What Does it Mean to


At first glance, “protect” may not sound like much. It might seem patronizing or mundane–a parent holding the hand of a child. Perhaps it calls up unfortunate images of police (”protect and serve”?) or the Mob (”buy some protection and keep your kneecaps healthy…). Or even disguised oppression: “don’t worry your pretty little head–I’ll protect you.”

But consider this: activists, the worldwide group of first responders in the face of injustice at all levels, of fighters for a just, safe, compassionate world for all its beings, face a daunting set of occupational hazards: verbal and physical attack, firing, shunning, jail, disappearance, eviction, repression, murder. Plus less visible but no less dangerous risks: burnout, isolation, poor health, stereotyping, surveillance. And more.

I think of protection as the array of actions from soft embrace to hard-edged defense that families, friends, communities, colleagues and comrades deploy to ensure the safety and survival of their beloveds. Protection encompasses countless actions and attitudes, large and small, baked into our days, often without our awareness, that we take simply as part of being connected to our people. Again, without necessarily noting it, we evolve the kinds of protection we provide and exchange as needs and vulnerabilities change—e.g., as a baby becomes a toddler, an elder becomes more frail, a comrade becomes more visible and hence more vulnerable to attack.

Protection might be thought of as the bottom line of love. Love in activist culture can be complex, but protection is straightforward. No matter our differences and debates, it is pretty simple to see the need to keep fellow activists safe as they  face all kinds of risks and dangers to make the world better.

We have a lot of experience to share in our community regarding how we protect ourselves and one another as we do our activist work. Exploring this experience can help us become better protectors of our community, culture and activist FRCCs, so they can continue and grow their indispensable work for the protection and survival of our planet.

Many differences, details and nuances arise as you delve into what protect means, as can be seen in the surprisingly long and still growing list below of meanings associated with the term “protect.” Meriting, I hope you agree, further scrutiny.

On the other side, The Beast and its minions are all about protecting themselves and their unjust, cruel and irrational system. Weapons of all kinds, military bases, walls, police, armies, vehicles, ordinance, death dealing vehicles on land, sea and air, enormous installations worldwide, equipment, infrastructure, communications.

Offices, buildings, bureaucrats, receptionists, administrators, laws, rules, legislators, resources, institutions, hierarchies, customs. Surveillance, infiltration, tracking. Alarms, cameras, tracking. And much more.

Plus media and cultural armor of all kinds: entertainment, inventions, evasions, stories, myths, stereotypes, clichés, and lies to cover up, excuse, justify and beautify colonization, exploitation, oppression, repression, massacre, genocide.

Fear, intimidation, division, deceit, ostracism, cooptation, corruption, secrecy.

They have the strongest protection money can buy. They will go to any lengths, any lengths, to protect their power and privilege. This terrible reality, which we all wish were not so, is  impossible to exaggerate: we must expect the Beast and its upholders  to stop nothing: geneocide, planetary destruction, nuclear anhilation.

How can we protect ourselves and fight against against all that??

Sorry, no ready-made answers here! That’s why we’re on a Quest to find out.

Yes, to see how activists are protecting our own…

…or not…

…and how we can do better.

Okay, let’s start with what we mean by “protect.”

PROTECT means....

Keep safe
Keep secure
Look after
Care for
Watch over
Stick up for
Provide cover for
Give sanctuary to
Take under your wing
Stand guard over
Hold on to
Remain with
Stand by

First 20 or so synonyms in this list are from Free Thesaurus. The rest collected as they came to mind.

Stand shoulder to shoulder with
Stand up for
Stand in solidarity with
Look out for
Keep in mind
Prevent danger to
Intervene during attacks on
Intervene on behalf of
Ward off danger to
Encourage safe behavior in
Prevent unsafe behavior of
Prevent unsafe behavior toward
Prevent  disrespect and cruelty toward
Welcome into one’s community
En-courage (imbue with courage)
Interrupt colonizer and/or colonized behavior of
Encourage protective behavior and thinking in
Hold in the light
Think good thoughts about
ask questions on behalf of (as in, why is putting people who work against injustice in jail a good idea? (or something along those lines)


Counterattack attackers of
Hold in the light
Connect with
Prevent forgetting of
Think about
See for who they are
Represent accurately
Depict fully and fairly
See as equals
Refrain from judging
Allow to be free
Fully value
Love = default setting in attitude toward
Go to bat for
Pull out of the path of danger
Prop up in times of weakness
Treat with grace, forbearance, kindness, compassion, forgiveness,
Stand behind and look seriously intimidating when threats come at

Help Protect Our Activists by Participating in

Contribute to our understanding of protecting activists and its role in our culture by sharing…

Share a story about protecting activists

Please: no names or identifying details in your stories!

Examples here.

…your meaning(s) of “protect,” to add to our list.

…a story (experience you are directly familiar with) showing the need to protect activists.

Share any reflections about protecting activists that come to mind.


…an example of successful protection of activists.

…an example of protection that was absent, incomplete or failed.