What to do if you encounter counter-protesters at the Women’s March on Washington
If you’re planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington this weekend — or even a local march in a nearby city or town — you’re probably all stocked up on warm clothes, comfortable shoes and pocket snacks. Perhaps you’ve already gotten your poster all set, and have coordinated with your girl gang for transportation logistics. But what about once you’re at the march and you are confronted with counter-protesters attempting to goad you into interacting with them?
We spoke with Alexis Danzig, a longtime ACT UP activist specializing in civil disobedience, to find out exactly what actions to take if you encounter real-life trolls of the highest order at a march this weekend. Danzig trained people in direct action with ACT UP from 1987 to 1996, so she knows a thing or two about how to protest peacefully. Keep these 10 things in mind as you (nonviolently) protest this weekend, and you should be fine.
1. Counter-protesters are not a possibility, but a definite entity
There will be counter-protesters whose goal is to goad you into confrontation and violence. So if you’re marching this weekend, coming across counter-demonstrators is not so much an “if” as a “when.” Be on the lookout.
2. Don’t stoop to their level
Do not take the bait. Ignore their provocations and continue the march with nonviolence and compassion in your hearts and in your actions. Remember that shouting at counter-protestors only raises tensions more and produces no benefits.
3. Be prepared
Before you march, discuss counter-protest tactics with your crew and be ready to address the issue live. Talk through the possibilities beforehand and be prepared to move to what you can identify as safer space.
4. Listen to your intuition
A key tactic of counter-demonstration is infiltrating the pacifist protest groups, so if you feel as though someone who is marching next to you is a little off, pay attention. Trust your instincts and march with people whose signs and demeanors you like, who give off a good vibe.
5. When counter-protest chaos breaks out, stay calm
When the noise gets loud, remain as serene as possible and stick with your circle. Ignore the sound and fury of counter-protest provocations, keep your cool and your ground, take care of those dear to you and near to you. If you see other people’s hackles start rising, stay as serene as possible. If that doesn't work and tensions rise, use your words and model calm for those around you.
6. Watch out for those who are less strong
Use your body to protect the most vulnerable, including the elderly, the youngest.
7. In the midst of a strong police force, model your best behavior
Anticipate that police presence will be enormous, especially in D.C. — not for your benefit, but to keep crowds under control generally — and keep your eyes open for the March on Washington’s security forces.
8. Leave the pot at home
People should leave behind any recreational drugs. This should be obvious, but just in case — a friendly reminder.
9. Ditto for anything sharp
Don’t bring anything weapon-like.
10. Bring ID and keep it in your sock
Bring a simple photo ID. Information circulating on Facebook advises that you keep your photo ID and emergency contact numbers inside socks and wear sturdy boots.
With these things at the forefront of your mind, you’ll be well prepared for the march this weekend. Keep in mind that there have been reports being shared on Facebook that domestic terrorist James O’Keefe is planning to infiltrate peaceful protest groups this weekend, but the claims are unsubstantiated, according to Snopes. That said, he and/or similar characters may well be in attendance at the march, and you would be wise to keep an eye out for such things.
Remember: Only sign up for information through the official site of the Women’s March, and be sure to download the app to have access to the latest information at all times. Familiarize yourself with the FAQ and only give your information via this questionnaire, which was created by march organizers. Remain alert — and stand up for women’s rights everywhere.
Want civil disobedience training in your community? Contact Alexis Danzig at email@example.com.