* Updates and additions to the original piece have been added to the end of this article.
Like many of you, I am thrilled to be attending the Women’s March on Washington as a show of solidarity that women’s voices, strength and essence of the divine feminine, can never be muted. I know many people felt discouraged after the Hilary Clinton election loss. This march is a way to show that even though the glass ceiling didn’t break and the country elected someone who many believe has publicly, and consistently, disrespected women, the commitment to inclusion is stronger than ever.
As a security consultant, I am frequently asked by parents how to keep their kids safe online, how to keep their daughters safe while away at college, or how to stay safe while protesting. I was recently ask how to keep teens attending the Women’s March on Washington safe. This article was written separately from the women’s march organizers and supports many of the questions I have received for those attending the march. There are many questions parents are asking: will one segment of the march keep you safer than another? What should they wear or bring?
Great news is the Women’s March leaders are collaborating with Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department, Capitol Hill Police, National Park Service, and Homeland Security.
Here are your safety tips for the Women’s March on Washington:
1. Location/Time: The updated rally time is (10am-1:15pm), and the full list of speakers have been announced. You will want to get there early, bring gloves, hats, layered clothing (to take off and put on as needed), and hand and toe warmers. The march will begin at 1:15.
2. Look at the map of the Capitol Hill lawn. Know where the closest metro stations (Capitol South Metro Station on the blue orange and silver line; Federal Center SW Station on the blue, orange and silver line), restaurants, banks (ATMs — or bring enough cash) are located. This will also assist with any bathroom breaks you may need. From my experience attending the first Obama inauguration, I imagine the Park Service will set up portable bathrooms. Just in case that doesn’t happen, you will want to review a map and know what options are available. This can easily be done by accessing Google Maps prior and during the march. You will also want to know where law enforcement officers are located and where are they standing around the park, so that if something happens you will know where to go in an emergency. I would suggest also keeping any valuables, large purses, and super expensive cameras at home. Be sure to check out other event details as well.
3. Is one location of the march safer than another part? My answer is no. The rally and march will begin at Independence Ave and Third Ave. Generally, in large crowds it’s safe to be on the sides for a quick exit if needed. Plan to have a meeting place if separated from your party in case an emergency occurs. Always pay attention to your surroundings; situational awareness is key. There may be barricades up allowing entry and exit from certain street locations for crowd control purposes, so if there is an active shooter, for example, the best thing to do is to remain calm, protect yourself behind an immovable object if possible, and leave the area immediately in the opposite direction.
4. How do I keep my teenager safe who is attending with friends? She should be with a group of people you know and trust. If you don’t know the friends she is going with, perhaps suggest everyone come over your house for dinner and have an “impromptu” review of safety tips. It doesn’t have to be dinner, just an opportunity for you to meet these friends. Get at least 1–2 of her friend’s phone number. Ask her to check in when she arrives to the march and to check in every 90 minutes. This should be easy by having a timer on her phone. Ask her to check in when she leaves and is safely in her transportation traveling back home.
5. Have a portable way to charge cell phones. If you are an Apple person, a mophi battery case would be a good option. If you have an android carry an extra charger. This is especially important if you plan to be out there all day. This is even more important for teens checking in with their parents throughout the morning.
6. In case something (assault, verbal argument) happens is there a way to make yourself less of a target? If an emergency erupts the best way to make yourself less of a target is to immediately walk away. Don’t run, just walk away quickly. Look for law enforcement and get out of the immediate general area. Additionally, make sure you don’t leave alone.
7. What do you do if you meet an agitator? As with many marches on Washington, or with many rallies or protests, there may be counter protests that occur. If this happens the most important thing is to be respectful. However, if an agitator were to come up to you, remain calm, keep far enough distance so that they don’t touch you, if they get too close ask them to step away. Say, “back up” in a firm voice. Ask for law enforcement support if needed.
8. General rules for staying safe while protesting: Don’t go alone. Travel in groups; I can’t stress this enough. First, it won’t be as much fun if you’re alone. Second, anything can happen — your phone battery can die, or you can fall and hurt yourself. These things will be much easier if you have someone by your side.
Be respectful with protest signs. Be mindful of signs being in people’s way and their visibility to see the stage. That could easily be an irritation that can evolve into a miscommunication.
One of the questions I’ve received frequently is how do I stay safe while protesting. If you happen to be in a position where things start to get out of hand, meaning people are pushing and shoving or someone produces a weapon, leave the area immediately. I’m sure there will be law enforcement all over the place. Be sure to keep your eye out for where they are and go up to them and let them know what is occurring. This will ensure the safety of everyone and will help to make sure that this march is a success.
9. What protest signs are appropriate? For the most part all protest signs will probably be appropriate. You do want to keep it upbeat and positive, something that can influence versus push people away. However, it’s up to the individual. I would say there’s probably aren’t too many restrictions here. If you’re going to bring a sign, sticking to the themes of what we’ve been hearing and talking about: reproductive rights, breaking the glass ceiling, sexual harassment, etc. I think you’ll be fine.
10. Social media safety: Just remember this is a march on Washington. Something many people will see as a political event whether you do or not. Only post pictures you would feel comfortable with everyone seeing. Be mindful of any pictures you wouldn’t want a boss or potential employer to see. This is important for your personal safety as well.
11. What if I am over 65 and I am attending the march? If you have attended many rallies before, especially in the 60s and 70s you will remember it can be exhausting. Be sure to bring all the medication you will need for the day. Bring enough warm clothes. Come with at least one friend; do not come alone. If you had any type of health condition be sure to wear your medical alert bracelet, or be sure to tell your friend so that he or she is aware.
12. What if I have a disability and I am attending the march? If you are attending the march and you have a disability I would stress that you should not attend alone, and that you carry something that lets people know what disability you have and indicates what medication that you’re taking. I’m sure that there may be a specific area for people with wheelchairs. For additional information, check out the official site for the Women’s March on Washington.
13. What is the best source of transportation to get to the march? To get to the march once you’re in DC the best source of transportation is the Metro. The Metro will open at 5am to accommodate the march. To get into DC you could always travel by car, however it’s possible that the 14th St. bridge into DC will be closed if you’re coming in on that day. So, the best bet if you’re driving is to try and come in the night before or have an alternate way to get into the city other than the 14th St. bridge. I’m sure taxis will also be available as well. Check road closures before driving in to the city, as well as Amtrak schedule accommodations.
14. Tips for handling mob mentality in emergency. Here are 5 tips for handling mob mentality when an emergency occurs.
15. Remember to leave weapons at home. Anything that could easily be used as a form of protection like mace or switchblades, could be viewed as weapon by law enforcement.
Also, don’t forget to check out this article — Woman’s March Washington: What You Need to Know
**Now that I am in Washington DC, I have been able to make some on the ground assessments. Here are a few safety updates in response to the protests from the Inauguration Day protests. Below of the updated Safety Guide with these additions includes!
1. With the protests from Inauguration Day there are expectations of more at than Women’s March as well as increase possibility of potential acts of violence. If you face counter protests, so not engage. If they get in your face, firmly ask them to “back up.” If the protestors get physically aggressive, leave the area immediately.
Also, expect the possibility of other movements protesting, that won’t directly relate to the Women’s March.
2. The Klu Klux Klan (KKK) is also in Washington DC and made there presence known on Thursday, but did not appear to be directly involved with the conflicts from the inauguration protests on Friday. Be alert of potential counter protests on Saturday.
Questions I received on Friday are:
3. What if certain actions increase confrontation with law enforcement (certain signs, specific protest chants, protesting without shirts or bras)?Deescalate direct confrontations with the police. This can include silence, sitting down, standing but not moving, essentially anything that represents non-violence.
4. What do you do if you get arrested?
Carry enough cash ($100) with you so can pay bail. Depending on the situation, the police may do an “arrest and release” versus an “arrest and hold.”
5. What if the police uses excess force?
Focus on non-violent actions. Sit-in, stand in silence, or record the non-violent protest with your phone. Don’t fight back, or resist an arrest. Let your non-violent actions be the answer.
6. Isn’t marijuana legal in DC?
Yes, marijuana use is legal in Washington DC, but you cannot smoke in public, or on government land or property. If you do, that will leave you open to a possible arrest. Please do keep this in mind for the march.
Enjoy, be safe and have fun!
Jessica Robinson is CEO of PurePoint International and writes frequently on safety and security topics related to holistic security, personal safety, and gender.