Top Tips for First Time Protesters

So you want to join a protest – that’s amazing! Maybe a friend has invited you along, maybe you've seen a poster or an announcement on social media. Either way, here are six top tips to help you get ready.

1. Get informed!

Before setting of for a protest it is important to make sure you have a good idea of what the event is going to be like. This will make it much easier to prepare. Is it a stationary rally? A march through town? A flash mob or an occupation of a square? How many people are expected to turn up, and how likely is it that there might be confrontation with other protesters or the police? Going to a Pride March will be different then attending a sit-in counter-protest of a Neo-Nazi rally. See if you can find a website or social media event for the protest you want to attend. This should tell you the route and give you an idea of what the organizers are anticipating. If it is an annual or otherwise repeated event, newspaper articles about past events can be insightful sources to get an idea of what the protest will be like.

2. Pack wisely!

Check the weather forecast and pack sunscreen or a raincoat, and dress appropriately. Stationary protests in the winter can get quite chilly! Take some money, and a photo ID. If something unexpected happens it can be great to have cash at hand, for example if you have to take a different bus home than planned. Do take a snack and something to drink. But don't pack your favourite pocketknife or a glass bottle - for security reasons those aren't welcome at protests.

3. Get there smartly

Especially if you are planning to join a large protest do think about the logistics of how you are getting there. You might not be the only person who decides to take the train or bus that gets you there just in time. On the other hand parking is also probably limited, so be prepared and try to have a back-up plan. Large protests in central locations often have special cheap coaches going from various parts of the country. These can be very convenient, so do check if they are being organised for the protest you are heading to.

4. Stick together

Any protest is better when you go as a group, so why not join together with friends (or maybe your whole SCM Group?). Try to stick together and exchange contact details with everybody in your group in case someone gets lost. It is also important to check in with your group-mates so you know their boundaries. Is someone very sensitive to the sun and needs to stay in the shade as much as possible? Is someone afraid of dogs and needs the group to leave if there are police-dogs? Does someone not cope well with crowds and would like to stay at the edge of the protest? Are you not prepared to get arrested and therefore would like to leave if the police starts clearing the sit-in? Do discuss expectations and boundaries beforehand so that as a group you can take good care of each other. If you are traveling home together, agree on a meeting point so in case you lose each other and your phones die, you can still find each other again.

5. Make yourself heard

What do you want people to know when they see your protest on the street or in the news? Communicate why you are passionate about this particular cause! Bring a placard, banner or leaflets, sing fitting songs or chant catchy chants with your fellow protesters. There is a great opportunity to great creative for a protest - you could even do it as a group activity with others. 

6. Look around and connect

Have a look around at the other people attending the protest! Are their any particularly witty placards or fitting outfits? Ask if you can snap a picture and share it on social media. Also look out for people handing out leaflets with information about other protests or particular aspects of the cause you are protesting for. You might learn more about a topic you care about!

What are your top tips for those looking to attend their first protest? Let us know in the comments!

Written by SCM Member Juliane Borchert, a PhD student with the Centre for Doctoral Training.