The gruesome images of war filled you with rage. You can’t stand injustice and won’t stay arms crossed. Thousands of people feel the same way. Together you could all make a difference. But the fight for peace has never been easy. Are you ready to risk it all for peace?
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, news outlets and social media outside of Russia have been flooded with pictures and videos of the horrors that Ukrainian citizens have had to endure. But Russian media, heavily influenced by Vladimir Putin, have been using the term “special military operation” for this invasion. Many individuals in Russia are still not aware of the extent to which the war is happening, mainly because they are being fed a much different story through their country’s news agencies.
And although many people understand what is happening and are against the invasion, authorities have made it difficult for them to increase awareness and organize protests. They’ve cut off access to social media platforms and have made spreading “false information” a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. This includes the crime of using the words “war”, “attack” and “invasion”.
Russian Human rights watch OVD-Info calculates that by the end of March 2022, over 15,000 Russian protestors had been arrested. But many people continue protesting and strongly opposing the injustice and violence inflicted on the citizens of Ukraine. What should you bring to protest against a country at war? How can you keep your identity secret? And how are protestors using emojis to spread their message?
Protesting in Russia right now takes a lot of courage, but being brave won’t necessarily keep you safe. You’ll need to be smart about it. Here’s what you could do to keep yourself and others safe.
Step 1. Blend In
Going alone with a big sign to your city’s main square is the fastest way to get captured by the police. Find out about an upcoming protest and prepare to join it. Hide your banner or distinctive clothing until you get to the location. As the size of the protest increases, the lower the odds are of you being centered out by authorities. The more people around you, the better.
While larger protests can get violent and dangerous, they are also safer in terms of identity. Being part of a larger protest also increases its visibility and credibility. This will help to communicate the message to the public and show that you oppose the war.
Step 2. Bring the Right Items
You want to make sure your hands are free during the protest, so carry a cheap backpack with supplies. The key is not to overload yourself. It’s better to stay light in case you have to run or help someone. Keeping water, snacks and extra face masks is a must. Bring a power bank for your phone so that you know you will be able to contact someone if you need help.
Step 3. Think as a Group
You are all on the same side and the protest grows with the strength of each individual. Try not to attend the protest solo. If you see a person alone, bring them to your group and stick together. Offer people water or food if they need it, help someone up if they fall and set up a meeting point in case you have to spread out. If you want to take pictures and post them online, remember others want to keep their identity hidden as much as you.
Be especially careful while recording encounters with law enforcement. You could be a victim of the same violence you’re trying to expose. And remember that you’re probably being recorded. Your actions reflect on the whole group. Because of the eradication of the independent Russian media, these protests are still not likely to be visible to the general Russian public. So many people have taken to social media to protest, but this brings its own risks.
Step 4. Hack the System
Since uploading content about the war and spreading the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine is illegal now, it is not smart to directly post about it on social media. The Russian authorities are imposing legal ramifications on individuals who attempt to give protests or opposition to their policies a wider audience. They have even presented screenshots of a tweet in court as proof of a person’s intentions of attending a protest. This makes it difficult to get the message about a protest out, so you’ll have to be creative.
An Instagram user posted an image of rows of emoji men walking around a sketched head of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and the number 7. So what did this mean? It was about the time of a protest at Moscow’s Pushkin Square.
Authorities are catching on to these covert tactics, so new ways to get your message out will be an ongoing process.
Step 5. Protect Your Online Identity
Social media platforms have taken measures to help protect innocent people in both Ukraine and Russia. Facebook has allowed Ukrainian users to quickly lock down their profiles, which gives them an extra layer of privacy. Only approved accounts can view their posts or share their photos. Twitter has advised individuals to set up a two-factor authentication and disable location information so that tweets can’t be traced as easily. It will even deactivate your account if you feel unsafe.
But they have also mistakenly suspended accounts of independent reporters who were informing about Russian military movements at the border with Ukraine. You can hide your location and your IP address by using a VPN, but posting explicit information about your views online can still lead to you being identified and charged. Russia banned unauthorized demonstrations in 2014, but there are still people willing to stand up for their right to protest a senseless war.
This invasion has already killed thousands and displaced millions of Ukrainian citizens. But in the middle of the horror, there are people helping each other survive.
- “How Putin’S Regime Stifled Anti-War Protests In Russia | Sasha De Vogel“. 2022. The Guardian.
- “What Would Be Signs Protests In Russia Are Making A Difference?“. 2022. Harvard Gazette.
- “‘Her Anger Had Been Building’: Russian TV Protester Told Friend Of Plan“. 2022. The Guardian.
- “The silent protests taking place in Russia“2022. Theweek.Co.Uk.
- “How Protesters In Russia And Ukraine Are Avoiding Internet Censorship — And Jail “. 2022. Los Angeles Times.
- “How To Protest Safely: What To Bring, What To Do, And What To Avoid“. Nast, Condé. 2020.Wired.