I’m a newbie when it comes to participating in marches and protests. In order to prepare for my trip to D.C., where I’ll join thousands upon thousands of people at the Women’s March on Washington, I’ve been reading as many tips and best practices as possible. Lucky for me, there are so many great articles circulating that I’ve found really useful. I thought I’d compile a few and share below.
General march participation tips
This list has been edited for Los Angeles march participants, but the original post (for which I can not find a link) was the first one I read about protest preparation and I found it to be a great starting off point. I knew I was going to protest somewhere, either in Atlanta or D.C., and as someone who is not a seasoned marcher, I really appreciated this practical and tactical guide to attending an action.
An important note: please check to see if the march(es) you’re participating in have specific rules and regulations posted! The D.C. march, for instance, is only allowing clear backpacks of a certain size. The above list is general, so make sure you look at the requests being made by organizers prior to attending.
Protesting with kids
Activist Mama’s Guide To Taking Kids to a March is incredibly thorough and offers tips for bringing kids to a protest, broken down by age group. I wish I had read this prior to taking my 4-year-old to his first march over Martin Luther King weekend, where thousands of people showed up. Tagging your child in case you get separated seems like a no-brainer, but I did not think of it prior to the MLK parade.
For what it’s worth, we debated bringing a stroller, but I’m so glad we did as it provided a safe, contained space for my son as we walked through crowds. We also packed plenty of water and healthy snacks. All that said, it was the lollipop he received in a swag bag that saved the day. Lollipops are rare treats in our house and it seriously bought us about 45 minutes of time. In the future, I will always bring lollipops!
If you’re not bringing your kids with you or you’re not able to protest, make sure to talk about the actions happening with your children. We Stories wrote a great post, “Talking to Kids About Protesting: 5 Things I Want My Kids To Know” that includes suggested books and language for parents.
Thinking before speaking
My friend shared this important information about knowing if and when you should speak with reporters at an action:
“I would add my personal suggestions about media for people attending alternative events this week all across the country surrounding the inauguration, learned the hard way: If people want to interview you, and come up to you with cameras, you may feel the exuberance of the moment and say whatever is on your mind. I encourage you to do three other things instead. (nod to Helio Fred Garcia):
First, ask them who they are and what they are using the film for. Many of us have been quoted out of context in hateful videos. If they don’t give an answer that seems solid to you, decline to be interviewed at all.
Second, if you are planning to talk to cameras, have your talking points ready. I strongly encourage you to look at the talking points the organizers of any event you go to have created and stick as closely as possible to them. Only amplify with personal story if it helps to tell a bigger story.
Third, if you are a white, cisgender, middle class, heterosexual, citizen, encourage them to talk to other voices instead. “I hope you’re talking to the people most impacted by these policies.”
I suspect at the women’s marches the press will be dying to talk to men about why they are attending, just as they always want to talk to white people at events organized by people of color. Sample response: “I always believe in featuring the people who do the real work. Please talk to (a member whatever group the event is focussing on) instead of me.” Or even more simply, “Today isn’t about me. Please talk to the people most severely impacted by the policies of this administration.”
Y’all, I made this mistake at the MLK march in Atlanta. I was standing with my family, waiting for the march to start with my son on my shoulders, when a reporter appeared out of nowhere and started to ask me questions. I was unprepared for the moment, and rather than graciously declining, I found myself nervously spouting off responses. It wasn’t the worst mistake I’ve ever made, but in the future I’ll be better prepared thanks to the above tips.
My biggest take away for attending a protest? Prepare, prepare, prepare. Physically prepare and mentally prepare. Traveling to D.C. on my own is going to be an adventure, but I’m as ready as I can ever be. I’ll report back on the experience next week.
I stand in solidarity with all of the protestors participating in marches and acts of resistance across the country and across the world. I’m inspired by all of you. Let’s get loud.