Care needs to be taken in organizing events in opposition to US warfare. Having a well prepared plan, a good core group of organizers and participants, goals for the event, and an organizing strategy will greatly enhance success. Some first steps include:
Determining the goals for the event.
The following is a sample of possible goal
- To oppose - the deployment of naval fleet, selling of weapons, bombings, etc
- To educate the public - about a policy, consequences, expenses, and the overall disaster it will likely cause at home and abroad.
- To reach out to the local community - offering opportunities for participation.
Pick an appropriate location.
Things to consider include safety, parking, visibility to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, ability for interaction to share printed hand-outs and speak with passersby and a potential route to march from that location through visible markets and communities:
- You can also pick a location that is appropriate for the issue you are addressing, such as in front of your elected officials' offices, at a recruitment center, at a Federal or State Building if you are asking for something from the Federal or State government, corporate headquarters for a company such as Boeing, etc, though the benefits of a strategic symbolism need to be weighed vs. potential community outreach.
Identify individuals and organizations with whom to partner.
- Look for those who not only support the goals but are also committed to organizing the event. A core group of 3 - 5 individuals is ideal to get things rolling.
Identify the organizations that are sympathetic toward anti-war sentiments and activities in the area.
- Identify the local schools, community centers, businesses (for instance, beauty parlors and barber shops), places of worship, parks, housing developments, and other proximate opportunities that might aid in the distribution of information.
Identify "hooks and hot-buttons" that would engage the community and invite participation.
- Identify the issues that are important to the local population and how it relates to the anti-war effort, if reasonably possible.
- Identify activities to interest more people, like artistic performances, open mic, and known speakers.
Pick the date.
- The event date should be based upon the definite availability of you, the main organizer, and at least two or three others.
- Try to ensure a small group is present when starting. A group is far more likely to receive attention and interest from passersby than a few individuals.
- If your protest/vigil has 4 or fewer attendees, you can turn it into an "informational picket" where the attendees hand out fact sheets, etc. Sometimes you can build a bigger crowd from passers by depending upon objective circumstances and your approach to the public.
Plan the publicity.
- Social networking which could be used to reach individuals as well as organizations.
- Local media which could result in pre-event publicity as well as event-day coverage.
- On-the-ground pre-publicity directed at the local aewa through fliers and canvassing.
- Event day live casting of (at least) key parts of the event and photographing the participation. Use hash tags on the photos, video, articles, etc. as well as on event signs.
This will make it easier for people to follow your organizing efforts.
- Following the event, be sure to write and post reports with photos, blog, and generally use social networking to celebrate the successes of the event.
Have a time-lined plan for the event.
- The sequence, staffing, and estimated duration for poetry and music, presentations, speeches, info-booths, printed hand-outs, pedestrian engagement, etc.
- Organizers should have a means to gather the contact information of participants and anyone who shows interest.
- If you are having speakers, organize the sequence, beginning with the most important speaker or the speaker addressing the most important topic, make sure that you have several speakers at the beginning who will describe the whole story within the first 10 - 15 minutes of your program. It is usually useful to ask speakers to stick to a time limit -- whether it be 5 or 10 minutes per person-- just so you can have some measure of control over the program. Be intentional about the people you invite, the topics you want them to cover and the effectiveness of the chosen speakers.
A small amount of funds could make the event more successful. The following are some items that might need to be purchased to make the event more visible and have a more coherent message:
- Poster board and markers. You can have pre-made signs or you can allow participants to make their own signs as they arrive. You should have suggested slogans but encourage them also to express their own anti-war agenda on their signs.
- If the topic is likely to be revisited at future protests, banners with demands, the names of participating organizations and #HashTag phrases that you are using to brand your events could be helpful.
- About 100 copies of half sheet fliers (cut in 2 to make 200) - depending upon the amount of pedestrian and vehicular traffic are key in communicating a clearer message to those you encounter during your event.
- A sound system - it could be a bullhorn or a more sophisticated rechargeable battery pack sound kit - makes for a more coherent rally and gives you an opportunity to address those hanging around, walking by or in vehicles passing the event. They can be rented, purchased or borrowed from seasoned activists who happen to have their own sound set up.
It is ideal to have a written piece explaining your purpose, including contact information what demands you are expressing. Include information about how to join your group on social networks. Hand outs promoting a local event are encouraged. NJ Anti-War Agenda will be made available for this purpose to distribute at your events - contact 908-881-5275 to arrange to get a bundle.
While you do not need a permit for a protest on public sidewalks and right-of-ways for protected free speech, many towns have local ordinances against sound amplification. While the constitutionality of such ordinances is questionable, sometimes it is easier to acquire a permit or to at least communicate to local officials or police to minimize the possibility of having your activity shut down or curtailed. Those experienced with organizing events in the town or city you are operating in can advise on whether or not a permit is advisable. If a permit is required, especially for sound, it is important to find out how long it usually takes to get that permit and plan the date of your event accordingly to allow yourself enough time to get the permit.
These events should not be pop-up events but should be tied to an organizing drive in the neighborhood. Ideally supporters of the event should work the areas earlier on the day of and in the days and weeks in between events - to talk about the protests, the reasons and how they relate to the struggles of those in the neighborhood. The goal is to build a movement that engages the entire community - not simply to take a principled stand. The demand is stronger when it is backed by genuine community support.
NJ Anti-War Agenda is networked with a number of organizers with experience in arranging events, so help is just a phone call away at 908-881-5275. We are partnered with the following organizations that have also been instrumental in such organizing - you can contact these organizations as well for support and assistance in putting these events together: NJ Peace Action (973)876-1023. , Peoples Organization for Progress (973)801-0001, Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War (732)771-7882