Holding a demonstration is a visual way to call attention to a problem or issue. To plan a demonstration, you need to answer these questions:
Allow a few weeks to secure any permits you may need, but don’t hesitate to organize a demonstration on a day’s notice if you have to. You don’t need a permit to hold a picket line on a public sidewalk, as long as you don’t block the traffic on the sidewalk or go into the street. On campus you don’t need a permit, but there are only two places where you can use amplified sound, the West Mall steps (AKA the “Rally Space”), and the area in front of Gregory Gym. You have to reserve these spaces in order to use them. To reserve these spaces, talk to Cheryl Wood in the SSB. Permits for street marches are usually needed weeks in advance.
Make some posters to display, or order some from national organizations. Prepare a short handout that explains the issue. Make sure your leaflet lists your demands and what the public can do to help.
Before you hold your demonstration, you can get your group together for a sign making party. It’s a good way to bring new people into the campaign, and make them feel that they are involved. Use pictures and slogans that illustrate the issue simply and dramatically. Stay away from offensive language that will turn people off. Use stencils (but fill in those gaps) so the lettering looks neat, and make sure the signs will be readable from a distance.
Decide ahead of time who will be the media spokesperson for the group, but make sure everyone has a short statement prepared for the media or a bystander’s question. If you are going to wear a mask or any type of costume, do not be the spokesperson; the audience will want to hear from an authority figure. Keep in mind that you may be photographed by the media. Make sure your group dresses neatly and conservatively (unless you decide to wear costumes). Any look far outside of the mainstream may only draw attention away from the important issue at hand. Your audience will trust you more if you look like them.
Prepare short and easy-to-understand chants ahead of time. Chants make more people take notice and want to know what is going on, in addition to making good audio background for the media. Chants should be well thought out, as this may be the only thing people hear from you - make them meaningful. It’s a good idea to assign someone to keep the chants going throughout the demo.
Remind people not to smile or laugh if they’re protesting a serious abuse and ask them ahead of time not to chat, smoke or look bored during a demonstration. Make sure everyone knows never to argue or make derogatory comments to bystanders, even if they are rude or hostile to you. You don’t want potential allies or the media to see you looking less than controlled.
Notify the media (see Section X).
Keep your group together, and remind them discretely to hold their signs so that they can be clearly seen and photographed.
Take photographs so future members can see what you did. Post them on your website.
Afterward, evaluate the event. Note what worked well and what could have been done better.
Dressing Nicely For Demos Doesn't Make You A Sellout
Some people get very angry at our suggestion that people dress conservatively for demos. "I won't change who I am," they say, "If people don't accept how I look, screw 'em."
Yes, we live in a beauty culture with rigidly defined social norms. Yes, that must be changed. No, you shouldn't shop at the Gap and try to fit in with that. However, we want people to pay attention to our message, not our clothes. When people see someone punked or hippied out, they don't think, "Wow, that student is so independent." They think, "Wow, what a wacko, I would never agree with what they're saying."
Covering tattoos, removing piercings, and dressing mainstream for a few hours
does not make you a sellout. It just means that you are willing to put the
campaign before fashion.
Using Civil Disobedience
As your campaign continues to escalate, you may want to consider doing a civil disobedience (CD). CD is the open, deliberate, and non-violent violation of the law for political or social reasons. It can be either direct or symbolic action or non-cooperation and usually leads to an arrest.
Try not to be afraid of it. The powers that be depend on the fear of arrest and jail to maintain the status quo. CD breaks that power and creates a sense of fearlessness in people trying to make a change.
CD is usually considered one of the last resorts (besides covert, underground action) to escalate an ongoing campaign, used only after you have tried to negotiate legally and cooperatively with your opponent. Don’t expect the public (especially the employees of the target group) to be sympathetic unless you have educated them about the issue beforehand.
CD is used to dramatize an issue, to confront or shut down an abusive organization, to get publicity on an issue, or simply to energize a movement.
There are many types of CD. Three basic types are sit-ins, blockades, and
occupations. For info. on other types of CD (i.e. banner drops, tri-pod sits,
etc.), see the Ruckus Society (http://www.ruckus.org
How to Plan for CD
Here are some factors to consider:
When participating in demonstrations and/or CDs, it is very important to know your rights. If you plan on getting arrested, bring your ID and NOTHING else. Police should not have access to address books or phone numbers, so leave your bag or wallet at home! You should leave important information, such as any medications or food allergies you have, with support people. Write contact information in permanent marker on your arm.
The following are some of your basic legal rights: