Peaceful, educational demonstrations are a great tool in raising awareness about animal abuse. And anyone can lead a protest!
1. Begin to organize your event as far in advance as possible. Ideally, 2-3 months ahead of your protest date.
2. Research local laws on protesting by contacting the city attorney and law enforcement. Always be polite and state that your protest will be peaceful and educational. By talking to the police ahead of time, you can plan out your protest more effectively, ensure appropriate levels of safety for your protestors, and avoid unnecessary complications on the day of your protest. Be sure to make a note of who you spoke to about your protest and bring their name and phone number in case any challenges arise.
3. Develop a group of protesters. One of the fastest ways to gain an active group of protesters is to create your own local Facebook group dedicated to advocating for animal issues in your area. Actively network your page to likeminded individuals or pay Facebook to “promote” it to targeted groups of individuals. You can also reach out to other people and organizations interested in animal issues, including any groups pre-existing in local universities or colleges. Contact us for more information on best practices for using Facebook, or for help in setting up a group or a Facebook group page.
4. Pre-Protest Meeting. Several weeks prior to your protest date, gather your protesting materials and conduct an open meeting or facilitate discussion on your Facebook page, in order to discuss ideas and strategies, as well as expectations, related to behavior and appearance on the day of the protest.
5. Protesting materials:
We recommend using professionally designed posters that will ensure your protest has the appropriate messaging and image. CompassionWorks International offers protest posters targeted toward the circus, rodeo, puppy mills, greyhound racing, Sea World, and medical testing. Visit Campaigns for more information.
Personalized, hand-drawn posters are great additions, but do communicate to your volunteers beforehand the posters must be simple and legible. Cursive script and crooked words do not communicate as well as big, stenciled block letters. Using abusive langauge designed to incite is unhelpful.
With a large number of protesters it is possible to utilize a variety of slogans and messages that may speak to different groups of people.
If you have an ample number of protesters, be sure to designate some to leafleting activities. Leaflets enable you to provide more detailed information than can appear on a poster. CompassionWorks International offers leaflets on the circus, the rodeo, SeaWorld, and puppy mills. Visit Campaigns for more information.
We recommend that leafleters stand apart from sign-holders, wear plain clothing, be pleasant, and make a direct, simple statement like "information about the rodeo" while handing a leaflet out.
Be sure to collect leaflets that have been thrown on the ground! If they are undamaged, do resuse them.
6. Media Involvement
Contact the media the week of your protest by sending a press release via the means the media outlet recommends on their website. We recommend connecting with all local tv and radio stations, newspapers, and any local web-based news outlets. If you need assistance with your press release, please contact us.
Be sure to develop talking points for your protest and make them available to all protesters just in case they speak to the media. Keep your talking points brief and factual.
Predetermine a spokesperson for your group and develop and memorize the messaging that you intend to use at your protest ahead of time just in case the media request an interview.
Many news stations get media advertising dollars from events that abuse animals, so they might not be eager to have your perspective aired. For that reason, contact as many local stations as you can. For example, if the FOX station is sponsoring the circus, maybe the local CBS station will be interested in your protest because they will have an exclusive story.
When speaking to the media, stay calm, professional, and on point and avoid being taken off-topic. In the event that a reporter asks you a question unrelated to your protest topic, find a way to simply return to your established talking points. Remember that at all times you are speaking for and advocating for the animals.
Tips for the day of your protest.
• Arrive at your protest site an hour before your scheduled protest time. Be sure to post on your Facebook event listings any updates you may have regarding arrival time, parking, weather conditions, etc.
• Dress conservatively. A protest is not an appropriate place to "be yourself" and proudly exhibit your trendy style or fashion sense. Look and behave as mainstream as possible. This can be upsetting for people who embrace freedom of expression in their clothing and style choices, however to get our message across for the animals it is important for people to see the message and not be distracted. You want them to read the sign you're holding, not be dissuaded by your look and discard your message as illegitimate.
• Make certain that all protesters know the event is peaceful. Even one overly aggressive protester can shut your protest down, so get to know personalities in advance. Some people may be enthusiastic to help, but their anger or overexcitement may get out of line and hurt your cause. Do not yell, chant, or be confrontational in any way. If your group is passive it is much easier for people to approach you and ask for information.
• Explain to your protesters that it is important to keep conversation amongst themselves to a minimum. Occasionally a visitor may stop and consider a poster, so at that time it would be appropriate to engage them in conversation. Those conversations will not happen if protesters are busy chatting with each other.
• Be sure your protesters are organized to gain maximum exposure. Make sure signs are held up high and that you don't have too many of the same sign in one area. Protesters will want to cluster together to talk or feel safer; encourage them to keep at least a few feet apart.
• Set up an information table if possible. It is ideal to have a centralized location from which you can run your protest and individuals can pick up information. Protesters can point people who are interested in learning more to the table where they can take extra materials and talk to an organizer at length.
You did it!
The experience of participating in a protest can be an emotional one—your protesters may find themselves suddenly facing feelings of anger, sadness, overstimulation or anxiety. Be there for each other. The reward for this noble act of peaceful protesting far exceeds the emotional cost.
Be sure to thank your protestors, invite them to future protests, possibly hold a celebration event like dinner or drinks, and post protest photos on your Facebook page or Facebook event page for sharing. Do this as soon as possible after your event so that your protestors can share their success with their friends.
When the archaic use of abused animals for entertainment is no longer permitted in the United States, you can proudly know that you played a part in making that happen and that you made a profound difference in the world on behalf of beings who had no voice of their own.
Thank you for being their voice!