Legal Personal Politics and civics

Advice for Women’s March participants

For many of the thousands (millions?) planning to march this week, this may be their first protest. These tips are written with novices in mind.

Update: details on Seattle march

If my Facebook circles are representative, thousands (millions?) of people plan to take to the streets on Saturday 21 January as part of the national Women’s March. There are more than 600 events scheduled worldwide.

For many, it may be their first time in a protest. After all, it’s been since 1860 that the nation has seen such widespread protest over a presidential election.

Things I did not learn in schoolLincoln was not on the ballot in some Southern states. Although he won with only 40% of the vote, he “handily defeated” three other contestants; number two Douglas had only 30% of the vote.

The First Amendment protects “freedom of speech” as well as “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” So we have a constitutional right to demonstrate!

There are a lot of advice posts traversing the interwebs. I’m capturing a few of them here. The first techie points are how-to reminders:

  1. How to disable fingerprint ID on your phone
    Android devices: check owner’s manual; disabling may depend on device manufacturer
    iOS devices: go to Settings -> Touch ID & Passcode then remove each recorded fingerprint. If you decide at the last minute that you need to disable fingerprint ID, holding the wake and home buttons for 10 seconds to force restart the device. After restarting, Touch ID is disabled; you must enter the passcode to access the device.
  2. How to take photos without unlocking your phone (because it’s safer to take photos with the phone locked if there’s a chance it could be confiscated)
    Android Nexus devices: double-press the power button.
    iOS devices: at the lock screen, swipe left.
  3. How to encrypt your phone calls and texts
    Install and use Signal (iOS and GooglePlay)
  4. Carry cables and batteries
    Whether you carry a small backpack or a waist pack, bring along at least one fully charged battery pack and whatever cable you need to charge your phone. Check to see if backpacks are allowed (reportedly they are not in DC). Put a zip lock plastic bag in there in case of rain (I’m looking at you, Seattle).

More digital security tips from EFF.

Practical tips

  • Dress in layers, avoid flashy jewelry, have something for your neck/hands/head
  • Wear comfortable shoes (waterproof) and wool socks (it’s winter!)
  • Pack as much water and energy bars as feasible
  • Have photo ID, insurance card, a debit card, and some cash

But here’s the meat of this piece.

First, think about what you might say if approached by someone who appears to be a reporter.

From colleague and friend Jone Johnson Lewis:

Some advice, shared with permission from UU minister and very experienced social justice activist Meg Riley:

I would add my personal suggestions about media for people attending alternative events this week all across the country surrounding the inauguration, learned the hard way: If people want to interview you, and come up to you with cameras, you may feel the exuberance of the moment and say whatever is on your mind. I encourage you to do three other things instead. (nod to Helio Fred Garcia):

First, ask them who they are and what they are using the film for. Many of us have been quoted out of context in hateful videos. If they don’t give an answer that seems solid to you, decline to be interviewed at all.

Second, if you are planning to talk to cameras, have your talking points ready. I strongly encourage you to look at the talking points the organizers of any event you go to have created and stick as closely as possible to them. Only amplify with personal story if it helps to tell a bigger story.

Third, if you are a white, cisgender, middle class, heterosexual, citizen, encourage them to talk to other voices instead. “I hope you’re talking to the people most impacted by these policies.” I suspect at the women’s marches the press will be dying to talk to men about why they are attending, just as they always want to talk to white people at events organized by people of color. Sample response: “I always believe in centering the people who do the real work. Please talk to (a member whatever group the event is focussing on) instead of me.” Or even more simply, “Today isn’t about me. Please talk to the people most severely impacted by the policies of this administration.”


Second, know your rights (pdf, ACLU)


Third, be prepared for a confrontation with police

Check with your local ACLU and download their mobile justice app for your state, if there is one.

These tips are from the ACLU of Washington DC (pdf):

  • Risking arrest? Carry $100 cash and 3 days’ worth of any essential medication, in its original bottle. Make emergency child care plans if you have children. Put a password on your phone to protect against searches. Memorize (or write on your arm) numbers for your family, your lawyer, and jail support.
  • Not a U.S. citizen? Know your immigration number (“A” number) if you have one. Visit for additional guidance.
  • Undocumented, under court supervision, or have a record? Think hard and talk to a lawyer about the risks of arrest! Consequences can be worse for you than most people.
  • A person with a disability, special medical needs, or limited English? Carry a card or wear a bracelet to explain your situation should the need arise.
  • Gender non-conforming? MPD respects gender designations on driver’s licenses so have an accurate license if possible.
aclu arrest tips
From the ACLU of DC. Tap image for complete PDF (contains DC-March specifics).


From Attorney Lee Apotheker on Facebook, 16 January 2017 (links and highlights added)

Hi. I’m a real lawyer and here’s some free advice if you’re going to any of the various protests, marches, etc. this week.

– Do not engage in illegal activity, even if it is harmless or unrelated to the event. Don’t smoke pot, don’t obstruct traffic, don’t kick a sign post. DO NOT GIVE THE POLICE A REASON TO ARREST YOU. Comply with all lawful orders made by police. If you do any of this, be prepared to be arrested. Civil disobedience, while admirable, sometimes requires sacrifice; you will be charged even if your cause is righteous.

– It will be cold. Dress in layers. Wear comfortable clothing that you won’t mind wearing for a very long time. Wear shoes that don’t have laces, if possible. Wear clothing that does not require a belt. If you are arrested, your laces and belts will likely be confiscated.

– Google the [local] phone number for the National Lawyers Guild and write it in Sharpie on one or both of your forearms. If you are arrested, you will want to call them.

– Disable the fingerprint ID on your phone and enable the passcode function. Police can force you to place your fingerprint on your phone but they cannot force you to enter in the passcode.* Refuse all requests/demands to open your phone unless you are presented with a warrant.

– Bring a valid government issued photo ID that has your name., address, and date of birth on it. This will make things go more smoothly for you

– You are not required to answer any questions from police unless you are being detained. If an officer asks you a question, ask him/her if you are being detained. If you are being detained you have the right to know why you’re being detained. If he/she says no, walk away.

– Police are not required to read you your Miranda rights when you are arrested. This is a persistent myth. Police must inform you of your Miranda rights if they are interrogating you. Interrogation does not include asking you your name, address, date of birth, etc. You must answer these questions. Anything after answering basic identification questions, you have the right to have an attorney present.

– Police will not just give you an attorney. You have to ask for one. In some states, asking the first time requires the police to stop interrogation. In other states, you may have to ask more than once. They may try to goad you into answering questions after you ask for an attorney. Once you request an attorney, do not answer any more questions no matter what. Do not answer any questions past basic ID questions until you have an attorney present.

Please feel free to share.


Finally, recognize that there are many who will try to twist what happens on the 21st. And there will be people actively trying to derail marches.


Be safe. Stand tall. Have fun!


Additional resources

Share other good resources in comments, please.


* In Florida, if cops suspect your phone plays a role in a crime, a court has ruled that police can force you to cough up your phone password.

Featured Image / WikiMedia / 2016 November 12


By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

12 replies on “Advice for Women’s March participants”

Shameful pandering to spoilt individuals who believe that their shallow lives are actually important, when are you lot going realise your not important? Marching? Go out and actually help someone, Numremburg rallies come to mind, mindless drones, what will you use next?

Curious as to why I should defer reporters questions to other people simply because I am a heterosexual white woman? Isn’t being a woman enough to entitle me to express my viewpoint?

To incorporate later (couldn’t find last night)

Copied from a friend:
Hey folks, if you’re marching, please keep an eye out for funnels.

What’s a funnel? A funnel is when the march route is moving through a small, congested area, where there’s no way to exit, and you’re being squeezed through like toothpaste in a tube.

They’re places where police can issue an order to disperse, in a place where you physically CAN’T disperse. And then they can arrest you.

You have to decide if you’re up for that risk or not, and that’s a personal decision.

After that, you’re at risk for anything goes if you’re “resisting arrest.”

Other things: you may be told that your sign on a stick is a “weapon,” and be accused of bringing a weapon.

Yes, that’s b.s. but no, you probably won’t win the argument.

All of these things have happened before, I’m not making them up.

If you’re marching, I have mad respect for you. And I want you to know some of the things you might encounter so you can prepare for them.

Also watch for:
Also be aware of this tactic:

Also never fill out a questionnaire at a March or protest! Never tell anybody what you’re doing unless you already know that! Keep all of your conversations discreet and quiet enough that strangers cannot overhear you!

Watch out for:

1. Groups of masked white men, generally dressed similarly. This matters because these are the folks who start shit, because they know who the cops are gonna go after first when there’s no clear culprit.

2. Keep an eye out when people join a march already in progress. This is often how infiltration begins, especially when the march route is known. Watch who’s coming in.

3. As much as one’s senses permit, be wary of things like the sound of breaking glass, anything that seems like fog (that’s tear gas), or anyone trying to split up a march that doesn’t seem to be a coordinator. Yes, sometimes that can be confusing, but breaking up a march…

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