ORGANIZE AN EVENT
Looking to organize a protest or action event at Princeton? We’ve created this non-exhaustive guide to organizing at Princeton for activists on campus.
Even if you have the broadest of ideas (ie. Princeton’s slow movement on just about every social issue) or the most specific (ie. reforming the election process for Princeton’s Young Alumni Trustees), your message is what will draw people to your event. Spend time ahead of your event making sure everyone on your team, including any guest speakers or artists, is on the same page about the event’s message.
See previous Divest Princeton events here.
Who are your allies? Having co-sponsors on your events grants them more credibility and guarantees that you have a base level of attendees from partner organizations. Establish these connections early, and work with your co-sponsors throughout the process.
Who are the primary organizers for the event? Identify at least 2 point-people in your group who can answer questions from the public or who are primarily responsible for the event.
Who are the supporting organizers for the event? Identify everyone else actively involved with the event. Who is going to make promotional material? Who is going to spread info, coordinate emails, and put up posters?
Who can you reach out to to promote the event? Look to your friends in high places to help get your message out. Don’t be afraid to ask for support — the more you ask, the more likely you are to get at least one response.
There are a few steps you can take at Princeton to ensure that the focus of your event is on your message, and not the fact that you’re organizing a protest. If you plan to run your event on campus, reach out to Dean Jarrett Fisher (Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students, firstname.lastname@example.org) and let him know about the details of your event. He may provide additional resources or warn you of anything you should be aware of (ie. if you’re planning to stake a sign into the ground, he can tell you where there is electrical wiring so that you don’t accidentally get hurt.) He may also let you know of any dates to avoid (ie. if construction could potentially make organizing in a certain area dangerous.)
Consider the weather. We’re in New Jersey, so rain is always an option. Be prepared to get rained on at any point.
Also be aware of noise levels. If you plan to use amplified sound, you may need to get a noise permit. Be aware that amplified noise isn’t allowed before 5 p.m. on academic days.
Know your outs. If you need to quickly disband, know the easiest routes into and out of your location. Additionally, your organizing team should be familiar with local EMS options in the case of an emergency.
When organizing speakers and artists, ensure that their topics are well aligned with the message of the protest so that the entire event is coherent and doesn’t get confused at any point. You should also reach out to local news outlets ahead of the event (The Daily Princetonian, Planet Princeton, Town Topics, Princeton Alumni Weekly) so that they have advance notice and can send someone to cover the event at their discretion.
Coordinate between your organizing team who will be responsible for talking to reporters and the press, who will be doing crowd control, who is in contact with the university, who is coordinating speakers and scheduling, and any other necessary day-of tasks.
Think about the physical materials you need to run your protest, and the things you’d like people to bring with them day-of. If you want attendees to bring posters, be sure to give them advanced notice. We suggest hosting a poster making session a few days in advance so that everyone has the chance to make something. We typically gather cardboard from around campus, or put out calls on social media for people to donate their cardboard boxes to us.
If you have banners, stickers, or other materials, be sure that one of your team members has taken care of this.
Promotion is an extremely important aspect of the organizing process. Once you have a clear message and confirmed your location/date/co-sponsors, you should begin making social media posts and posters. Announcing the date 1.5-2 weeks in advance tends to be the sweet spot where it’s enough advance notice, but also not early enough that people will forget about it.
Promotional material should clearly state your message, the time and date of the event, and who is organizing the event. Be sure to include the logos/names of any co-sponsors.
Creating and spreading a Facebook event is also helpful in getting the message out about the event. This may also help you get a rough estimate of how many attendees you will have.
Just as important as the set-up is the take-down. Take some time immediately after the event to check in with yourself and your fellow organizers: how did it go? What went well, and what didn’t go as planned? What did you learn, and what will you do differently next time?
Also take some time at your meeting immediately following the event to debrief with your entire group. Talk about the strides forward you made, where you’re headed next, and what you learned during the process.
Be sure to congratulate yourselves! Organizing for systemic change, no matter how large or small, is difficult work. Keep fighting the good fight — someday, we’ll all look back and be glad you did.