Monday, July 22, 2013

How To Organize Boycotts, Protests, And Demonstrations, Part Three

After the covering all the history and basics of political street activism in the first two parts of the series, "How To Organize Boycotts, Protests, And Demonstrations," we come to the practical lessons of organizating boycotts, protests, and demonstrations.

"Why Protest Events Are Not a Waste of Time," a short list by Tom Head at gives us our motivation:

"Let's admit it: Picking up a picket sign and spending hours marching out in the 105-degree heat or the -15 degree frost, screaming your lungs out, does not seem like a particularly natural thing to do. In fact, when people do this sort of thing outside of the context of a protest event, it's usually a cry for help. So why do we protest?

"1. Protest events increase the visibility of the cause.Policy debates can be abstract, and even seem irrelevant to the people who are not most directly affected by them. Protest events put warm bodies and heavy feet out there representing an issue, taking up real space and real time, attaching the cause to real faces and real voices who care enough about the cause to go out there, if only for a short time, and be ambassadors for it.

"So the media notices when a protest event happens. Bystanders notice when a protest event happens. Politicians notice when a protest event happens. And if the protest is staged well, it will invariably make somebody look at the cause with new eyes. Protest events are not persuasive in and of themselves, but they invite persuasion. They invite change.

"2. Protest events demonstrate power.The date was May 1st, 2006. The U.S. House of Representatives had just passed H.R. 4437, a bill that essentially called for the deportation of 12 million undocumented immigrants and the imprisonment of anyone who might help them. A massive group of activists, predominantly but not exclusively Latino, planned a series of rallies in response.

"More than 500,000 people marched in Los Angeles, 300,000 in Chicago, and millions more throughout the country--even several hundred here in my home town of Jackson, Mississippi.

"The death of H.R. 4437 in committee was pretty much a given at that point. When large numbers of people take to the streets in protest, politicians and other key decision-makers notice. They don't always act, but they notice.

"3. Protest events promote a sense of solidarity.You may or may not feel like part of the movement even if you happen to agree with it. It is one thing to support same-sex marriage in the comfort of your own home and another thing entirely to pick up a picket sign and support it in public, to let the issue define you for the duration of the protest, to stand together with others to represent a movement. Protests make the cause feel more real to participants.

"This gung ho spirit can actually be dangerous. 'The crowd,' in the words of Soren Kierkegaard, 'is untruth'; or to quote the great philosopher Sting, 'people go crazy in congregations, they only get better one by one.' When you become emotionally engaged in an issue, remaining intellectually honest about it can be a challenge.

"4. Protest events build activist relationships.Solo activism isn't usually very effective. It also gets dull really quick. Protest events give activists a chance to meet, network, swap ideas, and build community. Most activist organizations, in fact, got their start with protest events that united and networked their like-minded founders.

"5. Protest events energize participants.Ask almost anyone who attended the March on Washington in August 1963, and to this day they'll be able to tell you exactly what it felt like. Good protest events have an almost religious effect on people, charging their batteries and inspiring them to get up and fight again another day. That is of course very, very helpful to the protesters--and by creating new committed activists, and giving veteran activists a second wind, it's just as helpful to the cause."

Jacob Hunter at gives us the instructions in his article, "How To Organize A Protest":

"WHYPROHIBITION.CA - One of the most important activities we undertake as activists is planning protests and rallies. While getting the motivation to plan a protest is easy, finding the information about how to do it can be difficult.

"For starters, this document is particular to Canada, though it should apply with some exceptions in most common-law jurisdictions. Please be aware of the local laws in your country. For more information, contact one of your nation's civil liberties organizations (In the US, contact your local ACLU chapter).

"Okay, so now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let's begin with some important rules:

"1. You do not need a permit. Protest is covered under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both under 2b (Expression) and 2c (Assembly).

"2. You can not be legally arrested for 'trespassing' in a park or on public property for protesting. This may be of little help if you happen to be illegally arrested. Just remember, police are not the arbiters of your guilt, a judge is; arguing with police is pointless and often counter-productive. If you are arrested for not doing anything wrong, file a complaint against your police department, and by all means let us know. You can be arrested for preventing other people's access, etc. Barring that, standing there holding a sign and chanting, is, on public property, protected.

"3. Taking pictures of police, including video, is totally acceptable. Police may only seize said video if they have grounds to believe it will be destroyed. A great service for this is, which allows live video from cell phones to be uploaded to the internet. There is something very satisfying about informing a police officer he's live to the world (as he's breaking the law and taking your phone)...

"Okay, now let's go through the steps to plan a protest.

"Step 1: Pick a location.
Pick a location that is central to your town, close to transit and other means of transportation, and is by all means public property. Ideally, this will be a park, the lawn at City Hall, or your Member of Parliaments office.

"Step 2: Pick a date/time.
Pick a date and time that is easiest for people to attend. This is generally speaking on a Saturday or Sunday, with a start time at or after 2pm. This will allow those who work during the week time to get chores and other tasks done before committing to your protest for the day.

"Step 3: Notify City Hall.
You do not need a permit. That being said, they're nice to have. Apply for a permit, but if your city government tells you no, simply tell them you will be using the site pursuant to your right to peaceful assembly and expression. If they have an issue with this, inform us. There are many lawyers that would be interested in taking on such a case.

"Step 4: Notify Police.
This can be intimidating, but it does not have to be. Notify the police department that you will be holding a protest at the location and time specified. If police attempt to disuade you from protesting, or if they outright threaten arrests, simply inform us, as I said, there are many lawyers that would be interested in taking on such a case.

"Step 5: Get online!
Create a Facebook event, post your event in the group for your city, or create one! Invite all your friends, and start promoting your protest! Tell people on facebook to repost your invites and websites to their profile. Let everyone know the when, where, why, etc. Be specific, include things like the address so people unfamiliar with the area can still attend. Keep reposting (“Share”) the event on your profile!

"Step 6: Reach out.
Contact local hemp stores, head shops, artists, activists, and let them know about your protest. Encourage them to donate money or time to the event. Artists, especially DJ's, often come with their own equipment, so keep that in mind as a money saver. The more people you have involved, the further word of your protest will spread. Don't forget, this may be the first of many events you plan, so if someone doesn't participate the first time, don't count them out!

"Step 7: Create printed materials* ($ Dependent)
Create or modify a poster (Example 1, Example 2) for your protest. This can be as simple as an 8.5x11 sheet of paper, black and white and can be found as cheaply as 2c/page. These posters should be put up at hemp stores, head shops, local book stores, and everywhere else people promote local events. Make sure to ask permission before posting on private property. Handbills are another great way of promoting an event, simply print 4 per 8.5x11 page and they can be as cheap as .5c/handout (black and white, double sided)

"Step 8: Arrange for equipment* ($ Dependent)
Depending on the size of your protest, you may or may not want to get some sound equipment to amplify speaches. This can be as simple as a megaphone and as complicated as a full concert setup (keeping in mind, there is a limit to allowable amplification as it pertains to protests). If your town has a "Long and Mcquade" rent your equipment there, it's incredibly cheap and a great deal. Generally speaking, a microphone and active speaker cost less than $30 for a day. A generator or battery pack will be necessary as well, with generators available at Home Depot for as little as $40/day.

"Step 9: Get back to promoting your event!
This may seem highly repetitive, but you need to be. People don't always pay perfect attention, and so multiple announcements are often necessary. Post your event everywhere, especially on your facebook profile ("Share" the event), and encourage your friends to do the same. The more you see your event being talked about, the more other people do to. Send our reminders of your event 1 weeks, 3 days and 1 day beforehand. Make sure to include the date, time, address and other information with each reminder!

"Step 10: Send out press releases.
Locate email contact info for the editors or managing editors of your local newspaper, as well as contacts for local radio, television and even free papers. Send out a simple press release announcing the date, time, location and reason for your protest. Keep the information short and too-the-point. It is important to include your contact information at the bottom of the press-release so media can call you for more information. Media is one of the best insurance policies against illegal police action. If police have threatened to shut down the protest, include this information in the press release, and state that you will be protesting regardless of police intimidation. Send out press-releases 2 weeks, 1 week and 2 business days beforehand (So, Thursday for a Monday protest), as well as the morning of.

"Step 11: Night Before, Final Prep.
Gather signs, send out the last reminders, call your helpers and get ready! Protests are always more stressful to organize than they turn out to be so relax a little. Everything will work out. Gather and double check all your supplies and you're good-to-go!

"Step 12: Show up!
"Make sure you, the equipment, and signage are all at the site and ready to go an hour before your event. This may seem like over-kill, but many events hit snags, and an hour early can turn into an hour late in the blink of an eye. Aim early and you can circumvent these kinds of issues.

"There you have it, the 12 easy steps to planning a protest. If all goes well you will have a great time. Make sure to be friendly and civil to police, observers, and even hecklers; remember, you represent the whole movement out there. After your protest has finished, clean up and then upload the pictures and videos to! Make sure to include links to any videos you take.

"Above all else, don't forget to have a good time!

"If you have any questions, comments, additions, feel free to post them below or send them to

"Go to for more information."

Four articles from the non-political site explain how to promote your protest, the first is "How to Promote a Political Demonstration":

"In a political demonstration, people come together to show their opinion about government policies or leaders' actions. There is usually a rally, march, picket line or sit-in. The more people participate, the greater their impact. Follow these steps to promote your political demonstration.


"1. Start with your participants. Have them spread the word about your political demonstration at work, between family members, among friends, at school and anywhere else they come into contact with people who may care. Nothing beats face-to-face promotion.

"2. Make colorful, eye-catching fliers and spread them around at local haunts. Make sure the images fit the issue. Your reasons for staging the protest should be clear and concise.

"3.  Pave the way for news coverage of your demonstration by writing letters to the editor.

Encourage as many of your eloquent participants as possible to write in so the editor takes notice. Ask an expert on the political issue to write in as well to bolster your credibility.

"4. Get your local news involved in the issue. Prepare a press release with a memorable headline and tightly written article to make their work easier. Have any speakers at your rally contact the media independently for interviews.

"5. Create a website and a blog for your political demonstration. Designate a website committee to take care of updating it daily. Upload photos, videos, audio segments and articles to educate visitors on the importance of the issue.

"6. Write educational materials to distribute before, during and after the political demonstration. Handouts, brochures and booklets force you to think through your intentions and articulate them clearly, which makes a more effective message.

"7. Prepare press packets you can give during the demonstration. It should include any press releases and educational materials that will help a reporter write a feature article about the issue. Designate someone to hand them out and get reporters' names and contact information so you can follow up with them.

"Tips & Warnings

"Have speakers at your political demonstration promote the event on their websites.

"Use multimedia on your website cautiously so it doesn't obscure your message.

"Don't bury your message on your fliers with pictures.

"Never forget to put your website address on your promotional materials."

The second article at, "How to Recruit Protest Supporters":

"For a protest to be effective, you need to have participants. The more protest supporters you round up, the more likely you are to receive local, and possibly national, media attention. There are several methods that you can use to get as many protest supporters as possible to join your cause.


"1. Join groups that value your cause (such as PETA or the NRA) and ask members if they would like to participate in your protest. The members within these groups are likely to have the same strong beliefs as you, which will ensure you a few (if not many) protest supporters. If you are not sure what groups are in your area, look online for groups that support your cause and see if they have a chapter in your area.

"2. Find message boards online that support your cause and advertise your protest within those communities. Let them know what sparked your interest in starting this protest. You may be able to find a few local protest supporters this way, but it may be a better idea to organize your protest nationwide if you plan to find many supporters via the Internet.

"3. Start a website to inform people of your protest and recruit protest supporters. Include information about your cause and why this protest is important (i.e. what good can potentially come of it.) You can also include a web form to capture the information of those who are interested in signing up for your protest. Make sure that you promote your protest website whenever possible (i.e. email signature lines and forum post signature lines) to recruit the most protest supporters.
"4. Post flyers around your local area, especially in places closely related to your cause (i.e. if you are supporting animals, post flyers in a pet store) and anywhere else you think would help reach out to potential protest supporters. List your website URL so that interested people find out why this protest is important to you and easily sign up to be a supporter."

The third article is "How to Get Noticed by National Media," completes our post on promoting and publicizing your demonstration:


"1. Determine that your cause or story is worthwhile, and decide beforehand how you will communicate that to anyone who may interview you. You must be able to explain, clearly, how your information has national importance.

"2. Decide on which national media outlets you want to attract. Analyze your message, your event, your product or noteworthy accomplishment. Determine which markets are most likely to have need of a story like yours. It may be more appropriate for the newspapers, or perhaps for radio. Maybe it's best to be reviewed and commented on television. Look for other similar stories or events in society around you, and use that to help gauge where your story might 'fit.'

"3. Create well-written press releases. You have to be clear, concise and to the point with your message if you want to get the attention of the national media. Their time is at a premium, and if your presentation or message lacks "punch," you won't get your foot in the door. Be creative with the conciseness and concreteness of what you want to communicate.

"4. Create and maintain a web presence. Do it yourself or hire someone, but get on the web. You can do this in a variety of ways. Create a website outright, and put your message boldly out there so that people can see what you've got to offer. Upload a cleverly-written and attractive video to YouTube; music stars are getting discovered there on a regular basis--let the national media discover you there, too.

"5. Make calls to any and all influential people you can think of. They won't know you're there unless they know you're there. While all media representatives are constantly on the lookout for stories worthy of their audience, they can't find everything on their own. These people fully appreciate those who take the time to bring substantial and important stories to their attention. Be bold and politely aggressive and, if you think your message is strong enough, don't go away quietly at the first sign of rejection. Keep pushing until you find a listening ear."

And the last article from is titled, "How To Get On The News.":

"Public relations experts will tell you that it is tough to get on the local news and you need to hire them to do it effectively. But, if you are willing to take some chances and try something that perhaps you have never done before, then you can end up on the daily local news all by yourself. As a matter of fact, news reporters prefer real people to press releases. Read on to learn how to get on the news.


"1. Time your event to coincide with the live broadcasts in your area. Typically, news reporters have to look for live news for the noon reports. Many stations have added early news shows at 5:00 p.m. and even 4:00 p.m. You will have less competition than the 6:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m. nightly news broadcasts.
"2. Involve children or animals in your event. They always make for good live shots.

"3. Get to know the reporter or news editor in your area for the local television station. While you cannot demand coverage, you will at least know the right person to call directly to report your news event, increasing the likelihood they will cover your event. Calling the operator at a TV station often gets you nowhere.

"4. Go big if you want to insure you'll get on the news. Try something that will grab attention that you don't often see on the daily news, such as parachuting into town or flying a helicopter over your store. Make noise with a band or hire a celebrity.w if you are related to someone in the news or have a local connection to something happening outside your area.
"5. Tie into current events that already are making the local news. Broadcasters are always looking for local ties to national stories and world events. Let your local station know if you are related to someone in the news or have a local connection to something happening outside your area."

Now that you're an expert in organizing protests and demonstration, the next post will tie up the loose ends and impart some practical expertise for all would-be boycotters.


"To save the world, I retired to become a professional pest."

Montaigne, "Que sais-je?" (What do I know?)