12 Ways to Protest During Lockdown (Without Being a Typhoid Mary)

There are some people who refuse to accept universal medical advice about COVID-19, and are outside putting vulnerable people at risk as a “protest”. Typhoid Mary is one of the cleanest and politest names for this behaviour, especially as the main concern seems to be “getting a haircut”. This article is not aimed at them, because the lockdown is our best method of slowing the spread of disease and keeping people alive. This article is aimed at the activists who were protesting inequality, oppression and injustice before all this, and at the people who want to protest things that have come up during this time.

Indoor Things That We’ve Always Done

Due to distance, physical limitations, vulnerability and many other reasons, not everyone can attend standard protests anyway. There are things that you can do inside, and people have been doing these instead of or as well as outdoor, gathered protests.

1 Write letters to your MP

MPs are obliged by protocol to reply to their constituents, and technically they do work for us and are employed to represent the people who live in their constituency. You can write to them at the House of Commons or email them at their government email address. Writing to them is hard evidence that real people care about a topic, and prompts them to address it in some way. The more people write, the more the pressure is on them to act – you can organise a group to all write to your MPs about the same issue.

Find your MP here: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/find-your-mp/

Tips on writing to MPs here: https://www.gingerbread.org.uk/policy-campaigns/our-campaigns/campaign-toolkit/how-to-write-to-your-mp/

2 Make and Sign Petitions

The government has an official website for petitions. Only British Citizens and UK Residents can create or sign petitions, and can only sign once per petition. Petitions will only be rejected if they don’t fit the standards listed on the official site’s help page, and if any petition gets 10,000 signatures it will get a response from the government. Any petition that gets 100,000 signatures is raised as a potential topic of debate in Parliament.

There’s also Change.org, which works in a similar way but with a much wider scope. Anyone in the world can create or sign a petition, and the targets can be companies, world leaders, organisations etc. There isn’t the same guaranteed response system, but it’s a huge petition platform that has gotten solutions for hundred of petitions.

Official petition site: https://petition.parliament.uk/

Change.org: https://www.change.org/

3 Social Media Awareness

A lot of things are less about reaching the government, and more about reaching as many people as possible. You might only have your real friend and family on Facebook, but platforms like Twitter and Instagram are perfect for sharing things with hundreds of strangers. Even on Facebook, there are pages and the friends of your friends; every conversation you have online is a chance to spread a message. And unlike an in-person conversation, your points stay there forever for other people to read. It’s not just gaining allies, either, as you can bring your points to people on the fence and even debate people who so far disagree with you; you might even win them over.

Solo or Distanced Outdoor Things

4 Civil Disobedience

Civil disobedience is, at its core, breaking of unjust laws and/or breaking laws for activist effect. Obviously, for legal reasons, I am not recommending any of these illegal acts. Graffiti is a clear example – for every illegible name tag, there is a striking political statement. Resources online offer methods to disrupt construction such as putting sugar in cement, to disrupt businesses such as glueing locks shut, and to disrupt demolition by chaining yourself to the structure in question.

There are even companies that will send glitter parcels, embarrassingly labelled packages and rancid smelling food products, should you wish to take your protest to an individual in particular.

5 Banner Drops

Speaking of things that are technically illegal, you could drop a banner over a wall, bridge or out of a window. It takes a team but can be done with two or three depending on the size. If you have a banner big enough to need four, you can meet on-site and keep as far apart as you can. There are three parts to dropping a banner. You can make a banner out of a bedsheet or sewing together spare fabric and painting your message on it, and some next-level things to do include weighting the bottom and including padlocks to lock your banner in place for a longer protest.

Choosing your drop place and time is where the question of legality comes in. Places that can be seen or that are context-appropriate might be restricted, and locked banners can be classed as vandalism. Give yourself time to access the place and set up your banner in time for it to be seen by as many people as possible.

How To article about banner drops: https://destructables.org/node/56

6 One Person, One Sign

In fact, you can stage a street protest all by yourself, without any huge and high effort banners or breaking any laws. Make a protest sign out of a large piece of card or cardboard and pen or paint. You might already own a few, as a seasoned activist. Choose a place where people will see you, and possibly combine this with the blockage part of civil disobedience. If you would already wear a face covering to protest, get ready as you normally do to protest. If you don’t, consider it for your own safety, and then don’t forget to wear a mask or bandana over your mouth and nose.

All that’s left is to get out there and get your message seen and heard!

Some safe protest advice: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2017/01/a-few-small-tips-for-attending-your-first-protest-march/

 

Virtual Things

7 Online Rallies

People are already taking to platforms like Zoom to protest during the lockdown. Over 200 people joined a Zoom rally set up by staff and students at Forth Valley College in Scotland on 1st April, almost 500 Irish protestors attended an event on Zoom to demand justice for sacked Debenhams staff on 29th April and various unions held online rallies on 1st May for the historically celebrated International Workers Day.

While these online rallies aren’t quite as effective as rallies in locations where people pass by, they can easily get much higher attendance. There’s no need to be able to physically attend, so international, disabled and time-constrained people can join in. This numbers advantage means that while bystanders aren’t as easily reached, the companies and governments being protested against do see a bigger potential impact. As a new phenomenon, news media is more likely to report your rally, as it’ll have that topical lockdown factor.

Facebook’s Portal App: https://portal.facebook.com/gb/

Skype: https://www.skype.com/en/

Zoom: https://zoom.us

8 Panels and Parties

Similarly, you can host or attend parties and panels. You can have speakers and performers on a zoom chat or party, just like you would at a physical event. Unlike a rally, which only attracts protestors and rally watchers, these ideas can attract people interested in the content itself. The bigger the names you can get to talk or perform, the bigger the viewership you can get. Themes of talks or performances attract viewers too, and a party setting can get non-activist people interested.

Event names and things like Facebook event listings give you the option to hype the event up and point to clear numbers of people interested in your cause. You can use them to raise money as well as awareness, and explore new events such as vigils, readings and skill-sharing.

9 Map Pins and Geo-Tagging

Key locations can be protested at without physically going there! The Russian equivalent of Google Maps, Yandex.Maps and Yandex.Navigator, has been used by Russian protestors to leave public messages at public government buildings. Pins can be dropped on the map and shared publicly, so whatever is written is visible to people looking at that area. Coordinated protests have led to slogans and complaints covering government buildings and routes on the map service.

While Google Maps doesn’t have the same ease of public pin-dropping, locations can be added, and geo-tagging can be used to a similar effect on other platforms. Facebook statuses can be checked in to locations, Instagram posts can be tagged with locations, and while you can’t geotag tweets you can set your whole Twitter account to a location.

COVID-related protests

10 Rent Strike

You may have seen the discourse around rent – many people are out of work, unpaid or on reduced pay, and unable to pay their bills. Many reasonable landlord companies are offering rent reductions and even non-collection of rent during this time. Some, however, are demanding full rent from their tenants and threatening homelessness during this terrifying period. The obvious protest is rent strikes, which is the refusal to pay rent with no access to the property and broadcast of the facts.

Rent Strike London and the London Renters Union are among the groups sharing the 2020 rent strike campaign, with university student unions and other activism groups encouraging people. There are template letters to send to your landlords, official demands of suspended rent and rent debt cancellation, and a movement to hang white sheet banners from home windows.

Rent Strike London on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RentStrikeLDN

London Renters Union: https://londonrentersunion.org/

Template Letter to Landlords: https://londonrentersunion.org/coronavirus-landlord-letter/

11 NHS PPE

A lot of the current protest and activism is related to the terrible situation that NHS staff has been forced into. People are clapping for them weekly and calling them heroes, but more effectively people and businesses have been donating personal protection equipment or PPE, such as masks, gloves and disinfectant. Despite UK taxpayers paying more than £100 billion a year, and the Brexit promise to spend an extra £350 million a week on the NHS, funding has not increased and PPE orders have not been filled.

A video was NHS staff explained about staff deaths and begged the government for PPE was projected onto the Palace of Westminster on 17th April. This was organised by the government protest group Led By Donkeys and could be replicated and boosted.

12 Lockdown Counter-Protest Content

The Typhoid Mary’s that this is a guide to NOT being, however, are protesting as normal. They’re also gathering and refusing to follow guidelines, and demanding businesses open and serve them. All of the ways in which they’re endangering hundreds of people, including NHS staff, don’t need to be re-explained yet again. It is possible to protest against them by making a political statement about following the guidelines.

Using hashtags on Twitter and Instagram to share your stay-at-home activities and PPE outfits is one easy way to promote helpful behaviour. Masks are not just for literal germ safety, but a visual signal that you’re following the rules. People have sewn their own, worn costume masks and worn fashion items such as bandanas. Sharing counter-protest content and advice on social media is quick, easy and effective, as is shaming all protestors and those who refuse to follow guidelines.

NHS hand-washing advice: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/best-way-to-wash-your-hands/

Government Social Distancing Guide: www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others

Changing Your Name by Deed Poll

It’s common practice for trans people to change our names to ones more fitting of our genders, but people change their names when they get married or separate, to make a hard to spell or pronounce name simpler, or just to have a more commonly used nickname as an official name on documents.

Whatever your reasons, it can seem daunting. Advice online can be confusing, with sites claiming to be easiest and cheapest, old fashioned transgender advice and vague government pages. What’s most misleading are the services you pay for a deed poll. They carefully word things to make you think you have to pay, so finding the cheapest or most official company is your best option, but you don’t have to pay. It’s worth repeating – you don’t have to pay for a deed poll! It’s easy and equally valid to do your own deed poll.

There are some restrictions on what you can choose as a name; you can’t have a title like Princess or Lord as a first name and you aren’t allowed to have an overtly offensive name such as Adolf Hitler or a string of swearwords. You need a first name and a surname at least, for most place to accept it, and then you’re ready to make your deed poll.

The Deed Poll

All you need to change your name by deed poll is two witnesses who aren’t related to you, but other than that can be anyone (you can ask strangers if you want!) and an official looking piece of paper with this printed on it:

Deed Poll on Change of Name

This change of name deed made this [date] day of [month, year]

By me the undersigned [full new name] of [street address] in the County of [county] now or lately known as [full old name] a British Citizen under section 37(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981

Witnesses and it is hereby declared as follows:-

  • I absolutely and entirely renounce relinquish and abandon the use of my said former name of [full old name] and assume adopt and determine to take and use from the date hereof the name of [full new name] in substitution of my former name [full old name]
  • I shall at all times hereafter in all records deeds documents and other writings and in all actions and proceedings as well as in all dealings and transactions and on all occasions whatsoever use and subscribe the said name of [full new name] as my name in substitution for my former name of [full old name] so relinquished as aforesaid to the intent that I may hereafter be called known or distinguished not by the former name of [full old name] but by [full new name] only,
  • I authorise and require all persons at all times to designate describe and address me by the adopted name of [full new name].

In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my adopted and substituted name of [new full name] and also my said former name of [old full name] and have set my hand the day and year first above written.

Signed as a deed by the above-named

[old and new signatures]

[full new name], formerly known as [full old name]

In the presence of

[witness 1 signature]

[witness 1 first and surname] of [street address] in [county] [postcode]

[witness 2 signature]

[witness 2 first and surname] of [street address] in [county] [postcode]

Technically you can write “I [old name] hereby change my name to [new name]” on the back on an envelope, but by having an official looking document it is a lot easier to get your other documents changed to your new name.

Who to Tell

Now you have a deed poll, your name is official! However, you still have to inform every company for them to change your records, and that can be a lot to remember.

DVLA – if you have a driving license, you MUST inform the DVLA as soon as possible, as using your old licence is considered fraudulent and you can face a fine of up to £1000!

Electoral Registration – you must inform the council for your electoral registration to be updated, as this is often used to check your details by other companies.

Passport – you need to get a new passport, but changing your picture is optional.

HMRC – your National Insurance will need to be updated

Banks and Building Societies – remember to inform every bank and building society you have an account with!

Employers and Education – any employer you have needs to know and updated records and payment details, and any school, college or university you’re enrolled in needs to know too.

Bills and Loans – your landlord and or mortgage company will need to know, as will any company you pay bills towards such as mobile phone, gas and electric, and things like club memberships. If you have any loans, including Student Loans, those companies will need to know too.

Doctor, Dentist etc – your medical records and any billing information will need updating. Private companies such as the opticians will all need informing, and it might be quicker to tell all NHS departments such as your GP and various specialist separately rather than wait for the first to inform all the others.

Benefits Departments – if you receive benefits, you will need to tell the department that deals with them, such as Work and Pensions for JSA.

Anywhere else you use your legal name – your deed poll is a promise to stop using your old name and start using your new name in its place, so tell any organisation you have your name listed as you go along. There’s no rush with this, but the whole point of changing your name is using a different name.

Friends, family, acquaintances – most likely two of your good friends were your witnesses, and you excitedly told other friends and family members. If it wasn’t an expected change, like your surname when you got married, or you didn’t make a big announcement to everyone, make sure you don’t forget anyone.