“The fight against fascism continues as protests against Trump and his policies take place here and abroad.”
The year 2017 is only a month old and already we have seen massive protests of Donald Trump’s administrative policies. The Women’s March, conducted both here and around the world, has been classified as the largest protest in American history as stated by a Univ. of Connecticut professor who has made public a document of the number of attendees at all protest sites. Airport protests across the country have given way to an emergency stay on Trump’s travel ban. However, despite the progression that organized resistance has made in the wake of the inauguration, many are wondering if protest will really do anything.
A common mantra among those who oppose protest of any kind is: “Protest won’t do anything, all it does is make people angry and violent.” Protest does not make people angry and violent: oppressors paint protestors as angry and violent because they do not want to recognize the validity of differing opinions. Almost every day, Donald Trump seems to pass another measure, bill or executive order which seeks to strip people within American borders of their rights strictly because they are not seen as his ideal American. Many theorize that this is the work of Mike Pence, Trump’s cabinet members or other outsider groups. But the fact remains that his signature is on each of these edicts. Ultimately, he is responsible. What are those affected supposed to do when the government that is meant to protect us now stands to hurt us? What are we to do when our voice in politics is being taken away from us little by little? Organization is our only option. Even if nothing changes, we cannot sit idly by without at least trying to make it change.
An approach that further dampens the voice of the oppressed is moderation. Since the start of the rise of protests against a fascist regime, there has been an increase in calls for moderating instead of “fighting.” The main goal of moderation is to maintain that both sides of an issue are affected negatively, therefore both sides’ struggles are valid. However, all this does is further the voice of the oppressors and silence any who dare disagree. Moderation allows groups like white supremacists to organize and continue to devalue minority Americans by stating that those they attack are “too mean.” If your beliefs are rooted in the delegitimization of someone’s humanity because they are not the majority, they are not “beliefs,” they are hatred and they are wrong. You cannot teach humanity to someone who knows what it is yet refuses to see it in anyone but themselves. Our protests are not against democracy, our protests are against a fascist regime who tells us we are not worthy of life because we are not the majority. Our lives matter more than pacifism in the name of “party purity.” Our lives are worth fighting for.
That being said, what should you do if you want to protest? What measures should you take in order to protect yourself while still making sure your voice is heard? Common measures are:
- Go in pairs or groups of people familiar to you (close friends, family, etc.) and stay in that group no matter what.
- Write important contact numbers somewhere on your body with a Sharpie, in case of emergency.
- Coordinate with an off-site contact and have an emergency plan if you aren’t in touch with them by a certain time.
- Cover your face with some kind of mask to protect your anonymity.
- Water will make pepper spray worse. If there is a risk of being attacked with pepper spray, use milk or liquid antacid. To that effect, do not wear contacts, wear goggles or an equivalent instead.
- If there is a risk of tear gas, take off all clothes affected when you get home and keep them in a sealed container for decontamination. Shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.
- Carry a first aid kit. This is meant to provide all things necessary to stabilize bleeding if a major injury should happen. Buy in bulk. Groups should buy things together, to be cost-effective.
- Beware of those attempting to get you to destroy property. Do not do anything you are uncomfortable with and do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Make sure all mobile devices are fully charged. Bring a power bank or mobile battery in case there is nowhere safe for you to charge them.
- Take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Protest is important but you can’t protest effectively if your mental or physical health is lacking. Self-care is an important measure to take before, during and after a protest.