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Protesting in a pandemic: Here’s our guide to staying safe and smart

In the wake of police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, protests both peaceful and less-so have spread across the country like wildfire.

Times of civil unrest are already difficult enough for people, and their stress, anxiety, and anger have only been accentuated by the coronavirus pandemic. With all these stressful factors coming into play, it’s important to stay safe, smart, and connected as a community when protesting in order to triumph over these challenges.

With that in mind, here’s a guide to protesting in a safe and smart way during this pandemic:

What to wear

Black Lives Matter
Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

When protesting, it’s important to keep a few key things in mind. Not only are you facing the unfortunate possibility of arrest, but you’ll also likely be standing and moving around for a long time. Therefore, you’ll want to wear clothes that address these factors.

First and foremost, make sure you’re wearing something comfortable and appropriate for the weather. If you’re going to be stuck outside for a while, you’ll want to make sure you can stand it. Loose-fitting clothing and thinner fabrics that can wick off moisture are a good choice for a hot summer day. 

If the temperature is a little on the cooler side though, layer up, but still keep your attire relatively lightweight. With items such as light jackets, sweaters, gloves, hats, and scarves that can be easily removed. 

Comfortable footwear is especially essential since you’re likely going to be standing and moving for a long time. Sneakers or other types of sturdy shoes are your best bet for this.

Keep your hair up. Cover identifying marks and tattoos. Keep a mask on at all times, and try to wear goggles and gloves.

There’s more to just staying safe and smart in terms of what you’re wearing though, there’s also some key supplies that can be useful to have should you have to protest.

What to bring

Besides comfortable and lightweight clothing, there’s also some important items you might want to consider bringing to a protest should you attend one. For one, water is always essential to staying hydrated and keeping up your endurance in a long protest.

Protester crowd with masks
Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

You also want to keep your safety in mind. Not just in terms of protecting your identity from police, but for the sake of your health as well. We still are suffering from a global pandemic after all.

Fortunately, these issues can usually be solved hand-in-hand. Wearing a face mask, gloves, and glasses will help in masking your identity, reduce the chances of coronavirus from getting in contact with you, and provide some protection against rubber bullets and tear gas. Scary times require keeping all of this in consideration.

While you may be tempted to scream and chant to project your voice, you’re also projecting particles that could spread sickness and risk chances of coronavirus. So when you want to give your voice a break, raise a noise-maker or a sign instead.

Basic health and first aid supplies such as hand sanitizer, band-aids, and bandages are also useful to help keep yourself free from germs spreading in crowds, or to patch people up from any altercations.

“Tech cover”

Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

In the age of social media, the widespread use of technology has both its benefits and disadvantages.

One drawback in particular is the ability for the police to keep an eye on people’s devices. Cellphones can be particularly easy to track, especially through the use of stingray devices, which act as a sort of false cell tower.

This ultimately makes it easier for police to identify and track down protesters. Even taking a photo or video at a protest can give police information such as a timestamp and location to track an individual.

To maintain anonymity, it’s best to bring a secondary device or burner phone that has little to no information on you. If it’s registered with a carrier, make sure it’s one that you didn’t register too much of your personal information with.

Otherwise, it’s less of a burner and more of another tracking device. Should you need to use your phone, only do so for emergencies or to get in contact with friends or family for assistance.

Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

If you don’t want to pay for another device however, encrypting the data on your phone and keeping a secure pin or passcode is also a good way to maintain your digital safety.

Try to steer clear of using a fingerprint or facial scanner to unlock your device though. If the police confiscate your phone, chances are they’ll find it pretty easy to use you to unlock its biometric security.

In the end, your best bet is to limit your cell phone usage and its ability to connect to data or WiFi at protests. If you have to use it, try doing so only in emergencies.

Don’t forget a healthy mindset

With the tense protests emerging around the country, and the existing pressure of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s essential to keep a calm and level head amidst the chaos.

If you choose to protest, remember that these are ultimately for the sake of the Black Lives Matter movement, for peacefully fighting against police brutality in this country. For the sake of changing a corrupt justice system for the better. 

Protesters with Black Lives Matter signs
Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

This isn’t a time to loot for the sake of ransacking places. This is a time to come together as a community and peacefully work to change the system. If someone decides to try and agitate police, don’t follow along and muddy the meaning of peaceful protesting.

Talk to them; tell them the error in their ways. And if they refuse to listen, explain to the police and nearby protestors that they are acting alone and selfishly.

Be mindful of people, the black lives being lost due to police brutality, and look out for your fellow citizens. Remember that we can all be more than a bunch of people protesting, but rather protesting as one people.

Staying safe is staying smart

At the end of the day, these protests are still occurring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so social distancing and quarantine guidelines still apply here.

While mass gatherings are inevitable at protests, that doesn’t mean you can’t try to maintain six feet of distance in small groups. These guidelines don’t stop after protesting either. Isolating yourself following a protest is always a safe and healthy choice to ensure you’re not contaminated.

And most importantly: if you feel ill whatsoever, do not attend a protest and stay at home.

Wear masks
Courtesy of Christopher Cruz

These protests are a way to motivate positive changes to the social system in this country. If done safely and peacefully, we can make our voices heard and come together as a community.

This is not the time to cause chaos and stir the pot to make people agitated. This is a time to truly come together as one people and create a glimmer of light in this dark time.

Stay healthy, stay smart, and stay safe out there.