Saturday night, July 13, 2013, I sat in my car and stared at my phone. Throughout the day I tried to stay occupied while waiting for the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman trial verdict to come in. I checked twitter, online news sites, and Facebook to stay abreast of any and all updates. Well, at 7:50pm I looked at my phone and wanted to cry. George Zimmerman, 29, was found not guilty for shooting unarmed, 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin.
Like many fellow Americans I followed the Martin family as they pushed for Zimmerman’s arrest and I watched the case unfold on television. I was saddened because I have a black father, two brothers, and three nephews. I was scared for them and all black men, women, and children who not only heard the verdict, but also translated that “Not Guilty” verdict into, “it is okay to shoot them (and me) because someone ‘fears’ me.” I felt physical pain in my heart. I started tuning my car radio dial to listen for local protest and stations taking phone calls from LA listeners.
As I listened to one person after the next call and complain about the verdict I decided I was going to take part in my first protest. Yeah, I had listened to leaders speak at parks, written a letter to my school principal to protest our dress code, and beeped my horn in support of other protesters on the street. I had never held a sign or chanted for equality. I didn’t know what to expect. The Trayvon Martin trial was dear to me and many other people, so I was not sure if other protesters planned to burn and loot buildings like the LA riots of 1992, following the acquittal of four police officers that brutally beat African-American, Rodney King.
If I planned to protest I was going to do it right. True to my type A personality, I researched my rights, the laws, and etiquette related to protesting (and a possible arrest). After watching several unruly Martin supports and protesters on the evening news jumping on cars and terrorizing other civilians I decided to share how you and I can have a peaceful but affective protest for Trayvon Martin… or anything you believe in.
- Do know your rights. 1st Amendment protects your right to assemble and your right to free speech. You can hand out flyers, chant, beat a drum and dance. Wear your T-shirts, wave your flag and carry signs. You can even bring puppets (yup, you can have a PUPPET at a protest).
- Do let people decline accepting flyers. Give people the choice to walk away or through the rally.
- Do say what you want to support your values and gripes. You can criticize, swear, and yell about the government, officials, or a corporation. You CANNOT threaten violence or any bodily harm toward anyone or anything. Oh yeah, it’s against the law to threaten the president and vice president… your butt will land in jail with a federal charge.
- You can protest ANYWHERE you want as long as it is public property, but you need a permit if you want to use the street, highway, or sidewalks.
- You can attend a protest and heckle and yell that you disagree. Stay safe. The majority of the people at a protest agree with one view. If you plan to heckle make sure you have your facts and your get away plan.
- Do have a trusted attorney on alert in case things go down hill.
- DO NOT threaten violence or act in a violent or uncivilized way. The police are watching and you will be locked up. What voice will you have if you are in a tiny cell. Think about it!
- Don’t abuse anyone, burn anything, threaten anyone or argue with police.
- Avoid bringing guns, knives, pocket knives, or any weapon to a protest. You want people to come and hear your point of view. Weapons will only alarm them and fear violence.
- Don’t stick around if a police office tells you to disperse. Calmly get his name and badge number to make a complaint and rectify the situation for the next protest.
- Don’t forget your ID at home. Don’t carry a fake ID. Don’t for get valuable phone numbers. If you get arrested the police will ask for an idea and take all of your belongings… including your phone. You will need to legally ID yourself and make that one phone call for bail.
- Try not to get arrested. If you do see the paddy wagon in the horizon go peacefully. Don’t fight the police. Like we saw on the Rodney King attack tape, the police have sticks and they will use them. They can also tase you bro., so choose to fight it in court.
- Don’t stop and start with a protest. Find several peaceful ways to get your views heard (like the Miami Heat players in the picture above), by your local officials, news networks, and fellow people.
Go protest and be safe.
I can report that my first protest was calm and I loved being around people that shared my views.