Your Definitive Safety Guide to the Protest Marches: 21 Tips You Need to Know

Like many of you, I am abhorred by the “Unite the Right” rally that resulted in 19 people injured and the death of Heather Heyer. Two Virginia State Police pilots also died in transit to the march. To openly share your voice in dissent in this nation is part of our inalienable rights as human beings and American citizens.

No one wants a violent confrontation when they are marching peacefully. Everyone wants to go home safe at the end of the day. Ms. Heyer’s death is a reminder to all of us that protesting peacefully, as part of nonviolent action, can be dangerous and deadly. With all the technology we have developed, still, there is no statement like a small group of thoughtful citizens committed to changing the world, to paraphrase Margaret Mead. This includes physically standing or marching in protest of a specific concern.

As a security consultant, I am frequently asked how to stay safe while protesting and parents often ask how to keep their teens safe while protesting. I was recently asked about what safety tips I keep in mind when protesting this weekend. Below are safety tips to keep in mind for the various demonstrations and rallies taking place in our current climate.

  1. Before and after the rally take time for self-care. Protesting on topics we are passionate about can be draining emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Be sure to support these needs by meditating, praying, visualizing a peaceful rally, or releasing negative and draining energy.

  2. Remember to leave weapons at home. Anything that could easily be used as a form of protection, like mace or switchblades, could be viewed a weapon by law enforcement.

  3. Do not touch a police officer or police car. Depending on your geographic area it can be an automatic arrest. There may be a lot of out-of-area cops brought in for marches this weekend. They may be unfamiliar with the area and its citizens.

  4. You will also want to know where law enforcement officers are located. Know where are they standing/walking around, so that if something happens you will know where to go in an emergency. I would suggest also keeping any valuables, large purses, and expensive cameras at home.

  5. Is one location of the march safer than another part? Generally, in large crowds it’s safe to be on the sides for a quick exit if needed. However, that varies depending on the geographical environment and potential threats.