Know Your Rights


Given the increased criminalization of protesters as well as many events including ones that occurred in Oakland on December 10, 2014, with the outing of the undercover cop who pulled a gun on protesters, along with the outing of the stingray eavesdropping equipment and Anonymous’ footage of wiretapping occurring at the Chicago Black Friday march on November 28, 2014, Black Lives Matters Chicago believes we are at a critical point in the movement where we need to discuss security, protection and safety of protesters. With calls for people to take “increased risks” we need to lift up the importance of talking about security and protection, setting up jail support, having attorneys on board for those arrested, contacting the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and other legal observers, and to encourage critical discussions addressing tactics, risks and protection.

We believe it is important to take a public position in order to avoid being framed up by the political police who are surveilling individuals and actions using the Black Lives Matter moniker. Individual acts of violence and destruction to property are often little threat to the state but actually are capitalized upon by the state to dampen support for the movement by those on the fence as well as to justify further repression of the movement. That is why they have agent provocateurs infiltrating the movement that encourage such activity. It plays into their hands.

As a result, we are supporting the protesting guide that came out of New York and have included a few additional categories. This should be used as a guide for all protesters and organizers in the movement. This should not be considered to be an exhaustive list, but a start to a conversation containing important safety and legal reminders for us while we fight demanding that Black Lives Matter.

If You’re Protesting, Do Have:

  • At least a dollar’s worth of quarters for precinct phone calls
  • Water because dehydration happens
  • A buddy that knows where you are at all times
  • Emergency contact numbers memorized
  • Optional: gas masks, milk in case someone gets pepper sprayed
  • Phone numbers to your local National Lawyers Guild: 312-913-0039 & First Defense Legal Aid: 1-800-LAW-REP-4.
  • Write numbers on your arm in case of arrest!

Do Not Have:

  • Weapons or drugs on you
    (​This is not a question of morality but of creating opportunities for police & the state to violently criminalize you, those around you, and sabotage the larger goal of the action.)
  • Valuables you can’t afford to lose
  • Police will take belts & shoelaces if arrested

If you see someone being arrested/beaten by cops

  • Take out your phone and film it! This is incredibly important! Stay a reasonable distance from police.
  • Ask the arrested person to shout their full name and birthday. Write it down so you can find them in the precinct. Get this information to a National Lawyer’s Guild representative.
  • Anything you post online can criminalize protesters, so be wise about content you spread.
  • If you film an arrest give the footage to the lawyer representing the arrestee, ie. NLG. Do not publicize footage until deferring to the representing lawyer. Doing otherwise may put the arrestee in more danger.

Riots, Tear Gas + Pepper Spray

  • When pepper spray + tear gas is employed: get inside quickly, the gas will spread. Pour milk over your face & put on gas masks if available. Do not scratch or touch face or eyes. With a clean hand remove contacts if you have them. Clear as many people as you can. Find medics and record everything. Check Facebook and Twitter for safe routes to clear area.
  • ​Do not incite violence. You are endangering undocumented, the elderly, children, differently abled & formerly incarcerated folks, as well as endangering those most targeted with police terror.

When Interacting With Police:

  • You do not have to say anything to the police, no matter what they ask you, even if you are under 18.
  • You have the right to a lawyer, and if you don’t have one, the state must appoint you one.
  • You have to give consent for a police officer to search you. Simply say, “I don’t give my consent.”
  • If an officer comes up to you but is not arresting you, you don’t have to stay. Ask loudly “Am I being detained?” or “Am I free to go?” If they say you are not being detained, you can safely walk away.
  • If you are being detained, you still do not have to answer their questions. Providing basic identifying information if you are under arrest will make the process move much more quickly.

​Police Violence: De-Escalate

  • Be incredibly careful with your body language and movements around cops.
  • Appoint trusted security representatives in your community.
  • Never put your hands on a police officer or resist arrest, without considerable planned consideration of consequences to yourself & those around you. The likeliness of increasing violence is high.
  • Never lunge or motion toward a police officer, these motions can be excuses to issue arrests for aggravated assault, a felony.
  • Never touch a police officer. Any touching can be excuse to issue arrests for aggravated battery, a felony.
  • ​Do not, without considerable prior consideration of consequences to yourself and all around you, intentionally agitate cops. Do not bang on police property without considerable prior consideration of consequences for yourself and others around you. It can endanger people in your community especially those formerly incarnated, undocumented, differently abled, elderly, children and communities most targeted by police violence.

On Building Broad Based Support

  • We want our communities to feel safe attending protests. That means we want people with priors, formerly incarcerated, undocumented workers, the elderly, parents and children, survivors of police violence to join our protests.
  • We want our protests to reflect our communities’ diverse and multi-layered compositions.
  • We want to prevent any openings left to the police to use an excuse to arrest us and use violence against our bodies. Therefore we are vigilantly critical in how we protest.
  • Any planned arrests should be organized well in advance while taking into consideration who is the most marginalized and most targeted for mass incarceration, and therefore utilize methods to protect those of us most criminalized while having ready: lawyers, legal observers, jail support, bail funds – all prepared in advance.
  • Those organizing and protesting with race, skin, language, class privileges should critically monitor decision and movements to ensure actions do not result in disproportionate Black and Brown arrests, thus perpetuating mass incarceration of Black and Brown, and working class bodies.
  • Any actions with intent to arrest, should NOT include or put in danger, without extensive deliberation and consideration of legal implications: the formerly incarcerated, undocumented, children or people with priors. We are working for liberation, not to add to the prison industrial complex, and deportation of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.