With rumors of people wanting to plan peaceful protests, or marches, or even plan prayer vigils, there are some basic details folks should know to keep the people participating in any peaceful assembly safe and out of trouble. First, tell the city and police. They support your right to peaceful assemblies no matter the cause.
At the “get go”, if you are planning a peaceful protest, inform local law enforcement! For your safety and the safety of all of those participating, inform law enforcement. We all have a right to peaceful assembly, and the police are there to protect your right to do that, and keep all participating safe.
With recent marches in locations across the country, there are many that feel a need to be heard. This last week there have been lots of rumors and talk of planned protests in Texarkana, but from chatter on social media, there doesn’t seem to be any clear organization for an assembly, and that could create big problems.
Set a Goal/Have a Point:
Protests can be a great way to bring attention to your cause or put pressure on policy makers to make changes when they see many people are getting together to share their opinion as one voice. Marches at a great way to spread awareness for a cause.
Organize a Location:
A lot of peaceful assemblies are focused on a place of symbolic reason, or convenience. Pick a location that helps you best reach your audience for maximum exposure to your cause. Remember, to be LEGAL your protest should be organized to take place on public property. Your site could be a sidewalk in front of a business, a public street corner, courthouse grounds, or a park. Again, to be legal, your assembly should be on PUBLIC PROPERTY.
Picking Your Time:
You want to pick the best time to get the largest audience to participate. With that, the best chance for the largest audience to participate would be weekends.
This does not apply everywhere, but check with your city officials regarding permits. Find out if a permit is required for the location you choose… parks, etc. Just double check whether or not there is even a need for permits, If they are required for the location you choose, get them. So your protest is not disbanded before it even begins. If you are planning a “march” that will take place on public right of ways, you WILL NEED A PERMIT. In Texarkana, anyone can assemble at any time, but blocking traffic is another story. If someone wants to hold a parade or March, the city has a special event permit application process that needs to be submitted.
Plan an Itinerary:
What is going to happen at your protest. Plan a series of events… Have local clergy open the protest, invite community leaders to introduce the protest and discuss the cause, or make speeches. Plan your march to begin at one location and end at another. Marches have been most effective in gaining a lot of attention to a cause, plus there is a clear beginning and end to the event. Sit-ins could take a lot more time than many have to offer and if you are holding out for a result, it could backfire on you.
Spread the Word:
You need time to publicize. Use social media networks, create flyers, even contact local radio stations to discuss. Spread the message far and wide to neighboring communities and groups that share the opinion of the cause. The more time you have to gain publicity for the event the better chances of more attention to your cause.
Got Protest Signs?:
Do you have your protest materials. If you want signs, or banners. You have to get them ahead of time. They take time to make by hand, and professionally made nylon banners can be expensive. Check with your local sign companies on getting “paper banners” printed.
Dress for comfort. If marching, comfortable shoes. If you are protesting a cause that could escalate you may want to dress in layers for protection from chemical sprays.
Bring a back-pack with bottled water, copies of ID, a copy of the protest permit, and a bandana soaked in apple cider vinegar in a plastic baggy can help against chemical agents until you can get to safety.
Know How to Interact with Police:
First be respectful, ALWAYS. You have rights as a protester and the police are defending those rights. Make sure you are familiar with how to deal with police in case you get stopped by an officer. If you stick to the terms outlined in the protest permit, you shouldn’t encounter problems, but you never know what could happen. Follow instructions from protest organizers and Police. If a police officer asks to search you, you have a right to refuse until a warrant is presented.
Always be Respectful:
Protests are very effective at getting attention, letting your voice be heard and exercise your right to free speech. Being disrespectful to anyone, even those you may be protesting will only undermine your cause, and hurt your chances of being seen as a serious cause. Don’t yell insults, don’t destroy public or private property, don’t spit in the direction of people or throw liquids or objects of any sort, and never resort to violence.
Don;t Go to Far:
Don;t go to far. If you are wanting a peaceful assembly to protest, or raise awareness most all Americans agree with your right to do so. If you are planning civil disobedience, violence, and foolishness you will only hurt your cause, and possible get yourself or worse, others injured, Acting up can get you arrested and cost you a great deal of money.
Exercise your rights as an American citizen, but do it safely and always… WITH RESPECT!