When it comes to protesting, the most important thing is to be prepared. Over the last couple of decades, we have seen a lot of peaceful protest movements subjected to police brutality. From the Arab spring to Black lives matter protests. From Hong Kong protests to protests in Pakistan. Everywhere, the state uses certain tactics to subdue peaceful and unarmed protesters.
This is where it pays to be prepared. One of the most important things to do when protesting is to be prepared for anything. This includes being aware of the possibility of police brutality.
If you are going to be participating in a protest that may be met with force from the police, here is a list of items that you should consider bringing with you to help you survive a protest and protect yourself:
1- A gas mask or respirator:
This will protect you from tear gas and other chemical agents that the police may use. Just bear in mind, there is always a high probability of the authorities using expired tear gas shells. We have seen this happen in multiple protests over the last few years. If anything, expired tear gas shells are more dangerous for protesters.
This tweet is from the 25th May protest in Pakistan. You can clearly see the difference that a proper gas mask can make. The lady without mask or any sort of protection can hardly speak or keep her eyes open. Whereas the guy with eye protection and a simple gas mask is showing no signs of any trouble. So if you want your protest to succeed, you need to make sure you have appropriate level of protection against tear gas.
Of course everyone cannot take a gas mask or respirator with them to a protest.
Alternatively you can use a bandana or scarf soaked in vinegar to protect your nose and mouth from tear gas. Keep some salt with you in case of tear gas shelling. Salt keeps your throat open and helps breathing after being hit by tear gas.
If you are carrying rags soaked in water or vinegar to cover your nose and mouth, then soak some rags in water or vinegar and put them in a zip lock bag. This will make the rags stay wet for as long as you want. You can quickly replace your rags or help other protesters out.
2- Protective clothing:
Long sleeves and pants, preferably jeans will protect your skin. There is no point being scantily dressed in a protest. It is always better to wear multiple layers of clothing to provide some padding in case you fall or get baton charged.
Make sure that you have your running shoes on. Gloves are an extra add on if you are going to be in the front line, facing tear gas shells. Whenever you are dressing up for a protest, more is better.
In the end, remember that if you are going to protest and rebel, then you better do it in style. Why? Because who knows you may get captured in an iconic snapshot, with the potential to go viral all over the world. This is not a joke, iconic images during protests have the potential to turn into symbols of resistance. So if you are going to go viral, you better have your best look on!
3- Eye protection:
Goggles or a face shield will help to protect your eyes from tear gas and pepper spray. Simple swimming or skiing goggles are good enough to keep your eyes safe from tear gas shelling and other projectiles.
4- First-aid kit:
If you’re heading out to protest, it’s a good idea to pack a small first-aid kit. Before you leave, make sure to include items like bandages, antiseptic wipes and ointment, pain relievers, and water. And while you hope you won’t need it, it’s also a good idea to include a list of emergency numbers. By being prepared, you can help ensure that your protest is safe and peaceful.
5- Water and food:
It is important to stay hydrated and fueled up during a protest, so make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks with you. By snacks we don`t mean chips and sweets. You need to pack high protein snacks like energy bars or trail mix. If you can`t find high energy bars, keep a bag of dates. Dates provide sustained energy for long periods.
While covering a protest, there are a few gadgets that you should have with you. First and foremost, you will need your phone to stay connected and take pictures and videos. Continuous use of phone will drain down the battery, so you should also pack extra battery packs or a power bank. If you have a car, you can charge your phone and power banks in the car as well.
Most people will not need more gadgets because frankly, handling the gadgets in a protest is too much hassle. But if you are a professional photographer or journalist, you might need other cameras and equipment.
This is one of the most important things to have with you when protesting. The police will often try to block protesters from accessing ATM machines and stores. So it is always good to have some cash on hand in case you need to buy food, water or other supplies.
9- A whistle:
This is a good way to get attention if you need help. You can also use it to signal to others when the police are coming.
10- A flag or sign:
This is not just for decoration. Flags and signs can be used to block the view of the police so that they can’t identify individual protesters. They can also be used to signal to others in the crowd. In desperate times of need, flags can be used to cover your face as a protection from tear gas.
11- A helmet:
This is a good way to protect your head from being hit by projectiles or batons. It will also protect you from being pepper sprayed or tear gassed. As someone who has been to and covered protests, trust me that you do not want to get banged on your head in a protest.
This is more for comfort than anything else. Wearing boots will protect your feet from being hit by things like rocks or bottles. They will also provide some support if you have to run or walk long distances. Make sure your boots or shoes are comfortable over long periods.
13- A backpack:
This is a good way to carry all of your supplies with you. It is also a good way to protect your back if you are hit by a baton or projectile.
14- A friend:
It is always better to protest with a friend or group of friends for safety in numbers. This way you can divide essential items that you need to carry. Important tasks such as photography and communication can be divided easily so that others in the group can stay focused on their roles.
Importance of a group of friends increases in a protest where the authorities are cracking down upon you. You can organize and engage the authorities according to a plan. We`ll cover this separately but it is absolutely vital to read how authorities are moving and then counter their strategy and this can be easily done if you are in a group of 5 to 10 friends.
When protesting, it is important to be prepared and to have the proper supplies with you. By following this list, you can help to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to educate peaceful protesters on how to prepare for any type of protest. We are in no way encouraging any violent behavior or militancy. We strongly discourage it, peaceful citizens should always have the right to protest peacefully.