PPE for Protesters, by Samm Bones, Guest Blogger
From Portland With Love
This piece is shared by author Samm Bones with enthusiastic consent. It has been lightly proofread by E for BTE.
Image is a still shot of 2 medics in helmets with gear, clearly identifiable and trying to treat an injured protester on the ground, yet chased and brutalized by unidentified federal agents. This video, by Tre Stewart for Boop Troop Eugene, has been viewed on Twitter significantly more than 2 million times, and is the basis for a class-action lawsuit filed by the ACLU.
Good new folks! Strange militant men, unidentified, in military uniforms are coming to your town to clean up those damn peaceful protesters that are terrorizing your city! They have come armed with CS gas, batons, impact ammunition, live ammunition and flash bangs. Ready and able to commit war crimes without repercussion. Oh how this domestic terrorism makes me feel so safe from those Portland yogi mom protesters and unarmed BIPOC people sharing their stories in the streets until late hours of the night. I was really worried I may be inconvenienced on my way to work in the morning.
On a real note though, this is a letter from a peaceful protester to my fellow protesters across the country. I hope to share my personal experience with you in hopes it helps you prepare for when Trump’s Militant Squad comes to your local protest. I have been getting swarms of emails asking how to prepare, what to wear, tear gas care, and how this will affect them personally. I don’t have all of the answers, simply because this is unprecedented territory. But there is history, and there are other countries' experiences that we are learning from. I will walk you through my personal experience, in hope that it may help you navigate your inevitable personal experience in combat with these domestic terrorists.
Below are some bullet points regarding gear and advice gathered from my own personal experience:
A ballistic helmet is ideal, but you can wear a motorcycle helmet or bicycle helmet if you can’t swing the bill on a ballistic. I’m personally saving up for one as we speak. This is for protection from the impact ammunition, the flash bangs, and the compression CSC’s. My comrade was hit in the head, close range, by a compression CS gas canister the other night -- and even with his helmet, it knocked him unconscious. Just one person's experience to highlight the importance of a helmet!
Knee Pads, Elbow Pads, Shin Guards
Inevitably, you will fall when caught in a crowd of thousands of people trying to rush away from the tear gas and baton beatings. These pads will soften that blow. If you end up out front when Trump’s Militant Squad attacks you with their batons, those shin guards will help you stand tall and look the cowards in the eyes.
Gas Mask, Goggles, Respirator
Mask up! We are in a global pandemic! You can’t honestly say Black Lives Matter and not where a mask when people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. But when the gas comes out, a run-of-the-mill N95 mask won’t do the trick. You will need lab-safe, not-vented goggles (not swimming goggles!), a respirator with at least p100 filters, or a full -face gas mask with these filters! Don’t think you’re a badass going without, all you are doing is wasting the medics’ eye wash when you’re crying gas out of your tear ducts.
You will need these to throw the CS gas canisters out of harm's way. Too often these get caught on someone's backpack, shoulder, under their vehicle or motorcycle, or just in the crowd of our elders, where they need to be immediately extracted. These gloves will do the job.
Baton, Mace, Self-Protection
Portland, Oregon is one of the whitest, if not THE whitest major city in the country, and what comes along with that is Proud Boys who work with the Portland Police Bureau. They have been present at almost every single march, demonstration, and sit-in that I have been a part of here in town. I encourage everyone to always have a protest buddy that sticks with you till you are safely back to your car or home; but please carry self-protection and know how to use it, just in case.
First Aid Kit
First and foremost, eye wash, eye wash, EYE WASH! I personally make a 50/50 mixture of Milk of Magnesia and water and keep it in a spray bottle. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Many medics advise *against* this.] Always wear gloves and a mask when rinsing other people's eyes (from the inside out, with your head tilted) and consider using a spray bottle or one-use-only packaging to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and bacterial infections. A basic youtube search should direct you to a “how-to” tutorial. I also pack: burn cream, alcohol wipes, gauze, first aid tape, chemical weapon wipes, hand sanitizer and a suture kit. I would prepare your vehicle with a homemade stretcher and room to be able to transport people to the hospital. The ambulance could be blocked off by the police or have difficulty getting to you; again, this is from personal experience. Also, please remember to hand sanitize as often as you remember, and to sanitize the megaphone between each speaker!
I personally wear a 3A-grade bullet-proof vest that will protect me up to a 45-mm, with a tactical vest on top of it to carry my first aid kit, tear gas solution, Taser, gloves, flashlight, selfie stick, etc. Before I was able to afford my bullet-proof vest, I just bought a $50 tactical vest and cut aluminum signs to put into the inserts of the vest, which theoretically would soften the blow of rubber bullets and pepper bullets.
Shield and/or Umbrella
If you feel that your role is up front along with the front liners, then you are going to need one of these! The umbrella is a great way to block direct contact with pepper spray and should be utilized up front along with the shield bearers. As far as shields go, I’ve seen them made out of plywood, barrels, and trash can lids. The shield bearers also need to be up front, blocking the peaceful protesters from impact ammunition.
Clothing I personally would advise you to wear nothing identifiable so Trump’s Militant Squad can’t pick you out from the crowd; black seems to be the trending color. If you have identifiable tattoos that are visible, cover them up! I personally wear black tactical boots, black pants, black long sleeve, which isn’t much different than my regular attire.
This experience can make you feel like you are in combat in a war. Remember to stay calm and not panic! 4-count breaths are your friend! Always walk, never run. If you don’t have a protest buddy, find one. Write the jail bond number or your emergency contact’s phone number on your arm so you can call them if you are detained.
If you are a white ally, step to the back, unless your white body can be used as a shield between a BIPOC and a threat. If you are a white ally, remember we are in the streets to uplift BIPOC voices, not yours. If you are a white ally, remember to follow your black leadership. If you are a white ally, remember, that is what you are, an ally.
Last but not least, be kind to each other. Do not let anything petty divide us within the premises of a demonstration or outside of it. We need to unite and stand strong as one, more than ever right now. This is the revolution afoot, and you are standing on the right side of history. You should be proud of yourself and your comrades and uplift each other. We are all we have.