Welcome + Introductions
In the video linked above, you’ll hear from these Facilitators
Kristian Blackmon - (she/her) Community organizer, Activist & Art Curator
Kennard Williams - (he/him) Community Organizer
Michael Vazquez - (he/him/él) is the Director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign
Rev. Erin Counihan - (she/her) Pastor at Oak Hill Presbyterian Church and board member, Metropolitan Congregations United
Rev. James Ross - (he/him) serves as pastor at Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in St. Louis
Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson - (he/him) President and CEO, Deaconess Foundation
Greetings + About our Hosts
Overview + Defining Terms // Michelle Higgins
Organizing and Supporting Protests // Kennard Williams
Assessments and Self-Care // Kristian Blackmon
Dispatches from DC // Michael Vazquez
A word on Immigration risks // Michael Vazquez
Clergy Support roles in St. Louis // Rev. Erin Counihan
Anti-Racism accountability for white protesters // Rev. Erin Counihan
Questions for facilitators // Rev. James Ross
- JOIN AN ORGANIZATION - we cannot stress this enough. - JOIN AN ORGANIZATION -
If you are part of an organization that is not a “movement home” which provides you space and invitation to discuss socio political issues AND experience founding and rootedness in deep abiding love, the belonging of your entire being, and the total support to be that being, then you have not found your home, and you will not be ready to protest. You will not be in a rejuvenating or healing space that prepares you to go back out to protest, or teaches you the grace necessary to relieve your possible guilt about being able to do everything.
Actions are often labeled by risk: Green Level means low risk of arrest. Yellow Level is increased risk. Red Level means expect arrests. There are many green level actions that hold intersections and protest by taking streets. Red level actions can be quite secretive and need to know (ie a banner drop in the middle of a baseball game or the symphony), but not result in arrest. The marker is to help you prepare, no one truly knows when police escalation will take a green level action up to red. Do not blame organizers if risks change mid-action.
Preparing for a Protest: see the “Tips for New Activists” graphic at the bottom of this document. Often, police aggression results in pepper spray and tear gas. Please try not to have exposed skin, the irritants burn and are difficult to wash off. Warm temperatures or not, keep your body safe and ready to take on the possible mess from police.
Dealing with Police: while there are likely to be de-escalators among the crowd, having a few tips in mind for police encounters is always helpful. Record encounters, notice tactics like kettling and live stream or post publicly when you see it happening.
An article about kettling for people at 101. Includes comments from Blake Strode, Exec. Director of ArchCity Defenders in St. Louis
Read thru this advice from @FrontlineMedics FB post
Protesting in a Pandemic
Mask up - keep yourself and fellow protesters safe. Wash reusable masks regularly.
Get Tested! - Even if you have been in one protest every two weeks, please get tested for coronavirus, you might be asymptomatic which puts your neighbors in just as much risk.
Be Serious about Hygiene - Shower when you get home. At LEAST change clothes as soon as possible, but y’all, if you can wash, wash please.. Clean your bathroom after use.
Wellness check - daily. Take your temperature daily. Slight cough? Sneezing? Beyond the possibility of spreading droplets or have symptoms that can tempt/require you to remove your mask in public, it is NEVER wise to go to protest when you have low physical energy.
Even allergy symptoms can be draining in high temperatures. ARE YOU JUST SLEEPY? You should not go, your presence will be a risk.
Household pairing - whether living single or with many, any person who has self isolated for two weeks can opt to pair with a friend/other household. If you have protest family that you want to spend your social and activism life with, you could attend protests as a group, stay together, and commit to the health and safety protocols listed above.
Self- Isolation after protests needs to be prioritized if it is possible. Remember that if you live with people who are risk medically, people who are elderly or very young, or people who have mental anxiety about health risks, you might not be able to protest in person and honor their needs as well.
Social Distancing at a Protest - It’s somewhat possible, but more difficult if you choose to march. Most protests begin with a rally. Demands, chants and purpose for protest are rehearsed. There’s time for greeting and people-gathering. When a protest moves, it is UNWISE to linger at the back unless you are trained in de-escalation. So, the safest distance from other people puts you at higher risk for police aggression. You are safest from police in the crowd, so if you need to distance, consider attending a rally or an event that holds a space.
We recommend three emergency contacts
If you are attending an event with a group, your group should have one person NOT attending, at home checking in on chats, who has this information for you:
Make sure people know whether you want your arrest publicized
Tell your contacts about the LOCAL bail fund and legal support info
Make sure you have an emergency number WRITTEN ON YOUR BODY in permanent marker on your body
Tell any contacts who have been asked to wait up for you when you arrive home safely.
Preparation for Arrest
DO NOT STRIVE TO BE ARRESTED. Sometimes direct actions are planned to involve arrest risk. During pandemic, this should NEVER be the case.
And sometimes arrest is unavoidable because police tend to always be escalated, always targeting and trying to pick us off, and we do not believe there is ANY safe way to engage them. So stay on guard. It is best to be prepared, but please do not use this information as an encouragement to try to get yourself arrested.
You really DO have the right to silence. Use it.
Expect harassment and learn about police tactics.
Expect interrogation and info-probing. DO NOT SET YOUR PHONE TO FACE ID.
Do not give police the passcode to your phone.
If you are mis-gendered and placed in population/holding that puts you at risk, raise hell. There are usually cameras, make a scene.
If you are being arrested and you have prepared for it (mentally as well), make sure you tell people if you want them to keep moving. Slowing down to watch a friend arrested **can** lead to others being arrested. Just because police suck - as established. So if you are ready for it, make sure someone in your group knows.
It is sometimes considered helpful for people to yell out that they are not suicidal / do not have a deathwish. This is in remembrance of Sandra Bland and the reasonable distrust that police care for your survival.
AGAIN - PLEASE NOTE - DO NOT STRIVE TO BE ARRESTED. Yes, you can be prepared for it, but we are truly at war and in war nobody tries to take fire. The info above is given out of consideration, but NO GOOD ORGANIZER will ask you to plan for arrest.
De-arresting is HIGHLY recommended, get your people FREE. But be prepared for police violence and make sure someone is filming. **let them know whether you want it to be Live Streamed or not** before you de-arrest a comrade. Learn about de-arrest here. And BE SURE TO PRACTICE. If at all possible, seek training for this and take precaution as you will certainly be at a health-risky proximity to police.
DO NOT GO ALONE
Know your rights!
Dealing with Whiteness
- Signal, Telegram and other text apps are far better than traditional messaging for planning or even loosely communicating about tactics and demands. Organizers always carry risk because being in any position of leadership means people need to know some background info about you, how they can get in touch etc.
NOTE: This section is overview. To get more organizing training, connect with MCU, Action St. Louis, Faith for Justice, or AROC (Anti-Racism Organizing Collective) for deep dive interactive events.