• Hayoung (Talia) Cho & Kilin Tang

Protesting Safely during COVID-19 (Part II)


Authors' note: These are safety precautions that COVID-19 GCA Mutual Aid encourages you to take if you plan to protest in the next couple of months. The authors of this article are not licensed public health professionals and cannot be held liable for any harm or injury you might sustain from attending a protest.

The recent death of George Perry by the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota has sparked protests in all 50 states over America’s handling of police brutality. Given that there are nearly 2 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, if you decide to join a local protest, COVID-19 GCA Mutual Aid encourages you to take appropriate safety precautions to stay healthy during this unprecedented time.

***If you feel sick or are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19 including sneezing, coughing, fever or chills, shortness of breath, nausea, or loss of taste or smell, DO NOT PROTEST. While support for the Black Lives Movement (BLM) is important, you may risk infecting dozens of people with COVID-19 if you decide to protest. Consider sitting this protest out if you are living with someone deemed “high-risk” (the elderly or people with medical conditions). Check out a variety of other ways to demonstrate your support for the Black Lives Matter movement here.

How to Protect Your Digital Privacy:

With the daily protests happening across the United States, digital privacy has been a concern due to police surveillance—protesters have been tracked, arrested, and fined. Police have used softwares to track personal data from crowds, so it is important to protect your privacy and take precautions before attending a protest. In the past, police departments have kept these records for years, so it is important to protect your digital privacy in the long-term as well. 

If possible, TRY NOT to bring your phone. But if you plan to bring your phone, COVID-19 Mutual Aid GCA encourages you to take the following steps to protect your digital privacy. 

If you plan to NOT bring your personal phone:

1. Bring a Burner Phone with Burner Apps. Burner phones allow you to have a temporary, “unidentifiable” phone number, and their disposability may protect your privacy. If you believe that a burner phone is right for you, learn more about some options here. In contrast, burner apps redirect your contact information to a completely new number. We would recommend Hushed, Swytch, TextMe Up, and Ring4

2. Bring Cash and Write Down Emergency Contact Info. Read more about this in our previous post. 

If you plan to bring your personal phone:

1. Disable Your Location. The location of your phone, which is inevitably tied to your location, can easily be tracked by the police. To prevent this, we’d encourage you to fully turn off your phone during the protest and only turn it on for emergency occasions. That’s because whenever your phone is on, it’s always communicating to the nearest cell tower, which leaves behind a footprint of your data. Moreover, turning off your location saves your phone’s battery life, which can prove useful since protests can last for hours.

Otherwise, the next best solution is to always keep your phone on airplane mode and turn off location services as well as wifi. Learn how to do so on Apple and Android phones.

2. Disable Biometrics (Fingerprint, FaceID) to Unlock your Phone 

On August 10th, 2018, the FBI forced an iPhone X user to unlock their phone using FaceID, according to Forbes. While some argue that the Fifth Amendment should protect one from being forced to unlock their phone with biometrics, we’d encourage that you use an alphanumeric password until there is a definitive court case on the matter. It’s always better to stay safe than sorry. Learn how to disable biometrics on Android and Apple devices. 

3. Select a Secure Password. Use a strong, alphanumeric passcode at least 7 characters long with a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, and numbers. If you insist on using a numeric password, make sure that they are not easily guessable (1111111, 123456, etcetera). However, note that the police may download softwares onto your device to crack iPhone passwords longer than 6 digits if you have your device confiscated. 

4. Communicate With Encrypted Messaging Apps. Messaging apps with encrypted software may protect your conversations being read by third parties, such as the police. iMessage and FaceTime has end-to-end encryption, but you may not be protected when communicating with non-Apple users. Apps like Signal—an encrypted messaging app—deletes the messages after being seen. Other Safe Messaging Apps include Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, KakaoTalk, Line, Dust, Threema, Wickr, and CoverMe

5. Learn how to use the Emergency SOS feature on an IOS device. The Emergency SOS feature allows you to save emergency contacts. After you call one of your emergency contacts, your location will be sent to every emergency contact via text message. Learn more about Emergency SOS here. 

To Activate Emergency SOS:

  • For iPhone 7 and earlier: repeatedly press the power button 5 times quickly 

  • For iPhone 8 and later: hold the power button and either volume buttons

6. Browse Online Securely. When browsing, do not rely on Incognito Mode to protect your privacy: Learn More here. Use encrypted browsers like The Tor Browser—it’s encrypted to protect interference from third parties. Others include Brave, Polarity, Tenta (for Android users), Vivaldi, and Min

7. Encrypt Your Device. During previous protests, police have confiscated protester’s phones for various reasons. Without a strong encryption of your phone, police can easily access any information stored there—your contacts, text messages, and social media posts. Learn how to encrypt your Apple, Android, and other devices.

***Know Your Rights: You have no legal obligation to hand over your password to any police official. 

Additional Resources:

What Should You Do After the Protest?

1. Get tested for COVID-19. You may feel fine after the protest, but studies have shown that an infected person can spread COVID-19 for six days to your friends and family before developing any symptoms. You also might be asymptomatic (experiencing no symptoms) but still be able to transmit the virus to your loved ones at home.

Click here to find the closest COVID-19 test site near you!

2. Self Quarantine. For you and your family and friend’s safety, try to self-quarantine yourself until you receive your COVID-19 test results. If this isn’t possible, try to wear a facemask for at least two weeks after the protest, and limit your contact with others as much as possible.

Finally, check out a list of Black Businesses to support in the Charlotte Area!

1. Check out Black-owned Restaurants and Desserts.

2. Support Black Artists.

3. Learn More about Black-owned Stores.

4. Additional Resources. 

Stay safe out there!

  • Add us on Facebook
  • Add us on Twitter
  • Add us on Instagram

©2020 by Greater Charlotte Area Mutual Aid