Prevailing in the Face of Protest and Why you Should Have a Press Pass - ITS Tactical
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Prevailing in the Face of Protest and Why you Should Have a Press Pass

By Rob Robideau

Time Magazine recently named “The Protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year because of their impact on society. Unfortunately, that impact is not always positive. Protests often result in:

  • Blocked traffic  – Protesters lock arms and purposefully block an entire street, forcing all vehicles to follow them at walking speed.
  • Closed off roads  – The local police will often barricade a section of roads in an attempt to limit the conflict in an area of protest.
  • Property damage  – This past week, I witnessed a motorcycle being thrown onto a pile of burning tires because he ignored the protesters barricades.
  • Bodily harm  – When protesters get riled up, there’s no telling where they will draw the line. They don’t think about what a rock through the windshield or a stick in the spokes means to the people in or on the vehicle.
  • Infrastructure Disruption – Broken power lines, blocked delivery vehicles and ambulances are a common  occurrence.

In January, I moved from a sleepy midwest town with population of less than 2,500 to a seething metropolis of several million in a nation with an unstable interim government and a Prime Minister that leads a political party that is still on the US terror watch list.

Protests are a way of life here. There was recently a period of seven straight days on which I encountered large groups of protesters blocking roads, chanting, waving flags, and burning torches.

Protesters have always been around, but most would agree that 2011 has had an upswing in the amount of protesting as well as the intensity. With all the publicity given to protesters, I don’t expect the protest movement to go away any time soon. I had an abrupt introduction to the local culture of protest, but I have found a few tricks that helped me function and remain safe through turbulent times.

The following observations are from my personal experience here in Nepal, but much of this can be applied anywhere in the world.  Here are a few simple tips:

Awareness Starts Before you Leave Home!

Other people may already be trying to warn you. Use the resources that are available to you.

  • Local Newspapers – A  Simple glance through the local paper can save you a lot of trouble. Many protests are announced to the press in advance for additional exposure. I prefer the dead tree edition. It’s easy to miss something on a newspaper website that might not have made it to the front page.
  • Website Listings – Try to find a website that lists upcoming protests in your local area. Web resources are generally updated more often and have events listed that the newspaper might have overlooked. There are certain websites I check every day before I leave the house. If there are certain groups that protest often in your area, it might be a good idea to get on their mailing list.
  • Google Alerts – A simple Google Alert can monitor the news for combinations of keywords like nearby city names and “protest”, “demonstration,” etc. These alerts can be delivered via email or rss as daily digest or “as-it-happens.”  Google Alerts

Protesting is About Attention!

Use that to your advantage. Protesters love the press. It can be a relatively simple proposition to get a press pass that will get you through/past protests that completely block traffic. Afterwards, ask them for a letter stating you have written for them, etc.

  • Set up a blog using a free service like Blogger or WordPress.
  • Write an “About” page or article telling people that this blog is for covering local protests or demonstrations
  • Design your own press ID using a template (Here’s an example template). Don’t lie on the pass. It’s not necessary.
  • Print it on a solid plastic card. There are tons of companies that will do this for a few bucks. (Here are a few) I had mine printed locally for  about $.80 each.
  • Throw the ID on a lanyard or in an ID armband  and stash it in the glove compartment for whenever you may need it.
  • If you have to use it, present it with authority!  It has never failed me, even under the scrutiny of armed soldiers at roadblocks.
Editor’s note: Here’s a link to the flickr badge template shown in the image above.

Look ahead in traffic!   Once traffic is stopped, it is often too late to turn around.  Traffic is already packed in around you.  Look for:

  • People making U-turns
  • A completely empty opposite lane

When traffic starts slowing, try to find out why and position yourself to get out of the traffic quickly. Don’t follow the herd!

These simple tips have helped me avoid many unsafe situations and saved me an immeasurable amount of time and effort. I hope you find them helpful!

Editor-in-Chief’s note: Please join us in welcoming Rob Robideau as a contributor on ITS Tactical. Rob runs the Personal Armament Network which produces the Personal Armament Podcast. The Personal Armament Network creates informative and entertaining articles and web shows for people who want to be prepared for every day.  

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