Protesting in the Time of Police State
Protesting in the Time of Police State
By Stefan Verstappen /

Protesting in the Time of Police State

How to stay safe when exercising your rights

By Stefan Verstappen

If you’re planning on participating in a peaceful demonstration or protest keep one thing in mind, at any time it could turn into a bloody riot. In the past it has been a common practise for governments to send agent provocateurs to mingle among the demonstrators until a given time or signal, and then to begin instigating violence as both a way to demonize the peaceful protesters in the media, and as an excuse to send in the riot troops to bust heads. As demonstrations around the world can attest to, this tactic has not gone out of fashion.

So what should you do if suddenly rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and flash bang grenades are whizzing past you and a hundred Mad Max extras waiving clubs start goose-stepping in your direction?

The following will provide you some tips and advice to keep you as safe as possible should you suddenly find yourself in a war-zone.


When the storm troopers make their appearance at your protest march, you’ll notice they came dressed to kill. They typically wear helmets, face shields, gas masks, chest protectors, elbow pads, knee and shin pads, and combat boots. In addition, they will carry shields, batons, Tasers, radios, medical kits, shotguns and pistols. Meanwhile, you are standing there in a t-shirt and flip flops. The first tip is to come dressed for the occasion.

What to Wear

Long pants and long sleeves to reduce the exposure of skin to RCAs. (Riot Control Agents)

Wear only cotton or wool. Natural fibers are fire resistant whereas most of the synthetic materials are highly flammable and can quickly ignite from a spark from a flash bang or Molotov cocktail. When these materials burn they will melt right into your skin and cannot be removed without taking the skin with it.

A bicycle helmet, this can be a life saver in case agitators begin throwing rocks and you happen to be in the line of fire. Also useful as protection against police nightstick attacks.

A backpack, fill the book pocket, the pocket that is closest to the back straps, with a large hardcover book. This can act like body armor protecting your back from rubber bullets. In addition, it can be used as a shield by placing your forearm through the shoulder straps and holding the pack as a shield if front of you if you have to escape volleys of projectiles and rubber bullets.

A bandanna: can be used as an emergency bandage, sweat band, improvised dust mask, and washcloth.

Bring work gloves to protect your hands if you have to escape through broken windows, or other sharp wreckage caused by rioting. Wearing gloves will also help prevent burns if you have to remove smoking teargas canisters.

Wear work boots or hiking boots, or at least good high top leather runners. This is to help protect your feet from broken glass and sharp debris on the ground, and will help support your ankles when running, or climbing over barriers.

Wear protective eyewear. The sports style sunglasses with padding on the inside such as used in racket ball and other sports works best. This is to protect against RCAs, rubber bullets and fragments from teargas canisters and Flash Bangs.

What to Carry

The riot police typically carry a lot of gear and it is a good idea for you to carry some items on your person as well.

Water: you can quickly become dehydrated standing outdoors and access to water may be restricted. Local stores may be closed for fear of rioting and looting and police may block off access to public fountains and washrooms. Bring 2 litres minimum and double if the temperatures are high.

Snacks: the excitement and physical exertion can quickly use up your glucose stores and leave you feeling weak and nauseous. Bring some snacks to nibble on through the day to maintain your blood sugar levels.

Cell Phone: to call for help, an attorney, or a cab to help you get out if you become trapped or arrested. A cell phone is also useful for filming the violation of human rights.

Pocket First Aid Kit: to treat minor injuries like cuts and blisters. Add one or two a chemical cold packs to help treat welts raised by rubber bullets and baton strikes.

Small Flashlight: in case you’re out after dark and the power goes out.

Cash: to pay for parking, or public transportation, or to hire a taxi.

Dust Mask: to help filter out riot control agents.

Identification: in case you are detained or arrested providing I.D. can get you released sooner.

Attorneys’ Business Card: If you participate regularly in an activist community you will eventually have an encounter with law enforcement. It is best to be prepared ahead of any such encounter by finding a reputable lawyer that specializes in civil rights cases and get several of his or her business cards to keep in your wallet and another in your protest emergency kit. Don’t rely solely on your cell phone for contact information since cell phones and other electronic devices will be seized when you are arrested.

How to Deal With Riot Control Agents

The term “riot control agents” (RCAs) refers to several gases commonly known as ‘Tear Gas’ or ‘Pepper Spray’. Exposure to these chemicals can cause skin, nose, and eye irritation, nausea, and respiratory difficulties within minutes. In rare cases, RCAs can cause long-term health complications, blindness, and even death. The effects generally last less than half an hour but can be extremely uncomfortable.

The first defense is to try to stay out of the line of fire and away from the front lines of the police. If the chemicals are released in front of you, you should run straight behind you to get out of range. Try to get upwind of the point of release where there is fresh air.

If RCAs are deployed inside a building, get out as quickly as possible. The chemicals do not dissipate as they would outdoors, and the high concentrations can be extremely dangerous with prolonged exposure.

Get to high ground. RCAs are heavier than air, and the highest concentrations thus tend to be near the ground. Try to get to the highest point possible. This could be up a hill, atop a wall, etc.

If you are caught in a smoke cloud, soak a bandanna or other cloth in apple-cider vinegar or lemon juice and tightly cover your mouth and nose with it. (Bring these items in your kit.)

Finally, avoid wearing oil-based creams or sunscreens, as these aid absorption of the RCAs. If you are exposed to these agents follow decontamination procedures.

In emergencies, dry powder such as flour, baking soda, detergents, or even soil can be used to reduce the quantity of chemical agent available for uptake through the skin. Pouring flour onto the chemical followed by wiping with wet tissue paper is reported to be effective against the nerve agents soman, VX, and mustard gas.

How to Escape a Riot

Try to look as inconspicuous as possible, and slowly and carefully move to the outside of the mob. Stay close to walls or other protective barriers if possible.

Get inside and stay inside if you can. Find a retail store, office building, or coffee shop to go into and off the streets. Look for a rear exit to these buildings that will lead out to a back street where there are no rioters or police and carefully make you way home.

It can be dangerous to move against a crowd, so go with the flow until you are able to escape into a doorway or up a side street or alley. It may also be advantageous to stay with the crowd until you are certain you can safely escape because it will help you remain inconspicuous and improve your odds of survival if shots are fired. In addition, police may barricade side routes and ambush anyone seeking to escape the main mob. You do not want to be the only person trying to get past a police barricade.

Avoid public transportation. Buses, subways, and trains will likely be out of service, and stations and depots will probably be packed with people. Even if you succeed in getting on a train or bus, rioters may stop it. Subway stations are particularly bad places to be, both because they are difficult to escape and because riot control agents are heavier than air and may drift down into subway stations and accumulate there.

Protesting in a police state can be a dangerous, if vital exercise of your basic human rights. You cannot trust that unstable elements within the ranks of law enforcement would not instigate violence that would trigger the police into attack mode. You could be entering a war zone, and so to protect yourself and fellow activists make sure you follow the advice given and come prepared.

Bio: Stefan Verstappen is a writer and adventurer. Portions of this article were excerpted from his latest book, The Art of Urban Survival, A Family Safety and Self Defense Manual.

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 14,740 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 9,412 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 8,993 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 6,495 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 3,409 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,052 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 2,671 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 2,400 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 2,277 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 2,273 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 1,989 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,702 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 864 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 824 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 681 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
#Hypernormalisation - Why Heathrow Plan Is Proof We Exist in a Catastrophic Fantasyland
Matthew Adams · 655 views today · The British government recently gave the green light for Heathrow airport’s third runway. It was heralded by its supporters as a vital boost for jobs and growth – and proof...
F*ck That: A Guided Meditation for the Realities of Today's World
2 min · 649 views today · Just acknowledge that all that sh*t is f*cking b*llshit — you're here now, in this place, with your inner stillness. Take in a deep breath ... now breathe out. Just feel the...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 638 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 620 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 548 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Protesting in the Time of Police State