Protest Rights and Safety Center

we have the right to protest and we will use it

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Know Your Rights Guides

Resources for Protest Safety

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How should I prepare before choosing to attend a protest?

  • Plan ahead – research the location you’ll be going and the organizations calling for protest, if at all possible. Consider how you will safely travel to and from the event, and arrange back-up travel plans. Figure out how to re-connect with your friends if you get separated.
  • Take care of your physical and mental health by getting rest, drinking water, and caring for your body. Cool down others who exhibit panic behavior.
  • Write the number of the National Lawyers Guild's (NLG) legal assistance hotline on your arm in permanent ink before you go. In Washington that number is easy to remember: 206-OK-TRY-ME.

What should I bring to a protest?

  • Water in a plastic disposable bottle with squirt top, to drink and to wash off your skin and eyes
  • Snacks 
  • Face masks and hand sanitizer 
  • Identification 
  • Emergency contact information 
  • Glasses (avoid wearing contacts if tear gas is a possibility) 
  • Enough money for pay phone, food, transportation
  • Necessary medication (inhaler, Epipen, insulin, several days of prescription medicine) 
  • Comfortable, protective shoes 
  • Long sleeve clothing, warm and rain-proof jacket 

How can I protect my privacy while protesting?

Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County offers the following helpful recommendations:
  • Charge your phone before leaving home and consider carrying a portable charger. 
  • If you have limited data or limited battery life, then use airplane mode to turn off data and location services, if needed, while still allowing you to take photos/videos. 
  • Lock your phone using a password, not a fingerprint or your camera. 
  • Turn off “above the log-in screen” notifications. 
  • Communicate with others using the Signal app. 
  • Exhibit caution using livestreams and posting pictures without first removing metadata. Stickers and drawings over faces on apps such as Instagram do not remove metadata. 
  • On iPhone, police are known to look through your Significant Locations settings to find your home and work addresses. Turn off Significant Locations by going to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations > Turn Off. 
  • iPhone users can create special emergency shortcuts, as shown below, using the built-in Shortcuts app. Make sure any emergency shortcuts work before you need them, and practice launching them while in distracting situations. 

How can I mitigate COVID-19 risk while protesting?

The only way to eliminate the risk of contracting and/or spreading COVID-19 is by staying home. However, you may decide that protesting is the right decision for you and your family in a given moment. Here are some ways to reduce your COVID-19 risk:
  • Stay home if you do not feel well. If you are older than 65 or have a serious health condition, consider staying home to protect yourself. 
  • Although outdoor gatherings are lower risk than indoor gatherings, the larger the gatherings and the longer you are there, the higher the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. Furthermore, situations where people are shouting or singing can spread more of the virus into the air.
  • Remain 6 feet apart whenever possible. 
  • Avoid touching your face as well as surfaces and objects that have not been sanitized. 
  • Wear a facemask and consider wearing gloves. Make sure your face and nose are fully covered by your mask. 
  • Strongly consider wearing or having ready access to goggles or eye protection for added protection (avoid wearing contacts).
  • Carry hand sanitizer and use it often. 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you return home. 
  • Change and wash your clothes immediately when you return home. 
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after this activity. If you develop even mild symptoms consistent with COVID-19, do not go to work, self-isolate and call your doctor to get tested for COVID-19.

What do I do if I’m exposed to tear gas or pepper spray at a protest?

  • Avoid using oils and lotions as they can trap chemicals and prolong exposure to tear gas.
  • Wear a face mask at all times. Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed. Alternatively, goggles, respirators, or a wet bandana over the nose and mouth will help.
  • Stay calm. Panicking increases tear gas irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is temporary.
  • Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough, and spit. Try not to swallow.
  • If you are wearing contacts, you must remove the lenses or get someone to remove them for you with clean, uncontaminated fingers. Throw away the lenses after exposure.
  • Remember that tear gas and pepper spray can affect any exposed skin. Consider wearing long sleeves, pants, and gloves, to protect yourself.
  • Do not rub in the tear gas.
  • Flush your eyes using a solution of half liquid antacid and half water. Use only aluminum hydroxide or magnesium hydroxide antacids. If you think you are likely to be in a situation where you will be exposed to tear gas, bring this solution with you.

What other safety gear should I consider bringing?

  • Protect your anonymity by wearing all black or neutral clothing without distinguishable logos/monograms.
  • Makeup and masks can confuse facial recognition software. 
  • Bring and wear ear plugs to protect your ears from flash bombs, loudspeakers, and other loud sounds. 
  • Wear a waterproof watch to keep time when it feels unsafe to reach for your phone. 
  • Do not bring anything you don’t want with you if you are arrested. This includes:
    • Anything with your private information. 
    • Anything that can be construed as a weapon. 
    • Jewelry, watches, sacred objects. 

Who should I call if I’m arrested?

The National Lawyers Guild provides free jail hotline support for protests and demonstrations, providing referrals among their network of attorney members. The number for the NLG Seattle chapter (which serves the entire state) is 206-658-7963 (206 OK TRY ME). For more information about the NLG’s jail hotline, visit their website.

To learn more about your rights, check out our resources here. For more information about submitting legal information to the ACLU of Washington, visit our intake page.

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