photos courtesy of Anna Gallo
Protest & Self Care Guide
by Eve Condon, The Womxn Project Volunteer
Download Protest & Self Care Guide
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LEAD-UP TO ACTIONS
- Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sensible footwear.
- Make sure you are hydrated and have eaten. Dehydration and low blood sugar will affect your ability to protest safely and effectively.
- Make sure your phone is locked & fully charged
- Put the organizers’ names & phone numbers into your phone
- Review contingency plans if available
- Let folks know where you’ll be
- Have self-care time set aside & strategies in place for after the action (see Part 3, “After Actions”)
- If possible, travel to and from actions with at least one other person
- Have each other’s backs
- Stay near your fellow activists. Do not allow yourself to become isolated from them. There is safety in numbers.
- Use the buddy system: do not go into enclosed spaces such as restrooms by yourself. If you didn’t come with anyone, ask another prochoice activist to accompany you to the restroom or any other private or enclosed space. Reciprocate with anyone who asks for your help.
- If you see people being intimidated/cornered/threatened, stand with them. Get backup from your fellow activists if needed. Do not be shy about asking for help
- Keep your head up
- Use assertive body language: head high, shoulders wide, strong posture and stance. Do not duck your head, cross your arms protectively, or curl in on yourself. Stand your ground.
- Eye contact with anti-choice protesters should be calm and confident. Do not drop your gaze. But do not aggressively make eye contact with them, as that can escalate tension. Instead, avert your gaze to the side, not downwards. Completely ignoring them—looking through them—is also an option.
- Be prepared for anti-choice protesters’ tactics
- Abusive language: “Baby killer,” “murderer,” etc. Some of them also use misogynistic language such as telling women to keep their legs together. Never think you’ve heard it all, and never assume they’ll adhere to any social norms of decency and politeness. Expect that they will behave badly.
- Invading personal space: like the abusive language, anti-choice protesters use this to attempt to intimidate and silence us. They may try to get as close to you as possible. They may wave giant pictures of mangled fetuses in your face. Again, expect this. Don’t let them throw you off your game.
- Both: you may experience a stranger screaming “baby killer” in your face. You may find yourself surrounded by anti-choice protesters pressing in around you with giant mangled fetus pictures. Using the buddy system & keeping your head up will help you navigate this.
- Do not engage anti-choice protesters. Do not speak to them. Do not touch them. If they try to engage you, ice them out. The more they up the ante with their intimidation tactics, the icier, calmer, and more determined you will become. They all want to upset and intimidate you, and some of them may intend to provoke an altercation so they can press charges with the goal of damaging our campaign. Keep yourself, your fellow activists, and the campaign safe by not engaging them.
- Regularly touch base with your fellow activists and action organizers. Keep each other in the loop. If there’s a problem such as a counter-protester becoming aggressive or touching anyone…
- Take 1-3 deep, diaphragmatic breaths if you start to feel overwhelmed
- If possible, leave using the buddy system, including going to your car.
- If anything concerning occurred, reach out to the organizers ASAP. If anyone threatened or put their hands on you, write down as many details of the incident as you can as soon as you’re someplace safe.
- If the anti-choice protesters were aggressive and/or the action was very crowded and intense, your fight-or-flight response may be activated; your body has released stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that will affect your ability to think clearly, relax, and go to sleep. Ways to counteract this:
- Stay hydrated (calming herbal tea is helpful)
- Eat a good meal (protein, healthy fats, & vitamins; fewer processed foods)
- Avoid caffeine and excessive sugar
- Vent to someone if you need to, but don’t ruminate: once you’ve recounted what happened and had your feelings validated, shift your focus to self-care or a more neutral/positive topic
- Do at least 5 minutes of somatic or mindfulness exercises between the time you get home and the time you go to bed (lengthen or repeat if you need to)
- Deep breathing
- Gentle yoga
- Tai chi/qi gong
- Guided meditations (check out apps like Insight Timer or Calm, or look on YouTube)
- Unplug and unwind
- Avoid intense/violent movies & TV, the news, and social media for the rest of the day
- Go for a walk
- Cuddle your pet
- Spend time with supportive people
- Don your comfiest PJ’s
- Read engaging fiction or watch a movie you loved when you were a kid
- Diffuse calming essential oils or light a favorite scented candle
- Use soft lighting
- Listen to calming music
- Color or do a craft
- Do anything else that healthily soothes and nourishes you
- REST!!! This work is mind-body-spirit exhausting. Take care of yourself and recharge so you can fight another day.