Road Raging - Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding

Chapter 8 - Preparing for Action

When considering Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA), and particularly as the start of work looms, there are lots of things you can do to set up a framework for sustained action. The further in advance you start, the more comprehensive your preparation will be.

Route Monitoring

The contractors won't phone up to let you know when they are coming, so it is important to regularly visit the route or area under threat and get to know it intimately. Note all sightings of suspicious-looking people or vehicles. Start a list of contractor's vehicles, any telephone numbers on them, and their number plates. Cameras may be useful for identifying key contractor's staff. Don't feel afraid to approach them. Try to find out where they come from. Ask them politely what they are doing, but remember they may well lie. If they are contractors or surveyors, let them know that they are not welcome, perhaps chase them off or obstruct them. It may be best to watch surveyors without approaching them (see Chapter 10).

A co-ordinated route monitoring rota prevents duplication of effort. If monitoring is only done once each day, it shouldn't be too early as contractors could arrive at any time. Strategically placed people with binoculars and a good view of approach roads, paths and car parks, should spot any unwanted activity. Ask dog walkers and other locals (especially those living very near the route) to look out for and report anything unusual. Monitoring on foot or bicycle allows you to hear what is going on, and to notice finer details of changes. Look out for spray-painted marks on trees, paths and roads. Metal pins hammered into the ground, tarmac or wood may also indicate surveying. It is rumoured that these pins come out with a claw hammer.

All information, including "all clears", should be passed on to the office, where developments can be noted on a large wipeable board. If you don't have an office, perhaps someone could volunteer to be a central point for collating route monitoring information.

Grid Maps

Early on in the campaign it is a good idea to get a decent standard map done of the area which is under threat, particularly if it is a large, complex area. The map can have many uses: for route monitoring, phone tree messages and for newcomers. A grid drawn over the map with co- ordinates along both edges will make it very easy for people to describe locations (rather like the game "Battleships"!)

The map should be well drawn and extremely clear with grid squares of a usable size. Mark important landmarks on it with local place names. Include the nearest town so that people can connect the site with the town and find their way around. Mark the railway and bus station and good hitching points. Also mark places like the local healthfood shop, an organic food centre, the local market, the ironmongers, the hospital and police station. This will all make the map especially useful for newcomers.

If you are using a phone tree, the map could be distributed to all those on it so that a simple message can be sent down the lines: "There are bulldozers working at Badger Woods at D 7" for example and everyone will know where to go. Include approach routes if access is blocked or not obvious. See Appendix for an example of a grid map.

Camps - When and Why?

Before rushing into setting up a camp, ask whether it is the tactic most likely to stop the road, considering the time and commitment involved. A camp should be a thorn in the side of the developers. If camps are set up too early, then they may be evicted before the contractors even need to enter the land. To be effective, camps must at least delay contractors work, ideally when they are just about to take possession of the site. If there are few defendable features on route, consider using off-route camps as a less vulnerable base for proactive action.

For a camp to prove an effective obstacle, particularly as eviction processes become quicker and better practised, you may need to be able to establish strong sites very quickly. A prepared team with adequate materials can, as at Freiburg in Germany in 1996, create a camp in the trees within hours. A ground crew could build compost toilets, ground level sleeping space and a kitchen area, whilst other groups build barricades, rope walkways, tree houses, lock-ons and start tunnels. If a support crew prepare food and refreshments, work will go on more quickly. Once you are well established, the enemy will have to plan full scale eviction procedures (see Chapter 9).

Off-Route Camps and Accommodation

If you supply people with shelter, and the means to look after themselves, then they are more likely to stay around and be active. On route camps can be very draining and people may develop an inertia caused by a fear that as soon as they leave, the bailiffs will arrive to trash it. As a result, direct action becomes an uphill struggle and tempers fray. An off-route camp is worth considering as a base for proactive action, and an introduction to outdoor living for newcomers. Think big - if you accommodate for 20 people then you will only get 20; if you go for 100 then you might get them.

defaultFind the land by asking sympathetic landowners if they have a spare corner of a field or open woodland which you could use. Local authority's planning restrictions state that you can only camp on land for 28 days each year. This period runs from the day the authority knows you are there. As a result, it is sensible to tell any potential "host" that you will move after 28 days. This means that they won't get into legal troubles and will have a definite date for your departure. Environmental health officers can theoretically shut a camp down before 28 days. They look at catering, washing and latrine arrangements. Satisfy these people, otherwise your "host" may face court summonses.

The purpose of the camp should be clear and agreed by the campaign. Is the camp for long-term residence or for finding your feet before moving on route? Is it for recuperation and rest? Is it a place for planning and initiating proactive NVDA? Is it a place for training workshops? Will it be a campaign "stores"? A venue for meetings and social events? A mixture of these roles is most likely, but the extent of the camp function will ultimately depend on how many people are working to keep it together. The campaign should also decide what it is not.

The off-route camp is vital but if you make it too luxurious, it may cause resentment at other camps, and discourage new people from moving on route. However, the off-route camp should also directly support on-route camps by providing space for refugees after evictions.

Experiences show that a committed team is needed to hold an off-route camp together. Roles at the camp enable people who don't want to take part in NVDA to contribute greatly to the campaign.

It is important that each newcomer is welcomed and given time to find their feet. If you have an information space with maps, news cuttings and leaflets then they can teach themselves. Evening gatherings to update everyone on the day's events should help newcomers "land". The camp should provide a safe, friendly atmosphere for new people to make friends. Have a visitors book and transfer details to your database regularly. Keep it secure!

You will probably be very much at the mercy of fate with the camp's location. Obviously easy access to town and actions via footpaths, bicycle tracks, bus and road is ideal. Ask the "host" how many vehicles they are happy to have parked on the site. Well cooked communal vegan meals will satisfy everyone. Someone should take on collecting money from people for food. Tasks like collecting water and firewood need to be shared amongst everyone. A few visitors should stay at the camp each day to wash all cooking and eating utensils with hot water.

National Rivers Authority approved "tree bogs" or compost toilets will, if kept clean, pass any environmental health inspection (see Appendix). If time and materials are short, you could dig a trench latrine and erect a screen. Have a bowl with soap and water near the toilet area. Avoid "cat sanitation" where everyone goes off to shit in the woods randomly. This is fine for a small number but can make a real mess with lots of people. Definitely avoid "dog sanitation"!

It is worth considering both segregated and mixed sleeping space for men and women. Large structures made with wooden pallets for walls, tarpaulins for a roof, and lined with blankets and waterproof material, can make a comfortable dry shelter. The pallets can be wired together into walls of any size you desire. Start with two pallets at right angles. Beams across the top, creating a sloping roof, should stop rainwater collecting and dripping through. Marquees, horticultural polytunnel frames covered with tarpaulins, and Bedouin tents can all accommodate quite large numbers. Straw-bale dwellings present great possibilities, can be built quite quickly and with care shouldn't burn down! (see Undercurrents 6 in Chapter 17). Wood burners should be well insulated from the tarpaulins.

Have special spaces for sick people, first aid, storage of lost property and spare, clean, dry bedding. Perhaps make colourful, friendly signs detailing what particular structures are for, and stating camp arrangements. e.g. "Clean cooks cook healthy food", "Please remove boots before entering sleeping area".

Squatted buildings on route can be good for putting people up. Unfortunately, they have a habit of becoming tatty and uninviting. It is a full-time job keeping a squat together. Some visitors with special needs may not be able to stay at camps. Perhaps have a list of locals who are happy to put up the occasional visitor or look after ill protesters.

Welcome Centres

You'll need a Welcome Centre if there is nowhere for people to go to get information and an introduction to the campaign (except the office). The role of welcoming people into the campaign, giving them info, and briefing them, is really important and shouldn't be left in the hands of people staffing a hectic office. Set aside a separate space for welcoming. It should be easy for new people to find - near the train/bus station and near a main road.

Remember that this is the "front" to your campaign - both to newcomers from afar and to local people who want to get involved. It should be friendly, clean and warm. Keep it well stocked with info and maps for people to take away. When work has started, the welcome centre should be in touch with the office by phone and CB so it will be up on the latest info and can also direct people to the action.

Obviously the most important thing in the welcome centre is its staff. They should motivate new people and try to give them a good first impression. Communication skills are vital. As this place - unless your campaign has lots of money - will probably be a squat, you'll need a quite strong and motivated team.

Security is very important as any attacks against the campaign will be directed there first. Never keep any compromising info there. By its very nature a welcome centre will be "open" for everyone to walk into, so be careful.

Communications Gadgets - Cbs, Mobile Phones, Pagers Etc

It is essential that all camps, the campaign office and route monitors maintain contact. Citizens' Band radios (CBs) are relatively cheap to run. It helps to have someone experienced to set them up and maintain them. For each station you will need: a radio unit, a car battery (unless you have mains electricity, are using the CB very sparingly, or are installing into a vehicle), and an aerial (co-axial cable and plug).

In addition, it is useful to have a voltmeter, a SWR meter, battery charger, gas soldering iron and a small electrical tool kit. It is also useful to know what to do with them. These additional items should be kept by the person looking after the system.

CB Operation

Give each station an instruction sheet. This should include a prearranged channel and back-up channel for each day of the week. Every station must remember to change channel at the same time. An example is reproduced below.
Mon Tues Weds Thur Fri Sat Sun
Channel 5 3 2 18 10 19 14
Back-up 11 15 7 1 6 12 4
All stations to change at midnight each night.

Everyone on a camp should know how to use the CB; teach newcomers. Tape the channel list to the CB unit.

Messages should be kept brief, ideally written down, and passed on word for word. Shouting on the CB will only distort the message, however faint the signal. Watch what you say over the air, as anyone can listen in. Anyone can also join in, and your channels may be jammed by people hostile to the campaign. If this happens then switch to the prearranged back-up channel, rather than get involved in fruitless dialogue. Don't reveal the back-up channel number on air. Using the CB for unneccessary chat will only alert unfriendly users to which channel you are using, and waste batteries.

Ideally each camp should have a mobile phone as well as its CB radio. If you want to save CB and mobile phone batteries, consider using a pager link. If anyone wants to contact a camp, phoning the pager will alert the camp dwellers, who can then switch on their CB or phone. This means they don't have to be on constantly. Pagers are relatively cheap to buy and run, use very little battery power, and some can receive and display text messages.

You might consider having a radio scanner. If you use one, be discreet as it is illegal (although very useful) to listen in to the police radio.

Quartermasters, Quartermistresses and Resource Allocation

As the campaign grows and becomes busier, there will be lots of demand for resources. It is vital that the whole campaign has confidence in the system of handling and distributing funds. This means that you must create a structure which does not concentrate power or assets with any one person or group, whilst preserving accountability and confidentiality. To ensure these demands are met quickly, fairly and within the budget of the campaign, you may wish to appoint a team of quartermasters (QMs). The QMs' role is to buy equipment, after a finance meeting with activists to find out what is needed, and then to distribute it fairly. These meetings, perhaps separate from the main campaign meeting, must not be dominated by the loudest people. The QMs could start the meeting by telling everyone how much they have to spend. It is then up to the activists to decide amongst themselves how the expenditure should be prioritised. This leaves the QMs with a fairly clear shopping list. QMs should never be asked to make campaign decisions on their own.

Careful bulk purchasing can save huge quantities of money, especially with a cash and carry card. When buying, QMs should ask for maximum discount for paying in cash, and state that they will be purchasing huge amounts in the future. They should phone around for prices, then phone them all back with the lowest price for them to beat. All money spent should be accounted for to the treasurer and the whole campaign.

This role requires a huge amount of patience and attention to detail. Being able to get on with everyone on the campaign, and avoiding favouritism, will help to maintain trust. It is a full-time job and is best filled by people who are easy to get hold of, ideally with their own mobile phone and van.

Bikes and Vehicles

Using pedal power makes more of a statement about sustainability than using vans and cars. Bikes are quicker through traffic than cars and can go almost anywhere. A trailer on the back of a bike can carry loads of things. Bikes don't have registration plates, don't get much hassle from the police and are cheap and easy to maintain yourself. Skips can provide a good source of spare bike parts. People throw away whole bicycles because of a buckled wheel. In the Claremont Road bicycle workshop, during the No M11 Link Campaign in 1994, over sixty bikes were put together from scraps. Bikes can also be used for blockades!

At Newbury, the infamous "Pig Magnet" and "Yellow Peril" were vans donated to the campaign. Both vehicles "got arrested", ferried people to actions, and had songs written about them. Vehicles on campaigns are very expensive to tax, insure and run, cause big headaches for people who take on responsibility for them, and will be abused if not looked after. They must be legal as they will be stopped and harassed by the police. Discuss what is expected of drivers and the vehicle. Campaign vehicles soon get known to contractors and they may get sabotaged. Always check vehicles carefully before driving. Keep them safe, preferably where there is a 24 hour watch.

Driver Lists

It will be useful to have a list of people who are happy to use their vehicles for the campaign: move equipment, tail contractors, take people to hospital, pick them up from police stations etc. Make a list of drivers, their type of vehicle (motorbike, car, van, coach, armoured personnel carrier, helicopter etc.), their telephone number or address, and times when they are likely to be available. Note people who do a regular journey, such as commuters. People prepared to come out and drive in an emergency are particular useful. When a job needs doing, scan the list and find who fits the bill best.

Setting Up A Legal Support Team

It is important to set up a legal support team. They can monitor the legal situation, liaise with lawyers, draft witness statements, help and support those arrested, help in gathering evidence for trials and keep track of court cases. They can also create opportunities for proactive legal action, such as suing the police. This will be a full-time stressful job and is best taken on by a group rather than an individual. Alternatively the role could be rotated, although this won't help with continuity.

The danger is that people may leave everything up to the team and not write their own statements when they've witnessed arrests, for example as they think it is "covered". It is everyone's responsibility. Dismissing legal matters as "boring" is abandoning fellow protesters to face bail conditions, convictions and even prison, alone (see Chapter 15).

Bail Addresses

Arrange in advance a list of addresses of sympathetic local people, which arrested people can use to get bail (see Chapter 15 for an explanation of bail). This is especially useful for camp dwellers who could otherwise be bailed to an address far away from the campaign. Giving your home as a bail address does not mean that the bailed person will be moving in, but that you may have to confirm to the police (who may phone or visit) that the arrestee can be contacted there.

They'll also have the arrestee coming round to pick up solicitors' letters and the occasional court summons. The police may also come round if people don't turn up at court. It is essential that whoever arranges the bail address for the arrestee (usually via the campaign office) tells the householder. Once released the arrestee should make contact and thank them.

Legal Briefings and Bust Cards

When going into action, you owe it to yourself to fight legal abuse by getting clued up (see Chapter 15). A campaign should try to provide a legal briefing to all those taking part in action. This can take two forms: a workshop or a written summary. If you have a workshop / discussion, everyone can contribute and share their fears and worries. Invite a lawyer to describe the law and answer questions. If you cannot get a lawyer, have a well informed layperson. The information is far more likely to sink in if done this way. These briefings will need to happen regularly in a busy campaign.

Supplement these workshops with a written legal briefing. Give them out to newcomers. This should include a concise summary of the laws affecting protesters and your rights, particularly in regard to arrest. An example of a legal briefing is included in the Appendix. The Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (LDMG) produce very good briefings and can provide advice (see Chapter 16).

For any action, contact a sympathetic solicitor so their number can be given to people in case they get arrested. If they write it on their arm in indelible ink, they can't lose it! It is a good idea to provide "bust cards" which describes what to do if arrested, who to call etc. An example of one is given in the Appendix. Laminating them will make them last.

Good Lawyers

Before direct action starts, find a good campaign solicitor. Good lawyers are rare and worth their weight in gold. They should be sympathetic to your cause, politically aware, and co-operative. You will need someone who is local, who will be able to go into the police stations and attend court at short notice. This is where it is essential to have good local knowledge of lawyers. Try Friends and Familes of Travellers (see Chapter 16) who have a national list of sympathetic solictors. Local hunt sabs and environment groups may also know good solicitors in the area. You could also ask local people who get nicked a lot!

Avoid lawyers who seem to be just looking for an opportunity to make a name for themselves, and a lot of money out of Legal Aid. Be especially wary of "pragmatic" solicitors who don't want to put up a fight against charges, but persuade people to plead guilty. They make quicker money from "guilty" pleas, via Legal Aid.

Realistically, if you expect lots of arrests, then you will need more than one lawyer. Try and get a few firms involved. This will also give people a choice of whom they want to use. Duty solicitors (a solicitor the police will call if you don't have your own) can be OK. But some may be really quite dodgy. They are much closer to the police than to you. Don't use them unless you have to.

Before work starts, get your campaign lawyers together with your legal support team in a meeting to discuss legal strategy. Even the nicest lawyers have an annoying tendency to be competitive and professionally jealous. Try and encourage the solicitors to work together and share information.

Action Observers

This is a good role for someone who wants to do vital work on the front line without getting stuck in. The Action Observer system so far used on British anti-roads protests has had limited success and can certainly be improved upon. Action Observers (sometimes called Legal Observers, but the courts don't like this name) are people who do not take part in direct action Instead, they simply "observe", with the hope of calming security guards' behaviour and helping people with witness statements. This means they must never take part in direct action to avoid compromising their status.

If you decide to set up an Action Observer system there are plenty of groups to speak to for advice, for example LDMG, Liberty and FoE. LDMG (strongly recommended) and Liberty may also be able to supply trained Action Observers for one-off actions and demos. ALARM UK and Earth Rights have briefing sheets on Action Observation (see Chapter 16). In order to get close to the action, Action Observers will need permission from the "enemy". Try to negotiate this beforehand. If the contractors agree, they may demand that Action Observers wear high visibility jackets and hard hats; these must be very different from those worn by security guards etc.

One of the most useful things that Action Observers can do is to take the names and phone numbers of witnesses to arrests. This is something the arrested person cannot do, as they will be occupied! Action Observers should also be prepared to be court witnesses for criminal cases and for proactive legal action - for instance, police complaints or suing security guards and police (this is a long term commitment). All Action Observers should carry a watch, camera, pens and a bundle of blank Witness Statement forms, so they can encourage people to make statements there and then (see Appendix).

To be able to do this well, it is essential that Action Observers receive good training. They will need to know what is important to note down, and also what not to include in notes to avoid getting activists into trouble. Observation notes may have to be produced in court, so should be written on sheets separate to those used for noting names and addresses of photographers and witnesses. If notes are typed up, it should be done at the first opportunity and the originals kept for court. The Action Observer should make a distinction between what they actually see and what they are told at the time. If Action Observers are expected to go to court then they should be trained in giving evidence, so they are not pushed around by the prosecution.

Police Liaison

If you do decide to attempt "police liaison", you should realise that you will only get something out of it if you stay in control, and know why you are doing it. Be very careful that you aren't giving them more information than you are getting out of them. For example, telling them all your grievances may just give them a better idea of what is effective at upsetting your campaign! The only benefit to having liaison meetings is if the press attend the meetings and the discussions enter the public domain. This way the press can record your allegations and any promises and assurances that you get from the police. You will be in control as you can put them on the spot. If you initiate the meetings, you will be in a better position to call the shots - pushing the agenda onto police behaviour. Make sure the press know who called the meeting.

Make sure that you get to speak to the policemen (and they will be men) at the TOP of the chain of command. There is no point in speaking to some ineffectual sponge who has no power or control, and is just there to soak up your energy and anger. At Newbury, police liaison had little or no effect whatsoever, as nobody could talk to the men in charge. However, at some points of the M11 campaign, through talking to the operational commander in front of the press, police behaviour was changed. The Commander could see that he was losing "respect" in the local community, and therefore his power. If you cannot speak to the "top-guys" in front of the press, we suggest you pull out. Alternatively, you could force the issue by gate-crashing police press conferences, or confronting senior police officers directly on site, in front of TV cameras.

If the police won't agree to the press attending, make a big deal out of this - what have they got to hide? Why can't the public hear what the police have to say? If the press are banned, think very carefully about what you will gain from liaison meetings. You could dramatically pull out. Beware that the representatives from the campaign who attend these meetings will be seen as "organisers". You may wish to rotate people who go to these meetings.

Specific police liason officers are likely to visit camps regularly to chat to activists, possibly at a very early stage. They are invariably after information, and aim to work out who's who and what's going on. Be very cautious or ask them to leave.

Affinity Groups

The name "affinity group" comes from pre-Franco Spanish nonviolent anarchists. Affinity groups consist of up to 15 people, formed for one action or as a long-term commitment. The group works together, building strength and trust, using planning and evaluation, taking action and supporting one another.

Trying to change the world is scary and poses many obstacles, both internal and external - big machines, family pressures, self-doubt, police, violence, despair, courts and prison. It is very difficult to tackle all of these alone, without a supportive base of similar, empathetic people. If our worries and fears are listened to, they may transform into confidence to act and take risks for our beliefs and visions. Working in autonomous, non-hierarchical groups helps break from the control of "experts", politicians and "professional" campaigners who all make decisions on our behalf.

On actions, affinity groups mean that everyone has support, for instance if people are arrested. People in affinity groups are less likely to panic or be manipulated by self-styled leaders into inappropriate actions. Groups can share their strengths and skills by taking on a specific role in an action, for example blockading a gate whilst others occupy an office. Unexpected incidents during an action may be more creatively dealt with if there is a supportive group to bounce ideas off. Groups can evaluate actions, then carry momentum and enthusiasm into future actions.

Groups won't be immune from difficulties; informal hierarchies may develop. Closeness may throw up emotional needs and conflicts between group members. These situations need not be swept under the carpet or seen as failure. If they are explored and learnt from, perhaps with outside help, they will stretch imaginations and allow changes to be made. Affinity groups will hopefully be fun!

Ensure no-one is left isolated without an affinity group, unless they want to be. Suggest that people not already in a group join together to form an ad hoc group. Ad hoc affinity groups can also be created on the day of an action, to bring people together according to how far they are able to go. For instance, people who don't want to be arrested could form a legal support team, whilst others could form a crane climbing team.

Affinity groups can reflect visions of the future now: supportive, respectful, non-hierarchical, participatory, flexible, small and active groups of people. They are a practical physical step towards those visions.

Direct Action Training and Preparation

Training is essential for any campaign and is particlarly important for helping the less experienced to decide what roles they want to take during actions. It can be either very rudimentary - for instance a quick discussion to agree tactics just before launching into action. On the other hand training can be very in-depth - looking at things like your group's dynamics and how people work together on actions. There are some experienced NVDA trainers who may offer day, weekend or even week-long training sessions (see Chapter 16). They may also train people in how to train others. You could alternatively decide to tackle the issues yourself by getting a discussion group together.

If there is a constant stream of people through the campaign it is more difficult to do direct action training. Perhaps you could have a set time and place for direct action training every day or week, whichever is appropriate.

Many campaigns have done "brief" hour long sessions before actions - mainly concentrating on logistics, tactics and strategy rather than how groups work together on actions. This is adequate preparation to get an "effective" action together. Allow time for people in the group to get to know one another and find out what individuals want to do. An example of a short training session is given in the Appendix.

Many people come into direct action feeling very insecure and scared (and this needs to be addressed). Peoples' confidence can be boosted by group communication and discussion of issues such as nonviolence, arrests, fears, hopes, criminal damage, support, and decision making. These are all as important as strategising. Longer training sessions, far from being "navel-gazing", help us understand our motivations, what we are doing, why, with whom, and can only make us stronger.

Training is best done somewhere peaceful and away from the campaign's chaos - preferably another town altogether. Going into the countryside is even nicer if the weather is good. The space that you use should be relaxing, heated in winter, outdoors in summer and free from prying eyes. People should make a commitment to be there throughout and interruptions should be avoided. There should be a training facilitator who has thought out a schedule, which is then agreed or amended by the whole group.

There are various structures for training workshops (see Appendix for examples). They may use a mixture of tools. Lots of these will sound bizarre, especially as they are described only briefly. Don't be put off straight away. It is important that anyone who doesn't want to take part isn't pressured into doing so.

These tools are:

This helps the group get to know each other and feel comfortable speaking in the group. For example, everyone could briefly introduce themselves and describe their reasons for being involved in the campaign.
Listening Exercises:
These involve listening to another person's motivations, fears or whatever without interruption. Sometimes it also involves them describing what they have heard back to the whole group.
This involves someone noting all ideas that people call out on a large sheet of paper. There is no discussion about whether they are good or bad as this interupts the flow of ideas. The ideas collected should then be ordered for discussion or future action.
These involve going round the circle, giving everyone the opportunity to express their views on an issue, or evaluate an event uninterrupted (and briefly!). People can pass if they don't want to speak.
Mind Maps / Spider-grams:
This is a diagrammatic way of representing linked ideas on paper. Start with a basic idea / problem / action to be planned, and then plot branches from there.
Trust Games:
These are best done at the beginning of a training session to generate trust within the group. An example would be guiding a blindfolded person around the room / garden.
The atmosphere in these sessions can become intense. To lighten it, break it up frequently with games. These should be optional and people should not be pressured into doing them. It's best if they aren't competitive - Frisbee is a good one! Breaks: Breaks can diffuse tension. If taken every 45 minutes they help concentration, and smokers.
Role Play:
Acting out situations and playing both opposing sides on a protest gives an interesting insight into your actions, and how they are seen by others. Looking at things from a different perspective can help with the evolution of new tactical ideas.
Consensus Decision Making:
An example of this process is included in the Appendix. See also "campaign meetings" in Chapter 2.
Quick Decision Making:
Giving people a decision to make in a limited time (i.e. 2 minutes) can develop the group's decision making processes under pressure.
Fish Bowl:
This is a consensus decision making tool for larger groups. Representatives from each smaller affinity group speak for their group in a "Spokes Council", which is listened to, but not interrupted, by everyone else. Representatives can return to the groups at any time to get comments and check for consensus.
Question and Answer sessions:
These can be used for discussion on practicalities for an action, such as fence climbing techniques, stopping machines, what to do if arrested...


Emergency Mailout

When work starts, you can tell everyone on your mailing list directly using an emergency mailout. This should complement your phone tree, not substitute for it.

Prepare a leaflet well in advance, with the minimum information to equip people to come to you; make it simple and striking, and convey maximum urgency. You can leave blanks for the date etc. See the Appendix for an example. Also address and stamp (first class) envelopes well in advance, having decided who you want to send the emergency mailout to.

On the day, all you need to do is put the final details on the leaflet, get it copied (reserve some cash for this) and posted. It helps to have a small team pre-committed to getting this done. It will take a few hours on the day, but everyone should know about your crisis the next day, and have a good leaflet / poster to spread the word in their area.


These are good for projecting a certain image of a campaign. Holding a vigil implies you are determined, dignified, and intend to stay, and can be an excellent focus to consolidate support. On the other hand, vigils can also convey a sombre sense of mourning, which is not what you want! Make sure you avoid any funeral vibes, and look happy.

Vigils are easy to prepare in advance. You need candles, jars (stockpile these in advance), lanterns, banners, perhaps a brazier, and maybe hot drinks and soup. Shelter is nice if it's raining! With this simple kit, you're ready to go; cajole as many supporters as possible, and invite the media. Make the set-up as widely attractive and welcoming as possible, so that anyone would feel comfortable attending.

Use vigils appropriately. They can bring attention to an otherwise forgotten cause - for instance, outside a prison to highlight the detention of campaigners. Vigils have also been held outside contractor's offices, the DoT, and other depressing places. You can also use vigils to build the campaign's momentum at key times. One was held in September 1993, the night before the start of work on the M11 Link in East London, at the Chestnut Tree which became a campaign focus.

Similarly, a vigil was held the night after work actually began at Newbury in January 1996, in the semi-trashed area. This vigil was an excellent rallying point, especially for people who had not been able to come out and protest during the day, but wanted to get involved. The campaign's phone number was put on all the banners, and stuck in front of the TV cameras.

Be realistic about how long the vigil will last - if you say you'll be there all night and everyone goes home at midnight, it looks like a failure. Decide what you want the vigil to achieve, and stay long enough to achieve it.

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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!
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RG14 5FB