Buckle up, everybody. This is gonna be a long four years.
It’s V for Vendetta boots on the ground time, mama bears. If you care about your kid’s education or the safety of your neighbors and community, then this is what we’re going to be doing from now on. Every damn weekend.
There’s just one teensy problem. Actually, in my house, two. My pint-sized entourage. I’d like to just hit the pavement and protest but I’m a parent. And that means sometimes I exercise my first amendment rights with kids in tow.
|Utah Women Unite March, Photo Collective Studios|
Yes, I can feel the heated glare from a million Moms bearing down on me like a judgmental freight train. Look, it’s not ideal. I agree. But sometimes, it’s necessary and even (GASP) a fantastic learning opportunity. So if you are going to protest with babies on board, I’ve got solid tips. They won’t keep you safe from the righteous indignation of all your pseudo Facebook friends but who has time for that shit anyway? We’ve got work to do.
1: Don’t Bring Your Little One
But wait- you just said? Yeah- hold on a sec. For safety’s sake, I’d rather you just left your little one at home. While tweens and teenagers might learn something about civic duty, it’s probably well above the pay grade of your five-year old. If you can get a sitter, great. If not, proceed to number two.
2: Do It in the Daylight
Protests during the day tend to be more transparent and provide less opportunity for troublemakers to infiltrate the crowd. Plus, you don’t want to be in the dark searching for your kid whose hand slipped out of yours for just a second. Not a good scene. I’m having heart palpitations just thinking about it.
|Photo credit: Kathryn Jones Porter, Broken Anchor Photography|
3: Keep it Peaceful
Make sure the protest is specifically advertised as a peaceful demonstration. This may mean you need to pass on more spontaneous rallies. That’s okay, mama. You can’t do it all. If you’re not sure from the language on the event, contact the organizers directly. Ask if they have permits and have informed police.
4: Make a Plan
Your kids should have a clear idea of what to do if they are separated from you. I tell mine to approach a police officer or another parent who has children and ask for help. If you can, bring an extra set of hands to help or team up with your Mom posse. Protest crowds can get a bit chaotic and unpredictable and the extra help will be invaluable.
|Photo Credit: Gwen Dobson|
5: Don’t Stay on the Fringe
In my experience, if unlawful things are going to happen, they’ll happen where the crowds dwindle. Troublemakers will often skirt to the edges of the street and onto the sidewalk, where they can damage property or pick fights with bystanders. The crush in the middle might be a little thick but it’s less likely to break out into anything illegal.
6: Report Suspicious Activity
Every time I have seen violence or vandalism, it has been the result of anarchists and others disassociated with the protesters who take advantage of the crowd to wreak havoc. I was in a march once where people in dark hoodies joined halfway up the street, carrying baseball bats and looking menacing. We drew the attention of the organizers and those people were forced to leave. Pay attention to the crowd and if you notice an escalating confrontation, leave immediately.
7: Keep the Signage Small
Involve the kiddos in mocking up some fantastic statements that embody their interests and ideals. But keep it small, okay? After the first march, I vowed to always bring one less poster than we had people because somebody always needed a hand. And the smaller the sign, the easier for little ones to manage.
8: Stay Warm. Bring Snacks.
Is there anything worse than the whine of a hungry toddler? Okay. Maybe it’s the trampling of our Constitution. But hungry kid comes in a close second. Keep ‘em warm and happy. You know the drill.
9: Show Your Appreciation.
I tell my kids to look for the helpers and to thank them. Many times this is police officers, who do the unglamorous work of dealing with lots of contentious people. But let’s be careful here. I am not suggesting that this is something everyone everywhere should do. In some cases, police forces are openly hostile and antagonistic to protesters. In many communities, police are pitted against their own citizens, and have exhibited a blatant disregard for the lives of black and brown men, women, and children. I won’t condone that. These friendly officers kept us safe and smiled through it all. I wanted my kids to appreciate that, but if those same officers used excessive force in my community, I hope we’d be the first people to demand accountability.
Want some more tips about exercising your fundamental rights? The ACLU has a handy guide to protests and demonstrations:
So grab your pink hats and your protest signs and let’s peaceably assemble. Because if you’re a parent, this is what democracy looks like.
|Photo Credit: Ashley Baum|
Feel inspired to join the resistance? Get involved by joining Utah Women Unite or a local chapter near you.