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Protesting Safer in a Pandemic Protocol

This protocol is a draft. It has not yet been accepted as protocol and may be incorrect or poorly cited. Please do not use this in your work until it has been accepted.

Please see #protocols on Slack to discuss this protocol further.

This page is specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our covid protocol still focuses on somewhat older science relating to droplet transmission. We are currently reviewing this. It will be updated rapidly.

This protocol gives guidance on additional measures on safer protesting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At present mass gatherings of any form will pose an increased risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, regardless of what measures are taken.

Please note this protocol has been developed in the context of UK protests. Some of the advice may vary depending on police tactics in other jurisdictions. At time of writing there is not widespread use of tear gas, rubber bullets or LRADs in the UK and so these have not been addressed in this protocol.

What to take with you

Pandemic specific items

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Face masks, either 3-ply surgical masks or cloth face coverings
    • You should have sufficient to put on a fresh mask at least every 2 hours (more frequently if possible)
    • Additional in case of being trapped in a kettle beyond your intended stay at the protest.
    • A fresh mask for travelling to/from the protest.
  • A spare outer layer of clothes, especially if you are returning to a household with people who were not on the protest
  • A sealable bag for contaminated items (used masks and contaminated outer clothing)

General items

  • Bottled water, a minimum of 500ml. Bring more if it is hot, you are being active or you are likely to be staying for a long time.
  • Snacks, particularly salty and sugary ones.
  • Ear plugs, or other hearing protection.
  • Prescription medication should be brought in pharmacy boxes.
You should avoid bringing alcohol or intoxicants as these dehydrate you.

It is particularly important to bring your own water and snacks during pandemic conditions as welfare teams handing these out will be at an even higher risk of the virus.

Before you leave the house

You should:

  • Thoroughly wash your hands before packing your bag for the protest
  • Disinfect or scrub any any disinfectable kit you have handled in the past 3 days.
  • Clean your phone if you are intending on taking it with you.
  • Wear freshly washed outer clothes, or clothes that haven't been handled in the last 3 days.
    • This includes tabards/hi-vis if you will be wearing one, for example: designated first aiders or legal observers.
  • Wash your hands again before heading out.

You can:

  • Tie your hair up or wear it under a hat to keep you from brushing it out of your face with your hands.

Travelling to/from the protest

  • If possible, travel by pavement, bike, in a private car, or a taxi.
  • If you use public transport, try not to touch spaces with your hands, use hand sanitiser after travelling, or wear gloves which you can change.
    • If wearing gloves you should change these immediately after leaving the bus or train station.
  • You should wear a mask or face covering for travelling.

On approach to the protest, but before entering the main crowd you should:

At the protest

These steps may not always be possible to follow during escalated protests and when faced wth police violence/kettling. However these are aditional factors to include when assessing your individual comfort and risk levels when taking part in more volatile actions during COVID-19.


Social distancing at protests is hard to achieve, and often out of the control of individual protesters. Protests should be considered close contact situations

  • You should wear surgical masks where possible.
  • You should replace your mask with a fresh one at least every 2 hours. or more frequently if the fabric has become damp with moisture from your mouth.[1]
    1. Sanitise your hands before and after removing the old mask.
    2. Put the old mask in a sealable bag imediately after removal, and sanitise your hands again.
    3. Put on a fresh mask and sanitise your hands again.
  • You should not remove your mask when shouting/chanting, as these can significantly increase the amount of infections particles you may emit.[2] [3]

Eating and Drinking

Static Protests

If the protest is static, or you are able to safely take a rest stop:

  1. Move to an area where you can socially distance more easily.
  2. Use hand sanitiser before and after you remove your face covering.
  3. Handle used face coverings by the ties/earloops only. Do not touch the face area.
    • If possible, store the used face covering in a bag and put on a fresh one after eating.
    • If you will need to put the same face covering back on, place it on a disposable paper towel or tissue, outer side facing down.
  4. Eat and drink, minimising your time not wearing a mask.
    • You should not talk whilst not wearing a mask - talking will increase the number of infectious particles you may emit. [2] [3]
  5. Make sure you put it back on with the same side facing outwards.
  6. Sanitise/wash your hands before and after you replace your face covering.

Marches/Mobile actions

There is no 'safe' way of eating or drinking on the move whilst wearing a mask, however it is still very important to keep hydrated and fed whilst on a protest. The below should not be used outside of mobile protest scenarios.

  1. Move to an area where you can socially distance more easily, if possible.
  2. Use hand sanitiser before you remove your face covering.
  3. Open your bottle/snack.
  4. Remove the mask from one ear, being careful to not touch the face of the mask.
    • Leave the mask hanging from the other ear.
    • You may need to keep hold of the free ear loop to stop the mask from being blown in the wind.
  5. Sanitise your hands
  6. Eat and drink, minimising your time not wearing a mask.
    • You should not talk whilst not wearing a mask - talking will increase the number of infectious particles you may emit. [2] [3]
  7. Sanitise your hands, and refit the free ear loop
    • Make sure you put it back on with the same side facing outwards.
  8. Sanitise your hands after you replace your face covering.

After the protest

If you are part of a welfare/first aid team