Starting a Successful Protest in Six Simple Steps

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Jack Alegre
Staff Writer

Did your social conscience just awaken? Do you want to vent your frustration towards the system and join forces with your sisters and brothers? Fret not my dear firebrand, your time is now.

A prominent student organizer who retroactively wished to remain anonymous due to security fears was able to help The Bottom Line distill the protest process into six simple steps.

Knowledge is power.

If society dislikes anything more than an agitator, it’s an uninformed agitator. That’s why, the student said, one of the first things you should do before even considering protesting is to start an information campaign. Your job is to not only be informed personally, but to inform the campus of the purpose of your protest.

“We try and get a petition going around,” they said, “so that we can let people know what kind of issues are going on around campus.” A petition is a convenient way of spreading awareness of the issues you feel important to you. 

Find your voice through failure.

It is important to spread information for reasons beyond raising awareness, they told me. Counterintuitively, it is better for methods such as a petition to fail

“If a petition with 2,000 signatures doesn’t get past Chancellor Yang, then you basically have the grounds to start a protest,” they said. Not only have you made people aware, but you have created a justification to move forward with your plans and onto the actual protest stage.

Keep it simple, students.

When managing a crowd of unruly students, it’s best to not set your sights too high. Due to the highly mobile and spontaneous nature of a protest, your message and demonstration has to be simple and to the point, which means you need to forego the pyrotechnics display. Events that drag on for too long will leave your protesters bored and demoralized. By keeping things relatively subdued you can also account for more contentious variables, such as managing protest opposition.

A safe protest is a successful one.

People at your event want to feel like they can express their views safely, without fear of recrimination. More often than not you will meet resistance to your protest, whether through counter movements or law enforcement officials. The student recommends telling the police as little as possible, as doing otherwise allows them to counter-strategize and crush your protest before it even begins. That’s not to say that you should feel free play it reckless around the police; since the longest arm is the law, you might want to keep law enforcement at more than arm’s length away.

“We tell them to keep watch in the distance,” they noted.

Additionally, in order to defuse tense situations during protests, the student says a good strategy is to employ the use of “peacekeepers.” More nuanced than a bouncer, a peacekeeper’s job is to be a smooth operator that helps calm situations down through controlled communication between protestors and police.

Don’t be the leader.

While there is a myriad of noble causes across all spectrums that you may be itching to fight for, you have to be judicious in who you approach. They noted that many organizations that you may wish to join in solidarity with in fact already have advanced networks of support and would more likely see attempts to campaign on their behalf as patronizing.

Take Some Time.

As with all things, make sure you actually have time to plan it all out. A protest such as the anti-Inauguration day protest can take up to two weeks of planning, the student said. Good planning and time management in the days or even hours leading up to the protest is important in coordinating routes. Much like people dislike ignorant protesters, a rushed job will look sloppy and unprofessional.

Staging a protest is a long and exhaustive protest. Anyone can get up on a soapbox by themselves and complain. However, gathering several people, let alone several hundred, to march out and speak as one is a daunting task that few could ever hope to pull off. Luckily, by breaking down the aspects of what makes a protest effective, you can take the best techniques for staying active and on your feet so that you too may be ready when the time comes.


UPDATE

Feb. 15, 11:03 p.m.: A student previously named in this story requested anonymity due to security reasons.

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