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Safe Civic Spaces: Resource Guides

unarmed civilian protection

UCP and Safe Civic Spaces

Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) is a methodology and set of practices for the direct physical protection of civilians by trained, unarmed civilians before, during, and after violent conflict. Through direct protection, UCP supports local civilians as they work to protect themselves and their communities and transform violent conflict.
UCP protects civilians from violence through use of a range of methods, including protective accompaniment and protective presence, community-led safety and security initiatives such as early-warning early-response mechanisms, civilians protecting one another through safety teams – and much more.
Check out our guides below to see how UCP can be applied to protect civic spaces at demonstrations and similar events.


Table of Contents

Running UCP Safety Teams

Organizing Safely: Quick Guides for Activists

Diving into Skills

Nonviolent Peaceforce staff and volunteers during an action -- they wear blue NP beanies, white Community Safety Team vests, layers for the cold New York, and face masks
NP Staff and Volunteer Safety team. NYC, 2021. ©Edmar Flores

Running UCP Safety Teams

Community-Based UCP for Civic Spaces: Overview Guide

Community members play a vital role in enhancing the safety of demonstrators through UCP. This guide provides practical steps to support and protect students during nonviolent demonstrations, ensuring their voices are heard safely and effectively. 

Understanding Your Role

As someone providing UCP support, your presence can deter violence. You are not there to police or lead the demonstration but to observe, document, and stand in solidarity with the students. 

Applying the Core Principles of UCP in Protection of Civic Spaces

  1. Nonviolence: Commit to nonviolent actions and interactions. Your presence should contribute to de-escalating potential conflicts. 
  1. Non-partisanship: Support the safety of all participants without taking sides in the political dimensions of the demonstration. Provide protection without discrimination, offering equal support to all individuals in need. 

  1. Consent: Work in coordination with organizers and respect their strategies and requests. Only provide support when asked or invited. 

Short Checklist for Effective UCP in Protection of Civic Spaces

Coordination with Organizers: 

  • Engage with the leaders of the demonstration to understand their plans, routes, and needs. 
  • Clarify how you can best support them, including areas where your presence would be most beneficial. 

Preparation and Training: 

  • Participate in nonviolence and de-escalation trainings. 
  • Learn basic first aid and legal observation to document any incidents accurately. 

Visibility and Monitoring: 

  • Wear identifiable clothing or symbols agreed upon with the demonstration organizers to be easily recognizable as a third-party. 
  • Use phones or cameras to document the demonstration, focusing on any instances of aggression or misconduct from any party. 

Communication: 

  • Establish clear communication channels with other community protectors and demonstration organizers. 
  • Use walkie-talkies or messaging apps to stay connected, especially where cell service may be overwhelmed. 

Legal Preparedness: 

  • Understand the legal rights of demonstrators and the limits of civilian protection. 
  • Carry contact information for legal aid and emergency services. 

Post-Event Engagement: 

  • Debrief with organizers to discuss what went well and what could be improved. 
  • Document and report any incidents to relevant authorities or organizations. 

Your involvement in UCP as a community member is invaluable to maintaining safety in civic spaces. By adhering to the principles of UCP and preparing adequately, you help create a safer environment for students and community members to exercise their rights nonviolently.

Primary UCP Practices for the Protection of Civic Space & Human Rights Defenders 

Protective Presence

Protective Presence is a method used by UCP practitioners to deter violence and provide reassurance to vulnerable groups simply through their visible presence. This technique is based on the principle that the presence of third party, non-threatening observers can help prevent or reduce aggression. By being visibly present, protectors signal to potential aggressors that the world is watching, which can discourage violent actions due to fear of accountability or negative publicity. 

Elements of Protective Presence

  • Visibility: Protectors wear distinctive attire to ensure they are easily identifiable as neutral observers. 
  • Non-Intervention: The role is to observe and document, not to physically intervene in conflicts. 
  • Deterrence: Their presence aims to discourage hostile actions by increasing the likelihood that such actions will be witnessed and reported. 

Tips on Protective Presence

  • Visible Deterrence
    • Wear highly visible attire such as vests or jackets in bright, neutral colors to be easily identifiable as part of the safety team.
    • Position yourselves in high-visibility areas where your presence can deter potential aggressors and reassure demonstrators. 
  • Stationary Observation
    • Choose strategic spots along the demonstration route or at stationary demonstration sites where tensions are likely to escalate.
    • Remain stationary and alert, providing a calming influence and serving as a lookout for any signs of conflict or distress among demonstrators.
  • State Security Engagement
    • Introduce yourselves and your role to law enforcement officers before the demonstration begins to establish a presence as a third party monitor or observer.
    • Maintain a professional demeanor and use your visibility.

Protective Accompaniment

Protective Accompaniment is a more targeted form of protective presence, where practioners accompany specific individuals or groups who are at high risk of violence or harassment. This strategy is often used to safeguard human rights defenders, activists, or vulnerable civilians in conflict zones. The close, personal support helps prevent attacks and provides immediate assistance and documentation if an incident occurs. 

Elements of Protective Accompaniment

  • Close Proximity: Protectors stay close to the individuals they are accompanying to offer physical and moral support. 
  • Focused Protection: The protection is tailored to the specific needs and risks faced by the individuals. 
  • Rapid Response: Protectors are prepared to quickly respond and document any incidents, providing a direct line to further assistance if necessary. 

Tips on Protective Accompaniment

  • Close Support for Individuals
    • Identify individuals who may be at higher risk, such as vocal leaders, known activists, or those previously targeted during demonstrations.
    • Walk closely with these individuals, providing an immediate protective presence that can help prevent targeted harassment or aggression.
  • Dynamic Escorting
    • Remain flexible and ready to move with high-risk individuals throughout the demonstration, adapting to changing situations and routes.
    • Use non-verbal cues and pre-established signals to communicate with each other and with the individuals you are accompanying to ensure seamless movement and coordination.
  • De-escalation Techniques
    • Train in verbal and non-verbal de-escalation techniques to manage and diffuse potential confrontations without resorting to physical intervention.
    • Use body language and positioning to shield accompanied individuals from potential threats, placing yourselves between them and the aggressor if necessary.

Considerations for Both

Common Applications of Protective Presence and Protective Accompaniment

Both strategies are employed in various scenarios, including: 

  • Human Rights Advocacy: Protecting activists who may be targeted by state or non-state actors. 
  • Election Monitoring: Ensuring the safety of voters and election workers in regions where elections are contentious. 
  • Disaster Response: Providing a nonviolent presence to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable populations during the chaos following natural disasters. 

These nonviolent methods are crucial tools in conflict prevention efforts, offering effective alternatives to armed protection and contributing to a safer environment for populations at increased risk.

Additional Considerations for Both Protective Presence & Accompaniment

  • Communication Equipment
    • Equip all team members with earpieces and radios to ensure that communication remains constant and clear, even in noisy environments.
    • Have a designated person monitoring communications and coordinating movements and responses from a central location.
  • Emergency Procedures
    • Establish clear procedures for emergencies, including medical incidents or arrest situations.
    • Have a designated legal observer and medical specialist within your team who can quickly respond to specific needs.
  • Post-Action Engagement
    • Gather after the demonstration to evaluate the effectiveness of the protective presence and accompaniment strategies. 
    • Provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, documenting all incidents to refine tactics for future demonstrations.

Setting Up a Safety Team

Build Relationships

  • Community Engagement: Engage with the local community to build trust and cooperation. This also helps in gathering local intelligence about potential threats and strengthens communal support for the demonstration. Work continuously to build and maintain trust within the community, which is essential for an effective protective presence.
  • Educational Outreach: Conduct workshops and training sessions to educate the community about nonviolence, legal rights, and protest safety.
  • Get to know one another on the safety team. Implement a buddy system, and have the buddies conduct a holistic check-in before you begin.

Preparation and Planning

Engage Early and Often:

  • Pre-Demonstration Meetings: Hold planning sessions with all stakeholders, including safety teams, organizers, and community activists to align on roles, expectations, and communications. Continue to meet regularly.
  • Assign Roles: Clearly define roles among community protectors, such as observers, documenters, and liaisons with legal support, to ensure comprehensive coverage and effective response.
  • Legal Preparedness and Support: Ensure everyone understands their legal rights, potential risks, strategies for handling interactions with law enforcement, and has or knows legal contacts. Consider arranging for a legal expert to brief all protectors on the legal rights of demonstrators and the boundaries of civilian protection under local law.
  • Scenario Planning: Discuss and plan for various scenarios that might occur during the demonstration, including potential provocations or aggressive disruptions.
  • Protest Safety Training: Provide learning spaces for practitioners to review the basics of UCP. Along with that, run role plays of likely threat scenarios and how to respond to those threats. Get started with this page, our Quick Resources page, or our Protest Safety Prep Linktree.

Health and Safety Measures:

  • First Aid Kits: Equip all members with basic first aid supplies and identify individuals with medical training.
  • COVID-19 Precautions: Maintain health safety by recommending masks, hand sanitizers, and observing social distancing as much as possible.
  • Emergency Contacts: Distribute cards or pamphlets with contact information for local emergency services, legal aid, and other relevant support services.

Communication Strategies

Effective Systems:

  • Establish Protocols: Use reliable communication tools such as encrypted messaging apps or radios for real-time updates and coordination.
  • Use Secure Join Links and Processes: Depending on the security of the content shared, consider a vouching system or secure link sharing.
  • Check-In System: Implement a regular check-in system to monitor the safety and location of all team members throughout the event.
  • Emergency Signals: Establish simple hand signals or code words to communicate quickly and discreetly among protectors during noisy or chaotic situations.
  • Backup Communication Plans: Prepare for the possibility of cell network overload or interference by having secondary communication devices like radios.

Implement Protective Presence:

  • Visibility: Wear identifiable clothing or badges to be recognized as part of the safety team, enhancing deterrent effects.
  • Uniform Appearance: Wear easily identifiable vests or armbands to ensure both demonstrators and law enforcement recognize you in a third-party role.
  • Positioning: Station team members at strategic locations near high-risk areas (e.g. along the route, at entrances).

Monitoring and Documentation:

  • Rumor Control: Implement rumor control mechanisms to verify and correct misinformation that could escalate tensions. This involves quickly addressing false information and providing accurate updates to prevent misunderstandings and reduce panic.
  • Early Warning Systems: Establish early warning systems that can alert Safety Teams and demonstrators to changing conditions and potential threats. This allows for timely adjustments to the protection strategies and helps prevent violence before it starts.
  • Document Everything: Keep detailed records of events and incidents. Use cameras or smartphones to document, ensuring you do not provoke or escalate tensions.
  • Incident Response: Have clear protocols for documenting and responding to any incidents of violence or escalations.
  • Live Streaming: Utilize live streaming to share real-time updates with those not on the ground, providing transparency and an immediate record of the demonstration.
  • Incident Logs: Maintain detailed logs of times, locations, and descriptions of any incidents or noteworthy occurrences, using a standardized format for ease of use and clarity.
  • Observer Notes: Train protectors on how to take detailed notes that could be used in legal contexts, emphasizing the importance of factual, unbiased recording.

De-escalation and Conflict Resolution:

  • Training in Nonviolent Communication: Equip all members with skills in de-escalation and nonviolent communication techniques. In a non-urgent situation where conflict is arising, designate team members to de-escalate (as opposed to every person in the team trying to de-escalate at the same time and escalating the situation further). Jump to de-escalation tips.
  • Active Engagement: Intervene early in conflicts to calm down escalating parties before situations become violent.

Post-Event Processes

Debrief and Document:

  • Structured Debriefing: Conduct structured debrief sessions immediately after the event to gather insights and document lessons learned while memories are fresh. Discuss what went well and what didn’t, focusing on improving future safety measures.
  • Report and Follow-Up: Ensure all documentation is processed appropriately, with incidents reported to relevant authorities or human rights organizations to pursue any advocacy and learning.
  • Wellbeing & Stress Management: Again, have the buddies conduct a holistic check-in. Encourage everyone to engage in wellbeing and stress management (jump down to tips).
A blue day, bright green grass, there are tents at a community celebration. Two people in community safety team vests are featured walking in the crowd.
The Community Peace Builders provide protection at a Juneteenth Celebration outside of Minneapolis. June 2022. ©NP

Organizing Safely:
Quick Guides for Activists

Safe Participation in Civic Spaces

Introduction

Participating in demonstrations is a powerful way to express views and advocate for change. However, ensuring personal safety is crucial. This guide provides practical tips for preparing for and participating in demonstrations safely.

Key Tips for Safe Participation

  • Be Informed: Knowledge is your best tool. Understand the purpose, plan, and potential risks of the demonstration. 
  • Be Prepared: Equip yourself with necessary supplies and information. 
  • Spread Calm: Maintain a calm and observant approach to handle unexpected situations effectively.

Safe participation in demonstrations is essential not just for your safety but also for the effectiveness of the action. By being well-prepared, aware, and calm, you can ensure that your voice is heard while minimizing risks. 

Before the Demonstration

  • Plan Ahead
    • Know the purpose of the demonstration and the route.
    • Inform someone you trust about your participation and share your expected whereabouts.
  • Understand the Legal Context
    • Be aware of local laws regarding public gatherings.
    • Have the contact information of legal assistance organizations or hotlines.
  • Prepare a Personal Safety Kit
    • Include N95 masks, water, snacks, a basic first-aid kit, and any necessary medications.
    • Wear protective clothing appropriate for the weather and potential crowd dynamics.
  • Communication Plan
    • Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged; consider bringing a portable charger.
    • Have a backup plan for communication in case of mobile network overload.

During the Demonstration

  • Stay Aware of Your Surroundings. Practice Situational Awareness. 
    • Stay alert to any changes in the crowd’s behavior or police actions. 
    • Identify escape routes and safe spaces near the demonstration area. 
  • Buddy Up & Stick Together 
    • Never go alone.  
    • Remain with a group of trusted friends. There's safety in numbers. 
    • Establish a meeting point in case you get separated. 
  • Practice Tactical Nonviolence 
    • Avoid confrontations with law enforcement or counter-protesters. 
    • Practice nonviolent communication and actions, even in tense situations.

After the Demonstration

  • Debrief and Document
    • Share experiences and any incidents of rights violations with your group.
    • Document injuries or illegal actions with photos and detailed notes for legal purposes.
  • Self-Care is Community Care
    • Participating in demonstrations can be emotionally taxing. Allow time for rest and recovery.
    • Seek support from peers or professionals if you experience distress.

Preventing and Reacting to Aggressions

Introduction

Aggressions, whether verbal, physical, or psychological, are unfortunate realities in activism. Preparing to prevent and react to such events is crucial for maintaining the safety and well-being of activists and their communities.

Preventing and reacting to aggression requires careful preparation, community support, and resilience. By empowering activists with the knowledge and tools to handle these situations, organizations can protect one another. We keep us safe. 

Prevention Strategies

  1. Training and Political Education: 

    • Attend a training on de-escalation, non-violent communication and conflict resolution. Find de-escalation trainers and trainings near you.

    • Knowledge-share with other activists on the typical signs of escalating aggression and the legal rights pertaining to protest and personal safety. 

  1. Community Building: 

    • Foster a strong sense of community and solidarity among activists. A cohesive group can dissuade potential aggressors and provide mutual support. 

    • Establish and maintain a visible presence of community support during actions, which can act as a deterrent to aggression.  

    • For example, for non-escalated events, consider dedicating team members for welcoming people to the event and pointing out medical resources, mental health resources, food, activities, etc.  

  1. Strategic Planning: 

    • Train activists in de-escalation techniques tailored to the scenarios they might face. 

    • Practice these skills regularly through role-playing exercises to build confidence and proficiency.

Reaction Strategies

  1. Immediate Response: 

    • As a part of the protocol, consider: perhaps the event organizers encourage that only the safety team will liase with the police or aggressors. 

    • Additionally, as part of the protocol, it may be helpful to identify and establish the overall purpose. For example, "Our aim is to ask counter-protestors to exit the center area and have a conversation, but if there is hate speech, we will accompany the person to leave.” 

    • Designate team members to take on specific roles during a crisis, such as negotiators, first aid providers, and liaisons to legal support. 

  1. Legal Preparedness: 

    • Ensure that all activists are aware of their legal rights if arrested or confronted by law enforcement. Determine your own capacity for facing legal ramifications prior to the event and coordinate an exit strategy. Communicate this exit strategy with your team as well.  

    • Have legal observers at demonstrations and the contact information for legal assistance readily available. 

  1. Documentation: 

    • Encourage activists to record all incidents of aggression, if safe to do so, using smartphones or cameras. This documentation can be critical for legal and advocacy efforts. 

    • Determine a central/shared location for where to send the documentation post-event.  

    • Keep detailed records of events and responses to use as learning tools for future actions. 

  1. Post-Incident Support: 

    • Provide immediate and ongoing support to those affected by aggression. This can include medical care, psychological support, and legal counseling. 

    • Hold debriefing sessions after events to discuss what happened, what was done well, and what could be improved in future responses.

During a simulated aggression, three people in safety vests work to de-escalate an actor playing an aggressor
U.S. staff & volunteers simulate de-escalating an anti-Asian hate incident at a training. NYC, May 2022 ©Sheng Lin for AAF

Diving into Skills

Risk Assessment

What is a Risk Assessment?

Risk assessment is a critical tool for UCP practitioners, activists and human rights defenders to identify, analyze, and mitigate potential risks in their work. It involves understanding the threats, vulnerabilities, and capacities to manage those risks effectively.

Key Tips for Effective Risk Assessment

  • Be Proactive: Don’t wait for a threat to materialize; anticipate and prepare in advance. 

  • Stay Informed: Keep abreast of local and global developments that could impact your safety and security. 

  • Engage Your Network: Collaborate with other people and organizations to share information and resources. 

  • Document Everything: Keep records of threats and incidents to inform your risk assessment and aid in any legal processes. 

 

Risk assessment is not a one-time activity but an ongoing process that requires vigilance, adaptation, and proactive management. By understanding and managing your risks, you can safeguard your ability to continue your important work as a UCP practitioner, activist, or human rights defender.

Steps to Conduct a Risk Assessment

  1. Identify Risks: 

    • What dangers might you face? Consider legal, physical, digital, and reputational risks. 

    • Are there specific threats to your safety due to the issues you advocate for? 

  1. Analyze Threats: 

    • What are the LIKELY threats? 

    • Who might be motivated to challenge or harm you? (e.g., state authorities, opposing groups) 

    • What form could these threats take? (e.g., surveillance, harassment, violence) 

  1. Evaluate Vulnerabilities: 

    • What factors make you susceptible to threats? Consider personal, organizational, and situational vulnerabilities. 

    • How does your environment (physical and digital) increase your risks? 

  1. Assess Capacities: 

    • What resources do you have to mitigate these risks? Include personal skills, organizational support, networks, and technological tools. 

    • Do you have access to legal assistance, secure communication tools, and supportive communities? 

  1. Prioritize Risks: 

    • Use a risk matrix to prioritize risks based on their likelihood and impact. Focus on high-probability and high-impact risks first. 

  1. Develop Mitigation Strategies: 

    • For each high-priority risk, develop specific strategies to reduce both likelihood and impact. 

    • Strategies may include enhancing security measures, strengthening networks, and securing communications. 

  1. Review and Update: 

    • Regularly review and update the risk assessment to reflect new developments and changing circumstances. 

    • Stay informed about new threats and continuously improve your security practices.

Remote Support

Introduction

Remote support plays a crucial role in enhancing the safety, effectiveness, and reach of protest activities, especially when physical presence is limited by geographical, health, or other constraints. This guide provides practical steps for individuals and groups to support demonstrations from afar, ensuring their contributions are impactful and coordinated.

"We keep us safe" means all of us. Remote support is a role and skill developed by disabled organizers like Mia Mingus (@miamingus), Alice Wong (@disability_visibility), and Sandy Ho. Everyone has a place in keeping our communities safe from state and nonstate actor violence.

In essence, remote support involves providing digital assistance and vital information to people at a rally, march, or protest. This support includes real-time communication to inform on-the-ground safety plans.

Examples and Scenarios of Remote Support:

🦺 Scenario 1:
An LRAD is being used to relay dispersal orders by state security forces, causing intense inner ear pain to protesters. As a remote supporter, you would ensure that this information is communicated to the team. You would verify if they are aware of the impending arrests and provide them with exit points. For example, "I’ll text an exit plan to the Signal group right now."

🦺 Scenario 2:
As a remote supporter, you are monitoring chatter about potential agitator violence, identified as a primary threat against protesters. You notice a threatening Twitter post from a hate group but cannot confirm if it is a troll or someone actually on site. You relay only factual information to your communications person on the ground and remind the team to strengthen their situational awareness, watching for insignias or uniforms from this hate group.

🦺 Scenario 3:
Tear gas and pepper balls are about to be used by state security forces. As a remote supporter, you’ve already identified primary and secondary exit routes for your group. When they are in the middle of the march but close to their primary exit route, you call the person tasked with on-the-ground communications and relay directions.

This is a vital and often overlooked role requiring individuals who can maintain calm and focus in stressful situations, are heavily detail-oriented, may be considered the “parent” of their friend group or chosen family, and have the capacity to support. Remote support is an essential component of modern demonstrations, expanding their impact and ensuring sustainability. By implementing the strategies outlined in this guide, remote supporters can provide valuable assistance that complements on-the-ground efforts, making each demonstration more effective and far-reaching.

 

Examples of Remote Support to get you started

1. Digital Advocacy and Awareness 


Leverage Social Media:
 

  • Live Streaming: Coordinate with on-ground participants to live stream demonstration, providing real-time coverage and broadening the audience. 

Content Creation: 

  • Blogs and Articles: Write insightful pieces that explain the goals of the demonstration and share personal stories to connect with a broader audience. 

  • Educational Materials: Develop and distribute educational content about the demonstration’s objectives, the importance of nonviolent protest, and legal rights. 

 

2. Coordination and Logistics Support 


Remote Coordination Roles:
 

  • Communication Hub: Serve as a central point for information dissemination, managing communication between different groups and providing updates. 

  • Action Operator: Provide real time information to Safety Teams at an action; based on information gathered from livestreams, police scanners and social media.  

  • Legal and Medical Assistance Coordination: Organize remote support such as legal aid for arrested demonstrators or coordinating healthcare appointments for those injured. 

Funding and Resource Mobilization: 

  • Crowdfunding: Set up and manage crowdfunding campaigns to support logistical needs, such as bail funds, medical aid, and supplies for demonstrators. 

  • Resource Allocation: Ensure that funds and resources are distributed effectively, prioritizing urgent needs and ensuring transparency in their use. 

 

3. Technical Support 


Cybersecurity:
 

  • Secure Communications: Provide demonstrators with tools and training for secure communication, protecting their privacy and data from surveillance and interception. 

  • IT Support: Offer technical support to troubleshoot issues with websites, live streaming, or other digital tools essential for the demonstration. 

Data Management: 

  • Data Analysis: Analyze data collected during demonstrations, such as attendance numbers, incident reports, or social media engagement, to gauge impact and plan future actions. 

  • Archiving: Help maintain a digital archive of demonstration materials, including photos, videos, and documents, for historical documentation and legal purposes. 

 

4. Advocacy and Networking 


Liaise with International Supporters:
 

  • Global Networks: Build relationships with international organizations and activists to garner global support and attention for the cause. 

  • Representation at Events: Represent the demonstration’s objectives at conferences, webinars, or public meetings to spread awareness and drum up support. 

Policy Influence: 

  • Petitions and Letters: Organize petition drives or coordinate letter-writing campaigns to influence policymakers or support legislative changes related to the demonstration’s goals. 

 

5. Emotional and Psychological Support Support Networks: 

  • Post Action Holistic Check-In (watch the reel or read the post)

  • Refer to Virtual Counseling: Set up virtual counseling services for demonstrators who experience trauma or stress related to their activism. 

  • Online Communities: Foster online communities where demonstrators can share experiences, offer mutual support, and discuss strategies in a safe space.

Incident Tracking

Introduction

Effective incident tracking is crucial for monitoring, responding to, and documenting events that occur during protests and other actions. This guide provides a straightforward approach to setting up and maintaining an incident tracking system that ensures all significant events are documented and addressed properly. Capturing this information ensures that human rights abuses do not happen in the dark. 

6 Steps to Incident Tracking


1. Define Incident Categories

Establish Clear Definitions:

  • Physical Incidents: Any form of physical aggression or injury.

  • Legal Incidents: Arrests, detentions, or legal violations. 

  • Verbal Incidents: Threats, harassment, or any harmful verbal interaction. 

  • Property Damage: Vandalism or destruction of property belonging to activists or associated organizations. 
     

2. Use SALT – D for monitoring, observing and documenting events. 

  • Size – How large was the crowd? How large were the state security forces? 
  • Activity – What are they doing? Is there state or nonstate actor violence?
  • Location – Where exactly is this happening? 
  • Time – What time did the activity happen?
  • Document – If possible, get photos or videos of state security and/or nonstate actors. 

3. Set Up a Tracking System 

Choosing the Right Tools: 

  • Digital Tools: Utilize encrypted software such as CryptPad.fr which allow for real-time updates and access by multiple users. 

  • Paper-Based Systems: For areas with limited internet access, maintain physical logs that can be digitized later. 
     

5. Review and Analyze Data 

Regular Reviews: 

  • Weekly Check-ins: Review incident logs weekly to identify patterns or escalating situations. 

  • Monthly Reports: Compile monthly summaries to assess the safety situation and effectiveness of response strategies. 
     

6. Use Data for Advocacy and Improvement 

Strategic Use of Data: 

  • Advocacy: Use documented incidents to advocate for policy changes, increased protection, or public awareness. 

  • Training: Identify common incidents and use these scenarios for training volunteers on prevention and response. 

  • Feedback Loop: Incorporate lessons learned from incident reviews to improve tactics and safety measures.

Situational Awareness

Practicing situational awareness involves using all your senses and your body to assess your surroundings for potential threats and to develop a plan of action to keep yourself and others safe.

These survival skills enable anyone to assess and navigate their environment. It involves understanding both internal and external factors and how to respond to threatening situations effectively.

De-Escalation Tips

If the Demonstration is Escalating

Wellbeing & Stress Management

Understanding Stress in Safety Teams or Activism

Working on safety teams or angaging in activism puts power and agency into the hands of the People, but it also comes with its challenges, including high levels of stress and burnout. Maintaining your wellbeing is crucial not only for your personal health but also for the sustainability of your work.

Stress in this work can arise from various sources, including the emotional toll of the environment, threats to personal safety, and the frustration of dealing with slow or negative progress. Recognizing these sources is the first step in managing them effectively.

Taking care of your mental and physical wellbeing is not a luxury—it's essential. By implementing these strategies, you can protect your health and enhance your effectiveness on a safety team or as an activist. Remember, you're at your most powerful when you are well in body, heart and mind.

 

Basic Tips for Daily Wellbeing

  • Stay Hydrated and Eat Well: Nutrition plays a crucial role in mental health. Keep hydrated, if possible with electrolytes and eat a balanced diet to boost your energy and mood. 

  • Get Enough Sleep: Prioritize getting enough sleep, as it affects your mood, energy levels, and overall health. 

  • Take Breaks: This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take the time you need to recover, process and regenerate. Work with your team to create shifts for tasks, safety teams, sleep, etc.  

 

Managing Stress & Avoiding Burnout

 
1. Recognize the Signs of Burnout 

Key Symptoms:  

  • Emotional Exhaustion: Feeling drained, irritable, or experiencing emotional numbness.  
  • Reduced Performance: Difficulty concentrating, diminished creativity, and a drop in productivity.  
  • Detachment: Feeling disconnected from the cause, colleagues, or general disillusionment.  

Regular Self-Assessment: 

  • Periodically evaluate your stress levels and mental health. Acknowledge the feelings and signs of burnout. 
  • Use tools like journals or mental health apps to track your mood and stress triggers. 

  

2. Prioritize Self-Care  

Fundamental Practices:  

  • Regular Breaks: Take short breaks during activism activities and schedule days off to fully disconnect and recharge. 
  • Maintain Your Health: Make sure to keep hydrated and have a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and ensure adequate sleep to keep your body and mind sharp. These sound basic and they always bear repeating. 

  

3. Set Boundaries  

Effective Boundary-Setting:  

  • Work-Life Balance: Clearly separate activism from personal life. Dedicate time to hobbies, friends, and family that are unrelated to activism.   
  • Know Your Capacity & Learn to Say No: It’s okay to decline additional responsibilities if you feel overwhelmed. Prioritizing tasks according to their impact and your capacity is crucial.  

 

4. Seek Support  

Build a Support Network:  

  • Community Connection: Maintain a network of friends and family who understand and support your work. Engage with fellow safetty team members or activists who understand the stresses of the work and can provide mutual empathy and advice.   
  • Professional Help: Explore workshops or training on stress management and resilience building. Consider therapy or counseling to manage stress and emotional burdens. Many therapists specialize in activist or trauma-related stress. 

  

5. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation  

Techniques to Cultivate Calm:  

  • Five Beautiful Things Exercise: Turn your observational tools and situational awareness into a way to get back into a state of regulation. Whenever you are in a safe location, take a few moments to move around and identify Five Beautiful Things. This supports our nervous system to slow down after being in a state of consistently identifying potential threats on the horizon.  
  • Relaxation Techniques: Engage in yoga, deep breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress. Other self-regulation methods include: body scanning, dunking your face in cold water, going on a mindful walk, butterfly taps on your shoulders and gentle self accupressure. 
  • Develop a practice of mindfulness or meditation to help manage stress and improve focus. Even a few minutes per day can have a profound impact on your overall mental health. 

  

6. Celebrate Small Victories  

Maintain Motivation:  

  • Acknowledge Progress: Regularly reflect on and celebrate the successes, no matter how small, to maintain a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  
  • Positive Affirmations: Remind yourself of the value of your work and its impact on the community and beyond.  

  

7. Educate and Delegate  

Share the Load:  

  • Skill Development: Train peers and newcomers in skills, which can help distribute the workload and sustain the community.  
  • Delegate Tasks: Don’t shoulder all responsibilities alone. Sharing tasks not only reduces your load but also fosters a collaborative team environment.

Holistic Check-In

Prepare for the Weather

10 Tips on how to deal with demonstrations in hot weather

1. Water and electrolytes are your best friends in the heat. In order not to shock your system, remember: SIP, don’t CHUG. 

2. Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. You might be able to save someone's life or even your own.  

3. If you feel lightheaded take a break, don’t lock your knees and find somewhere to rest and sit where you can crouch your head below your heart in a cool and shaded area. 

4. Apply and reapply sunscreen. Don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck.  

5. If you feel yourself getting uncomfortably hot, take a moment and run cool water over wherever your veins and arteries are closest to the skin (neck, wrists, crotch, forearms, feet) and if possible, have a handkerchief soaked in cool water and place it on your neck.  

6. Evaporative cooling is your friend. Try to wear clothing that breathes and has a loose weave like linen or cotton.  

7. Light colors reflect sunlight and keep you cooler.  

8. Take constant hydration breaks in the shade or indoors if you are not accustomed to hot weather.  

9. Being hungover doesn't help dealing with the heat. In fact, it could be dangerous. Always hydrate adequately.  

10. It may seem counter-intuitive but long sleeve tops can keep you cooler by covering your skin surface from the sun. Linen and other natural fiber materials are your best friend.

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