Ten Rules for Protesting in Denver

For many, 2016 has been one enormous bummer.

There are suddenly and shockingly almost too many outrages to address, and so people have taken to the streets both here in Denver and across the country.

Most of the current protests are against the policies and nomination of the president-elect, but as the nation moves into a Trump administration, the protests will become more program-specific: defending Roe v. Wade, for example, or the Affordable Care Act, or the very existence of Planned Parenthood, Medicare and even Social Security.

So yes, for many, it’s time to make their voices heard. It’s time to once again get “fired up” and “ready to go.” But how to do it safely, and wisely here in Denver? Here are ten things to keep in mind.

10. Make sure someone on the outside knows you're there.
This is vital; if something happens during a protest, you will need someone to know that you’re not reporting back as you should be. Make an agreement with someone that you’ll text or call when you’re home and safe, and if you don’t contact them at the agreed time, they should check up on you some other way. (You know, the same thing you do when you have a date from Match.com.) One caveat: Don’t go out with friends after the protest and get soused and forget to make contact, because “Sorry, man, I flaked” doesn’t cut it when your friends think you’ve been arrested or worse.

9. Watch the weather.
Face it: It’s easier to protest in temperate climes. Californians just have to worry about slight chills. Arizonans only have to remember the sunblock. But here on the Front Range, to paraphrase the old saw, if you’re not worried about the weather…wait a minute. As we just saw, the weather can go from I-don’t-need-a-jacket to holy-crud-where-did-I-put-my-parka in the difference of morning vs. afternoon. Layering is important, and bonus: Many protest vets say that it’s good to wear a little extra just for physical padding protection as well. So stay warm…and stay a little safer.

8. Record everything you can.
In these days of smartphones, this is easy, and something a lot of protesters will be doing right along with you. But having your phone fully charged (and bringing a portable juice pack just in case) is only the start: Use the thing. Take photos, or, better yet, video. Live-stream the event if you can and make sure it's recording at the same time. You may not capture anything that’ll make the news, but then again, you might.

7. Remember, it’s Colorado.
So do all the things that your mom would want to remind you to do. Dress warm and bring a backpack, so you can have a place to stow your sweater when and if it gets too hot. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day, and bring some PowerBars or quick-nutrition foods to eat (and share!) if you’re there longer than you’d planned to be. If you have a sign, make sure it folds nicely and stows away, because you won’t want to hold your hands up over your head for hours, and leaving it behind is littering (and not an option). And make sure you’re wearing clean underwear. That’s just always a good rule.

6. Ask for names.
Names are power. It’s far easier for someone to do something harmful, whatever that might be, to an anonymous person that they can categorize broadly. Protest is, at its heart, a request for connection and recognition. It’s the public saying, “This hurts us, and we want you to acknowledge that.” Extend that spirit to the officers whose job it is to police the scene and guard the peace. Make sure to know your fellow protesters, too. Personalize the experience: We sympathize more effectively with each other on an individual basis, not as groups. You are a person with rights and an individual narrative, not just a conduit for a message.

Continue to count down our top five rules for protesting in Denver.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen