Step-By-Step Protesting Guide
The Circus is Coming to Town! Time to do your research.
Ideally, research circuses before they start advertising to find out which ones appear in your region on an annual basis. Generally the schedules stay similar from year-to-year. The earlier you can start organizing, the more successful your protest will be. Did you notice circus advertising in your local store or on TV or radio? Then it is definitely time to get started!
Once you have identified a circus heading to your area, do additional research. You can investigate circus violations of many circuses by visiting our violations page. In addition, use search engines to find out if the circus has ever had a specific incident occur in your area.
Then research local laws on protesting by contacting the city attorney and law enforcement to make sure a permit is not needed. Always be polite and state that your protest will be peaceful and educational. Maintaining a good relationship with local police and officials will ensure that your protest is a successful one and safe for all involved. On occasion, some police officers are not up-to-speed on exactly where you can legally protest at a venue. By talking to them ahead of time you can plan out your protest more effectively and not leave anything to chance. Be sure to always get the names of the officials you spoke to and carry that information to your protest.
Build Your Team.
One of the fastest ways to gain an active group of protesters is to create your own local Facebook group dedicated to protesting circuses that use animals. Keep the Facebook page dedicated solely to circus protesting and related topics only. Actively network your page to likeminded individuals or pay Facebook to “promote” it to targeted groups of individuals.
Tips on using Facebook:
• Avoid posting more than once-per-day, if possible. But post regularly or your page will be de-prioritized by Facebook and your posts will not appear in your supporters' newsfeeds.
• While the plight of circus animals is grim, remember not to focus solely on those aspects. Keep your posts varied and be sure to include information on positive progress that has been made for circus animals.
• Keep your posts brief and to-the-point. Never more than 350 characters.
• Ask people to share your posts.
• When possible, integrate an image with your comment. This increases the likelihood of visibility and sharing.
• Remember to occasionally point your followers to other initiatives you may start for your group like a webpage, email sign-up sheets, and fundraising opportunities.
• Don't engage with people who do not like your group and post negative comments, even if some people try to bait you into arguing. While you can choose to allow public debate on your page, you may also choose to use the delete and “block user” functions of the site.
By using these strategies you can keep your group’s Facebook page professional, active, and engaging.
Twitter is another way to source and reach your volunteers. Utilize means for connecting your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that your posts on Twitter also appear on Facebook and vice versa.
An additional way to build your team is to connect with existing animal rights or vegetarian groups in your area. These groups may be familiar with local resources that could lead to donations of time, money, or volunteer hours. If you have trouble finding likeminded people, contact any local businesses or groups you think might possibly be aligned with the ideals of animal advocacy and ask for their advice. Also try wildlife rescue organizations, health food stores, dog and cat rescue groups, and search Facebook and Meetup pages.
Create your Event Page
Communication about protests generally takes place through Facebook event pages. You can create one through your Facebook circus protest group page, your personal page, or we can create one for you through the Circus Protest Facebook page. We recommend creating only one event page for all protests you plan to hold against that circus. That way, you can maintain communication with everyone interested in protesting.
Create your page as soon as you are comfortable and can assure your protest will go forward.
Again, do not over-post on your event page. If you do, your participants may turn off the "notifications" and then may not receive important information related to your event.
Find other people to help you manage the event page. Be on the look-out for "trolls" or those who simply join the event or comment on posts on your event with the sole intent to annoy. Delete that activity as soon as possible.
Put all relevant information related to your protest in the main event listing, but do post photos of your protest, important updates, and the latest news right on your event wall.
These strategies will help you create community amongst your protesters and keep every up-to-date.
Several weeks prior to your protest date, gather your materials. You will need posters, leaflets (if you are able to get close to circus-goers), and a means for transporting your materials to the protest site. You may also want to bring snacks or water for your protesters, a sign-up sheet to capture emails of those wanting to protest in the future, a pop-up tent and table to create a "home base" for your protest (if space allows), and any items needed to accommodate for the weather.
We believe in the power of effective, clear messaging on your posters and maintaining a professional appearance. For that reason we have created a series of posters available to you for free download. We are also willing to supply some materials free-of-charge to those protests that work closely with us in organizing their demonstrations. Contact us for more information.
Remember to mount your posters so that they are sturdy, and if possible prepare them for any inclement weather. We recommend using 24x36 posters if possible to ensure that they are easily seen by circus-goers. All posters available at our resources page are designed at 24x36 and our preferred method of mounting the posters is to use spray adhesive on foam core board. This, however, is not the most cost-effective means of mounting your posters; though it does ensure you will be able to use them year-to-year.
If you choose to make your own posters, be sure to use clear, large lettering, with messaging not designed to offend. Remember that you are seeking to educate, not shame. You might also consider this point if using the material provided by other nonprofit organizations. Think carefully about how a certain organization's name or message might resonate within your community. Remember, spreading awareness about the plight of animals confined to the circus should be your aim NOT using a protest as a means for expressing your own anger about the animals' unfortunate situation.
Poster making parties can be a great way to interact with your protesters and "make sure everyone is on the same team" before the day of your event.
Prior to your protest, be sure to send letters to the editor of your local newspapers to attempt to get the message out about circus cruelty. Keep letters short and to the point.
You can also try to make appearances on local TV or radio programs.
The week of your protest, send out a press release to alert the media to your protest. We provide a sample press release here, however we are also happy to assist you in developing one specific to your community. Email us for assistance.
Many news stations get media advertising dollars from the circus so they might not be eager to have your view aired. For that reason, contact as many local stations as you can. For example, if the FOX station is sponsoring the circus, maybe the local CBS station will be interested in your protest because they will have an exclusive story. Send your press release to all the local newspapers and radio stations as well. What you are doing is news! Let the media know. You can find the means for submitting press releases by visiting the webpages of your local media sources. Submit according to their guidelines.
Prior to your protest, develop a list of talking points. Your talking points will help you stay focused on the information you would like to share with the public. For assistance with talking points, email us. When speaking to the media stay calm, professional, and on point and avoid being taken off-topic. In the event that a reporter asks you a question unrelated to circus animal treatment, find a way to simply return to your established talking points. Remember that at all times you are speaking for and advocating for the animals.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking to the media, designate someone else in your group to speak. We are also happy to be of assistance for interviews by phone. Contact us for more information.
Today's the Day!
• Arrive at your protest site an hour before your scheduled protest time. We recommend setting your protest to start an hour to an hour and a half prior to the start of the circus.
• When protesters arrive, be sure to remind them of the "rules" and that the the event is intended to be peaceful and educational. Even one overly aggressive protester can shut your protest down, so get to know personalities in advance. Some people may be enthusiastic to help, but their anger or overexcitement may get out of line and hurt your cause. Do not yell, chant, or be confrontational in any way. If your group is passive it is much easier for people to approach you and ask for information.
• Dress conservatively. A protest is not an appropriate place to "be yourself" and proudly exhibit your trendy style or fashion sense. Look and behave as mainstream as possible. It can be upsetting for people who embrace freedom of expression in their clothing and style choices, however to get our message across for the animals it is important for people to see the message and not be distracted. You want them to read the sign you're holding, not be dissuaded by you look and discard your message as illegitimate.
• Explain to your protesters that it is important to keep conversation amongst themselves to a minimum. Occasionally a visitor may stop and consider the poster, and at that time it would be appropriate to engage them in conversation. The opportunities for conversation will not happen if protesters are busy chatting with each other. Standing near one another and offering words of support can be helpful, however constant conversation and especially loud story-telling and laughing needs to be saved for after the protest is over.
• Be sure your protesters are organized to gain maximum exposure. Make sure signs are held up high and that you don't have too many of the same sign in one area. Protesters will want to cluster together to talk or feel safer; encourage them to spread out and cover a large area. Pairs of two work well.
• Separate your leafleters from the protesters holding signs so that they are more approachable. When circus-goers are coming from the parking lot, they often will assume that you may be promoting the circus and take the leaflet thinking that it is a coupon or guide. A useful phrase is, "Here is some information about the circus."
• Set up an information table if possible. It is ideal to have a centralized location from which you can run your protest and individuals can pick up information. Protesters can point people who are interested in learning more to the table where they can take extra materials and talk to an organizer at length.
• Be sure to thank all of your protesters for attending! And it is always nice to take a group photo of your protest when it is over to document your accomplishment and to share later with the group.
Celebrate Your Success!
The experience of participating in a protest can be an emotional one—your protesters may find themselves suddenly facing feelings of anger, sadness, overstimulation or anxiety. Be there for each other. The reward for this noble act of peaceful protesting far exceeds the emotional cost.
When traveling wild animal acts are no longer permitted in the United States, you can proudly know that you played a part in making that happen and that you made a profound difference in the world on behalf of beings who had no voice of their own. Celebrate every volunteer, every contribution to your demonstration, and every protest.