This week we have seen thousands of protesters swarm the streets of London to support the Black Lives Matter movement and demand justice for George Floyd, who was brutally murdered last week by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.
His death sparked global protests, some of which escalated in the US. On Monday, President Trump gave an order to utilise tear gas and flash grenades outside the White House against a group of individuals peacefully protesting systematic racism in America.
With protests continuing to take place across the globe and in the UK, it’s important to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, so anyone who plans to join a protest needs to come prepared.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted an infographic to her Instagram page outlining what people should and shouldn’t wear and bring while protesting. While some tips might sound obvious, others aren’t quite so clear cut. This week’s protests in the UK have been peaceful but it’s important to be prepared for anything, including the risk of coronavirus. Moreover, being arrested while protesting is not unlikely, which means it’s important to bring your ID, one to two days’ worth of any daily medication, and emergency numbers.
It’s also important to wear the right clothing so you’re not easily identifiable and protected against the elements. If you’re heading to any of the many protests scheduled across the UK this weekend – on Saturday 6th June at the Grey’s Monument in Newcastle Upon Tyne at 1pm, Saturday 6th June at London’s Parliament Square at 1pm, and Sunday 7th June at the US embassy in London at 2pm – use our encompassing guide to dressing and preparing for a protest.
What To Wear
Per AOC’s post, when protesting you should wear nondescript clothing in solid colours, preferably in layers too. Other resources suggest packing a fresh pair of clothes and storing it in a plastic bag.
According to Amnesty International, protesters should also wear comfortable shoes that will both protect your feet and are easy to run in, if necessary, as well as shatter-proof eye protection like sunglasses or swimming goggles. In addition, wear a hat that will provide protection from the sun.
If you’re bringing a bag, the best option is one that’s see-through — similar to one you would bring to a sporting event — and worn on your back, like a backpack or a drawstring bag. It should be comfortable to carry and lightweight.
Due to the still-very-dangerous threat of COVID-19, protesters should also wear a protective face mask and gloves at all times during protests. Dr Henrique Pacheco, GP and medical advisor at Doctor4u, says you should wear a mask at all times.
“If you are able to get yourself a properly fitted mask with a filter that is tight to the face, this is ideal. If not, a normal material mask or a scarf tied around the face should work. Ensure the mask or scarf fits snug around your face; you will be tempted to pull it down to join in with chants and shouting, however, keep the mask on at all times if you can.”
Cover up any visible, identifying tattoos with clothing; write down your emergency contacts somewhere on your person; and tie your hair up.
What Not To Wear
Just as important as what you should wear and bring is what you shouldn’t. According to AOC’s post, that includes jewellery, anything that you wouldn’t want to be arrested with including drugs or weapons. As for your mobile phone, you might want to leave it at home, unless you’re going to first turn off Face/Touch ID, go on airplane mode and disable your data.
Amnesty International suggests avoiding wearing anything that’s loose and could easily be grabbed.
Other Items To Bring
Hydration is key, especially if you plan to be protesting for a long period of time and in direct sunlight. Bring extra water with you, preferably in a squirt bottle. Also, pack healthy and energising food like an energy bar or fruit.
Dr Pacheco includes other items to pack that should help you stay protected against coronavirus. He says: “Bring hand sanitiser with you to the protests to ensure that you can keep your hands as clean as possible at all times as chances are you will be rubbing up close to others and could touch them – if you then bring your hands to your face, virus particles could potentially enter your respiratory system through a facial orifice. I would also advise wearing gloves to keep hands free from any possible transmission.”
Amnesty International also encourages you to wear a wristwatch, take one or two days’ worth of prescription medications, extra cash, and menstrual pads for women – if you’re arrested, you might not be allowed or be given the chance to change your tampon. You should also take a form of ID and emergency contact information.
Lastly, when you’re outside try and socially distance as much as possible. Dr Pacheco recommends sticking to the outer areas and sidelines to ensure that you are not close to anyone. “If you can, participate from your flat or car window. Avoid sharing food, beverages or sign-sharing or anything else unless it’s an absolute emergency.”
He adds: “People will most likely forget that we are still very much in the midst of a pandemic while protesting. However it’s imperative that we remain vigilant and keep in mind at all times to stay safe and aware that COVID-19 is still out there.”
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