Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement
In the last 20 years, there have been innumerable watershed moments that have resulted in increasing repression against movements of social and economic liberation. In the so-called United States we’ve experienced a reality shaped by the Green-Scare, the Patriot Act, endless war, the Snowden leaks, the rise of drone technology, creation of fusion centers, the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, 1033 Programs, indefinite detention, the privatization of State violence, a rise in hyper-patriotism focused around violence and masculinity, and an increase in actions of violence committed by white nationalists; both in service to the existing State; as well as, against it. With the unprecedented backdrop of climate change looming over tomorrow, the authoritarian impact of these repressive events will only be exacerbated
In response to this authoritarianism, we’ve also experienced an adaptive, creative, and often times autonomous outgrowth from those struggling for collective liberation. Though the uprisings and occupations may serve as crests within our movements, it is the time spent in between these moments where much of the work to organize, build, and shape the world around us has taken place. Our endurance and presence are in of itself, a threat to the oppressive structures attempting to dominate our lives. Therefore, it is increasingly important to develop and nurture existing networks of resistance, while also building new formations, refining our tactics, and providing alternatives to the State that are rooted in collective liberation.
Finding yourself providing security for threatened individuals, groups, actions, and/or locations is not just a necessary reaction to the threat now present before us but is an act of radical solidarity and love in increasingly dangerous times. The weight of this responsibility to each other necessitates the need for informed, organized, and value-based organizing and support around Community Safety, Security, and Defense. The following document is intended to provide a basic overview of some necessary tactics, techniques, procedures, and theory, that should be considered when providing physical security. It is in no way comprehensive, and many of the thoughts within here could be expanded on and developed much more thoroughly. So please allow this document to serve as only a starting point for this practice.
The way in which we show up to support our communities, partners and networks really should, in all seriousness, most definitely, reflect the values and vision of the world we are hoping to create. Community Defense, Safety, and Security can easily decompose into a mechanical replication of oppressive structures and violence. This degradation of action can in turn be escalated by scale and duration of our involvement, and the potential levels of violence associated with a threat. Folx intending to provide community defense in any situation should consider the values that are informing their praxis. Though this can be a very individualized expression, collective and community values and agency should be centered.
Regardless if it is serving as a temporary formation, or a longer-term organizing project, demilitarization should be centered within a Community Safety, Security, and Defense project. It must be prefaced that this value can sometimes be used as an excuse to avoid specific tactics, such as armed defense, but this type of thought process is flawed and shallow and is not at all intended to be presented here. We should never limit the tactics available to our communities and struggles.
Demilitarization in turn reinforces the necessity of creativity as we work to defend our communities and spaces. It focuses on developing and deepening relationships with the community that we are working with. It requires that our appearance, posture, equipment, tactics, techniques, and procedures all be informed by the input and held experiences of the communities that we are working with. The goal should always be support, not occupation.
A thoughtful question to consider is, “What is the level of risk that your safety team is willing to take on in order to both deal with a threat, but also not impose the symbols, tools, and postures that only recreate state violence?” This is important because our actions, regardless of intention, can make a community actually more unsafe for its members. When acquiring equipment, gear, and training, we should look for alternatives to those products and brands that reinforce the Military-Industrial-Complex. When that option is not available, teams should:
· Work to democratize knowledge.
· Adapt existing knowledge and decipher it for broad use by our movements.
· Gather resources by means other than Capitalism.
· Focus specifically on empowering our communities.
Avoiding the recreation of a Left leaning gun/defense culture, which only continues to reinforce the mechanisms of capitalism and imperialism, is imperative. Instead we should present both the skillset and equipment/products we use, as tools to be mastered but not fetishized.
Mutual Aid means solidarity, not charity. By viewing Community Safety, Security, and Defense as a practice of mutual aid, we end up being shaped much more thoroughly by the social relationships and conditions in which we are operating. This changes the dynamic of fulfilling an ask from a somewhat economical exchange of need and service, to that of one rooted in collective struggle.
Harm Reduction as a value emphasizes that we consider the impacts of our choices and actions. It allows us to look at our actions in relationship to structural oppressions and allows us to prioritize and empower those most at risk.
To be trauma informed in our work requires us to build the conditions in which communities and individuals are comfortable expressing their fears and needs. With the way in which defense and security has been developed within Capitalist modes of production and relationship, even folx looking to help a community can end up recreating severe trauma. It is important to understand that these formations, tactics, and tools that we are choosing to use, are also used by the State to inflict violence on our communities. This reality can be extremely triggering to the communities we are supporting. Our intentions and identities also don’t absolve these facts. Understanding that trauma exists and isn’t negated by intention, allows our teams to be adaptive to the needs of those we are supporting, and will go a long way in deepening relationship and trust among communities.
From the beginning of the colonial project, Community Defense, is a term used to justify horrific acts of violence and genocide. For white folx engaging in this role, there needs to be a specific reckoning with the long legacy of white vigilante violence that has been perpetrated against indigenous and black communities. In many of the situations you will find your safety and security team, you will be defending space that is stolen and occupied. Decolonization therefore requires an examination of our relationship with the land, the indigenous people and struggles of that land, and the repercussions of our actions.
Horizontal Organization and Decision Making
Hierarchy and specialization can recreate oppression. When making decisions as a team, we should prioritize democratic decision-making processes. In between asks, or over long-term requests, we should be disbursing the specialized knowledge of security, safety, and defense to others in the community and encouraging their active participation. However, extremely stressful situations create chaos, and can trigger the flight, fight, freeze responses of individuals. Having folks that are clearly designated to make decisions and give directives is important. Consideration should also be given to the larger community’s organizational and decision-making structures that are already in place. These may not always fit into a horizontally aligned structure. As guests of a community, the melding of tendencies and formations should be an ongoing process based on collective values and relationship building. A team that tries to push their positions, while being unresponsive to the needs of a supported community, can quickly become an occupying force.
When examining security for buildings or other physical locations, it is best to use a prescriptive process that examines the physical space and location. A logical manner for conducting this assessment can be undertaken by examining the space from either the outside/in or inside/out. What it means to examine a location from the outside/in, is to implement a process that starts at a larger scale level examination of the space and then works itself inwards, examining the smaller components of that space. For example when providing security for a building, a safety and security team wouldn’t want to just look at the building as if it exists within a vacuum, but instead start at a larger scale such as a city center, neighborhood, or city block, and then work there their analysis inwards. This process doesn’t stop at just the physical building, but also explores the internal structures such as rooms, entries, and exits, etc. This method can be scaled to the request and can be reversed to conduct the analysis from the inside-out.
Continuing with the example of analyzing from the outside/in; a team would want to look at the location and threat as it sits within the larger structural and social landscape. To do this, they should ask some of the following questions:
· What is the length of time of the request?
· What is the history and social, political, and economical ties of the location?
· What are the potential avenues of approach to the building? These are called ingress (in to the space) egress (out from the space) routes. We want to think about how people are going to approach us, how we can exit, and the effect the terrain will have on that.
· Where are the places where people get choked up or narrow?
· Are there terrain features that can be better controlled such as ramps, bridges, doorways, etc?
· What does accessibility look like?
· Are there locations in which someone can place themselves that allows them to view multiple avenues of approach from a single location (preferably without drawing attention to themselves)?
· Are there specific terrain features (hills, parking garages, etc.) that can serve as key terrain to view the location being served, and/or possibly serve as communication relay points?
o Walkie-talkies work by line of site, and higher vantage points can serve to connect to locations that can’t see each other.
· What are the most likely ways in which someone will approach the location?
· How many and where are the Entry/Exit locations for the space/building?
o Controlling access, by blocking or closing some entry spaces, can control the location in which a threat may be able to access the space. These “choke-points” are easier to control with a smaller amount of people.
o Consider fire and building codes of a location when trying to block or close off exits.
o Identify primary entry exit points; as well as emergency, or VIP entry/exit points. A safety team wouldn’t want to have to bring a VIP, that is threatened, through a main crowd, or the entry in which a threat is presenting themselves.
· Do you have enough people to properly secure the space?
o Team size is unfortunately, most often based on the people-resources that are available; however, the ideal set up of a security and safety team is one that lets the team identify and deal with a threat before it ever enters the space.
o This can look like a team composition of:
§ Scouts outside the building watching avenues of approach.
§ Exterior door folks that can intercept the threat.
§ Interior security that can respond and reinforce the door.
§ Interior security tasked with directly dealing with a threat that has made it into the space (think hecklers or assholes trying to disrupt, but also think about blocking cameras of live-streamers or possibly news).
§ VIP Security, which would be persons tasked directly with protecting the VIP and helping to move them out of the space based on emergency exit plans.
§ Know your crowd and understand if it will have folks that may want to step into security/safety rolls, or that may end up unintentionally escalating the situation?
Threat Analysis and Modeling
This is also an important time to conduct a threat analysis and present some possible threat modeling. When conducting a threat analysis, a safety and security team should begin by examining the possible threat that may be present. This needs to include examining both State and Non-State threats, or possibly a mixture of the two. Once the threat has been identified, begin examining the threat characteristics. This can include looking at High Value Individuals within the threatening group. These will be decision makers, leaders, and people of position and power. Try to create a list that you are able to put names to faces. Also examine the symbols and uniforms that are used by the threat to identify themselves. Understanding these can help a safety and security team better identify a threat from farther away or from within a crowd.
When engaged in this process, also look at the ways the threat has shown up in the past. A team should ask:
· What are the tactics that they have used in the past?
· Are their actions increasing in violence?
· What are the patterns that can be pieced together from their historical actions?
Team analysis should also take into consideration what is being said about the event or location being secured? Monitoring online communication and infiltrating threat spaces can be extremely beneficial in understanding the possible threat to a location.
Once this analysis has been completed, a safety and security team can then begin to develop possible courses of actions the threat may take. Threat modeling based on expected capabilities and equipment; as well as, historical and doctrinal deployments of those things, can ensure that this course of action development is informed by the threat, and not paranoia or fear. At a minimum, courses of action should be developed for:
· Most likely course of action.
· Most dangerous course of action.
· Least likely course of action.
However, this by no means should be the limit of development. The full team being engaged in this process can uncover many possibilities, and they should be expressed, weighed, and prioritized. This process is important because it allows the safety and security team to begin thinking about their own actions in meeting the threat, while developing contingency and follow on plans.
Putting Analysis into Practice
After analyzing our values and the physical and social conditions a team will be operating in, a safety and security team will need to prepare to move into action. In this phase it is good practice to look at the skills and role delineation of the team. This is where one would want to set protocols, procedures, and practices that effectively defend the space and utilize resources, while also supporting the community the team is in solidarity with, while meeting the requirements of the specific request.
When looking at establishing Roles for a safety and security team, look for and develop skills around:
· Basic First Aid/Medical Evacuation
· Unarmed/Armed Self-Defense
· Radio Communications
· Legal/Jail Support
· Offsite Support
Use the acronym RIVALs as a basis of establishing accountability within the team.
· Roles to delineate the specific responsibility within the team.
· Individuality allows one to identify specific skills and tasks that the person can comfortably carry out. Also think about special circumstances that may be manifesting themselves in your life that could cause certain stressors to be triggered.
· Vulnerabilities that could stop you from acting and increase risk. Honest communication around triggers, mental and physical health, mutually acceptable tactics, and ability needs to be stressed during this process.
· Arrestability is something that must be individually determined. This requires an honest discussion with yourself and your teammates. There are many things that affect a person’s arrestability, and a team can be comprised of folx with varying levels. Ideally a buddy team (2 people) would have similar levels of arrestability. This is a good time to discuss legal support, emergency contacts, and the actions folx would want to take place to stop them from being arrested or after being detained. This will help create a level of accountability with each other; in addition to the community.
· Loose ends that could/should be finished out, closed up, or taken care of in the case of the need for a prolonged absence. Pets and children that need to be taken care of for example.
Also consider having team members establish an emergency contact that will not be on site if something where to happen. Consider that folx may use different names and genders when communicating with folx outside of the team. Get consent on what information the individual is willing to be shared.
The protocols and procedures that we operate with should be established to deal with both direct threats and emergencies. Direct threats are those threats that are presenting themselves in the moment. This could mean anticipated threats we are aware of but haven’t yet materialized, or those threats that are present in the moment. What a team knows about these threats can influence its formations and posture; as well as the tactics that are available fulfill the request.
Emergencies may be situations that can arise unexpectedly, but still be planned for. The two main emergencies that a team should plan for is that of a violent threat and/or a medical emergency.
In this capitalist system, violence is in and of itself a commodity always for sale. We have seen time and time again the ways in which this system utilizes both state sanctioned, and non-state actors to attack, kill, intimidate, and control us. Safety and security teams should be honest about the risk of possible violence, and honestly understand their willingness to provide a line of safety against such violence. Nonviolent de-escalation of a threat should always be prioritized, but if a Community Safety, Security, and Defense group wants to be able to respond to the range of threats that face our communities, they should work to develop skills in armed and unarmed self-defense, self and community care, basic first aid, acute trauma care, and basic triage.
Violent threats should be met with tactics equal to the threat, isolated from the larger community, suppressed from acting, and removed if possible. When the State represents the threat, it may not possible to rise to the level of threat presented. This could because of legal ramifications, superior State technology and equipment, as much as the larger community fall-out that could occur from out-of-step and uninformed actions. Unfortunately, due to the monopoly of violence possessed by the State, a team’s actions to provide autonomous and alternative options to repression cannot always be exercised. When the State is present, we should always consider our roles in relation to the ask and adapt accordingly.
During a medical emergency your team may be required to initially respond with basic first aid/medical care, evacuate someone to higher care, call for higher care, or provide direct support to those providing treatment or evacuation. You may also find yourself in a position in which you are navigating a State response that pairs medical first responders with law enforcement. It is therefore imperative for the team to use a harm reductive approach when considering state intervention. What this means is that not only should you be concerned about providing care, but also consider what threats are increased for vulnerable people if law enforcement enters the situation. If we are able to provide for ourselves, we should prioritize it as primary option.
To prepare for medical emergencies safety and security teams can ask some basic questions:
· What is the ambulance/fire response time, and can we actually do it quicker and safer?
· Are there folx within the space that are a higher risk of violence if the State intervenes.
· Do we have the skills to keep each other safe, or at least the ability to directly evacuate someone to higher care facilities?
o Know if the location has a defibrillator machine and where it is located.
o Do you know how to apply a tourniquet and does your team have any?
o Does your team have medical emergency kit(s)?
o It is not a bad idea to carry a basic medical kit with:
§ Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT)
§ Emergency Trauma Dressing (Pressure Bandage)
§ Triangle Bandage
§ Rolled Gauze
§ Combat Quick Clot Gauze
§ Low Dose Aspirin/NSAID
§ Antihistamine/Allergy Med
§ EPI – Pen (Prescription required to acquire)
§ Nitrile/Latex Gloves
§ Basic Snack Food with sugars, carbs, and protein
o What are the specific characteristics of an emergency created by different possible scenarios? A mass-shooter response will look different than a response to food poisoning, or an extreme weather event.
Fire and Inclement Weather
It is also important to consider fire and inclement weather protocols. For fire emergencies, at a minimum know where the fire extinguishers/fire blankets are and if they are operational. Also know where the emergency exits are and if they happened to be blocked in any attempt to control access. Establish a rally point so that folx are accounted for and not left behind. Inclement weather plans can focus on locations within a building, or the layout of a space, that can provide shelter and protection.
Knowing and planning for the weather should be basic practice for a safety and security team. Understanding the weather for the period you are providing security is important. It can determine:
· What equipment you bring with you.
· Necessitate possible formation changes.
· The need for possible changes in location.
· The clothing worn and if you need to prepare for weather changes.
· Certain threat assets that can be used. For example, drones and surveillance planes can be limited by foul and inclement weather.
· The willingness of a threat to show up or act.
When thinking about Emergency Exits, take your analysis a little further than just the number and location of the exits and consider:
· What your exit routes are.
· Who can and should use them?
· Are there pre-establish rally points to regroup?
· Do you have a vehicle pre-staged that can provide a quick medical evacuation or take a threatened person/group to a pre-staged safehouse?
The threat from Law Enforcement is ever present. Neoliberal attempts of including law enforcement within the planning process or their activities does not limit the threat they. It is also inherently counter to what is needed in order to achieve collective liberation. This continued appeal practiced by many “progressive” formations opens our struggle to a host of threats and neuters the creativity necessary in shaping a world without Police, Prisons, and Colonial-Settler-White Supremacy Culture, while continuing the perpetuation of Anti-Blackness and White Violence within our spaces.
A common need for any action is for someone to act as a police liaison. This isn’t an inherent role within a safety team. It should ideally be someone from the community that put out the request, but because of limited resources, it may fall on a safety team member. If that does happen, consider the demographics of your team and the risk that is created for certain folx when they have to interact with the police. It is important to stress that the Liaison’s responsibility is to delay action and/or distract the police. The Police Liaison is not there to negotiate with the police. The person in this role should be mindful that the police will attempt to use them in a “soft-police” role in order to limit or control the actions taking place. The reason a safety and security team is even present, is to protect the space, community and their actions, not to serve as an extension of the State.
Communication is foundational to providing Community Safety, Security, and Defense. The co mfortability and ways in which your team communicates, can have a major impact on the ability to provide safety and security. Teams that work together over time and in different situations, will develop their own culture of communication, which could include new names, codewords, and jargon. However, it is also important to develop protocols and procedures for specific types of communication. This can be protocols around use of phone apps and messaging, and/or radio communications.
If phones are your primary method of communication, encrypted messaging apps, such as Signal, should be used. Group messages should be created for specific asks. There should be a vetting process for access if the formation is fulfilling a long-term request or when working with new people. The use of disappearing messages or message destruction should be used if available within the app. Not only should potentially illegal acts not be discussed via this medium, but also anything that could create the conditions for a conspiracy charge. Communications should always be centered within a groups Security Culture Practices.
When using Radios and Walkie-Talkies be aware that this is an unencrypted, often open, and easily interdicted choice of communication. The ability to communicate is also dependent upon terrain, frequency, and jamming capabilities. It is good practice to create code words for threats, specific locations and actions; as well as callsigns for each other, etc. Due to the openness of this method of communication, it is good to establish both Primary and Alternate Radio Channels. A good acronym to remember for thorough comms planning is PACE:
· Primary – This will be the main way in which you will communicate if problems don’t negate it’s use. Think jamming, overcrowding of networks, etc.
· Alternate – The method/channel you will use to communicate if experiencing issues with the primary.
· Contingency – Similar to alternate. This may be an offsite communication location that can relay information to other teams/places.
· Emergency – Can be a 911. When higher medical care is needed, but also can be other teams not on site/back up.
o Back up communications from a primary method could be as easy as switching radio frequencies or switching devices (Radios to Phone/Signal or Phone/Signal to Radios).
There may times, when the safest thing that a safety and security team can do is to lockdown the space. Preventing anyone from entering or leaving, and in turn hardening a position to a threat. To do this, a team should visit its threat analysis, and imagine all the possible ways a threat can show up. This can look like:
· Lone Individual
· As a group
· The State and it’s echelons.
· A mixture of State and Non-State Actors
By looking at what the possible threats have done in the past (their actions, formations, uniforms, etc.), you can anticipate the threats they pose and develop follow on and contingency plans for your team. While doing security for locations and communities, consider specific ecological, social, and physical attributes in a day, that could provide certain advantages, or increase the likelihood of a threat presenting itself. This can include examining attributes such as:
· Periods of darkness and moon cycle/illumination.
· Foul weather
· Times of increased people-traffic, such as mealtimes, holidays, weekends, that could provide certain strategic advantages to a threat.
It would be good to think about how long you will lock down for, before attempting an evacuation or lessened security posture. The time frame for this would dependent on the type of threat presented. Consider the following when developing lockdown procedures:
· Are there available supplies that allow for a prolonged lockdown.
· Do you know if there is available offsite help and what is their response time? Prioritize each other, our networks, and communities first.
· If barricading is needed, look to create “barricades in-depth”. If locking down a location for a longer period, barricades of different types, placed in a manner that reinforces each other, and changes medium/dispersal method, can significantly delay a threat.
Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance
Surveillance is a term often used to discuss the monitoring of our own actions and networks. The surveillance apparatus of the State is ever present and can be debilitating to our ability to move and act. Doxxing by police, media, and Non-State actors have real impacts and pose serious risks to life and autonomy. Surveillance of our teams and communities allows for the fabrication of criminal cases. It exposes our tactics, techniques, and procedures to analysis from potential threats, which in turn can be used to counter our efforts and increase our risks. Radical security culture can go a long way in negating the threat of surveillance. Protocols around communication, identity, presence, and action should all be discussed thoroughly within a security team. However, in no way should surveillance remain in the realm of our adversaries.
The use of cameras, key locks, safes, and alarm systems are foundational to the implementation of physical safety, security, and defense. Some spaces may have these resources available to you, but many will not. Having access and knowledge around the use of just some of the following equipment items can greatly increase a team’s ability to provide coverage and protect a space. It can also reduce unnecessary exposure. Some items of value could be:
· Trail Cameras
· Passive infrared light systems
· Passive infrared alarm systems
Understandably, not every team will have the resources available to acquire even simple surveillance systems. One way that a team can adapt to this need is found again in the space and threat analysis. When looking at a space, we:
· Examine the possible avenues of approach.
· Determine our threats possible courses of actions
· Identify Key Terrain
By undertaking these steps, we engage in a process of discovery that allows us to identify specific areas of interest, that when monitored, can give an idea around:
· The actual presence of a threat.
· It’s potential movement.
· It’s capabilities and disposition (numbers).
All this information that can allow a team to adapt and respond in the best, most informed ways possible.
When surveillance equipment is unavailable for our teams to use in order to monitor these areas, a safety and security team can set up an Observation and Listening Post. This position can be established with just one person or a team. Observation Post’s numbers and disposition are only limited by the people-resources available to the team. Ideally the post is hidden from plain sight (concealed or put into a place where they can blend in) and has a clear line of sight to the area being monitored.
By proactively engaging in surveillance of our areas of responsibility, teams can reduce reactionary responses in defending a space. Understanding the surveillance techniques being employed against the team, can help create a team security culture based on reality, instead of paranoia and fear, and begin to establish counter-surveillance practices that work to keep everyone safe.
Debriefing/After Action Reports
When the event is over, it is important to do a debrief with your team and the community that put out the ask. This serves a means of gathering knowledge about actions and capabilities that can in turn inform our actions going forward. Knowledge gathering is a wholistic and continuous process that strengthens our formations. For security that occurs over a longer period, this can look like doing a debrief at a reoccurring set time (ex. weekly, biweekly), or after a major event such as a security threat presenting itself. This debrief can look at how a team dealt with the event:
· What was done well.
· What was done poorly.
· Areas/practices that need improvement.
· Areas/practices that should remain in place.
This helps to develop an adaptive security approach that reflects the most current realities. It also creates the conditions in which the safety and security team’s praxis can be informed by its own analysis.
The ask for providing Community Safety, Security, and Defense is an increasingly necessary role for those engaged in the struggle for Collective Liberation. Prioritizing doing the work effectively, and with intention, is needed to develop a robust culture around what it truly means when we say, “We keep us safe.” When moving to fill this need, our capabilities are significantly increased when we use prescriptive processes of analysis and implement thorough protocols around our planning and procedures. This document lays out a basic road map for meeting that need, but it is important to realize that safety and security is an ongoing process that requires the synthesis of both theory and praxis.
We must be creative in how we fill the roles required of us by our communities, and we must also be creative in how we respond to our adversaries. These threats to the people and ideas we love will not vanish overnight. Therefore, purposeful struggle entails the need for skill development. To assist in developing the skills needed to keep each other safe, it is imperative that we engage in a process that is continuous, adaptable, and reinforcing. For many this means engaging in tasks that may be new and terrifying. However, we can intentionally inform our actions, and reduce the risks posed to our people, places, and points of struggle. It is by developing the relationships and skills necessary to undermine oppression and violence that we can also create the strength necessary to shape tomorrow and defend our future.