FIRST TIME ACTIVISTS – GOING TO YOUR FIRST PROTEST
It can be both exciting and scary to go to your first protest – whether that is a rally of some kind, a protest or demonstration for a particular issue, or a school strike event.
To start with – good on you! Taking your first step into social change work can be really empowering, and change your life. Its hard, but rewarding, and you meet some of the best people on the planet!
YOUR FIRST RALLY
- Got something to say? Make a placard. Movements like school strike have become famous for their clever, funny signs – and if you are feeling nervous this gives you something to do with your hands. If you want to make it easier to carry for a long time then add bamboo poles or similar to make it easier to carry
- In some cities there are legal observer teams – they typically wear bright pink or other high vis vests (as do other organisers and marshalls) and are there to watch police and ensure your human rights are protected. If you have concerns about police behaviour you can speak with them
- Follow the directions of marshalls – if you feel unsafe or see anyone being harassed point them out marshalls
- Check the social media for the event – you can see if anyone else you know is going that you could join, or encourage a friend to join you if they have shown interest. If it is a rally and march they may advertise the route of the march, and if not you can probably ask. This can help you plan ahead if you are disabled or have any constraints with crowds, or can’t manage the whole walk.
It is always good to have a buddy at any action to check in with – who knows you, and any concerns you might have. You should tell a buddy about any disabilities that may impact you, triggers or concerns around big crowds, mental or physical health issues that you have that may come up.
- Be prepared physically – remember to bring everything you need for a day with changing weather. Always bring plenty of water, snacks and weather protection – whether that is extra layers and a rain coat or sunscreen, hat and long sleeve shirt to keep from sun burn. At some events there may be street medics or a welfare team – often the most issues they see are with sunburn and heat exhaustion
- Bring ID. Whilst it is unlikely you will need it, unless you are participating in a deliberate civil disobedience action (where people get arrested for a planned reason), it can be handy if anything goes wrong
- Know your rights – check out our legal page for your state for an overview of protest rights and police powers
When you are getting involved in activism for the first time, especially if its an issue that seems very urgent, like protesting a war, or climate change, it is useful to consider the long haul. Its incredibly rare for easy short wins on campaigns. Winning on an issue you are working on can feel amazing, but many of us experience losses, or having to keep “winning” on the same issue as the goal posts are moved by government or corporations.
KEEP AN EYE ON POLICE
Some people are consistently harassed more than others by police – you can probably guess at some prejudices and reasons for this. If you are someone who may be targeted because of your appearance, gender presentation, race or other reason, its all the more important you keep an eye on police and any directions they are giving. Often organisers may have good reasons for not following the directives of police, though, so ask people around you if you don’t know what is going on.
BOOST THE MESSAGE
You never know if you might be the one picked out of the crowd for a “vox pop” – a short statement to camera about why you are there. You can always say no to this, but its great to have just a couple of sentences prepared that you feel comfortable to share.
Additionally, on top of traditional media, we find moreso that we get more reach to people with DIY social media. You can check out our socials and media pages for tips but find out the primary hashtag the organisers are using and take pics and video snippets to share with friends, and to boost the message of the event
Ensure you check in with your buddy at the end of the event, and also a few days after. Particularly if its a large scale or high conflict event you may find your body is fuelled by adrenaline in the immediate aftermath, and you may hit a low only after a few days.
AND CHECK OUT OUR SITE! We have a lot more to add in the coming months, to this and other sections, but we provide a very detailed overview of many aspects of activism, protesting and civil disobedience – knowledge is power, and there is so much to learn from a rich history of social change over hundreds of years