Sometimes at a protest or demonstration, we can be witness to human rights abuses by authorities or other groups who oppose the aims of the protest. In order to coordinate a response, it will be vital to report what happened as accurately as possible. This can be especially difficult when we are scared, or distressed.
A flow of accurate information is crucial during an emergency. Identify who to contact and in which order, giving priority to those who can provide effective and immediate support. The first thing you must do before attempting to report anything is try to get to as safe a place as possible. Then, get in contact with someone who is also most likely to be in a safe space – ideally someone who is not at the protest to begin with. You should have their contact details ready in advance - either saved in your phone or written down. Take a moment beforehand to organise your thoughts, then relay the following information:
- Who are you, and where are you?
- What happened?
- Where did it happen?
- When did it happen?
- Who was affected?
- Who was the perpetrator, and how do you know?
- What do you need?
- How and when can you be contacted?
It may be useful to practice these scenarios before the protest, if you consider them to be sufficiently likely.
If a fellow protester is arrested, consider the following:
- Relay the place and time of the arrest, and information regarding the arresting officer and any vehicles involved - names or ID numbers are usually printed on police uniforms for identification purposes. This information is vital for dissemination among affinity groups, human rights orgnisations and the media.
- If the person arrested was part of your affinity group, conduct a roll call to confirm that everyone else is OK.
- Confirm the of location of the person in custody, details of his or her medical condition and charges against him or her. If you think arrest is likely, you should define a comprehensive strategy before the protest to demand immediate release, ideally involving national and/or international human rights groups.
- Regroup to adapt the plan and reassign duties if needed, if you intend to continue the action.
For more on emergency planning, see Strategise | Security in Groups and Organisations.