Be prepared + know your rights: your guide to protesting with diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Lala Jackson

Editor’s Note: It is an extremely personal decision to protest, and Beyond Type 1 neither endorses nor opposes any person living with diabetes’ participation. This guide is to help those who choose to protest do so as safely as possible.

Protesting is one of many ways to create change and is a right of all Americans under the First Amendment. But if you have diabetes, there are extra things to consider, particularly amidst COVID-19.

Having diabetes – Type 1 or Type 2 – presents challenges in daily life already; adding a challenging environment with risk of exposure to a virus makes things more complicated. Because of that, you may choose to lend your voice to the things you care about from home, which is also impactful.

However, if you are heading out to protest, here’s what you need to know.

Be Prepared

Step 1: Make sure you are healthy enough and prepared to participate. Consider the state of your health over the last few days and weeks. The best circumstances under which to attend a protest are when your blood sugars have been stable, you have been eating hearty and nutritious meals, you are well-hydrated, your immune system is strong, and your mental health is fortified.

Step 2: Pack a bag. In addition to the standard items suggested for all protesters, like extra masks/face coverings, cash, your health insurance card, permanent markers, water, and snacks, there are extra things to consider if you have diabetes. Remember that you may get stuck away from home for a longer period of time than planned.

  • Double down on water. While heavy, staying hydrated can keep your blood sugar levels more manageable and can prevent other health issues. When volunteers or street medics offer more water, accept their offer.
  • Bring a variety of snacks, with a combination of carbohydrates and protein, and glucagon (nasal or injectable kit). It is helpful to have both fast-acting glucose, like glucose tabs or gels, to raise your blood sugar quickly if you experience a low, as well as more substantial snacks to consume periodically to keep your blood sugar stable. Ensure that the people you’re going with know how to use glucagon, including what personal signs of a low blood sugar you experience that they can look out for.
  • Pack extra blood sugar monitoring supplies. Even if you have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), it is possible for your sensor to fail or become inaccurate due to heat causing your adhesive to loosen or jostling from being in a crowd. With either your CGM or glucose monitor, make sure you are checking your levels often. If you have a closed-loop system and can utilize an ‘exercise’ setting to keep your blood sugar levels slightly higher (typically around 160 mg/dL), do so.
  • Include a back-up insulin delivery method. If you wear an insulin pump, bring insulin pens (with extra pen needles) or vials and syringes. If you utilize injections, make sure you have more supplies than you typically need. Consider packing in a small cooler system/insulated bag to keep your insulin cool.
  • Write down your medical information on index cards kept in the outer pocket of your bag. This should include your medical background information (all medical issues you live with), your medications, and the contact information for your healthcare provider and emergency contact.
  • We are still living in a pandemic, so pack extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. If you accept water or snacks from volunteers, ensure you sanitize surfaces, like the opening of a water bottle. COVID-19 is challenging, but made more challenging by diabetes management. Minimize your risks to stay safe.

Step 3: Wear protective articles of clothing + a medical alert item. Wear a mask or face covering, long pants, comfortable closed-toed shoes, a long sleeve shirt, a hat and/or sunglasses, plus a medical alert item, like a bracelet or necklace.

  • If you do not have a medical alert item, write your alerts on your arm using permanent marker. This could something like “insulin-dependent, type 1 diabetes.” Your alerts should be as clear as possible, helping a person completely unfamiliar with diabetes be more aware of your health background.
  • Protective clothing – long sleeves, sunglasses, hat, etc. – shields you from the sun, and will also provide a barrier for your skin in case tear gas is deployed. A primary component of tear gas is capsaicin, a chemical compound derived from chili peppers. As tear gas (made from fine particles) is absorbed by your skin, it can produce extensive amounts of inflammation. This can lead to health issues in anyone, but can lead to issues with blood sugar, extra pain response, and dehydration for people with diabetes.

Step 4: Have a buddy and communicate. No one should go to a protest alone if possible, but particularly no one with an underlying health condition. Ensure you attend a protest with someone you trust, who knows you have diabetes, and can help look out for the signs of low or high blood sugar. Ask them to remind you to drink water and eat. Create a plan for where and when to meet if you get separated. Be clear about your limits and make sure you are in agreement about your boundaries. For example, if you are attending with someone who is willing to be arrested and you are not, you will no longer have your buddy system intact, which could lead to a safety issue.

Step 5: Take care of yourself when you get home. Chances are you just walked a long distance and tensions were high. Hydrate and eat once you get back home or to a safe place. Your blood sugar may drop or rise in unexpected ways due to stress and exertion. Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels as much as possible. If you have a CGM with follow capabilities, ask a friend or family member to make sure their alerts are loud, particularly while you sleep.

Know Your Rights

Attending a protest carries the risk of being detained or arrested. Because of this, ensure you know your rights before you attend. Be aware that while everyone in the US has the same rights theoretically, being undocumented, a person of color, or belonging to any marginalized group – including living with diabetes – alters how you may need to approach interactions with members of law enforcement.

The following is summarized from the American Diabetes Association’s Inappropriate Law Enforcement Response to Individuals with Diabetes.

  1. If you get arrested, clearly and calmly state to the police officer that you have diabetes. If you are concerned about or nearing a medical episode – such as a low or high blood sugar event – while detained, communicate the circumstances to the officer. By law, if an officer has visible cues (such as clear signs of a low or high blood sugar) or has been given notice of a person’s medical condition, they must abide by the resulting rights that provides.
  2. You have a right to be able to take care of your health and receive medical assistance if and as needed. The Fourteenth Amendment grants the right of pretrial detainees (anyone who has been detained, arrested, or jailed) to adequate medical care.
  3. Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer is not allowed to search or confiscate your belongings without a warrant or without probable cause. If a police officer believes they have probable cause, they must inform you of what they are searching, as well as what they are seizing. Consensual seizures are not prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, so you must state that you do not consent for your belongings to be seized. This all becomes more murky if the police officer can make a case that a severe crime was being committed, an immediate threat is being posed to the officer or public, or if you are resisting or otherwise evading arrest. Stay calm, be clear, and follow directions as much as possible.

Overall, if you are considering or attending a protest, safety comes first. Be prepared. Be careful. Know your rights.


I mean, really? :neutral_face:


We understand not everyone will want to participate, but it is vital information for those who are considering it. And as our Editor’s note says, we are not endorsing or promoting it.

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And don’t get or spread covid in the process —- as people with diabetes and many of its comorbidities and complications are especially vulnerable

Be prepared for cell service to not work in the area. Our cell towers got shut down to hinder communications. Wireless communications may or may not get blocked. This might happen on purpose or on accident.

As far as diabetes tech functioning at a protest, know that heavy police radio use and media equipment might produce too much interference for bluetooth (Dexcom) or Omnipod’s radio frequency comm to work reliably. I recommend bringing extra supplies in case equipment malfunctions and you need to swap out a pump or a sensor.

In the past, when I have been in similar environments, I have had both my pump and my CGM go down. Sometimes it happens twice in a row. (That is unusual for me, so I believe interference plays a large role in inhibiting diabetic system communications.) If there are efforts to actively block communications, I expect even more communication failures. Blue tooth is a weak signal, compared with police radios. It can get overpowered.

I recommend bringing Manual Injection and an old fashioned meter if your in an area with:

1.) Heavy police presence (multiple agencies working on multiple radio frequencies);
2.) News media broadcasts; and,
3.) Large gatherings of people with lots of cellphones

Or, if there are any warnings they will institute wireless communications blocking of any kind (Note: you may or may not be directly informed about that activity. Things get confused and chaotic and sometimes things happen spontaneously.).

If you experience heavy radio frequency interference resulting in device failure, your best bet is to move to a new geographic location. Note that this may or may not be possible in a chaotic environment. If you were, for instance, arrested, you might be waiting hours to be taken in. So, manual injection will always be your best fallback.

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There are also ways to provide key support to protests if you cannot safely participate in the main event. For example, my partner and I set up a table in an area that many people were walking through en route to the protests, where we were able to step back and maintain distance, with bottles of water, snacks, etc, inviting folks heading to the protest to help themselves. For us, it was a great way to participate/support while not increasing our risk in major ways given our health issues.


No way?!?! Really?
See, I feel like we should already be seeing the spike in cases start here, shouldn’t we? If the 1st day was the 26th of May? Covid is so confusing.

If we want to look for significant increase, this is the data from exactly 14 days after the protests started. 19 statewide deaths today. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Red = Minneapolis (Hennepin county)
Blue = St Paul (Ramsey County)

If we saw an increase, then we would see it in the next few weeks, for sure?

Orange = the turkey factory towns, as a comparison because those have been hot spots.

Yellow = randomly selected counties that should remain relatively unaffected.

Let see what happens…maybe nothing. Maybe sweeping death.


Thus far, it is not clear that the George Floyd protest have exacerbated COVID-19 cases … but, in most states, it is probably too early to know.

Regarding the data in Minnesota, I happen to be downloading data from the COVID tracking project ( and have the ability to plot new COVID-19 cases on a daily basis scaled per 100,000 residents (based on the 2019 census estimates for each county).

Based on that data, I see no big increase in the last couple of weeks and in terms of per-capita new cases Nobles, Stearns, and Kandiyohi seem to have had the biggest number of new, daily per-capita cases. Let me know if I missed a county of interest or included some that you don’t care about. However, thus far, Hennepin and Ramsey show no significant increases …

So, I conclude that from a COVID-19 perspective, turkey processing is more problematic than protests.


Stay safe,


Wow, John!!! Yup, Nobles and Stearns have been National hotspots due to turkeys. No serious ta-do about Kangaroo County, but I know they make turkeys there. Fascinating analysis. I feel like we have to see an increase. It makes no sense. We can check again in a week.

I think that, perhaps, we see cases pop us 20 days from the 3rd, which is the midpoint of the protests. Hospitalizations would probably be better measure. So, perhaps we must wait 2 more weeks.


I will try to repeat this in a week or so. Note: without knowing MN, my guess is that Nobles has a small population … a peak of 400 new cases per day per 100,000 people is a BIG number. I’ve been keeping an eye on the predominantly Native American counties in AZ and NM and at their worst, they have seen peak new per-capita case rates of 100-200 cases per day per 100,000 residents.

Looking at the data for Hennepin and Ramsey county in another week, as you suggest, may be of interest not only to you, but the broader community, to see if there is a correlation between protest activity and follow-on increases in COVID-19 cases.

Of course, the states that have tried to “get back to normal” quickly seem to be already showing increases in their daily case loads … but, for those of us in the higher risk category, looking at all of the factors that result in increased transmission are likely of interest to us as we plan our individual activities.

Stay safe out there!


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Thanks John_S2! I’m not sure if you remember but long ago there was a TV show where one of the main characters would often say, “Just the facts ma’m”

That is exactly what you are giving us. It is informative, interesting and gives us a factual view of infection rates. We can form our own opinions from there I suppose.

Anywho, thank you, it is very much appreciated.

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I have to respectfully disagree.
I feel that posting this in fact encourages it. And it is absolutely promoting it.
Don’t get me wrong, a peaceful protest is a right and should not be taken away.
But this is a political post on a HEALTH forum. I fail to see how this very flimsy excuse to make a post like this can be justified.

I have seen a lot of long time users disappear from the site lately.
I know the frustration with the Covid and what has transpired because of it has been a part of it.

Personally, I will follow suit shortly the way this site is going.
I know I will not be missed around here, but I wanted to make my brief statement as to why I will no longer participate in what was once a very well balanced site that kept itself above sinking into too many off topic and non diabetic discussions.


Even if people do want to protest, I don’t see why anyone would need someone else to tell them to pack enough water and diabetes supplies.

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I dunno. I feel a lot of interest in this event as a diabetic. Partly because our guy looked, to me, like he was having a medical event. But, also partly, because diabetics have had such a successful couple of years in advocacy. I think its helpful to compare and contrast what other advocacy groups do. I like to see what they do and why it is different than what we do. It helps in creative problem solving.

Maybe this accentuates the overlap:

@Hammer, you will be missed. We benefit from contribution from diverse member perspectives. It’s easy to get off topic because there is so much happening in life and everything in life ends up relating to diabetes, lol. But, also for those of us on strict isolation, just even talking to people online helps keep people safe and at home and socializing (which is a huge mental health benefit for people who have a lot of new and varied stressors now). Its always Ok to communicate. People should never tell you that you CANT talk about something. Thats a warning sign of something bad. Things might not be perfect. But, people just gotta get by now. That in itself will be a medical success.

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Posting only promotes the participation. Should not be in a place intended to be regarding diabetes.

This is absolutely relevant, given that it is activity many people are partaking in that has particular risks and safety advice for diabetics. That’s like someone saying we shouldn’t educate people under 21 on how to drink safely with diabetes because it’s against the law and telling them how to do it safely is just encouraging it. Some are going to drink anyway, so probably should give them any info we can about how to do it safely. Over and over in public health, it gets shown that providing people with preventative education tends not to increase the activity—if anything, becoming more aware of the many risks sometimes discourages people.


Everything affects us as diabetics.
But this is purely a political post.

If we take your example to the extreme, and this is NOT ME, you could have a post for gatherings for Black Panthers, White Supremacist, pick your poison.
NONE of which belong on this forum for the health of us diabetics.
Now, that being said, make a post about preparing to be out for a day as a diabetic, with no otherwise useless information, and it would be just fine.

You need to draw a line.

Or create a sub-forum that is off-topic and hash it out there. More specifically make it so you have to OPT-IN to it so the rest of us do not have to see it’s contents.

I disagree.

I’ve wanted to attend the protests but haven’t felt safe because I have diabetes. This means my diabetes is limiting me. I found cardamom’s suggestion of putting a table out of water bottles and snacks and then stepping back to be incredibly helpful and very relevant.

I could say a lot more about the conflation of the Black Lives Matter movement and white supremacy… but I honestly can’t believe it would need to be said at this point. It’s a bit mind boggling.

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I agree on posts to be prepared and how to pack stuff. This is just fine. It is good to have this information out and easily found.

Just leave the political out of it.
I didn’t think it was that difficult?

In a culture where everything has to be PC, except when it something you feel strongly about. I think this is a prime example.

Now, can we just make posts about how to prepare for being out without all the extra baggage?