After weeks of protests in Seattle and across the country, incidents of violence are leading many to question whether the frequency of protests will now subside. After four shootings in the ‘Protest Autonomous Zone’ in May, police moved in to clear the area last month and today a man was charged with three felonies after alleging driving into protestors with his vehicle.
In addition to this, there have been many accounts of people sustaining injuries while taking part in protests in Seattle, around the country, and overseas. In many cases, witnesses argue that peaceful protests have been subject to harm due to overbearing conduct by police, notably the use of rubber bullets in crowded areas.
With growing concerns regarding the safety of protests, an increasing number of people appear to be reconsidering whether or not they feel able to attend. Understandably, the need to prioritize personal safety is at odds with the desire to demand change from those in power.
Do Protests Work?
The right to free speech and the ability to protest has been integral to facilitating change throughout history. When these rights are infringed by state authorities, however, people are prevented from campaigning in this way. Indeed, some of the most important cultural shifts throughout U.S. history began with protests which swelled into national calls for change.
In this respect, there is little doubt that protests can be effective but at what cost? When opposing groups of people protest in the same area, the risk of violence increases. Furthermore, when armed police are tasked with ‘controlling’ an area and excessive or unnecessary force is used, it potentially subjects people to violence merely for exercising their rights.
Indeed, some might argue that, as protests themselves become newsworthy, the root cause they intend to address becomes overshadowed or devalued. For some, however, the risk to their personal safety is an inevitability that must be accepted if protests are to continue to be effective.
Staying Safe While Protesting
Organized marches and peaceful protests can be a good way to support causes you believe in and raise awareness of important issues. However, it’s important to take steps to protect your safety and your legal rights.
Before attending any organized events, check what help is available if you need it. From on-site medical personnel to FREE Case Reviews for drug related crimes and publicly-funded bail grants, there are various ways to access help during or after a protest. In addition to this, you’ll want to conduct research into the purpose of a protest and the group or groups organizing the event. By aligning yourself with well-known organizations and reputable event organizers, you can reduce the risk to your safety while exercising your right to protest.
If you do choose to attend organized, legal protests in the Seattle area or elsewhere, be mindful of the rules and restrictions that are in place. Generally, these are imposed to protect supporters and protestors, so acting in accordance with them is another way to help keep yourself safe.