Staying Safe When Covering or Attending a Protest

By Team TrollBusters

Adapted from EFF’s Attending a Protest guide

The murder of George Floyd in the United States sparked protests around the world. "Am I Next? Acrylic. by Michelle Ferrier, July 2020.

When working in the field to cover or attend a protest, make sure to be mentally, physically, and digitally prepared for any situation. You have to build up situational awareness and be prepared for any fast-changing scenario. 

Protests can be an overwhelming experience when you are alone, so make sure – when possible – to go with a friend or with a small group. You are safer when you stay together.

Checklist to consider, before the protest

  • Determining whether it is safe to attend a protest. Physically attending a protest introduces many risks from physical safety to increased surveillance of you and your community. 
  • (Digital safety) Turn on full-disk encryption on your device
  • (Digital safety) Remove fingerprint unlock and/or FaceID
    • In protest situations—or in any other situation in which you may be more likely to encounter a government demand to search your phone (such as at a border crossing)—we suggest you turn this functionality off. Enabling these means an officer could physically force you to unlock your device with your fingerprint or face. 
  • (Digital safety) Backup your data. Consider using a disposable phone instead of using your personal device.
  • (Digital safety) Install and use WhatsApp or Signal for secure communications. 
  • (Physical safety) Pack your bag appropriately. Make sure to have water, protective gear, first aid kit, portable battery for your devices. 
  • (Legal tip) If arrest is highly probable, make sure to have a lawyer’s name written on your arm. 

For considerations for how you should act during a protest, please read From Beirut To Minneapolis. This is a guide written by digital security experts from other regions of the world.

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