The fight for a better world is a dangerous one. We cannot guarantee our safety in this moment. But, there is time-honored activist knowledge that can help us stay safer: know how to protest, do your research, and evaluate new information carefully.
There is a lot of conflicting information about how to stay safe while protesting. To support our many students and colleagues who are out in the streets or supporting street demonstrations, the librarians of Seattle Central College have pulled together the best evidence we could find about dealing with the safety hazards of direct political action. There is a distinct lack of research on many of these subjects, so we humbly present this as best practices. If you have resources that should be included or replaced please contact us and let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image used with permission from Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County
The Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County Protestor Safety Guide is an excellent resource that includes important information about protesting during COVID. Below are some of their recommendations, combined with recommendations from infectious disease experts at the University of Washington :
There is a lot of conflicting advice about how to deal with the effects of tear gas and pepper spray in the moment. Based on the best evidence we could find, rinsing the eyes, from the tear ducts outward with clean water or sterile saline solution for 10 minutes is the evidence-based approach. From a 2020 article on PubMed:
The face should be wiped to remove any particles before being washed. Copious water irrigation with soap should be used to remove contaminants. If there is significant skin breakdown, saline irrigation is the best choice
for more information, see the Black Lives Matter Protest Safety Guide section on tear gas and pepper spray
As Adrienne Marie Brown says in her post Caring For Ourselves as Political Warfare,
protests and actions can give us the highest highs and the most gut wrenching terrors or deepest disappointments. in the midst of wildly inspiring actions and protests happening worldwide, there is increasing racialized violence and the urgency of trying to grab this moment, the feeling of pressing up against our edges.
To stay in the fight, we have to take good care of ourselves and those around us. Here are some resources for politicized self care to keep us all in the fight.
More advice on what to wear and bring from the Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County Protestor Safety Guide:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Black Lives Matter Seattle-King County have excellent advice on how to think about phone safety at a protest. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have provided user data to companies that market to law enforcement. EFF says that through cell phones, "those engaging in protest may be subject to search or arrest, or have their movements and associations mapped. They could become targets of surveillance and repression."
This is a personal question to ask yourself, since a phone is often a key to getting help, getting around, and maintaining your safety plan. Your phone can also be confiscated by the police, and used to track your movements.
Here's another guide to quick measures you can take to make your data more secure at a protest.