Organizing your #ProtestPP vigil
Note: The instructions on this page were provided for a previous event. Find instructions for #ProtestPP’s current activity protesting Planned Parenthood partner Stericycle on May 22nd here.
What should your first steps be when you plan your vigil? There’s a lot of groundwork to be laid, including choosing the time for your vigil, scouting out the location, preparing materials, and more. But the more good preparation you do in advance, the better your event will go on April 13.
- Candlelight Vigil Basics
- Building your leadership team
- Advanced preparations
- Supplying signs for your protest
- Later preparations
- Working with police
- Dealing with counter-protestors
- Marching orders to announce at your protest
Candlelight Vigil Basics
One of your first decisions will be choosing what type of candlelight vigil to hold on April 13. Your vigil could be as simple as gathering with a group of pro-life friends and praying a Rosary by candlelight. Or it could be more like a prayer rally, with an emcee, guest speakers, musicians, and other elements.
The resources below will help you decide what kind of vigil to hold and put together a solid plan. As the local leader, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what will work best for your vigil and which resources to use. But if you need any advice or other assistance, please contact the #ProtestPP National Team.
Whether quite simple or more involved, one thing your candlelight vigil will need for certain is candles. These may be obtained from a local religious goods store, or you can order them online:
- Order a set of 50 vigils candles from Amazon.com—Cost: $15.99
- Order a set of 112 vigils candles from Amazon.com—Cost: $26.99
- Order a set of 100 vigil candles with wind guards from Newville Candles—Cost: $100.10
After your vigil, be sure to collect your candles—you may wish to use them again at a future pro-life vigil.
Time and Location
The #ProtestPP National Team recommends starting your candlelight vigil shortly before sunset, and continuing for 60-90 minutes. Check here to find the time for sunset in your area on Saturday, April 13.. Stage your vigil on public property outside Planned Parenthood (see below for more info on this)
What if Planned Parenthood is closed? Typically, we plan to hold #ProtestPP events at times when Planned Parenthood facilities are open. But in most cases, the facility will be closed on a Saturday evening. But as this is prayer vigil rather than a protest, this is not a problem.
You may wish to invite one or more special guest speakers to address your vigil. These could include clergy like a pastor or priest; a pro-life politician or media personality; or someone who can share a personal pro-life story, like a woman who regrets her abortion, or a mother who was pressured to abort but chose life for her baby.
If you are planning this type of vigil, be sure to get your invitations to speakers in right away, as good speakers’ date books fill up very far in advance.
You may also need to provide some kind of sound system if you want to have speakers, especially if you are expecting a large crowd. A megaphone or other portable sound system is ideal as it will fly under the radar of police better than a large system that would require a generator and takes up a lot of space.
Suggested Vigil Program
There are two keys to ensuring your candlelight vigil runs smoothly: (1) choosing a good Master of Ceremonies (emcee) and (2) putting together an focused, detailed agenda.
Quite likely you, as local leader, would be the most appropriate emcee. Other options include another member of your leadership team or a local Christian radio personality. The emcee will be responsible for calling the memorial service to order and introducing and transitioning between each speaker, singer or other portion of your service.
There is no single “right way” to do a candlelight vigil, but here is a rough outline with some suggested activities to pick and choose for your service:
- Greeting and welcome by the emcee
- Procession from a chapel or church (or other gathering place) to the Planned Parenthood facility
- Opening hymn
- Scripture readings (see this list of suggested readings [PDF])
- Reflection on the readings by a spiritual leader
- Special guest speaker(s)
- Special guest musician(s)
- Placement of flowers on the parkway outside Planned Parenthood (or other appropriate spot)
- A moment of silence for private prayer
- A Rosary or other group prayer
- Closing hymn or prayer
Break up the elements of the program to keep it interesting—for example, separate talks and prayers with hymns and other activities.
Draw out a detailed agenda for the memorial service, with each item—the opening and closing prayers, each individual speaker, every hymn or song or other activity—spelled out, in order, with the time alloted to each. It’s also a good idea to factor in some “slop” time—for example, a few more minutes for each speaker than you really need—so that you don’t fall behind.
Share the agenda with your special guests in advance so they know where they fit into the program. However, it’s best not to tell them exactly when they’re speaking, lest any delay in the program cause them to become impatient. But do let each guest how long you expect them to have the stage.
Scriptures and Hymns
It’s a great idea to include some hymns in your candlelight vigil, whether sung together by a soloist or musical group. Be sure to choose songs and hymns with an appropriately solemn, hopeful tone. Provide a handout with the words of any group prayer, hymn or song.
The following resources can be printed out for use at your candlelight vigil:
- List of particular pro-life scripture passages [PDF])
- Amazing Grace [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- Be Thou My Vision [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- Giver of Life [PDF]
- Immortal Invisible [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- What Wondrous Love Is This [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
- Where Charity and Love Prevail [PDF] (Hear this hymn on Youtube)
Building your local leadership team
To be the most effective #ProtestPP leader you can be, you’ll want to seek out a team of people to help you locally. If you put together a good event leadership team, your job will be much easier, and your vigil is sure to be a great success.
Choose people who you know will follow through on tasks. The more tasks you can delegate to trustworthy people, the more you’re free to be a better leader.
Holding a recruitment meeting
One great way to recruit helpers for your event is to hold a recruitment meeting. Put the word out via e-mail, in your church or other places you know there will be like-minded people who will support the event. Make it clear that people can help even if they’re not able to attend your #ProtestPP event.
At the meeting, explain the #ProtestPP effort and what kind of help you’ll need. Have a list of jobs that people can take on and explain their scope. Offer people the opportunity to sign up on the spot while they’re enthusiastic about the project.
Assigning jobs to team members
There are many different levels of involvement you can offer people with varying degrees of commitment. Jobs you could seek help with include but are not limited to:
- Media Manager: This person would be in charge of contacting the media to alert them to your event and for talking to reporters both in advance of and the event and on the day itself.
- Social Media Manager: This person will create your event on Facebook and build buzz about it on other social networks like Twitter. If possible, this person should be available to tweet and post pictures and updates to Facebook live from the event as well.
- Catholic and Protestant Church Liasons: Preferably someone from each tradition who knows the structures and hierarchies of the various churches. Check the section of this website on promoting your #ProtestPP event through the churches for more on that jobs.
- Speaker Recruiter: This person will be responsible for recruiting speakers. They should be well connected, outgoing, and known for follow-through.
- Sound and Stage Manager: This person will be in charge of obtaining a sound system and stage for your event. They will be responsible for setup and tear down of this equipment and running the sound system during the event, or at least providing someone to do that.
- Contact Manager: This person will be in charge of gathering and organizing an e-mail list and sending updates to that list. Be sure to share the Promoting your event via email section of this site. They can also add any names and e-mails you acquire at your event to grow your list of contacts for future events.
Thinking ahead to the event day
Be sure to think ahead to your event day and the myriad jobs that will need to be taken care of that day. You don’t want to find yourself shorthanded on the event day when you will want to concentrate on making sure everything comes together smoothly.
You can recruit for these jobs as well as the preparatory jobs at your Team Recruitment Meeting.
- Sign and literature distributor(s) to help you pass out all your signs (if any), or any program or other literature you want to provide for your participants. You can ask some of the first people to arrive to help with this job.
- Master of Ceremonites (Emcee) to keep the program moving smoothly (this could be you)
- Photographer to shoot lots of pictures of the special, attendees, passersby, etc.
- Videographer to shoot footage of the special guests and (optionally) record interviews
- Media Liaison to whom all inquiries from reporters will be referred
- Police Liaison who will be the sole person to work with the police
- Head Counter to take an accurate count of how many people attend the rally (including infants and children!)
An important first step in your planning should be to visit your Planned Parenthood location to get the lay of the land.
Your event will need to be held on public property, so find out where the closest section of public property is to the Planned Parenthood. Public property typically includes the street curb, parkway and sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, look for public works like street light poles and fire hydrants, which are almost always on the public right-of-way and can help you determine where to station your protest.
If there are none of those indicators, it is generally understood that about 15 feet from a public road is considered a public easement and should be completely safe ground for your protest. As long as your event is on public property, you do not need a permit. The 1st Amendment protects your right to this kind of speech. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Supplying Signs for Your Protest
For an evening candlelight vigil, you may decide that you do not need protest signs, either because they do not fit the spirit of the event, or because they will not be visible.
However, if you would like to display signs, you can either order signs from the Pro-Life Action League, or make your own signs.
If making your own signs, use bold contrasting colors (like black on yellow; blue on white; red on white) and large, easily readable letters to be sure passersby can read your signs. Here is some suggested wording for signs:
- DEFUND Planned Parenthood
- Planned Parenthood Kills Babies
- Planned Parenthood LIES to You
- Planned Parenthood Harvests Baby Parts
- Planned Parenthood: BAD for [NAME OF YOUR CITY]
Feel free to be creative and think of your own slogans!
The day before your vigil, make a list of all the items you need to bring. It’s a terrible feeling to arrive at the event site and realize you’ve forgotten something!
No later than the day before your event, print off any handouts you’ll need—such as a program for the event, or a sheet of prayers and hymns that you will be using.
You may also wish to pass out copies of the Pro-Life Action League’s flyer, “Getting to Know Planned Parenthood,” which exposes the truth about the organization, including their massive 36% share of the U.S. abortion market. Be sure to order these flyers at least 10 days before your vigil.
On the day of the protest, arrive at least a half hour early to ensure you are the first one there and ready to greet protesters as they arrive. Have any signs or literature at the ready and distribute them to participants with a smile and a welcome. Give brief instructions about the nature of your event so attendees know what to expect.
If possible, delegate some of these jobs to another team member, so you’re free to oversee your protest.
Also assign one person (possibly yourself) to speak to the media, if any turn out. That way you can be sure there will be consistent messaging.
Working with Police
Generally speaking, the police will be cooperative and friendly. They’re there to keep the peace and ensure that your civil rights—including your rights to freedom of speech and assembly—are respected.
One question that may be on your mind is: “Do I need to contact the police to let them know about this protest?” Generally speaking, we do not recommend contacting the police in advance, because your event on public property does not require their permission. However, in some cases—for example, if you expect a very large crowd—you may wish to inform the police of the situation.
For your event, choose a specific police liaison to whom all police interaction will be referred. This should be you or a trusted individual whom you designate.
The police liaison should have the police non-emergency number on speed dial—so pick a liaison with a reliable cell phone.
Always treat the police with respect. Let them talk first, and do not interrupt. Nothing turns a law enforcement officer against you more quickly than being interrupted.
If, on the day of the event or in advance, police ask you how many people you expect to be at the event, honestly tell them that you’re not sure.
Do your best to comply with reasonable directives from police, but don’t give them the opportunity to restrict your activities or location by asking too many questions. For example, if they ask you to reduce the volume of the P.A., do so, but don’t go out of your way to seek approval for the new volume level, risking an order to turn it down more.
If you believe a particular officer is making unreasonable demands, call the police non-emergency number and ask for a superior officer to come out. Do not ask the officer to do this: do it yourself.
Note: Attorneys from the Thomas More Society pro-life law center in Chicago will be available during the event hours, if you face a dispute with police that you are not able to resolve on your own please call them right away. You can reach TMS attorney Tom Olp at 630-220-7329 (cell), or Joan Mannix at 312-685-4552 (cell).
In the unlikely event that you cannot resolve a dispute with the police, it is wiser to “obey today and sue tomorrow.” But don’t tell the police that this is your intention. Respectfully say that you believe the order is unjust, but that in the interests of moving forward with the protest, you will comply.
But again, your interactions with police are likely to be positive. So after the protest, be sure to thank them for being there and keeping things safe.
Dealing with counter-protestors
It’s extremely unlikely that counter-protesters will target your candlelight vigil on April 13. This is not the type of event that typically draws this kind of resistance.
Information on dealing with pro-abortion counter-protesters is available from the Pro-Life Action League.
“Marching Orders” to Announce at your Protest
At some point during your event—most likely towards the end–issue “Marching Orders” for all in attendance, letting them know about next steps they can take to continue the effort and keep pressure on Planned Parenthood. Here are some suggestions:
- Contact your U.S. Representative and Senators! Tell them to support the Congressional effort to defunding Planned Parenthood. Do this even if you know they aren’t pro-life—they still need to hear that the people want Planned Parenthood defunded.
- Share the truth about Planned Parenthood! Talk to friends and neighbors. Spread the word on social media. Write a letter to the editor.
- Go to ProtestPP.com and click “Donate” to make a gift to support this nationwide protest effort!
And visit regularly to keep up on the latest protests.