Foreword: Shannon Kozlovich, PhD
List Curation: Shruti Muralidhar, PhD
The right to assembly is the cornerstone of any great Democracy. Dissent is often how we move the needle on entrenched injustices that are ubiquitous throughout our society. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law after over a year of consistent, daily protests across the country. The Black Lives Matter civil rights protests that held the news cycle for a couple of weeks after the death of George Floyd never stopped; given the recent events in Wisconsin, these protests are obviously still necessary. Racism is a Pandemic that this country has succumbed to for centuries. The oppressor doesn’t get to dictate to the oppressed when or how they fight back; fight for their lives, fight for the institutional changes REQUIRED to address very real and long ignored policies that enshrine racism into all corners of our society. This is equally true in the midst of a viral pandemic!
Knowing the higher toll that COVID-19 is taking on the Black community, we have gathered and curated some best practices for limiting the spread of COVID-19 while protesting. We touch on pre-protest preparation, items to bring to the protest, suggestions of best practices for viral transmission mitigation during the protest, and post-protest check-up best practices where available (and the fact that we have to say “where available” is another whole conversation).
- Know where you are going and if the leadership/organizers have put out statements about masks being mandatory.
- Pack a backpack. Aaron Huertas works in civic engagement, democracy and science. Here is his list of what went into his backpack to help him and others around him during a protest.
- Another option is to follow the Hong Kong protester’s guide featured as an infographic here.
- Pick and wear a mask that can be comfortably worn for multiple hours without fidgeting. Ones that can sinch to the bridge of your nose will perch more securely on your face.
- If you can avoid it, do not protest alone. Try to form a small group of like minded individuals whose COVID-19 status you trust; go together and stay together. This way you can join large protest groups while also being surrounded by people you know and trust. Basically forming a Pandemic Protesting Pod, Quaranteam style.
- Make sure somebody you trust knows that you will be attending a protest and your location for the duration.
- If you are sick or are showing symptoms, find ways to dissent that will not spread illness among other protesters. Some options: recruiting others to attend the protest, donating to organizations, signing online petitions, or (for the allies out there) by educating yourself; read books and watch informative documentaries. To get started, you can check out the suggested organizations and reading materials found here.
During the protest
- Always keep your mask on. Use hand sanitizer at regular intervals.
- Having an extra mask or 2 will allow you to change your mask after exposure to tear gas. This will limit the continued exposure to these chemicals.
- Bring food and water from home. If you have to drink water or get a bite to eat, do it as far away from crowds as possible.
- Use placards and signs instead of shouting slogans to limit the generation and spread of infectious aerosols. Use pots and pans or found objects to make noise that will draw attention to the message on your signs.
- When needed, shout and chant while wearing a mask and maintaining a 6 foot distance from other protestors or Protest Pods.
- It might not always be possible, but try to keep at least 6 feet away from other groups of protestors.
- Want to hold a line? A long rope with knots at regular 6 feet intervals can be held across by rows of protestors as they march in the same direction.
- Marching 6 feet apart gives the added benefit of spreading out the protest and making it look larger in the arial news coverage.
After the protest
- Remove mask and all clothing after getting home and run them in a load of laundry as soon as possible.
- Take a shower.
- Try to isolate from older or more vulnerable members of your household.
- If possible, get tested 5-7 days after the protest. To search for a COVID-19 testing location near you search the Get Tested COVID-19 website.
- If heading to multiple protests get tested weekly, or as often as possible in your location.
More information and references:
- @protest_nyc’s short infographic on basic protesting advice
- A letter in support of the BLM with safe protesting tips, signed by 1288 Health professionals
- Wired Article on ‘How to protest safely’ with more in-depth advice
- Wired article on how to protest safely in the era of digital surveillance and privacy