Chatfilter: Abortion Rights are Under Attack! What do we do? Fight Back! May 5, 2022 10:23 AM   Subscribe

This post is being prompted by this thread: Abortion rights under imminent threat?. Early on in the thread, some Mefites asked about concrete actions that can be done, to protest this absolutey disasterous decision. It got lost, though, in the discussion over politics and procedures - which is completely valid! It's a great discussion! So, I thought I'd open this space both for venting, and also on discussing the actual logistics of protesting. There are probably a lot of people who are completely new to protesting, and this could be a great space to discuss it, and educate each other. Please, obviously, avoid discussing illegal stuff here!

We have the advantage of knowing what the SCOTUS decision will probably in June, so we can use that time to learn, educate, discuss, plan, and prepare for it.
posted by spinifex23 to MetaFilter-Related at 10:23 AM (30 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

Hey all - I'm offering myself as a resource for Protesting 101 stuff; I've been going to protests for decades now. Feel free to Memail me, if you have a question or concern that you don't want to ask here.

But, I'm also hoping for a lively discussion here, so that all can learn.

I'll be posting some links later, after work.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:38 AM on May 5 [4 favorites]


I posted a local Chicago protest in the IRL portion of MeFi.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:11 PM on May 5 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this!

I'm not in a position to attend protests anymore, but I am here to support those who do! Thank you for your work!

I am going to be making a series of word art with supportive messages and slogans and such. I would love to get some ideas here, or if you'd like to share something in memail, that would be great! I will share the art here and on the metacraft discord.

Thanks for your help!
posted by danabanana at 1:56 PM on May 5 [10 favorites]


Thanks for this, I think this thread is a great idea! There are a lot of great resources about attending protests out there; I have a few thoughts but of course feel free to disregard (or ask me if you have additional questions!). This is just a pretty quick brain dump before I leave work for the evening but here are some thoughts:
  • ALWAYS HAVE A BUDDY! Don't go to a protest by yourself! Relatedly, respect your buddy's needs and talk about them ahead of time; if someone isn't comfortable going into certain spaces or taking certain risks that's totally valid even if it feels silly to you. Conversely, don't trust someone who doesn't respect your boundaries and take them seriously.
  • Do not talk to the cops. Even if they are friendly! Even if they are being really chill to you. I know, but you can get yourself or someone else in trouble really quickly without even realizing it. Also, lock your phone with an alphanumeric code, the longer the better. Definitely turn off face scan or fingerprint recognition or whatever; the police can compel you to unlock your phone that way but can't make you tell them a password, and I've had friends who have had cops try to unlock their phones using fingerprints even without a warrant (I AM NOT A LAWYER! I do not know the exact laws around how and when cops can access your phone, but use a code instead of biometrics)
  • Write down an emergency contact phone number and, if possible, the number for the local chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild on your body in sharpie somewhere it can't be seen but you can read it if necessary (I write it on my calf).
  • Pay attention to weather! I'm a street medic and I can tell you that a lot of my patients are patients because of heat or cold. Drink water (and electrolyte packs are great to carry and use, especially when it's super hot), wear sunscreen*, know the signs of hypo- and hyperthermia, wear layers, bring hand warmers if it's cold, get inside if it's necessary, don't push yourself or others.
  • Speaking again as a street medic, I would be remiss if I didn't say DO NOT PUT ANYTHING EXCEPT WATER IN YOUR EYES (or saline but water is fine and easy to acquire). People at protests love putting weird shit in their eyes like milk and baking soda and I am here to tell you that you do not want to fuck with your eyes, you can definitely end up damaging them. Water is fine! If you want to talk more about eyewashes let me know, or look up directions, there are some good guides out there (or find your local street medic collective and see if they'll do a training!) Also, if possible don't wear contacts, they can hold chemicals such as pepper spray against your eyes.
  • Want to help? Awesome! If you know the organizers you can get in touch with them but if you don't you can show up with water to pass out, or food, or sunscreen, or cough drops (chanting can make your throat dry!) or anything else you think people might need. See if there are Care Bears in your area if you're interested in something more organized, but just showing up with supplies to take care of members of the community who are out protesting with you is awesome! Yay!
  • Keep your eyes open -- even low-spice actions can attract bad actors. There are good resources out there with pictures of logos for groups like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters (and if you want to reach out to me I've got some guides I can email you), but also just maintain situational awareness. Where are exits? Are there people who might need help, like kids or whatever? Where's a good place to use the bathroom? Get water? Are there police officers around? What are they up to? I don't want to spread paranoia but it's a great idea to have a sense of the space around you.
  • Don't take pictures without permission, and even with permission be careful, especially about what you post on social media. People may have privacy concerns or not want to be seen there by an employer or family member, or even worse might be concerned about getting doxxed. Related, be careful about talking to media, you get a lot of right-wing streamers who want to interview people to make them look ridiculous and, again, potentially dox them, and even for mainstream media be very cautious (and beware of centering yourself at times when it's not appropriate)
There are a lot of other good things to consider and a lot of people will have a lot more to say, but hopefully these are helpful tips especially for people who are relatively new to protesting. Stay safe and take care of each other!

*Sunscreen should be water based, oil based sunscreen can make pepper spray/tear gas stick to your skin, Water Babies is water based and I'm told alcohol-based sunscreens are okay too
posted by an octopus IRL at 2:29 PM on May 5 [20 favorites]


iPhones have a feature that allow you to disable Face ID (and probably Touch ID, too) until you enter your passcode:
You can temporarily prevent Face ID from unlocking your iPhone.

Press and hold the side button and either volume button for 2 seconds.

After the sliders appear, press the side button to immediately lock iPhone.

iPhone locks automatically if you don’t touch the screen for a minute or so.

The next time you unlock iPhone with your passcode, Face ID is enabled again.
source: support.apple.com
posted by chinesefood at 3:21 PM on May 5 [8 favorites]


Similar feature available on Android devices, in the power menu (where you see Turn Off and Restart) find Lockdown - only your password will unlock from that point on, not biometrics like face or fingerprint.
posted by abulafa at 6:37 PM on May 5 [2 favorites]


This is not quite about protesting but I live in a state where abortion will likely stay legal and I have a nice couch, can give people rides to the airport (or anywhere else) and I have a decent place to stay and a lot of snacks. Just saying, I think there are a lot of us around and these networks will be useful so they're good to know about. I haven't seen things formalizing yet (and am aware of ancillary concerns about people in unsafe states worrying about being tracked to safe states) but I enjoyed reading this twitter thread about "camping"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 PM on May 5 [23 favorites]


A couple thoughts that come to mind:

1. Definitely, DEFINITELY tell someone, who will not be going to a protest, when and where will you be going. My affinity group, when going to a protest, even send info to someone on Signal.

This may include:

Legal name
DOB
Any medical conditions they may have, which may need treatment urgently.
The name and phone number of an Emergency Contact
If they have dependents at home, such as pets or kids,.
If comfortable, your immigration status.
If comfortable, any other conditions that would make jail suck for you (like, being disabled, transgender, erc.)

Also, give them a rough timeframe when you should be back; if you don't check in by this time, then start checking local jail intake websites, or calling hospitals.

When you are done with the protest? Definitely check in with this offsite person. Then, depending on your situation, that info can be kept, or destroyed.

Even the most innocuous protests can go badly.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:27 PM on May 5 [4 favorites]


2. When you go to a protest? Definitely leave your main cell phone home, as well as any smart watch devices, if possible. Those can be used by the police to triangulate positions of protesters. Now, I know that there are people who need to have these devices on them; if so, maybe consider doing some off-site support instead.

If you want to go online, and you need a phone on you? I recommend a Protest Phone! This is a second phone that you buy, and take it only to protests. And then, at those protests? It stays completely off unless you absolutely need it.

Here's how I got mine:

1. I paid for mine in cash, from a Big Box store.
2. I then bought a sim and a prepaid plan, again with cash. I bought mine separately, but sometimes, at places like Target or Wal-Mart, you can buy a phone + sim + prepaid minutes, all bundled together. I like Motorola phones, as they tend to be both inexpensive and durable.
3. I ended up buying mine a couple of months ago. I know it's a little late now, but if you can 'age' the phone by not using it until a few months after you bought it? There's a much higher chance of anonymity. Any store tape of you buying the phone would be either gone, or so back in their archives that it may be a pain to get.
4. This may be absolute overkill, but I did invest in a Faraday bag for my phone.

This article has some more pointers, on setting up a protest phone: How to secure your phone before attending a protest


Last but not least - please don't shame or criticize for others for bringing phones if you didn't bring yours; a lot of disabled comrades need their phones as an accessibility tool. Even at a protest. Thank you.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:57 PM on May 5 [9 favorites]


3. Taking public transportation to and from a protest!

A lot of areas with public transportation are moving to a 'smart card' model. Like: Puget Sound has ORCA, Portland, OR has HOP, Chicago has the Chicago Card, etc. They are very convenient to use, and to pay your fares with.

However, they also store, in a database, when and where you used that card. That can be used to triangulate your route. If you have a burner or temporary card that you're using for that day, that's fine - just be sure to ditch it at the end of the protest. I significant amount of people, however, may have cards that are registered to your legal name - it's issued by your employer, it's a Reduced Fare / Honored Citizen / Disabled pass, it's a Low Income pass, or you may have just registered your pass, so that it could be replaced if lost or stolen.

If going to a protest using public transportation? I'd HIGHLY encourage you to either use an unregistered pass that gets destroyed afterwards, or just use cash. It may be more expensive, but cash is also the least traceable. If you do use a pass that gives you reduced fare, depending on your system? You may be able to just show the pass to the driver/Fare Inspector, and then pay the reduced fare amount in cash.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:11 PM on May 5 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah!

You can still find inexpensive watches around, if you need to keep track of the time, yet are without your phone at a protest. I just ordered a Casio from Amazon for under $20. Water resistant, too.

Can also throw off surveillance if you normally wear something like an Apple Watch.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:24 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


All of this advice about protests is great! And I want to add that if you are intimidated or overwhelmed by it, depending on your area many (most?) protests are pretty chill. It can be helpful to check in with people who are veterans of protesting in your area and/or the organizers of the protest to ask what environment they expect.
posted by mcduff at 9:48 AM on May 6 [6 favorites]


CW/TW: violence.
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That's an excellent point, mcduff - if you feel uncomfortable at any time, you should feel free to leave and/or take a break at any time. You should feel absolutely no peer pressure to stick around, and/or doing something that you are uncomfortable with.

Definitely check in with your Protest Buddy as well - if you have one - and tell them that you need to take a break/leave the area entirely.

Also, various feelings and thoughts may pop up after the protest, especially if you witness or experience police brutality. So, check in/reach out a few days afterwards.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:30 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


An octopus IRL's comments are thoughtful and good. But, I'd advocate for attending a protest even if you don't have a buddy. Do have both the local NLG number and the phone number of a friend who you can call and will find someone to bail you out written in sharpie under your clothing. Having someone you can rely on who isn't present can actually be pretty useful, rather than both of you being in jail together. Also, turn off fingerprint/photo login on your phone and make your password stronger. And don't carry anything you don't want to be stolen by cops. But, I'm skeptical that giving up on all the benefits of a cell phone will be useful given all the other tools available today to place you you at the scene.
posted by eotvos at 10:30 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Establish a meet up place with your friend(s) in case you get separated. Pay attention to weather reports and dress accordingly. Be sure to wear your most comfortable walking shoes. Definitely bring snacks and water. If possible, try to stay to the edge of a large group. And, of course, during the continuing pandemic, wear an N95 mask (also bring extras) even when outside.
posted by Scout405 at 11:10 AM on May 6 [2 favorites]


Thank you to spinifex23 for sparking this discussion.
posted by Scout405 at 11:12 AM on May 6 [3 favorites]


I think it should be said that sometimes the protestors themselves have agendas that don't really align with the protest and/or have some pretty serious mental illnesses. I remember during the Iraq War protests circa-2003 there were a few people that were hanging out at the fringes of the relatively relaxed hippy group I hung out with and were never really invited as part of the group for obvious reasons. The protests worked them up into some serious paranoid delusions and their unhinged behavior seen as doing "anything for the cause" was definitely flamed by other protestors.
posted by geoff. at 11:44 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]




Hi! I just want to say that while all of the above is good advice - and I recognize that this is pure white lady privilege in action - I have been to many many protests since the 80s, all over the country, and I have never encountered any violence, upsetting situations, been arrested, etc., etc. Please don't let being scared prevent you from going to a big protest / march / vigil! Chances are that you will go, march, have a good time and come home refreshed and renewed and with a new vigor for the fight. I generally try to treat it like I would any day spent mostly outdoors - yes to comfortable shoes and bottled water and sunscreen and a sweater/rain poncho if possible, as well as a mask because you are going to be close to strangers. I like bringing a sign, myself, it gives me something to do with my hands. Most if not all of the people I have encountered at protests have been lovely.

I do bring my phone. I am proud to be out protesting (again, middle aged white lady privilege, YMMV) and I am comfortable with the world knowing where I am. I post on social media as well, although not with identifiable photographs of people unless I have their specific permission. So I am just here to say that if introverted me can go out there and march and chant and, in one memorable case in college, pretend to be dead on the courthouse steps then maybe you can too! Everyone's risk tolerance and ability to deal with crowds is different, of course, but please do not let just fear keep you from attending. The more of us there are, the harder we are to ignore.

now if only I didn't have to go out and out and out and march again for the same damn things . . . I do not know if all of this has accomplished anything at all, sigh, and in my darker moments I don't think it's done anything - but there are worse ways to spend a weekend afternoon
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:27 PM on May 6 [12 favorites]


Good point, mygothlaundry. I've encountered violence at protests, but I all cases but one it was more or less by choice because I refused to leave when it was obvious things were going to become ugly. One can definitely protest safely and then go home afterward nearly always. Bring your kids and your pets.

The more of us on the streets exercising fundamental rights in support of fundamental rights, the better. (And, in the unlikely, worst-case scenario, we'd probably all be better people if we spent a few days in jail.) Chears. And, tears.
posted by eotvos at 1:58 PM on May 6 [3 favorites]


so what IS the best way to deal with pepper spray in the eyes?
posted by small_ruminant at 2:45 PM on May 6


Share Alyssa Milano's video / (US non-YouTube link).

Share Meidas Touch's "GOP Handmaid's Tale" video / (US non-YouTube link)

Protest like the insiders do -- form your own Citizens United-style SuperPAC with other like-minded folks to insure that 100% of your cashspeech is used to advocate for you. Buy your own targeted Internet ads, billboards etc.

More generally, advocate for the original First Amendment regarding proportional representation to finally be ratified after 200 years, or at least passage of the Wyoming Rule.

And #OneCircuitOneJustice -- we have 9 justices in charge of 13 circuit courts and the GOP was making noises about splitting the 9th to reduce its influence. Each circuit is supposed to have its own justice to funnel cases upward to. This needs to happen now, before the other guys take over -- don't assume they won't do this when they get the chance.
posted by zaixfeep at 4:50 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


For those of us like me who are no longer physically able to attend protests (can't walk/stand long enough to do that), here is a roundup of abortion funds by state you can donate to. I welcome other suggestions for how those of us with medical issues can find ways to fight back, besides contacting our relevant politicians (already taken care of).
posted by gudrun at 8:16 AM on May 7 [5 favorites]


@small_ruminant: Milk. Not always practical (who remembers/wants to carry a pint or flask or whatever of milk to a protest?) but effective.
posted by pdb at 1:28 PM on May 7


Please don't put milk in your eyes; it can cause an infection, especially if it's been out of the fridge for a while on a hot day. For your skin there's something called Sudecon wipes that will neutralize pepper spray (if you have them dab, don't wipe, wiping will spread the pepper spray around more) but for your eyes really the best option is using water to flush out the harmful chemicals.
posted by an octopus IRL at 5:29 AM on May 9 [4 favorites]


Try talking to people you know who are kind of lukewarm on the issue. The ones who are on your side but not getting the urgency, or worried but not taking action. If you can get someone to shift from general concern to action, that's far more valuable than dunking on random trolls or arguing with your MAGA uncle.

It takes time and patience because you have to go slower than feels right at a time like this. You have to show genuine interest in their concerns and needs, and find ways to remind them of your shared values. It's tiring as you have to consider everything you say carefully to get maximum effect. But it's cheap and safe, and makes a real difference. Things are urgent right now, but this helps in the long-term as well.
posted by harriet vane at 7:31 AM on May 9 [3 favorites]


I recently donated to the Reproduction Fund of NH and have been calling my senators (Elizabeth Warren has been speaking out; Ed Markey has made a few mealy-mouthed statements about reproductive choice). What should I be doing now? On the one hand, I've really started to lose faith in electoral politics as a way forward; on the other, I have terrible anxiety that makes protesting impossible.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:40 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


pxe2000 - I hear you on that!

Donations and contacting your senators is valuable work; thank you for this. It takes all kinds of activism, and this counts.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:23 AM on May 10 [2 favorites]


There are some huge protests scheduled for this weekend, around the country, it looks like.

I'm staying inside, as I recently hung out with coworkers in unmasked environments - so I'm quarantining for the meantime, in case I was exposed. But, for those who go out to march and protest and rally and rage? MASSIVE solidarity! I wish I could be there with you!

(I have been testing daily, and testing negative, but still. I want to stay in, out of an abundance of caution).
posted by spinifex23 at 11:59 AM on May 13


One late note: Don't protest in front of a judge/justice's residence; it is apparently illegal per a 1950 statute. Even if peaceful and organized by the judge's own neighbors, it's considered an inappropriate level of intimidation.

The contitutionality of the law may be questionable, and the arrogance of the umbrage some of the justices have taken about what's already happened may be infuriating, but at the moment the law is stll on the books.
posted by zaixfeep at 11:43 AM on May 14 [1 favorite]


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