Protesting as White Accomplices
Accountability to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Organizers/Protesters
- Do research on who is organizing the action/protest.
- Is it being organized by Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) organizations/individuals?
- If this is not that case, are white organizers accountable to BIPOC organizations/individuals? How do they react when asked what their accountability process looks like?
- Recognize that in times of crisis, BIPOC organizations are focused on doing what they can to support their communities AND many are grassroots organizations run largely by volunteers; they are not accountable to white people who often only show up during times of crisis. If they don’t respond or don’t respond right away if you reach out, respect that.
- Internally assess why you are protesting, and check in with yourself about where/whether you fit into any of the categories of white allies listed in “Accomplices, Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex”.
- If you believe that your liberation is tied to the liberation of BIPOC, show up. If it is for any other reason, stay home.
- Avoid centering yourself both emotionally and physically. Protests around racist police brutality, the carceral state, and state sanctioned murder are not about white people.
- Avoid performative acts that reenact Black death such as laying on the ground saying “I can’t breathe,” or using chats that white people rarely experience like “Hand up, Don’t shoot.”
- Stay to the perimeters of marchers to not only decenter yourself but also act as a barrier for BIPOC protesters.
- Do not tone police the response/actions of BIPOC organizers or protesters by condemning non peaceful approaches to protests.
- Hold other white protesters accountable and be accountable to BIPOC folks who are present.
- Prioritize protests that are not permitted/do not coordinate with cops. Cops drastically reduce the safety of BIPOC protesters
- Follow the directions and vision of BIPOC organizers.
- If the action/protest is deemed “non-confrontational” by the organizers, avoid antagonizing counter protesters and cops. Be prepared also to engage fellow white protesters who may not honor such guidelines.
- If confrontation does happen, be prepared to physically put your body between antagonizers and BIPOC in order to minimize the risk to BIPOC.
- Follow the route determined by BIPOC organizers. If white folks want to take the protest in a direction that does not follow the vision of the organizers, avoid following suit.
Physical Safety During Protest Actions
- Be medicated, hydrated, fed, sunscreened, with a charged cell phone, ID, and a debit or credit card.
- Use the restroom before you leave; public restrooms can be hard to come by depending on the action.
- Wear clothes and shoes in which you can move easily.
- Carry a hands-free bag with proper equipment.
- Water & snacks that will keep blood sugars stable
- Airtight goggles with nose covering to be used if chemicals are released
- Fully charged phone and portable phone charger
- Change of clothes or jacket to cover up clothing that might be associated with the protest
- Pets that need to be taken care of? Kids who need to be picked up?
- Do they have access to funds if you need to be bailed out?
- Always have a phone number written on your body of a person OFFSITE who you can contact if you are detained.
- Make sure the number is not immediately visible but that you can access it if needed and that it is written in ink (Sharpie, etc.) that will not easily smear or wipe off.
White Accomplice Asked to Serve in Marshaling/Security Roles
- If you are asked to be in this role, this should become your priority and you should only accept if you have previous experience/training as a marshal or can be fully committed to the role for the duration of the action.
- Ask BIPOC organizers what their vision looks like and make sure that you follow that entire action. If there is planned escalation (planned arrests, etc.) find out how organizers would like you to handle that.
- Assume that you are being surveilled at all times. For more on security culture and why it is so important, read “Security Culture for Activists” by the Ruckus Society.
- Keep verbal discussions to a minimum.
- Be cautious when using a person's real name.
- Use encrypted apps for communication (Signal, WhatsApp, Etc.).
- Delete all in-event conversations as soon as you are OFFSITE and all members of your group are confirmed to be home safe.
- If organizers have designated police liaison, media contact, medics, security, etc. find them and exchange numbers (at minimum, ideally, a lead marshal should have other leads’ info)
- Follow directions from organizers on how to visually designate yourself as a marshal (i.e. safety vests, etc.)
- Hold white participants accountable to the vision of the organizers.
- Do not tone police or physically direct BIPOC to do something else unless it is specifically for security reasons that could endanger their physical well being.
- Prioritize BIPOC organizers and protesters and be prepared to act as a barrier from police and anti-protesters.
- If you are aware/are made aware of particularly vulnerable BIPOC participating (undocumented immigrants with deportation orders, people with outstanding warrants), check in w/organizers if there is a plan to extract them if needed.
- Find out the route before starting a march and stick to it. If adjustments need to happen, find out from organizers what those will look like.
- Find out if the route is accessible to people with disabilities and if alternative routes are available to those who may need them.
- Pay attention to folks with limited mobility and designate marshals to support them if needed along the route.
- Keep your head on a swivel and pay attention to all your surroundings, especially people who look like outliers and police.
- Do NOT run. Running induces panic. Tell people to walk when you see them running.
- Use your phone to only communicate with others in security roles or to document things happening. Do NOT use it for socializing, take personal photos, etc. This distracts you from your role of providing security.
- Learn the basics of how to traffic “relay” if you are asked to support with traffic.
- Face traffic. Don’t turn your back to traffic.
- Try to keep blockades tight so that cars can not squeeze through. This means you will need other bodies for support (at least one marshal in each lane, if possible).
- Spread your arms to take up more space.
- Wear something that allows you to be easily seen (vest, arm band, etc.)
- As another marshal comes up to the spot in the road where you are standing, “tap” them in as if a relay race and continue on with the crowd. Continue doing this until the crowd has made it through traffic.
- Depending on the route, marshals on bikes can be a very welcome addition to traffic control.
BIPOC Organizations in Denver/Colorado To Follow
A Short & Incomplete List of BIPOC People Subject To State Violence (Incarceration, Detention, Extrajudicial Killing/Assault) in Denver & Colorado
Putting our money where our mouth is
- This resource is a starting point for supporting local and national Black organizations financially. Check out https://bit.ly/37aQWAM.
**This document is intended as a starting point and is in no way comprehensive**