Having an amplified sound system is a key component at marches, rallies, demonstrations, press conferences (and especially car caravans in the COVID-19 era).
But too often events are under-resourced - with speakers which simply aren’t enough for large crowds to hear.
One solution: distributed sound systems - using an FM Radio transmitter to allow for additional speaker systems (or car stereos) to amplify the sound coming from a main stage to a much wider area. For large crowds of thousands of people - this can be a functional (and often better) alternative to hiring a large audio production company that can easily cost $5-10k. We are volunteers, donating time and gear.
Why do we want to ensure everyone can hear?
Our system allows for multiple sound vehicles to play the same sound, so it becomes possible to convey information to much larger crowds.
- 🗣Making our politics and demands clear: Demonstrations are key moments with community leaders speaking to build political alignment, shared purpose, and motivation for our movements. Rallies can often lose the crowd when people can’t hear.
- 💪Better Organizing: If we can’t communicate, we can’t organize, and we have all experienced how hard it can be to hear the demo when crowd sizes are 1000+
- ⛑COVID Safety: People will crowd toward the sound system if they can’t hear, increasing COVID infection risk.
- ⚠️Hype: Sound keeps people’s energy up! It keeps people informed! It keeps us together.
- ♿️Accessibility:People with disabilities are able to stay tuned in while in their cars. People who are hard-of-hearing will have a better chance of understanding what is going on.
The Sound System:
- We can connect with any sound system used as a main stage (or sound truck), or provide the “main stage”
- Using the radio station 88.3FM and a low-power radio transmission system with the main sound system, we transmit organizer’s speeches, chants, and playlist over all of Oakland.(See note 1)
- Every block or where original sound can’t be heard, additional speakers (or sound vehicles, or cars) can blast out the audio at maximum volume with zero delay or echo.
- For moving marches, vehicles at the end and in the middle of the march can blast out exactly what is being played/chanted/spoken at the front. Any car can tune in and help amplify the sound.
- For more stationary demonstrations, we can strategically place sound vehicles on a grid so everyone can hear. (See diagram below)
The diagram below is based on live tests with the broadcast car at 14th and Broadway.
- We can broadcast to all of Oakland from up in the hills, but that is an option best used for car/bike-caravans instead of marches/protests/pedestrian demonstrations.
- Our audio range is most clear when line of sight is possible between the transmitter and receiving vehicles. It’s often ideal to park the main sound truck at an intersection.
At the main truck:
- Sound/FM lead person: his person will make sure everything is working and mixed properly. We can also offer hookups to get clean sound into Facebook Live, zoom, or a recording. hooks up the FM transmitter to your existing system, or, if you do not have a sound truck we can provide one.
- The MC: You or someone qualified to make quick decisions needs to be with us at all times to decide who can speak and make emergency announcements.
- Mic person: Sanitizes microphones between people speaking, misc other tasks, tells people speaking where to stand for best sound
What we need from you:Contact us for more information, questions, or actions desiring sound support:
Email us at please include:
- Time action begins
- Time action is expected to end
- Time we should arrive
- Specific Location of start
- Organization (if applicable)
- Expected crowd size (best of your ability)
- Whether you have an existing sound team or not
- Is it a press conference? Do you need the audio recorded?
- Your Phone number so we can set up a Signal chat group
- Facebook event page if applicable
- Digital Flyer/Insta post if applicable
- For the demo, We will need a designated person with the organizers to be the “MC”, this person needs to be near the sound system when it is running to make decisions about who can speak, when/if to play music, and make announcements and decisions if emergencies occur.
- We will eventually need a music playlist. Even if you don’t expect to use music, we like to have something just in case. If there is downtime on the FM broadcast folks tend to turn the broadcast off, so we always like to have something playing. We default to these: Black Lives Matter / BLM: Protest Music / BLM 2020 Protest .
This is a working document, please let us know if anything is confusing or in need of edit
Our Satellite vehicles:
- very loud subaru with 4x powered speakers on roof rack
- very loud pickup truck with large horns
- 2 Priuses with very loud large horns
- Pickup truck with loud speakers on rack
- Cargo Bike with loud speaker in bed
- Very loud bike (needs extra lead time)
- another sound bike
- Van with roof speakers
- ... Sometimes more! Usually 2 or 3 is enough.
Do you know someone with sound gear who wants to get involved? We are always growing, as more is louder!
We may be able to also provide microphones, mixers, etc for the main sound truck if needed. Email us.
The loud horn rig on a truck
Roof rack mounted speakers on a Subaru(current rig has 4 speakers)
One of the Priuses, we have two more set up similarly
A video overview of the tactics and systems we use.