Protest chic – a guide on what to wear and bring on a demonstration

Students, sparks or anarchists? All three? 2nd Nov electricians demo, London

What every protester should have with them on N9

Many anarchists, especially those on the internet, are concerned about what to wear for the N9 anarchist bloc. Most internet anarchists see protests as a fashion challenge and can spend days debating what they should or shoudn’t wear before deciding not to go to a demonstration anyway. To make things easier N9 have drawn up a catwalk list of essential items all anarchists, indeed all protesters, should consider when preparing for a demonstration.

Hat

Woolly hats are ideal old skool headgear to keep in your body warmth but a baseball cap is more useful for preventing photographic intrusion and preserving a degree of personal privacy. Preferably one without distinctive logo. Wear low for that extra fashionista look.

Scarf

With the winter cold of November a scarf is essential clothing on a demonstration to keep yourself warm, especially wrapped around the mouth and nose area. Remember it is NOT unlawful to cover your face during a demonstration [it is unlawful to refuse to remove facial coverings when asked by police but only when a Section 60 order is in place – see our N9 legal page]. Plus the more active you are the more you need to keep your face warm.

Big Jacket

Practicality dictates a good, strong jacket with plenty of pockets and a big hood is essential demonstration-wear at any time of year. Padded if possible for that extra little bit of security and protection. Preferably something nondescript and generic without any obvious standout features. Colour of course is at the discretion of the fashion-conscious anarchist.

Hooded top (street name: hoody)

Layer, layers, layers. The classic hooded top will never go out of fashion and it has definitely earned its place as part of the arsenal of essential garments in the radicals wardrobe. Not only good for keeping you warm,  but also good for making a positive id from unwanted sources more difficult. One with a draw string hood is ideal protester-wear for keeping out the cold and camera lenses.

Sturdy boots

Comfortable yet strong. Should be able to withstand being accidentally stamped on by the forces of law and order as they go about their business but good for running in if you find yourself needing to move quickly. Keeping mobile is the healthy option – good for the blood circulation and raises the body temperature.

Gloves

Necessary to keep your hands from going numb (especially when holding flag and banner poles etc). Good for gripping otherwise slippery or difficult objects and a little extra padding if one of Tomlinson’s killers decides to pull you out of the crowd. But perhaps most useful, gloves don’t leave smudgy finger marks behind.

Bike helmet

An optional extra. Even if you are not a bike rider reinforced headgear could be a lifesaver in certain situations especially if Tomlinson’s killers are out and about in full riot gear. A useful accessory in difficult situations and one that will substantially protect your skull against any ‘stray’ baton strike. Ironically, in law, police batons are deemed offensive weapons as they are specifically “made or adapted for use for causing injury to the person”. Go figure.

Rucksack

To keep all the things you need to take on a demonstration –  most of the stuff listed on this page. Something practical and not too cumbersome. Again no obvious identifiable features should be foremost in your mind when chosing an appropriate rucksack.
If a section 60 order is in place police can search any bags you have with you but only for weapons. Keep this in mind when you pack your rucksack.

Mobile phone (with credit)

Make sure it’s fully charged and with enough credit that you can safely make all the calls to need to make during the day. If you can discard non-essential contacts for the day then do so. Text messages, if saved, should be non incriminating – if you need to tell your friends what you got up to, do it after the demo. (Remember if you can access all your personal contacts, details and messages, so can the police).  Phone with a camera is extra useful but remember the police look at youtube as much as we do.

Bottled water

You’d be surprised how dehydrated you get when you’re out all day protesting, even in the cold weather. With all the running about and energetic activity it is always good to have a few bottles of water at hand to refresh yourself, and others, at appropriate intervals.
Also good for washing things off that may have accidentally spilled on you during the protest. Plus, in the case of emergencies, the bottle itself makes a good toilet facility when kettled for a long period of time (men only).

Snacks

Crisps, snack bars, high energy cereal bars, chocolate bars with glucose based fillings, anything that’ll give you an energy boost and keep hunger at bay. Especially useful if you’ve been kettled when that last packet of chewy sweets will become tantamount to feeding of the 5000.

Cash money

May sound obvious but take enough cash to cover your costs of travel, emergencies and food and drink. Cash cards are a risk if you are stopped and searched as your personal details may be taken by the police from looking at your cards [see below].

Notepad and pen

Essential for noting down ID numbers of police who are acting unlawfully, which will be a lot and often. Making notes of incidents of arrests will come in useful as part of legal support post-demo. Always be aware that if you yourself are arrested the police may read your notes, so keep them factual.

Bustcard

No-one ever thinks they are going to get arrested on a demonstration, and regardless of what you have or haven’t been doing, it’s good practice to have a bustcard with you at all times just in case. This is there to help you during the arrest and detention process and contains invaluable basic information about your rights. Downloadable bustcard here.
More legal information and advice about demonstrations:
Legal Defence and Monitoring Group
Green and Black Cross

What NOT to bring on a demonstration

Cards (ID, credit or cash cards)

If you are stopped and searched the police will do their best to get your personal details on record. One, frankly unlawful, way is to go through your pockets and wallet/purse and record the details of any cash cards, id cards or credit cards you have with you. If you don’t want the police to discover any personal information about you don’t bring material that will give them the opportunity to do just that.

Drugs

Sounds obvious but if you are stopped and searched on a demonstration and they find illegal substances on you, you will be nicked. You’re never going to know when or if you will be searched on a demo so play it safe and leave any drugs at home. Just because the police have copious amounts of cocaine and speed on a demo doesn’t mean you have to.

2 responses to “Protest chic – a guide on what to wear and bring on a demonstration

  1. Phones — it’s worth trying to have a spare “demos only” phone as if you’re arrested they’ll almost certainly (illegally) copy your SIM and phone’s memory to get information about your contacts. Also smartphones with GPS have a record of everywhere you’ve ever been. Even if you’re not arrested, there are reports that some police forces are using mobile “base stations” to record every phone number that’s in a specific area. You can get a SIM-free cheap & cheerful phone from Tesco’s for about a tenner, pop in a cheap pay as you go SIM, add a couple of vital numbers to the contacts list and then never turn it on except during demos.

    Also for Londoners — have a spare “demos only” oyster card to get you to & from the demo. Make sure it’s an unregistered pay as you go type, and only ever top it up using cash not a credit/debit card. Again, this is because if you’re caught the police will almost certainly take the Oyster card’s number and get TfL to release all your journey history. If they can use this to try to identify you at the scene of other demos where they’ve got violent, they will.

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