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Tips for Attending a Political Protest

Updated on November 23, 2008

Most Protestors Are Peaceful

If you have ever considered attending a political rally, demonstration, or march, but hesitated because of the stories about how they get out of control and, sometimes, violent, I completely understand. There is nothing more powerful than the feeling of unity at a successful peaceful protest. At the same time, there is nothing more scary and dangerous than a protest gone wrong.

However, the majority of protests are peaceful. You hear about the non-peaceful protests because that is what gain news coverage. Most of the time, the out-of-control protests start peacefully, and the majority of the protestors are peaceful. This is one of those cases where the actions of a few extremists can affect everyone.

Protests are wonderful events that we are lucky to be able to legally attend in the United States, so I suggest you attend one if there is a movement, issue, or candidate you feel strongly about.

Tips For Peaceful Protestors

Leave the Kids at Home

There are some events that are suitable for kids, but most are not. I can understand that you might want to offer your children the option to witness a protest in action. Remember, however, that they will have the same opportunities when they get a bit older. There are a lot of other options for teaching young children about politics. You never know what will happen at a protest, or the kind of images and chants your kids could be exposed to—so, leave them home.

Remain Aware of Your Surroundings

Rallies and protests end up being an orgy of group energy. It is easy to get caught up in everything, but don’t forget that you are in a public place surrounded by a lot of other energized strangers. In case something happens, whether it is a clash with police or an earthquake, be aware of where you are. You don’t want to head aimlessly for an exit route.

Listen to Police

When I was an active protestor, I often got annoyed with the police officers at our rallies. But it is important to listen to them. If they tell you to get off the street or to move back, do it. Unless your objective is to get arrested for civil disobedience, it isn’t worth it. After all, you are the peaceful protestor. You are not the one armored in shielded clothing and armed with batons, teargas, and rubber bullets. So, listen to the police even if you don’t agree with them.

Dress Comfortably

You will spend the majority of the time on your feet, and often marching (depending on the demonstration). You will also be pressed among a lot of other bodies, so you should dress comfortably. No high heels, flip flops, or heavy purses. You will be in a crowded place, which means you have to be aware of potential pickpockets.

Listen, Learn, & Enjoy

Despite all of my warnings, remember to have a good time. Political rallies tend to bring out all different kinds of people with varying beliefs. If you take the time to talk to people and collect literature, you can really learn a lot about the wide range of political beliefs.

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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      Good ideas for attending protests.

    • MattyLeeP profile image

      MattyLeeP 

      6 years ago from Tucson, AZ

      As a supporter of the "black bloc" and direct action in general, I'd add a few things to this. First off, just because a protest gets violent, does NOT mean it has gone wrong. Such protesters looking for trouble, will purposely segregate themselves as to not draw the negative police attention to designated green areas. They understand the difference of opinion in how to achieve said goals, but they also consider themselves responsible to stand up for what they believe in whether violent or not, just like our founding fathers once did. These guys are spilling their blood in hopes of a second American revolution, not because they want to burn America, but because they consider themselves true patriots, they've found something worth sacrifice. Just because the rest of America doesn't have the opportunity, ability, or nerve to join this movement, doesn't mean these violent demonstrators are uneducated, anti-government, or violent outside of political protest. The media often does condemn an entire protest when things get physical, but more often than not, if the media wants to put a negative spin on a rally, they are going to do so one way or another, whether it be filming only the somewhat transient, degenerate looking attendees or photographing the trash left behind after an assembly of 10,000 in a public area. On the other hand, the Occupy Movement and your intended audience most likely isn't the type to suit up with bandanas across their faces, spray cans in hand, and class war mentality on their minds. However, pacifist or not, police will use whatever methods seen fit to disperse an un-welcomed crowd, which we will see in the future with the Occupy Wallstreet men and women now being vacated. So, it is always good to bring a gas-mask or cloth to use as such, water and or a saline solution for flushing tear gas and pepper spray, and a cell phone to call a friend nearby, one not at the demonstration, itself, or in a safe zone on standby for emergency evacuation. Just wanted to say my thing real quick, other than that, thank you for trying to keep the rest of American activists safe while the show their support.

    • jdnyc profile image

      JR 

      10 years ago from California

      Interesting hub! I attended a protest in DC a few years back, mostly out of curiosity - there were four organized protests that day and all were going to meet up at the Mall near the capitol building. It was interesting to see the differences in the groups - some of the groups really gave out a sense of purpose and committment to the cause they were advocating, but one in particular felt like nothing more than a group of people hanging out with signs and banners and nothing better to do on a Saturday morning.

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