By Shaquiera Keara

As protests against various injustices are on the rise in Canada and around the globe, we thought it was important to take a moment to talk about how our community can protest safely in a time of growing police aggression towards protesters. So, prepare your signs, your banners, and whatever you use to make some noise, but make sure you leave room for some essentials that will come in handy if things get tricky. Here are 10 first aid and safety tips everyone should know.

Plan ahead.                                                                                                                                                                                                Always have a basic idea of where you are going, who you’re going with and what you are going to do. It can also be helpful to do some research on the route you will be taking if the demonstration you are attending is a march or rally.

Bring a buddy and have an off-site safety plan.                                                                                                                          Attend protests with friends and do not get separated. While at the protest avoid leaving the crowd and watch out for police snatch squads. Ensure that you and your friends agree on a meeting place near the demonstration where everyone can meet should you get separated. We also recommend checking in with someone who is not attending the demonstration and plan what they should do if they haven’t heard from you by a specific time.

Phone Security.                                                                                                                                                                                          Police have been known to use stingrays and drones to act as cell towers and can collect people’s personal information. The safest way to protect yourself and the collection of your personal data during a protest is to not bring your phone. However, you may want to bring it with you to stay in touch with other protestors, record and provide some safety and accountability. If you do decide to bring your phone consider: ensuring your device is fully charged, removing your biometric (finger or face login) encrypting your communication (use an encrypted platform like Signal), record footage without unlocking the device, remove apps that contain sensitive personal information, turn off your location services so your phone so it’s less trackable by cell tower triangulation, use airplane mode (this will provide the best possible protection from tracking during a protest). Write any phone
numbers you may need directly on your skin or write them on a piece of pepper and put it in your shoe.

Know Your Rights.                                                                                                                                                                                    Dissent is a hallmark of democratic society, and the right to protest is constitutionally protected in Canada under ss. 2(b) and 2(c) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom. If you are detained by the police you do not have to answer any questions posed by the police. A police officer can conduct a pat down if they believe that their safety or the safety of others is at risk. DO say if you do not consent to a search, however, DO NOT resist a search or struggle during a search. If you are arrested, you have the right to be promptly told the reason for your arrest. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right promptly after your arrest to have access to a lawyer (the police must stop questioning you until you have been given the opportunity to contact a lawyer). Once you have spoken to your lawyer, the police may continue to ask you questions. You do NOT have to answer these questions.            ** Remember being a racialized person or being part of the demonstration are not reasonable grounds to get arrested **

Cover Up.                                                                                                                                                                                                    When considering what to wear to a protest, the less skin showing and the denser the fabric is the better equipped you will be for a potential tear gas or pepper spray attack. We recommend layering up so you can remove or add layers when necessary and avoid wearing clothing with distinct logos or patterns that can be used to identify you later. If you have a distinct hair colour or hairstyle consider wearing a hat, or something you can use to cover your head. Wear comfy shoes that are comfy and will allow you to run if needed; be prepared to possibly dispose them at any sign of trouble as the police have been known to use shoes to identify people.

Additionally goggles and a mask are a great ways to protect your face both from a potential attack and doxing (the act of someone publicly releasing private or identifying information on the internet; something the far right has been known to

Bring a backpack.
Wear a small backpack so you can be hands free. Don’t forget to include things like water, snacks, sunscreen, and medication. If you have, and can carry extra for others, bring them.

Documentation.                                                                                                                                                                                          You have the right to document and record instances of police brutality. You can record the incident or write down relevant information, such as badge and patrol car numbers. However, DO NOT post other people’s names or photos. The police search social media for protestors to arrest or worse.

Pepper Spray & Tear gas 101.
Avoid using oils, lotions, contacts, and tampons because they can trap the chemicals and prolong exposure. If you are wearing contact lenses at the time of exposure you must get someone to remove them for you with CLEAN uncontaminated fingers. Destroy the lenses after exposure. If exposed to tear gas or, try your best to stay calm as panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary. Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough then spit, and try not to swallow. If your eyes were exposed, find someone to help you rinse your eyes (pour water from the corner of your inner eye outwards to the edge of your eye) and then immediately move somewhere where you can rinse your hands and face with water. When you get home, put the contaminated clothes in a plastic bag (to wash later) and shower with cold water to avoid opening your pores.

Stabilize injuries.
There is a possibility that you or someone near you becomes injured during a demonstration. While you may not be a professional basic first aid can help save someone’s life. The point of first aid is to be a first step, not the only step. If someone has an open wound, clean it if possible (after you wash your hands), and cover the wound with a clean bandage or dressing. If blood soaks through the dressing, don’t remove it; add more layers on top. Seek help if the wound doesn’t stop bleeding; if there is a foreign object embedded in it or if it is particularly large or deep. If a person has fallen in a way that may have caused an injury to the neck or spine do not move them, instead seek medical help. At any demonstration there is likely to be people who are either acting as street medics or have additional first aid knowledge and can provide additional help. If someone requires more help, make sure to stay with them until they get the help they need.

Protect yourself during COVID-19.
We are still living in a pandemic and it remains a threat to yourself and others around you. So here are a few tips to protect yourself and those around you: wearing a facial mask can reduce droplet transmission, use hand sanitizer frequently, use signs and noise makers rather than yelling, to reduce droplets and stick to a small group and stay 6 feet from other groups when possible. Protesting can be incredibly empowering but as we have seen it can involve real personal risk, especially when tension is high. These were just a few tips to help you get started when preparing to protest, however there a plenty of additional resources available with more information on how you can keep yourself and those around you safe. Above all else, use your common sense, read your local environment, and exercise your best judgement to decide what protest options are right
for you.