I recently went to my first protest here in Baltimore, and it was a very uplifting experience.
Albeit, I was very nervous! I’d read the news of the how the police had been treating the protestors in other cities, and I was concerned that something would pop off here. I already don’t really like large crowds, but this was important and I wanted to support in some way.
The commute was a bit longer than anticipated—the Light Rail trains and buses had ceased running to and from downtown. The conductor informed us over the speaker as we’re riding the train. So we had to hop off at the North Ave. stop and walk two miles to the meeting spot.
Once we arrived, I was happy and relieved to see everyone chanting, listening and giving others space—people weren’t crowding each other. And most importantly, I saw lots of facemasks! I’m glad that people didn’t forget that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and we can’t fight racism if we’re sick with COVID.
Another thing that I was happy to see were people helping out. There were people giving out bottles of water, snacks for energy, and I saw a couple of people in my area who had First Aid kits strapped to them. Also, there was a woman who was walking around carrying a box of facemasks and a large jug of hand sanitizer, offering them to whomever needed them.
We all walked, chanted, and listened, and it was an awesome experience. I was very thankful that I had the chance to go. During the Baltimore Uprising after the murder of Freddie Gray in 2015, I was scared and angry. I have a very large extended family— most of my cousins are Black men. Any one of them, or my brother, could have been in Freddie’s position—accused of a crime and summarily executed before your innocence could be asserted. I’d wanted to march along Penn-North, chant and yell—show my solidarity. Do something! I wasn’t able to protest, but I did amplify the other voices who were there any way I could. I was able to donate, read, and follow the cases of the accused officers. Though it was small, it was something.
Being there helped me feel connected to the larger fight, and it was pretty cathartic.
I’d like to impart some tips to those who are heading out to protest, from a first-timer:
- STRETCH!! I cannot stress this enough because you will become sore afterwards. Especially if the trains and buses decide to stop running and you’ve got quite the stroll just to get to the starting point of the protest.
- Make sure to wear a book bag, or a small messenger bag if you’ll be carrying any personal belongings. Again, depending on how long you decide to stay and how far you’ll be walking, it’ll be a lot easier with less weight on your body. My shoulder was sore for a day from my shoulder bag—and I didn’t even have much in there!
- Hydrate!! This is important of course with any physical activity, but especially when you add in the warm to hot weather. Make sure to carry some water with you to sip from while you’re protesting.
- These are essential wears: comfortable shoes, lightweight clothing, sunglasses (or bring goggles), facemask or bandana (especially during this time), and a jacket. The jacket is to cover up any tattoos on your arms, or if the weather turns bad. I also brought a scarf to cover my head, as I know police and various other agencies use photographs and footage for surveillance of the protestors.
- A small notebook (to document people and events should your phone choose to malfunction), pen and a disposable camera. At the start, my phone took longer than normal for the camera app to open. It wasn’t until later I’d read on twitter that it was thought that Apple was intentionally stalling the camera apps to open. I’m not sure how true that is, but I’m sure one of my tech friends will correct me if I’m wrong. One last thing– when photographing, take care to not capture people’s faces unless they ok it.
- Make sure your sign is lightweight; foldable is also very helpful!
- Please try not to attend the protests alone—see if a friend can go with you. Or at the very least, make sure you have someone to check-in with who knows exactly where you are.
- While walking, try to stick to the outside. God forbid that if something happens, you won’t be stuck in the middle of the crowd with the chance of being trampled.
Others have written about keeping yourself safe, technologically speaking. I’ll link here, as well at places you can donate, and other helpful information.
Lastly, the most important thing to do is take care of yourself. While in the days of receiving updated information on the protests, arrests, policies and other world news, I hadn’t realized that I’d gone days without drinking water. Just plain water.
Be safe friends.
Read: BLM Summer Reading List
Watch: A watchlist to educate