How To Organize A Protest

WHYPROHIBITION.CA – One of the most important activities we undertake as activists is planning protests and rallies. While getting the motivation to plan a protest is easy, finding the information about how to do it can be difficult.

For starters, this document is particular to Canada, though it should apply with some exceptions in most common-law jurisdictions. Please be aware of the local laws in your country. For more information, contact one of your nation’s civil liberties organizations (In the US, contact your local ACLU chapter).

Okay, so now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s begin with some important rules:

1. You do not need a permit. Protest is covered under Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both under 2b (Expression) and 2c (Assembly).

2. You can not be legally arrested for “trespassing” in a park or on public property for protesting. This may be of little help if you happen to be illegally arrested. Just remember, police are not the arbiters of your guilt, a judge is; arguing with police is pointless and often counter-productive. If you are arrested for not doing anything wrong, file a complaint against your police department, and by all means let us know. You can be arrested for preventing other people’s access, etc. Barring that, standing there holding a sign and chanting, is, on public property, protected.

3. Taking pictures of police, including video, is totally acceptable. Police may only seize said video if they have grounds to believe it will be destroyed. A great service for this is qik.com, which allows live video from cell phones to be uploaded to the internet. There is something very satisfying about informing a police officer he’s live to the world (as he’s breaking the law and taking your phone). Remember, that’s qik.com. Have everyone register on qik.com and download the software to their phones. Make sure to instruct everyone to live record if police enter the protest.

Okay, now let’s go through the steps to plan a protest.

Step 1: Pick a location.
Pick a location that is central to your town, close to transit and other means of transportation, and is by all means public property. Ideally, this will be a park, the lawn at City Hall, or your Member of Parliaments office.

Step 2: Pick a date/time.
Pick a date and time that is easiest for people to attend. This is generally speaking on a Saturday or Sunday, with a start time at or after 2pm. This will allow those who work during the week time to get chores and other tasks done before committing to your protest for the day.

Step 3: Notify City Hall.
You do not need a permit. That being said, they’re nice to have. Apply for a permit, but if your city government tells you no, simply tell them you will be using the site pursuant to your right to peaceful assembly and expression. If they have an issue with this, inform us. There are many lawyers that would be interested in taking on such a case.

Step 4: Notify Police.
This can be intimidating, but it does not have to be. Notify the police department that you will be holding a protest at the location and time specified. If police attempt to disuade you from protesting, or if they outright threaten arrests, simply inform us, as I said, there are many lawyers that would be interested in taking on such a case.

Step 5: Get online!
Create a Facebook event, post your event in the WhyProhibition.ca group for your city, or create one! Invite all your friends, and start promoting your protest! Tell people on facebook to repost your invites and websites to their profile. Let everyone know the when, where, why, etc. Be specific, include things like the address so people unfamiliar with the area can still attend. Keep reposting (“Share”) the event on your profile!

Step 6: Reach out.
Contact local hemp stores, head shops, artists, activists, and let them know about your protest. Encourage them to donate money or time to the event. Artists, especially DJ’s, often come with their own equipment, so keep that in mind as a money saver. The more people you have involved, the further word of your protest will spread. Don’t forget, this may be the first of many events you plan, so if someone doesn’t participate the first time, don’t count them out!

Step 7: Create printed materials* ($ Dependent)
Create or modify a poster (Example 1, Example 2) for your protest. This can be as simple as an 8.5×11 sheet of paper, black and white and can be found as cheaply as 2c/page. These posters should be put up at hemp stores, head shops, local book stores, and everywhere else people promote local events. Make sure to ask permission before posting on private property. Handbills are another great way of promoting an event, simply print 4 per 8.5×11 page and they can be as cheap as .5c/handout (black and white, double sided)

Step 8: Arrange for equipment* ($ Dependent)
Depending on the size of your protest, you may or may not want to get some sound equipment to amplify speaches. This can be as simple as a megaphone and as complicated as a full concert setup (keeping in mind, there is a limit to allowable amplification as it pertains to protests). If your town has a “Long and Mcquade” rent your equipment there, it’s incredibly cheap and a great deal. Generally speaking, a microphone and active speaker cost less than $30 for a day. A generator or battery pack will be necessary as well, with generators available at Home Depot for as little as $40/day.

Step 9: Get back to promoting your event!
This may seem highly repetitive, but you need to be. People don’t always pay perfect attention, and so multiple announcements are often necessary. Post your event everywhere, especially on your facebook profile (“Share” the event), and encourage your friends to do the same. The more you see your event being talked about, the more other people do to. Send our reminders of your event 1 weeks, 3 days and 1 day beforehand. Make sure to include the date, time, address and other information with each reminder!

Step 10: Send out press releases.
Locate email contact info for the editors or managing editors of your local newspaper, as well as contacts for local radio, television and even free papers. Send out a simple press release announcing the date, time, location and reason for your protest. Keep the information short and too-the-point. It is important to include your contact information at the bottom of the press-release so media can call you for more information. Media is one of the best insurance policies against illegal police action. If police have threatened to shut down the protest, include this information in the press release, and state that you will be protesting regardless of police intimidation. Send out press-releases 2 weeks, 1 week and 2 business days beforehand (So, Thursday for a Monday protest), as well as the morning of.

Step 11: Night Before, Final Prep.
Gather signs, send out the last reminders, call your helpers and get ready! Protests are always more stressful to organize than they turn out to be so relax a little. Everything will work out. Gather and double check all your supplies and you’re good-to-go!

Step 12: Show up!
Make sure you, the equipment, and signage are all at the site and ready to go an hour before your event. This may seem like over-kill, but many events hit snags, and an hour early can turn into an hour late in the blink of an eye. Aim early and you can circumvent these kinds of issues.

There you have it, the 12 easy steps to planning a protest. If all goes well you will have a great time. Make sure to be friendly and civil to police, observers, and even hecklers; remember, you represent the whole movement out there. After your protest has finished, clean up and then upload the pictures and videos to WhyProhibition.ca! Make sure to include links to any videos you take.

Above all else, don’t forget to have a good time!

If you have any questions, comments, additions, feel free to post them below or send them to [email protected]

Go to WhyProhibition.ca for more information.

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