Can protesters’ signs also be used as protection?
Designer Nikolas Bentel created mirrored protest signs for the Dakota Access Pipeline protests happening around the country. "The signs are specifically designed to prevent police from hurting protests by using a mirror effect," Bentel told Motherboard. This use of reflection is similar to the protest signs in Ukraine where protesters held up mirrors forcing opposing police forces to look at themselves and what they were doing. Similar mirror posters were also used in Ferguson protests.
The mirrored posters contract, focus, and aim light, serving multiple purposes. For starters, whoever's reflected in the sign will be seen within the context of the poster, said Bentel, and what it says. For instance, a police officer approaching a protester will have to grapple with their own reflection up against a slogan such as "I will protect our water."
Though the light reflection from the mirrored posters can't start a fire, it can also be distracting to whomever opposes the protesters, such as armed police, said Bentel. And, the signs allow protesters to send messages across open space without using electronics. "Protesters can do this by simply using the mirror to refract the sun's light on a far off protester, warning them of some oncoming danger," he said.
Bentel got the idea to make the mirrored posters while listening to a live radio broadcast of the DAPL protests and working on a project about Archimedes, an ancient Greek mathematician. In a myth about the famed inventor, Archimedes had soldiers hold up shields in order to set attacking ships on fire using the sun's rays upon their reflection.
"The story of Archimedes is there to provide a good historical backbone to the mirror's use," said Bentel. "It is a way to compare a bigger armed opposition (Romans=Police) attacking a smaller unarmed force (Syracusans=The Water Protectors). It shows that this type of conflict has been happening since the time of eh Greeks and that the lesser armed force ultimately can in fact triumph."
Now Bentel is sending out the mirror posters to as many protesters who need them. DAPL protesters who request the posters can also dictate the written message they want the posters to convey. And Bentel makes it clear that the protest signs are not weapons, but rather means of expression.
"The mirrored sign should be seen as a symbol of protest, debate, reflection, and conflict resolution," he said.
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