Jessica Stein

Now that Donald Trump has been elected president, it's open season on American democracy. You might have been to a few protests already, but now is a good time to familiarize yourself with the best practices for staying safe, informed, and on message at a protest. We asked three civil-rights experts for their tips.


Jessica Stein

1. Communicate

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Make sure people know what you are doing and where you're going to be.

"It's always a good idea to leave some bread crumbs so, if something does occur, the people who care about you know where to start," said Monisha Harrell, chair of Equal Rights Washington.


2. Be Prepared

Jessica Stein

Bring your ID card and wear comfortable clothing and shoes that can survive bad weather.

"If you're caught in a sit-in or walking outside for long periods of time, you want to be able to keep the movement as long as you can," said Harrell. "I've definitely seen a strategy of those in opposition to the protests thinking, 'Well, they're not prepared, so let's wait them out.'"

Neil Fox, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, recommends having necessary medications with you, in their original container. (Fox has previously represented Stranger writers.) "You don't want to be somewhere without access to your meds," he said.


3. Bring Your Cell Phone

Jessica Stein

"If you should see any police action that violates someone's rights, record it!" said Doug Honig, communications manager for the ACLU of Washington. "You have an absolute right to record what police officers are doing in public as long as you're not physically interfering with their duties."

You can include these phone videos in a report to the Office of Professional Accountability, which investigates complaints against the Seattle Police Department.


4. Know Who You're Going to Call

Have a plan for who you're going to contact if you're arrested. If you get booked into jail, your cell phone will be confiscated, said Fox. "I would have a Sharpie with me and would write [important phone numbers] on my forearm," he said.

One number to write down: the National Lawyers Guild hotline, 422-4663.


5. Know Why You're Protesting

Make sure you can clearly articulate your message if a reporter asks.

"Know what you want other people to take away from your protest," said Harrell. "Protests are a way to get your point across and have a thoughtful dialogue and elevate important issues."


6. Know Your Rights

Fox cautions protesters not to volunteer any information to the police.

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"Police need a warrant to make you unlock your phone," Fox said. "There's no such thing as an off-record conversation. There may be people who don't want to give their identities because of [undocumented] status, but don't lie—that's a felony. You have a right to remain silent, and you should not volunteer your immigration status."

If you have been repeatedly misgendered by an arresting police officer, despite correcting them, this is "an aggressive, violent action" that should be reported to the Office of Professional Accountability, said Harrell.

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