Rebel Well: for those engaging in active protest
This piece is part of Rebel Well: a Starter Survival Guide to a Trumped America for Teens and Emerging Adults.
The First Amendment guarantees citizens of the United States the right of free speech, which includes engaging in peaceful (nonviolent) assembly or protest in public forums by yourself or with others. You also have the right to film law enforcement activities as long as you aren’t deemed an “interference.” Police can ask you to step back, but not to stop filming.
If you are stopped by police or arrested: Don’t run and keep your hands where police can see them. Follow the guidelines for dealing with the justice system. You can make clear — ideally, calmly — that you are protected in your right to peacefully protest by the First Amendment and ask if you are free to leave. If they say you can, quietly walk away; the ACLU’s protest guide has full details.
If your rights are violated: As soon as you can, write down everything you remember, including badge and patrol car numbers, which agency the officers are from, and any other details. Get contact information for witnesses, especially if a legal observer is present. Organizations like the National Lawyers Guild dispatch volunteer legal observers to big protests — look for the people in bright hats and/or vests. If you are injured, take photographs of your injuries (but seek medical attention first). Once you have this information, you can file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board; in many cases, you can file a complaint anonymously if you wish. You can also seek the assistance of an attorney or the ACLU.
It is necessary to remember, as we think critically about domination, that we all have the capacity to act in ways that oppress, dominate, wound (whether or not that power is institutionalized). It is necessary to remember that it is first the potential oppressor within that we must resist — the potential victim within that we must rescue — otherwise we cannot hope for an end to domination, for liberation.”― bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black
Dress plain and comfortable: Pants, flats, and layers, glasses and not contacts, and a hat for shade. Keep long hair pinned and tucked away. Consider facial protection: A painter’s mask, safety goggles, or even a bandana can help.
First aid basics: If chemicals land on your clothing, remove the layer and discard it. The gold standard for getting stuff out of your eyes is cold water. Use cold water and mild soap to clean your skin. A vinegar-soaked rag can help remove chemical agents (and makes a good improvised face protector as well). Don’t use milk or antacids in your eyes — they aren’t sterile and can cause infection.
Take supplies: Cold, sealed water, any medications you need, contact numbers written on your arm. Leave identifying information behind if you want to be anonymous in the event of arrest. If you take your phone, install an app like the ACLU’s “Mobile Justice” for recording law enforcement interactions, and always check with bystanders before snapping or posting photographs.
Bring a friend: Protesting is always safer with a buddy to look out for you.
all of rebel well: front page • why we made this guide • for everyone • healthcare • relationships & sex • conflict resolution • for those suffering harassment online, at school or at work • for those in abusive/controlling relationships, or who are homeless, transient or in the foster system • for those who are trans or LGBQ • for those who are of color • for those who experience religious intolerance or who are undocumented citizens • for those who are disabled • for those interacting with the justice system • for those engaging in active protest • when everything seems terrible or nowhere feels safe • how to help each other & improve this godawful mess • resources and helplines