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How To Prepare Yourself For Friday And Saturday's Massive Inauguration Demonstrations

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 19, 2017 9:20PM

Photo by Tyler LaRiviere/Chicagoist

As the nation gears up to weather the storm of the next four to eight years of a Donald Trump presidency, those opposed to his swampy cabinet, xenophobic immigration and foreign policies, the repeal of healthcare for millions without a cogent replacement, and so many other worries, are gearing up to protest his coronation.

While thousands of buses will descend on Washington, D.C. for the event, those that can’t make the trek can join tens of thousands of other Chicagoans who plan to hit the streets on Friday and Saturday for a wide variety of demonstrations and other actions. Among them include several rallies and gatherings in the Loop beginning Friday at 1:00 p.m., with major demonstrations at Trump Tower beginning at 5:00 p.m., and the Women’s March Saturday, which begins at 10:00 a.m. at East Jackson and South Columbus Drive. See our full list of events happening citywide here.

While dozens of community groups have been organizing around the clock and hundreds of well-seasoned activists will no doubt be participating, the demonstrations will also draw plenty of first time protesters. For those planning to attend, we have some helpful tips we’ve pointed out before given to us by Black Movement Law Project co-founder Abi Hassen, with some extra more local information.

General Information

While the weather report for mid-January appears to look more like mid-April, with temperatures on Friday expected to be in the mid-40s and a practically balmy mid-50s on Saturday, we all know Chicago weather can turn on a dime. With that in mind it’s still best to layer, as well as have hats, gloves, a scarf and even a few sets of hot hands for all your extremities.


  • Bring lots of water. You don't want to get dehydrated out there.
  • Bring snacks, for obvious reasons.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the geography, carry a physical map of the area, preferably with the gathering points and march routes outlined on it. Your phone may run out of battery, lose data, or break.
  • Come with chargers for your electronic devices, preferably battery-pack-powered.
  • Bring a hat, sunscreen and/or lip balm, depending on the weather.
  • Wear layers to account for the range of temperature over the course of the time you're out there, including a raincoat if there's a chance of rain. This will also help if you think you might be arrested, as jail could have a drastically different temperature than outside.
  • If you're doing any kind of social media, bring a hot spot for your phone and/or laptop that is through a provider besides your own. With thousands of people in your vicinity, one provider's tower may be overwhelmed, while another's may still work. Similarly, if you're documenting the protest, bring a dedicated recorder and camera, so you're not relying entirely on your phone.
  • Download Signal or another encrypted messaging app, unless you don't mind police reading your texts.
  • Memorize and/or write numbers of contacts and legal hotlines on your body. Your phone may not be there for you when you most need it.
  • Find a buddy, and establish a rendezvous point beforehand, in case you lose contact/the shit hits the fan.
  • If arrested, ask for a lawyer. Beyond that, don't say anything to the police, because yes, even statements you might find innocuous can be used against you.

We also recommend bringing at least one or two mid-sized ziplock bags to store small electronics such as phones and battery packs in should it rain.

Know Your Rights

As mentioned above, remember that despite First Amendment and other Constitutionally provided protections, it’s up to you to know your rights. Volunteers with the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyer’s Guild, identifiable by their bright fluorescent green hats, will be on hand acting as legal observers at many of the events throughout the weekend. The local hotline number, which again should either be memorized or written on your body as you may not have access to any of your personal items if arrested, is 312-913-0039, and should be used for requesting legal or jail support for those arrested. Remember to travel with companions, and be sure to inform others and plan check-ins with others you know and trust who are not attending.

For more information, including what to do if you are questioned or detained by police (reminder - you have the right to remain silent as well as immediately request legal representation), what to expect should you be arrested and potential charges in this easily printable 2-page document. Also remember that in Illinois you are allowed to record or otherwise document police activity in a public setting.

Surveillance powers and activities by law enforcement have increased exponentially through the terms of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and surveillance, particularly electronic, is likely to become even more ubiquitous during the Trump administration. In Chicago, law enforcement has been known to deploy Stingray and other cell phone surveillance technologies at demonstrations. With that in mind, we recommend reading up on the details on message encryption apps like Signal and other how to's to keep your data secure in this surveillance self defense guide from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.


Expect traffic delays and unexpected street closures on both Friday and Saturday, particularly for the Women’s March, which organizers say they now expect upwards of 50,000 people to attend. Due to the increasing size of the demonstration, organizers have shortened the length and route of the march considerably. With that in mind, use caution when driving anywhere in the vicinity of the Loop, and expect pay lots to fill up quickly and very little available street parking.

Courtesy Chicago Women's March Website

The CTA plans to increase capacity on the Blue, Brown, Orange and Green lines from 5:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.