Musings of a Beaverton Teen: Your Guide to a Safe Protest

By Emery Hanel (12th Grade)emery-hanel

With newly elected Donald Trump as our nation’s president, there has been a spike in protests all across the nation, including your city. Looking to participate but don’t want to put yourself in danger? Here are some dos and don’ts for a protest.

Do know your rights. As a citizen of the United States, you have the right to peaceful assembly. The First Amendment essentially reads that your right to freedom of religion, speech, and press is not to be prohibited. You can express how you feel in whichever way you would like: speech, song, sign, dance, artwork, or your attire.

Don’t abuse your privilege. While yelling your message is completely okay, writing your message on public or private property is vandalism and will not be tolerated. While being angry is completely okay, throwing a brick through a window in anger is not. Be smart.

Do be safe. Go with a group of dependable individuals. Before the protest, you should charge your phone, hydrate, and leave all of your valuables at home. You should also memorize and or write down important phone numbers that you may need, like your parents or other responsible individuals you trust. During the protest, wear layers, as the weather can be unpredictable, and make sure to stay hydrated. Durable, waterproof shoes are your best friend. Bring any necessary medical basics, such as an EpiPen or an inhaler.

Don’t talk to police officers. Why make yourself a target for being charged with disorderly conduct or interference with an officer? You have the right to remain silent in Oregon and its best if you just stay with the crowd and, if commands by authority figures are being given, follow them as best you can. Being silent is not criminalizing, but impulsively speaking out confrontationally can. You can report an officer’s misconduct after you have been released.

Do be situationally aware. If something doesn’t feel right, that’s your sixth sense trying to protect you. If a peaceful protest even shows the slightest sign of transitioning into a violent riot, leave. Know the route or location you are protesting on so that you can safely exit the protest if necessary. You don’t want to jeopardize your safety or your legal record. Don’t risk arrest or your life for the sake of staying.

Don’t escalate existing conflict. Avoid yelling at those who disagree with you or engaging in any form of heated argument. This discredits the protest and defeats the idea of sending a message, as instead of raising awareness, you are merely raising the level of contempt.

Do know the line between smart and stupid when it comes to civil disobedience. Nonviolent resistance of the law or nonviolent rejection of a system is a smart and safe form of civil disobedience. Inciting a chaotic disturbance and disrespecting the nature of a peaceful protest is a stupid and unsafe form of civil disobedience. Know the consequences of whatever actions you plan to take and be willing to accept them.

Emery Hanel is a senior at Jesuit High School who enjoys reading, writing, and playing lacrosse.