10 Things You Should Wear (and Bring) to a Protest
Protesting is a way to exercise your rights and have your voice heard. Make sure to wear (and bring) these important items to protect yourself and keep the fight going.
All across the world protests are popping up against police brutality, institutional racism, and racial injustice. The time is now to stand up for what you believe in, donate to charities and organizations, and support the Black Lives Matter movement in any and every way you can. One way to make a difference is to take to the streets and exercise your right to protest.
The protests that have been happening all over the world in recent days have been largely peaceful as groups march, chant, and demand equality and change. However, sometimes these protests can become dangerous as tensions rise and police clash with protesters.
It is important to prepare yourself mentally and physically for these important protests. Here are the things that you should wear and bring so you can stay safe, while fighting for the change you want to see in the world.
A mask (and an extra)
Unfortunately, the threat of COVID-19 is still very real. Despite safety precautions, these vital protests do have the potential to spread the novel coronavirus. Protesters could be spreading the respiratory disease via droplets as they shout, chant, and band together to have their voices heard. Further, police tactics such as kettling, pepper spraying, tear-gassing, and other violent methods of crowd control and suppression decrease the ability of protesters to protect themselves. Here’s what happens to your body when tear-gassed and what you should do.
Healthcare professionals and disease experts alike have expressed that while there is a high risk in group events, such as protesting, one way to severely cut your risk is through wearing a mask. This mask must be tightly fitted over your mouth and nose (and not fogging up your glasses). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings “in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”
Also, a mask or bandana doubles as a good way to help conceal your identity from cameras and the police. Police can identify protesters long after the protest has ended from hidden cameras, public footage, or even social media.
Wearing a mask is a good way to decrease your risk, but a mask is only effective if it is worn correctly.
A backpack or fanny pack
Protest guides recommend bringing a small backpack or fanny pack to put all your necessary supplies in. It is important to be unencumbered by big bags or hanging purses so you can move quickly and not be grabbed. Keeping your hands free can also help if you need to film, document, shield, or assist others. In that backpack, you’ll need enough space to pack essential items such as water, snacks, an extra face mask, etc.
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Water (and snacks)
Bring water with you to keep yourself hydrated as temperatures climb across the country. A large water bottle with a squirt-type top is encouraged as it can be used to help flush out chemicals from the eyes or clean wounds. Further, a squirt-type top can decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus from your hands to your mouth.
Many of these protests include long marches and can go on long into the night. Therefore, staying hydrated and fed is incredibly important. Through the long hours, you may need food and water to maintain your strength.
These protests can be grueling in multiple ways and protesters need to be able to walk, run, and stand comfortably for long periods of time. Wearing sneakers or other comfortable, close-toed shoes can help prevent discomfort, increase safety, and allow for quick movement should the need become apparent.
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It is advised not to bring your credit or debit card as police and law enforcement can (and have been known to) track your movements based on your spending. You might need cash to purchase food, supplies, transportation, or even to post bail. It is best to separate your bills and stash them in multiple places in case something happens to your bag or you need to change your clothes.
ID (check local laws first)
The recommendation for bringing ID differs from place to place. Some states have laws that require you to show an ID to the police officer if you have it on you, or if you’re being searched and its found then you can be put you at risk. Some states do not have that law and you can refuse to identify yourself unless you are being arrested or detained. It is important to know your rights for your area before leaving the house.
However, it is also likely that you will have a much harder time if you are arrested or isolated without any identification. Being without ID can also hold up bail or release proceedings.
Make sure you are listening to Black voices and organizers. Work to educate yourself and understand why you should stop saying, “I don’t see color.”
Dark or black clothing (and an extra pair)
As a rule, it is important to check what your organizers recommend for that particular day. For many of the Black Lives Matter protests, organizers have asked everyone to wear black or dark clothes. This aids in creating uniformity, and therefore safety, for all involved. If all the participants are wearing dark clothing, it is difficult for police to pick particular protesters or leaders out of the crowd both during or after a protest.
Additionally, it is important to wear long sleeves and pants for a number of reasons. You will be outside for a long period of time without any break from the elements (i.e. direct sun, rain, wind) and long clothes can help shelter you. Also, it is important to shield your skin from the pepper spray or tear gas that is sometimes used to break up large groups.
Lastly, if you have tattoos or other identifiable markings, it is vital to cover them up to protect your identity. This goes for bright hair or piercings as well. It is also advised to bring an extra set of clothes in case you are hit with harmful chemicals, you are arrested, or you are singled out.
List of emergency contact numbers and medications
Carrying a list of emergency numbers on paper is extremely important as phones can be confiscated and/or tracked. If you are detained, harmed, or arrested—you will likely not have access to your phone and might not be able to advocate for yourself. A list of emergency contacts, necessary medications, and allergies will make sure that you have all you need in case of an emergency. Some protesters bring a few days worth of vital medications in their bag in case they are detained.
Before protesting, you should make sure to change your phone settings to protect yourself.
Shatter-resistant goggles or safety glasses
While not all protester-police interactions escalate to the point of violent counter-measures, it is best to be safe and bring a pair of goggles. These goggles can help shield your eyes from pepper spray, tear gas, or other chemicals used to help disperse or incapacitate crowds.
Also, if you usually wear contacts, it is best to refrain and wear glasses instead. Chemicals can get trapped underneath the lens and cause damage to your eyes.
Check out these other important first aid tips to keep you safe at protests.
A friend or buddy
Organizers do not recommend attending protests alone. If possible, you should bring a buddy or a group that will be able to keep track of you. Sticking together at these events is vital.
There should be someone monitoring you specifically, as these events can become large and people may fall through the cracks. In case of emergency (being separated, harmed, or detained), there will be someone present to advocate for you and keep tabs on your location.
If you are alone, contact the social media liaison or organizer for your local protest. Often, there will be a buddy system organizer who can help connect you to other single protesters to make sure no one is left behind.
The fight is just beginning. Don’t lose momentum—work on these small ways you can fight racism every day.
For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.