Organizing your protest
Note: These protest resources were provided for local #ProtestPP leaders planning for the nationwide #DefundPP rally on February 11, 2017, and many resources specifically reference that event. However, you will still find valuable tools, tips and information for hosting a stand-alone protest at a Planned Parenthood facility in your area.
What should your first steps be when you plan your protest? There’s a lot of groundwork to be laid, including choosing the style of your protest, scouting out the protest location, preparing signs and more. But the more good preparation you do in advance, the better your protest will go on February 11.
- Choosing what kind of event to hold
- Advanced preparations
- Supplying signs for your protest
- Later preparations
- Working with police
- Dealing with counter-protestors
- Marching orders to announce at your protest
Choosing What Kind of Event to Hold
There are many different ways to execute an effective #ProtestPP event, and as the local leader, one of your first decisions should be choosing which style of protest you’d like to pursue.
“Old School” Picket
The “old school” picket has a long and storied history in the pro-life movement. In this type of protest you will distribute signs or ask protesters to bring their own, find a stretch of sidewalk or other public property, and march in a tight circle. It would also be very appropriate to include abortion victim photos along with your picket if you’d like to.
As you march, you can lead the group in hymns, prayers or chants if you’d like, or simply picket in silence for the public to see. If you’re going to sing, pray or chant, a megaphone or other amplification device will be helpful, especially for a big group.
If you’re picketing on a public sidewalk, be sure to leave room for passersby to use the sidewalk as well.
Rally with Speakers
You can also organize your protest as more of a rally with special guest speakers. These could be any prominent member of the community who can speak well to a crowd, such as a pastor or priest, friendly politician, media personality, or other competent speaker.
If you are pursuing this strategy, be sure to get your invitations to speakers in right away, as good speakers’ date books fill up very far in advance.
You will also want to acquire 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.
Or you may prefer to hold a silent protest where your participants simply hold signs outside the Planned Parenthood as a public witness.
If you pursue this approach, make very sure your signs are legible and you have plenty of literature to pass out to passersby to explain your presence.
Feel free to pick and choose the aspects of each strategy you like best to organize a protest that you believe will get your community fired up and excited.
Some local leaders may prefer to hold a prayer vigil, rather than a protest, per se. This will allow people to be a part of the national pro-life presence at Planned Parenthood centers nationwide, without disrupting prayer and sidewalk counseling activities
After deciding what type of protest you want to hold, 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 protest 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
You have two options when it comes to supplying signs for your protest: Have signs printed using your own wording or one of the designs provided below, or make your own signs by hand.
If making your own signs, consider holding a “sign making party,” with a group of volunteers. This makes the work go by faster, and also helps build enthusiasm for the upcoming protest. 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, whether you make them yourself or have them printed:
- 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]
- Stop Killing Unborn Babies. Stop Selling Their Body Parts.
Feel free to be creative and think of your own slogans! Whatever you put on your signs, be sure to focus on Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices of aborting babies and selling their body parts.
Printing signs? Use these PDFs! If you’re having signs professionally printed, you may wish to use one of the designs provided below, which can be printed on 14″ x 22″ posterboard for about $1.50 a print, depending on your vendor’s pricing and how many you order. The wider design at the bottom is for a 3′ x 8′ banner to be printed on vinyl with Pantone 356 green ink; the price to print will range from $45-75.
Simply right click on the sign design you want and choose “Save as” to download the full-size PDF files, then email them to the printing company of your choice.
The day before your protest, make a list of all the items you need to bring. It’s a terrible feeling to arrive at the protest site and realize you’ve forgotten something!
No later than the day before your event, print off flyers to hand to passersby and any other materials you’ll be distributing. The national team has provided a “Why defund Planned Parenthood” flyer [PDF] to pass out at your rally explaining the case for defunding Planned Parenthood. The flyer is designed to be printed on regular letter sized paper and cut in half, yielding two flyers per page.
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 your signs at the ready and distribute them to protesters with a smile and a welcome. Give brief instructions about the nature of your protest 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 protest on public property does not require their permission. However, in some cases—for example, if you expect a significant counter-protest—you may wish to inform the police of the situation.
For your protest, 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 mobile 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 protest 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 protest 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
Many leaders are hearing reports of counter-protesters planning to come out to oppose our #DefundPP rallies. In the wake of the Women’s March and in the current political climate, it is likely that more sites than usual will experience some type of opposition.
In this section you’ll find tips on how to handle any opposition that may come out on February 11.
First, find out if there will be counter-protesters at your event. Search on Google and Facebook for your city’s name, February 11, and counter-protest. Many of these groups have made Facebook events for their protest, which are easy to find. You can also check the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” website where Planned Parenthood lists their events to see if anything is listed for February 11 in your town.
Don’t be disturbed if you see big numbers of people saying they are interested or going to these events. In most cases many times more people say they are going on Facebook than actually end up attending. Pushing a button is easy, coming out to a protest is much harder.
Also, bear in mind that Planned Parenthood doesn’t like counter-protests outside their facilities and in many cases actively works to dissuade abortion advocates from holding them. If counter-protesters do show up, you could, without identifying yourself as a pro-life protester, tell them that Planned Parenthood has asked for counter-protesters not to come out (which is true), and suggest that they leave. If they believe you’re with Planned Parenthood when you tell them that, there’s no need to convince them otherwise.
If you find out there will be counter-protesters, don’t be afraid! Counter-protests are a common occurrence and almost always peaceful, if a bit angry and vulgar.
Typically counter-protest groups are not large and will not interfere with your event. They want to make their voice heard, and they have the right to do that in the public square. They do not have the right to interfere with your rally. See below for how to handle the situation if they attempt to do so.
Bear in mind as well that their presence means we are hitting the mark! They wouldn’t be coming out to protest if they didn’t consider us and our rally effort a genuine threat to Planned Parenthood.
Their presence can even have some benefits. For example, it can make the story more interesting to the media and make them more likely to cover your rally. Also, the contrast between their often angry protest with rude signs and our peaceful, prayerful presence ends up making us look better in the long run.
Here are some practical tips for dealing with counter-protesters should they come out to your rally:
- Discourage interaction between your pro-life group and the counter-protestors. These are not people who are able to be persuaded, at least not by us on the front lines at a protest.
- Get there early and own the space. Stake out the best positioning and defend it. Importantly, don’t publicize if you’re doing this! If you put that on your Facebook event page, there’s every likelihood the opposition will try to get there even earlier.
- Contact the police if you’re concerned about disruption. Though we don’t typically recommend informing the police in advance, you may want to do so if you believe there will be a significant presence of counter-protesters. This will allow them to assign an adequate number of officers to keep the situation under control. If they have to scramble the day of to get to your location, they won’t be able to be as effective at protecting your rally from disruption.
- Call 911 if police are not present and counter-protesters attempt to disrupt your rally. They are breaking the law and you need to get the police out to protect your right to free expression and assembly.
- Attorneys from the Thomas More Society (TMS) pro-life law center in Chicago will be available during the rally hours should you encounter problems with the police. If you face a dispute with police that you are not able to resolve on your own please call TMS right away. You can reach attorney Tom Olp at 630-220-7329, or attorney Joan Mannix at 312-685-4552. Program those numbers into your phone before the protest so you have them at the ready if you need them.
- Document the presence of counter-protestors with photos and video. As mentioned above, their vulgar and angry protests can be a great way of showing others what the abortion movement is all about. Be sure to capture the contrast between your event and theirs.
Again, the likelihood of any disruption or violence is very small. If they come, be the picture of peaceful, prayerful humility and conduct your rally as if they weren’t there.
“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.
- Text “prolife” to 444999 to support #ProtestPP! Then follow the instructions to make a gift to help defund Planned Parenthood.
- Keep up with the #DefundPP effort! Visit ProtestPP.com to stay up to date with action items, rallies, protest and more.