Posted 10 years ago on April 30, 2012, 9:56 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
This May Day, hundreds of thousands of workers, immigrants, students, retirees, and unemployed people across the U.S. and around world will take to the streets, many for the first time. (If you are in NYC, check here for a schedule for the full day!) For folks new to protest (and of course, everyone else) we've thrown together a last-minute May Day Checklist:
What To Bring
(1) An affinity group: An affinity group is a group of people you know and trust. Before going to the demo, bring together a group of 2 or more friends and discuss your plans for the day, the tactics you plan on using, how comfortable you are risking arrest, etc. Everyone should have an affinity group, even if its just casual or informal. Once at the march, stick together and try to leave together. If someone has to leave early, make sure they do it safely. Make sure you have each other's phone numbers. It might be a good idea to pair together more experienced protesters with newers folks. Most importantly, look out for each other.
(2) Footwear: Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to run in and won't give you blisters. If possible, wear water-proof shoes. (There is a chance of showers tomorrow in NYC.) Don't wear open-toe shoes.
(3) Band-aids: Your comfortable shoes may not be so comfortable after a day of marching, so bring band-aids in case of blisters.
(4) Water: Seriously. Lots and lots of water.
(5) Snacks: Especially nonperishable food like dried fruit, energy bars, nuts, and things that are easy to eat on-the-move.
(6) Backpack: Carry your stuff in a backpack. It´s easier to carry than a purse, especially if you need to run to catch up with a march. Also, pack light. Don´t bring unnecessary or heavy things, especially if you plan on being out all day.
(7) Multiple layers of clothes: Anticipate changes in weather. According to Weather Underground, the high in NYC for tomorrow is 72F and the low is 52F with a chance of showers.
(8) Cell phones and cameras: Cell phones are useful for communicating with others on the ground to get information and stay safe. You can also use video and cameras to document police brutality. You have a legal right to document police behavior and it is usually safe. However, be aware that police (especially the NYPD) have a documented history of targeting grassroots journalists with violence or arrest. (See here for more on your rights as a photographer.) If you do try to document police abuse, make sure you write down or photograph the officer's badge number. Also be aware that there may be disruptions of service in heavily-clogged, high-traffic areas like lower Manhattan. (On #N17, the largest OWS action in NYC to date, many cell phones mysteriously stopped working.) Also, bring extra batteries and memory!
(9) Maps: Try to be familiar with the area before you go. Bring a map (on your phone or in print) with you and be aware of your surroundings.
(10) Rain gear: It might be a good idea to bring a poncho. Garbage bags also work. Keep in mind some police may perceive umbrellas as a threat. Bring extras of everything, kept dry in your backpack.
(11) Your own sign or banner: If you have a catchy slogan, bust out a sharper and some cardboard and tell the world! Write what makes you indignant; or, write something about the world you'd rather live in. Write why you´re on strike, or why you support #OWS, labor, students, immigrants, etc. Here are some common slogans: ¨Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out,¨ ¨We Are The 99%,¨ ¨Occupy Everywhere,¨ ¨We Are Unstoppable - Another World Is Possible.¨
(12) Know how to identify legal observers: Observers from the National Lawyers Guild will be on the ground throughout the day. You can identify them by their bright green hats. If you have important information for them (for example, one of your friends just got arrested) let them know. Don´t distract them otherwise. To report arrests on May Day in NYC, call the NLG at 212-679-6018. To help, text OWS-JS to 774-254-4697.
(13) Know how to Mic Check: One easy way to convey information to large groups of people is by using the People's Mic. One person (or a few people) first yell ¨Mic Check!¨ Everyone who hears them responds by echoing ¨Mic Check!¨ After that, one person says a few words and pauses to let the crowd repeat those words. If you hear someone mic check, let them know by repeating too; that way, the people around you can also listen. However, if you disagree with what someone is saying, you don't have to repeat it. This is a useful way to make spontaneous, democratic decisions. However, you should also be aware that false or misleading information can sometimes spread quickly this way, so don't assume something is true just because it was said over the People's Mic. (Hint: If you hear people chanting ¨Shame!¨ or ¨The whole world is watching!¨ it often means that police brutality and/or arrests are happening nearby. If you're trying to avoid arrest, go the other way. Or, if you want to help or document, head over!)
(14) Smart phones: If you have one, install free aps like Twitter and Livestream so you can keep up on what´s going on elsewhere. There might be something important happening just a block away, but impossible to see. The best way to get up-to-the-minute information is by following Twitter accounts. Here are a few: #M1NYC | #M1GS | #GeneralStrike | #MayDay | @OWSMayDay | @OccupyGenStrk | @StrikeEverywher | @OccupyGenStrike. However, as with Mic Checks, be aware that information on Twitter might not be 100% accurate. You may also want to check out this Legal Observer ap. May Day Radio NYC also has a free ap here
(15) Know your rights: The ACLU has some good basic info on your legal right to protest here. If you are a transgender or gender non-conforming, check out this helpful document for trans people participating in direct actions. If you are an active duty Service Member, note that your rights are different. (See below for some more helpful information if you are worried about being arrested.)
(16) Drums, whistles, noisemakers, giant puppets: They're fun!
(17) WHAT NOT TO BRING: Illegal drugs, weapons, your address book, anything that could be potentially incriminating (including pictures on your cell phone).
If You Are Risking Arrest
There will be many ways to participate in tomorrow´s activities without risking arrest. Make sure to stay within the permitted areas and avoid police. However, if you are planning on engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience that may put you at a higher risk of encountering police, here are some suggestions to bare in mind. Hopefully, if all goes well and the police behave, much of this will not be necessary!
(1) Everything above.
(2) Appropriate clothes: Wear clothes that are protective and durable, light weight, and allow for great mobility. Look for something that is tight fitting while covering the entire body (to protect against chemical weapons). NO earrings, piercings, necklaces, ties, or anything that can be grabbed.
(3) Emergency numbers: Although having a written-down back-up is also helpful, important numbers like the National Lawyers Guild hotlines or members of your affinity group should be written on your body with permanent ink. If you are arrested, your belongings may be confiscated or lost. You also can't count on your phone, which could get broken or taken away. To report arrests on May Day in NYC, call the NLG at 212-679-6018.
(4) Prepare for pepper-spray: Don't wear contact lenses or eye makeup -- if pepper pray or tear gas gets in your eyes, it can make a bad situation much worse. If you get pepper-sprayed, don´t rub your eyes! Cry for help, thoroughly rinse your eyes with water, and alert a street medic. Try not to panic; the burning will pass.
(5) Peace shields: To protect against batons and other blunt weapons used by police, consider carrying a light-weight shield. However, be aware that some police percieve this as a challenge and may target you. (To re-inforce that a shield is a nonviolent defense strategy, some Occupiers have painted peace signs on their shields. Police officials, however, sometimes don't get the message.) Other useful defenses against blunt weapon attacks include helmets and hard banners. Also, everyone should be aware that militarized police will be patrolling some major cities on May 1st with less-lethal projectile weapons such as ¨beanbag¨ rounds and/or rubber bullets.
(6) Wear unidentifiable, all-black clothing: If everyone is wearing the same thing, it is harder for police to single out people and accuse them of bogus charges. Even if you are arrested for something you did not do, and the police cannot prove it was you because they cannot distinguish between protesters, your charges are much more likely to be dropped. However, it is a good idea to wear casual clothes underneath your all-black clothes so you can change later. After the protest or your affinity group disperses, police sometimes profile people who ¨look like protesters.¨
(7) Pen and paper: You might need to document something, so bring something to write with in case you lose your phone.
(8) First aid kits: Although there will be trained street medics on hand (in many cities, they are identifiable by red arm-bands), it is also a good idea to have at minimum one first-aid kit per affinity group. A basic medical kit should include: water, gauze, some pain/fever/swelling reliever, anti-bacterials, maxi pads, extra cloth, etc.
(9) A solidarity plan: . You may want to identify those at lower risk of arrest or abuse (white, US citizen, non-LGBTQ, etc) to take more visible or high-risk roles, and to surround those who may be at higher risk to form a buffer and prevent them from being arrested or separated from the group during the action.
(10) Some quarters: You might need them to make calls from jail! Stuff them in your socks to decrease the risk of having them lost or confiscated.
(11) Tear-gas defense: Although we do not know whether tear-gas will be used, it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Police, including the NYPD, have a history of using tear-gas in congested downtown areas. (The NYPD, at least, are unlikely to use pepper-spray again due to a recent lawsuit from by-standers who were hit with tear-gas.) However, if this happens, you will want to have sealed goggles or a gas-mask. Rags or handkerchiefs soaked in vinegar can help one breathe if you are surrounded by a tear gas cloud. It is also advisable to have a mask, keffiyeh, or scarf to cover your mouth. Avoid cotton clothes, which soak up tear-gas and pepper spray; polyester, nylon, or wool are better. Unless you are properly trained and wearing welder´s gloves, STAY AWAY from gas canisters, which can be extremely hot. Also, do not attempt to handle flash-bang grenades or other projectiles used by police.
(12) Identification: In New York and many other states, police are allowed to ¨demand¨ identification. If you don't want to get arrested or be held in jail for an extended period of time (especially if you have health needs or other reasons that make longer stays in jail dangerous), it's better to carry an ID with you if you can. However, if you do not bring ID and refuse to give your name, you will usually be taken into custody until the police can identify you. This is a common tactic of jail solidarity (especially during mass arrests) because it clogs up the system, making it harder for them to prosecute protesters who have been arrested.
(13) What to do if you are arrested: You can be charged with resisting arrest if you attempt to escape or stop an officer from detaining yourself or another person. You may even be charged with assaulting an officer just for resisting. If you do not wish to cooperate with your arrest without actively resisting, the best thing to do is remain passive and allow your body to go limp. (At least in NYC, cops will sometimes charge you with resisting arrest for going limp, but it is almost always dropped by the court.) As soon as possible make sure someone from your affinity group and/or the NLG know that you have been arrested. Do not say anything without first speaking to a lawyer, no matter what police may tell you. (Cops are allowed to lie to you.) You will be transported, booked, and placed in a cell until you are either charged or released -- usually within a day. OWS has a bail-fund to help low-income protesters who need bail money. (Donate if you can!)
(14) What to do if your comrade is arrested: Alert the NLG (in NYC: 212-679-6018) and make sure they have the arrested comrade´s legal name, birth date, any medications or health conditions, and an emergency contact. Find out where they are being taken, what they are being charged with, and if possible, the names and badge numbers of the arresting officers. Document as much as possible about the situation leading up to the arrest. If they have special medical needs or are trans/gender-nonconforming, be sure to let the NLG know. Then, wait outside the jail -- it´s nice to see friendly faces with food as soon as you´re released!
More on arrests, Via the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and National Center for Transgender Equality:
If you are an immigrant:
Any arrests may affect your immigration status. If you are undocumented, an arrest could put you on the radar, and cause removal proceedings to be initiated against you. Immigration officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often collaborate with local law enforcement and correctional agencies. If you are currently required to report to immigration officials, you may not be able to do so if you are arrested or detained. If your only identification is from another country and you do not have a visa, you may be reported to ICE even if you are a naturalized U.S. citizen. Weigh the risks of bringing ID with the possibility of being profiled and having ID confiscated. If arrested, you do not have to answer questions about your immigration status or history.
If you have past arrests:
You may be more vulnerable to being held by police or denied bail after arrest. Even if you only have violations or nonfelon convictions, the police can access your arrest history and will use it against you if they can.
If you are staying in a shelter or supportive housing program:
If you are staying in a shelter and you have a curfew or have to report to your program regularly, make sure you plan ahead so you don’t miss important check-ins or lose your bed. If you live in public housing, an arrest may also affect your eligibility for your housing program or the eligibility of anyone who you live with.
If you have critical medical or disability-related needs:
Make sure you have canes and braces and any critical medical supplies, medications or prescriptions with you at all times. If you have people or animals that you use for support and are arrested, make sure the police are aware.
However, the police cannot always be trusted to support your needs and it is important to develop a safety plan in case of arrest.
On Police Tactics
In the NYPD, higher-ranking officials are identifiable by their white shirts. They have a reputation for being some of the most brutal of all cops. They also give the orders. Here is a helpful analysis of common police tactics found on the internet:
Basic Police Choreography
They will try to disperse crowds using baton line charges, horse charges, vehicles, gases and rubber/wooden bullets. The dance steps will include one or more of the following:
1) Cops in lines will surround you.
2) Either from the middle or one side, cop lines will force everyone onto the sidewalk trying to create "spectators" and "actors" out of the crowd.
3) Baton/horse/gas attacks to lower morale.
4) Loud speaker, concussion grenades, or bright lights (if at night) to disorient the crowd.
5) Line charges will slowly push the crowd down the street to where they want you (rush of cops - fall back - strengthen line - repeat).
- Don't stand and watch them. Keep moving.
- Don't look like you'll let them anywhere near you.
- Spot gaps in the crowd and fill them. Stick together!
- Figure out where they want to go and get there first.
- Get long tarp banners to the front to stop them from advancing or breaking the crowd.
- Protect your escape routes by standing in front of them.
- Get those people who are pushed into "spectators¨ back into the crowd and moving around.
The police will often want to isolate and arrest individuals out of a crowd. Groups of cops will surround a person, and half of them will arrest while half will stand in front of them and hit anyone who gets in their way. Once they have the person, they will be taken away behind police lines.
1) Keep the crowd moving together.
2) Spot the squad forming and approaching.
3) If their is a target person, get him/her the hell out of there!
4) Link arms in an impenetrable wall in the squad's path.
5) Surround the squad once in the crowd to intimidate them.
6) If you do get grabbed and pressure pointed, keep you head and arms moving. Don't fight them if you can help it or you might be faced with assault charges too. Bear in mind that the de-arrestor may end up with heavier charges than the original arrestee if caught.