This weekend, in immediate response to the murders by police of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and broad response to the continuing legacy of racist police violence towards Black people in America, protests have emerged in over 48 U.S. cities to demand justice for Black people killed by police and to affirm that Black Lives Matter.
Many international activists, including several international chapters of the #BlackLivesMatter organization, are now offering solidarity, money, and advice to U.S.-based protestors. One example currently circulating online consists of guides and infographics that describe the equipment used in the Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government. If you are planning to attend protests in the streets where police may become violent towards protestors and bystanders, here are some commonly used items from Hong Kong’s protests you can consider bringing with you:
- Cell Phone: Bring along your cell phone to stay in contact with your protest buddies, keep up with information, and document any police misconduct you may see. However, be sure to turn your location services off, remove metadata from any photos or videos you take, and consider using encrypted messaging apps like Telegram or Signal to communicate with other protestors. (Here are instructions for turning your location services off, removing metadata from media, and links to Telegram and Signal apps.)
- Snacks & Drinks: Protesting is tough and you’ll need energy, especially if circumstances cause you to be out for longer than you expected. Try water, Gatorade, and high-energy snacks like protein bars or nuts.
- Prescription or OTC Medication: In the same vein, if you regularly take any medications, be sure to bring them in case you’re out longer than you expected, or you find yourself suddenly needing them. Protesting is very strenuous so you’ll need to ensure your physical health.
- Face Masks: Not only will face masks help protect your identity during a protest, they’ll also help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the protest. With regards to COVID-19, you may also want to self-quarantine after the protest in order to avoid spreading the virus afterwards: https://twitter.com/syrusmarcusware/status/1266812524810457088
- Key Phone Numbers: In the event that your phone is confiscated, broken, lost, or simply dies, keep some key phone numbers on your person in case of emergency or arrest. Many recommend writing these numbers in permanent marker on your arm, where they’re visible and can’t be taken away. Include numbers for an emergency contact (preferably someone who isn’t protesting) and a local lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, you can write down the number for your local National Lawyers Guild Legal Support Hotline.
- Water in a Squirt Bottle: Especially in the hot June weather, it’s important to stay hydrated while protesting. Carrying water in a squirt bottle will also allow you to flush out your or others’ eyes in the event of a tear gas attack. (Some suggest using milk for this purpose, but milk can increase your risk of infection and irritate your eyes further.) You can also pour several bottles of water over an active tear gas canister to neutralize it – here are demonstrations of that using a traffic cone or just water.
- Wet Towel with Baking Soda or Maalox: In the event of tear gas, you’ll also want a wet towel soaked with water and baking soda. Tear gas is an acid, so to neutralize its effects, you’ll need a treatment with a basic pH, such as baking soda or Maalox. Many protestors recommend carrying this in a Ziploc bag. These materials are NOT EYE SAFE, so only use them on your skin.
- Bandages, Gauze, or Menstrual Pads: If you are badly cut or scraped during the protest, having bandages, gauze, or even a menstrual pad on hand can help stop the bleeding until you can get to a medic, a hospital, or to your home.
- Simple Dark Clothing: Nondescript, dark-colored clothing will help to hide your identity, especially when police review photos and videos of the protest on social media. (In Hong Kong, black clothes also denote support for Hong Kong protestors.)
- Hairties & Clips: If you have long hair, you’ll want to keep it out of your face and difficult to grab. Wear your hair up and bring extras of everything.
- Glasses or Goggles: These will prevent your eyes in the event of tear gas or mace attacks. DO NOT WEAR CONTACTS – tear gas and mace can get trapped underneath them and damage your eyes.
- Helmet: Police in the U.S. have used rubber bullets with impunity during the last few days, and there have been several reports of people experiencing head injuries from being pushed, hit, or trampled by cops. (In Hong Kong, yellow construction helmets also denote support for Hong Kong protestors, but many have chosen to upgrade to biking or climbing helmets for added safety.)
- Elbow & Knee Pads: If you anticipate you may be involved in any violent confrontations, including by force, consider wearing elbow and knee pads to protect yourself.
- Heat Resistant Gloves: Protecting your hands from heat can allow you to pick up hot tear gas canisters and either throw them away from protestors or neutralize them. Wearing gloves in general can also reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19 at the protest.
- Arm Sleeves or Plastic Wrap: Many Hong Kong protestors will wrap their arms in plastic wrap before potential tear gas exposure to protect exposed skin from burning. Some have also upgraded to detachable arm sleeves such as those used for hiking.
- Gas Mask: If you know you’re at risk of encountering tear gas, consider bringing a gas mask to protests. Commonly used models in Hong Kong include 3M Brand Full Facepiece or Half Facepiece respirators. Cartridges and Filters are usually sold separately, so if you plan on investing in a gas mask, be sure to buy the necessary additions as well.
- Umbrella: Umbrellas have been so useful in Hong Kong’s protests that the Hong Kong police force has designated them a weapon. Umbrellas can be used as partial shields against tear gas, mace, or even rubber bullets. They can be used to hide people’s identities and block security cameras. They can be used as clubs or pokers for protection, if necessary. And if it rains, you’ll be extra prepared.
- Notebook + Pen or Marker: Many people bring phones to protest with the intent of documenting useful information. If your phone is unavailable, a notebook is useful for keeping track of protest plans, badge numbers, contact information, friends’ locations, or anything else that may come up. Using a pen or marker as opposed to a pencil ensures that information stays in your notebook.
- Portable Phone Charger: Again, given the importance of phones at a protest, consider bringing a backup battery for your phone in case it dies while you’re out, especially if you end up being out longer than you planned.
- Laser Pointers: Generally disruptive – do what thou wilt. Hong Kong protestors use these to interrupt police’s vision and even communicate with each other.
- A Bag That Keeps Your Hands Free: You’ll need as much freedom of movement and dexterity as possible, so choose a secure bag you don’t have to carry or worry about. Many Hong Kong protestors wear backpacks or fanny packs that strap to their bodies.
If you plan on protesting this week—thank you so much. Your action contributes to seeking justice for Black lives and an end to police violence. Hopefully using some of this equipment will help protect you and gain better protest outcomes while you put your body on the line. Now and always, #BlackLivesMatter.
Lindsey Weiss (they/them) is a professional actor from Queens, NY and Putnam County, NY. In addition to performing, Lindsey writes, (sometimes for Scapi!) gardens, reads, looks at memes, and drinks ginger tea in quantities previously unknown to science. They are represented by KMR Talent.