What to Bring to a Peaceful Protest

The gear you should bring when exercising your Constitutional right to peaceably assemble, and what you should leave behind.
January 20, 2017, 4:10pm

These won't be the first mass protests of an incoming administration that this country has seen, but for many people attending the demonstrations around the country this weekend, it's their first time participating for causes they believe in.

As millions prepare to head into the fray on Inauguration Day and for the Women's March on Washington, read up on how to prepare yourself physically for protest.


Many of these suggestions are geared toward this weekend's events in Washington, DC, and some include advice for if you're detained or arrested during protest. Most demonstrations happening in the capital are adamant about remaining calm and don't encourage civil disobedience. The First Amendment guarantees "the right of the people peaceably to assemble," but if we're to learn anything from this country's history with peaceful protest and interactions with the authorities, it's that it's always best to come prepared.

Basic awareness of your surroundings is the first and best place to start. From there, here are a few items you might consider bringing:


Some activist groups will tell you not to bring ID to a protest, as you do not have to present ID or immigration status to police in DC. Not showing ID could keep you detained for longer, however, as police try to identify you. The ACLU suggests you do bring it. Whether you bring it or not, don't ever lie to the police—but remember that they can lie to you. Flex Your Rights has a good section on identification.

$100, or whatever you can scrape up, in small bills

Or whatever amount you think you can comfortably get by on if you're forced to take a cab home in traffic, eat out for a day or two, or purchase incidentals along the day like water or snacks.

These three notecards, and a Sharpie

Make a notecard with your emergency contacts' phone numbers on it, in case your phone dies and you don't have these memorized.

Carry a second card with emergency legal counsel—one DC law group is offering free legal help for demonstrators this weekend—or, if you're not a citizen, the number of the Women's March immigration lawyers: (202) 670-6866.

Your third card is for your rights, if you don't already know them by heart or are prone to drawing a blank under pressure. The ACLU's pamphlet on your rights when questioned or under arrest is a good place to start.

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