Practical tips for attending a protest
This information was correct as of 19 July 2021, but is subject to possible changes.
This page sets out the law and guidance which is applicable in England only.
As of 19 July, there are no legal restrictions on gathering indoors or outdoors. The previous ban on gatherings of more than 30 people outdoors, and the protest exemption, therefore no longer apply. If you are organising a protest or participating in one, there are no legally enforceable coronavirus-related restrictions.
What should I wear?
Wear non-distinctive, comfortable clothing and shoes. It is best to cover as much skin as possible, even if the weather is warm. Wear dark colours if possible, and if you have distinctive markings or tattoos, try to cover them. Wear something waterproof.
There is no legal requirement to wear a face mask, but you may choose to do so (preferably a non-distinctive or plain one). You may also wish to bring gloves and hand sanitiser. There is no legal requirement to socially distance from other people.
If you are on your period, wear pads instead of tampons as it may be difficult to access a toilet, and keep a spare on you.
It is best to leave jewellery – including necklaces earrings and bracelets – at home, to ensure they aren’t lost, damaged, or caught on anything.
Wear glasses instead of contact lenses.
What should I bring?
Bring hand sanitiser or wipes.
Bring water and snacks as you may be out for longer than you anticipate.
It is strongly advisable to leave your phone at home and bring an old phone with essential numbers on it. If arrested, the police have the power to take your phone and search it for evidence. Make sure it is locked with a passcode and switch off any facial and fingerprint unlocking technology. You may wish to bring a portable phone charger if you have one.
Bring a notepad and pen to keep notes of any issues and the shoulder number of police officers.
Write key numbers on your arm (preferably under a sleeve). Include: an emergency contact, the number of the GBC Protest Support line, and the number of a solicitor who you might want to contact in case you are arrested. If you get arrested it’s important to be able to get in touch with the people you need to – even if your phone is out of battery. It’s a good idea to write down a friend or family member’s number and keep it with you.
Keep a copy of emergency phone numbers and medical information that someone may need to know. Keep medication that you may need (preferably in a prescription bottle) including inhalers if you are asthmatic.
You can bring earplugs and a washcloth, and bandages and first aid supplies such as plasters.
Don’t bring anything with you that you wouldn’t want to get arrested with.
Leave valuables at home. And don’t forget your protest placards, sign or banner!
Who can support me?
Always keep the number of a solicitor with special knowledge about protests on you.
The following solicitors have offered 24/7 support in London:
- Commons: 020 3865 5403
- ITN Solicitors: 020 3909 8100
- Hodge Jones Allen (HJA): 0844 848 0222
- Bindmans: 020 7305 5638
Liberty cannot provide representation if you have been arrested, but if you would like help and advice in other areas of protest law, please get in touch with our Advice and Information team.
Green and Black Cross also operate a Protest Support Line. If you witness an arrest, want support or have legal questions about protest call GBC on 07946541511 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black Protest Legal Support Group also offer Legal Observing. They are an independent group led by Black and Brown lawyers. You can contact them at: email@example.com.
What are Legal Observers?
At most large protests, Legal Observers will be present.
You can spot them wearing high-vis jackets that often say “Legal Observer”.
They are volunteers who are there to monitor police, gather evidence of arrests, and counter any intimidation or unlawful behaviour protesters might face.
They are independent from both the protest and the police, and may be able to provide support.
They may also be handing out “bust cards” – cards with essential information about police powers, and phone numbers of protest solicitors.
What are my rights on this?
Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them
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