In addition to identification and any permits you may be required to carry, it’s important to pack properly for a protest. Unless you’re a journalist or photographer, leave the delicate and fragile equipment at home. Pack only the absolute minimum you need to establish your identity, buy food or make a phone call if needed, and take care of yourself or your friends in any situation. Here’s what should go in your backpack.
- A first-aid kit. Bandages, antibacterial ointment, a nylon wrap bandage, and some basic wound-care essentials will do you wonders. Even if things stay peaceful, a bandage wrap will come in handy in case you twist your ankle, and a few band-aids will come in handy if someone takes a tumble on the pavement. Your first-aid kit should contain some simple analgesics as well, like aspirin or ibuprofen.
- An inhaler, epipen, any essential medication you can’t do without, and personal hygiene accessories. This is all preventative. If you plan to be on the march for a long time, you may need them, but if you wind up getting into trouble with the police or held in an isolated area away from others, you’ll want to make sure you have basics like an inhaler or epipen on you in case you need it. The same applies for hygiene products—you may not be allowed to leave before you need them, and the police are more likely to bring you an inhaler from your bag then they are to just discharge you because you’re having trouble breathing.
- A dry bandana over your hair and another soaked with vinegar or cider vinegar. Keep the soaked bandana in a sealed plastic bag until it’s needed. If your group winds up being tear gassed, the soaked bandana can provide some relief until you can leave the area safely and calmly, without getting trampled. Most tear gas isn’t actually “gas,” but a chemical suspended in fine smoke, so you don’t need to show up in a full gas mask, but if you can get one from a surplus store, it might help to have stashed in your backpack. Instructables has several methods to make one as well.
- Baby wipes and eye drops. Perfect for general cleaning, and to wipe your skin or clothing clean if you’re exposed to gas, pepper spray, or doused with anything by other protesters. Be careful though, oil-based moisturizers and and cleaning solutions can actually make chemicals in tear gas or pepper spray stick to your skin. Make sure to get water-based or flushable wipes, or make your own with paper towels and a solution of baking soda and water. Keep the wipes and your eye drops in sealed containers.
- Pen, paper, and a marker. Just in case you need to document anything like names, organizations at the protest, badge numbers, and so on.
If you’ll be out for a while, pack some snacks and water. Make sure you’re fed and watered before you leave, too. Aside from this, keep as little as possible on your person. If you’re detained or have to leave your items behind, you don’t want to carry anything with you that you would terribly miss.