Civic Engagement

How to Plan a Protest in One Week or Less

You may have noticed we at Seeing Red held a protest this past Sunday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Omaha. The Omaha World Herald sure did!  You, too, can plan a protest and make your voice heard.  As a follow up on our post about how to hold your very own die-in, we present a play by play of planning your own protest.

Step 1: Have an ask. What is it you want? Answering this question will help you identify the next steps, such as location, time, etc.

Our ask, for Governor Pete Ricketts to be excommunicated by the Catholic Church for his insistence that the execution of Carey Dean Moore be carried out despite Pope Francis’s statement that execution is an attack on human dignity and unacceptable in all circumstances. Would we love to stop this execution and that of every other inmate on death row, yes, hell yes, but there’s only so much you can do on a Sunday morning. We know the ACLU, Ernie Chambers, and others are working the legal system and shaming drug companies in an effort to halt the execution, so we decided to take another route: shaming the governor at his church in hopes they will decide to withhold communion from him and their fellowship.

Have an ask: Excommunicate Pete Ricketts

Step 2. Pick a location and time: How will you get your ask to the right target? How can you also do so in a way that is visible and builds energy and solidarity among others?

We picked Ricketts’s church, which is also attended by such well-heeled Nebraskans as Hal Daub, (who arrived in his Hal-Daub Mobile — big black a Mercedes SUV complete with Hal Daub for Regent on the side– but I digress), because they can act on our demand. And because we can shame him among his peers. We chose the 10:30 service because it is the most well attended. His church is also on a busy street, so we also got lots of honks, waves, and thumbs up from people. We set up to be visible to both sides of the street and people arriving from multiple directions. When the service was about to end, we moved to one side so everyone exiting would get the full force of forty people, two big banners, and a lot of very creative signs. Would we have loved to have had Ricketts be there? Yes. But we also wanted to capitalize on the Pope’s announcement this week.

Step 3. Decide what you will and won’t do.

And more importantly how your actions are linked to the ask in step one. I had a lot of conversations with friends and myself last week about whether getting arrested would further our ask compared to the risks involved. Would I have loved to see the headline be, “Protestors with ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ sign arrested at Pete Rickett’s Church,” yes, but if you do plan to get arrested, it has to be done right. We’ll save that for a future post. We ultimately decided to go with, stand on the public sidewalk and don’t block pedestrians. Because as long as you are on public land and you are not making a safety hazard of yourself, you have every right to congregate and exercise free speech. Such as, “Hessians Against Murder” and “Pete Ricketts is a Penis-Headed Murder-Monger.”  You do not need a permit.  You do not need to clear it with anyone.  All you need is a sign and some like-minded people.

Step 4. Get the word out.

Ask your friends. Like actually ask them, not just on Facebook. But also, ask them on Facebook. And share, share, share. Share to people’s pages who have a common interest, like Nebraskans for Peace and Nebraskans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. Get your friends to share. Share it some more. Offer to give people rides. Contact the press.

Step 5. Make signs.

Always the most fun. Also better with friends.  Don’t forget, you can use both sides! Foam core boards are a little pricey but they hold up well to our Nebraska wind. You can get colors, but simple black and white will keep you message clear and easy to read. Rule of thumb, if you can’t write it on a post-in note, it’s too long for a sign.

Black on white, all caps. Clear and readable.

Step 6. DO IT.

The most important part, showing up. Remind your friends, check your ride plans, and show up. Even if it is early and you had too much bourbon the night before. Showing up is key. Bring water, wear sunscreen, but in the words of Nike: JUST DO IT! We will be just doing it again on Sunday, August 12th at 10 AM.

Also another word on target/time and location etc. Because we did not go the route of permit, speaker, sound system, yada yada, we were able to be flexible. Did we want to do it closer to the execution or farther out? When was the head-like-a-thumb governor going to be in town? Did the Pope suddenly give us a wave to ride? Including national press coverage of Nebraska’s Catholic Governor and his delight in causing the death of another human? Yes, so we decided to ride it.

Will we get what we want? Time will tell, Catholic Church leaders in Nebraska oppose the death penalty, and apart from Regent Daub, we got a lot of waves, honks, and thumbs up by members of Ricketts’ church as they left the service. And if not, you know who we’ll be voting for in November.