The goal of any protest is to express disapproval of, or objection to, something that is causing us harm or suffering. A protest can be as small in size as a single individual with a pen and piece of paper, or more commonly by a crowd on the streets.
As we all know, crowd demonstrations are the most utilized form of protest around the world due to their proven effectiveness in projecting the shared demands of the protesters to the designated target(s). But despite their rebellious nature, mass rallies and demonstrations need not be destructive or violent.
In fact, peaceful protests have higher chances of yielding satisfactory results while causing the least collateral damage than violent ones. The movements of many great historical advocates of non-violent resistance, like Mahatma Gandhi, are proof of that. With that said, here are 7 pieces of sound advice for you to heed in order to preserve your safety and maintain civility when participating in a protest:
#1. Respect and protect private and public properties
If the demands of your protest include the reformation and improvement of your living conditions, then inflicting damage and causing destruction to your urban environment would be inconsistent with those demands. After all, you’re the one who would have to look at the unpleasant view of the damages every day. In addition to that, always be sure to clean up the streets and areas around your gathering.
#2. Be respectful towards security forces and cooperate with them
Their name says it all; their job is to ensure the safety and stability of your country and your protests, and enforce the law under which every citizen must remain. Be it internal security forces, the army, or any other law-enforcement branch, they deserve our gratitude for their noble job. That appreciation we must enact it by respecting them and treating them in a civilized manner. After all, they are our people as we are theirs.
The more diversity a demonstration carries, the more likely it is to succeed if, and only if, this diversity is acknowledged and respected by those involved in the protest. Diversity and acceptance are, eventually, the concepts that we all stand for and aim to achieve.
If we keep an open mind, different opinions can sometimes give us amazing insight on certain angles of an event or idea that we possibly would never have discovered on our own. So, while you share the ground under one cause and one flag, keep yourself open to new ideas, and be willing to change your own if they are proven inconsistent.
#4. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into violence and chaos
It is true that some people just want to watch the world burn. Everywhere we go, there will always be persons who like to cause destruction and chaos just for their own amusement. Sometimes, they like to drag others, especially peaceful people, into their ugly worlds by using provocation and manipulation. Always remind yourself of your goals and be mindful to avoid distractions.
#5. Culture and knowledge are your weapons; use them
Does the pacifism of non-violent resistance mean weakness? Certainly not! If you look back at the major historical achievements attained by non-violent movements, you will understand why.
Peaceful protesters have an advantage over their opponents: They’re often intellectually rich. Many reformists are known to speak wise words and guide others with their philosophy. If you’re wise enough to realize that peace can reap more benefits for you than violence can ever do, then you’re using your knowledge as a weapon.
Journalism and the press perform a very critical role in any demonstration because a protest without publication and media coverage these days is most likely to be obsolete; the presence of media agencies in any mass protest is essential to the success of that protest, so be respectful to the reporters doing their job on the ground.
#7. Don’t be swayed by distractions and keep your goals in sight
Protesters must always remind themselves what objectives they aim to reach with their movement, and should not fall to temptations coming from the outside, because the minute the goals are forgotten and/or shifted, the protest will be overwhelmed by conflicting ideas and chaos will rule the field.
The right to protest is protected by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media, and regardless of frontiers.”
Therefore, we must cherish this right and use it wisely to make the world around us a better place for everyone.