information & policing
are not lawyers, and this is not legal advice
are four ways to get arrested at protests
disobedience: this is when a group of people decide to do
an action which intentionally breaks the law with the intent of
getting arrested in order to make a point about the injustice
of the system. sometimes, these arrests (and even the charges)
are pre-negotiated with the police. other times they are not.
often groups organizing civil disobedience make sure that things
stay very calm, so that the situation is safe for elders to participate
without risk of injury.
- failure to disperse:
the US constitution affords us the right to "peacefully assemble"
in public space. this right is rarely upheld by the police. when they
decide they've had enough of it, they clear us out. sometimes they give
dispersal orders, threatening that anybody who stays in the area is
subject to arrest and/or use of "non-lethal" weapons. some
people disperse at this point and many others stay. at this point it
becomes a numbers and geography game. if there are less than a hundred
people, it's likely the cops will go ahead and arrest them. if there
are more than a hundred, it's a big hassle for the police. while there
have been a few instances of arrests of 500-600 persons, it is very
rare. if there are several hundred people in the area the likelihood
of arrest is low, no matter what the cops say. (at this point your main
concern becomes use of non-lethals. keep your eye on exits, stay together
with others and remember that if they use non-lethals the goal is to
get you to disperse, so they'll probably let most of you do so. you
are always safest with the largest group of people. it's best
if the whole group stays together so they can't pick off or brutalize
smaller groups; stay in solidarity!)
- pre-emptive arrest:
sometimes the police think that it'll make their lives easier if they
arrest people before they actually exercise their free speech
rights. there have been a handful of raids on meetings, organizing spaces,
or corralling and arresting small groups (20-50) or so who are on their
way to protests, meeting in a park, etc. the goal of these arrests is
to get people off the streets for a few days. there's really no way
to avoid these arrests, so there's no point worrying about it. also
a lot of times the police move around in such a way as to raise fears
of a "raid". almost all of the time, this is an intimidation
tactic used to disrupt our work. this is the time to be clear that we
really can't let our fear take over. it's best
to stay focused on work and be aware that lots of very smart
and talented folks are in there with you. if you do get arrested in
a raid, since folks generally haven't broken any laws it's hard to get
a conviction. but this is part of why you want to make sure you are
never carrying anything that could be construed as a weapon (like, for
example, a metal nail file or a swiss army knife), because then you
will get a charge that could stick. settle down in jail and learn some
new songs and have a teach-in. you'll be in there with other awesome
people and it'll be a great learning experience.
- targeted arrest:
there are two kinds of targeted arrests:  people perceived by the
cops to be "organizers", who can be charged with felony conspiracies
and put out of commission by jail time or exorbitant legal fees. 
seemingly random "snatch" arrests which serves to terrorize
people. if you are type , keep a low profile. the only protection
from type  is to make sure somebody is watching your back. when people
stay close together and are alert they can often thwart a "snatch"
jail solidarity: if
you get arrested at a protest, particularly if you did not
intend to get arrested, it is likely that you will be arrested
with a lot of other people. if you want to minimize your charges,
the best thing to do in this situation is to participate in
some form of jail solidarity. read
the Just Cause guide to jail
solidarity. the key things to know about jail solidarity
- even if you are not
planning to get arrested, do not carry your id (or anything with
your name on it). if you are arrested unexpectedly, it is best
to participate in "jail solidarity". if you carry your
id, you will not have this option; but if you don't carry your
id, you will still have the option of giving your name.
- if you are arrested,
you should immediately start using your nickname with other arrestees
in the van. when police ask for your name, say you are refusing
to give it. then use only your nickname at all times while in
custody, including phone calls, in cells, etc.
- all the group's ids
should be stashed together at the house in a spot where the legal
support person knows where they are.
- again, even if you
are not planning to get arrested, jail solidarity is an important
thing to know about. everyone should be versed in the basics of
jail solidarityas it is particularly important in situations of
exist in theory, but not
in the streets. protest policing tends to take the form of "clear
them out of here and let the courts sort out the legality in a few
months." nevertheless it's nice to know what your rights are
so that you can be aware of when they are violated. every once in
a while, showing that you know your rights will prevent cop misbehavior.
sometimes these violations will help your case in court.
Information on Encounters with Police (includes info on
Questioning, Detainment, Searches, Arrest). Here's a shorter
version from the National
Lawyers Guild and here's a comic-style
if you witness (or are victimized
by) police misconduct, exessive use of force, etc:
fill out a
Misconduct Report as soon as possible (while all the details are fresh)
and turn it in to the legal team so they can use it as part of cases and
class action suits.
the legal support structure includes three elements.
the ground at the action, a legal team provided by the host organizing
committee will provide lawyers and jail support for all arrestees.
each affinity group (or cluster) traveling to the action provides
the other two elements.
 a member of the
affinity group or cluster is appointed to be on-the-ground legal
support. this person needs to stay fairly green during the actions.
this person will move into high gear if anyone in the affinity
group/cluster is arrested. they will be responsible for tracking
their person through the legal system, staying in contact with
the action legal team, and communicating with the third element,
at-home legal support.
 one person needs
to be willing to commit to being by the phone and providing legal
support for the duration of the action days. this is a great role
for someone who really wants to be involved in the action but
needs to stay home. it's also a great way to help lovers/partners
who are staying home to feel very involved. the person providing
at-home legal support has several responsibilities.
a list of each person on the trip. here's a
contacts (parents, lovers and other people
who need to be updated in case of emergency)
in case of delay in return (boss, etc.) and what
to say to them
way to round up bail money or other emergency $ for
this person (credit card info, family contact, etc.)
available by phone 24 hours a day during the action days
these contacts in case anyone is arrested, injured, or delayed
bail money, if necessary (this person should
also have a list of local supporters who can
be contacted for bail money in an emergency)
advice and support to the on-the-ground legal support person.
it's important for the-at home legal support to familiarize
themselves with the legal procedures and legal handbooks
the at-home media team
there are a number of aspects of protest policing which
police know what they're doing:
other than in DC, the police are quite unused
to policing protest. they are unfamiliar with
the relevant law and they are at least as scared
as you are. the situation feels very out-of-control
to them. they know there is a lot of hostility
to them and they do not feel safe. also multiple
contradictory orders may be given. their confusion
is a good reason to stick around when things get
hot because you may get to see them retreat, stumble,
go different directions, or perform many other
- the police
have all the power: in some situations, they have a lot
of power, but people have used a wide variety of tactics to
assert power, evade arrest, de-escalate from imminent attack,
interrupt brutality, and rescue people from harm. pretty regularly,
activists outwit, outrun, and out-take the cops.
- the police
obey the law: often the police don't know the law. even
more often, they are empowered to act in flagrant violation
of it and your constitutional rights in service to the higher
laws of traffic flow and convenient corporate plunder.
- the police
mean what they say: 99% of police operations at protest
are designed to intimidate you. they are working very hard
to convince you that they are in control, that they are everywhere,
that they are all-seeing, that they will catch you if you
do anything sneaky. while police certainly will do sneaky,
illegal, and brutal things, the protesters will also manage
to do most of the things they came to do. the other side of
police misspeak is that they are legally allowed to lie to
you. that means even if they have made agreements with protesters
to behave in a certain manner, they can (and likely will)
do otherwise. since they are totally unreliable, it's best
not to worry about them and to focus on doing your thing.
culture: it's becoming more common for
activists to operate in an atmosphere of secrecy and suspicion
bordering on paranoia. it's just our [not original] opinion,
but we think security culture is very destructive. here are
some [not necessarily original] notes, from this perspective:
concerns have become excessive when they obstruct people from
doing what they came here to do.
- security culture
is totally counterproductive when it leads us to treat each other with
suspicion rather than embracing one another joyously as valued comrades
- we might as well
assume that almost all of our meetings are infiltrated and that police
know what we are doing. since what we're doing is expressing our free
speech rights in creative ways, we shouldn't feel that we have anything
to hide. besides the more they hang out in our meetings the more they'll
know (and we'll know that they know) that we are non-violent, democratic,
and have some pretty interesting ideas about the world...
- if we are particularly
concerned to keep knowledge of an action away from the police, we organize
it with a very small group of people who we trust, and then we
don't have to do security culture.
other activists: be aware that felony
conspiracy is a serious charge which could get some activists
some very long jail time. never,
ever, ever, ever indicate that you know who organized, planned,
or led an action. don't allow yourself to think or feel
that it's really "cool" that you know. the "cool"
thing to do is be in solidarity with all other activists and
treat any information you have as sacred and private, not to
be shown off or shared. if anyone (even your mama) asks you
whose idea an action was or who organized it, change the subject.
it is illegal to lie to a police (even though it's legal for
them to lie to you!) it is legal for you to refuse to
talk to them. if
a policeperson asks you who organized an action, say "i
am not going to talk about that." feel free to repeat
that line over and over and over until s/he gets bored. also
check out the Just Cause guide to talking
to the media without causing legal problems for yourself
or your friends.