Switching Things Up: Beyond Banner Drops
Filed under: Featured, Getting Organized
Filed under: Featured, Getting Organized
Every year, there are constant calls for solidarity actions both nationally and internationally. In recent years, the go to action of choice for many has been banner drops along highly trafficked streets and freeways. We in no way shape or form want to take away from these actions. Banner drops can be seen by potentially thousands of people, photos of the banners can be shared online, and write ups of the action give those behind it a chance to issue a statement of solidarity. Moreover, banner drops are also often easy to carry out and help build trust and confidence between those doing the action.
The point of this column is simply to get people to think about different actions, the logic behind them, and how they can help in accomplishing the goal of letting people know about a struggle or repression that comrades face, expanding that struggle, and aiding materially to that struggle. Beyond that, we hope to create a list of easy, reproducible, and low risk actions that you and your friends can use on top of banner drops – thus expanding the tools in your tool box. Above all, remember that these are just ideas, and we encourage everyone to engage in experimentation to better fit them into your own local context.
In carrying out actions, even small ones, we want to communicate with the wider world that something important is happening and they need to know about it. Also, when comrades face repression, we want to shine a light on that abuse and let people know that it is happening and that we have their backs, just like we hope that they would have ours. Lastly, we also want to experiment with tactics which allow us to meet new people that we could potentially form affinity with.
Towards that end, here are some ideas.
Banners on the freeway are cool, but so are people holding them, waving to the cars below, and potentially holding flares or canisters of colored smoke for added badass effect. If you have at least two other friends (or more), you can pull off this easy to low risk action. If you have even more friends, more time, and coordination – you can mobilize to hold mini-rallies in different parts of the city, at the same time!
With only a banner and some colored smoke, anarchists are able to pull off a rally with limited resources and only a few people. This same tactic can be used during rush hour next to a free-way over pass, thus being seen by thousands of people in a short amount of time.
Colored smoke and flares are also pretty cheap, easy to get a hold of, and can be ordered online. These actions can be carried out during rush hour, seen by thousands of people, and can be accomplished with only a minimal amount of materials.
Info-points are much like banner demonstrations, but instead of a short, simple message you are getting across to a wide audience, the point is to talk, interact with, and hand out flyers to as many people on the street as physically possible. This activity requires again, only three people – at the least, but the more the merrier. Generally at least two people hold a large banner, while another person hands out flyers and talks with the public. These roles can also be switched after only a few minutes to allow different people a chance to rest as well as interact with the public at large. These events can be organized outside of bus stops, subway terminals, and other areas were large amounts of people gather in public.
One example of this is during the struggle in Indiana against the construction of the I-69 freeway, nicknamed the “NAFTA super highway,” that sought to displace homeowners, destroy natural habitat, and create a massive capitalist project and commodity flow system. In opposition, people in part organized “Info-Points,” where they would take over a busy public area with banners, signs, megaphones, and flyers. While these actions were small, they allowed anarchists the ability to interact with large numbers of the public and also make valuable contacts.
In Berkeley, California, anarchists and antifascists organized an info-point after a wave of Alt-Right murders, such as the killing of Timothy Caughman in New York by a fan of The Daily Stormer and Richard Spencer. About 25 people gathered, all wearing masks (a conscious decision made to try and normalize the use of masking up) and carrying several large banners, and over the course of an hour, handed out hundreds of flyers and talked to many members of the public. The action was organized outside of a subway station during rush hour in a busy downtown area.
Info-points can also be organized in the advent that something goes down in your neighborhood or community and a plan for action hasn’t been solidified yet – for instance, someone is killed by the police. Such a response can be organized through word of mouth and over text; encouraging people to gather at the area in question. People bringing banners and signs can then begin to talk with people on the street as well as driving by in cars about what happened.
Coffee Not Cops is a lot like other food distro and mutual aid projects, however it seeks to create a space for conversation and also the sharing of free literature. A great place to set up a Coffee Not Cops table is outside of courthouses and jails. This allows you to talk to people going into and getting out of jail, along with their families. At court houses, people often have to wait in line and in court for hours – might as well give them something to read. This is a great space to talk abut prison organizing, repression, and how people are fighting back. Needed materials are pretty light: just a way to make and bring out a large amount of coffee along with cups, sugar/milk/stir sticks, as well as a banner and free literature.
View this post on Instagram
JAIL SUCKS!!! SUPPORT FOLKS GETTING OUT!! – lovin that one click easy reorder for our usual 9 fresh hot pizzas 🍕 @dominos #sponsorme it's often the first hot meal a person getting out has gotten in several days. warms the soul too! 😊 – starting to get cold! ⛄ We need warm sweaters and jackets donated. DM us if you're in the bay and want to offload warm things! – however jovial the spirit of this post is, for real tho. SANTA👏RITA👏IS👏EVIL👏. We come out here in loving memory of those who have been murdered in and because of this institution. In solidarity for all those coming home. In hopes that soon, all the loved ones inside will be free and this place will be shut down. Hit us up to join. ✊ #aboutlastnight #fuckjail
This tactic has been used by a variety of groups. In the San Francisco Mission District, anarchists utilized the tactic to engage the wider community about issues of police brutality and gentrification. In Oakland, it was used in the lead up to the 2016 prison strike as a way to educate the public about it. In Monterrey, California, it was used to protest and push back on the cities draconian anti-homeless ordinances.
In the lead up to a mass mobilization or large events, or in the lead up to a larger struggle such as a strike, fight against a landlord, etc, it may be helpful to organize a public BBQ to get people out in order to talk about what is going down, how they can help, and how they can plug in.
For instance, in the lead up to mass antifascist mobilizations and the prison strike, anarchists organized public BBQs, where speakers addressed the crowds and information was put forward about public actions and logistical information. Money was also raised by passing the hat and people were able to make face to face connections.
Out of the streets and into your cars! One tactic that only a few have experimented with are vehicle caravans and motorcades. The idea is simple: get vehicles together that have messages written on them as people fly flags out the windows while the music blasts!
Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement – NYC motorcade Saturday, September 8th in #Brooklyn for the #PrisonStrike. Letting people know rebels inside are turning up! From #Attica til today! #BedStuy #Bushwick #CrownHeights #ClintonHill #FortGreene #EastNewYork #BKStandUp#BurnThePrisons #AtticaAnniversary #PrisonStrike2018 #September9
由 Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement 发布于 2018年9月9日周日
In Modesto, California, anarchists organized a caravan across the Central Valley between various cities impacted by police violence, holding a rally at each stop before ending in a march and a BBQ. In Brooklyn, members of the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement organized a motorcade in support of the prison strike throughout a local neighborhood. The purpose was to support the strike, but also to connect it to the consciousness of the wider community.
In other instances, people have also utilized renting U-Haul vehicles, which in some cases have been useful in chasing unwanted groups right out of the city.
While we talk a lot about building infrastructure and acquiring space, there’s also something to be said about doing events outside in order to engage with the wider world that might never think about attending a screening of Trouble after coming across a flyer.
Showing films outside, projected onto the sides of buildings, or through a TV are a few alternatives. Some places outside have outlets, many of which have power, so setting up a TV and a DVD player can work in many parks or downtown areas. If you have access to a projector and if needed, a battery, you can also project films onto the sides of buildings or other surfaces.
Such film showings outside can be a nice change of pace, bring you into interacting with the public at large, and also open up points of contestation over public space. An example of this is after the Oscar Grant riots, anarchists in Oakland, California projected footage of the riots onto walls in the Downtown, sometimes leading to more clashes with the police after the films were done. In Eugene, Oregon and Santa Cruz, California, guerilla film clubs were also started, with anarchists showing subversive films and creating a space for people to gather. Lastly in Gainesville, Florida, members of IWOC have started to show films guerrilla style across from a local prison, projecting the movie onto a screen and blasting sound out so that prisoners can see and hear the movie as well.
If you live in a sizeable city or town, you probably notice boxes throughout the area that have real estate information or free newspapers in them. These boxes, if you can get your hands on an unused one, can be repainted and repurposed to house free magazines, flyers, and literature. There is also the growth of mini-libraries which can also be mimicked. Placed around the city, these can serve to be a source for free and fast distribution of materials.
As we talked about in the last column, forming squads for patrols against Alt-Right, neo-Nazi, and white nationalist materials and activity can be an easy win for any group looking to engage. However, this patrol format can also be expanded to not only remove and cover up fascist materials, but also put up or own materials and promote upcoming events. If you can get a large enough group together you can also split up and cover different parts of your area, increasing your groups reach.
Now more than ever, a lot of anarchists and antifascists are bringing their politics into sports, bars, music venues, and places where everyday people still come together in public spaces. Whether dropping a banner at a huge football game or flying anarchist and antifa flags and banners at home town soccer games, many people are seeking to politicize the spaces they already find themselves in with their friends. In other places, people are organizing across bars and music venues, in order to keep out groups like the Proud Boys or neo-Nazi musical acts.
— Occupied Southwest Distro (@OccupiedSW) August 26, 2018
Last but not least, one of the most crucial things to do in the face of repression and also in an effort to show solidarity, is to find a way to expand a struggle. This can mean organizing benefits or get together nights with comrades to participate in call-in campaigns. It can also mean finding a way to show solidarity, like organizing a protest outside of a consulate. It can also mean trying to find a way to picket or demonstrate outside of an office or administrative building, or perhaps outside of a certain store in solidarity during a strike in another place.
Stickers on Georgia Tech campus warn about Atlanta's John Marshall Law School.#AJMLS has known for over year & a half that its student Casey J Cooper is a white power leader who made clear lynching threats against a Black activist in Atlanta. School ignores community concerns. pic.twitter.com/4tbL1O0f6a
— Atlanta Antifascists (@afainatl) December 4, 2018
At the end of the day, there’s not a rigid format or ideology that holds any or all of the answers. History, whether Spanish anarchism of the 1930s or the Black Panthers of the 1960s or the French riots of today offer only examples, not blueprints. Ultimately, it’s up to us to experiment and see what works where we live.
An ongoing column about community organizing and some do's and don'ts of anarchist and autonomous activity.