top of page

Civil Unrest in 2020

It is every American’s inherent First Amendment right to organize and attend peaceful demonstrations and protests with fellow citizens to display their sentiment about an issue or issues. The First Amendment does not protect protests or citizens when a situation escalates to violence, destroys property, or further violate laws or ordinances. Illegal actions outside of the lawful right to peacefully assemble may lead to consequences.

In this document you will find information which may help you or others prepare for a demonstration. This should assist you to set expectations, manage the unexpected, and deal with more significant issues should they arise. We have identified precautions to consider and gear you may choose to carry along with several other key pieces of information. These are designed as precautionary and should be considered in the event you are engaged in a demonstration that experiences violence.

Clothing and supplies to consider wearing/carrying should you choose to assemble and protest:

  • Nondescript, solid color, layered clothing

  • Heat resistant gloves to protect against fire and tear gas

  • Masks and eye protection

    • Avoid ski masks or anything the cover the entire face, instead opting for masks that cover your mouth and nose only

    • These are especially important in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic when social distancing cannot be maintained. Tear gas and pepper spray cause you to cough which may make it easier for the virus to spread

  • Cell phone

    • Bring only if absolutely necessary

    • Ensure the device is encrypted and your information is well protected

    • Keep Bluetooth capabilities turned off

    • Turn on airplane mode unless cellular service is needed

  • Emergency contacts

    • Write these on your body with a permanent marker under clothing so as they are not visible

    • Consider including the name and number of a local law office in case you are arrested

  • A written list of your rights in the event you are detained or arrested

    • See Miranda Rights for more information

  • Hair ties to keep long hair out your face and from being caught or pulled

  • Water for drinking and treatment of tear gas/pepper spray

  • Portable snacks such as granola bars or trail mix

  • An appropriate amount of cash and proper identification

    • Consider utilizing a money pouch or money belt for safe storage

  • First aid supplies

    • Bandages, Gauze, and first aid ointment

    • Sunscreen

    • Small amounts medication you may need (in the event you are arrested)

  • Ear plugs

  • Avoid bringing:

    • Jewelry or other valuable items

    • Anything you don’t want to be arrested with

    • Contacts (they can cause blindness if there is contact with tear gas or pepper spray)

    • Bags which may be searched if you are stopped

Creating Distance:

  • Attempt to keep 5-10 ft of space between you and others, if and when possible continue to scan and assess the space of 25ft and closer to you. These distances encompass the immediate environment that is most likely to impact you if it changes.

  • Remain vigilant to quickly changing situations

    • Look for increased police presence

    • Listen for sounds of violence (i.e. breaking glass, sirens, screaming, etc)

    • Be aware of traffic patterns (closed roads, intersections, lights, and signs)

    • Breaking glass, Alarms, gunshots, screams etc may all be immediate indicators of a rapidly deteriorating environment

  • Know your egress points and maintain an active exit plan

  • Stay near the outskirts of the demonstration area

  • Avoid approaching media which may become targets of interest by large groups of protestors or law enforcement

Indicators of Escalation:

  • Aggressive show of force by participants and law enforcement

    • Law enforcement wearing riot gear and/or approaching in large formations

    • Participants throwing objects and/or displaying weapons

  • Use of dispersing agents such as tear gas, pepper spray and/or flash bangs

  • Arrival of counter protestors

    • Interactions between protestors and counter protesters that begin to draw a crowd

During Egress:

  • Comply with local law enforcement if you are stopped

  • Avoid remaining at demonstration sites after dark and comply with curfews

  • Avoid parking near demonstration sites, instead opting for alternate transportation

  • Have a backup plan and meeting place, if you are with a group and get separated


  • If you are tear gassed or pepper sprayed:

    • You may experience/feel:

      • Difficulty breathing

      • Temporary blindness

      • Burning and swelling in eyes, nose, mouth, and throat

      • Nasal and sinus discharge

      • Coughing and chest tightness

      • Headache and Nausea

    • Avoid wearing contacts or makeup

    • Remove yourself from the area to cease exposure

      • Note: You do not have to be directly sprayed to experience the effects of pepper spray or tear (CS) gas

    • Pepper spray: use water or diluted baby shampoo to flush eyes and dish soap to relieve burning on the skin, fresh air flow (such from a fan) may help relieve pain.

      • Burning may last for several days and you may expect some residual burning when showering

    • Tear gas: use water to flush eyes

    • Seek medical attention if symptoms remain

      • Individuals with asthma, pneumonia, and/or pulmonary conditions are at a higher risk of complications from exposure to pepper spray or CS gas

  • If you are near a flash bang:

    • You may hear/experience (these are usually temporary but may have lasting effects in some cases):

      • Ringing in the ears or hearing Loss

      • Disorientation

      • Loss of balance

      • Disturbance in vision due to the bright flash

    • If you see it coming, look away, open your mouth, cover your ears, and create distance

  • If you are arrested:

    • Comply with law enforcement and know your rights

    • Contact your attorney if you are arrested or charges are pursued

  • If you are injured:

    • Seek medical care as soon as practical and safe to do so

    • Know the locations of the closest treatment centers and/or first aid stations

Disclaimer: LSDS compiles information from numerous sources and makes recommendations for you to consider. All decisions must be weighed and made by you. We cannot predict where your choices will take you and only wish to provide information for you to consider.


bottom of page