One of the most common questions we’ve received is “how can I help and what do I need to do to prepare?” This post will provide some specific tips on how you can help Defend Cville and will hopefully be a useful reference to kickstart your direct action career in the future. This post is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is based on first-hand experience. And a disclaimer: nothing in here should be considered medical or legal advice.
The “Unite the Right” rally is a conglomeration of some of the worst of humanity: neo-Nazis, white supremacists, off-duty klansmen, and more. It’s Going Down has a fantastic, comprehensive writeup on who is attending and why.
But more specifically, what can you expect that day?
Virginia in August is hot and humid. Prepare for high heat, hot sun, and high humidity. Please be mindful of any medical conditions. While we love and appreciate your support, your own self-care is most important, and we strongly encourage you to attend to that as needed at any point. There will be plenty of well-trained medics available all throughout the event, as well.
City estimates currently have attendance at 4,000 people total. The vast majority of the expected attendees will be counter-demonstrators. That means it will be crowded, loud, and cramped.
Virginia is also an open carry state. You will see guns of all sorts, from handguns on the hip to full-scale assault rifles. Guns can be terrifying, so emotionally preparing yourself for being around them is a good meditation exercise before the event.
The police are expected to be out in force. As we saw on July 8 with the kkk, the police were not shy about extreme displays and actions of force. The j8 kkk rally was entirely peaceful, yet the police attacked demonstrators anyways. We ask that you be prepared to witness police violence, and we ask those with privilege to remain at the event as long as you are capable of doing so to bear witness and ensure the safety of the marginalized communities who will be expressing their free speech.
The most common question is, “what should I bring?” Given what to expect as described above, the following list is strongly recommended:
- Water: as much as you can carry;
- First Aid Kit;
- Small hand or dish towel;
- Portable battery for cell phones;
- Protein bars or other snacks;
- Any materials needed for medical needs.
There is a lot of conflicting advice out there on how to treat tear gas, pepper spray, etc. While we do not discourage you from doing your own research, please bear in mind that much of that advice does not come from a point of training or experience. Well-trained medics capable of rendering aid in the event of such scenarios will be present. Simply shout “medic!” if you are in need.
While actions are by their nature community affairs, it must be stressed that there are rarely enough resources to take care of everyone. The more you can take care of yourself, the better. It will allow medics to care for more serious cases. However, do not be selfless–if you need aid and cannot self-treat, call for it.
We also want to note that masking in Virginia is a felony. That said, some may choose to bring respirators in the event of chemical weapons deployment. At j8 we did see three people arrested and charged with felonies for using bandanas and t-shirts to cover their nose and mouth after the tear gas was deployed, so your choice to bring or wear a respirator or other face-worn filtration device is up to you and you should be aware of the potential, though small, legal risks.
You may have heard of the “black bloc” or other sorts of movements. We do not require this type of attire, although you are free to wear what you choose. We recommend comfortable, cool clothing. Do not wear flip-flops or other easily lost shoes. Clothing bearing messages of solidarity are wonderful. Bring sunglasses, wear sunscreen, and enjoy the crowd. We are here to counter hate, but we are here for community solidarity, too.
This can be a longer post, but there are plenty of ways you can directly contribute during the action. See our Call to Action, as well. But here are some specific ways to help.
Skilled help, in this context, means non-violent direct action (NVDA) skills. These often require some training, and if you have such training, great! We can always use more of the following:
- Legal observers;
- Police liasons;
- Mental health support.
If you have interest in these roles, we strongly encourage you to find a local affinity group that is capable of providing this training. It is always needed and always welcome and will make you a phenomenal asset for other direct actions in your future.
Unskilled help simply means support that doesn’t require specialized training. This list is long, but some options are as follows:
- Food and water distribution;
- Documentation (e.g. note-taking for recording details as they unfold);
- Chant leading;
- Driving/evac support.
These roles are just as critical as the skilled roles, and it is always a delight to find people willing to take them on.
Actions aren’t spontaneous, and sometimes the best action takes place far away from the location. We need people capable of doing offsite support, and that can include remote support from anywhere in the world. In addition, lots of support can come before the action, too. Some roles for this are:
- Livestream documentation;
- Troll patrol;
- Social media engagement;
- Documentation protection;
- Legal/medical/resource coordination;
- Art support;
- Education and outreach.
If you’re interested in helping with this, please email us.
Actions are chaotic and unpredictable. And so we encourage you to prepare for bad outcomes as well as good ones. The police have shown a heavy hand in the past, and arrests are possible at this action. At j8, we saw people arrested for committing no crimes and obeying police orders. Rest assured, if you get arrested, you will have people waiting for you and ensuring you aren’t left behind or forgotten. No one rests until all go free.
Medical issues can arise, too. It’s not hard to imagine a sprained ankle or a broken wrist from being in a dense crowd. And violence is always a risk. If you have specific medical needs, please ensure that someone offsite has this information and that you have a way to contact them if needed. Like with legal support, we will not leave you behind or forget about you if you need to be taken for medical care.
On a hot day, with angry racists with guns, anything is possible. We encourage you to know your risks and prepare for them. We are encouraging non-violence. However, as our posts have shown, the right is preparing for violence. It can happen. It can set off chain reactions. Please be assured that many of the organizers and attendees have extensive training on how to de-escalate and manage situations that can or do turn violent. Do not panic. Take care of yourself first. Panic will escalate situations needlessly.
If you can’t make it but want to stand in Solidarity with Cville, then we ask that you donate.