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Headed out to protest? Here’s what experts say you need to know.

Protests will take place across the Twin Cities in the weeks during the Chauvin trial; you’ll want to know what to expect.
Image by Mary Ellen Ritter

As Derek Chauvin’s court trial starts, Black justice coalitions and community groups are preparing to protest.

Knowing that students will likely be part of the activism, the Minnesota Daily spoke to some experts and community groups to help you best prepare for protesting safely and conscientiously.

Before the protest

Find a protest: Start on Facebook, said Ben Pettee, an intern at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The two biggest groups to look at are Reclaim the Block and Black Visions, but also check out CAIR, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, Communities United Against Police Brutality, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, local Black Lives Matter groups and the Anti-War Committee, just to name a few. These groups often make Facebook events with details like dates and locations.

Johnathon McClellan, president of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, also said to start showing up to protests and start talking to people.

“If you ask, ‘Where is the next protest?’ people will tell you, ‘We’ll let you know,’ or, ‘We’ll be at this place at this time,’” McClellan said.

What to bring and what to do:

  • Fully charged phone
  • Comfortable running shoes
  • Multiple masks
  • Water
  • First aid kit
  • Ballistic-rated goggles
  • Snacks

Zaynab Mohamed, the CAIR community advocacy manager, said she likes having a first aid kit and snacks because you never know what will happen.

“Moral of the story: Be prepared,” Pettee said.

Make sure to share your location with someone and tell someone that you’re going to protest. Designate someone to bail you out of jail if needed, and either memorize or write their phone number somewhere on your body.

Also, don’t forget to layer clothing.

At the protest

If you are a white person: Mohamed said to remember that this is not your movement and to not make it about yourself.

“Listen to the stories and let people of color speak and share their truth,” McClellan said.

You don’t need to understand or agree with everything, but give Black people the space they need, Mohamed said.

Mohamed also said white people should use their bodies to form human barriers or act as shields, if necessary. For example, if police are harassing a Black person, she said it would be smart to help de-escalate the situation until the police stop.

If it gets violent: Protesters are almost always peaceful, but McClellan said police officers may not be. Organizations set out with the intent of a peaceful demonstration, but that can go awry when white supremacists and police officers in military gear begin antagonizing protesters, he said. Don’t leave because police officers are there, but be mindful of where they are and what they are doing.

If tear gas or rubber bullets are shot: leave. There isn’t always a clear path out, so be creative if you can, Pettee said. When you arrive, check out the area and be aware of possible escape routes. Be mindful of kettling — when police officers surround protesters.

If tear gas gets in your eye, water, not milk, is best to clean it out, Pettee added. If you or someone else is shot with a rubber bullet, first move to a secure location and then inspect the wound to make sure it’s not serious.

Also note that if you are wearing nonballistic-rated goggles to protect your eyes from tear gas, take them off if rubber bullets are fired. If a rubber bullet hits the goggles, they can shatter and get plastic in your eye. At least three people lost function of an eye during the protests in Minnesota over the summer because of police shooting less-lethal rounds at their faces. One reporter was blinded in one eye after a foam bullet broke her goggles.

Key point: Be careful.

If you are arrested: Act calm, and follow the police’s orders, McClellan said. Do not say anything because it can and will be held against you in court. “The time to dispute things and argue with the police are in a courtroom,” he added.

When big white vans or other large vehicles, like buses, start showing up, be aware that police may be planning a mass arrest, Pettee said. Once in jail, call someone that can come pick you up or bail you out of jail.

Remember that protesting is your First Amendment right and that organizations will always want your support. Protesters organize with the full intention of staying peaceful — but that is not always how it works out, Mohamed said.

“We want to encourage people to come out and protest and exercise our First Amendment right. But we also want to encourage people to be lawful about it. And to be engaged,” McClellan said. “Keep your eyes open, and be conscious about the reality of what it is that [the police are] doing.”

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  • A Gopher
    Mar 9, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    And as people have commented on other articles the dozens of black lives that have been lost since George Floyd are not interesting because the aggressor in those cases was not a white police officer. So there you have it Black Lives Matter* (as long as a white officer was involved). So when you prejudge something because of race… I swear there’s a word for this now what could it be?

  • CapnRusty
    Mar 9, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    As the trial begins, black justice groups and community groups are preparing to protest. In other words, black justice groups and community groups have already decided that Derek Chauvin is guilty. Many black males were lynched down south in the Jim Crow days by mobs — without a trial. One would hope that these protesters were capable of realizing how important it is that the accused — regardless of race, creed or color — be presumed innocent until proven guilty at a fair trial. But it appears that the leaders of these protests, just like the white leaders of the KKK, are only motivated by race.

  • ASK26
    Mar 8, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    IF ??? “IF??? seriously

    If it gets violent: Protesters are almost always peaceful,

    lol like the video of the fires with the talking head claiming MOSTLY PEACEFUL (mostly peaceful riot and arson)