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Protesting during lockdown: How to make your voice heard safely

The continued need to fight for society’s most marginalised communities shouldn’t take a backseat during the lockdown. Now is a time for protest.

The Mancunion spoke with several of Manchester’s activist groups, from those representing the Black Lives Matter movement, to climate and LGBT activists. We asked them how people can continue fighting for important causes during the coronavirus pandemic and this is what they said.

Voice your support on social media

Letting your voice be heard on social media has many benefits. Social media can be used to communicate with other activists and let them know they are not fighting alone. It can also be used to condemn unacceptable behaviour.

Always take time to ensure you do your research, and do not detract from the voices that most define the movement.

You should make sure that what you share on social media is sensitive and well-informed. This is particularly important for those who ally themselves with a cause in which they are not the primary victims.

Always take time to ensure you do your research, and do not detract from the voices that most define the movement. Remember to amplify the work of the people most directly impacted by an issue. This might include sharing their work or opinions, or posting links to their public social media accounts so your friends and family can follow them.

Ensure that your actions are not merely performative, and that you take other actions that invest you in a cause. This means that when you call others to action, ensure that you also follow through yourself.

Donate to impactful organisations

Donate to organisations, funds, and charities that directly aid those in need. But remember to check that the bodies you donate to are credible and effective.

If you are unsure, you can consult the websites or social media accounts of well known campaigns such as the official Black Lives Matter website. Here you can find information about where your money should be going, in order to maximise its impact.

Most official campaigns have compiled lists of charities that they support.

Donate to organisations, funds, and charities that directly aid those in need.

If you are unable to donate, there are still ways to financially support your causes. You can plan a fundraiser event, such as an online pub quiz or a live stream or by simply asking your friends to donate on social media.

Many activists have also created Youtube videos which contain advertisements in order to raise money for causes. Just watching these videos could help your causes a fair bit but remember to turn off any ad-blockers you have installed.

Remain aware and educated

Many of us have much to learn about the problems that our society needs to overcome and about how existing injustices impact the lives of people around us.

It is important to understand how situations evolve in real-time to understand what still needs to be done.

Take this time to not only stay updated on the news, but also read longer pieces or analyses of the structural issues that make these injustices difficult but necessary to solve.

Many organisations have compiled reading lists to help their members gain a better understanding of the movement. Also, following various campaigns on social media can help you stay informed about events being organised and what you can do to help.

Write a letter to your MP and sign petitions

Even out of lockdown, writing to your MPs and signing petitions is a good way to remain politically involved with your cause. It can provide pressure for MPs and public officials to take substantive action to aid your movement. 

If you are drafting an email, letter or a petition, remember to introduce who you are and why you care about the issue you are raising. Be as specific as possible about your concerns and what tangible actions you would like to be taken.

Ask your local MP to provide evidence or a track record on their public stance and voting history. This may help you make informed political decisions in future elections. Try not to be discouraged when you do not receive a response straight away and always follow up if you do not get a reply.

Many campaigns have created guides for writing to your MP in the most effective way.

Reach out to people impacted

Many of these issues have localised and devastating impacts on marginalised people in society. Try to keep in mind that the groups impacted by an issue are not just abstract collectives, but are real individuals.

In times of lockdown, tragic political events can feel especially isolating. Take time to reach out to them and check that they are okay, listen to them, and ask how you can help them personally and ensure that you reach out in a way that helps them.

If you are in a privileged position, do not communicate guilt, meekness, or fear as they may feel compelled to comfort you. Try not to ask them to educate you on how you can aid the cause because it may add to the mental labour they already have.

Instead, start with a sincere apology that they are going through a difficult time and clearly communicate that you wish to help them. Word it carefully so they have room to either accept your support or gently push you away if they need space.

Attend public protests responsibly

There is no getting around it, public protests are a very real vector of COVID-19. However, not all public gatherings are equal. Some are trivial, can be delayed or are simply motivated by unsubstantiated concerns. Other public gatherings can be underpinned by immediate moral urgency, hence it is understandable that public protests still have a place during the lockdown.

Doctors and public health officials have issued advice on how to minimise the spread of COVID while taking to the streets.

Maintain social distance and wear protective masks and regularly use hand sanitiser. Do not yell, and try to use signs and noisemakers instead. Stick to a small group of people you know and keep contact with unknown people low. Campaign group decolonise UoM also urge people to read up on their rights.

Doctors and public health officials have issued advice on how to minimise the spread of COVID while taking to the streets.

Do not attend physical protests if you feel ill or if there are vulnerable people in your household. Instead, consider other ways of protesting like putting a sign on your window or your doorstep to show your support on the day.

Stand up to Racism Manchester said: “It’s important that we stand in solidarity with our sisters and brother in the US in their fight for justice.

“The British government like to say we’re at war with this virus. As anti-racist campaigners, we know this is not the whole picture.”

Tags: Black Lives Matter, Justice for George Floyd, Manchester Protest, Social Distancing, University of Manchester

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