How to Stay Safe During Protests

This article was originally published on November 8, 2020.

2020 has been a difficult year for the United States. The problems we faced in the past, such as racism, violence, and police brutality, have resurfaced in the land of the free today. Many of the citizens of the US feel that it is their responsibility to peacefully protest against these hateful and unethical actions. As the nation is going through the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important to take the necessary steps to prevent people from getting injured or sick during protests.

Even though people are protesting, there is still a pandemic going on. Due to the ongoing pandemic, it is necessary to practice social distancing. Since there is a lot of screaming and yelling going on, there is a higher chance of getting infected with COVID-19 from respiratory droplets. Therefore, it is recommended to wear a mask and stay at least 6 feet away from each other. Along with that, people shouldn’t touch their face while protesting, so the virus won’t get into their eyes, mouth, or nose. If a person is feeling sick after a protest, they should wait 5-6 days and then get a coronavirus test.

Even when citizens are protesting peacefully, police are still using harmful weapons to control them including rubber bullets and tear gas. Despite their name, these weapons can still cause deep wounds, blindness, and even death, according to the medical professionals who treat these victims. That is why protesters must take protective measures to stay safe during a protest.

Rubber bullets are just what they sound like, bullets made of rubber, used as a supposedly “safer” weapon for crowd control. But unfortunately, according to a study conducted by Physicians for Human Rights and the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations,

15% of the injuries from these bullets resulted in permanent disability and 3% resulted in death.

When people were hit in the eyes by the rubber bullets, 84.2% of these injuries caused blindness.

Meanwhile, tear gas was made in 1928 by U.S. scientists. It was used in the 1960s during the Vietnam War, and currently, it is being used to control crowds/protests. The main reason behind this is that tear gas targets a high amount of people, which causes the crowd/protest to break apart.

The active component in tear gas, 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, targets a receptor called TRPA1, which sends pain signals to the nervous system. When the canister explodes, the powder in the tear gas will stick to any moisture in the human body. This could be the tears in your eyes, the sweat and grease on your body, and the saliva and mucus surrounding your airways. It causes several respiratory problems, so the most at risk from tear gas are children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Because tear gas sticks to any moisture on the body, it is best not to wear makeup during protests.

When attending a protest, make sure to wear ballistic-rated safety glasses and goggles with an airtight seal. They protect your eyes from rubber bullets and tear gas. Wear helmets to protect your head and try to minimize the amount of skin showing to avoid injury. It would also be beneficial to wear athletic pads under your clothes to have an extra layer of protection against these deadly weapons. Along with that, bringing along an ID, writing “In Case of Emergency” contacts on index cards or your arm with a permanent marker, and using apps such as Signal or WhatsApp to speak with other people are all necessary in case you get arrested or hurt during a protest.

Overall, it is crucial to take precautions before attending protests, whether it involves wearing a mask or bringing protective equipment. During uncertain times like this, people’s voices need to be heard for changes to be made. This way, you can stay safe while making a difference in the world.