Student Safety Guide for Reporting in the Field

Protecting your body and avoiding injury

  • Understand that reporting in dangerous conditions can lead to injury or death.
  • Protective gear can include helmets, goggles, gas masks, gloves, scarves, hoods.
  • Wearing a sweatshirt or other top with a good hood can be useful when covering a story in which there is a danger that you might get hurt by police or protesters.
  • Liquid antacid and water (LAW) can help neutralize irritation from tear gas and pepper spray. (Elle of Oakland)
  • “If you're in a situation that escalates out of control, free weekly newspapers shoved under your clothes can offer some protection.” (Gizmodo)
  • The weight of your gear can add up and slow you down.
  • Wear comfortable shoes or boots that you can run in. Plan accordingly.
  • Stay fed and hydrated. Pack a handful of Clif Bars (or equivalent) and a small container of water.
  • Carry a compact first aid kit and know how to use it.
  • Carry 3 days’ worth of any medication that you take.
  • Taking notes, photos, tweeting, livestreaming etc. can sometimes create tunnel vision where you lose track of your surroundings. As best you can, try to balance the act of reporting with keeping your eyes and ears on everything around you with your own safety in mind.
  • If possible, go to the event with a partner who can watch your back.
  • In every situation, try to identify at least two routes to safety. Plan ahead if you can.
  • If you feel that your safety is threatened, leave the area.

Where to get (special) protective gear

  • Alameda Army Navy Surplus at 2500 Embarcadero in Oakland carries several types of gas masks from $30 and up. Phone: 510-261-5152.
  • Protective gear for skateboarders (helmets, elbow pads, knee pads) can be found at the Vans store at the Stonestown Mall and 865 Market St. (via Jim Toland)

What to do if physically attacked

  • The most important part of your body to protect is your head. If you are caught in an area where police are beating protesters or either side is hurling items, do not lie on the ground with your face and head unprotected but rather curl into a ball and cover your head.
  • If you don’t have a hood, you can pull your coat over your head.

What to do if you’re injured

  • Stay calm.
  • If your injury is serious, call 911 or ask someone to call 911 for you.
  • Street medics are often present at Occupy events, for example. Try yelling “Medic!” for assistance.
  • Yell “Cameras!” if you want others to document your situation (which will likely happen anyway).
  • Use your own first aid kit, if you have one.
  • Seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.

Avoiding arrest

  • Watch out for tunnel vision (see above, under “Avoiding injury”).
  • Tell the cops you’re a journalist. Show your credentials, if you have them.
  • A press pass of any kind (even one issued by the cops) could be helpful, but it’s no guarantee of immunity from arrest or injury.

What to do if arrested

  • Call attorney Jim Wagstaffe at 415-371-8500
  • Call attorney David Greene at 415-268-1974
  • Call the National Lawyers Guild hotline at 415-285-1011. Ideally you’ll have this memorized. If not, make sure it’s written clearly on your forearm.
  • Don’t talk to the cops other than to give them your name and address and to ask to speak with a lawyer.

What to do after the event

  • Document everything that happened to you. This can include a mix of writing, photos, audio and video.
  • If you feel that anyone has violated your rights, contact a lawyer for advice on filing charges or a formal complaint.