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Tips for staying safe in a demonstration

With the recent events taking place around Cairo and Egypt, it’s probably worth taking a moment to look at how protests are policed and the best ways to keep safe when going on a protest march in Egypt.

As witnessed yesterday, in the “Anger Day” rally around Cairo, things can get out of hand, and police use different–and violent–methods to disperse the protesters. Below are some tips we've gathered to help cope with a potentially hostile environment during protests and to help keep yourself and your friends safe while exercising your right to express your opinion.

Before leaving your house, you need to understand the nature of the demonstration you are joining. There is always the possibility of finding yourself in a situation that you did not prepare for, so it's a good idea to take the following items with you:

– Prepare yourself with comfortable clothes, especially shoes which allow you to run fast toward a safe spot when needed. Do not wear bright colors so you don’t stand out in the protest or grab extra attention from the police forces. When picking your outfit, steer clear of hoodies, as anyone can easily grab you by the hood and drag you around while you helplessly try to run away. Scarves are also not a good idea, for the same reason, and long hair should be tied up in a small bun or hidden underneath your t-shirt, not to allow anyone to pull you by it.

– Make sure to wear something with lots of pockets. You need your hands to be free at all times, so keep your mobile, your camera and any other items in your pockets. Don’t take big cameras with you as they will only add to your hassle during a protest. Take a small camera or use your mobile camera. Keep a small bottle of water in one of your pockets in case of dehydration.

– On your mobile, put the number of a close friend or a family member on speed-dial, and keep the numbers provided by multiple human right organizations for lawyers on speed-dial as well in case you got arrested and you need to call someone. If your mobile credit is re-chargeable make sure your mobile is charged up with plenty of credit, and if you have an extra mobile battery make sure you charge its power and take it with you.

– Prepare yourself with a wet towel that you can stick next to your mouth if you come into close contact with tear gas. Do not try to rub your face with the wet towel, though, as it will only cause more irritation to your face and eyes. Don’t wash your face with water either.

While in the street, you need to pay attention to the following situations that might pose a danger to your peaceful protest:

State Security may try to block off a small group in a small area. This is meant to aggravate people and cause them to fight back, giving State Security the right to attack them in “defense.” If you find yourself in this situation, just find a spot where you feel safe, and keep yourself calm. Call or text your friends if they're not with you to let them know where you are.

Avoid the front-lines where you are an easy target for police officers and will have trouble exiting quickly. Being on the edge, on the other hand, might cause you to become easy prey for police forces making arrests people, so be aware of your surroundings and find yourself the right spot between the two extremes.

Be careful who you’re talking to or sharing your space with: Not all of the protesters are actually there to protest: Some might be plain-clothes police forces who might arrest you.

– One of the most important things you can do is to simply be aware of your environment and your surroundings. This means paying a little more attention to where you are and how you might react if something happens.

Dealing with tear gas poses a huge challenge for protesters: It was the number one method used during the “Anger Day” rally yesterday to disperse protesters.

– Firstly, you need to understand the effects of teargas before you know the best ways to deal with it: Tear gas causes burning and irritation to the area of contact within seconds of exposure. The extent of harm caused by tear gas depends on the amount a person is exposed to, how the person was exposed (skin contact, eye contact, or breathing), and the length of time of the exposure.

– The effects of exposure to tear gas are usually short-lived (30-60 minutes) after the person has been removed from the source and cleaned off.

– If you are exposed to tear gas, the first thing to do is quickly leave the area where the tear gas was released and get to fresh air. Simply moving to an area where fresh air is available is an effective way to protect yourself. Keep in mind that tear gas will form a heavy vapor cloud that will settle close to the ground.

– If you think the chemical has come into contact with your skin and clothing, you should remove your clothing as soon as possible and wash your entire body with soap and water. If possible, clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off the body instead of pulled over the head.

– If you are helping other people remove their clothing, try to avoid touching any contaminated areas. (When washing your clothes later, wash them separately from the rest of your laundry.)

– If your eyes are burning or your vision is blurred, rinse your eyes (do not rub them with your fingers–just rinse the eyes with running water) with plain water for 10-15 minutes. If you wear contacts, remove them. Do not put the contacts back in your eyes. If you wear eyeglasses, take them off and do not put them back on before washing them with soap and water for 10-15 minutes.

Finally, if you decide to stay at home and follow the news online: You can unblock the sites that were blocked yesterday such as Twitter using multiple websites that provides free proxy portals. Here are some of the sites: http://www.hiddensurffreely.com/ and http://hidemyass.com/ and http://www.free-proxy.ca/
 

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