How to give a speech at a protest, demonstration or rally

The recent London Met police watchlist specifically was worried about the radicalising power of emotive speech. This is because emotive speech works. You can list facts and figures in your speech, and you should, but people act based on how they feel. Conveying a sense of urgency, outrage and hope, simultaneously is the heady mix to build a movement and actually create change, no matter the issue.

Being outside is inherently distracting and you need to keep energy high, so keep the speech short. 3-5 minutes is ideal. You also want to make sure to keep people engaged, so starting with some chanting or call and response is a great way to give people some initial energy. The chants you use at this point should work to build group identity. They can use the name of the organisation (“When I say ‘extinction’, you say ‘rebellion!’”) or be about the general cause that has brought everyone out.

Then you want to state the problem or issue that is the main topic of your speech. Start by setting a scene, go more into details about what the issue is, save the most outrageous parts for last. You want it to start in everyday, accessible language. Keep the emotional level rising throughout the speech. It’s fine to engage the audience between sections. (“Are we going to stand for this??”)

The second major part of your speech, shorter than the first, is making demands. Gradually raise the stakes. It’s fine to make some demands of the crowd, but you need to know the audience and quit while you’re ahead. If you ask a bunch of middle class white climate activists to go vegan, this might be the push that some of them need. If you tell people to quit their jobs and become full time activists, you’ve likely gone too far and undone some of your previous good work.

The largest demands needs to be against the target of the protest or of the state. Again, these need to gradually up the stakes. Start with something everyone aggress with and push so that it’s still entirely reasonable but would require major system change to implement.

For example, “Britain must outlaw the importation and sale of the products of slave labour” is a good starting point. This is an obviously good idea. But carry on with, “British companies must not profit off of slave labour anywhere in the world.” Also extremely reasonable, but much harder to implement. This is what you want. Carry on, “All proceeds any British company, subsidiary, or owner, must have any proceeds of forced labour confiscated. This money must be paid out in restitution to individuals and communities effected by this disgusting practice!” That’s a transitional demand. Because we want to outlaw slavery globally. Apple products made by slave labour shouldn’t be on sale in our shops, but nor should they be on sale anywhere. That this would be hard to implement is good – it shows that the entire system must be overhauled to respect human rights.

Some groups feel that making capitalism a direct and named target is pushing things too far and will lose audiences. I increasingly disagree with this, but use your judgement.

Then make sure to give hope. If you were talking about slavery, you could talk briefly about how Britain sent out it’s navies to free slaves in transport. (True!) Or you can be more generic (“We can change and we will change! We will fight and we will win!”).

End with chanting that is more specifically tied to what you spoke about. (“Climate justice / human rights. One struggle / one fight”)

Performance Practice

Your speech is a performance. Do things you would do to prepare for a performance. You may need to practice speaking into a PA or practice the whole speech. You’ve written something that sitrs emotions, so deliver it with those emotions – be passionate! Stand up straight. Look determined. Take a deep breath. You can do it.

How to talk into a PA

If you are using a bullhorn, hold the microphone close to your mouth. Speak slowly and clearly. If you are using a system with a more normal microphone, hold it part way down. Do not grab it by the business end and especially don’t cover any grill or openings with your hands. Point it at your mouth. As with a bullhorn, speak slowly and clearly. If you get feedback, move behind the speaker and make sure the mic is only pointing at you – not any speakers.

How to hold a microphone
Holding a microphone

Protests 9 & 10 and a picket line

Climate Strike

I’m not in the target demographics for the Friday climate strikes, but most of my regular Friday protest is, so when they weren’t at Cargill, I went to join them there.

Climate Strike
Protestors near Downing Street

The protestors had marched up the street a bit, but then came back. As with any youth protest, they were massively over-policed. However, it was the middle of the day and some of them had parents present, so the police were keeping their urges mostly in check.

Disproportionate police response
Over-policing

Fashion Week

XR showed up to Fashion week to demand greater sustainability.

Partially blocking the road
XR in the street

Earth Strike also set up a table there. It was a good thing for us to go to.

Earth Strike at Fashion Week
Earth Strike at Fashion Week

UCU Strike

In other news, as nothing was resolved after the last set of strike days, my union is once again striking. I’m mostly working at Kent this term, but it’s a long way to travel on days I’m not scheduled to be in, so I showed up at Goldsmiths on the first day of the strike.

UCU Picket at Depford Town Hall
Pickets at Depford Town Hall

It’s reading week, so nobody there was scheduled to teach at all. I think it’s a good turnout under the circumstances.

Picketers
A picket line at Goldsmiths

Student support was in evidence and some of the props were very good.

In Loving Memory of Art Education 2020
“In loving memory of Art Education 20202”
This is an actual mosaic made by one of the picketers.

The strike carries on for several more days. I didn’t go out today, but will be out next week and will (probably) go to Canterbury for my effected teaching days.

Obviously, this is bad for students and I hope that the strike ends early with an agreement. It is an unusual opportunity to talk about our dreams for higher education, our research and to foster a collegiate atmosphere. I wish there was a way we could foster the spirit of the strike when not on strike and share it with all the students. We all should have more of a say in how universities are run and what they’re like.

Protests 6, 7 and 8

My 50 protests in 2020 project continues, but I’ve gotten a cold and feeling somewhat grim, so this round up may be weird.

Local Rebellion: Defend Councils Net Zero

Less than 1% of new homes built in Britain have an A energy rating. This means that they are badly insulated. Saving carbon with a heat pump is no good if the heat just leaks away in five seconds. Poorly insulated homes cause fuel poverty.

In 2018, only 1% of new homes in the UK were band A energy performance
Architects! Climate Action Network was involved in the protest.

Some councils, in an attempt to meet their carbon goals, have declared higher standards for new construction in their areas. However, the central government is trying to impose a national standard which undoes that, called “future homes”. This disempowers local councils and undoes their good work while also increasing pollution and misery.

Future gomes standard = climate catastrophe
Protestors engage in a tug of war where one side is “Local Government Net Zero 2025 Targets” and the other side is “Central Government Future Homes Standard”

Energy efficiency and homes of a decent standard of efficiency cannot be treated as luxury goods for the rich. This backwards-looking proposal suggests the government is not taking its carbon commitments seriously. Any chance to bestow favours on buy-to-let landlords would seem to outweigh the global need to cut carbon for the sake of everyone. Rich people will not benefit when their swanky Thames-front flats are flooded.

Stop Cargill

This is the weekly protest with Climate Save. This week was smaller than the first one, but I expect next week to be much larger and hopefully momentum will continue to build. You can come out next Friday and every Friday after around noon.

Climate Save
Climate Save in front of Cargill

Cargill’s actions really are shocking. Aside from working with Bolsinaro’s government to weaken standards for Amazon deforestation – their campaigning for him was a direct attack on LGBT people, they also are implicated in child slavery in Africa. Nestle sells the finished chocolate, but Cargill sells them the beans.

This week, they didn’t bother covering over their names. The issue of child slavery in chocolate has been widely documented. It’s outrageous and alarming that there can be an office building in central London that’s involved directly with slavery.

Night Pride

In response to some incidents around London, a group of local queers decided to have a series of Night Pride marches. This one started in Haggerston and went to Dalston. It was a few hundred people (maybe a thousand?) marching joyously while singing along to disco songs. There was, indeed, even a disco ball.

Night Pride
The Night Pride march

Once we got to the Dalston Superstore, some drag queens spoke and sung outside. The whole event was joyous and lovely. (Also a handsome young man seemed to be flirting with me! Although I think I was kind of feverish by then, so it’s possible he wasn’t)

Drag Street Performance
Drag performers at the end of the march

One of the groups in the march is a new antifa organisation called the Bender Defenders, who are determined to stop hate crime. They jackets are extremely nice.

Upcoming

I want to get well soon, so instead of typing out a synopsis of a few upcoming things, I’ll point you at the calendar and take a nap instead. https://fruux.com/calendars/public/a3298190990/708ec5b4-b3ad-48b1-b2f5-cf816f1d5d28/

Protest 5/50: The worst company in the world

For my fifth protest, I joined the newly-formed Climate Save group to stand in front of the London headquarters of Cargill. This company does a lot of supply chain logistics for food, including animal feed. As such, they are very implicated in Amazon deforestation and have been working with Bolsinaro to weaken regulations in Brazil. They have a terrible track record with hurting workers, pollution and harming indigenous people. (We’ll leave aside the question of who is worst in the world, but they’re certainly prominently placed on this list.)

First Cargill Protest
I’m using Obscura Cam now to anonymise photos I upload and it mistook the building sign for a face!

We met up with a few XR protestors and chanted and there were a few short speeches. Climate Save is an offshoot of Animal Save and is an animal rights group. These groups sometimes make me feel uncomfortable, but the London branch of Climate Save seems very on it. They are a migrant-lead group of Spanish speakers from Europe and the Americas. This is an ongoing campaign, so I’ll be back this coming Friday with them again.

Climate Save at Cargill
Climate save at Cargill

Cargill, for their part, had a little panic. We showed up a little late and heard that the area had been crawling with police officers and Cargill had shut the building’s front entrance and covered over their name on the large directory listing on the front wall.

This repeating protest should continue to grow!

Other activities

Earth Strike

I went on Saturday to another leafleting event with Earth Strike, this one by Angel station. Our previous action got us two new members, so it wasn’t in vain, but I do feel like the uptake could be higher. I’d prefer to do a proper protest that also has outreach. There is a lot of institutional momentum, so we’ll see how this goes over. I want to show up at the next meeting with a concrete proposal. I’d also like to lead a mini-workshop clarifying goals, demands, aims and tactics. It’s very easy to confuse tactics with goals and it’s best to sort this out while the group is still new.

Earth Strike Table
Packing up after handing out a LOT of leaflets

Activist Cafe

Common House hosted a new event called the Activist Cafe, which will have roving venues. It was a chance for people to catch up with each other and promote future events. There was a speaker who is involved in the Pink Bloc in the Paris strikes. She was extremely cool. I may make a separate post about all the cool things she talked about.

Activist Cafe at Common House
There were maybe 50 people squeezed in the space?

Extinction Rebellion Tower Hamlets

I also went to an XRTH meeting. We broke into groups and I was helping organise the Tower Hamlets presence at the upcoming Put Out the Fire march, which will take place 22 February. We deicded to focus on how indigenous communities are effected by climate change and damaging resource extraction.

We also decided to have a feeder rally in Altab Ali park, by Aldgate East tube station. We hope many other groups come join this event. If you are active in human rights, climate justice or related areas, I hope you can please come along. We are looking for speakers, so do get in touch.

This will be:
Noon, 22 February
Altab Ali Park

It’s a short event, as we want to get to the main march location (TBA) for 1pm for a 2pm start. It’s a long day, but will be family friendly and a good first action for people just thinking about getting involved in the fight for climate justice.

Upcoming Events

I’ve got a public activist calendar online, which you can subscribe to! I don’t go to everything on the list, though. The next ones I’m likely to attend are:

Local Rebellion – Defend Councils’ Powers For Net Zero. The Tories say they’re green but are threatening to prevent local councils from going to zero carbon. Shame them into dropping this.
Noon, 6 February
Marsham St & Horseferry Rd Westminster, London SW1P 2AX

Climate Protest Against the WORST Company in the World. The ongoing action against Cargill.
Noon, 7 February
77 Queen Victoria Street, London, EC4V 4AY, United Kingdom

BP Must Fall! Get BP out of the British Museum and fight colonialism within the museum.
13:00 (1pm), 8 February
British Museum

Protest against Glencore! A british-owned multinational mining company that pollutes the planet and kills numerous child labourers.
13:00 (1pm), 29 February
50 Berkeley Street, Mayfair, London W1J 8HD

Reflections

This week, I feel like my meeting/action ratio has been poor, which admittedly is part of why I want all outreach events to be proper protests!

It was extremely useful to meet up with the Green AntiCapitalist Front, however, and I’m extremely happy to be helping plan the upcoming XR-lead march.

It’s interesting how XR events have dizzyingly fast turnarounds which make it sometimes hard to do all the planning one would wish for, and Earth Strike has such a long leadup!

Protest 4/50: Up the Elephant

But first, what I did last weekend

Earth Strike at Dalston
Earth Strike tabling at Dalston Kingsland

On my weekend, instead of doing a proper protest, I did some flyering outside the Dalston Kingsland Overground station with Earth Strike North of the River. We’re a new branch of that group. It is an anti-capitalist green campaign that’s calling for a general strike to save the planet and an anti-imperialist approach to climate change.

We do a lot of leafleting. If you’ve got ideas about how to better engage people, leave a comment.

Up The Elephant

Up The Elephant
The tail end of the Up the Elephant protest

I showed up super late to a protest of about 100 people at the Southwark Town Hall offices. They are opposed to the “regeneration” plan at Elephant and Castle which will displace local traders and residents in order to build luxury housing.

There is a housing shortage in London, but not of luxury housing!

I stood next to the UCU banner (not pictured) and learned from others that the LCC, which is just across the road from the Elephant and Castle Underground Station, is a partner with the developer in the plan to gentrify the area.

There seemed to be a fair number of LCC lecturers out protesting and a fair few students as well.

Gentrification is a huge problem across London. Solidarity to everyone fighting it.

For more information about Up The Elephant, see their twatter stream.

Protest 3/50: Earth Strike Rolling Picket

Today’s protest was a rolling picket down Oxford street, targeting companies who create climate change. I got volunteered to give a speech on Boots, which I will attempt to reconstruct here:

My speech in front of Boots

Boots is a major distributor of palm oil. Palm oil suppliers to the many brands stocked at Boots, including Unilever, who makes Dove and Axe products; Netstlé; Colgate-Palmoilive and Modelez, have destroyed an area of rainforest almost twice the size of Singapore.

Did any of ask for this destruction? Do we want to damage rainforests, which are vital carbon sinks, places where people live and home to untold numbers plants and animals? This is not a choice that we have made, but a choice made by Boots, to keep costs down and profits up.

25 palm oil groups have cleared over 130,00 hectares of rain forest since the end of 2015. 40% of deforestation was in West Papua – one of the most biodiverse regions on earth and until recently untouched by the palm oil industry.

This was not a choice that you or I made. This is a choice made by Boots, Unilever and other multinational brands that see the rainforests as resources to be pillaged instead of a vital part of the health of our planet.

Boots also sells own-brand electrical products, which contain conflict minerals tantalum, tungsten, gold and tin. “Conflict minerals” means that people died in the making of these electronics. Boots chose to use these suppliers. It is possible to use materials not involved with conflicts, but this is more expensive, which would impact their profits. They sell us products for which people have died, something that we do not want, and did not ask for. Mining for these minerals also has a significant environmental impact.

More than 120 billion units of packaging is produced by the global cosmetics industry every year. This is plastic crap, things literally made to be thrown away. They sell us literal rubbish surrounding the things we want. We buy a pot of moisturiser and the packaging isn’t recyclable and the pot takes a thousand years to biodegrade. We buy a pot which is empty in six months, but the packaging lasts a millennia! Does anyone here want this kind of packaging? Do any of us hope that our empty, discarded moisturiser pots last for a thousand years? They are forcing rubbish on us! This is a decision that Boots has made.

What Boots sells must change! How they sell it must change!

The rolling picket

We started out in front of the tube station at Oxford Circus, tabling and handing out flyers.

Handing out leaflets

From there, we marched down Oxford Street.

Marching Down Oxford Street

We went to HSBC, and there was a speech about banking and the growing investments banks are making in fossil fuels. Then we marched to the next target and so on. We went to Zara, H&M, M&S, EE, Microsoft, the Brazilian Embassy, Boots, McDonalds and possibly a few more places.

Microsoft Picket

We wanted to make the point that climate change is driven by systemic issues, not individual choice. If Boots were to decide to market biodegradable packaging as a more expensive option, then it’s just a luxury good, not a solution.

Ultimately, solving the climate crisis is a transitional demand – which is to say that it’s fundamentally incompatible with the current imperialist system of capitalist exploitation. We need to build a more equitable future where green tech is shared globally and the countries producing the minerals get to reap the benefits not just the costs. Furthermore, those costs must be drastically reduced. Ultimately, we need to make less stuff. Less packaging, slower fashion. Again, this is a systemic change, not a shopping trend. All people need access to durable clothes, produced in a way that respects workers and the environment. Indeed, everything must change.

50 Protests in 2020

One of my New Years Resolutions is to be more politically active. I’m a citizen and things are, you know, bad, so I thought I’d get out more.

Election Protest

I started on this early by turning out the night after the general election. This was march of mostly young people. I felt like I was the oldest person in it. There were a few different groups in separate demonstrations who joined up by the time I found them.

Police Line

The police tried to keep these allied groups apart. They failed, but it was the first of many apparently legally unjustified acts I saw the police carry out that night. People have a right to protest and right to march and there is no justification for separating people.

The march moved very quickly. The police angrily raced through and around us, trying to prevent us from going down larger streets and pen us into a narrow secluded spot. The way they were running and shouting, seemed as if they were responding to some great emergency. I thought there’d been a stabbing, but no, it was us peacefully marching as is our constitutional right.

Marching towards Nelson's Column

I saw a line of police with batons raised, ready to rain them down on one single kid who was just trying to walk past them while the march went in a different direction. I talked to people who told me they’d been hit by police.

Eventually they did kettle us. On the way out of the kettle they photographed every participant, except for about 5 of us. Anyone wearing a scarf or mask was asked to remove it. Almost everyone complied. They did not have the right to ask for this, but they made those of us who refused wait until everyone else had gone before we could go.

Kettle

At the end, instead of telling us we could go, they were rude and taunting. The best I can say is that they were significantly less violent than they were at the student protests, however, their actions seem unjustifiable and it’s hard to see how they’re fit for purpose.

1/ 50: Anti-war demonstration

Stop the War Coalition called an emergency rally by Downing Street in response to the tensions in Iran. A few hundred people turned up with very little notice, which was encouraging. There were several speakers, one of whom said that while the peace movements of 2003 failed to prevent the war in Iraq, they did prevent it from spreading into Iran.

Stop the war protest

It was nice to hear that we’d been successful in 2003 in anything.

After the speeches, it felt like there should have been a march but none was scheduled, so people gradually wandered off.

2/50: Australian Solidarity Protest

On Friday, Extinction Rebellion held a protest at the Australian High Commission in solidarity with demonstrations across Australia. This protest was showed great organisation and intense creativity. There were several striking art aspects of it, including the largest flag I’ve ever seen.

Enormous flag

And a group of performance artists, who did slow processions and posing like medieval French Catholics on a holy day.

Women in red

There was also a samba band that was one of the best I’ve heard in the UK. This combination of sight and sound and well-designed banners made the protest energetic and photogenic. There were also well-planned actions, including blocking traffic intermittently. There weren’t enough people to do an arrestable civil disobedience, so they just stood in the road until the police told them they had to move, so they did, waited several minutes and start again. The cops went along with this compromise.

Stopped bus

There was good gender parity of the speakers, many of whom were Australian, but all of whom seemed to be white. Most of the speakers were excellent. The formula they seemed to use was explaining the situation, personalising it, sharing their distress and then turning to an impassioned set of demands, sometimes engaging in call and response or getting the crowd to chant.

After the speeches ended, the samba band struck up again and many people had some of the free vegan food provided. This was served on paper plates with bamboo sporks. Many people used sidewalk chalk to writer their demands on the pavement.

It seemed like the protest probably numbered more than a thousand at it’s peak, which is a lot for a friday afternoon. I think many may have been people on their lunch breaks.

Protestors at the Australian High Commission

Policing Differences Between the Anarchist Kids and XR

The police treated the XR protest and the amarchist protest extremely differently and I’m going to make some guesses as to why.

The XR protest also had a lot of young people, but had far greater diversity of age, including a few pensioners and certain number of small children. The police seem to have contempt for teenagers and twenty somethings, but don’t want middle class, middle age people to witness this.

Both protests were pretty white, so I don’t know to what extent that played a role. The samba band seemed to be the only diverse section of the protest, although there were a few people of colour scattered in the crowd. It would look bad for the police to hassle a stationary samba band.

The anarchist march was extremely dynamic and unpredictable and openly adversarial to the police’s attempts to prevent them from protesting. XR’s protest was static. Not in terms fo the experience of being there, but the location and actions of the people involved were predictable. Note that the right to protest includes a right to be dynamic and unpredictable. What makes police officers slightly less angry is their problem.

And, indeed, a several of the police did seem incredibly angry and were unable to fully hide their contempt for democracy. It came out yesterday that the police consider XR to be an extremist organisation. The language in the report suggests that any group seeking more than the most cosmetic of reforms is extremist, so this should not be a surprise. The police representative contacted by the Guardian said the listing was a mistake and would be withdrawn.

How will XR react to this? The student protests and the battering of Climate Camp should make it clear that the police can’t be trusted, however, the student protests were mostly attended by students who mostly would have been in their 20s at the time. Those people remember the police actions, but older people don’t. Indeed, people who didn’t go to the climate camp won’t have reacted the same way to footage of police batons (or the actuality of police batons) the same as people who went to the camp. I had been there and I remember. Other people may have forgotten. Also, the police said they would change and they did somewhat.

I’ve just been inducted to XR – I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but I’m also not a complete outsider. In 2003, when I was at the war protests in San Francisco, we used to chant “out of the office and into the streets”. It seems like that is finally happening with XR. People have finally decided to act, which is great. However, the people coming out of the offices don’t have much experience with being over-policed at protests. I think some will accept the police’s explanations for now. This is a new and growing movement. Anything that mobilises people for their first time will have some naivety, which will, as a matter of course, be disabused. I feel hopeful about XR or I wouldn’t have joined.

Writing Candidates

And because now is the season of the primary, we can write letters to the 82681263 Democrats:

Dear Senator Warren,

I am considering voting for you in the primary but I want to hear you speak out against the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Mr. Soleimani was a leader in a sovereign nation. Iran will rightly perceive this as an act of war. Surely we’ve had enough of starting wars in the middle east? How many more lives will we sacrifice there?

I hope I can count on you to put the breaks on Trump’s reckless foreign adventure.

How you respond to this issue will determine whether or not you have my support. Thank you for your time and your service.

For this, I am using the form on her campaign site. With the other candidates, I will probably tweak the wording somewhat, as I don’t want to fib. The circumstances that would lead me to vote for Biden, for example, would be rather fantastical.

Writing letters

Trump wants a war. Fuck him. This is the letter I wrote for my liberal senators:

Dear X,

I was very disturbed to read that the Trump administration carried out an assassination of Qasem Soleimani. Mr. Soleimani was a leader in a sovereign nation. Iran will rightly perceive this as an act of war. Surely we’ve had enough of starting wars in the middle east? How many more lives will we sacrifice there?

I hope congress acts to censure the president and reclaim it’s constitutional mandate to be the only body allowed to declare war. I hope I can count on you to put the breaks on Trump’s reckless foreign adventure.

I live at Y and voted for you in the last election. Thank you for your time and your service.

Best Regards,

CCH

abc@def.ghi

I’m going to create a PDF of this letter to fax to my senators, using a free service. I hope they get a large pile of hard-to-ignore paper. It’s important to include my voting address so they know I live within their district and state.

My representative is actually a leftist and my letter to her will take a different tone about the immorality of drone strikes in general and wars of choice in particular. That will be sent by email. I trust her to do the right thing, but being able to cite the support of constituents is always helpful.

Letters to the editors of newspapers continue to carry a certain amount of weight, so I’ll send a few of those as well. Our congress is made up of cowards who will wait to see which way the wind is blowing before they act. We need to make out voices heard.

Quick Introduction to Doepfer

Like we did with the 100, we can set up an old school patch on the Doepfer. Here we’ve got a VCO going to a VCF, LPF, or low pass filter.

Doepfer VCO to VCF

Then we can go from the LPF to the VCA

LPF to VCA

We’re going to use MIDI in this example, so we’re going from the MIDI to CV converter gate output to the ADSR envelope generator. We’ve also plugged the VCA output into the mixer.

MIDI to CV to ADSR

We can use the CV output to control both the VCO and the VCF

CV to VCO and VCF

If you want to use a keyboard or other MIDI device, you can use a MIDI cable. If you’re just using a laptop or a computer, you can also plug in a USB cable.

MIDI Cable

You can use the Doepfer to filter and process other sounds by going into the Ext Input module. You could plug in the DtoA converter of a computer to do things to a sound or could could come out of the Roland 100M’s mixer.

Ext Input

That module also does envelope following so if you want to use the Doepfer to do FM with a recorded sound, for example, you can follow the envelope, so the loudness of the source sound can be sent to the CV input to a VCA. This way, you have the sample amplitude profile as the source sound.

It’s ok to plug mixer output of the 100M into the Doepfer, but the CVs may have different ranges.