With expired documents assuming Roe v. Wade can be canceled protests in support of reproductive rights are being organized across the country later this year by the US Supreme Court. Parts of Judge Samuel Alito’s preliminary opinion could significantly shrink the rights guaranteed to American citizens, with opportunities for future criminalization of contraception and the annulment of same-sex and interracial marriages on a state-by-state basis.
If you are going to protest against these and other injustices and take pictures while you are doing it – as is right in your First Amendment – there are some things to keep in mind. Whether you’re using a smartphone or a DSLR, documenting a protest with photos and video can be an important part of telling the story of what happened and when. But these photos can also be used to injure you or your fellow protesters. Here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and others.
Before you pick up your camera and rush through the door, ask yourself why you want to take pictures of this event. You should not take pictures of a protest for likes, followings or influence on social networks. Don’t go to a protest just to say you were there. The protests are not photo shoots, and the people on the streets, venting their anger and frustration with systemic injustices, are not there to pose for your Insta. Just think about your motives and be honest with yourself.
Would you still like to protest if you leave your phone and camera at home? Be a protester first, then a photographer.
Make a plan and bring a friend
Staying safe in protest can be difficult, but we have a few guides that can help you with this, including How to protect yourself with the right equipment and How to protect your smartphone and data privacy.
In particular, protest with a few friends, relatives or roommates. Stick together, share supplies, watch out for each other. Going to protest with just one other person can remove a lot of stress from him. Your friend can keep an eye on you while you take pictures and make sure you don’t stand in anyone’s way.
If the police declare an assembly illegal and start using force to disperse crowds, it can be really difficult to find a reliable way home. Rideshare services like Lyft or Uber may not be able to take you. The same goes for public transport; buses and trains can be closed or diverted around protest routes.
The easiest plan is the simplest: Plan your walk. You don’t have to walk all the way home, but be prepared to walk about a quarter of a mile before you find a bus, train, or driver who wants to pick you up. If you can, ask a friend who will not be at the protest if he can come and pick you up. As a last resort, check out social media. Search under local hashtags for organizations that offer attractions or retweet people who protest. However, stick to trusted organizations; don’t let a stranger come pick you up.