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article imageOp-Ed: Occupy Atlanta And Protest Planning

By Jacki Viles     Oct 27, 2011 in Politics
Atlanta - City of Atlanta Police reclaimed Woodruff Park last night after Mayor Reed revoked the order to allow the Occupy Atlanta kids to stay in Woodruff Park through November 7th.
Over 50 people were arrested after the police reclaimed the park by putting up barricades. Most of the crowd dispersed. Sadly, a few die hards hung out walking around the park outside the barricades chanting, “Who’s Park? Our Park!” to an audience of no one.
Today was a new day. The arrested protesters were released on a signature bond. Many met up with their evicted playmates in Centennial Olympic Park. Many hung out outside of a homeless shelter on Peachtree Street.
It’s not known what their next steps will be. It’s sad to see the violence erupt and people clashing with police at all these movements. It’s needless.
Atlanta Police at Woodruff Park
Atlanta Police at Woodruff Park
As a project manager, I watch and wince at the Occupiers missteps. It is easy to armchair quarterback others. Especially the 99% that don’t know what they’re doing. I jotted down a few notes I would like to share. Perhaps it will help the next group.
Pre Protest Preparation
This is a lot of work. You should allow 2 months lead time. You can shorten that time considerably if you have very resourceful and reliable contacts. To do this properly, planning is key. If you have only one issue you are way ahead of the game. Each issue needs to be vetted out properly. You must do the legwork. Research is key. Make sure you have all the facts. It is easier to limit your protests to two or three cohesive causes. Any more than that and your message will become unmanageable.
Get your team together
Call them what you want. Your Management Team, Your Cabinet, Your Band of Merry Men. Whatever. But you need the following members:
Public Relations/ Media
Content Manager
IT Manager
Finance Manager
Operations Manager
This member will be responsible for the pre-protest planning. Compiling articles, laws, facts and anything else to substantiate each issue. It helps to be sure that you have a valid argument before you try to get the masses to follow you.
Vet out the legalities in the jurisdiction of your protest venue. Make sure you have the proper forms and capital to pay for permits and whatnot before you get started.
Be sure you are clear about time and space. You need to gauge the length of time you will be engaged. Be it a few hours or a few days be sure you have enough supplies.
Estimate the crowds on an ongoing basis.
Locate the proper information to open pay pal accounts and get the lowdown on the limits of liabilities,
Public Relations/ Media
With research in hand, prepare your message.
Prepare your talking points. Be crystal clear and own your message. Print up flyers to be sure that the message is standardized and easy to understand. Find someone who will donate the flyers. Paper and printing can be expensive.
Create Press Releases before and after an event. If things escalate-more often, as needed.
Have the local media phone numbers on speed dial.
Prepare content ready material for the website and Facebook.
Find someone who looks credible and honest and photogenic for your cause. Make sure they have a quality speaking voice and commands authority.
Content Manager
Here’s the person who will standardize the message. Nothing is said and nothing is uploaded without final approval from the Content Manager.
This person is the keeper of the agenda. He will need to be in charge of the speakers, aka, ‘honored guests’. He will invite those that support your message and interview them in advance to guarantee the message remains focused and standard.
He can also allow the public to speak. But it cannot be random. You need to control your brand.
The crowd must remain engaged and sympathetic. And they must stick around. Entertainment is key here. Keep it moving.
IT Manager
This guy will get you the fast hook up for a domain name, set up a few email addresses for your staff and create social media presence on Facebook and Twitter.
Get a Google Voice number and use that as your main contact number so that the press and others can leave a message.
This guy will need to find a flunky to help him ‘watch the store’.
Optimally he/she will also have access to a mobile wi fi / broadband card. He/She will also scope out places where he can keep power supplies charged and ready for a few laptops.
Ultimately this member should also have a locking gang box that can be secured to a fixed object to secure electronic devices.
Finance Manager
This is the guy that will help set up the fund raising efforts. Months before your event start raising funds. Do you have a few benefactors out there who will put their money where their mouth is?
Get a paypal account, manage and secure cash donations, write receipts, etc. This guy will also need a flunky to do his bidding.
A plan needs to be derived to handle cash. Someone needs to hold the cash and secure it. The maximum amount of cash on hand needs to be established and cash counts with more than 1 person present must be done on a regular basis in a safe location and secured so that no one is holding large amounts at any time.
Operations Manager
This person functions as the facilities representative, the head of the security team and a jack of all trades who thinks quickly on their feet. This guy will find the flunkies who want to volunteer to passively secure the area to keep the environment safe. He needs to find people with good heads on their shoulders because you never know what the public is capable of.
Make sure that no one on your management team has been arrested for a felony. The press will eat it up. It just takes away from the message and kills what credibility you may gain.
Protesters Occupy Atlanta
Protesters Occupy Atlanta
The pre protest planning should include a walk through of the venue and the surrounding area. Draw a map of the area. Note the locations of public restrooms.
Flyers should be handed out to the local restaurants and retailers in advance. If run properly – this could be a good sales event for them. They may appreciate the crowds and prepare accordingly.
Meet and greet the local law enforcement. Know who the public relations people are. Better to know them before the event than behind bars afterwards.
The Ops Manager will be sourcing a lot of supplies and a lot of favors. If you have a commitment for what you need- get more! Things fall through at the last minute and you cannot afford to be short.
Manpower and Material Sourcing
If you have access to empty warehouse space or office space close to your venue, try to negotiate a reasonable price (free) for a very short term lease.
Try to get donations of bottled water and ice. Anything that you can get donated keeps your costs low. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Source a bull horn or two- or as many as you think you need.
If you’re going for a grass roots effect- be sure to have your message displayed with easy to read signage. Keep it neat. Spelling counts! Make sure you have enough signs so that people will be able to represent your cause and not their own. Remember to get approval from your Content Manager!
A middle of the road sound system is something that shouldn’t be too difficult to get your hands on.
If the venue allows for power and a generator- see which one of your friends can get their hands on one.
You’ll need a makeshift stage if there isn’t an appropriate place on high ground to keep your speakers above the masses who will be hanging on your every word.
Next time, perhaps we will discuss the art of negotiations and demands. It's easy to complain. But in the real world complaining is whining. Issues should open the door to solutions. It is difficult to start a protest and keep it going ad infinitum. There is always an end. Happy endings are better than tears.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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