You've seen demonstrations of various types on TV, and they can popularize issues and attract additional supporters while also bringing your group closer together in a common purpose. The left is very successful in organizing and staging demonstrations, and you can learn much from them. Whether you have a dozen people in front of city hall to protest a tax hike, a group in front of an abortion chamber, or a thousand people gathered at the Capitol, you are giving the media great visuals. Bring your kids too.
FreeRepublic.com, Tea Party, Ron Paul and similar forums are good starting places to organize a demonstration or counter-demonstration, their members have organized many successful demonstrations. Create an event page on Facebook, Twitter it and use all your social media contacts to their limits. Ask local churches, political committees, and civic organizations to invite their members. Student groups are especially helpful.
A Demonstration should include hand-made signs that are large and clearly readable from a distance, a variety of simple chants or slogans for people to loudly repeat, and people walking. Don't just stand still or be silent, everyone should continually walk back and forth at your location, being sure to keep the signs always facing the street, the media or the public. This creates lots of motion which will look good on television and attract spectators. A megaphone is very helpful. With a crowd and/or media watching, your spokesman can speak for the group, stating the purpose of the demonstration and what you want to be done. Have some signs or a banner with your website on them so people can easily find out more information. Signs encouraging drivers to honk in support works very well! Music can help attract a crowd.
Protesting Evil: Abortion "clinics" as well as embassies and consulates of dictatorships (China, Burma, Sudan, and many more) are frequently the site of demonstrations by life and freedom loving groups. Big signs and photos of victims make for good media shots. You must talk to the police to secure any needed permits and to find out how close to the abortion chamber or embassy you can congregate (often across the street). Note that the abortion chamber or embassy is the visual background for your protest, but it really isn't the audience for your message (abortionists and dictators don't care about protesters or saving lives): the media and the crowd of on-lookers are your real audience, so make sure the signs are facing the media, the street, or the crowd. Exceptions could include when you are appealing to mothers visiting abortion chambers and you are appealing to them to save their child. Include your website on some of your signs.
"Burma Shave" Signs: A variant of a demonstration is to have people hold signs along a busy street or on an overpass to the traffic below. You may see these in the final days before an election promoting a candidate, but they can be used for any issue or slogan. For example, holding signs on July 4th saying "Honk If You Love America" will get a lot of honking! Burma Shave, an old shaving cream company, became famous for their catchy road signs, and the term is still used for this sort of sign display. Put just one or two words on each separate sign in huge letters so it is easy to read, or make very large signs. Humor and rhymes work best on these signs, use the original Burma Shave slogans as examples--make it fun! Permanently-mounted signs can be used too--one example.
Counter-Demonstrations work because the media enjoys creating controversy or wish to present "the other side." Even a handful of people holding up signs in opposition to a left-wing rally may get you some media coverage, sometimes you'll get fully half the coverage! Keep your distance and avoid getting baited into a fight or argument by the leftists. The media will cover a fight but it will destroy your message and credibility; and beware infiltrators from the other side or even the government who might instigate a fight to make your side look bad.
The March for Life
A March differs from a demonstration only in that your group gathers at one location and marches to another. Generally you will need many more people than a stationary demonstration to pull off a good-looking march, and permits may be more complicated to obtain because you will be crossing streets with a large crowd. Lots of signs, many people, and continual chanting of slogans makes it work. The police will assist you with permit information and may provide escorts and block traffic on streets during the march.
Every January on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, the March for Life holds a wonderful march with 500,000 or more people in Washington DC, perhaps the best organized and attended annual march of any kind. Tea Party groups have held huge marches and rallies around the country and in Washington.
"Street Theater," as the name suggests is sort of like a play being performed in a public area such as a park, on the steps of a government building, or on the sidewalk; where characters possibly in costume, props, music, signs, voices, sound effects, etc. will show people your message. You could plant crosses in a park to illustrate the number of abortions committed in your city in just one year; have people wearing rags and barrels to protest a tax hike; put people in cages to illustrate human rights in China. Have "prostitutes" picketing ACORN headquarters for going into competition with them. Be creative! The media loves this kind of footage--possible example: "A group of local residents pretending to be illegal immigrants held a mock election today outside the city hall to vote for Spanish as the official language for the entire city; they were actually protesting the President's amnesty bill which would allow 100 million immigrants in just 20 years, which could eventually lead to a Spanish-speaking majority in the United States."
Having a well-known person lead the event will help attract the press, spectators and participants.
Campaign Events: In an election year you'll see various groups demonstrating at candidate debates, speeches, etc. Never disrupt a speech--the left does this and it is a sad totalitarian attempt to suppress opposing opinions. Freedom of speech is what makes America great. You can, however, have people hold up signs outside the event on public property where the media are likely to see them, or hand out fliers to people as they arrive and depart.
Media: Always have someone delegated to talk to the media--and to call, email & fax the media in advance with a pre-event news release. A public event without even local media is not very effective. Have a news release at the event and handouts with your contact information. Always take photos, shoot video, and write and distribute a post-event news release--send the video and photos to the media immediately after the event and post to your website. You can put your photos onto a laptop at the scene and burn CDs for any interested media or transfer to the reporter's USB memory stick. Post the video on video-sharing sites like YouTube, and make a digg.com posting to promote it. Even if the media doesn't cover it, the video will get your message to the public via the web.
Getting IN the picture: Television crews may cover your demonstration or a left-wing event where you are counter-demonstrating, and all you may need is a few signs held in view of the camera to make a bit of extra news. Note that the camera will usually be zoomed-in to just a small area, but you can hold signs everywhere the camera may be aimed. A typical shot will be framed to include just the reporter's head and chest, so your signs must be directly behind his head to be in the shot. See example photos for details, and note that this reporter is standing on a foot-high stand to be above the heads of the pro-lifers. Be silent--don't shout or try to disrupt the reporter--that's disrespectful and defeats the whole purpose of being in a usable piece of footage.
TV shot framing in yellow.|
Signs held too low, thus not in the TV picture.
TV shot framing in yellow.|
Signs held directly behind head, unavoidably in TV picture.
|This is America! If the reporter complains, stand up for your rights and don't go away. The media does not control Americans, we have a right to be anywhere on public property we want.|
Fliers: Make plenty of fliers to give to spectators which include the purpose of the demonstration, what action you want people to take (such as contacting Congress regarding a particular bill), and contact information for your group (be sure to have a website, if only a simple one-page site or blog.
Security and Permits: Delegate sufficient people to handle security: to make sure there are no clashes with people on the other side (who may try to provoke your people); to keep your people from blocking the sidewalks and streets or other areas which must be kept clear; to make sure everyone follows any permit or police restrictions, to handle any health emergencies; and to make sure everyone cleans up the area afterwards. Always discuss your plans with the police in advance and get all needed permits. Be on the watch for anyone who may get violent or try to advocate your people get violent. Violence always destroys your message. The message you want is you are protesting something bad or supporting something good, not "police arrested violent rioters." It is an old tactic for those on the side of evil to plant people in your crowd who's purpose is to discredit your demonstration by instigating violence--keep an eye on total strangers, and call the police if someone starts inciting violence. Obama's thugs created a group called "Crash the Tea Party" which infiltrated Tea Party rallies with nasty signs and tried to make real Americans look bad.
While laws requiring permits for demonstrations or marches are a direct violation of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make NO law..."), the police and courts will enforce them until we have truly Constitutional courts and legislators. As long as you have any needed permits you will usually find the police very helpful and supportive, but if you try it without permits they will just order your event to end, and could even threaten arrests if you resist.
Property Rights: You are generally free to exercise your First Amendment rights on any public property, however if you wish to demonstrate at an event held on private property, be sure to stay on public property such as the sidewalk outside, both out of respect of the property owner's rights as well as to avoid trouble with the law. When on sidewalks be sure not to block the path of pedestrians.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: Never exaggerate the number of people present or make any other misrepresentations to the media. The left may get away with names like "million (fill in blank) march", but that will only invite the media to carefully report on the discrepancy should you try it.
Success: 10 seconds of television coverage and a newspaper photo can make it all worthwhile! 1,000 YouTube views and a top digg.com posting would be great bonuses.
"One man with courage makes a majority" - Andrew Jackson