Organize Effective Demonstrations
Congress needs to know how their constituents feel about any particular issue. Mail and phone calls are an efficient way to get this across, but only one-at-a-time. This takes time and numbers can be deceiving. And, if time is short, there is nothing like a mass of warm bodies. This will often draw the media as well, so be prepared.
- Organize. Have a plan of where and when to meet. Have signs available that get your point across. Advise friendly officials ahead of time. Also, alert the media.
- Signs. Make them large and easy to read. Use a light background with dark colored printing or vice-versa. Short, to-the-point slogans are best. Slogans that rhyme, have a clever play on words, or are chanted work best. They must be easily and quickly understood by an average person.
- Timing. With only a few exceptions, its easier to get press attention on weekdays and in the morning or early afternoon (reporters have deadlines). Time your event with an anniversary, this will enhance your demonstration.
- Photo-op. The old adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words" applies here. Provide opportunities for pictures. Newspapers dont always have space for a detailed article, but one photograph could help a lot. This will also attract TV, a visual medium. Costumes often make dramatic statements.
- Be heard. If you have speakers, make sure to have an adequate sound system. If they cannot be heard and understood, you will loose your audience, especially the media. If you start with horn honking, arrange to have it quieted down and regain the everyones attention first, then begin.
- Hand-outs. Have printed materials available for both the public and the media about your issue. Make sure the material lists contact names and phone numbers. If you have an elected official on your side, get their first permission to have their name on the list.
- Crowd control. Appoint reliable volunteers to watch over the demonstration. They can help quiet hecklers, keep the crowd cheering, and identify individuals to the media. Keep the area around your speakers clear for possible pictures.
- Above all - obey the law. Permits may be required. These normally can be obtained through city hall or the county seat. Although usually a simple procedure, they may require some advance notice. If it is planned at the last minute, expect less then 15 people, or choose a location that will not disrupt the routine of others, it may not be necessary.
- Counter-Demonstrations. Start before they do. Place your best-known or most powerful speaker in the middle of your program. This will hold the attention of the media better.
- And always be courteous. Never attack the other side. Do not let the other side get your rattled or upset. Dont get into "name calling." Keep your information factual, specific and to your message.
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