Categories: Lifestyle

How To Be Safe While Protesting During a Pandemic

While news coverage has shifted more toward recent protesting events against police brutality and in recognition of Black lives, it’s no secret that Covid-19 is still lingering and, in some areas, spreading. While it’s important to shed awareness on causes we all feel strongly about, it’s necessary that we are staying safe and protecting others while doing so. So, in light of the protests that have been taking place across the country amid the pandemic, we decided to throw together a few ways you can stay safe while protesting. 

Masks On

This one probably seems like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that we mention it. Throughout the duration of quarantine, we have been told to limit our exposure to those we do not live and consistently interact with. The CDC even recommended keeping our social circles limited to very close family and friends. Obviously, participating in protests comprising hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people whose travel histories and personal health conditions we are unfamiliar with contradicts those recommendations. Therefore, it’s important that all participants are properly protected with the recommended PPE, or personal protective equipment. And perhaps the most effective form of PPE is also the hottest clothing item on the market. Face masks can be found at nearly any clothing retailer or online accessory vendor. But if you’re looking to save a few bucks, feel free to fashion a cloth mask yourself. When you get home, throw that mask into the wash so that it’s clean for its next use. 

Sanitize Regularly

As with any place you would go, you will want to sanitize consistently before and after gathering around others at a protest. Whether you’re opening doors to a public restroom, holding someone else’s poster or in close quarters with others, which is a very likely to happen, sanitizing your hands often is of the utmost importance. Per the CDC’s recommendations, using a sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is preferred. However, if the smell of hand sanitizer isn’t your favorite, consider investing in anti-bacterial wipes or scented sanitizers. The fine print for this recommendation also states that you should consciously avoid touching your face specifically your eyes, nose and mouth. If you need to touch your face, it is crucial that you do so with clean, sanitized hands. 

Protect Facial Features

Speaking of touching your face, let’s talk a little bit about what to do if you’re exposed to tear gas. While it’s a turnout we would never wish to happen, the use of tear gas is a very real reality, and it’s one we should be prepared to face if we are protesting. Large protests, specifically protests in major cities, have the potential to get out of hand. Those who are protesting are people that feel strongly about the issues gathered for. But sometimes passion and law can clash, and conflict and hostility are possible. If and when conflict breaks out, tear gas and other forms of weaponry used by law enforcement are likely to be used in an attempt to reconvene order. According to Popular Science, “When a tear gas canister explodes, CS powder sprays into the air and adheres to any moisture it can find—that means the tears in your eyes, the sweat on your skin, the grease in your hair, and the saliva and mucus that covers your mouth and airways.” Fittingly named, this gas induces tears, burning sensations in the eyes, blurred vision and constant blinking, which leads to a great deal of pain. The gas can also pervade through your lungs, making it difficult to breathe and is extremely detrimental to your health. So, if, and when, you are exposed to tear gas, it is extremely important that you adhere to the following. 

If you are able to, avoid tear gas when possible, obviously. However, if you find yourself unable to escape it, make sure you come well equipped with facial coverings, including goggles for your eyes. Because tear gas is attracted to moisture, it’s preferable to wear a mask doused in water, as the mask will absorb the gas before it makes its way to your facial openings (eyes, airways, etc.). Ski or swimming goggles should work just fine. Be sure to also come equipped with proper attire. The more layers of clothing on you, the more protected your skin is from tear gas exposure. Once exposed, be sure to cover your face and body appropriately, and as much as possible. If you find yourself exposed, avoid stagnant bodies of water, like ponds or fountains, as they could contain tear gas. Instead of drawing from dirty water, be sure to carry a flask of clean water for yourself. 

Always remember to secure your facial coverings and goggles before assisting someone else. If you find that someone is in danger, move them to an area free from the gas and seek medical attention. Be sure to reference the link hyperlinked above for more information regarding safety when exposed to tear gas.  

Kindness Goes A Long Way

Protests tend to comprise individuals who are full of compassion, fervor and a wide range of emotions regarding the causes at hand. Oftentimes, though, contradicting opinions and passions can lead to argument, conflict and potentially physical violence. With that said, it’s important to recognize that everyone has been affected differently by the situation at hand. And while it might be difficult to conceal deep-rooted anger, agitation and long-fueled animosity about overlooked issues, it’s important to proceed peacefully and considerably with others. Keeping the peace around you is not only considerate, but also likely to keep you and those around you safe from the spread of illness. 

Pack It Up

Bringing a backpack chock full of essentials is a simple way to keep clean and safe from spreading disease. While some essential items like drinking water and hand sanitizer are quite obvious, there are others that you should consider carrying with you. Not-so-obvious items might include extra face masks, phone chargers, photo ID and additional clothing. 

See Also

Avoid Danger

To piggyback off of the aforementioned recommendations, it’s important to avoid danger when you sense it. This point doesn’t necessarily apply to protesting during a pandemic specifically, so we advise you keep this in mind while protesting be it during a pandemic or not. This could be as simple as steering clear of arguments and physical violence that may break out. If peaceful protests are to escalate, be sure to remove yourself from the situation and find a safer, less crowded area. Physical and verbal fighting, tear gassing, and the firing of rubber bullets can quickly become a reality. Therefore, be mindful of your surroundings and do your best to get a feel for the environment you’re in before you proceed. Keeping yourself and others away from danger will prove beneficial in the end. 

Support From Home If Sick!

This recommendation might also seem like a no-brainer, but it’s absolutely important to adhere to. If you are feeling even slightly under the weather, do yourself and others a favor by staying home. It’s dangerous enough as it is to surround yourself with people who may have been exposed to Covid-19, or those who may even have the virus without knowing it. Consider it a requirement to understand what Covid-19 symptoms are and keep your distance from others if you are sick or showing symptoms before attending a protest. Yes, protesting for what you believe in is important. But slowing the spread of the virus and being mindful of both your health and the health of others is important, too. 

Together, we can create a better world. But that requires work from all of us! Maintaining safety precautions while protesting for what you believe in is a start to making that goal a reality.

If you’re participating in protests, let us know how you’re staying safe! Be sure to comment other tips on how to stay safe below.

Featured image: https://unsplash.com/photos/8WfrhYXRarg
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Julia Oakes

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