Tips for a first-time protester in the Covid-era

George Metcalfon 16 June 2020
Tips for a first-time protester in the Covid-era

We are currently living through one of the biggest Civil Rights Movements in history.

Black Lives Matter protests have been taking off around the world, as people from all kinds of backgrounds, races, religions, sexualities and walks of life come together to demand an end to the systematic oppression and murder of Black people. 

Attending your first protest can feel intimidating. Whether you’re concerned about social distancing, facing violence from police or ‘counter-protestors’, or you’re just unsure how to protest safely and respectfully, there are a lot of things to consider. 

So with that in mind, take a look at our tips for first-time protestors: 

Before you leave 

✊🏿 Make sure you’re familiar with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the systemic racism that Black people face each day. Although murderous and cowardly acts from police in the US were the catalyst for these protests, the fight doesn’t stop there, so be prepared to put in the work and to continue following the movement.

On the day 

✊🏿 Face masks, gloves and hand sanitiser are a must. Remember we are still in a pandemic which is disproportionately affecting the Black community. 

✊🏿 Make sure to bring water and snacks, it could be a long, hot day and you need to keep your energy up. 

✊🏿 Avoid wearing contact lenses, as they can make the effects of pepper spray and tear gas much worse. Thankfully the police in the UK haven’t resorted to such draconian measures yet, however it’s still important to do your research

✊🏿 Make sure you dress appropriately - this means practical footwear, sunglasses, a hat, etc. - but also dress for the space. An all-black outfit, which hides any distinctive features (tattoos, dyed hair) and helps you blend in with the crowd is advised. 

✊🏿Know your rights. If you are detained by a police officer, and things start to get serious, there are certain things you can and can’t do. It’s best to keep a bustcard on you. These have everything you need to know, as well as contact info for solicitors and citizens advice bureaus. 

✊🏿 If you’re taking photos and videos make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Documenting these protests, as well as any interactions with police is very important. However, taking photos for the sake of clout is a no go. To be extra safe, we would also recommend disabling touch/face ID and the location services on your mobile.

Avoid identifying fellow protestors through your photos as well - make sure you do your research about how to obscure faces before posting anything on social media. 

Things to remember if you benefit from White privilege 

✊🏿 You are in a different situation to your Black peers. The imminent danger is the same, but the consequences of any police action are not.

✊🏿 Make sure you use your privilege responsibly. Don’t escalate the situation unnecessarily, don’t be the antagoniser and don’t use these protests to live out any anti-capitalist fantasies you may have. Remember why you’re there. 

✊🏿Use your privilege to help protect Black lives and amplify Black voices. 

✊🏿Educate yourself as much as possible on the movement, Black history and Black struggles. What’s taught in schools is not the full picture.

We know a lot of you are keen to support the Black Lives Matter movement, and if you do decide to protest, please stay safe while doing so. But if you’re unable to attend in person, there are plenty of ways that you can support the cause. We’ve compiled some resources to help get you started.

If you’ve been personally affected by the issues raised by Black Lives Matter, here are a few organisations you can turn to which put Black people’s mental health at the forefront of everything they do. 

How do you feel about the Black Lives Matter movement? Have you been to protest? Do you feel your university or college is doing enough to support their Black students? We want to hear your experiences, your story, from you. Join our panel today. 

George Metcalfon 16 June 2020