How to Organize a Rally or Protest
Rallies and protests are a great way to raise visibility and concerns about critical issues in society. It can help send important messages to the decision-makers and spread awareness to the public. It can be a quick way to bring attention to a big issue and potentially get desired changes. As the saying goes, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
However, not every rally or protest runs smoothly or ends successfully in the end, but it is always worth a shot. For example, if you don’t know how to host a rally or protest, you may find that no one or very few people show up to it, it doesn’t get media attention, you get told or forced to leave the property, opposition groups may try to hijack it and turn it violent, along with a lot of other problems.
If you’re looking for a guide on how to organize a protest or how to organize a rally, then keep reading. You will learn how to plan a rally that is safe, effective, and successful.
A Quick Note...
Before we begin, let’s quickly define the difference between a rally and a protest. Rallies are held to show support for something or someone. Protests are held to show dislike for something and a desire for something to change. It is also possible to have a combination of the two.
So for example, there are massive rallies for freedom happening around the world, but they are also protesting things such as vaccine mandates and vaccine passports.
Knowing the difference will be important when deciding on a title for your event and marketing it – as the terms can evoke different feelings and expectations in the minds of attendees, observers, media, and the people you hope to influence with it.
Following the "peaceful protests" by the leftist groups, those words now has a negative connotation. Some people may now think of violence, danger, and riots when they hear the words which could discourage them from participating even if they agree with it.
The Guide to Organizing and Planning a Successful Rally or Protest
Every good rally, protest, or demonstration has been planned. That means from the time, date, location, speakers, gear, signs, and more. People attending a rally or other demonstration may bring some equipment to aid in the activity.
This guide will help you know what to do and how to plan and organize a successful rally or protest.
Before the Rally or Protest
Preparation is important for the success of every rally or protest. It will be your job to plan an event that is both safe and effective. That involves creating awareness of the rally or protest by using social media and contacting your local news, getting any necessary permits or permissions, lining up speakers, acquiring any needed equipment, setting rules, creating flyers or graphics for people to share, and more.
Obey Local Laws and Ordinances
In order to ensure the safety and success of your protest or rally, you need to ensure that you have the rights to protest at the location you wish to hold it at.
If you are planning to hold the protest outside a business or government building, make sure that you have the right to do so. Some cities or towns require permits, advance notice, and/or have other rules and laws that you will have to follow to do the rally or protest legally (which is highly recommended). If you fail to do so, they may call the police and ask you to leave and arrest you if you don't.
One way to get around this is by holding a march so that you are not gathering and staying in one location. This could lead to blocking roads or sidewalks, which can lead to car accidents and impeding traffic. So if you think that this will be a problem, you should contact the local authorities in advance, check the local laws, and get permission to hold a march. Otherwise, your march could lead to the police being called on you.
Another possible work around for this is having smaller groups do a march at multiple locations in the city at the same time. This creates much wider awareness of the protest or rally, without disrupting traffic as much. To do this effectively, you will need trusted people to lead a march at each location and that can keep the smaller crowds manageable and safe.
Finally, violence and destruction should NEVER be allowed or encouraged for any reason. Violence and destruction are criminal acts that will lead to arrests, riot police, martial law, curfews, and more government controls. If you engage in such activities, you will face more censorship, greater media condemnation, being added to government watchlists.
Furthermore, violence and destruction not only hurts society and results in more violence, it destroys all moral justification for the cause. There are far better ways of promoting your message without endangering lives, wreaking havoc, or creating absolute chaos. Be creative with humorous and creative messages, performances, speakers, music, and signage.
Choosing a Location
One of the most important things you need to do is choose a good location. It should meet the following criteria (depending on your needs and the type of protest):
- It should be able to sufficiently accommodate a large group of people.
- There should be public restrooms on the property or very close by.
- The location should have ample free or cheap parking, or you should come up with a plan for how to transport people to the location using a bus or vehicles that go back and forth throughout the event.
- If you plan to use audio equipment and/or lighting, then it should have outlets and you will need permission to use their electricity - otherwise you will need a generator or other power source.
- It should have a platform, stage, or stairs that you (and/or others) can stand on and speak from. Or if you plan to bring something to stand on, it should have the space and area to support it.
- It should be a noise and crowd-friendly location. That means avoid residential areas and places where people might report the event for noise or other disturbances.
Before you choose the location, you should take a tour of the property to ensure that it meets your needs and has adequate parking and facilities. Take pictures and notes as it may be useful in planning.
Find at least 3 locations that meet the criteria, so you have backups in the event you can't hold it at the preferred place.
Come up with plans for what to do during and after the protest or rally. Create a set of protocols to use as a guide for if/when things go wrong. Have one or more backup plans ready just in case.
If you are organizing the rally or protest with others, be sure that they are made aware of all the plans and also have access to equipment and things, in case you or some other key player is unavailable or late.
Create a Schedule
Put together a schedule, and have plans for what to do when things are behind schedule. The schedule may be for having special speakers, performances, chants, songs, or other activities. This helps keeps people energized, engaged, and excited about the cause.
Finding Speakers and Entertainers
Seek out people who can speak and entertain your audience. This may include local, state/provincial, or federal representatives, group or organization leaders, celebrities, or common folks. Whoever you find to speak, be careful in who you choose as it should be someone with a good reputation that can help represent your cause. Choose wisely as it can influence how the media and public perceive the event.
You can find speakers on sites like Speaker Hub, you can also ask relevant book authors, YouTubers, or podcasters, university professors or professionals, people who are leaders of local groups that support the cause. You can also ask your team or volunteers if they would be willing to speak for a couple minutes about why they are supporting the cause. Anyone of note that you ask to speak may expect or want some kind of compensation or at least to have their travel costs covered, so that is something to keep in mind when planning your budget for the event.
What To Bring
Be sure to have clothes, shoes, drinks, snacks, and other things you need for your protest ready to go so that you aren't scrambling to get those things when it's time to go. Leave behind anything that might endanger your life or others, or give the police a reason to detail you.
What To Wear
When planning what to wear, avoid all black clothing, and instead opt for bright colors. You can use your clothes to show your support for your cause at the protest or rally with the help of t-shirts with relevant messaging and other apparel (hats, costumes, wigs, etc.).
Get Needed Equipment and Gear
Be sure to acquire all the gear, signage, and equipment you need for the protest beforehand. You can borrow, rent, or purchase a lot of it inexpensively. If funding is needed, be sure to plan some kind of fundraiser ahead of time so that you can raise the amount needed and have time to acquire it.
Be Clear in Your Messaging
Make it clear in your messaging before and during the protest that it is peaceful and that all weapons or potentially harmful objects are either forbidden or strongly discouraged. Anyone who causes trouble should be removed immediately.
Establish a Security Team
If you want to make sure your protest or rally is safe, put together an armed security team that can put a stop to any fighting or violence that might break out and that can detain people until police arrive. The security should have shirts that say security on them so people know they can go to them for help.
No one will know about your protest or rally unless you tell them about it. First create a website or event page on a platform with details, dates, and times for the protest or rally. Next, you need to share it - do so in groups and on platforms frequented by people who support your cause. You should also request it be added to the free rally and protest directory on FreedomRally.net. Be sure to create images for sharing on social media, as well as flyers that people can use to promote it with their contacts.
The media frequently downplays and ignores the rallies and protests on conservative issues. This can make it difficult to get any media to report on it, and if they do, it is usually negatively slanted. There are conservative and alternative media outlets and individuals that may be more interested in reporting it. So contact those news networks (ie. Newsmax, Epoch Times, etc.) in advance so that they can learn about your protest and talk about it with their audience.
Protect Your Privacy
Keeping your privacy in check, whether online or offline, is important to you and your family. Although most people will use masks, face paints, hoods, or glasses to hide their faces and identities, criminals do the same thing, making the rally or protest a point of interest with the police. Such actions can also be illegal depending on your country of residence, so be sure to check with that before trying to mask your identity.
It is best to assume that everything you do and say can be seen, heard, and recorded. The NSA and government agencies are looking for "domestic terrorists" and are using AI to go through text messages, social media, etc. Simply mentioning certain words or being connected to someone or something can land you on the secret "no fly" list or other secret investigations.
No technology is truly "safe" - if it was, governments and massive companies would never be hacked. Nothing is ever truly deleted, especially on the internet.
In addition to this, you should keep in mind that society, individuals, and businesses rely and use technology. Cameras are everywhere from surveillance cameras to people recording things on their phone. There may be attendees or observers, media, or governments that can track, record, and identify you.
Be expected to be infiltrated by Antifa, government agents, extremists from both sides, and bad actors. They are everywhere.
Don't give them anything they can use against you, you can do that by being a good person, condemning violence and criminal activities, and being careful what you say to everyone. Even friends and family can turn against you.
The best thing you can do is educate yourself and don't commit or encourage violence, trespassing, or destruction. Be peaceful, respectful, and truthful.
If you're a Christian, then act like one. Be Christ-like in all your ways, thoughts, and actions. That means being good, loving, gentle, patient, tolerant, peaceful, and following Jesus' example, not that of the world.
Learn about your federal and local rights. Speak to an attorney for guidance in what to do if questioned by law enforcement so you do not incriminate yourself when you haven't actually done anything wrong.
There is increasing amounts of censorship and tracking on all major platforms for social media, messaging, text messages, forums, emails, and web browsing.
You could have a private conversation with someone and it could be monitored or censored without you even knowing. You can do a search online and it could secretly put you on a watchlist. That is the sad reality of life at this point due to the massive surveillance being conducted by private companies and government entities.
Even if apps or websites aren't spying on you, the devices you use could be. Big tech is collaborating and coordinating their efforts to combat whatever they decide is "misinformation" or "disinformation" - which is ever changing to include anything they personally don't like.
Protests and rallies can turn bad, like the one on January 6th in D.C. You could be doxxed, put on a watch list, fired from your job, or face a wide variety of other consequences from simply being involved.
Organizing a protest or rally can potentially put you in harms way or lead you to face consequences you were not expecting. So it is important to do things carefully and securely, to be aware of the risks, to take precautions and have plans for what to do when things go wrong.
Thankfully, you can make it harder for big tech to track, monitor, and censor you with the help of some special platforms, tools, and new habits. You can learn more about protecting your group online by going here.
Use encrypted channels to ensure that your communications are more secure. Delete any information you don't need in your phone and reload it once the rally is over. Also keep in mind that people can screenshot your conversations and share it with others, as well as on social media. Be careful who you chat with and who you trust.
If you are looking for an encrypted platform to use, we recommend Matrix.org - it is possible to acquire anonymous VPS hosting offshore and install the Matrix platform on it. You can then create your own accounts that will be free from censorship and can't be deleted.
Matrix is a decentralized platform that works differently than other platforms like Telegram or Signal. You can think of it similar to email, but for instant messaging. When you start a chat with one or more people, you start a message chain that is stored in each account. If one person loses their account, the chat still exists in the other accounts.
Communication at the Event
When planning your communication at the event, use phones, walkie-talkies, encrypted messaging, or other communication gear to communicate orders to your team by voice or text.
If your devices rely on cell towers or wifi, be aware that large groups in one area may cause the connection to be interrupted or slow, so it is best to use walkie-talkies or some other kind of communication system that can work without internet.
You should also be aware that some governments or law enforcement will use devices to jam the signals or block cell signals for a wide area. This is often used when they anticipate a riot. Thus, all the more reason to make every effort to put together and maintain a peaceful protest or rally.
Prevent Location Tracking
Even if you protect your identity and use encrypted channels to communicate, it may all be in vain because your location can be tracked.
From your phone to your card purchases, if now or sometime in the future, your event is deemed illegal or seen as a threat in some way, your information could be obtained by the authorities and used against you, even if you didn't do anything wrong. Even your mere affiliation with it can make you a target for harassment and investigation.
Say for example, you planned a peaceful event but for whatever reason it broke out into a riot, you could be held responsible and blamed for it even if you did nothing wrong. If you want to see some examples, look at what has been happening in Australia and what happened after the January 6th rally in DC.
The authorities may have the power to identify anyone in the area during the time frame of the event using a multitude of resources like photos, bank records, search history, phone records, social media, and more.
If you are concerned, you should take precautions to protect your identity and get a faraday bag for your phone or leave your phone at home and use a burner phone. You could encourage your attendees to do the same... BUT please note..
Anonymity can make you appear suspicious, even if you aren't doing anything wrong.
During the Rally or Protest
As they say, knowledge is power, and when it comes to protesting situations, it is crucial to know how to keep you and others safe.
Recordings and Cameras
Given the amount of cameras everywhere, you and everyone who attends should expect to be recorded by someone, somewhere, even without your awareness. Don't expect them to ask your permission, because most people won't. Expect that participants, observers, and media will be watching and recording what goes on in some capacity.
If you fear repercussions or consequences will result from people knowing your identity and that you or your family may be doxxed, harassed, or harmed in some way as a result of your involvement, then it may be in your best interest to mask your identity and take precautions to protect it.
Be mindful of the potential risk to others in filming anything. If you record people in attendance without their permission, blur their faces before sharing the video privately or publicly. This will help protect their identity and keep them and their families safe.
If for some reason the police try to shutdown your peaceful protest or rally and they see you filming, they may tell you to stop and delete the recording. Be sure to encrypt, hide, share, or copy your recordings in case the police try to delete or confiscate it.
If the police arrive, do not insult, harass, intimidate, or threaten them in any way. Anything you say and do can and will be used against you. Do not give them any cause to arrest you or detain you.
Be respectful, professional, and obey their commands. If they tell you to leave the property when you have permission to be there, show them your permit or permission on paper.
If you followed the guidance above for how to prepare for the rally or protest, you should be in a good position to protect your right to be there. In the event you are charged or accused of some wrong doing, you can point to your preparations and messaging to show that your protest or rally was legal and intentionally peaceful.
This is especially important in the event that violent groups like Antifa try to infiltrate your protest and cause problems for you. If you expect that this may happen to you, notify the police and city well beforehand and get it documented.
Now, if you've done your best to hold a legal, peaceful protest or rally and all heck breaks loose anyway, you and your attendees may have to deal with some serious challenges from riot police or military forces. If you feel that may be the case for you, be sure to do the following:
- Have all the right equipment and gear you need to keep you and others safe
- Watch out for dogs and police horses
- Take measures to protect yourself and others from tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons
- Know your rights in case you're arrested
- If excessive force is used by police, record and document all relevant details, then store and distribute it on decentralized platforms so that it doesn't get deleted or censored
- Don't do anything that will draw attention or put you or others in danger
- Remain calm and do not do anything rash
- Do not fight back - assaulting an officer is a crime and will lead to your arrest
If you're arrested or charged, remember that there is still a court system with an appeals process that, while lengthy, can protect you (unless you're in a communist country - in that case, you're screwed).
Be sure to stick to your plan and keep an eye on all those in attendance. Some may be plain clothes police officers, Antifa members, or other bad actors that plan to do some kind of harm.
Stopping Bad Actors and Antifa
Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are people who think using violence, deceit, and evil acts are justified to stop people or anything that goes against their beliefs.
They have no tolerance or patience for opposing opinions, thoughts, or ideas. In general, you can expect them to be highly emotional, quick to anger, and violent. This is why you should expect and make preparations for these sorts of people to try to ruin your rally or protest.
They may come wearing all black and have backpacks, face coverings, and some kind of weaponry or objects with them. They may also disguise themselves as attendees by wearing messages that show support for the cause as they try to blend in.
If possible, assemble a team to help mingle in the crowd to watch for people who look like trouble makers, and have them notify your security team. Some of them may be identified by their face, tattoos, apparel, or other identifying marks. Familiarize yourself with the Antifa and other violent group's symbols, markings, terms, and behaviors.
Be ready to send in people to intervene and remove these types if they cause problems. In some cities and countries, it may be legal to perform a citizen's arrest and hold them until police arrive - check with your local, state/province, and federal laws to see if that is allowed.
You should have your security team trained for how to respond safely and appropriately to such incidents so that it doesn't result in lives lost or unnecessary injuries. If possible, have off-duty police officers or retired police officers, or those with security experience in your security team. There are also classes people can take online or in-person.
After the Protest or Rally
Once the protest or rally is over, you may be tired, but your work is not done yet.
Trash is often left behind and as the organizer of the event, it is your responsibility to clean up afterwards.
You should have a team prepared to help you clean up. You should also have some large trash bags and gloves on hand. If you used any equipment, you will need to put all that away.
Be sure to give yourself enough time to take care of all that. This is especially important if you have to request permission to use a space for a period of time. You may want to request an additional hour or two for clean up.
Spread the Word
It is now time to bring to everyone else's attention the story and all the protest details. However, it is still essential to ensure that every participant, including you, is protected.
If you think any of the information you will be sharing can bring danger to innocent people, you will have to delete or blur that part while delivering the vital information. You can get legal advice to know whether it is right to share such information or not.
Gear and Equipment
If you want a successful protest or rally, you need to have the right gear and equipment.
Various signs can instantly pass a message of any kind. Participants can be creative with the signs in whichever scenario. They are easy to produce and capable of bringing a lot more added attention to the activity.
Signs used should be eye-catching and easy to read. You, as the organizer, can create signs to distribute, as well as encourage others to create and bring their own. Signs that are homemade are best and the cheapest.
Whatever message is on the sign, the intent and meaning should be very clear, otherwise the message is lost on those who see it and it becomes ineffective.
Use foam or poster boards so that the signs are large and easy to see from a distance. Use contrasting colors so that the words are readable.
As you advertise your protest or rally, you should include a list of example messages people can write on signs that align with what the event is about.
Shirts and Flags
Shirts and flags are a great way to advertise the message of the rally or event to all who see it. It becomes easy for the public to identify who is with the event and makes it clear what the purpose of it is.
You can encourage people to bring their own shirts and flags to the event, or you can have some made and sell them or distribute them for free.
Masks and Face Coverings
Imagine sometime after the event you hear a knock on the door and it's the police. They identified you from some photos you or someone else posted online. Or imagine photos of you at the event went viral on social media and you've been identified, now you and your family are getting harassed, you could lose your job, and you're receiving threats.
Could it be prevented? Possibly - if you protect your identity.
With facial recognition technology, cameras on buildings and built into every smartphone, and social media, there is no privacy anymore.
Wearing a mask helps to obscure your identity, especially when a lot of people wear them and you don't wear anything too personal that could be tied to your identity.
The Hong Kong protests are a great example. Most of the protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks (a symbol of rebellion against oppressive governments and powers). It was necessary for them to protect their identity for they faced arrest, fines, and harassment by the government and authorities.
While effective, it can also appear threatening to the public, police, and media, so it is best if you wear it with bright colors rather than all black.
If you don't have a mask or you prefer some kind of alternatives, you could wear sunglasses, hats, masks, or other face coverings. You could even wear a brightly colored ski mask.
Another alternative is to wear a costume. You could repurpose parts of your old Halloween costumes, rent or buy a costume online, or buy a big adult onesie of some popular character. It will be harder to be seen as threatening while dressed as something colorful and fun. You could even have a theme for your event and encourage everyone to wear costumes.
Whatever you feel is best and appropriate for your event, be sure to relay those details in your marketing of it so that attendees know what to wear and what to expect.
Microphones, Megaphones, and Noisemakers
When planning your protest or rally, you will need to have some kind of plans for how to communicate with your attendees. This may involve using professional sound equipment (which would likely require electricity and outlets) that can broadcast the sound a long distance, or it may only require a portable system with a shorter broadcast range.
What you need will depend on what type of event your planning. If you plan a march, you will need something portable. If you plan to stay in one location and have different speakers, then your needs will depend on the size of the crowd you expect.
Portable Karaoke Machines
A portable karaoke device can play music and it has a microphone. You can speak without playing music, and they are usually pretty cheap to acquire. Some can run on batteries - so if you use this, be sure to have lots of backup batteries in case you need it. The downside of small, inexpensive systems like it would be the quality of the sound and the range for how far it travels. If you expect a large crowd, you may need to use something more powerful.
Another affordable option is using an electronic megaphone. You can get them for as little as $15 or so from different places online. There are higher quality ones with a greater range available but they also cost more (around $50+).
If you need a more professional sound system, see if you can borrow one from a church. You may also be able to rent them or borrow one from somewhere. You will need to ensure that you have all the equipment needed for it as well as a source for electricity.
If you want to have music, you can seek to hire a DJ, which should have audio equipment as well as a microphone that you can use at the event. You will need to of course make all the needed accommodations for that as well, and it will likely incur a greater expense, unless you happen to know someone who is willing to help out and donate their time, skills, and equipment.
Aside from megaphones and speaker systems, noisemakers can be tremendously useful in getting attention to your event. Plus, they can be cheap to acquire and distribute among your participants. You can also encourage attendees to being musical instruments like drums. Drums are loud and can easily draw attention to your event.
Some locations may have laws or ordinances about noise, so you should check with that before implementing such ideas.
Tips for a Successful Rally or Protest
A successful rally or protest is a peaceful one. You can greatly increase the chances of it being peaceful by taking all the precautions noted above.
During the rally, ensure that other protestors do not engage in unlawful actions such as loitering, blocking the traffic or disobeying the authorities. Some countries and cities require permits for activities such as protests or the use of microphones outside. It is important to have background information on what is permitted for the event.
Invite the Media
The media helps amplify your voices by spreading the news through the media houses. Sometimes, a reporter can approach you wanting to know things about the rally. Be willing and responsive, and if you are not comfortable with being quoted, you can lead the reporter to the event organizer or rally spokesperson.
Stick to the Plan and Issue of Concern
It is important to be consistent about the issue you want to be addressed. Do not engage in arguments with bystanders or opposition. Ensure that your signs and banners have clear messaging.
For the signs, it is important to focus on solution-oriented messages. This will let the persons in concern get clear information and the reason for the rally. Do not use hateful messages, insults, or messages that encourage violence or the death of anyone.
Encourage Supporters to Help
There are a lot of ways supporters can help other than attending the event. You can ask them to sign petitions, send out emails, share things on social media, make phone calls, donate to the cause, or help with fundraising.
If you have talented musicians, they could play music at the event. If you have graphic designers, ask them to design flyers and marketing materials. Web designers could build a website for the cause. Marketers could help create awareness online and on social media.
Ask your supporters share information about the event with their contacts on multiple platforms. Make sure to advertise your event both online and offline.
You can post flyers, rent billboards, create yard signs, design t-shirts, and more all to help promote the event. Advertise your message wherever you believe your supporters will see it.
If you need funding, you can collect donations (be aware that unless the donations are collected through a registered non-profit or business, you may be liable for taxes on the money collected).
Alternative Demonstration Ideas
If you find that your city will not permit a rally or protest, or if you just want to hold a different type of demonstration, here are some ideas that may inspire you. Just be sure to be creative and to prepare as best you can.
Marches or parades are a type of protest involving people walking from one place to a predetermined destination. Like a peaceful rally or protest, marches are non-violent. Individuals protesting carry signs and posters with information about the reason for their protests. They can have a spokesperson that uses a megaphone to communicate a message as everyone marches on a planned path.
This involves protestors sitting in a place and protesting from there. Some examples include the 1960 Greensboro, which happened in North Carolina. The African Americans sat in the white segregated areas and would refuse to move until their grievances were met. Recently in France, protesters brought their own food and sat in the street and ate outside restaurants that require vaccine passports. Like the other forms of protest, they arouse publicity.
This is a protest in which people congregate outside the place of work or their location of work, intending to get their grievances heard. The picketers dissuade the rest of the people from going in. This is a non-violent protest, but it has the potential to become tense or lead to altercations.
This kind of protest involves some kind of free theatrical performance or presentation in a public space. It usually involves various approaches to encourage the oppressed to stand up for their rights and freedom. This protest has been used as a way to create public awareness and educating the public and racial discrimination victims.
A silent vigil is a gathering of people who quietly come together to pray or sit in deep contemplation over an important issue. The most well-known silent vigil was held in 1968 at Duke University, where food services and housekeeping employees held a strike. This was following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Some of the students joined in the protest by boycotting dining halls and demanding a change in decision-makers about society.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the residents of Wuhan were put under a very strict lockdown and were not permitted to leave their homes. Many even had their doors welded shut. During their confinement, videos of thousands of people shouting from their windows could be heard throughout the city. You can see it here.
If you are in a place with a strict lockdown, you can coordinate a massive chant where everyone can participate if they have a voice or a loud speaker that can play a recording. Another option would be having every supporter put up some kind of object, message, or symbol. It would not require leaving your property and would be highly effective in getting attention and going viral.