Tips for protesting safely


Toby Gibbons

Members of the community protesting for Black Lives Matter on the side of the street in front of High School 1327 on June 10.

The year 2020 is full of salient protests in all corners of the United States. While protesting, demonstrators are constantly tear gassed and arrested. Using their first amendment rights, they are putting their health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it is important to take the proper steps to ensure personal safety while protesting.

Protesting is a prominent pillar of freedom, protected by Americans’ first amendment rights. Considering COVID-19 and the current Bay Area shelter-in-place orders, protesting can be difficult. 

Infographic showing 7 tips to help you remain safe during a protest (Genevieve Peterson)

Tina Hambuch, Doctor of Medicine and PhD in genetics and former employee of the Center For Disease Control, says it’s all about risk management, which is weighing the risks of doing something to decide if it is worth it.

“The level of infection and rate of infection, the number of people at the protest, and the means, and the length, duration of the protest, whether it’s inside or outside are all factors to consider,” Hambuch said.

It’s also important to have the proper resources for protesting. Hambuch highly recommends trying to keep civil when at a protest to “ensure that any risky situations will not arise.”

“If there is shouting, please, please, please wear a mask that has got some sort of filter in it… be sure to wash your hands… wear glasses,” Hambuch said.

It is imperative to remain safe in case of an interruption by a counterforce. Local protester Margot Agnew attends protests  in San Francisco and various other places in the Bay Area. She notes that local protests have around 500 people and in the city near 1000. 

“I have not been to a protest that was not completely peaceful or heard of one that wasn’t totally peaceful before police involvement,” Agnew said.

Agnew states that when going to protests, it is important to “bring water, milk, goggles… wear plain clothing and cover up your distinguishable features.” There will likely be chanting and screaming so it is important to bring the proper resources for that. According to Agnew, all the protests she attends have required the usage of a mask.

While protesting, remember that protesters have rights. If protesting peacefully, protesters are protected under the First Amendment in the United States Constitution. People also have the right to chant and carry signs. Beware of disrupting traffic, as that is cause for arrest. Additionally, anyone has the right to film at any time- no officer can tell them that they are not able to film. 

If arrested, people are given the right to a lawyer and they have the right to know why they were arrested. When rights are violated by the police, one should file a complaint, find witnesses, and get their contact information. Also, try to get as much information about the officer(s) as possible (e.g. badge number, drivers registration, station, name). It is important to report a violation of rights to better the police force and protect protesters’ central rights.

Make sure to calculate the personal risk to remain safe during this time of COVID-19 and police enforcement in protesting. Respect other protesters, and conduct personal research to be best equipped.