As protests, vigils and movements around the country continue following the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing, it is a difficult time to make choices that feel ethically sound for you and your family. If you’re looking to protest, grieve and organize with your communities in support of Black people and against police brutality, while also being mindful of ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and consider the ways to safely involve your family in peaceful protests, here’s a bit of advice on how to navigate the complicated situation.
First of all, assess what you can realistically do
In a pandemic, not everyone can be on the frontlines of every protest. If there’s one in your area with a high police presence or likelihood of a clash between protesters and police, determine your family’s dynamic: ages, medical conditions, ability to move freely and quickly in a protest situation. If you aren’t able to productively use your bodies in a safe way, there are plenty of other ways to support protesters (making sure they have water, snacks, bail support, someone looking out for them) and the movement without being physically there.
Do your research, consider your childcare options, other local events and vigils and have conversations with your kids who want to protest to make sure you have a plan to be the most useful to organizers on the ground. Remember protests are important and powerful but they aren’t playgrounds — if you can avoid it, don’t bring a kid who isn’t prepared for that.
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Likewise, you can (and should) consider the other ways you can make an impact if you cannot take to the streets: calling representatives, educating others, donating, providing information to protesters remotely, etc. There are parts for everyone to play — so even if you are immunocompromised, have a heightened risk for COVID-19 complications or are living with someone who is either of those, you want to make an informed choice.
Follow guidelines for social distancing, minimizing risk of spread to the best of your ability
Because the pandemic remains a realistic threat to the safety of protesters and their families, it’s important to be proactive and responsible about minimizing the risk of spread. First and foremost, do not attend a protest if you are sick, if you have been caring for someone who is sick or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive and haven’t quarantined for 14 days after. There’s plenty of work you can do without risking anyone’s health.
If you are attending a protest:
- Wear a mask (and other protective gear, if you have it)
- Allow for the appropriate social distance space whenever possible (again, this isn’t a guarantee given the nature of protesting — so be certain you have a mask/protective gear and are being cautious.
- Carry hand sanitizer and use it.
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Have a safety plan for kids and vulnerable loved ones on the ground
For many parents, it’s important to help your kids develop a connection with civics, activism and direct action (these things help shape your child into an independent-thinking, empowered and compassionate individual). After deciding that you and your family are going to attend a protest, be mindful that kids are not immune to police brutality even at peaceful protests. There are, so far, confirmed cases of a 16-year-old boy being shot in the forehead with beanbag ammunition (the “nonlethal” ammunition, uses of force can and do still harm kids), a 9-year-old girl being Maced in Seattle and a pregnant woman being shot in the stomach by police on the ground, as more reports come in.
A woman cries after she was shot in the abdomen with a non lethal round while protesting at the Austin Police Department Headquarters on Saturday. The woman, who said she was pregnant, cried “My baby!, My baby!” #GeorgeFloydProtests pic.twitter.com/tp4cbibaig— Jay Janner (@jayjanner) May 31, 2020
If you are choosing to bring your kids to a protest, make sure they understand the basics of safely moving through a crowd, what to do if you are somehow separated (that they have a series of emergency contact information at the ready — write it on your arms if you can!) and that you are equipped with first-aid supplies in case the worst happens (for your own family or your fellow protesters). Be educated on what to do in a situation with pepper spray (make sure no one is wearing contact lenses, use water only and not milk or any other mixture to flush out the eyes — treat it like poison ivy and try to get it off your body immediately) or tear gas.
After attending, take post-protest precautions too
After attending an event, be sure you are able to clean yourself thoroughly — shower, wash your hands, all of it. If you can, isolate yourself from vulnerable individuals and not risk spreading any germs you might have picked up. If you’re concerned you might’ve had contact with someone sick, take the 14 days to quarantine and make sure you don’t have symptoms. An overabundance of caution is necessary in a pandemic and during protests.
Be vigilant before attending another event or being around other people and continue to share information on how to protest in the safest way possible.