Should I go to a protest alone?
June 26, 2018 10:56 AM   Subscribe

There is a rally scheduled near my office in NYC tonight to protest the Supreme Court's decision on the Muslim ban. I have only ever attended protests/marches with other people, but if I go to this rally tonight, I would have to go alone. I've seen advice suggesting that people shouldn't go to protests alone for safety reasons, which makes me nervous - but I also don't want to not show solidarity just because of my anxiety. (I'm a middle-aged, middle-class white woman, in case that makes a difference.) I feel like I should be leveraging that privilege by showing up - I just want to be smart about it. Does anyone have a sense of how safe it would be to attend this specific event by myself?
posted by Neely O'Hara to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I agree that you should go. I (similar demographic) would feel perfectly safe attending that event by myself. If it helps you feel less anxious, just stay toward the sides/back of the crowd so that you know you have an exit if you need one. Let a friend know where you'll be, and make a plan to check in afterward.
posted by Siobhan at 11:11 AM on June 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

You should go alone. I go to protests alone a lot.

The "do not go alone" advice is much more geared for militant events where a lot of arrests or physical scuffling is expected. TBH, my protestin' buddies have either aged out or left town, pretty much, so I've been to a couple of pretty scuffly events by myself and it was fine, so even in that case use your judgment.

Any event that is hosted by a large liberal or left-liberal organization is going to be organized either around safety or around very managed civil disobedience.

I think "don't go alone" advice is outdated now - it harks back to a time, a few short years ago, when there weren't, like, mass marches several times a week.

The only drag about going by yourself is that it can be more fatiguing than having friends with - give yourself permission to sit or leave if you get really worn out, and make sure to have a snack if you're going to miss your usual dinner time.
posted by Frowner at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2018 [7 favorites]

Go. Arrange to check in with a friend (and if you're willing, set up Find My Friends or similar with them), write their number on your arm in Sharpie in case of emergencies. Make sure you know all your options for getting in/out of the area in case there's traffic snarls or pubtrans issues. Put some cash in your shoe, carry the smallest bag you can if you must carry a bag.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:15 AM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another thing to remember: unless the police are very, very prepared, they don't want to arrest hundreds of people. Mass arrests require preparation and pulling cops from all over the metro. Unless the police anticipate an actual riot, it is far easier for them to let the crowd do its thing.

Non-civil-disobedience arrests are far more likely to happen at small events where a few people can be picked off at a time and where there's likely to be a really intense confrontation between police and protesters, or else in situations where, for example, a highway is being blocked or some significant piece of infrastructure is being physically shut down. Even in those situations, cops don't generally want to arrest everyone and will do their best to clear people out by threats.

Arrests, tear gas, etc are not currently as common at protests as one sometimes believes.

Also, think about your mayor. MPLS, like NYC, has a liberal mayor (even though they're actually deeply flawed and compromised, ugh) and therefore there's less interest in mass arrests and more interest in "let people wear themselves out protesting, it will quiet them down, mwa-ha-ha".
posted by Frowner at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

I've gone to protests alone. Even Black Lives Matter protests in extremely red areas of a red state.

You'll be fine. Just make sure that someone knows you'll be there, and check in with them after you have safely arrived back home.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:28 AM on June 26, 2018

I think you'll be fine. I'm a similar demographic. I've accidentally gotten caught in the middle of protests on many occasions, including one right after the election. I never felt unsafe. I felt anxious being in a crowd, but no more anxious than I feel at sporting events.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:30 AM on June 26, 2018

Thanks everyone for the advice and especially yours, Frowner - you're such a pro at this that your input is super valuable. I was hoping you would weigh in! I feel SO much better with these perspectives.

I totally don't want to go to this protest - I want to go straight home and hang with my new cat - but I'm feeling gross about valuing my comfort over the importance of standing against the ban. So I'm going to go. Thanks so much for the encouragement!!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:31 AM on June 26, 2018 [31 favorites]

I too think you should go alone, but one other general reason to be with a buddy/buddies is that it can help keep you on track if you do start getting caught up in something beyond your depth. Since you won't have that, you'll want to be clear with yourself ahead of time what your boundaries are. Odds are good, however, that nothing will be terribly challenging about that particular protest, and your biggest decision will be how late to stay out.
posted by teremala at 12:05 PM on June 26, 2018

Totally, you should go.

I am a 67-year-old woman living in NYC, and went by myself to the Women's March here in the city in January. (My husband and daughter went to the march in D.C., but I stayed home to be able to feed our cat.)

It was completely fine. I did not for a second feel unsafe. I did stay near the edge, just to make it easier to exit the march if I ran out of steam (old lady that I am).

I did not know about tonight's march. I might show up there myself!
posted by merejane at 12:20 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just saw where you said that you don't want to go, which I can understand, especially given that it's at the end of a work day.

I don't think you should feel bad if you don't go, but another option is to give yourself permission in advance to leave the rally early, if you find you are tired. I admit I did leave a bit early from the Women's March back in January. But I still feel good for the time I was there.
posted by merejane at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2018

Sorry to keep popping back here, and I hope it is not inappropriate to post about this, but -- there is another march and rally in NYC on Saturday, to protest the situation with immigrants on the southern border.

Here's the facebook link: End Family Separation NYC Rally and March

And here is some more detailed information that I got in an email from the organizers:

- We will gather in Foley Square at 10 am and step off for the march at 10:30. We'll head across the Brooklyn Bridge and into Cadman Plaza, where we'll have a rally and speaking program.

- If you are unable to march but want to participate, you can plan to head straight for Cadman Plaza. We expect people tp start gathering there by 11:30 am.

- We will have ASL interpreters during the speaking program.

- We will have some signage available, but everyone is encouraged to bring their own.

- Attendees are encouraged to wear white.
posted by merejane at 12:35 PM on June 26, 2018

Go! Catch someone's eye who looks friendly and march with them. Everyone has moments of feeling a little awkward at protests and we're all looking for solidarity in doing this thing. Wave and smile at the kids who are there with their parents. (Last week when we "welcomed" Mike Pence to Philly, I grinned at a little girl of about 9, and she smiled HUGE at me and started chanting louder and my heart exploded.)
posted by desuetude at 12:38 PM on June 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

(check your MeMail)
posted by knownassociate at 12:53 PM on June 26, 2018

merejane, thanks for the detailed info on Saturday's march! My partner and I were already planning on coming, but all we knew was to show up at Foley Square at 10 - I didn't know the other details. So glad to have some action to funnel this frustration and heartbreak into!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 1:09 PM on June 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks for standing up for what's right.
posted by theora55 at 2:01 PM on June 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

I go to protests alone a lot, but if I can, I get someone to go with me just to increase the numbers. While there, I generally post on FB or Twitter to guilt my friends into going.

I have been known to peel off from a march when things get out of hand, because I'm 66, have poor balance, and have bad knees.
posted by Peach at 2:36 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m the same demographic as you. I have been to more protests in the last 18 months (in DC) than in my entire life prior. Only one of those I’ve joined with friends beforehand. I’ve never felt unsafe or had any problems. I actually like going alone so I can focus on the chanting and the marching, rather than keeping track of my friends. Going alone on Saturday too. Highly recommend it!
posted by gemmy at 6:15 PM on June 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

So I went to the protest last night! I would have been 200% fine by myself, but knownassociate met me and it was super awesome to have someone else to chant with and shout SHAME! with (thanks again, knownassociate!) I wasn't able to stick around for the march, but I'll be marching on Saturday for the Families Belong Together protest. I'm so glad I went and so thankful for all the encouragement here!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:50 AM on June 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

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