Protest Safety Training Guide, Draft version

I’ve posted a PDF version of the DRAFT protest safety training manual I’ve been developing. It covers the basic skills critical to safe and effective protest:

  • emotional grounding
  • communication
  • boundary setting
  • de-escalation
  • intervention

The step-by-step guide is intended to help users acclimate themselves to the skills, and then teach them to others, as soon as they have basic familiarity with the concepts. It is very close to a peer teaching model, not because that’s necessarily the best way of disseminating these skills, but because it’s fast, and time is of the essence. As the pressures on our democracy increase, the odds of conflict will continue to rise. The more people who have exposure to these skills, the better our odds of avoiding unnecessary violence.

What this guide does NOT cover:

  • Skills specific to civil disobedience, including how to respond to police and other state-sponsored violence. I’m working on a short training guide for CD, and I strongly recommend Bruce Hartford’s four-part post on tactical non-violence training.
  • How to plan and run a safe protest. I’m working on a tips sheet for this that covers how to train and deploy volunteers, talk to law enforcement connected to the venue, etc. I’d love to hear from others who have been organizing actions, about what they’ve learned.
  • How to be heard at townhalls and other public forums. Some basics for those situations are covered in this post, and the Indivisible Guide also has good advocacy advice. Here too, I’m working converting training materials into a useable guide for others.

I’m building a dedicated page for this website that will cover those topics and additional teaching guides. If you’re interested in such resources, please contact me via Gmail (gsschorn) or Twitter (@susanschorn).

Download the DRAFT Basic Protest Safety Guide (June, 2017 version)

Go to this earlier post to download all the handouts mentioned in the Guide.

Protest Safety: All the Links

The upcoming workshops I’m leading on Protest Safety cover a lot of ground: verbal assertiveness, non-verbal communication, boundary setting, de-escalation, intervention, and tactical nonviolence. Since we can’t do justice to all those areas in one session, I’m posting these more detailed resources. If you’re coming to a workshop, feel free to print the handouts and bring them with you for reference. (I’ll have some handouts available at the workshops, but we often run out.)

Boundary Setting (PDF)
De-escalation (PDF)
Intervention (PDF)

Finally, the following resources are referenced in the Basic Protest Safety handout above; I’m putting the links here again for ease of access:

Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations (ACLU)
Search and seizure (EFF)
How to use your smartphone in a protest
Tactical Nonviolence: philosophy & methods (Bruce Hartford)
Crowd psychology and safety
Activist’s Guide to Basic First Aid
Pepper Spray & Tear Gas: Avoiding, Protection, Remedies

Remarks from Gun-Free UT Rally

Gun-Free UT rally

Gun-Free UT rally

Today I spoke at a campus rally against the implementation of a state law that will allow concealed carry of firearms on public college campuses throughout Texas. For an hour, informed, compassionate, articulate staff and faculty at UT spoke out about the many ways this law will endanger the campus community. I was particularly struck by the words of Matt Valentine, a fellow staff member here at UT, who told us something remarkable about the Founding Fathers’ interpretation of the Second Amendment as it pertains to college campuses:

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the issue of campus carry in 1824, and didn’t have to look far for an originalist perspective—Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were in attendance. The board resolved that “No Student shall, within the precincts of the University … keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder.”

Tragically, while our rally was in progress, a mass shooting was taking place on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon. Initial reports indicate ten people have died and another 20 are wounded.

Here’s a rough transcript of my remarks:

I work in the School of Undergraduate Studies here at UT; I was an undergraduate and graduate student here, and I’ve taught here. I’ve also taught self defense for over fifteen years. There are some counter-protestors here with signs about how guns are necessary for self defense, and I want to speak particularly to them today. I teach and write about violence prevention and self defense policy, so I want to talk about the impact this law will have on women’s safety, and I especially want to address supporters of the law who claim it will reduce campus sexual assault and make women safer. It will not.

Sociologist Jennifer Carson, writing in the journal Violence Against Women, has described our culture’s “fetishizing of the gun as the primary tool of self-defense. The NRA,” she points out, “has become the predominant public face of self-defense, and its positions and politics are often seen, erroneously, as representing those of all self-defense advocates.”

As a teacher of feminist empowerment self defense, I’m here to tell you the NRA does not speak for me, or our movement. the NRA’s insistence that women must have guns to stay safe is unsupported by data. There is a robust research base to the contrary, most recently a random controlled trial involving 900 college women that was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that women who participated in feminist-informed self defense–not gun-based–experienced a 50% reduction in sexual assault. Resistance can and does stop sexual assault, without guns. It does so every day. Despite the proven effectiveness of such training, the NRA claims that women have no power or agency over their own safety unless they carry a gun. Their support of this law, their desire to flood our campus with guns, is an attempt to make women complicit in the ongoing militarization of our communities. We will not comply.

If we allow guns in classrooms, office, and dorms at UT, more women will die. This is a fact. Dr. Deobrah Azrael at the Harvard School of Public Health said the following about campus carry laws earlier this year: “What we know is where there are more guns, more women die. That’s just incontrovertibly true. . . . everything we know suggests that access to firearms increases the likelihood of death and injury. Disproportionately to women . . . . If more women have guns, have them accessible, the likelihood that more women are going to die by suicide goes way up. What we know is that . . . when there are more guns and they’re more accessible, unintentional gun deaths will increase. What we know is that alcohol and guns are a terrible combination.”

All of which is incredibly relevant to the college environment. If there is a gun in your dorm room, actuarial evidence shows—the statistics compiled by insurance companies, not lobbyists—that you are at greater risk of dying from that gun than from any other possible event happening. Having a gun in your dorm room is the greatest threat to your life on campus.

I’d also ask everyone here to remember that if we allow concealed carry all over campus, we are giving rapists and potential rapists permission to carry a weapon everywhere with them, which will make the commission of rape that much easier for them. Rape is already a crime of power. The last thing we need to do is give rapists firepower.

Thank you.