A Beginner’s Guide to Protests

Photo from npr.org

Historically speaking, college protests are a huge part of not only the American experience but the college experience as well, and a little less than a month ago students at Penn State were able to get a taste of this aspect of democracy.

On Monday, Oct. 24, a known white supremacist was supposed to be speaking in one of the biggest lecture halls on campus but hundreds of students made their voices heard enough to stop the event titled “Stand Back and Stand By,” a title with a nod to former President Trump’s message to the Proud Boys in the 2020 election. That night, the air was filled with volatility and urgency from so many members of our community and it’s safe to say we’re proud to be Penn Staters after seeing so many students rally to stop an event that threatened the very fabric of a university that prides itself on diversity. 

If you were one of those willing enough to attend, it certainly was a rude awakening to the realities of protests. Here’s what to expect the next time you want to not only make your voice heard but do so in a way that keeps you and others around you safe. 


You can look back on protests of the past and see that they are oftentimes the most impactful part of a movement since they are what ends up on the front page of newspapers, drawing attention to the cause. Posters are a great place to start on what to bring to your first protest— to be honest, you might look and feel out of place without one. Think of short, but meaningful phrases like the ones below, and don’t be afraid to show them with pride. 

Photo by Holly Willhide

In times like these, you really never know how long a protest can last, so it’s important to come prepared with necessities such as water and snacks. But while water can help keep yourself and others hydrated, it can also be extremely helpful in the event that either you or others get pepper-sprayed. During the Oct. 24 Thomas Building protest, it didn’t seem as though things could escalate— until they did. Things took a turn for the worse after a few unlucky students got pepper-sprayed by white supremacists instigating the crowd. So bring water not only for yourself but for others just as an extra precaution. 


Again, in this political climate, you never know where a protest could lead you, so safety needs to be your number one priority. The number one piece of advice we can give you before you plan on protesting is this— have a plan. Talk to your friends about going and how to make sure to stick together. But, if it turns out that you’ll be by yourself make sure of a few things:

  1. Tell your friends that you’re going in the first place.
  2. Memorize their phone numbers in case you get arrested.
  3. Share your location with at least three of your friends.

Whether you were there that Monday night, you never know when you’re going to get caught up in a cause greater than you, just remember that. So, the next time or the first time you decide to go to a protest, don’t forget why you decided to go in the first place. Who knows, maybe you’ll stop a white supremacist from speaking in one of the biggest lecture halls on your campus.

Tweet us @VALLEYmag with your thoughts on the protest and any more tips that can help others stay safe in future movements.


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