Though there were certainly many inspiring actions carried out in solidarity with the Red Warrior and Sacred Stone Camp’s call to action, it soon became clear that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of people who were otherwise vocally supportive of the #NoDAPL struggle weren’t able take action the state and corporate actors behind the pipeline. Though there are surely many complex explanations for this that we won’t get into, we want to focus on one in particular that feels easily addressable: Many people don’t know where to start, or who to act with. Often when these calls-to-action are made, it is assumed that the intended audiences are already self-organized and ready to take action, but for many this is unfortunately not the case. Without a clear place to start, many people often retreat back to the comfortable world of internet “clicktivism” and our enemies all around us are left unscathed once more.
To begin to remedy this, we would like to present a two-part series on tactics that you can easily do with just one or two close friends in a single evening. Our hope is that this will allow people to take the critical step from the keyboard to the street and begin to think more strategically about the world around them and where they can meaningfully act in the future. We also hope that this will allow people to build trust and form different sorts of relationships with the people already in their lives so that they can take bolder actions when the next call for solidarity action comes.
Part 1: How to Drop a Banner in Solidarity with the Sacred Stone and Red Warrior Camps
- Fabric—You can use painters’ drop cloth, a bed sheet, or visit the laundry bin of a disagreeable institution one night to collect their tablecloths. If you know any billboard businesses, you can also ask them nicely for their old “billboard tarps,” which are typically massive and blank on one side.
- Paint—Preferably water-based, as oil paint takes a long time to dry; house paint works well enough for banners that need not be exceptionally detailed, and is cheapest. Many paint stores will give you free “mis-tinted” house paint if you ask nicely.
- Rope or chain
- Plastic water bottles or similar weights
- Optional: Extra-strong upholstery sewing thread or dental floss
- Optional: Gallon jugs filled with sand for weights, if there is nowhere to tie the banner up
- Optional: Padlocks (no key necessary, if you come upon them unlocked), or metal clips
- Optional: sewing machine, automobile
Optimal deployment locations:
- Parking garages
- Highway overpasses before the morning commute (be sure the banner isn’t too long and won’t get caught on passing semi-trucks)
- Buildings’ roofs
- The balcony level of a church, movie theater, coliseum, auditorium…
A banner drop can enable you to get a simple message out in dramatic style to potentially thousands of people. They can be most effective in crowded environments during special events, or to accentuate and clarify an action taking place nearby.
You can make a really huge banner by sewing together smaller pieces of cloth; be sure they won’t come undone, though! Double- or triple-stitching with exceptionally tough thread is probably necessary. When deciding on the size, keep in mind the way it will be transported to the place of use, the dimensions of the area where it will be deployed, and the distance from which it will be seen.
To decorate your banner, you need not be an accomplished artist; simply draw a scale model of the image or statement you would like to paint, separate that image into equal sections, mark off matching sections proportionately on the banner, and use these as guides. You can trace the lines first with chalk. You will probably need an open space outside the surveillance of the authorities to work in, since when your banner appears you won’t want it—or yourself—to look familiar to any agents of law enforcement. The paint will almost certainly soak through the material and onto whatever is beneath it, so be prepared for this as well, in terms of security as well as tidiness. Be careful above all not to spell any words wrong (!) or bunch up your lines of text near the end, and make sure your colors are striking and high-contrast and your images similarly easy to discern. Don’t use spraypaint to paint your banner unless you are especially talented with it.
There are many options for how to attach your banner, but it largely depends on the location and the material. The best (but most time consuming) way to drop a large banner is to fold the top of it over rope or chain and sew the fabric around it, creating a seam. This allows the banner to be straight all the way across the top, and not sag in the middle, or rip off the corners due to stress. If you are putting your banner somewhere where you can tie all four corners to stationary objects, you can bunch up the corners and tie tight knots to each one. But if you are expecting the bottom of the banner to dangle at all, it’s important to tie some sort of weights (filled water bottles work well) to the bottom so that the wind doesn’t tangle it up and obscure your message. There is no single good answer for this — just be sure to think strategically about the best way to keep your banner stationary and resilient.
For deployment, a team of two is usually best, unless you need a third person to be a getaway driver. Pick a time and location where the visibility balances out the risk. You’ll have to get the banner there, somehow: if it’s a freeway overpass, you could pull over and hop out, or just run up the ramp with it if you don’t want to risk a license plate number being taken; if it’s at the top of a busy corporate office building patrolled by guards during a terrorism scare, you’re probably better off not carrying a huge, suspicious parcel up in the elevator—are there stairs in the back? If you find an abandoned building that you can get in and out of easily enough and that isn’t frequently checked upon, and you don’t have anywhere else to work, you could theoretically smuggle in the materials and go through some or all of the banner-making process inside before dropping the banner(s) off the roof—and securing the hatch behind you with your own padlock for extra longevity.
The hard part is always going to be getting out of the place after you’ve dropped: generally speaking, the more conspicuous the location is, the more people know immediately that you’re there, and the longer it will take you to get down and out—and the less likely you are to have any kind of crowd cover as you do so. Dress as non-descriptly as possible (or as maintenance employees!), and practice moving quickly up and down stairwells without getting suspiciously out of breath. Check the area out ahead of time; if you’re going to be on security cameras at any point, bring a change of clothes, glasses, a hat, a reversible jacket, or other accessories to disguise your identity.
Transport your banner in such a way that you know exactly how to orient it when the moment comes. Unless you think you’ll have time to tie knots at a leisurely pace, consider using padlocks or carabineers: have a loop pre-tied at the end of the rope so you can simply loop it around the bar or pipe or whatever you’re securing it to and snap the lock or clip onto the loop and the rope on the other side. If there’s nowhere to attach a rope or chain, you can use heavy weights—plastic jugs filled with sand, for example—to anchor the banner. Make sure the ropes or chains suspending your banner are stretched tight apart at the top, so it won’t bunch up—check in advance to make sure this is possible, and that your anchor can handle the weight you’re suspending from it. Then walk or run like hell and keep your cool.
Though banner drops are not considered illegal in many places and often never investigated, it’s always a good practice to leave your cell phone at home so its GPS signal can’t be linked you to where you just were. If you find that you need to communicate with a getaway driver, borrow a pair of walkie-talkies from neighbor’s kids and pretend like you’re 10 years old again. And if you would like to take a picture to share on the internet (always a good idea!) you can bring an old digital camera (everyone seems to have an old one in a drawer somewhere) or drive by later with your cell phone to take a picture and add a misleading caption like “Wow, we just saw this on the way into town!” To access the internet anonymously, you can download the Tor Browser and post your image to secure movement sites like itsgoingdown.org. Please remember to have fun, be safe, and raise some hell.
Part 2: Altering street signs, coming soon.
[Banner Drop how-to adapted from Destructables.]