How to organise a demonstration
Are you planning a demonstration? Read the guide below for hints and tips.
Why are you protesting?
It sounds like an obvious question, but it’s easy to get too vague about this.
Is a demonstration the best way to achieve the political goals you’re trying to achieve? Remember demonstrations are resource and energy heavy, and it’s important to be clear on your outcomes. Who are you targeting? Will it change their mind? Making the news and simply expressing your political wills are very legitimate goals; however when you’re trying to create change you need to think and plan ahead with a strategy.
What are you protesting?
- If possible, try and make your protest as relevant to contemporary issues in the news; elections, bills being passed, anniversaries for example.
- Choose a focus. Hold a meeting with your YG group to discuss what you’d like to prioritise. For ideas give our Youth Manifesto a read.
- Choose a poignant day. For example if you’re protesting about the environment, why not do it on the anniversary of the Paris accord?
- If possible leave as much time as possible to organise your event and build momentum
- However emergency demos can be equally effective if you have the capacity to mobilise swiftly.
At the very beginning of your demo planning, you have to think about what’s next after your demonstration. Demonstrations are often thought as an end unto themselves, however it is important to know exactly how to translate all the energy and people mobilized from your demonstration into further planning. So build into the plan: what can these people do next? That day? Over the coming months? What are next steps?
Once you've got these ideas down, it's time to start planning! Have you thought about the below?
Think about major and individuals organisations who specialise in what you will be discussing.
But think beyond this… it’s easy to have a series of generic speeches at a demonstration. Make sure you’ve got a variety of speakers who aren’t all making the same speech. We know that Tory policies are harmful, but what else? Think about people with mixed perspectives and life experiences and your speakers will bring more diversity to the table.
- Party leaders- please contact email@example.com to see if our deputy or co-leaders are available to speak, although this is subject to availability!
- Local members of the Green Party
- Politicians with very different perspectives… though be conscious of not giving a platform to those who may cause harm or offence.
- Campaign groups
For larger demonstrations, such as the Women’s march it’s important to have a visible Green Bloc for Green supporters to follow you, and importantly for press photos. For this you will need a large banner at the front, and you’ll need to encourage people to bring as many banners as possibly, and wear their Green t-shirts if possible!
- Ensure that your YG group members are all involved, and attending the event.
- Got any allies? Would any other campaigning groups or societies be interested in collaborating with you on the organisation of this event? Remember this could double your attendance as well as the coverage of the event.
- Make sure you’ve got a mixture of witty and poignant placards. You can use anything from a print out to an old bit of cardboard which are often available in supermarkets. And make it fun! Get your YG group together for an open craftivism session.
- Get creative! Have you got papermachaying skills? A good effigy always brings attention!
- Have you got banners, t-shirts etc? Make sure people know who you are or your protest will not achieve publicity for your group or for the Greens.
- Have you got any artists or graphic friendly members of your young green group that could make flyers?
- See if the central party have any Green Party placards or resources. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Publicity is crucial to a demonstration, the bigger the better.
Remember alliances are crucial when building big demonstrations. It is always advisable to build long term and ongoing relationships with allied organisations in order to demonstrate effectively, as well as showing that you genuinely care. Once you have identified groups you would like to build partnerships with, remember the importance of reciprocity. This means supporting other groups in coming to their events, as well as encouraging them to attend your own. Alliances also help build alliances, purpose and narratives that reflect a sustainable campaign as opposed to an isolated or random series of events.
Please do note that campaigning as a political party may prove difficult, as some campaign groups are hesitant to affiliate themselves with any political party and other political parties can be hesitant to engage in cross party activity. Be aware of not being seen to ‘politically hijack’ any events, as a gesture of solidarity can look like a crude attempt to win votes
Think about getting a press release out there! Here's some hints to help you write one:
- Title: Has to both stand out and explain what’s happening (don’t overdo being quirky)
- Standfirst: Further context
- Opening sentence: Describe what’s happening
- Context: 2 more sentences - set the scene
- Quote: Make it LEAP out of the page. Use strong words ‘outraged’ ‘disgusted’ ‘honoured’ etc
- Further Context: A bit more scene setting
- Supporting quote (preferably outside Organisation): Who can add more gravitas to your story?
- Contact details (including people available for broadcast interview): Give a mobile number, and make sure you’re available to answer the phone.
- References: Back everything up using [references in square brackets] - saves journalists the job.
- Top Tip: Write your press releases in the body of an email - don’t send as a PDF or attachment and don’t include any logos.
- Do your student newspaper know your demonstration is happening? Make sure you’ve got an opinion piece or an article in there to spread the word and build momentum.
- Make sure you utilise as many social media channels as possible, namely Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use your Young Green account to promote, and your personal account if possible!
- Create an event group on Facebook and share/retweet as much as possible
- Keep your posts concise and to the point, no-one wants to read a Facebook essay.
- Try to use humour when possible, positivity is important when building a movement!
- Always use images, or boomerangs and videos if you can! People’s eyes magnetise towards moving, colourful images
- Post in the evening when people are most likely to be online
- Don’t over post, compassion fatigue is real, and you don’t want to get blocked! Use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule a consistent and steady flow of reminders.
- Identify what hashtags are already out there, and use them if they attract mass attention.
- Alternatively start your own! Make it short, snappy and memorable and use it consistently.
It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of police involvement. In these cases it’s important to know your rights. We’ve taken some advice from the Green and Black Cross, which we highly recommend printing out their ‘bustcards’ and checking out their website before any demonstration.
Here are a few key things to remember:
- 1. No Comment
You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.
You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.
Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.
- 4. No Caution
They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.
- 5. What Power?
Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.
‘Kettling’ is still a legal police practice for containing large crowds. The practice involves surrounding large crowds and containing them in an area armed with shields, batons and often on horseback. Crowds can often be contained for up to seven hours with no toilets available, and no water provided. The practice has been met with controversy since the student protests of 2010. Whilst the practice has been less commonplace in the last few years, it is good to be prepared for and aware of. You can often spot a kettle forming when police officers begin moving into a line formation. If you do spot this, and if there is time, try to move out of the crowd of at least encourage it to disperse to ensure you are not contained.
- It’s good practice to have a buddy system, just pairing up and keeping an eye on each other throughout so at least one person knows the whereabouts/status of any given person, and a first point of contact for each other if you’re feeling uncomfortable, sensing trouble or if need to step back.
Designated Security / Police Liason
It’s good practice to have a designated security/police liaison whose sole responsibility is to engage with any attention you might arouse. This is good because;
- This person can be trusted to keep their cool, and assure the person(s) what is going on in a calm way (e.g. “we’re just doing this thing, we’ll be here ten mins, this is what’s going to happen and why, totally non-violent etc”).
- It means performers/participants can’t get distracted and side-lined by trying to deal with an attempted intervention. They can be safe to just ignore security trying to talk to them, confident in the knowledge that a pal will calmly take this person aside, and explain what’s going on etc. if a cop/staff member gets into a space, and engages a performance/participant, it’s really easy for the whole thing to lose focus energy.
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, PLEASE CALL THE PROTEST SUPPORT LINE: 07946 541 511 (Green and Black Cross- see footnotes for reference)
The Green Party is a non-violent, and major political party who do not condone violent activity in our name. Keep the atmosphere accessible and poignant and your demands are more likely to be listened to.
Your demonstration is finally here. Here's how to get prepared for the day!
What to bring
- Always bring water and food, you don’t know how long your day will be. If it’s a cold day bring a thermos with tea, coffee or soup- you’ll appreciate it!
- Bring weather appropriate clothes, and always bring a jacket
- If possible bring any Green Party t-shirts you have, visibility is important.
- Make sure you’ve got all of the things you made in your craftivism workshop, banners, placards and even effigies!
- Make sure you’ve got a portable charger, it’s easy to loose people in protests. However please be mindful of the fact that in big protests, it is common to lose reception.
After the protest
- After the euphoria of marching with so many people with the same purpose, it’s easy for things to feel anti-climactic after a protest. Make sure you have a check in and debrief after the protest with your group to check everyone’s emotional wellbeing, and to gather thoughts or what went well, and what didn’t. Write this all up if possible.
- Take it easy! Organising and attending a protest is time intensive and emotionally investing. Take some time out for self-care, and avoid burn out at all costs.