Protesting in Chicago: What Do You Wear and Bring to a Protest?

Protesting in Chicago: What Do You Wear and Bring to a Protest?

If this is your first protest, welcome. If you’re curious about protests, welcome. It’s empowering to join others and stand up for what is right. There is power in numbers. All 50 states have started and joined George Floyd protests.

Protesting can be very intimidating and there’s a lot of questions around where do I find protests and how do I join or support. So, I want to share my experience protesting and some tips to help you be prepared.

It’s ok if you don’t have a sign. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say or if you feel awkward. Come as you are and stand up and walk and be together.

I went to my first protest this week. I went to a neighborhood one and walked there and then drove to another one. Here’s what I learned.

What to Expect at a Chicago Protest?

This is all new to me but I quickly realized that not all protests are the same. There are different types and different organizers. It’s best to check with Black Lives Matter for larger, organized protests or listen to Twitter about where protests are happening.

Then, there are smaller, neighborhood protests. These neighborhood protests have 30-100 people on a corner asking people to honk for justice or it could be a walk in unison around the neighborhood.

So, you show up at a protest and you’re like – what do I do? Generally there’s a march and you’re walking with people. Some people might shout “Black Lives Matter” or other chants. Others walk and talk. Sometimes people drive and others get on top of their car and hold up signs. Take in the moment. It might feel like you’re not doing anything, but showing up in numbers makes a statement. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t shout and I didn’t have a sign.

How do I find a protest?

How do you know where to show up? This is a little tricky. Protests start at a certain time and place, but usually they involve a march, and the route isn’t always disclosed.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #ChicagoProtest and people will post in real time what direction people are marching. People are also reposting on Instagram and in Facebook neighborhood groups (these are great resources to find out what’s happening in your neighborhood).

The best place to protest is probably in your neighborhood since you know where things are and you can get home quickly if something happens.

Showing up in other neighborhoods is also great, there’s just a few things to keep in mind. There is a curfew in Chicago at 9 pm and so you want to be mindful of where you are marching and making sure you get home safely. Trains and buses have stopped running around 9:30 pm.

Upcoming Protests:

Kids for Change, June 7th, 11 am – 1 pm, West Town.

Chicago March of Justice for George Floyd, June 6th, 11 am at Union Park. This event is being planned by Activate: Chicago.

What do I wear to a protest?

Ah, the question of what to wear. I would start with a face mask. The pandemic is not over and a lot of people are showing up to protests. 20,000 people marched for Justice for George Floyd in Chicago this weekend. Please be safe and protect yourself and others by wearing a face mask.

Protests are usually 2 hours or more and there’s a lot of walking. So, dress for comfort. I wore a black tank top and black jeans and sneakers. I wanted everything to be able to fit in my pockets so I didn’t bring a purse or jacket or anything.

What to wear to a protest

What should I bring to a protest?

Protests are really well organized. I saw a girl riding around a bike with a first aid kit and a van and some cars with hand sanitizer and water as well as snacks. It was like we all showed up to a race.

If you’ve ever been to New York City for the ball drop, you will know not having a place to go to the bathroom or charge your phone is challenging. During protests, there are no bathrooms and everything is pretty much boarded up or closed. While it’s important to stay hydrated, I chose not to eat or drink while protesting. I also kept my phone on low battery mode.

I would pack light for a protest. Things can come up and you want to be mobile. So, I didn’t bring a jacket or a purse. I just brought my keys, my wallet (definitely bring your ID), and my phone and headphones. If you can, also bring a portable phone charger and hand sanitizer.

If you have a sign, bring that. Some neighbors are making signs so check Facebook neighborhood groups to learn more. If you don’t have a sign – a lot of convenient stores like Walgreens and CVS are closed right now, but grocery stores are open and might have poster boards. You can also tear off cardboard from your recent Amazon Prime delivery. It’s also ok if you show up without a sign.

Also, you’re going to be outside for a long time so spray yourself with sunscreen before you leave.

Lastly, don’t bring anything that you could get arrested for. Don’t bring guns or drugs or alcohol or anything suspicious.

How do I ask/who to ask to come with me to a protest?

The buddy system is always a good system. I was going to go to the protest alone so I called a friend and told her where I was going to be and checked in with her throughout. I did end up going with someone to the protest, and that made it so much better.

One way to start the conversation about protesting is sharing posts about protests or saying you’re interested or going to a protest event on Facebook. I started sharing protest locations and info on my social media pages and in friend group texts. This has led to some good discussions about protests and seeing who is interested in protesting.

Remember you need to do what you’re comfortable doing. During protests riots can break out, there may be altercations, you may be stuck in a crowd, transportation could and has shutdown, you can be marching in a neighborhood that you don’t know very well, and there’s a lot of other factors. So, going with someone or a group of people, is probably the best and safest way to protest.

I do think it’s important to raise awareness and to have calls to action on social media and in conversations. It’s also important to be mindful of others. Keep in mind that people are showing up in different ways. Not everyone can take off work to protest. Not everyone feels safe protesting. There are places in Chicago that have had peaceful protests and then riots broke out, like in Wicker Park on Sunday, May 31st or in Cicero where two people were shot and killed. This is not the case with all protests, but things can happen.

I don’t feel comfortable protesting. What else can I do?

It’s important to remember that protesting is not for everyone. There is a pandemic going on and health and safety are very important.

People are showing up in different ways. Protests are just one way to show up. Sharing resources online, having conversations with friends and family, reading and watching movies, supporting Black owned businesses and signing petitions are just a few examples. Other neighbors have gotten creative. In Wicker Park, people came together to paint boards on Milwaukee Ave. with Black Lives Matter messages. Others have hosted donations. Some are coming together to do neighborhood walks to protect small businesses.

People come together to paint boards down Milwaukee Ave. in Wicker Park, Chicago.

I hope you take this time to do what’s right for you, your community and the world. This is a time in history where we can truly make a difference by showing up and being there for each other.

Amanda Whitfield
Amanda Whitfield

Amanda Whitfield is a writer and speaker and a relationship builder. She believes that meeting people in person is important. After attending numerous fashion, startup, and creative events, she founded Windy City Cosmo is 2015 to help people make connections in the city as they build their businesses, start and end relationships and see and be seen. Over the past three years, the entrepreneurs she’s interviewed have become the most successful in Chicago and Windy City Cosmo won an award in 2017 for her work for female entrepreneurs.

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