JEF EUROPE: STAYING SAFE WHEN CAMPAIGNING OUTDOORS
The purpose of this document is to provide advice for various situations where you come across a person who doesn’t agree with you, or where otherwise you need to take care of your security when doing campaigning. Whether you are doing an outdoor stall, doing door-to-door canvassing, or otherwise campaigning outside, remember to keep safe!
If you have comments or additions to this document, don’t hesitate to contact Céline Geissmann (firstname.lastname@example.org) from the JEF EB, or Juuso Järviniemi or Maija Maunu (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) from the European elections Task Force!
Get the basics straight
No matter what kind of an activity you are doing, you should ensure the following for your comfort and safety:
- Bring warm enough clothing. If it’s 8 degrees and windy, two hours outside can feel surprisingly long!
- Don’t forget to bring something to drink!
- Ensure a safe place for storing your valuables at all times. If you don’t have pockets, and you need to leave your wallet in a bag somewhere, that might kill your campaigning spirit!
- Avoid being alone. No matter what you’re doing, always try to be in pairs at least!
- Always have a phone at your disposal in case you need to call someone. Whenever you go out together, ensure that you have each other’s phone numbers!
- It’s a good idea to bring a power bank to reduce the risk of your phone battery running out!
Meeting people who (strongly) disagree
Whoever has done outdoor campaigning with European flags showing knows the feeling when a Eurosceptic comes to make a rant. In the vast majority of situations, there is no danger involved, but it’s best to know tips and tricks to ensure it remains that way!
First of all, make a judgement as to how long you want to hold conversation. Especially by presenting perspectives that the person hasn’t heard before, in the best case you may plant a new pro-European seed in the person’s thinking! On the other hand, sometimes a discussion with a person who disagrees can be nice practice for debating skills. However, there are situations where the conversation starts feeling pointless or, worse, uncomfortable.
Here are some ways to wind up a conversation:
- If you want to end the discussion, thank the person and e.g. invite them to visit the JEF website for more info
- If the person keeps going, you can also say that you’re going to pick up a conversation with another person now
Here are some ways to ensure you’re in a safe position, even if someone gets shouty:
- If you’re at a street stall, you often have the table between you two
- Keep calm, avoid escalating the situation
- Ensure that another JEFer who is with you sees the situation and can jump in to give support if needed
When you go door-to-door, you have the advantage of getting a chance to talk with people in an environment they are familiar with. Some people are more comfortable having a chat with a stranger at their door than they would be on a busy street.
Before you go canvassing, check the rules and regulations: is it allowed in your area?
However, there are some things to consider to ensure that this is also a pleasant experience for you!
- Again, go in groups of two or three, and ensure that you can call each other if needed. This is particularly important if you all aren’t together at the same time (see below). In general, look at the “Basics” part above!
- Agree on a route so that none of you gets lost. It’s best to draw it on a map (either phone or print-out), and give everyone a copy of the map.
- Some people like to go to each door in pairs, while others prefer to have one-on-one conversations.
- If you do one-on-one conversations, ensure you always know where the other person is. A nice way to do this is to bring one empty plastic bottle, with some gravel inside, with you: when you go to a door, leave the bottle in the driveway of the house. When you come back, your partner will have picked up the bottle – walk along your route until you see the bottle, and that’s how you’ll know where your partner is. Pick up the bottle and go to the next new door.
- When you ring a doorbell, ensure a pleasant atmosphere by introducing yourself, and asking a nice question like ‘have you heard people talk about the European elections’.
- If someone asks you to come inside for a glass of water, biscuits or similar, exercise your judgement. In the great majority of cases, it’s probably a well-meaning, friendly person – however, if the situation feels shady, you can say no. Of course, remember that you ideally want to talk with as many people as possible during your door-to-door session!
- Don’t enter a tower block without your partner coming with you. Even if you do one-on-one conversations at doors, you should both be inside the same building together.
- Avoid ending up in a situation where the route away from the place is blocked by the other person (‘back-against-the-wall’ situation).