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Protest Sign Etiquette: Dos and Don’ts Of The Resistance

By Amanda Nowotny | Feb 28, 2017

In this day and age, protesting is just a way of life for any concerned citizen. But with your outrage being pulled in so many different directions, it can be easy to neglect the bounds of accepted demonstration conventions. As you battle for the soul of our nation, don’t forget to follow the proper signage guidelines.

DO give your fellow demonstrators some room

Be considerate of others’ personal space. These marches can be crowded and hectic, but you’re all on the same side. Everyone deserves to be heard, so mind your positioning– blocking someone else’s sign with your own is a major faux pas.

DON’T be too wordy

Aim for a 10-word limit, and save the lengthy MLK quotes for your thoughtful Facebook missives. No matter how painstakingly crafted your message, no one can read a poster that you had to print in a 12-point font.

DO balance outrage with actionable demands

Your anger is justifiable/your snark is hilarious. While venting your frustrations feels great, change comes from calling on our elected officials to act on the will of the people. Sooner or later, someone has to address the outcry against defunding Planned Parenthood, but there’s not much anyone can do about Trump’s tiny Twitter thumbs.

DON’T poach other activists’ ideas

Plagiarism is no less acceptable when it’s for a noble cause. Besides, the protest movement is highly visible and thrives on originality. If you thought the “There’s No Place Like Homo” sign from the LGBT solidarity march in Miami was clever, chances are the rest of the internet did, too.

DO use irony wisely

Know your audience. This is the administration that believes a woman who has never attended or worked in a public school is perfectly qualified to run the American education system, so irony is clearly lost on these people. If you want your message to be truly understood, you might have to say what you mean. That said, wordplay, rhymes, puns and clever insults for everyone else’s amusement are all strongly appreciated.

DON’T use the same sign twice in a row

Would you wear the same dress to two weddings back-to-back? No matter how proud you are of your “Impeach President Putin” sign, it’s been done. It’s going to be a long four years, so keep things as fresh as possible.

DO use eco-friendly materials

Whenever possible, stick to water-based markers and recycled poster board. Scott Pruitt is going to wreak enough havoc on the environment without your help.

DO go easy on the glitter

A tasteful accent here and there is fun and perfectly acceptable. A blinding, indiscriminately spangled mess that looks like an accident in a craft store aisle is annoying. As anyone who’s ever helped with a first-grade art project will tell you, glitter gets everywhere and never goes away. Your fellow protestors want to remember you for your strong ideals, not by the sparkly flecks still clinging to their pussy hats eight months from now.

DON’T mix up your marches

The women’s rights march was yesterday; health care is next week; today is pro-immigration. Keep track, or be awfully embarrassed when you’re the only one with an “Equal Pay for Equal Work” sign amidst a sea of “Refugees Welcome.” However…

DO feel free to kill two birds with one stone

Metaphorically, of course. Actually killing birds would be terribly off-message for the rally to protect the Endangered Species Act. But if your demonstration dance card is so full that you’re genuinely worried about forgetting what you’re supposed to protest today, don’t hesitate to create a multipurpose poster that allows you to fit in no matter what. “Make America Think Again” could work for just about any cause. Likewise, “Put a Fence Around Mike Pence” can show support for immigrants or the LGBT community. Or simply anyone who’s offended by him… which is all of us, really.


Amanda Nowotny (@PrincessSnarkle) is a comedy writer and professional nerd residing in western Pennsylvania.

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