Direct Actions can bring attention to a problem and sometimes are the most effective way to attain a goal, such as getting a decision maker to change their mind.
Actions can be sit-ins, walk-outs, rallies, protests, banner drops, and more. Be creative!! Contact us if you want training in effective and safe direct actions. Below are some basic points about direct actions:
KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER:
1. Direct Actions seek to create CRISIS and TENSION
2. Direct Actions seek to provoke a reaction—either positive or negative—from a “target”
3. Direct Actions are part of a campaign or “arc” of escalation
4. Direct Actions are disciplined and well organized, with many different roles being filled by participants
5. The more people who participate in Direct Actions, the more effective
6. Direct Actions involve risk and controversy
7. Direct Actions build base, leaders, and bonds within and among organizations that last
8. Direct Actions should be creative
9. Direct Actions force the target or targets onto terrain with which they are unfamiliar
10. Any Civil Disobedience requires special training and preparation and should be considered as a last resort.
Overview of Roles in a Direct Action
The success of Direct Actions often depends on how well participants carry out their defined roles. It is crucial that participants know their roles, and stick to their roles—do not try to take over other roles! Remember—the forces arrayed against you are already well organized, and are counting on you being disorganized.
The ACTION LEAD is the person in charge of the entire action. It is their responsibility to make sure everyone else knows their role and carries out their role. The ACTION LEAD also makes the final determination about when to begin and when to end the action. Often the ACTION LEAD wears a special cap so that they can easily be found. The ACTION LEAD is also often part of the PROGRAM TEAM which has developed the plan for the action.
MARSHALS / LEAD MARSHAL
The MARSHALS are responsible for guiding the participants in the action. This means guiding them to the right place, holding doors for them, making sure they stay on a sidewalk or in some other area that they are supposed to stay in; and making sure that participants are safe and together. The LEAD MARSHAL is responsible for making sure all the other MARSHALS are fulfilling their roles and making decisions about issues or problems when they come up.
ENERGY TEAM/ENERGY LEAD
The ENERGY TEAM is responsible for chants or other energizing actions. The ENERGY LEAD is responsible for meeting with the ENERGY TEAM before the action to coordinate chants. This means making sure everyone knows the chants ahead of time. It is very important that the ENERGY LEAD use the “fist of silence” (see below) to stop the chants when needed.
The POLICE LIAISON is the person designated to speak with the police if and when they show up. No one but the POLICE LIAISON should speak with the police or other authorities. The POLICE LIAISON should introduce themselves to the police, explain what is going on, chat them up, let them know that nothing illegal or criminal is going to happen, and generally delay and stall for time. The POLICE LIAISON should only communicate with the ACTION LEAD. TIP: the POLICE LIAISON usually has an easier job if they appear professional and nonthreatening. Handing business cards to the police often helps.
The PRESS LIAISON is the person designated to speak with the press. No one but the PRESS LIAISON should speak to the press. The PRESS LIAISON should introduce themselves to the press, and be prepared with key talking points.
PROGRAM TEAM (SPEAKERS / MC)
Often it is effective to have those who are affected by the issue personally speak about their own experience, if possible to the target themselves. The MC introduces the speakers, keeps them on time, and often helps prepare them to keep them on message.
Remember: the more people you have, the more power you have.
Also remember: preparation and discipline are essential! Take the time to plan.