How to organize a demonstration

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Select a day

Choosing the right day is important. A weekday may have a symbolic meaning, like an anniversary day, but you want to people at the demonstration, both actively and experiencing it in passing; so pick a Saturday when people normally are free and can participate. It is no coincidence that May 1 has been the great demonstration days are now a public holiday... (in Europe!)

Select time

If you must demonstrate on a weekday, select 5pm at the earliest. Any later and the shops and offices have closed up and the the city empties out. (No audience!) Saturday or Sunday at noon works best: People can sleep in, and people come into the city to shop and such.


A household name draws audiences, it also attracts the media.

Play "therapy"

Encourage people to get creative. Play acting can be a great way to make the message stick, since it entertains while it informs. Some people may want to express themselves in costumes, stage mock funerals ("Personal privacy" on a casket, for example), dress like agents with surveillance equipment all over them... And of course, in the popular pirate attire!


A big open place is key. Preferably where there are a lot of people. Harvard Square can get a little tight, Brattle might be better. Kenmore Square is open and vast, near the ball park, the bars, the shopping, and there is a huge bus station for access.


Check if there is electricity on the spot if you need speakers with amplifiers. Make other provisions if necessary. (Volunteer for our technical department!)

When you have determined the



desired location

Contact the police for a permit. This is a very important step. You need to get a different permit for a demonstration than you do for a march. It takes time to get permission.The police do not appreciate you dumping your request in their lap at the last minute. You want a permit? Give them ample time from the scheduled date, and remain calm and polite. Jumpy folks make the police jumpy. "It is possible to get permission signed on one day, in principle, but only if you have a good relationship with the police." (from Swedish guide. Don't know about local police. Sounds very unlikely!) A good rapport with the police is always helpful.

Submit the permit

Varies by town (to be augmented later)

Speakers and organizers

As soon as you can, gather the other organizers and speakers to a meeting so everyone has met each other. This is a production, really, and it should be treated as such. It helps when you are trying to encourage people to join that you look like you know what you are doing. Success in demonstrations can mirror success in theater. Rehearse! Know your lines and your marks.

Contact Information

Do you have any speaker's contact information? Mobile phone numbers and email addresses?


It's hard and uninspiring to listen to various speakers in a row that talk about the same things. Discuss briefly what each speaker has to say, and work to have each focus on different Pirate Issues.

Speaking time

Speaches need not to drone on, or you lose people. Experiment with time limits: 5 min? 10? Depends on the venue

Press Officer

Appoint a press officer that journalists can call to get more information. S/he should also be the one to inform the press of upcoming events. Organizational responsibility

Appoint someone to keep everything together, a Project Manager. One per demonstration or action.

Public Address System (PA)

Appoint someone to work the sound. It goes well with a guitar amp with mic inputs. One can also rent sound equipment, sound equipment or borrow from any other party if they participate. Musicians usually have access to good sound for public meetings.


What is OK to write on your signs? No hate speech, of course. Snarky is good. Inciteful may backfire. "Crush" is a Pirate approved term in Europe. "Crush the Patriot Act!"


Cheer on an otherwise quiet crowd. Designate a few people who can call out chants of megaphones. Megaphones can be rented, borrowed or bought.


Appoint someone to write out a stack of printed chants so people can chant along, especially if it's complex rhymes.

Who may participate in the demonstration and who may not?

Politics can get touchy. It is possible some speakers might not want to speak at the same event as others. Plan ahead. Everyone has a story that colors their thinking, sometimes so that they are no longer open for dialogue, sometimes they do not see problems. Before the invitations are sent out to a demonstration, it is appropriate to discuss who should be invited and how to deal with organizations that we want to work with, and those that shows up incidentally, like anarchists (more in a supporting role, but do we want anarchy?) or Tea Baggers, etc. as counter protesters.

Protest marches (Marches require different permitting than stationary events)

Demonstration Guards

For everything to go smoothly and the police should not have to intervene. Certain people can take the role of peace keepers, encouraging folks to respect one another. They can wear a distinctive vest or armband. Though the press is more likely to report on rowdy behavior, we would suffer the loss of focus on substantive issues. This would be counter productive to our goals of establishing a viable "third" party.


At larger events DOGMATICS can show up or people with conspiracy theories, that want to talk to someone. Do your best to be polite and say thank you, take the flyer, tell them you will think about it. Smile and be disarming.

Standard Bearer / lead on the train

At the front you should have a banner that states clearly what the demonstration is about, like "Stop COICA!". S/he/they also make a great picture with the march in the background. ;^) After a banner, you should leave an additional small gap so people can see any posters and banners that come after. Or focus on getting the banners up over the crowds head. Leading the way on the train, start walking slowly. People fall into the train automatically.