This is a brief post on some tips to stay safe during marches during #COVID19. This post does not contain legal advice nor a guarantee, warranty or prediction in outcome. If you have any legal questions about your specific situation, contact a lawyer to assist.
Planning on attending a march during #COVID19?
Many provinces and cities have public health orders or emergency orders in place that impose significant fines or risk of arrest if individuals gather in more than 5 (Ontario) to 50 outside (Alberta). There are specific emergency by-laws for some cities, namely Toronto, among others.
I previously wrote about some tips to practice social distancing in light of the emergency orders and broad policing powers. Those tips are reproduced below. However, since these orders are still in place, there is a risk that officers, including by-law officers may arrest individuals for gathering during COVID-19 that violate the emergency orders. While the Criminal Code states that it is an offence to wear a mask or conceal your identity during a riot, it is not clear how social distancing and public health tips may impact an individual's right to gather/march while also wearing protective coverings. In 2013, Canada criminalized wearing a mask or concealing your identity during marches. The key is that the gathering/march must turn into a riot that "disturb[s] the peace tumultuously". Remember to remain peaceful.
If you choose to go gather during COVID-19, here are some additional tips other than ones listed below or in my previous post:
Tips on Marching
Write a lawyer's number on your arm. If you are a community organizer, you may have a lawyer you know already, use their number. If you are unsure, use mine, 647-496-1595.
Charge your phone and turn off data/location services. If you are unsure, google has plenty of tips. Learn how to open up your video/camera with one button (most phones have this option). Bring an extra battery/charger.
Learn how to make an emergency phone call with your contacts to call a family/friend to alert them.
Bring a water bottle with water and protein bar/apple/light food only. You may not be able to use public washrooms during COVID-19. Consume lightly.
Layer your clothes. Avoid shorts/skirts/tee-shirts/tanks if possible.
Avoid resisting arrest.
If an officer tries to talk to you, ask them for their name/card. If they do not give it to you, try to locate their name/badge yourself and remember it or write it down if you are able to after they question/talk to you. If they arrest you, you may be able to access that information later.
Remain peaceful. See above discussion about mask coverings and rioting. Officers may instigate you or begin to challenge you through questioning. You can choose to answer questions (#HarmReduction) but avoid feeding back into the instigation. Let any officer know that you are practicing social distancing if you choose to back away or avoid close contact. Avoid running/quick actions that may cause officers to react quickly in return.
Tips From A Previous Post
What if you have to go out?
Only go out if necessary.
Bring proper ID (or mail? or a prescription? — try to bring something with your name on it).
Practice physical distancing (i.e. 2 meters or 6 feet distancing from others).
Tip: Try to gauge what 2m/6ft looks like to you. You can use your arms/legs stretched out if possible or use other physical markers that are known to you (two lengths of a cane?).
So what should you do if you are stopped?
Provide ID upon request. The emergency order providing officers with the authority to demand ID during #COVID19 says that correct ID must be provided promptly, or risk being fined.
Ask the officer for their name/card & reasons.
Only ask the officer for their name/card & reasons if you feel it is safe to do so. Safe meaning safe from your perspective (#HarmReduction).
Take notes immediately after to document the incident from your own perspective including how you felt and how the officer responded. Documenting an event may include telling a friend or family member (or someone you feel safe telling).