recognizable. Remember, you are assuming they can track you.
- If with a group wear something you can recognize (recognizable to those looking) or meet up at a designated location.
What to bring
- Water in bottle with plastic top to drink and pour on eyes or other areas.
- An ID
- Contact info
- Cash for emergencies
- Basic first aid kit
- Wet Wipes, Tissues
- Comfortable shoes
- Change of clothes
What to wear
- Comfortable shoes (you will be walking a lot)
- Clothing that covers your skin from the sun or tear gas
- A towel or bandana you can soak with water and put around your mouth if exposed to tear gas.
- A change of clothes in a sealed bag
- A hat
- goggles or sunglasses for privacy and protection.
- Any medication and a first aid kit
What to do when protesting
- Make your voice heard.
- Be calm and stay with the general group.
- If you need to document, film anything in your vicinity and be alert of any dangers to yourself.
- Study your surroundings.
- Help those in need.
- Retreat to a safe distance if you see the protest turning violent.
- Make sure you or group know where to meet up when things go south.
- Engage with police or counter-protestors, but DO NOT egg them on or antagonize them. Do not give them a reason to use excessive force.
- Don’t antagonize police or counter-protester. It bears repeating.
- Don’t run
- Don’t throw anything.
- Don’t correct or police other people, focus on yourself or your group.
- Don’t wear oil based products.
So you got tear gassed....
You tried to avoid and but you got hit with tear gas. Here is what to do.
- STAY CALM
- Do not rub it in.
- Blow your nose, cough & spit. DO NOT SWALLOW.
- Avoid touching your face or other parts of your body. You do not want to spread the oils or rub it deeper into your pores.
- Breathe, take big breaths and try to stabilize yourself. Focus on your breaths and not on the pain. It dulls when not focusing on it.
- Use your squeezable water bottle and rinse out your eyes with a clean piece of clothing.
- Get out of the area and change or remove affected clothing. Trust me, the CS gas lingers and gets into your clothing which just seeps into your pores as you sweat.
- Take a shower and thoroughly clean yourself.
If you can't attend a protest
It is OK, if you cannot attend a protest. There are plenty of ways to support your causes. Donate or volunteer where you can. I donate to the EFF and look to them for guidance on security based issues.