Thanks to Tools for Change trainer and NOII Toronto organizer, Syed Hussan, for this guest blog post. 

Protests are an integral and necessary part of our social movements. They are the means to assert power, to take power, to pressure a target and to do get what our communities need. Doing them right is easy, and powerful.

The basics

Here are some things to consider:

Why are you organizing the protest? How will you know you have succeeded? By being clear about what winning looks like in this case, you can determine what kind of protest or demonstration you should organize.

Who are the people involved. Who is your community that will definitely come, who are people you want to try and reach out to, who are some allies you can bring in to this process, who are the decision makers and targets?

Where is the best place to get at the things you’ve identified in the Why and the Who discussions.

When is the best time? Decide whether you need to do it during the day or in the evening, during a work day or on a holiday? Is there a specific day – the Refugees Rights Day or World Water Day – that is coming up?

Outreach

Once you have decided what to do, you’ve got to outreach, outreach, outreach! Some things you should definitely do are:

  1. Web outreach: Use email lists, update on your website, make a facebook event, post on free newspaper sites and blogs, write article in alternative media sites
  2. Person to person: Wheatpaste posters, flyer, set up outreach tables, go door-to-door, call and text your friends.
  3. Build hype: Organize a panel or a film screening to hype up the event, or do a social media stunt

Roles

Once you know you can get people to come the march, you have got to cover some basic roles.

  1. Decision Maker & Communications – People who decide what should happen in a march
  2. Marshalls – People who will keep the marchers safe from police and other aggressive elements
  3. MCs and Speakers
  4. Media spokespeople (read this and make sure you send a press release in advance)
  5. Accessibility
  6. Police Liaison and Street Medics
  7. People flyering on the streets and gathering contacts
  8. Filming and photographing for yourself

Awesome. Once all this is done, have your protest. Then meet up again and carefully assess what went well, if you achieved your goals and if so how, and if not why not, and then go out and do it again!

More Information

Check out Council of Canadians’ organizer Maryam Adrangi’s zine on organizing rallies.

Examples

Wait! If you’ve come this far, why not up the ante a little bit. Make your protests creative. Organize a flash mob, a banner drop, a street theater exercise, a sit-in, a blockade or more. Keep ‘em guessing and keep fighting to win. Here is a politically and diverse set of examples:

VIGIL:

Thousands of tamils take part in queen’s park vigil.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE:

Protester crossing fence at School of the Americas protest. Thousands protest every year, and dozens of them intentionally walk across the line onto the base, then get arrested.

Keystone XL pipeline civil disobedience at the white house (video of Naomi Klein getting arrested, though there were over 1200 arrested in total).

RALLY (GENERAL):

NOII May Day 2011

PSAC Union Rally in Ottawa

 

LARGE RALLY DEMO (everyone wearing white)

2006 protest in LA against anti-immigrant legislation (more than 500,000 people)

 

SMALL RALLY DEMO

June 2012 demo against US military in the Philippines about 10-15 people.

 

CONFRONTATIONAL DEMO/RALLY

Montreal anti-police brutality demo march 15 2012.

Occupy Oakland shuts down the port.

CREATIVE RALLY/DEMO

Occupy in Philly.

 

Occupy in NYC.

 

LOCAL RALLY DEMO/CREATIVE DEMO

Grassy Narrows River Run

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