Here’s the thing. You see our pictures on Twitter and Instagram, you see people in photos making power poses with cardboards and placards saying things like “You Messed With The Wrong Generation! #EndPoliceBrutality” or “Na Fine I Fine I No Kill Anybody #EndSarsNow” etc. You think it’s cool, right? You say oh those are awesome pictures for the gram and you think they’re glamorous. But here’s the thing — protest grounds can be dangerous. Things can change or switch up at any moment on a protest ground. It can go from a peaceful protest to one where the police are throwing teargas, shooting at you, or thugs attacking you.
You have to be alert at all times on a protest ground. And you might ask, oh, the people who go out to protest aren’t they scared? Wait, do you think everyone who goes out for a protest doesn’t have one fear or the other? Of course they probably do, but they’ve been brave enough to conquer that fear and fight for the positive change they want to see, right there on the streets. You have to remember that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela.
Hence, if you decide to protest on the streets, then here are a few tips on how to stay safe while protesting:
- Go with your face mask (and a face cap too): COVID-19 hasn’t gone on holidays you know? So stay safe with a face mask. And you can also use a face cap and some sunscreen to protect you from the scorching sun.
- Arm yourself with knowledge: what, who and why are you protesting for or against? Understand why the protest is on and the goals of the protest so you can answer any bystander’s questions, and also understand the cause you are fighting for.
- Eat something: you need all the energy you can get, so eat, and drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. You’re medically not safe if you go with an empty stomach and faint while protesting.
- Go with your ID and have emergency contacts on your phone: it’s very important to have your ID on you at all times or in your bag so you can easily be identified in case of an emergency, or when you lose your bag and a good samaritan wants to get it back to you. Also have numbers on your speed dial that you can call when you’re in trouble. Your lawyer (or friend who is one) can be an emergency contact, your doctor’s number can be an emergency number, etc.
- Let someone at home know your whereabouts: please before leaving for a protest let someone at home know where you are off to, and the location you are off to.
- Walk in groups: this is important. Buddy up with someone or people at the protest ground, and always look out for them as they do the same for you throughout the protest.
- Travel light: don’t go out to protest with a heavy bag. Take with you a light backpack, fanny pack, or something else where you can put in your phone, power bank/cord, water, sunglasses, little extra cash for an emergency, and a few other necessary supplies. Your light backpack keeps your things safe, and also helps you run faster in case wahala comes.
- Observe your surroundings: where are your escape routes in case the police start shooting at you? Where can you run into? Who looks suspicious as though they might attack you and your group for peacefully protesting? Be very observant.
- If you’ve got tear gas thrown at you: try as much as possible to get away from the cloud of tear gas that will come at you, albeit do so calmly and try not to panic. Keep your breathing slow and steady so you don’t inhale more of it. Teargas causes a very irritating sensation, so just as advised during emergencies on flights, try to help yourself first before helping others. Once you’ve got some teargas in your eyes, try using water to rinse it out or blink as much as possible to produce tears that can help rinse your eyes. You can also use the LAW solution to get tear gas out of your eyes, and this is a mixture of 50% water and 50% unflavoured liquid antacid.
- Protect your IP address: if protesting online or sharing comments anonymously, then you might want to tweet or use the internet through a VPN so you can hide your IP address and not be traced through your online activities. Use a VPN provider such as TunnelBear to hide your IP address or use another IP.
With these points of mine, I hope that you can stay safe while protesting. And this right here is a video I made of the #EndSars protest in Calabar and other news clips. To every protester, thank you for your hard work, and thank you for not staying silent.