Protests for Families

Protests for Families
by Sue Basko

A protest planner in a small U.S. city contacted me about a protest she is planning.  The protest will include families and children.  They plan a rally in a city park, followed by a short march.  I wrote these ideas for her.

 I think with protests that involve families with kids, the main issues to think about are:

With families and kids, your best plan might be to hold a rally in a park, and have t-shirts and balloons, but definitely have a protest vibe with signs, etc.   You can have speakers and music.  And then maybe go for a short march to the town square or whatever point of interest where your protest is effective.

 A Circular route is best for families -  where you start and end at the park.

Reserve the park space so that your event is there and will not be overtaken by any other event or group.  There could be teams or classes or weddings, etc.  You may be required to reserve the space.  Check with your city.

Plan your sound system carefully. Usually it is best to bring your own so you do not have to pay for any City techs.  But make sure it will sound good and not all squawky and distorted.

Keep speaking short.  Children will become restless. Allow each speaker a timed 2 minutes.  Keep the whole speaker program to a total of less than 15 minutes, including introductions and clapping.

Try to have video people live-streaming to ustream, so people at home can watch the event live.  Also, try to have others video the event to put onto youtube.

Send out press releases to all the local media outlets of any kind.  Remember college and independent media outlets.

It is very nice to have a sing-a-long, so look into musicians who can donate their time and who have the right abilities.

With children present, be sure no one is displaying gory or violent pictures.  Some people are known to habitually show up at protests with posters full of such photos.  Ask them not to.  This is another reason why it is good to reserve the space for your group, if possible.
Have plenty of people as Staff or Security who wear special t-shirts or jackets, carry a whistle, etc., who will assist with street crossings and keep your protesters off the streets.

When your group goes off on a march, assign a few people to stay behind and keep watch on the belongings left behind.  This is a good job for responsible adults who may not be able to walk the march route.  

Have plenty of porta-potties unless there are plenty of other truly public bathrooms.  Never use businesses' bathrooms.  Porta-potties are expensive and you usually need a permit to place them someplace.  But you should rent porta-potties, if needed.

Have water.  If the town requires a permit to distribute food or drink, what other places do is they bring cases of bottled water and place them around on the ground with a sign saying  Free Water, Take One.

Seating: If the park has seating and tables you can use, this is good.  Otherwise, you may need to bring tables and ask people to bring their own chairs or blankets. 

If a protest is large or the city or park is strict about what can be brought into a protest area, you may not be allowed to bring such things as chair, tables, or other items without a specific permit for each item.  You need to ask about this far in advance.

Most cities now freak out if a tent appears at a protest.  If you plan any tents, even as picnic or first aid shelters, and want to avoid the freak-out, clear this all in advance. 

Ending with a free meal is a good thing, if you can arrange this. This also gives people a reason to show up.  The ideal is to have a shared group meal brought in by an organization or caterer.  Check in advance on any permits needed for this.  Try to use recyclables.

Be sure there are trash bins.  If there are not, bring cardboard cartons lined with big plastic trash bags.

Do NOT let anyone pass out flyers. These end out all over the ground for blocks around.  If there are flyers on the ground, have your clean-up crew pick them up. 

 Be sure no one brings any stickers!  Stickers are so damaging!

Have a clean up crew and allow a few hours for clean-up.  The more clean-up people, the better.  Make the area look better than you found it.