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How to Support Protesters When You Can’t Be There

How to Support Protesters When You Can’t Be There

Ever been watching when the Bat Signal goes up, but felt powerless to take action? Maybe you can’t join the march on the Capitol because of previous obligations, or you can’t participate in a peaceful occupation because you’ll lose your job, or possibly you live across the country and you can’t afford to travel. There are lots of reasons you might have trouble joining in a protest, but there’s a way to show up without showing up, because protesters need your support on the ground and you don’t have to be there to offer it. Here are some ways you can help out.

The number one tip is that you should always check with organizers to see what they’re requesting, because needs vary depending on the protest. Verify any reported information; if you see Tweets circulating about a given need, for example, track those down to a source like a website that’s being run by protest organizers. Be aware that multiple groups can be working at the same protest, and research any organization you send money or in-kind donations to in order to ensure they’ll be directed to the protesters.

Food

Protesters spend long, hot, tiring days out on the streets, in government buildings, and elsewhere. Consider having food delivered to a central point, or coordinate with a local restaurant to feed protesters who walk in. Organizers often provide information about businesses working with protesters to make it easier for people who live outside the area to phone in donations. You can also work with grocery stores to get raw bulk ingredients delivered, providing an opportunity for people to cook for themselves. Think simple and nonperishable: peanut butter and bread, for instance, not cheese and meat.

Groups like Food Not Bombs often show up at protests to cook, and can always use your support.

A Place to Stay

If a protest will be extended, people may appreciate help paying for a block of rooms at a local motel or hotel, or assistance with camping fees and other options for staying overnight somewhere near the protest location. Rooms can also be useful for people who need to take breaks from the event to organize or recharge — and as a temporary command center for people who want to coordinate communications and transmit news about events to the outside world.

Legal Support

Protesters often work with legal observers, volunteers with legal training (including attorneys and paralegals) who act as neutral observers in interactions with police and other officials. That said, legal observers don’t provide counsel in many cases. If mass arrests start occurring or certain protesters are singled out for attention, consider determining if there’s a legal fund and finding out how to donate to provide assistance to people who may need help getting out of jail.

Clothes and Inclement Weather Gear

For those going the long haul, a fresh influx of clothes can be helpful, and so can donations of coats, blankets, rain jackets, umbrellas and other gear designed for rough weather. Protesting can be an extremely wet, cold, unpleasant activity and attrition rates tend to rise when protesters are dealing with bad weather, because many can’t or won’t stay out in such conditions. With better gear, it’s easier to endure freezing temperatures and torrential rain. Protest organizers can keep a library of items and donate unused or gently used goods to homeless shelters and food banks later.

Personal Care Items

Protesters who weren’t expecting a long stay might be caught unaware. They can use first aid kits, menstrual supplies and other personal care items to make their time on the front lines more comfortable. All unused goods can again be donated to homeless shelters and food banks to ensure they don’t go to waste.

Transit Assistance

While you may not be able to go, others might have the time and ability to do so, but trouble paying for it. A travel assistance fund can help people get to a protest on buses, trains and other public transit. A large enough fund could help charter a bus, while donations of air miles might be useful for those traveling for longer distances — or for getting honored guest speakers to attend rallies.

Expertise

Sure, you can’t attend the protest, but maybe you have something else to offer: your skills. Have space on a server? Are you good at graphic design? Skilled at crowd control? Contact organizers to let them know you’re available and willing to provide services or act as a consultant for strategic planning.

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Photo credit: Jason Scragz.

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56 comments

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10:23PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Support for the protesters is important. The need for medical supplies and other needs , water, food, blankets etc. helps after the long days protesting. It can be scary standing in front of weapons and gas canisters. It makes you tired after the days stress.
So some comfort, and body needs that are met, are a wonderful way to say thank you.

1:01PM PDT on Jun 9, 2014

Very good ideas for those who can't attend. Thanks.

7:36AM PDT on Jun 3, 2014

If you are able to do so, try offering your services as a translator or as an interpreter to an organization that supports a cause you like. It will help people of different languages to coordinate their actions, and maybe incorporate in the movement people who would otherwise be left out. Even if you can't attend meetings and protests, you are a part of the cause, and you are helping people coming together.

8:33PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Protesting is not as effective as money raising for political lobbyists or candidates. Get involved in local. learn how the tax breaks are given for business and corporations in the hope of gaining jobs(taxes) in part to make up for the giveaways.
Protests are expensive. But to bring change money is needed. Instead of wasting it support politicians and good well thought out small causes where victory is possible but look way into the future and seek out people from differing ideas and values.

8:34AM PDT on May 30, 2014

Thanks

11:18PM PDT on May 29, 2014

Great info from one who does protest often

4:05PM PDT on May 29, 2014

Good article, thanks

2:31PM PDT on May 29, 2014

very good ideas

12:19PM PDT on May 29, 2014

I would have to find a protest and not be there first

5:23AM PDT on May 29, 2014

Brian S, while I can't say that I like or even approve of the WBC, they have learned to make larger and larger as well as sturdier and sturdier signs. It sounds like these are skills you have. Contact a group and ask if they want sturdy (or lightweight or whatever specs they need) signs made, and FANAFI (find a need and fill it)

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