DIRECT ACTION CHECK-LIST
Effective and successful direct actions depend on many factors. There are four keywords to bear in mind:
Different actions will require different approaches and expertise. Individual action coordinators will have their own way of working and the relationship between the action coordinator and the campaigner, as well as the group dynamics within the action team will be different each time. The following paper is written in general terms to give campaigners an insight into the type of work they will need to do in preparing, executing and following-up an action.
The following questions must be answered by the campaigner before involving other people in preparing an action:-
1 Does the proposed action fit into the campaign strategy ?
2 Have you enough money for the action ?
3 What is the target ?
4 What do you want to achieve by taking action on the target ?
5 What time limitations / preferences do you have ?
6 Have you spent time considering how the action will end ?
Now set up meetings with the other activists who will be participating in the action.
1 Determine who is to coordinate the logistics of the action.
2 Ascertain what research is needed to further explore the feasibility of the better ideas to come out of the brainstorm.
3 Determine what investigative information you require which can be provided from contacts you have nationally and your campaign has internationally.
NB. The research / reconnaissance will be conducted with no rigid plan in mind, flexibility and openness to ideas are still very important at this stage.
The action coordinator/team will ensure that the research is carried out as soon as possible by someone(s) who either attended the first meeting(s) or has been well briefed as to the results of the brainstorming session(s).
The action coordinator will process the results of the reconnaissance (scout), deal with any follow up research and present a series of alternative action plans which are, in their opinion, safe and feasible and incorporate the aims of the campaign.(These judgements are made by a process of risk assessment, elimination and acceptability).
1 Set date for the next meeting which will continue brainstorming and decide upon the action to be taken.
2 Seek legal advice and representation.
The logistical coordinator will by now have come up with a selection of detailed action plans that will be based on the initial brainstorming sessions. The campaigner will have a general understanding of the likely legal implications. The campaigner may at this stage have new information to input as a result of feedback from within the campaign.
From this meeting a definite action plan will hopefully emerge - time is of the essence whether the deadline is in one week or two months. The plan should be decided upon and in general, kept to. More creative input will always be offered but if new ideas keep coming for too long there will be conflict and this can end up with the lowest common denominator (eg another banner hanging).
MEDIA / PRESS INVOLVEMENT
Media interest should be channelled to the action without being specific about dates, locations, nature of action etc until close to the date. Press contacts should be offered the opportunity to join the action team on the day.
The Media, are not part of the action team and will require special attention.
Try to ascertain how many media people will be turning up to cover the action. Excite them to the event without giving away too much information which could jeopardise the action.
As all the relevant campaign work such as political lobbying, union work, local community work, etc will have been done leading up to the action so also will the press have been involved.
They, (your press contacts) will hopefully have been following the story and know that we are resorting to the "last resort" by taking uncompromised and direct action. Press packs, reports, your demands etc will already have been distributed. Try to plan the press strategy so that you get the most out of the action.(eg)
A series of press releases to build the story with new campaign elements as the action unfolds.
Possibly releasing reports in stages to lengthen their effect. ie, one part before the action, part 2 in a press conference after the action and part 3 at the same time as an action in another country on the same issue.
Press can be informed of a time and place where they should meet.(This information should be held back for as long as possible without losing their interest.) The campaigner or someone designated (ie. press officer) must be there to meet the press.
Does transport need to be arranged for the press to be able to meet their deadlines after the action.
PRESS RELEASES / INTERVIEWS
Does the office have a Press Officer?
If not the campaigner will need to appoint someone to fulfil this role or else seek one from within the campaign.
All the information relating to the issue and the action needs to be passed from the campaigner to the press officer in advance.
The press officer will prepare a brief to be checked by the campaigner before the day of action.
Communication between the campaigner and the press officer needs to be constant and clear. Action developments will need to be fitted into press releases and interview links to the campaigner be made possible. (See lines of communication above).
Appendix 3. LEGAL MATTERS
Most actions, involve confronting authorities. It is in your interest to know the legal consequences of our actions before undertaking the protest and accepting these consequences. A campaign can be strengthened by using the courts as a forum to reiterate the statements made during the action, equally it can be damaged by injunctions being delivered to the whole or parts of the organisation. It is tactically important to know the laws we are challenging as it is to know the other armour and weaponry of "the enemy".
PREPARATION FOR AN ACTION.
Does the group have a legal support/liaison person? If not the campaigner must appoint someone to fulfil this role.
The legal liaison officer will be responsible for the following elements of the action:-
Meeting with the lawyers who will be acting on behalf of the group in any proceedings resulting from the action. Make sure lawyers have experience in criminal matters.
Briefing the lawyers on the action in such detail as they request (be careful), and ascertaining what charges may be brought against the organisation and the individuals involved.
Ensuring enough lawyers are on stand-by 24 hours prior to, during and immediately after the action.
Keep the group informed of all possible legal repercussions that may result from the action.
Providing the action team with likely legal implications of the action in as much detail as possible.ie which activists are likely to be arrested and what they could be charged with.(Best and worst case scenarios preferable)
Foresee any special legal problems that may arise within the action team eg. foreign passport holders, limited visa holders, inform the lawyers of these issues. Deal with these problems.
Brief the activists on legal rights, dealing with the police (before and after being arrested).SEE BELOW.
Ensure that each activist has all the necessary information (eg I.D, names / telephone numbers of lawyers and office) in a waterproof envelope, on their person during the action.
Compile a list of participants names, addresses of anyone who may need to be informed and if necessary passports / I.D.
Find out from lawyers exactly what documents any of the activists may need to carry on their person.Make sure none of the activists are carrying any papers (or anything else) in their possession which may be incriminating.
The Legal liaison officer must be on site during the action and have communication links to the logistics coordinator and to the lawyers. (It is often possible to ascertain where arrested activists will be taken) The officer should be present at this venue as soon as the activists are taken there.
Ascertain what, if any charges are being filed.
2 that the arrestees are being given their legal rights.
3 that the lawyers are on the case as soon as possible.
4 that the arrestees are informed of the situation.
5 (if possible) that the arrestees are provided with essentials, eg dry clothes, cigarettes, books etc.
6 that money is available for bail etc, if necessary.
7 that the arrested activists are released as soon as possible.
8 that the office, press officer, campaigner and logistics coordinator are kept informed of the situation as it develops.
9 the activists are kept informed of the development of their case after release. Make arrangements for court case attendance etc.
10 After the action, inform the logistics coordinator, campaigner, and office of any legal complications that arose. Be prepared to write a report on the action if requested by the lawyers.
LEGAL BRIEF FOR ACTIVISTS
There is a definite need to give detailed legal advice and provide an element of legal training for those participating in the action. Where short legal briefs given before each action are of some value, they often consist of no more than issuing an advice card. All other aspects, technical, safety, campaign motive, etc are covered in depth and repeated to ensure the success of the action.
However, for those activists taken into police custody the action does not stop at the break off point indicated by the coordinator at the end of the action.
For people without much experience of being held in custody, sometimes over night and for more extended periods of time, some mental preparation is necessary. The combined feelings of adrenalin cut-off, fatigue, elation or sometimes disappointment, and an understandable desire to "join the celebrations" can interfere with thinking and acting rationally. The often intimidating tactics of the police and related authorities have in the past taken advantage of this.
The consequences of, for example, answering seemingly
innocent questions about the planning of the action, can cause difficult legal complications for the organisation later on.
To sign a release form which drops all charges, before
deciding with a solicitor to accept those charges, can count as an admission and therefor give authority to hold all equipment used to break the law, resulting in the (dropped) charges.etc
So, a quick chat from the legal liaison member of an
action team about not answering any questions until the solicitor arrives, in the turmoil immediately prior to an action, is not enough.
The legal brief should be held separately from the logistical brief and be taken seriously by all involved.
Preferably short legal workshops for action teams should be incorporated into other training sessions.Providing role- plays, group discussions, talks from legal advisers, etc, on all aspects of responsibilities whilst held in custody.GP activists need to know how to deal with this often hostile situation, both personally and diplomatically.
It should be stressed that, in most cases, activists should give no more than their name and address to the police unless told otherwise by the legal liaison officer of logistics coordinator beforehand.
The logistics coordinator will ensure that everybody involved understands non violence commitments. That everyone acts according to plan, in a level - headed and controlled way. However the legal brief can also address these points and emphasise that even to use the wrong body language and appear to be aggressive can cause legal problems later on.( To appear calm whilst someone has their thumbs in ones kidneys requires control!)
The Campaigner.- Location and Lines of Communication.
Where is the best place for the campaigner to be on the day? Post action interviews should be staged on site where possible. The campaigner should try to be involved in or, at least, at the site of the action. However, they should not put themselves in an arrestable situation as there is much work to be done immediately after the action which isn't possible from inside a police cell! Might there be negotiations with the opposition during the action which the campaigner will need to attend?
What lines of communication does the campaigner require?
The logistics coordinator will be responsible for all lines of communication. The vital elements of the action will have specific operating channels and should not be interfered with by anyone other than the action team and the coordinator.
The communication equipment that is handed to each person becomes their responsibility and it's up to them to check it is fully charged with spare batteries etc.
The campaigner will need to be in communication with:
The Logistics Coordinator
The Press Officer
The Legal Liaison Officer
This is best done by payphone/mobile telephone or radio.
ENDING THE ACTION
This is without doubt the most difficult component of action
planning. We can go into an action situation with clearly defined objectives and demands, yet as soon as the action starts various other factors come into play which force us into situations where our objectives and demands may no longer be realistic.
In deciding on a particular action we must be flexible enough to accommodate any outside influences beyond our control, and change our tactics accordingly. We should build into the action plan contingencies for situations that may arise.
For instance, a tactic that is increasingly used by the authorities against us is that of ignoring our presence.
We blockade a plant or occupy something expecting the action to end when the activists are arrested. The police come along and tell us that they are not arresting anybody, the company ignore our demands and leave us to our own devices. What do we do?
Well, if we have said in our press release or pre-action publicity that "We have today blocked / stopped / prevented a shipment of X and are demanding that the substance is returned to it's manufacturer/country of origin and that if this is not done we will continue the blockade..." we are in a no-win situation.
The company ignore us, no one gets arrested, so we have to find a way out of the action that does not leave us looking foolish. We generally have to end these type of actions by saying something along the lines of "We today lifted our blockade because we have received assurances from X/Y/Z that they will receive a letter/have a meeting/read a report...".
Is this really a satisfactory outcome for an action that may have taken weeks to research and plan and cost a lot in terms of resources and money to carry out?
What we say in our press releases often influences the outcome of an action, do not be too optimistic that the blockade is going to achieve something, more often than not it doesn't.
Is a blockade the best way to approach the issue in terms of an action? Is a blockade of the finished product the best way, why not try stopping the raw materials entering the plant or waste products being stored at or leaving the plant. In terms of achieving confrontation with the authorities it is often a better tactic.
To summarise, the campaign message needs to be flexible enough to be tailored to get the most out of the action, whatever the eventual outcome.
The logistics coordinator may call the action off at any time prior to and during the event, eg for security or safety reasons, so clear and direct communication between the campaigner and the coordinator is very important, especially concerning the end of the action.
The repercussions / ground gained and resulting climate the campaign will be put into as a result of the action need to be thought about before the start of the action. What immediate and long term follow up work will you need to do to utilise the action in your future campaigning?
THE ACTION REPORT AND THE DEBRIEF.
Through the reports and debriefs of actions you can keep a record of tactics, new ideas, techniques and technology that have and have not worked. In this way we will constantly improve and redefine our direct actions, keeping one step ahead of the opposition.
As people will often be heading in different directions once the action is over the debriefing process should begin as soon after the action as possible.
THE FIRST DEBRIEF: to take place immediately after the action. Participants: The action team, on-site campaigners, on-site press liaison, on-site legal liaison.
The debrief should be facilitated like any other meeting with minutes taken. All the activists are given the opportunity to voice any comments on the running of the action, the emphasis being on constructive criticism rather than pats on the back all round, the purpose of the debrief is to identify and analyze weak points, so they won't be repeated in the future. This may cover design faults in specific equipment used, timing, tactics in responding to the opposition, decisions made etc. In short, all the logistical parts of the action that can only be improved upon in retrospect. The logistics coordinator can also use the debrief as a team building exercise. The campaigner should take this opportunity to thank the activists (if they want to) and outline the benefits (if any!) to the campaign the action has had.
The debrief will address any conflicts between the participants, appraise the effect of the action on the campaign, appraise any media cover and determine what relevant follow up work needs to be done.eg, court cases or future actions.
A full report of the action should now be written up by the action coordinator and campaigner and should include any relevant points from the two debriefs. A copy of this report should be sent to any relevant people, but definitley NOT the Police.