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NYC Protest Safety
A comprehensive guide of techniques to help keep you safe before, during, and after a protest
National Lawyer’s Guild NYC: 212-679-6018
Brooklyn Defender Services: 240-531-1971 (if arrested in Brooklyn)
Good Call NYC: 1-833-346-6322 (emergency hotline if arrest happens)
Bronx Defenders: 347-778-1266 (if arrested in the Bronx)
The Legal Aid Society: 212-577-3300
The Bail Project: 1-833-425-6TBP (for bail assistance)
Resist-a-Ride: 914-732-1656 (car group helping protestors get home safe past curfew)
Write any of these numbers & an emergency contact on your arm.
- Look at the forecast, know what weather to expect and prepare for (if hot, bring extra water, if raining wear waterproof clothing)
- Have a point person who will be staying at home; they can offer support if arrested and alert your emergency contacts, monitor police scanners to give real-time updates, and more.
- Get a group of people together. Never go to a protest alone. Download Signal, a free end-to-end encrypted messaging app and discuss protest plans on there only. Create a rendezvous spot in case you get separated, but try to stick together. Think of a codeword or group name you can shout if you get separated, and so you don’t have to shout each other’s actual names.
- What to bring: *a lot* of water (for drinking/flushing out eyes), plenty of food and snacks, water/alcohol based sunscreen (no oil based ones as pepper spray/tear gas can stick to oil), phone charger/external battery if you are bringing your phone, Identification (some people choose to leave IDs at home), cash for food and transportation (subway or cab fare), a change of clothes in a sealed ziploc bag (in case you need to put clothes with chemicals in it), ear plugs (the police have been known to use forms of sonic warfare/sound weapons that can deafen), extra masks, hand sanitizer, laser pointer to shine in eyes and for distracting, sharpie and note cards, inhaler/epipen/insulin/ medication enough to last a few days, basic med kit if possible, and ideally a waterbottle with a squirt top (to have a controlled stream when flushing eyes). Remember that if you’re arrested, you will usually get your items back, but not always, so make sure to leave things at home that you don’t want to lose.
- What not to bring: illegal items/drugs, alcohol, consider leaving phone at home, any weapons,
- Write down your emergency contacts on a notecard and give to someone. On your arm write the number to a lawyer (see top of sheet for local #s)
- Housing: if going to protest in another borough/far from home, reach out to a trusted friend who lives in the area beforehand in case you need to spend the night. Try to also find a home base in the area to go to if tired or injured.
- What to wear: all black clothing (nothing conspicuous, the cops can trace you with any unique clothing), comfortable/sturdy shoes to run in, long sleeves and pants, shatter-resistant goggles/eye protection (note that ski goggles have a foam that will let gasses in and some lab goggles have ventilation which prevents full protection), gas mask/N-95 mask/bandana soaked in water/vinegar, backpack to carry supplies, a raincoat (synthetic fabric doesn’t absorb chemical gasses, but it might melt into fabric/skin underneath so be aware and wear long sleeves underneath) gloves, no makeup or oil based lotions/sunscreen (tear gas/pepper spray can stick to them), NO CONTACTS (can permanently damage eyes if sprayed with pepper spray/tear gas), helmet (best is a skateboarding helmet to protect more of the temples/back of the head ), and umbrella (to help avoid being sprayed with gases), try to wear layers to take off when sprayed.
- Tech prep: turn off face ID and touch ID on your phone, so cops can’t access it if you get arrested. Make sure your phone is encrypted (iPhones usually encrypt by default, but Androids don’t). Turn off as many location services on your phone as possible, and download a VPN. Turn off notification previews.
- Always look to see if there is a protest organizer/leader/marshall in the area, and listen to what they say, especially if they are Black. Do not instigate violence, especially if you are white; the Black people around you will pay the price for your violence.
- Things will become hectic and scary when cops begin attacking. As best as you can *remain calm* and try to help others do the same. Panicking in these situations often leads to rash decisions, injuries, and more violence.
- Keep an eye out for undercover cops: if NYPD aren’t discussing your march/location on the police scanners and/or no armed police are standing around, there might be undercover cops leading/corralling -- look for arm bands (colors change every day), tactical boots, handcuffs in back pockets, and kevlar vests underneath civilian clothes . Covertly alert others when you see an undercover cop. See here for photo example.
- White and non-black folks: Make space for black voices, don’t lead chants. Don’t post photos with people’s faces. Use your body to create distance/barrier between Black people and the police. They are less likely to harm you. Don’t use BLM protests to push another cause. Don’t provoke the police and incite violence.
- Protesting During a Pandemic: Don’t touch your face. Use hand sanitizer after touching anything. Stay hydrated. Reduce droplet transmission by wearing a mask. Avoid sharing food/drinks, face to face convos, and touching. Maintain social distance as much as you can. 
- If you are being shot at with rubber bullets turn in profile to reduce your target size, and raise your arm up to cover your temple/eye/ear, this way all the major entry points to your skull (back of your head/neck, temple. eyes, side of neck) are protected.
- If you have a bike, walk the bike alongside the protest, as it can act as a barrier and help prevent cops from reaching over and grabbing people out of the protest crowd. Bikes also allow more freedom of movement than cars.
Basic Street Medicine   
DISCLAIMER: We’re not medical professionals. You assume all risk & responsibility for the decisions you make on the streets. If you’re not trained in first aid, try to find a street medic first before administering aid. Seek consent before touching someone or administering aid.
- Pepper Spray: Stay calm, walk to fresh air, the horrible burning typically lasts 20-30 minutes. Blink, cough, spit, blow your nose. Call for someone who can do an eye flush.
- Eye Flush: Use water to flush out the eye and do not rub your eyes. Take contacts out immediately if they’re in, blink rapidly. Remember effects are temporary and will wear off. If you’re administering wear gloves/avoid touching the chemical. Hold open eye, tilt head to right or left (depending on which eye), and aim water stream towards the outside of the face. You always want to flush chemicals out and minimize contact of chemicals on skin. Water > milk because milk neutralizes but doesn’t flush particles out.
- Tear Gas: Stay calm, walk to fresh air, the horrible burning typically lasts 20-30 minutes. Blink, cough, spit, blow your nose. Wave your arms. Call for someone who can do an eye flush. Take contacts out immediately. Tear gas is aerosolized acidic powder that sticks to skin/fabric, you want to shake it off, do not rub it in and do not swallow. It will stick to the hairline especially. If you can, put a headband on once pain starts to lower so that if you start sweating, it won’t go back into your eyes. Take off clothing that has been exposed, put it in a bag, and change clothes if you have an extra shirt/pants.
- Rubber bullets: If a bullet breaks the skin, hits the face, or causes traumatic organ damage, seek immediate medical care. For broken skin generously clean it with soap and water, ideally rubbing alcohol or Betadine. Then use a clean towel to remove any dirt, apply a layer of an antibiotic ointment like Neosporin, and wrap it in gauze.
- Bleeding: If someone is bleeding heavily, this can be stopped by firm direct pressure on the source for 5/10 minutes. If an artery has been cut and bleeding is severe, a tourniquet will be needed for short-term management but proper medical attention must be sought if blood loss continues. Use a scarf, bandana, belt or torn shirt sleeve and tie around the arm or leg directly over the bleeding area and tighten until the bleeding slows. Wrap the injury to protect it and get the person to a hospital - fast. If someone has glass or metal lodged in their body DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove it: this could cause further injury and increase the risk of infection.
- Panicking causes blood to circulate in the body faster, causing people to bleed out more. It’s imperative to stay calm/have others stay calm when dealing with someone who is bleeding**
- Broken Limb: If a limb appears to be broken or fractured, improvise a splint before moving the victim. Place a stiff backing behind the limb and wrap both with a bandage. Try to avoid moving the injured limb.
- This person needs to go to hospital for an x-ray and treatment.
- Head Injury: Head injuries have to be approached with more caution than other body parts. Following a head injury it is essential that the person has an x-ray within 24 hours. Again, bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure, but remember that head wounds bleed more than other parts of the body.
- If the person is unconscious, do not attempt to move them: this could exacerbate the injuries already sustained: seek professional medical attention.
- Internal injuries can occur from blows to the kidneys. These are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, shock and persistent abdominal pain. Get prompt professional care.
- Communication: Use Signal, an end-to-end encryption app to communicate about protests (before/during/after). NEVER text or call through your regular apps, as those are very vulnerable to surveillance. You can also use Protonmail for email encryption. Tor is a very secure browser that helps to protect against surveillance and tracking, so consider using that as well.
- Phones: Ideally, turn your phone off or leave it at home if going to a protest. It’s not an option for everyone, but it’s the safest option to prevent surveillance, tracking, and doxxing. Consider bringing a burner phone.
- Prevent Doxxing: Secure your social media platforms to prevent being doxxed. For example: enable 2-factor authentication, make accounts private, create separate activist/protest accounts (don’t show your face on them), use an alias, change passwords often/make them complicated.
- Surveillance: police have facial recognition software to identify faces, so obscure your face as much as possible: hide tattoos, piercings, colored hair, etc. Wear nondescript, black clothing and cover all logos.
- Data Tracking: Do not connect to any public wifi or any public kiosks (if in NYC). They are used to track your location by police. Turn off all location services in your phone. Use a VPN if you have one.
- Photography: DO NOT POST PICTURES OF PROTESTORS FACES. Do not post pictures/selfies of yourself wearing protest gear. Police can and will hunt people down and arrest or kill them for protesting. If you are going to post on social media: scrub all metadata from your pictures (lots of online resources to help with this, see footnote 18), blur all faces *and* bodies. They can find someone just from the shoes they have on. And make sure to NEVER post the original photo. Always post screenshots so people can’t undo the blurring on photos or access the metadata. 
Know Your Rights / What To Do When Arrests are Happening  
- DO NOT GIVE A STATEMENT TO THE POLICE!
- If You See Someone Get Arrested: you can film what is occuring, take badge # and car # of the arresting officer, get the arrested person’s name and date of birth, write down time and place of the arrest, alert their friends, reach out to a movement lawyer, show up to the precinct and courthouse in solidarity.
- If You Are Approached By an Officer: You can say, “Excuse me officer. Are you detaining me, or am I free to go?” if they say you are free to go, walk away. You have the right to not answer any questions. 
- If They Say They Are Arresting You: Do not argue. It’s best to remain silent and request to speak to a lawyer. Say “I am exercising my right to remain silent. I would like to speak with a lawyer.” Make sure to actually remain silent; do not say or sign anything without a lawyer present.
- If They Pat You Down: The police can pat down the outside of your clothing, but anything more than this, say clearly “I do not consent to a search.” (note that if you do not consent, this could affect you later in court). If they continue, do not resist because you can be charged with resisting arrest. Write down, or have someone write down officers badge number, name, other identifying information. You have the right to ask the officer this information. Make sure ID, meds, and money are on your person. If you can, give someone your other belongings.
- If arrested, it is your constitutional right to be seen by a judge within 24hrs. *NOTE: As of June 6th, 2020 the right of habeas corpus (aka the ability to be seen by a judge within 24hrs) has been suspended in NYC.* UPDATE June 7th, 2020 1:39AM EST: The previous statement was incorrect. Habeas corpus HAS NOT been suspended for all protesters in NYC; it was suspended only for a group of protesters covered under a single writ. Be aware that protesting can often lead to violation of your rights.
- Other General Notes About Arrests:
- If you are put in plastic handcuffs, and you feel numbness immediately request looser cuffs. Try not to move around too much; that can tighten cuffs.
- Police cannot force you to give them your phone password, but they can use your face (and sometimes your finger) to unlock your phone if you have Face/Touch ID enabled. Do not give them your passcode.
- Remember that law enforcement and the District Attorney are allowed to lie to you. Do not tell them anything, do not snitch, STAY SILENT.
- If you are trans or gender non-conforming, you have the right to be put in the gendered cell of your choice.
- Make sure to inform them of any medical needs that are immediate.
- Give your legal/government name, current address, and fingerprints, if they choose to collect them. You do *not* have to give them an iris scan, even if they pressure you to.
- Do not waive your rights.
- Check out this instagram post for more info on bail, and how to support those in jail.
De-Escalation Techniques  
- If you see an interaction that seems to be tense and quickly escalating (voices raised, physical contact, violence, etc) there are de-escalation tactics that can help. Note that if you are attempting to de-escalate, you may be putting yourself in danger and/or will likely face jarring statements/actions. Know your personal limits before engaging.
- Order of actions to take:
- 1) Assess the situation. 2) Do what you can to calm/center yourself. 3) Then facilitate. The point of de-escalation is to minimize conflict and decrease the stress levels of a situation. Your posture should be calm, strong, and firm; your goal is to present self as a calming influence.
- Try to maintain a safe distance. Face the most agitated person and if possible position your body between the people in conflict. Speak clearly, firmly, and at a lower volume than that of the aggressive individual(s). Ask the other person/people to give you space while you talk. Introduce yourself, ask them to introduce themselves, and state what you see/know. Depending on the situation, something you can say is: “I hear your side of things and I know you’re passionate about this. I want to make sure people are safe and I’m wondering if we can find a way to work together to make sure everyone stays safe.”
- The idea is to meet people where they are at, so that they feel understood. Listen to their concerns. Try to find common ground by being an active listener; you can do this even when you disagree by focusing on feelings. Try to enlist help from someone who knows the agitated person(s).
- If the situation is with a violent officer, de-escalation may not be an option; either you intervene in the violence/use your body as a shield and risk arrest/violence yourself. Or you can film the assault.
Filming Police Brutality
- When you see police brutality happening, it’s important to document it without putting yourself in danger.
- According to the 1st Amendment, you have a constitutional right to record law enforcement, as long as you don’t interfere. If cops try to get you to stop filming state: “I’m just exercising my constitutionally protected right to document police activity”. 
- Try to stay 6 feet away and back up if they tell you to. Try to film landmarks and places around to legitimize the video evidence. Film horizontally, try to keep the camera from shaking.
- Try not to speak, but if you do, calmly narrate using facts.
- Taking video of brutality is protected under law (but not from doxxing, so be aware what account you publish it on, try to publish anonymously, or give the video to an organization to amplify it), but some states prohibit the spread of audio—check your state laws before sharing the video. New York allows the sharing of both audio and video.  
Whiteness and Protesting 
- Understand that these protests are not about you. Decenter yourself, but support the cause in whatever way is needed
- Do not start chants. Do not talk over the voices of Black people.
- Make sure you understand the anti-racist, anti-cop mission of these protests; this is in the service of Black liberation.
- Use your body to put space in between cops and Black people. Know that because of your whiteness you are less likely to be attacked. If you put yourself between someone and the cops, and the police line is getting really close, try to face them as it will give you both more control and communication when cops start pushing.
- Do not incite violences. Listen when Black people tell you to stop doing something. Don’t use BLM protest to push another cause. Don’t provoke the police, as they will most likely retaliate against Black people.
When You Get Home
- If you were sprayed with chemicals, take off clothes outside & let your clothes air out for at least 48 hrs. Take a long, cold shower rinsing with water first, & then wash with soap. Document injuries if necessary.
- Wash the clothes alone with castille soap (this soap is less likely to react with gas chemicals than regular detergent), at least twice. Do not put them in the dryer; if there are still chemicals in the fabric, you will gas yourself. Chemicals can remain active on clothing up to 5 days later.
- We are still in the midst of a pandemic, and you were exposed to thousands of people through protesting, so make sure to self-isolate, monitor yourself for symptoms, and most importantly, get tested if possible. For those in NYC visit: nyc.gov/covidtest for testing locations.
- If you contract COVID-19 & need medical assistance, do not report to your healthcare providers that you attended a protest. If your insurance company finds out, this may jeopardize coverage of medical bills. Additionally, if billed for a hospital stay or doctor’s visit, call the billing department and request “a complete itemized receipt with accompanying medical codes and explicit use of funds”. This can save you a lot of money.
- Make sure to be diligent in tending to your physical, mental, & emotional well-being. Eat, sleep, & rest regularly, & check in with loved ones. If you came into contact with chemicals, try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, & drugs if possible (your liver will be processing these toxins for days).
- After the protest, debrief with a trusted friend about violence you may have experienced or witnessed. Talking about the experience helps lessen the chance of PTSD. Learn the beginning signs of PTSD: difficulty sleeping, more irritable/angry than usual, feelings of hopelessness/powerlessness, feeling “numb”, feeling distracted, having intrusive memories or thoughts about specific events (remembering specific noises/images), having flashbacks (doesn’t have to be just visual, can also be in the form of body sensations, sounds, feelings, etc), dissociative experiences, completely avoiding thinking about the experience, physiological reactions (nausea, sick to your stomach, buzzing feeling, etc.)
- Remember that continual self care is the only way to maintain this fight in the long run. Self-care is a radical act.
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
This zine was compiled from dozens of articles, Instagram posts, & advice
from trained professionals. Thanks to all who offered time & expertise. For a printable version in English (other languages coming soon), please view this folder.
Copyright free. This zine is a part of the public domain. Please distribute.
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