Marches are mobile actions of popular dissent in which a crowd is led to move from one location to another.
As a mobilizing agent, marches have extraordinary power in that they get a people to be physically active. Marches naturally energize the people, allow the release of frustrations, and open the door for countless opportunities for the politicizing and radicalization of individuals. Marches are staple actions when trying to build out popular support as they not only energize the participants of the action, but also make an impression on curious on-lookers. It is not unusual for people to join a march from right off the streets. Once they join the march they are exposed to its revolutionary ideas and are more likely to be politicized.
One of the most powerful aspects of a march is the community of resistance that forms organically during a march. This is where members of a march step into leadership roles, often leading chants and directing traffic. They hold the line where ever necessary. Protesters readily protect the most vulnerable and dissuade the actions of possible informants and other problematic elements. They communicate directions to areas of the march that cannot hear the megaphone. They readily offer information and ideas. Pamphlets and zines are distributed among the group. Protesters fight against the repression of the police and often videotape officer activities. Genuine cooperation and support can be found in the community of resistance, which forms around securing the well-being of the protesters and success of the action itself.
Marches are powerful as stand-alone actions, but are almost always coupled with rallies or other such actions. A march usually always begins or ends with a makeshift rally, either to energize the people into marching, or to address the people after the march. Marches act as a particularly good cover for hiding armed insurgents and inciting riots. They also naturally disrupt the flow of traffic, can block access to buildings and shut down major roadways. Its multitude of uses make the march a key weapon in the hands of the people.
Step One: Identify the Reasons for the March
You must first list all of the reasons why a march should take place. Outline the goals of the march as well as any tangible grievances of the people that can be organized around. When thinking of organizing a march two things should be considered: where the march begins and where it ends. The point A and point B of your march should be strategic and relevant to the issues your march hopes to address.
Step Two: Form an Organizing Body
You will need a group of organizers to help plan the march, conduct any necessary outreach, and act as leaders within the march. The members should be people that can be trusted. Members should include people who experience further marginalizing oppressions. Delegate responsibilities and set up accountability systems for dealing with patriarchy, ablism, homophobia and anti-queerness.
Step Three: Plan the March Route
Planing the route of the march is the most important step, which is to be thought through carefully and strategically. Discuss the route with your group. You should have a map of the area with the route involving the least amount of turns. If possible, attempt to walk the route out yourself before hand. For longer distance marches, make sure that preparations for long-distance travel are considered before hand and that there are no surprises along the route. Avoid routes that cut through railroad crossings or construction sites.
When planing the march route do not waste your time trying to get a permit from the state unless absolutely necessary. A march is an disruptive action and it defeats the purpose if you are asking permission to be disruptive. A march should generally always take over the streets. If you allow for your march to be regulated to the sidewalks, police will think you are docile and will try to take advantage of you or will shut your march down early. Full occupation of the streets shows the strength and vitality of your movement, which demands respect from the pigs. If the march is being used in conjunction with other insurgent actions, such as riots, coups, or guerrilla missions, all considerations must go into the planing of the route. What are the key roadways that need to be blocked off? Where is the nearest police station in proximity to the route? Where are the pathways of escape at the beginning and end of the route? Where along the path of the march is the destruction of private property desirable? For buildings, where are all the entrances and exits located. A carefully planed route allows for the march to achieve its maximum revolutionary potential.
Step Four: Popular Support
The success of your march is dependent on the number of people in attendance for a few reasons. One of the most important is that a march with too few people becomes an easy target for the pigs. A march that is too diffused is unable to hold off traffic or fully take control of the streets. Any signs of weakness could put you and your group in danger. This is why a robust outreach effort must be made by you and your team to ensure that you will have the necessary numbers to take and maintain control of the streets. Make sure you utilize all avenues of communication including social media, print, radio, and word of mouth.
You should give yourself enough time to get word of the march out to the masses. A week is an appropriate amount of time to advertise for a major action; two to three days is pushing it. The people should be encouraged to bring their friends. You should clearly communicate the point A and point B of the action, but can decide whether to reveal the route in its entirety while keeping in mind that what becomes popular knowledge may also become knowledge for the cops.
Step Five: The March
You may need to bring several bullhorns to the march. Being able to communicate with the crowd is vital. You will need to bring signs and have chants prepared. If you are in the United States, avoid chants such as "whose streets, our streets" because it is colonial in nature. Instead opt for more direct chants that address the issue. A good chant is one that is catchy and easy to remember. Call and response chants can send surges of energy and enthusiasm into the crowd and build up momentum.
Remember that a march is a key place to disseminate information. Prepare as much print materials as possible for handing out to people at the action. Of these, you should make sure you include a know your rights pamphlet and announce this to the people during the action. It is helpful for people to have an idea of what to do if approached by the cops.
Members of your organizing group as well as participants in the protest are going to need to help with redirecting traffic. Remember that a march should always take over as much of the street as possible. Sometimes it is helpful to bring a few sets of reflective jackets. These not only help cars see people who are directing traffic, but also legitimizes those people. Angry drivers are more likely to listen to and respect the direction of someone wearing a reflective jacket. Have a person who will direct traffic at the head of the march as well as at every cross street where the march is currently passing. When the head of the march reaches a new cross street, have your traffic directors enter the street first to secure the path for the march.
Because marches are essentially disruptive in nature, police force and military repression should be expected. Police will follow a march and sometimes appear as if they are trying to help hold off traffic for the march. But make no mistake, their presence is always there to suppress the march and at the first sign of weakness or incoherence the police will close in to put an end to the protest. Never trust the police during a march or rely on them for anything. Never call on the police to break up a fight or remove a problematic person from the march. It is your responsibility to do this. A police officer may either ignore your call because they find it amusing, or enter the crowd on the pretense of breaking up the fight, but begin arresting and attacking innocent protesters instead.
You must prepare for tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades, and all other repression technologies that police will use. Milk, Maalox, or water can be used to treat eye irritation caused by tear gas and you will want to bring these supplies. You may also want to bring a number of scarfs or ski masks that people can put on if tear gas is deployed. A bail-out system or strategy is an invaluable asset to any march and, although not always needed, can help get your people out of jail fast.