It was the season of the worldwide protest known as the Women’s March. The originating march on Washington had a crowd of half a million people, while more than 5 million people marched across the world. There were an estimated 675 marches worldwide including one Women’s March in Antarctica. Planning for the largest political demonstration since Vietnam protests was quite the undertaking. Yet during the protests, there was not a single riot, act of violence, or death. What can communities learn about how to manage these large-scale protests so effectively?
The first act of any community hosting a protest or march is to understand the risks. Anytime a group gathers in protest there is a possibility of a violent uprising. This can occur from counter-protest groups or from factions within the protesting party. Accepting this fact is the first step in preparing for communication in the case of an emergency.
Consider the violence that occurred in Charlottesville, VA last year. With emotions running high, it is up to officials to maintain as much order as possible and always be on high alert for disruptions.
As part of the emergency management team, it is your duty to determine multi-faceted operational strategies to provide services in the event of a riot, natural disaster, or unexpected violence at these protests. In addition, it’s important to secure mutual aid agreements from organizations that will help you carry out your mission. You need to have a plan of action ready to provide emergency communication and related services with a moment’s notice.
Another critical consideration is how to prepare the general community for the protest. Yes, there are those groups that are directly involved in the protest. But what about the rest of the neighborhoods and businesses? These groups also need to be in the loop with alerts in case of an emergency during the protest.
In fact, community engagement is key to keeping everyone informed and safe, whether the protest turns out to be a peaceful one, or turns violent, as is often the case. Events such as these provide the emergency management team with the opportunity to think outside of the box in terms of operational strategies. For example, think about how you could involve businesses or other community leaders in promoting engagement when it comes to preparedness. By partnering with members of your community, you can expand your reach and get others involved in your preparedness efforts.
Yes, the Women’s March is a prime example of a peaceful protest. Unfortunately, there is always the chance that a protest will end in a crisis, as with other political protests in Washington, DC during this time last year.
We’re living in a protest-filled world, and the first step to protecting your community is preparedness. Download our crisis communication template to customize plans for your community!
Every organization, whether it is in the public or private sector, needs to evaluate the risks that threaten the lives and property of stakeholders. Communication is a key element of any crisis response plan before, during and after an event occurs.Download The White Paper