LEVERING, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: Patrick Deverney, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, cuts wood at the northern Michigan camp, in Levering, Michigan Wednesday, November 28, 2018. Opponents of an aging oil pipeline that bisects the Straits of Mackinac plan to protest through the winter. 
(Photo by Trevor Bach for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
LEVERING, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 28: Patrick Deverney, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, cuts wood at the northern Michigan camp, in Levering, Michigan Wednesday, November 28, 2018. Opponents of an aging oil pipeline that bisects the Straits of Mackinac plan to protest through the winter. (Photo by Trevor Bach for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The cold isn’t the only challenge to winter protests in 2021. Being prepared can make all the difference, says activist Bridget Huff.

MICHIGAN—As the weather gets colder, Michiganders might look for warm alternatives to traditional protest. But for the frosty northerners among us, taking to parks and streets still continues year-round. 

And it isn’t just armed Trump supporters at the home of an elected official, as protests well into the winter months aren’t entirely unusual for Michigan. In 2018, for instance, December was brimming with protests following the highly extraordinary lame-duck session of the Michigan Legislature. 

But the cold is obviously not the only complication this December for a first-time protester, says progressive activist Bridget Huff. And Huff has helpful tips for people attending anything this winter, from rallying to support local nonprofits to opposing government policies.

“The good news is there is certainly an event for every person’s level of risk-aversion,” Huff told The ‘Gander. “Once you’ve found the causes that inspire you to get involved, reach out to the organizers and groups already established in that area.”

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Some groups like Detroit Will Breathe have transitioned to an online presence due to the pandemic, for instance. Other groups like Equality Michigan and Clean Water Action have leveraged online meetings throughout 2020. But in-person protests are not likely to end, she said, particularly as medical professionals have urged that the right to protest not be infringed because of the pandemic.

Even so, Huff reminded activists and newly dedicated voices alike that protest is more than being in the streets; it’s about helping those “short on help and long on need.” Things like delivering resources and online fundraisers still are important parts of advancing a cause. But there are ways to stay in the field and raise voices safely during a pandemic.

These events tend to be very different than what people might imagine, though, because of coronavirus safety measures. 

“If you want to be seen and heard through protest, expect that to look very different mid-pandemic,” Huff said. “Any responsible gathering will be mask mandatory, sanitizer required, socially distanced, and won’t expect anyone to share supplies.”

Make your own signs, bring your own water, along with your own things to keep warm, snacks, a back-up cell phone battery, and bold markers to modify signs or write contact information. A backpack full of supplies is a must, she said.

Those supplies might also include a change of clothes, a first aid kit, cash, and emergency contact information, depending on how contentious the demonstration might be. During the coronavirus in particular, spare masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes are also necessities. Expect nothing to be available from another protester, Huff stressed. 

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In a typical year, sharing these resources was commonplace, Huff said. She would regularly bring ample snacks and water to demonstrations to keep people energized and hydrated. But that communal nature acting as a vector for the virus can be the greatest risk to attendees at rallies and demonstrations, even those likely to result in altercations with police. 

And if those things are being shared this winter, that’s a red flag for Huff. 

A core component of protest is the vocal few representing the disaffected many. In that way, Huff argues, leaving a protest you feel uncomfortable with is living up to the spirit of protest itself, as there are likely to be others uncomfortable with a protest that breaches its own safety protocols. 

“If you find the protest isn’t enforcing its own safety rules, leave,” she said. “Don’t ever feel guilty for protecting yourself. If it concerns you, odds are others feel the same.”