The right to peaceably assemble has been something that millions of Americans have enjoyed for generations. With modern protests, however, you’ve got to protect yourself because you never know what’s going to happen.
To make sure that you let people hear your voice and have the best chance to return home safe, here are some of the essential tech needs that you’ll want to take along to help you avoid the whole rioting, looting, and pillaging dynamic.
Even if you’re there to observe only, don’t go alone. Always bring two or three friends along to make sure everyone can have each other’s back.
#1. An advanced hoodie. When the rioters start to riot, the tear gas throwers start to throw. To help protect your face and skin from the various gases that are used to disperse a protest, you’ll want to go with an advanced, poly-blend hoodie that offers a large enough hood to help protect your face. Those reflect work hoodies are a solid option, but might make you a target if things go really bad.
#2. Safety glasses. Stuff gets thrown at a protest regularly. Even peaceful protests can quickly devolve into rock-throwing melees. Safety glasses will give your orbital sockets some measure of protection when the rocks, glass, and other sharp objects begin to fly. Any basic glasses will do.
#3. A large stainless steel pot lid. Don’t hold it out like a shield. Put it underneath your shirt like Marty McFly in Back to the Future III. If things get serious and beanbags or rubber bullets fly, you’ll be able to protect some vital areas from a serious bruise. The Cuisinart lids are a solid mid-range option here.
#4. Gloves. Pretty much any hand protection will help you out. If pepper spray is going in both directions [or spray paint from the protest, for that matter], then getting that spray on your hands and inadvertently rubbing your eyes or nose is bad news indeed. Let the materials collect on the gloves – and then consider throwing them away.
#5. A shatterproof camera. Don’t take your $600 SLR to document the protest. Consider leaving the iPhone 6 at home too unless you’ve got an anti-scratch and shatterproof case on it. The FujiFilm FinePix series is a solid contender as is the heavy duty version of the Panasonic Lumix. Take a cheap burner phone just in case you need a quick evacuation.
#6. A solid water bottle. When there’s a solid crush of humanity, even the cold nights will make you start sweating. Bring a strong, damage resistant water bottle with you so that you can stay hydrated. If your face gets flushed with some nasty stuff, you can wash it away quickly with a bottle on hand as well.
#7. Don’t wear contacts. Tear gas can get in-between your contacts and your eye. Wear your shatterproof, anti-scratch glasses underneath your safety glasses.
Above everything else, make sure that you stay alert. Every protest has some idiots who are trying to provoke a force response from police. You might need to make a snap decision. Have a solid exit strategy, don’t resist, and stay protected.