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Heather Jaber 25 Aug 2015

How to Stay Safe During Protests

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you know that protests have broken out in Beirut in an attempt to combat the trash crisis. Now, as citizens call for the resignation of government officials, things are getting more and more heated with police launching tear gas and live ammunition into the crowds.

While peaceful protests should be the ultimate goal, the past few days have shown us that anything can and will happen. And in order to combat our lack of basic rights, there are things you can do to keep yourself and others safe while still maintaining your right to protest. Here is how to stay safe during protests:

Wear layers

Yes, it’s hot here. But layers of clothing will help protect you from tear gas, which targets moisture and leaves the skin easily susceptible to burning and irritation. Keep an extra outfit with you so that you can change if your clothing is exposed to the gas.

Bring facial protection, like a mask or goggles

This is the single best tool to combat tear gas. Although some sites suggest soaking cloth in vinegar or water, these will not necessarily help alleviate the effects. If you don’t want to buy one, try making one yourself.

Lay off the make-up

Since tear gas reacts with moisture, creams and make-up will only react with it more effectively. Keep your face and body clean of any oil-based products — make sure any wipes or products you bring are water-based.

Bring a backpack

Besides being useful for keeping your personal items handy, a backpack padded with clothing can provide protection to your stomach as well. Whether it’s a jab with a baton or a shove from a protester, it can cover a vulnerable area.

Have a safe place in mind

When protesters were hit by tear gas, they ran into local stores. Have a safe place to go if things get violent, and know your routes in and out of the area.

Stay calm

Perhaps the most important thing to do is to avoid violent outbursts. For example, try to walk instead of run — you’re less of a target and attract less attention. This is not to say that you can’t be angry. But protests can be easily hijacked or get out of control, so stay collected and keep it going.

Record what you see

This is your most practical tool against injustice today. Social media as a tool for change may sound a little bit like technological determinism, but it can help spread the awareness that is so vital right now. Individually, we’re not enough. But collectively, with enough pressure, things can and will change.