get ready!
what you need to know to make your participation effective

you and your community are about to (or already have) spent a lot of energy getting you to this action. once you're there, you want to make sure that your participation is effective. you are not going all that way to "check it out". you are there to make a contribution. you can do this in a lot of ways, and these different ways can involve a range of risk. be aware that your perception of risk and your willingness to take it will change constantly during the action.

the most important part of being effective is understanding that you cannot change this world alone - you will have to work with other people. the work of learning to work together is the biggest and hardest piece of activist work. learn how to become an affinity group.

after brief discussions of security culture and diversity of tactics, the rest of this page introduce you to the infrastructure, essential roles, and action opportunities.

security 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:

you will encounter some security culture while at the action. some people are very nervous about police surveillance and infiltration. they treat all strangers (and some of their friends) as if they are cops. other people feel that treating one another with suspicion is counterproductive. when dealing with security culture, remember these three points:

[1] respect people's boundaries

[2] don't take suspicion personally

[3] don't change your personality just because other people are unfriendly.

[4] don't incriminate 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.

diversity of tactics

at protests you will see a lot of different tactics being used. we use the phrase "diversity of tactics" to express a variety of recognitions:


convergence/welcome center: this is sort of activist headquarters, where you'll find maps, schedules of events, fliers, an announcement board, important phone numbers, and lots of opportunities to get involved. we've created some more information on what to expect at convergence, if you've never been to one before.

other centers: a number of other centers may be housed with the convergence/welcome center or may be in separate buildings. these are:

spokescouncil: this is a big nightly meeting at which every affinity group is supposed to have representation. this meeting is closed to media (even indymedia) and police, but it is not secure. generally, it is assumed that police infiltrators are present. at this meeting, action working groups such as medics and legal make reports on the current situation and plans are made for a "framework" of action. this means that some decisions are made about where large groups will meet, and whether certain times and spaces will be "green" (non-confrontational, hence as "safe" as possible for unarrestables, children, etc.), or "yellow" (including direct action which might attract police reaction). often speaking at a spokescouncil is restricted to spokes representing affinity groups.

teach-ins and other educational events: there are extensive educational events provided as part of mass actions. be sure to take advantage of this information so that you can understand the latest analyses and frameworks of resistance developed by movements all over the world.

roles within the group (these can be rotated day by day)

action opportunities