Over the last few days, a lot of people have mobilized to protest in the streets, many who have never done it before. As such, I’ve fielded a lot of questions about protest etiquette and behavior, and I’ve gotten many that are along the same lines. So, I’m going to create 2 protest FAQ — one for comrades, and one for the curious, to help you counteract propaganda. I will also update this if there’s additional queries that generally need answering.
This is part 1. It is not legal advice. These are my suggestions and thoughts from my experience as a protester and medic for many years, written to help people stand up to an ever increasing police state. It is a 101 level guide, but should give you a place to start.
Stay safe out there. ❤
“I’d like to be out at the protests, but can’t be. How can I support?”
It is OK to not be able to go to protests. We need to access our own risk levels, and while it’s good to challenge yourself, it’s also vitally important to not create another victim. Putting yourself in danger only means you will burn out faster, and this will be a long fight.
So, staying home but want to help resist? Here’s a quick list of suggestions I have:
Listen to police scanners and report to those on the ground — I’m very open about who I am, so I post on Twitter very publicly, but that is a big risk, through an encrypted app like Signal may be better. Decide your risk level and act accordingly.
Listen to, follow, donate to, and buy from Black people and businesses — Google “Black-owned business in [my city]” or “Black-owned restaurants in [my city]”. Donate to a fund raising money to help support Black businesses. Follow Black activists and academics online, then just be quiet and listen to what they say.
Support bail funds, and/or assist with jail support (keeping in mind that jail support if under curfew may be illegal). I also run BailBloc on my computer, which mines cryptocurrency to help pay bail. Send donations to the National Lawyers Guild or the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Do a livestream in support of these things and fundraise!
Supply local medic groups, who are always in need of more water, more gauze, and more gloves! Google for street medics in your town, or check this list. Ask them what they need before donating.
Talk to your family and friends. Don’t make Black folks defend their humanity. Talk to fellow non-Black folks, and frankly, do it privately, one on one. People double down on Facebook and those arguments are draining. Also, talk to your children, especially your white children.
“How can I, as a white person, be in solidarity with Black protesters at a protest?”
Listen to the organizers of the protest. Follow their lead and instructions. Stand in between police lines and Black protesters. Don’t tell Black people how to be angry. Don’t center your anger in their protest. Your anger could get them killed.
Also remember that Black activists are not a monolith — some may not care about property damage, others might. When in doubt, put yourself between them and the cops, form a wall.
“I got yelled at for filming/taking photographs at a protest — why?”
A protest is a chaotic scene sometimes and a person who is seemingly filming protesters and not police is suspicious. You may mean well, but there’s often no time to be sure of that, and it’s a huge risk. Yes press, this includes you. Here’s why:
In the past, police have benefitted from the doxxing of protesters by alt right and white supremacist groups and forums such as the Proud Boys, F.O.A.K, Patriot Front, Identity Evropa, 8chan and more. These vigilante groups have also been known to visit people’s homes to harass and threaten them.
Additionally, footage is often manipulated in order to serve the narrative that “radical leftists” are violent towards police and towards “Patriots”. Many times footage is released widely and then reported on that shows leftist response to police and/or white supremacist violence, painting the self defense as an initial attack.
Two recent examples would be the man with a sword in Dallas, who tweeted about attacking protesters with his sword, walked 3 blocks to a protest, stabbed protesters, got beat up, and was then widely reported as violently attacked by a crowd for just trying to protect his business. It was not his business, but a local bar he liked, and the video footage did not catch him stabbing first. Another example is the man with a bow and arrow, who shot into a crowd in SLC before being beaten up and his car set on fire. Local news interviewed him and he painted himself as a victim, though he attacked a crowd with a deadly weapon.
“What do I need to know about protecting my identity?”
COVID-19 has made it easier to mask up at protests, which is certainly a help, but it’s not the only thing to cover. You should try to cover any tattoos, your ears, eyes, and hair. Consider wearing all black, not only for your own sake (any identifying item, like shoes, or sunglasses, can be used to cross reference with any videos and photos at a protest, putting you at risk for questioning or even arrest.
Having a phone to record police is useful. It is also traceable, so weigh the risks. Any text messages can also be accessed, especially if you’re not communicating on Signal or similar, or if your phone isn’t locked with a 6 number pin. Your finger can be used to unlock your phone while you are knocked out, and while that’s been judged in Northern California and Idaho as illegal, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen and the info they can gather could implicate you and your comrades.
Consider deleting any necessary apps that may be used to monitor your activity, or even just having a burner phone that is only for encrypted texting. Turn off data/bluetooth/wifi if you can. Here’s a bunch more tips. A stitch in time saves 9 of your comrades, so do it.
“How do I prevent burnout?”
Look. I’m gonna be real. This is traumatic work. It’s hard work. Paying attention is vital, and also, it’s vital to ensure you can keep paying attention. You need to give yourself some time out to eat, to sleep, to take care of your laundry, to do your work, etc. You can’t draw from an empty well.
That said! It’s also really important to be honest with yourself about if you have burnout or if you just feel uncomfortable, especially if you’re privileged. I am a white woman, and I get to step away from all this. My neighbors do not get to do that. Remembering that this is for them helps me find a consistent way to contribute. It’s more important to be consistent as a resource than to be overly generous and then out of the fight. Here’s a good resource to check out for helping you regulate your feelings. Self care is mutual aid.
“What can I read to start confronting my white fragility?”
Honestly, this resource list by Victoria Alexander is a great place to start and very comprehensive.