From the Belli Research Institute
I. The protest marshal wears a neon vest and has a walkie-talkie.
The protest marshal sets themself apart in the protest by wearing a high-visibility vest, making their position look like one of expertise and authority. The intention to be seen is paradoxical: even though they stand out visually, the generic safety vest makes them also look like the invisible worker of any urban environment. The walkie-talkie communicates to the crowd that they are included in a secret loop of information, setting them at a professional distance from the protesters. It appears like they are protesting with you but they are instructed to keep their distance. The protest marshal relies on symbolic markers of legitimacy to aid in the control of the protest.
II. The protest marshal is in constant contact with the organizer.
The protest marshal assumes the position of a protest ‘expert’, whose authority is not supposed to be challenged. The authority of the police can be called into question when it is obvious to everyone that they are acting ‘unjustly’—e.g., when the police tear gas a bunch of ‘peaceful protesters’. The authority of the protest marshal, however, with their aura of activist expertise, is not so obviously repressive. They want protesters to see them as helpful, legitimate, knowledgeable; as experts in dealing with the police and in protest ‘safety’. They use this perceived position to control the protest and maintain the same order that the police keep with their tear gas and guns. The control that the protest marshal wields over the protest stems from the perception that they are a leader of the group, or at least ‘one of us’.
III. The protest marshal wants you to express yourself.
The protest marshal thinks it’s your right to carry the craziest sign, chant the loudest chants, and take the most revolutionary selfies, as long as you follow the unspoken rules of obedience and only express yourself symbolically. The protest marshal has already determined for you how best to demonstrate without causing too much disruption. The protest marshal helps guarantee that expressions of rage have no direct effect on anything and that demonstrations remain non-events. Rather than acknowledging the differences that bring people into the streets and respecting the actions people might choose, they only see the enforced, empty unity espoused by the controlling organizations. Any action that might threaten the actual powers you are demonstrating against will attract the attention of the protest marshal, who is there to step in and stop anything that doesn’t abide by their rules. The protest marshal turns the protest into a parade, a perfect selfie opportunity, in which nothing actually happens.
the guarantor of everyone’s safety
The protest marshal believes must free speech