Handy Tips for Activists

1.  Community Outreach Methods
2.  Effective Letter Writing Tips
3.  Helpful Tips for Effective Protesting
4.  Legal Questions Concerning Protests
5.  Public or Private Property

1.  Community Outreach Methods

Animal Awareness seeks individuals who are more concerned about spreading education than converting someone on the spot. Our belief is that compassionate people will stop using animal products when they are presented with truthful information in a friendly informative manner. But, we also recognize that it is usually a slow process. The most we can do is offer accurate information while being sincere and compassionate. Most people are turned away if they feel they are being preached to or if they are being treated in a demeaning manner.

When having conversation with the public about animal issues, it is best to remember that becoming aware of the issues is a gradual process and that most of us were not born vegan. Therefore, we all had to gradually learn over time and find alternatives in our own time frame.

The most effective activists are those who are obviously passionate about their beliefs but are not judgmental of others who are not yet as enlightened. Offer conversation, facts, and pictures to those who are interested, but do not engage anyone who wants to argue. If someone is not ready to hear what you have to say, it will not do any good to argue. Plus, some people already view all activists as "radical". It would not be good for the animal rights movement if the public saw an activist in a yelling match with someone. It is also important to live your beliefs as well. If you are explaining to someone about becoming vegetarian and vegan, it would sidetrack the issue at hand if you were wearing leather products. Some people want to view activists as hypocrites so that they can rationalize to themselves why it's okay to not listen to the message.

There's no sense explaining to them that you're just wearing your old shoes until they wear out and that you are now committed to not buying leather again. The message should still be just as important no matter what type of shoes the messenger is wearing, but since the goal is public acceptance, it is best to leave those leather shoes and belts at home.

It's always important to remember that when at a demo or while leafleting, you are not representing yourself specifically. If the public views you as an animal rights activist then you are representing the animal rights movement while at the event. If you are aggressive and impatient with the public, then it will leave a negative impression with the public about the animal rights movement. Remember that the reason you are there is for the animals. It is vital to the animal rights movement that the public be inspired to feel compassion for the suffering of animals. We are not out there engaging the public in conversation so that we can "win" or even "to be right", we are there to raise awareness in the minds of others so that those people will begin to shop and eat with compassion in mind.

2.  Effective Letter Writing Tips

By far, a neatly hand written or typed letter gets much more attention than sending an email when you're writing to a congressman or a business. Sending an email as a follow-up is effective, but for the greatest impact make sure to send that postal letter. Since it takes a little bit more work than just sending an email it shows that you really care about the topic if you are willing to put in the extra effort.

But the reverse is true for Letters to the Editor. The newspapers prefer emailed submissions so that they do not have to retype your letter. This is one of the reasons why these letters are so effective, since it takes less of your time you're more likely to do it.

The most effective letters are those that are polite, well thought out, and do not use overly emotional language in making the points. Let the facts speak for themselves. Using overly dramatic language may tend to turn off some readers. Plus it is not needed since the factual statements will make the case for you. Statements that are critical of the public are also counterproductive. Remember, you are trying to get people to read your views and consider them seriously. Your goal is not to criticize others; your goal should be to make the public aware about what the animals endure.

Opinion letters that come from you as an individual have a bit more leeway in expressing your concerns about the animal welfare points. Letters written representing an organization should be much more formal and technical in nature so as to be viewed as focused and rational about one's campaign.

3.  Helpful Tips for Effective Protesting

Remember that our goal is to get a message across to the public. We are not here to blow off steam about our frustration with animal cruelty.

Be polite at all times. Even if someone makes a rude comment to you, still be polite. Ignore it. We are representing the animal rights movement during the protest. If you act badly, it will reflect negatively on the movement itself. People want to be able to stereotype us as being "radical" so that they do not have to deal with the harsh reality that what we are saying is valid information. If they perceive you as a normal rational person, then they will accept your message much easier.

Dress conservatively. Members of the public tend to listen to people that they can relate to. A very small minority of the average public can relate to someone wearing a mohawk and chains (for example). While protesting, the goal is to have people listen to a message. Therefore, if you do anything that puts a barrier between you and the pubic (your intended audience), then you may not accomplish your goal.

Try to not wear any animal products such as leather shoes, belts, or purses at a protest. As mentioned, people look for reasons to discredit what we have to say. If they view us as hypocritical about anything, then they may not listen. Since our goal is to get them to listen, then we should do what we can to not undermine that goal.

Stay focused on your work as a protestor. This is not the time for you to socialize with the other leafleters. You can do that before or afterwards. While standing at the protest, stand upright and don't drink or smoke while you're working. If you look like you care and are dedicated to being there, then others will be more open to listening to you.

If you are holding a sign down at your side or at an angle that is hard for people passing by to read it, then you are not being effective. You'll be missing out on valuable education possibilities for every person who can't actually read the sign. Stay alert, pay attention to the flow of the crowd, and hold the sign accordingly.

If you are leafleting, walk towards people with a friendly look on your face. Make it easy for them to take a leaflet. Don't expect them to do the work and walk up to you.

4.  Legal Questions Concerning Protests

The First Amendment gives you the right to free speech as long as you stay on public property and do not impede the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

That's it, cut and dry. You are allowed to protest on public property.

Sometimes a representative of the company being protested against will come out and ask you to leave, but you don't have to. They may even try to mislead you of your rights by saying that you are not allowed to be there. Be polite and let them know that you are aware of your rights and that you can not be intimidated into leaving. The animals need people who are strong willed and will stand up for their rights. But, at the same time, you need to think about how far you are willing to go standing up for those rights. If an uninformed police officer arrests you, sure you'll probably be released as long as you were on public property and weren't impeding the flow of traffic, but think about what your limits are. If you have children or companion animals at home and are not able to spend the couple hours in jail waiting for your hearing, then you probably don't want to be overly resistant. Still stand up for your rights, but if the officer presses the issue, then it's up to you to personally choose how far to take it.

Most of the time, someone asks you to leave. Usually once you say that you know your rights, they will leave you alone. So it is important to not give in immediately. It is very rare that police are called in and even more rare that the officer doesn't know the law and actually arrests someone for a simple law-abiding protest. As long as you are on public property (side walks, property of government buildings, federal or state parks, etc) then the law is on your side and they cannot legally ask you to leave.

If you have questions about these issues, call the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in your area. A staff lawyer will be glad to talk to you about your rights.

5.  Public or Private Property

So how do you know for sure if it is public or private property? Right of Way Widths ! This is a term that every protestor should be very familiar with. Every road has a Right of Way Width. That is the exact amount of space around the public road that is reserved for the public to walk on next to the road (i.e., sidewalks).

Here's how it works. If a road has a Right of Way Width of 70 feet (for example) and the road itself is 50 feet wide, then that means there is 10 feet on each side of the road that is the public walkway. Each city has a government department that can tell you a specific Right of Way Width for any road that you are asking about. In Baltimore City, you can call the Department of Public Works. Their Property Locations Office (410-396-3800) will give you the Right of Way Width for any public roadway.

HELPFUL TIP: The best way to make use of this number is to cut a piece of rope or string the size of the Right of Way Width. Using the previous example, we'd cut the string 70 feet long. Attach a rock to each end so that when you place it on the ground it won't move. At the roadway, drop one end on one side of the road and then carefully cross the road and place the other end on the other side. Make sure that there is an equal distance of over-hang beyond the paved road on both sides. You now know the exact point where the public land ends and private land begins.
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