How to Protest During a Pandemic

Avoiding large gatherings is part of how we’ve tried to stay safe over the past few months, but protests have something to do with hospital services and (obviously) takeout margaritas: they are essential to our well-being as a society.

I cannot tell you how to safely protest during a pandemic, because both pandemics and protests carry inherent risks. Pandemic risks you already know about. Protests can be dangerous, not only because they lead you into contact with other people, but also because police tactics are dangerous in and of themselves.

Reduce the risks to yourself and your loved ones

Risk is not a yes / no question, it is a range . Some things pose a greater risk of infection than others. You can reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19 in a large gathering such as protest with steps similar to those suggested by epidemiologist Eleanor Murray :

  • Stay home if you get sick
  • Put on a mask and goggles.
  • Keep your distance from others and maintain short interactions
  • Wear hand sanitizer
  • Use signs and mufflers because screaming produces many small droplets from the breath.
  • Stick to a group of friends “to keep your unknown contacts low.”
  • Consider quarantining for 14 days after that.

Jessica Malati Rivera suggests the following additional measures to stay healthy after returning home:

  • Shower and wash your clothes (this helps to remove germs as well as remove residues such as tear gas).
  • Disinfect your belongings
  • Rest and hydrate to take care of your body and take steps to take care of your mental health.

These steps do not guarantee that you will not get the coronavirus, but they can reduce your risk. It is important to note that outdoor gatherings are less dangerous than indoor gatherings, and many organizers make physical distancing a priority during protests, often asking people or groups to stay six feet apart.

Help and organize from home

If you feel nauseous, if you think you may have been exposed, or if you don’t feel safe at the risk of getting caught in the crowd, there are other ways to help the activist without participating in the protest in person.

Groups that organize protests often need people to provide support from behind the scenes. These works may not be glamorous, but they are necessary; you may be able to create a social media account, negotiate with volunteers, make phone calls, or perform other tasks that do not require a physical presence.

Other ways to help without being physically present include donating money and providing snacks or other supplies.

If you can’t find work in an organized group, you can still help friends and family. Perhaps you can provide babysitting or give someone a ride to attend the protest. (Be sure to include these interactions in your contact budget, and don’t take them over if you feel unwell or decide to quarantine.)

Call on police and local authorities to stop endangering lives

While protests carry an inherent risk — because they bring people together — police action can make protest even more dangerous. In addition to direct violence, police action can endanger health, increasing the risk of coronavirus transmission. For instance:

If you are concerned about protests that could contribute to an increase in coronavirus cases, addressing the root cause of these protests – police violence – is a viable solution. Press on your elected officials to demand accountability and release from police departments, and check out the political decisions on the Campaign Zero website. Oh, and what is one of the most obvious ways to demand change right now? I protest.


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