Road Raging - Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding

Chapter 13 - Campaign Security

When you jump off the fence and actively try to stop a road, you make powerful enemies. The institutions that push roads see any rebellion, however mild, as an aberration, and have the ability and the desire to stamp on it. This section suggests some measures which might make it more difficult for "them" to harass you, the campaign, and its supporters.

Some have said that if we are justified, we will have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. This might be true if we were playing village cricket, but the State is neither a "good sport" nor a gracious loser. People attending just one peaceful mass rally at Twyford Down found themselves on a DoT Injunction, and were sued for a share of £1.9m - quite a price for a day out! If you seriously challenge the State, they will try to squash you - and if your protest isn't a threat, why are you bothering at all? The more effective you appear, the more harassment you can expect: surveillance, smears, infiltration, heavy policing, systematic violence, and so on. Don't let the fear of this intimidate you, as that's exactly what it's meant to do. Expect it as the price of effectiveness, and be prepared to counter it.

General Security

The main weapon you can expect to experience, especially in the early stages of a protest, is information gathering. They need to know who is doing what before they can stop you doing it, and so it's important to get into the habit of letting them know as little as possible.

Always avoid being photographed if you can, and never tell them your name, address or anything else, unless you're actually arrested. Get used to looking out for and avoiding (or obstructing!) specialist evidence gathering teams (see page yyy). Don't call out anyone's name in earshot of police or contractors, and be extra careful what you say if there are evidence gatherers around. Face-paints and masks, home-made or from joke shops, are particularly useful to people on bail or injuncted (unless they are the only mask-wearers). You could dress uniformly in certain circumstances; for example, if everyone wears identical cheap boiler suits, the evidence gatherers will have a harder job.

A word about chatting to the police - don't. The police are never on your side, however "nice" they appear, and are always trying to wheedle little nuggets of information from you. Be especially wary of police with specialised "friendly" roles, such as protester liaison. The Metropolitan Police have set up "Forward Intelligence Teams" who get to know activists and groups over a period of time, in an attempt to predict and control actions. We strongly advise having as little as possible to do with this sort of slimy character, except to expose them and their role every time you see them. Of course, the same principles apply to private detectives and other surveillance junkies. Be aware that media coverage is very useful as a source of information to your enemies. Be careful of what you say. If you deal with the media, you might want to use a false name, or insist on being called "a spokesperson". Of course, if you already have a relationship with journalists, and have appeared before, there's little point in this.

Office Security

Never let police or private detectives into your office. If police turn up with a Search Warrant, stall them for as long as possible by asking to see it, and try demanding to have a solicitor present. Keep the office locked up securely at night. Because dodgy characters may arrive incognito, keep anything sensitive out of immediate view. Never allow anyone to film or take photos in the office, and think carefully before letting journalists in at all. Dividing the office into "zones" helps keep it secure, and stops casual wanderings. Buildings with several rooms and doors are best for this.

Don't give anyone's address or home phone number over the telephone, it is better to take the caller's number and pass it on yourself to the relevant person. Always assume that office phones are tapped and the office is bugged. Never say anything that really matters over any phone. Digital mobile phones are more secure than analogue ones. However, they can still be bugged, and their use allows your position to be tracked to within 50 feet! Mobile phone providers record and store the numbers you call, and where you called them from.

Computer And Document Security

You must look after your supporter database and mailing lists, as the police would love to get their hands on them. If they're on computer, you should definitely encrypt them with PGP or similar software (see page yyy). If you encrypt anything, make sure there are no unencrypted copies lurking on the hard drive. Don't keep paper copies in the office unless you really need to; if you do, hide them really well. Whatever you decide to do, make sure there are several back- up copies of the database in secure places away from the office. Only one or two people ever need know where these are.

Be very careful with other vital documents (eg. phone trees, address books, message books). Protect and keep safe copies of anything that the police might find useful, and everything the campaign can't afford to lose. Ditch anything that might get anyone into trouble. If someone produces an incriminating document, wipe it from computer discs and hard drives immediately, using an appropriate program (eg. WipeInfo). Burn paper originals. Of course, there needs to be a balance between security and workability, as there's no point having an office if no-one can use it.


Your campaign will be infiltrated, whether it's someone sitting quietly at the back of a single meeting, or cops with dreadlocks living full-time on protest camps for months. You are very unlikely to spot infiltrators, and can waste masses of energy and cause loads of grief trying to do so. (See also "mutual support" in Chapter 14)


If you publish leaflets, pamphlets, newsletters or books publicising actions, beware the "thought police"! In an attempt to control information available to the general public about grass roots activism, the British police are increasingly raiding, making arrests and charging people with "conspiracy to incite". The targets so far have been Animal Liberation Front (ALF) spokespeople, and Green Anarchist editors. One ALF spokesperson was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1987 for "conspiring to incite others". This is the thin end of a large wedge designed to isolate and neutralise radical activity. Targets for the "thought police" will undoubtedly grow to include environmental activists.


This book is now out of print. You might be able to get a copy from a UK library by ordering on the inter-library loans scheme.

Road Alert!