How Can I Be An Activist Without Going To A Protest?

When the news shows resistance to state lead violence it often does so with pictures of dramatic protests: thousands of people in the streets chanting, someone setting fire to something, police tear gassing people nearby. Watching the footage its understandable you might not want to go to a protest because you’re afraid of arrest and brutality. Or it might be that you can’t get involved because of living far from cities, having a disability that would make it difficult to attend, or because you might be ‘outed’ (as gay, trans, a sex worker, an undocumented immigrant etc) and the repercussions could be huge.

Protest is an amazing way to get people to see your cause, to highlight its aims, and to show there are many people who share your beliefs and are willing to fight for them. They’re a vital part of resistance, but they’re just one side of that fight. So many people I meet, or see online, ask how can they get involved if they can’t always be there physically, that I decided to write a little guide, and share it so that more people realise they don’t have to feel so powerless.

  1. Online Activism Is Legit
    ‘Online’ activism doesn’t always require you to officially join a group and you can be anywhere in the world while you do it. Sometimes it requires you simply to read and share posts with your followers, something that requires only a couple of clicks. You might feel like this is pointless, especially if the only people who like your posts are your Aunt and a girl you went to dance class with aged 5, but it’s a chain reaction. Sharing that post can get people talking, thinking, they share it with those around them maybe via social media, maybe by email, or simply talking to others about it. It might get you into a heated argument on your family member filled Facebook page, but on another network where you can be a little more anonymous (Twitter, blogging, etc) it can be shared time and time again, and reach so many more people than you imagined. Things like people checking in to Standing Rock Reservation to support the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline really make a difference and are super easy to do.
  2. Contact Local Politicians/Share Petitions
    This is pretty old school! Many groups share form letters to send, or have telephone scripts, to help you. It may seem like a very small thing, and it’s true one letter won’t make a lot of difference, but it’s seeing your actions as part of a collective movement. Some of the change you achieve might be small: like ending an incredibly unfair sexist luxury tax on sanitary products, or a supermarket chain committing to ending the sale of eggs from caged hens; but others have direct impact on the lives of people, such as the New Era housing estate whose rents were kept at an affordable level after a firm attempted to raise them to an extortionate level (effectively causing all the residents to move out, a form of social ‘cleansing’).
  3. Do Something Boring
    Activist groups need meeting rooms, paper for taking notes, someone to remember to pay the annual fee on the domain names. They need people to type up meeting notes, figure out how to share documents securely online, to keep track of who said they’d bring the megaphone to the protest and whether it’s still working. They also need people to check their emails, reply to requests, and tweet about actions and meetings. These things aren’t the exciting side of activism. You’re unlikely to have your photo in the paper under a ‘Local Hero’ headline. But without them shit just does not get done. This is often a good way to be an ally to a cause (for example white people and PoC causes, or non sex workers) and it offers a very finite tangible goal. Email a group and ask if they need help with that stuff, explain why you can’t make it to meetings, and see where you’re needed. Do the work, and don’t ask for a cookie for doing it.
  4. Give Them Your Money
    Sounds crass but if you can, do it. Money means they can get a coach and go support another protest in an area with low numbers. It means they might be able to pay someone to write really good press releases so that their aims and goals are well communicated. It can mean that they can bring food to communities that are struggling, or help other smaller groups who are low on funds. Many activist groups have no funding at all, aside from donations. Their members pay their own money to make banners, travel to protests or events to speak on panels, they pay for their own overnight accommodation, and it can mean only a privileged few with expendable income get to be involved. Your donation, no matter how small, changes that.
  5. Start Making A Change In Your Every Day Life
    When you can: challenge the view points around you, use your money to buy from businesses that are local or support good charitable causes or at least boycott those that use their money to actively and loudly oppress others. Turn up and vote in any election you can (from local councils to national/EU). Buy a sticker pack from a group and stick it on the back of a public toilet door or on a pedestrian crossing button. Tell people who hold bigoted viewpoints that you don’t agree with them. Read books about other cultures and make an effort to learn about and from them. Listen to people who you want to support, and if called out take it on and think about it in your own time instead of lashing out. Remember people’s preferred pronouns, stop using words like ‘cretin’ or ‘moron’, train your brain to use they instead of he as the default. Remember that even the tiniest act can make someone’s whole day better.

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