Note: please read this as a guide and not a list of instructions! You can have a very successful event without many of the details in this guide, or by doing things differently.
Protests are a great way to galvanise energy around the campaign, raise awareness, and bring new people on board.
Most of this guide is relevant to marches or static protests - apart from the section entitled 'IF YOU'RE MARCHING'.
Get the Message Out
Pick your start point / meeting time and promote it - the sooner people hear about it, the more people will come and the more impact you will have. You can promote it via social media, whatsapp groups, flyering etc.
Let the Don't Pay campaign know about your protest so we can share it - email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may want to invite photographers, livestreamers and local/national press.
Consider creating an anonymous broadcast channel on Telegram to communicate with attendees.
If You're Marching
PLANNING YOUR ROUTE
Make sure you have a route planned out in advance. You may want to communicate this widely, or keep it known only to a few people.
Some things to think about:
- You may want to start and/or end at prominent or meaningful locations in your town/city, especially any associated with the government/energy industry.
- Consider how long you want the march to take. Marches usually move very slowly (around 1-2 miles per hour), and longer marches are less accessible.
- You may want to avoid narrow roads to reduce the risk of police kettling or blocking the march.
- Have a plan B in place if your route becomes blocked.
WHILE YOU'RE MARCHING
- Aim to have a large banner at the front - to put the Don't Pay message front and centre - and another at the back to keep the protest together - this makes the protest look stronger and helps to prevent people becoming isolated.
- Look after each other!
- Don't race to the finish. You want your march to be noticed and be accessible for people who can't walk that fast.
Keeping Everyone Safe
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Knowledge is power. Everyone attending a protest should know their rights
- Share the Green & Black Cross Key Advice for going on a protest:
- No Comment. You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.
- No Personal Details. You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.
- No Duty Solicitor. Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.
- No Caution. They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.
- What Power. Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.
- Bust cards Print off and hand them out at the protest. They give advice, information on stop and search and arrest, and the names and numbers of solicitors who can help. These areas have specific bust cards:
- Read and circulate the Green & Black Cross Know Your Rights booklet which has more information - though see bust cards for up-to-date phone numbers.
Police may try to identify organisers, who are more at risk. Here are a few things organisers could consider doing to stay secure:
- Use an alias rather than your real name when organising the protest and consider changing your name on social media.
- Do your organising using encrypted messaging apps such as Signal or Telegram.
- Google Docs is not secure - seek out alternative encrypted platforms to organise.
Art and Design
- Banners and placards will attract more attention and make for powerful photos.
- Unified messaging gives your protest an identity and makes it easier to get the message across.
Support roles are important to make sure the protest runs smoothly and is as safe as possible. There are a few different support roles you may want to have at the protest:
- Stewards. Bring keen awareness of the movement of the Protestors, Speakers, Performers, Police and Public. Adapting and quickly acting upon issues en route and managing traffic. Ensuring good media sight lines for banners and speakers.
- Wellbeing. Looking out for the physical and emotional welfare of people attending the protest.
- First Aid.
- Legal Observers. Independent witnesses of police behaviour at protests. They can provide basic legal guidance, record arrests and the behaviour of the police. If you want legal observers contact: email@example.com
- De-escalators. It's good to have some people who are trained in defusing confrontational situations. Some members of the public may not agree with your reason for protesting. They can gauge the changing tension levels and deescalate the crowd or individual.
Music / Tech
Make yourself heard!
- Bring megaphones for chanting and portable PA systems for speakers.
- Music brings life to a protest, attracts the attention of passers by and keeps energy levels up.
- Police may try to take sound systems away. Having systems in the middle of crowds can help keep equipment safe from confiscation.
An inclusive protest is a strong protest and encourages more people to come. Do your best to make the day as welcoming and accessible as possible.
You might want to:
- Ensure the route of the march is wheelchair accessible.
- Get sign language interpretation for speeches and guides for the visually impaired.
- Be aware of mental health - protests can be stressful and intense for both attendees and members of the public.
- Identify nearby accessible toilets and accessible train stations that will allow people with access needs to attend. Here is a guide on how to do this.
Read more in this access checklist from Inclusion London.
Ways you can make your protest intersectional:
Speakers/platforming - ensure there are a diversity of voices heard, especially those most impacted by the intersecting crises we are currently facing.
Allyship during protests - it is important that those with privilege understand how this renders them less likely to be targeted at protest by police, and with this information in mind, keep other folks that may be more likely to be targeted aware of police presence. Look out for one another.
Accessibility - as mentioned above, it is crucial that the route chosen for the march is accessible for those with disabilities.
Expect the Police
Be prepared for your protest to attract the attention of the police.
Some key things to bear in mind are:
- Police Liaison Officers (in blue bibs) may try to get information from you and try and find out who is organising the protest - remember 'NO COMMENT'.
- Sometimes the police will facilitate the protest and move traffic out of the way. Other times they may restrict you or attempt to shut the protest down.
Protests aren't really over until everyone is home safe. Encourage everyone to check in with their friends afterwards.
It can be helpful to have a conversation in the days after the protest to listen and share everyone's experiences, talk about what went well, and what could be improved for next time.