How To Organize A Protest

Photo by Friends of The Earth International

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post submitted to us by Alyssa Vincent. As Occupy Together is rebuilding to help people plug into the movement and give them the tools and resources they need to become engaged, we thought this would be a great guest feature to highlight.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is back in force now that warmer weather is here. The movement’s critics say Occupy demonstrations are still unorganized, begging the question, “How do you arrange a protest?”

I asked Mike Mann, founder and author of Crime.org, how he coordinates protests for his organization. He had this valuable advice:

Step 1: Set a Goal and Identify Your Audience
It’s important to identify what you want to accomplish with your protest. Are you trying to raise awareness? Are you trying to change a policy or law?  Once you identify the goal, you then must identify your audience. If you’re trying to raise awareness, then the general public may be your target audience. However, if you’re trying to change a policy or law, your target audience will be much different.

Step 2:  Determine the Forum and Tone of your Protest
It’s important to determine a medium for your protest, and how the demonstration will proceed. Maybe the Internet would be the best forum for your demonstration. It worked well for those protesting the SOPA legislation. Perhaps your protest is better suited in a park or on a street corner. It depends on your goal.
Also determine the tone of your protest. Are you going to have a silent sit-in, or will your protest be loud and in your face? The tone will vary depending on what you are protesting and your goal.

Step 3: Set the Location, Date and Time of the Protest
Sometimes the location for your protest will be obvious, other times it won’t. If you are protesting a law, a government building where the law is being drafted would be an ideal location. But if you are protesting a business with many locations, pick the busiest spot. Check with city officials if you are expecting a large crowd.

The date and time will largely depend on your goal. If you are trying to raise awareness among the general public, then the weekend when people are out and about would be the best time. If you are targeting business executives, weekdays would perhaps be most beneficial.

Step 4: Prepare Content for the Protest
Once you have the location, date and time nailed down, it’s time to start creating content for the demonstration. Make picket signs and pamphlets to let people know what you are protesting. If your protest is online, create images and videos with embed codes so they can be easily shared. Finally, refer people to a website before, during and after the event, and put the Web address on all protest materials.

Step 5: Promote the Protest
Depending on your budget, there are many ways to promote a demonstration. From billboards to passing out fliers, there is something for everyone. Some low-cost things you can do to promote your protest include writing a press release, contacting the local media, utilizing social media and asking like-minded groups to use their resources to help spread the word.

Step 6: Stay Positive
Don’t get discouraged if you’re the only one who shows up — ride out the protest solo. You may have hecklers, but it’s important not to get caught up in arguing, hate or negativity. Other people observe your behavior, and you want to be respectful to everyone. The biggest mistake you could make is getting discouraged and feeling like what you’re doing isn’t making a difference. Stick with it. You might not change anyone’s mind during the protest, but understand you’re planting a seed that could grow.

Whether you’re planning a small local protest, or something more large scale, these basic steps will get you started. Don’t let a lack of knowledge stand in the way of voicing your opinion, it’s your First Amendment right to protest, don’t be afraid to exercise it.

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18 Responses

  1. I did try to organize a protest against a corrupt family court back in 2002, and I was the only one to show up.

    The protest slogan was, “No justice in family court — shut em down”.

    This court is still there and just as blatantly corrupt as ever.

  2. linda says:

    @lilly hi, see step 5 promote your protest.

    I think you need to rethink your cause. I would not support such a vague and general proposition, one that offers no constructive alternative.

    Assuming you found a worthy cause however, one that is clearly in the public good, bad turnout at a protest is usually due to ineffective promotion, which is due in turn to lack of organisation.

    You need to promote your protest well in advance via as many networks and channels as you can. Form alliances and coallitions with aligned groups. Make it easy for people to join and help.

    Don’t try to get a million people out the first time… create a core team of activists. 30 experienced, well connected activists can generally put together a protest of 10,000 people in 6 weeks if the issue is hot. Those numbers scale, so 3 people who know what they are doing should be able to get 1000 people to a protest, but that does require experience, hard work and determination.

    Use the team to build events, and use events to build the team. Repeat over and over again until you have a movement.

    Also, be aware that protests do not directly change government policy… only political pressure can do that. The aim of building a movement is to create political pressure, and you don’t need a million people to do that. You need to shake the political support base of the policymakers, and that requires a strategic plan that shows an understanding of the cause beyond what most people are capable of. Read Saul Alinsky and Gene Sharp.

    Most important of all, make sure you are in the right, that your cause is just, and that you do not alienate the majority. Stay peaceful, stay ethical, and never act out of anger. Always make sure your motivation is purely for the good, to forward the cause of justice, peace and democracy.

    For as long as it lasts, we still live in a democracy. Make the most of it.

  3. [...] How To Organize A Protest – Occupy Together | Journal. [...]

  4. Arlen Zacharias says:

    I think there should be a protest against foriegn aid to countries that demostrate against the USA.

  5. Patricia says:

    I think that it is time to organize a potest to Show the Senate and Congress that Americans are tired of the do nothing attitude; labled Christain when by deffenition and their actions they are not; this country IS a rainbow colored nation and they should relize this fact. If by constution we are created equal then we should have equal tax dedutions or pay a flat tax!The average now is about 22%. By equility that should raise enough revenue to cover all of our debt and ballence our budget! They should remember their own scripture: Luke 25:40 to the end of the chapter! Ladies and Gentileme, PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH!

  6. i wish to organize a mass protest outside every social media and news building until they let our friends and family know of the poison our government is feeding with the help of the fda supporting horrible monsanto

  7. Ben says:

    Lilly Collette,

    Your cause is similar to the cause that I want to fight. I have been absolutely destroyed by the family court in my home town and would do anything to demonstrate against them. While what Linda says makes sense nobody understands what its like to get raped in court until you have and then it is too late. Anyone who can help or offer any advice I would be forever in your debt. I need to demonstrate peacefully against a very corrupt family court system here in Racine, Wisconsin. I am very determined to do something about it. Thanks

    Ben

  8. Kathleen says:

    Racine Family Court Corruption. Feel free to email me at kwade2010@live.com.

  9. denise cook says:

    Trying to protest the ridiculous outdated laws policy that the SSA goes by to determine the monies allotted for parents of disabled kids and disabled patents caring for these kids. .a parent can’t make hardly anything or monies disappear and so does the benefits. A single disabled parent caring for a disabled child and a teen.can’t work..being retrained and our money cut in 1/2 when I need it the most. After my training I’ll be self sufficient but they are making us homeless…no internet..phones…shoes and clothes for the kids..our food comes from food pantry…we can’t even get food stsmps VM

    I’m

  10. denise cook says:

    Please contact me to help organize a protest for disabled children and their parents as well as disabled citizens who are becoming homeless quicker than any other group in society everyday.

    I want awareness of this and a change in governmental policy to update these stipulations to reflect the cost of living…housing food clothing etc. We
    need change and we need it NOW!

  11. Anthony says:

    a judge giving people 18 months prison for a single joint of marijuana ? when our prisons are full and 22 states have legalized it in some form ? people with tons get max 10 years is not something wrong here? id like to set something up to let him know we need a judge not a second prosecutor.
    thoughts ideas??

  12. [...]  Nominate someone in your protest group as the spokesman and someone whom the media can get a hold of easily. [...]

  13. christine says:

    I’m trying to organize a nationwide protest on Labor Day asking Congress to help the Long Term Unemployed by renewing extended unemployment insurance. Many people, including Vets, have been affected by Congress’s refusal to extend after Dec of last year. Please contact me if you are interested in helping

  14. Kim D says:

    I’m planning on organizing a walk thru New York City to bring awareness to Human Trafficking. Would you know whether or not if I need to obtain permission or a permit?

  15. Stockton Thompson says:

    I have an idea, but I need help. Does anyone want to hear my idea?

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