How to protect yourself from police at a protest

Graphic Joey Bruce

Protests can get dangerous, especially once the police show up.

Always come prepared and understand the risk you can take on. Non-specialized equipment won’t offer total protection, but it can help maintain a certain level of comfort when faced with police repression. You’ll likely still feel the tear gas, but you might not be incapacitated to the point where you can’t run away from the riot cop chasing you. No amount of equipment makes you completely immune from harm, so don’t think because you’re decked out in gear that you should stand your ground when faced with tear gas and batons. Avoid dangerous situations when you can and don’t rely on your equipment to save you. 

Helmet: Helmets can protect you from projectiles, batons, and the ground. Sport helmets and hardhats won’t protect your head from everything, but they are better than nothing. They are also a way to identify yourself as press or medic if necessary.

Goggles: A good pair of goggles should protect you from projectiles and chemical irritants. Ballistic protection is arguably more important; tear gas is temporary but a rubber bullet to the eye is forever. For tear gas and pepper spray, you need an airtight seal. If you need corrective lenses, you’ll need to compromise by wearing them under goggles and weakening the seal unless you are ready to spend a lot on prescription goggles. Avoid contacts, they can damage your eyes if exposed to tear gas or pepper spray.

Mouthguard: Teeth are fragile and expensive. While mouthguards are annoying and a baton to the teeth might seem like a rare occurrence, it’s something to consider.

Respirator: Something as cheap as an N95 mask can help reduce the effects of tear gas and pepper spray. Half-face respirators with P100 cartridges are likely the best budget option. Complete protection is hard to attain, but every little bit counts. Ensure your mask fits well and consider shaving any facial hair to ensure a proper seal.

Clothes: Wearing black bloc can help blend in with the crowd. On the other hand, if you are a journalist or medic, try to stand out and clearly identify yourself. Don’t wear anything you aren’t ready to ruin and dress comfortably for the weather. Body armour is an option, but unless you plan on fighting back you might be better shedding the weight to be more nimble. Gloves can also be useful, but get heat-resistant gloves if you plan on throwing back tear gas canisters.

Shoes: Comfortable shoes are crucial because you might find yourself walking all day and running at times. Steel toe shoes can be good for protection (and aggression) but are generally heavy and uncomfortable. Even if you are well equipped, running away is often the best option.

For more detailed information, has extensive guides for protestors.

This article originally appeared in The Resistance Issue, published April 13, 2021.