How to Arrange a Demonstration*

A demonstration can be an effective tool of activism, depending on how well it is organized, how many people participate in it, how convincing its message is and how much coverage the media outlets devote to it, a demonstration can be an effective tool of activism.

When and where to demonstrate

First contact the local city office to get the appropriate license and permit to hold the demonstration. The best place to demonstrate is outside the office that may potentially able to addresses the issues that the protest is about, e.g.: demonstration in front of the United States Congress to address HR 5680 or protest in front of the a media outlet to call for more or more accurate coverage about ongoing human rights abuses in Ethiopia. Choose a time that makes it convenient for as many activists as possible to attend, and when most targeted individuals or employees at the intended institutions can observe the demonstration (e.g. early morning, lunch time, late afternoon).

Publicity

Try to allow at least a week to publicize your demonstration. Advertise through flyers in Ethiopian restaurants and cafes, local Ethiopian community forums, newspapers and radio stations, and other activist groups and newsletters. Include a name and number for information about last-minute changes.

Placards and signs

Distill the gist of your case and recommendations into a few pithy phrases and slogans. Most passersby do not have the time or inclination to chat with demonstrators, so it is important that your placards catch their attention and convey the message. Once you have their attention, they are more likely to take your fact sheets and other information.

Press packets and information sheets

Make sure you call the press well in advance, so that your demonstration gets reported. Prepare a detailed documentation of your case (e.g. photocopies of articles, letters and press releases, and formal replies of the addressees), along with some recommendations. Also include a one-page cover sheet which briefly summarizes the main points of your case. Remember: Don’t burden the representatives of the office in front of which you are demonstrating with excessive information, but make sure your allegations are backed up with sound evidence. Give copies of the one-page cover sheet to passersby as well.

Slogans and chanting

To draw attention to your demonstration, you may want to chant catchy slogans. Try not to sound belligerent—think about the impression you are making on the targets of your demonstration and on passersby, who may not be familiar with the issue. Make your point in mainstream language that gives the greatest number of people the opportunity to agree with you. You want to show that you are the reasonable and principled side.

Other details

One or a few of the activists, who are comfortable with public speaking and as well-spoken and eloquent, should be designated as spokespersons to the media when they seek interviews. Be clear on what your main message is and make sure everyone who is interviewed stresses it. If you have planned a sufficiently large demonstration, you might want to include a few speakers too, so you may have to plan for a public address system, a podium, etc.

*Adapted with permission from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting)

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