Never Again Action’s Tips for being a non-Black ally at BLM demonstrations

These tips for being an non-Black ally at BLM demonstrations and actions against police violence were created by Never Again Action (https://www.neveragainaction.com), an organization of Jews and allies fighting to abolish ICE and end inhumane migrant detention practices in the US:

Showing Up In the Streets

Being at a protest means different things for each of us, depending on our bodies, our minds, and how we are perceived by society. The potential for police violence is dangerous and frightening, and it’s normal to feel scared. But this is a moment for courage, for each of us to dig deep and take risks and make sacrifices, in whatever ways we can. 

The more privileges you hold, the more important it is to be in the streets to take the place of those who cannot afford to be there. The more privileges you hold, the more you are needed in moments of conflict and risk, because you are less likely to be harmed than someone without those privileges. 

Safety

Please take the time to read these three guides on how to keep yourself as safe as possible while protesting (Change the NYPD | Wired | Vice). Make sure you come with a buddy, and stay together no matter what. Talk in advance about what risks you’re each willing and able to take. Think about what additional risk factors might be for you depending on your identities, mental and physical health, responsibilities, etc. 

Solidarity

If you are not Black, and especially if you are white, here are some very important principles to keep in mind: 

  • Follow the lead of local Black organizers: Every city is different and every protest is different. The following are general guidelines, but if there is a conflict, please prioritize the asks of local Black leaders! 
  • Keep others safe: If our top priority was our own safety, we wouldn’t shut down detention centers or protest at all. If you are documented and not Black, this is a time to be brave and use your body to prevent police from attacking Black people or other people at high risk. That could mean being part of a “white wall” if asked by Black organizers, or it could mean physically stopping a police officer from attacking a Black person.

This also means that you should never be the one to escalate a situation. Do not antagonize police, damage property, throw things, or do anything else that may cause more police to arrive, or agitate the police who are there. When the cops retaliate, it will likely be against Black people, not you, and you will have put people in danger. 

  • Don’t take up space: These protests are Black-led, and they exist to bring attention to Black voices. The protest you attend is not about you. Unless you’re asked by one of the Black organizers, it is not appropriate to weigh in on where the protest should go or how it should be conducted, speak on the megaphone or start your own chant, give an interview to the press, or otherwise use the protest as a means to express yourself. Ask yourself if you are drawing attention to yourself that should be directed towards Black organizers, whether it’s with the clothing you wear, the signs you bring, or the way you carry yourself at the protest. 

In our immigration work, we often speak publicly about the connections between Jewish history and the treatment of immigrants as a tool to bring attention to the struggle for immigrant rights; this is a different situation, and if we become part of the story, we are doing something wrong. 

  • Do not engage with police: American policing evolved from slave patrols, and it remains a harmful institution that is antithetical to freedom and justice. You should leave decisions about how to engage with the police up to Black organizers. There is no reason to talk with police officers, cooperate with them in any way, thank them, turn anyone over to them, or call them. Police are trained to manipulate people to obtain information, and nothing good will come from interacting with them.
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