Preserving Your Rights During a Protest or Riot
Like many cities across the country from time to time, an important protest suddenly erupts into a riot and the usual appears: a wave of uploaded videos and photos from cell phones into countless social media arenas.
Unfortunately, many people don’t prepare for the chaos that happens at these violent encounters. Phones get destroyed, confiscated, lost, and in some cases tampered with so that evidence can never be used.
The following is a compilation of what you can do to minimize damage to your phone, protect yourself from injury, and preserve your own constitutional rights at a protest when the heat gets hot.
- THE NUMBER ONE RULE: when violence is at its highest, do everything you can to avoid having to look at your phone. It may sound obvious, but you wouldn’t want to get hit in the head with a police baton while trying to type an emergency SMS (“text message”). The least attention you have to pay to your phone when pepper spray, riot police weapons, and bodies are flying around, the better.
- BACK UP YOUR PHONE: prior to going to a riot scene or protest, make sure important information you rely on is stored in your computer or on a separate SIM card in case your phone is confiscated.
- REMOTE-LOCK FUNCTION: check to see if your phone has this. In case your cell is taken from you, you can send a special text message from any other phone that would immediately lock your phone from being openned.
- HAVE A BACK-UP: if you find yourself as the victom of police brutality or excessive force, chances are you will not have the strength to hold your phone up while you record your own beating. Thus, make sure you have a “buddy” with you to agree to record you if it happens. The same would go for you if he or she finds themselves victim to the violence.
- WEAR ARMOR: you don’t see people who ride motorcycles wearing t-shirts and shorts very often. If you are going to place yourself in a violent atmosphere where bones are broken and skin gets severely bruised and cut, make sure you have some kind of clothing to minimize your injuries.
- CHANGE OF CLOTHES & WET TOWELS: in case you are hit with riot gas or a pepperball, it’s a good idea to have wet towels to wipe off the abrasive fluids that can stick to your skin. Having a change of clothes also helps so that your body is not aggravated by the chemicals. Some protestors come fully equiped with gas masks and helmuts. But your typical protestor will be there for usually one of two things: Showing support for the cause and to potentially video-record any abuse they observe.
- KEEP THE PEACE–AS MUCH AS YOU CAN: when people’s anger are at their highest, it’s hard to keep one’s cool. It should be said however that your claims against the police could be jeopardized if another onlooker is video recording you as you react violently against them. Therefore, keep in mind the following rule: Be NOT the one to cast the first stone…but if it is cast on you, make sure your actions are only to block or defend yourself. What that means is that you must resist the urge to attack violently. Very rare instances allow you to use actual force against a law enforcement officer, and even in those situations you may potentially lose your rights to bring a claim against the police agency. It’s a tough balance. But keep in mind that you are placing yourself into the belly of the beast and you must consider your safety first. Once the battle gets escalated, riot police have the right to bring order (which means more violence from them).
- HAVE AN ESCAPE: what this means is that you must know your surroundings. If you are not from the area, you better learn which alley ways or corridors will be good routes for you to bolt out of if the situation gets too out of control. Very few people can predict how they will react when they panic. That’s why it’s a good idea to contemplate what your threshold is. If you and your “buddy” have a pre-arranged agreement on what point is the moment you should get out of there, you will minimize the risk of either of you being left behind in the violence.
As a final note, you should know that the spirit and growth of our great nation is built on the collective organization of people. We learn to expand our ideas and our willingness to work together when conflicts such as public protests spring up from time to time. We cannot forget how our nation was founded in the first place.
The Founding Fathers knew in their hearts that there was a better way for society to function. But they also used their senses in making sure that every possible option was used before war was the only choice. Many attempts were made to bargain with the old Kingdom before violence began to show itself on the toes of revolution. Therefore, make sure to follow in the noble footsteps of our nation’s history by bringing your own dignity to the table first. By showing up to a protest with only hateful and dark intentions, you may not only lose the fight that very day, but also the support of the communities who view your efforts from afar.