First a little about where I get these suggestions from. I was part of a group who after the 26th March 1 million protest in London occupied Hyde Park for 4 days and after eviction occupied Trafalgar Square every Saturday/Sunday for 24 hours which ran for 12 consecutive weeks before eventually it was stopped. I have also been to the protest encampment in Brussels and spent ten days living in the protest encampment in syntagma square in Greece. So what I share with you is a little of my experience in how the police tend to react and try to disperse these encampments as well as some of the things that were developed over time to fix problems that were cropping up.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW
1 – Someone owns the square, perhaps it is run by a management company. (Certainly in the case of Trafalgar in London) the police have no power to act (unless you do anything illegal) without being first asked by the management company so keep them on side. Do not make a mess, use the nearest available toilet.
2- Dont block paths or pavements. This is legal grounds for the camp to be moved.
3 – If the location of the camp is also used as an event space do not interfere with events taking place in the square, as this will really piss off the management company. A couple of times in Trafalgar Square we had to move the camp from the middle of the square to just outside it as pre-booked events were taking place. People pay a lot of money to hold these events. This really helped get us on side with the management company as they saw we were being responsible and treating them with respect.
4 – Do not be offensive to the police. They are also the 99%. It does not help the situation to antagonise them as they will tear the whole thing down if you piss them off. You want to avoid them sitting in the mess hall griping because someone called them “scum” or whatever, you want them sitting in the mess hall talking positively about what we are doing, same as the management meetings. Win the hearts and minds of the Police, this is vital to the success of the camp and of the movement as a whole and will have a massive effect on how they react to the camp. In Trafalgar square by the 6th week we had the personal mobile number of a chief inspector who said to call him if we needed help dealing with trouble makers. We found hugging the police to be a good way to ease the tension and make a bond. If there are police around, talk to them, tell them why you are there. One thing I have been doing is challenging the police to an activist vs police football game “to heal the division”, I have not yet managed to get this to take place (they’re scared lol), but this is a great way to engage them in a conversation that is on your terms, and i think its also a bloody good idea. haha.
5 – Do not cause trouble. This means no violence against people or property, this includes graffiti. These are criminal acts and will give the police power to act against the entire camp with or without the consent of the management company. In the end we actually had permission from the management company to create graffiti with gaffa tape, which we then removed ourselves. We were chalking messages all across the square every single week. Chalk, of course, washes off in the rain. We also wrote “No Cuts” in gigantic letters made from paper (a printing roll) right across the square on which people were writing messages of support. The Prime Ministers helicopter flew over at one point im sure he had a chuckle to himself.
6 – Be on the look out for infiltraitors and provocateurs, they will come from many different agencies and organisations, infact they will already be among us from the first meetings. Infiltraitors will try to cause division amongst the group, provocateurs will try to lead the group into activites which will give the police power to remove the camp and start arresting people. Don’t be afraid of these guys they are also the 99%. These guys write a report which goes right up the command chain so make sure they are reporting something positive. This all works to change the conversation all the way up the command tree. In Trafalgar square we had the police remove a guy who we knew was a provocateur and was causing trouble lol. Some of the infiltraitors will have hidden cameras, use that, speak to them about why you are there, speak from the heart. Somewhere, big wigs in the police and government may later watch that video. Its all about winning hearts and minds, one at a time.
In Hyde park one person brought down a load of people from a mental institution who were making the environment very uncomfortable, as a consequence many people left. At one point we were in a big prayer circle and there were two familes there with us. One a muslim family with two young children. A man walked into the middle of the circle and started pissing and waving his tackle infront of the children. The families stormed off in disgust. The effect being that this muslim family were not down at the mosque later that day infront of hundreds of families talking about the positive thing we were doing but were instead talking about this man. The UK police were also known to have paid drunks to come to the camp and be, well, total assholes. There were also constant threats and rumours of eviction from the police and even rumours that the English Defence League (Englands very own fascist assholes) were coming to smash us. An interesting one as well from a different encampment in Parliament Square in London a taxi driver pulled up, whistled someone from the camp over, gave them a note and then drove away. The note said he was coming back at 2 am to drive through the camp and run everyone over. There were also plain clothed off duty military coming down under orders who were very nationilstic and would engage in arguments, sometimes very angry and threatening arguments with us. These are the sort of tactics they will use and we need to be aware of.
In Athens, Syntagma square the situation is very different. The police there are insane and care nothing for the law or respecting the peoples right to protest. Hard core fascists infiltrated the camp and were constantly intimidating and threatening people with violence as well as, what looked like to me, to be play acting between each other that there was going to be a fight. This led to many people leaving the camp which led to empty tents. The police brought all the heroin dealers to the square so it became a hotbed for junkies and a dangerous environment with theiving going on all the time with tents getting slashed while people slept and their stuff getting stolen. The constant threats of eviction were often actually followed up with running battles and tear gas flying everywhere. That camp ended (for the time being) with JCB diggers driving throught the camp and scooping up all the tents without even checking if anyone was inside. Obviously greece is a very different situation and i dont expect these kind of tactics in many places but its one to look out for.
7 – Be a united front against trouble makers. If someone is causing trouble they are not working in your favour and are harming the effectiveness of the camp and its message. Don’t sit there twiddling your thumbs and looking sheepish while one or two people try to deal with a drunken thug or group of thugs who is threatening someone. The media will use negative images and stories such as these to attack the camp and its message will be lost. We win the game if all there is to portray in the media is a positive event and a positive message. Trouble makers should be warned that they will be asked to leave and then if they continue to cause trouble they should be told to leave. In these cases be very careful because if you manhandle this guy it is assault. Why not get the police to do your dirty work.
8 – It is advisable to put up a notice saying that the camp does not support public drinking. This works somewhat towards stopping the camp turning into a hang out spot for winos. In Trafalgar we had a notice up saying “this space is for thinking not drinking”. This one is very important as this is a criminal act, at least in the UK, and the police can use this to shut down the camp. It also makes the environment a no go area for families with young children if people are just sitting around getting drunk and leary. If you can create an environment where families are comfortable with coming with their children you have won the game. Hint: use paper cups.
9 - The most important thing is positive public engagement. Every time we did this for 24 hours in Trafalgar square we would engage 5000 – 10000 people. Both with the messages on our banners and flyers and also by talking to people about what is happening and why we were there. This also extends to the media.
10 – Be very careful when the media show up, especially with cameras. Firstly because they might not be the media, they might be the police or some agency trying to gather information and identify organisers. Secondly because this might be the moment an infiltraitor decides to have a rant which could end up with some drunken retard rambling on the television whilst the newscaster says what a bunch of drunken retards we all are. There are even stories where this rant by the infiltraitor ended up incriminating everyone at the camp and they all became liable for prosecution. The infiltraitor was never seen again.
11 – DO NOT IDENTIFY YOURSELF AS AN ORGANISER as you can be prosecuted for anything that goes wrong. If you are all there as individuals you are a group of individuals. Because you are all individuals if you are evicted a “different” set of individuals can go back the next day and it is an entirely new protest. This might not apply in every country but certainly in England we were using this and it was working. Infact every week we were returning for 24 hours it was classed as an entirely different action which was maybe how that was working.
12 – Dealing with the Police. Lawful Rebellion is magic, pure magic for dealing with the police. This works on the principle that if you are being lawful in your activity the police have no right to interfere with your activity, although this is a very fine line you will often find you are on the right side of it. A lot of the time, at least if you have been lawful, the police work by impressing on us the assumption that they have power over us, but when you enquire it turns out they have no power at all. If the police start to ask you questions, first try to get away by asking “am i being detained”, and keep asking that question until they answer. You will probably find you can just walk away. If they want to ask you questions say to them, “am i obligated under law to answer that question”, you will often find that you are not. If they say yes, reply “under what law”, they have to be able to state the exact wording of the law in order to apply it, please note this is a thin line and doesnt work in every case but i have personally witnessed some absolute blinders.
If the police come across and act like they are telling you to do something, say to them “are you asking me to do this or is it an order”, believe it or not most of the time they are asking you. When we were in Hyde park a guy was told to take down a marquee tent and he asked this question. The police replied it was an order, he responded “I am willing to comply with your order but as it is an order for me to comply there will be an administrative fee of one million pounds, when you return here with one million pounds i will comply with the order”. Im not suggesting that this is a good idea and I know it sounds absolutely crazy but the policeman could do nothing. He came back several times to be met with the same request to bring a million pounds. Next time we were asked to move the camp and we asked “under what law”, the policeman was able to state the law, we then asked for a copy of the legal document in which the law was written. I dont know if this applies in every country (you will have to find out) but he was obligated by law to provide us this written document which was something like a 500 page document. Again they went away scratching their heads as they could do nothing else until they had supplied that document. Another one that bought us some time was the question “what is the proper legal process for eviction”, and then they have to be able to tell you what the proper legal process is for evicting you. You can then request to see that in writing and watch them go away scratching their heads. This next one is very important and applies in the UK in certain cases (i dont know where else) The police have no legal right to tell you to leave they can only ask you to leave, and they are actually breaking the law if they threaten violence to have you evicted. This is unless they are working within the proper legal process which takes time. If they try to serve you paperwork do not accept it. Tell them, “I am not accepting any paperwork today”. In the UK, taking the paperwork in your hand is consent that you have committed the offence you are being accussed of.
13 – Set up a phone tree of everyone who supports the protest in the local area. In Athens, the camp consisted of around 200 people but within a matter of a few hours they could have half a million people there. This is a game winner if you can pull this off. The square was cleared a few times but they always took it back. A phone tree works because everyone has maybe three or four phone numbers to call or text message.
14 – THINGS TO BRING. Tent, Gazeebo, Sleeping Bags, Blankets, Banners, Gaffa tape, chalk, yourself, musical instruments, a video phone for videoing any police brutality and also for getting the positive message out there. You will also find that one of those inflatable camping mats is the best money you have ever spent. Take nothing that you would care about getting confiscated unless you can carry it with you, ie. Don’t take a £500 tent.
15 - Have fun, be love and save the world. United we are too big to fail.
If I can think of anything else to add to this I will…….
Please feel free to cut and paste this message or repost, repost to your groups, print it out, put on a flyer whatever, it needs to get out there.