Protest Roles For Mass Mobilizations
It seems to be open season for protest. The ‘Resistance’ to Trump claims to have replaced brunch. People are in the streets, donating to Progressive causes, and engaging in direct action. The class-conscious messaging of the Sanders campaign hit a chord, and so did Trump’s appeal to white nativism.
People want change and the only way people get the changes they want is by shaming their government into action through mass mobilization. We should all be taking part in building mass mobilizations and people power in our systems, but to build that power requires a lot of people with different talents. If you’re looking for a place to fit into the protest movement that is growing, read the following list of roles.
Marcher – This is the most basic role that a participant can take to support a mass mobilization. A marcher comes to the rallies, joins the march, and takes part in any way they would like.
Logistics and planning – These are people who volunteer or work on a protest in the months leading up to the event. They work on permitting, spreading the word, coming up with a plan, and organizing people to help plan and come on the day.
Legal – The lawyers guild is made up of aspiring and actual attorneys who come to the events holding a little notepad and wearing a neon green hat. They come to the protests, documents any violations of civil rights, and keep tabs on the arrestees. Find out more about the National Lawyer’s Guild at www.nlg.org/.
Jail support – The protesters who get removed in handcuffs could have a rough few days ahead of them after they get their hands restrained. Jail is an uncomfortable place. It’s nice to have, at least, a few people to ask you about your experience, give you something to eat and drink, and help direct you to where you need to go. It’s also important to get an idea of what charges people are being given.
Press communications -The press liaisons are people with experience writing press releases and confident public speakers who are knowledgeable on the topic of the demonstration. They provide the strategic rhetoric and talking points for the demonstrations, try to form a buzz that will attract more marchers, and train marchers to speak to the press and deliver consistent messaging.
Sign and art making – The art people design, make, and assemble the signage and other creative projects to entertain the marchers, send a message, and attract the media.
Direct action participant – Direct action participants conspire with a trusted cadre to… Do whatever the fuck they want to do. A red role in an action means that it’s very likely that participants will get arrested. Unarrestable roles are referred to as green, these people will stand on the sidewalk or further away from the action chanting with the people risking arrest. Then there are roles who won’t necessarily get arrested. These are often people who are filming the act, street medics, legal observers, and police liaisons.
Street medic – Street medics undergo a multi-day training where they learn to give marchers the assistance they need to stay in the street for as long as possible and to leave when they need to. In a long march they’re asking people if they need help with blisters, in rainy or cold protests they are watching for the signs of hypothermia and asking people in need if they would like help with the cold, and in riotous situations they are asking people if they would like the tear gas removed from their eye or an ambulance evacuation for their truncheon-broken bone. Learn more about becoming a street medic at the Street Medic Wiki.
Police liaison – The police liaison is a position in a risky direct action, otherwise protesters have the least interactions with the police that they can get away with. Their job is to relay the demands and other pertinent information for the action to the police and be an intermediary between the protesters and the police. The police liaison is generally the only protestor who is supposed to talk to the police. This position is more common in smaller actions with less than 20 people.
Performer – The performers are anything from puppeteers, to marching bands, to chanters, to dancers, to people in costume, to speakers, and everything in between.
Black bloc – The black bloc is a controversial part of the protest scene and they don’t appear at many protests in the United States. They engage in riots while all dressed in black, with face covers. They are often rioting for anti-capitalist or anti-fascist causes and they have been known to vandalize banks. Everyone dresses in black for anonymity in the riot, so that after they are done they can get away, change clothing, and rejoin the march.
Housing coordinator – Big protests bring in people from all over the world and they are generally not interested in spending hundreds of dollars to stay in a hotel. Housing coordinators work out large spaces and volunteered floors and couches for people to sleep in after the events.
Get out there, take part in or plan the protests, volunteer, build community, find an affinity group, and have fun.