Demonstrations and law enforcement

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Demonstrations guide

Guide to public order situations

This article is focussed on the UK, but some points are universal. Bear in mind that the police are probably much better equipped and trained for close combat than you or I. They have been psyching themselves up for hours, are likely to have plenty of reserves standing by and usually feel confident with the law behind them. Beating the police is about outwitting them, not necessarily hitting them over the head. The aims and methods of the state British Law has traditionally been concerned with keeping the peace and not necessarily preventing or solving crime. The roots of such public order policing can be traced back to the common law offences introduced to control the havoc caused by mercenaries returning from the Hundred Years War. These laws evolved into the 1967 Riot Act, which established in law the concept of arresting anyone present at a riot, regardless of whether they are guilty of violent acts. The Riot Act no longer exists, replaced by the Public Order Act in 1986. The reality of the situation is that the police act as if it did. The Public Order Manual of Tactical Operations and Related Matters provides the police with clear instructions for dealing with situations where public order is threatened. This manual has never been made public, has no legal standing and was never discussed by Parliament. It basically gives the police guidance in the use of pre-emptive acts of violence, to achieve the following: 1. To break the crowd up into manageable portions, keep them moving then eventually disperse them. 2. To provoke violence as a way of justifying their actions and flushing out any ringleaders. 3. To contain the crowd and stop the trouble spreading. 4. To intimidate and break the spirit of the crowd. 5. To gather evidence for later. The manual contains details of tactics which include the use of snatch squads, baton charges and the use of horses to disperse and intimidate large crowds. Make no mistake - the cops will be prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that our actions and protests are ineffective. So how do we make sure our actions are effective? • Don’t be tempted to stand around and fight – get to where you can cause disruption without the police around. • Keep moving, as a group and individually. Fill gaps. Never stand still – chaos puts the police off. • Nip police attempts to form lines or divide the crowd in the bud. • Don’t be intimidated. • Do everything in small teams, prepare in advance. • Think defensively. Protect each other and escape routes. • Always face outwards, ie. away from us and towards them. • Link arms as often as possible, form barriers, use your body. • Move quickly and calmly, never giving the police time to react. Preparations Staying out of jail and hospital need not be hard work. Most people caught up in riots manage it. But with a bit of forethought you can turn surviving a public order situation into a living order situation! The aims of the protestors No one really ‘wins’ at the end of the day, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are unhurt, still free and some egg is still stuck to the face of your original target after the police have been and gone. With all that in mind, we suggest you stick to these three basic aims when you find yourself in a riot: 1. Get you and your mates away safely, rather than fighting. 2. Find a place to cause embarrassment and economic damage to your real target, rather than fighting. 3. Help others in trouble by administering first aid and de-arresting, rather than fighting. Sticking together Always try to form an affinity group before setting out and at least have a buddy system whereby everybody has one person to look out for, and to act with, when a situation arises. Affinity groups are just a handful of people who work together as a unit, as and when circumstances arise. They can meet beforehand to discuss ideas and possible reactions, practice or role play scenarios. The more your group meets, the quicker your reaction times will get and your effectiveness will improve. Affinity groups can often act without the need for internal discussion, they naturally develop their own shorthand communications and can divide up skills and equipment amongst each other. Water, D-locks, paint, first aid, food, banners and spare clothes is a lot for one person to carry, but divided up between five people it’s nothing. Do pay attention to what you’re going to wear in advance. Consider precautions that are discrete, adaptable, easy to apply and discard. Thinking about these threats in advance will help: 1) Surveillance Masking makes it difficult to identify individuals in a crowd and if everyone masks up no one will stand out. The cut off sleeve of a long sleeved t-shirt makes a good mask. Wear it casually around your neck. If you wear glasses use a cut off section of a stocking (hold-ups work best as they have thick elastic) instead of a t-shirt, this prevents glasses steaming up. You can use it as a hair-tie, if you’re a hippy type, until you need it. A hooded top will cover most of your face and a baseball cap on its own provides good protection from most static cameras, which are usually mounted high up. Sunglasses give good protection against harmful rays including UV and CCTV. Worth bearing in mind is that the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 made an Amendment to Section 60 of The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. It gives any uniformed police officer the power to insist on the removal of any item of clothing a person is wearing or may wear for the purpose of concealment of identity. The item can be seized and retained. 2) Truncheon blows A placard makes a good temporary shield and light strips of plastic under your clothing or on the forearm could offer some protection. Unless you are intending to try and break police lines, the best protective clothing is probably a good pair of running shoes. More recently, the WOMBLES - inspired by Italy’s Ya Basta group - have taken a more positive stance to protection by wearing thick layers of padding under their clothes, together with helmets. This enables them to keep police lines at bay, protecting themselves and the crowd behind them from truncheon blows. They are able to push through police lines and free demonstrators trapped by the use of a Section 60 (see later). 3) CS Spray The best authorities suggest a solution of camden tablets (used to clean home brewing equipment), some say use lots of water, but its effectiveness is unclear. Whatever you do don’t rub it in or take a hot shower. If in doubt get clear and let the wind blow it away from your skin. This will take 20 minutes. 4) Baton charges If you want to take a banner, use long strips of plastic haulage tarps rather than a sheet. This can be used as a moveable barrier to stop charging police or for you to advance behind. Wrap the ends in on themselves so the police can’t easily grab it. Hide behind and hold on tight. Defending If you aren’t doing anything else you should always be defending. Whether that means securing a building, strengthening your position on the street, barricading (see later) or protecting others. Here are some ideas: 1. Keep looking outwards. For example, if someone is being given first aid, stand and face away from them. 2. Form cordons as much as possible. Anything the police want, including buildings and especially sound systems needs a strong outwardly facing cordon. Things may be quiet and you feel like a prick linking arms or holding hands with complete strangers, but do it. Repeat the mantra ‘It’s not a hippy peacenik thang, it’s a rock hard revolutionary thang.’ Take a leaf out of the police manual: stand like you’re about to do ‘the conga’ and stick your right hand down the back of the trousers of the person in front, repeat along the line, asking permission first. It’s virtually unbreakable. 3. Get into the habit of dancing with your back towards the sound system. 4. Someone needs to watch the police from a good vantage point, so that their next move can be pre-empted. On top of the sounds van is not a good place; no one can hear when you shout "Here come the dog handlers! Fucking run!" and any gestures you do will be interpreted as dancing… 5. Sitting down is good for dissuading the police from charging, but you should only do it in large numbers and the crowd needs to feel confident. We advise you to sit down as soon as the shout goes up, hesitating is not good, you can assess the situation once you’re down there. Hopefully others will do the same. If it still looks viable five seconds later, link arms with your neighbours. There are times when sitting down is not really recommended – horses are maybe too unpredictable but the authors have never seen horses charge into a seated crowd, the way they do into a standing crowd. It’s a good way to avoid the crowd getting split up. Some particularly violent gangs of police just aren’t worth it either. Only experience will teach you when to sit down. 6. Barricades can be more hassle than they are worth. A solid impassable barricade can reduce your own options when you need to run. Bear in mind that anything you build now you are likely to get dragged over later - leave out the barbed wire. The best barricades are random matter strewn all over the place – horses can’t easily charge over them, police find it hard to hold a line in among them, but individuals can easily pick their way through. If you know police are advancing from only one direction and you have clear escape routes behind, barricades can be sensible. The tactics the cops developed during the 1980’s riots was to drive the van into crowds with TSG [Tactical Support Group] in the back, jump out and arrest everyone they caught. Barricades are an effective way of stopping this. 7. The best form of defence of all is CHAOS! A complicated hierarchy needs orders to act on and those orders come from individuals making informed decisions. If the situation changes constantly they simply cannot keep up. Keep moving all the time, weave in and out of the crowd. Change your appearance. Open up new directions and possibilities, be unpredictable. If you find yourself stood still and passive for more than a minute then you’ve stopped acting defensively. Basic police choreography With any crowd the police will be looking to break it up as soon as possible. Crowd dispersal is achieved with baton charges, horse charges and sometimes CS gas and vehicles. Some particularly nasty or out of control units may pile straight into the crowd, but there is usually a gap between the time they arrive and the start of the dispersal. This stalling time is often just dithering by the commanding officer, or psyching-tooling up time for the troops (the latter is easy to spot). This aside, there are three more reasons why they aren’t wading straight in, see if you can spot them next time you’re waiting for ‘kick-off’: 1. They haven’t worked out where they’re going to disperse you to. 2. They want to gather more evidence/flush out more ring leaders. This involves keeping you right where they can see you and provoking you like hell. They will film you and photograph you and send out snatch squads to pick off individuals. 3. They are waiting for back up because you out number them or are in danger of gaining the upper hand. However, since Euston Station, November 30th 1999, the police have been using the tactic of coralling people and preventing them from leaving. Section 60 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994 gives police blanket powers to stop and search anyone in a certain area where they ‘resonably suspect’ there will be incidents of serious violence. Often this tactic is used to gather information, but you’re not obliged to help. They can’t read anything of yours (address book, bank cards etc) and you don’t have to give a name or address, but they can search you for weapons only. Being held for hours is dispiriting, you can’t do much, and the police may push you about and provoke an opportunity to crack a few skulls. This is where the WOMBLES come into their own, you can take a more positive approach and not just wait around until the cops allow to let you leave. The old bill may also detain people to prevent a breach of the peace where they fear one is imminent. The legality of this is questionable, there will most likely be legal challenges in the near future. The dance steps OK, so they’ve stopped fucking around and now it’s time to send you home, with a great story to tell your friends (let’s face it, they won’t see the truth on the news). The bulk of the action is shocking in its predictability. The following will be repeated over and over, in different combinations, until they win or get bored: 1. Officers in lines will pen you in (preferably on the pavement). 2. Officers in lines will push into a crowd to divide it in half. 3. Batons/horses/CS spray attack penned in crowds to lower morale. 4. Charges that slowly push you down a street (rush of cops > > strengthen line > repeat). 5. Crowds throwing missiles will be ‘put to flight’, as it’s harder to throw stuff if you are running. 6. Shift changes. (Often look for the arrival of reinforcements. It is important to try and spot the difference for reasons of morale, and that they are vulnerable during shift changes). Most of the above require the individual officers to be in tight lines, so it’s important to stop those lines forming. Unfortunately we are quite bad at this. The first line drawn is the most crucial and most people don’t see it coming. The police will try and form lines right in amongst you if they can, thus weakening your position at the same time as strengthening theirs. Line dancing or stopping lines forming If the crowd seems volatile, the police will hold right back and the first line drawn will be some distance away. But if you are all hanging around looking confused and passive they will sneak right in amongst you and the first lines will be dividing lines. This is how it works: The first divide the crowd up into ‘actors’ and ‘viewers’. Small groups of officers will move into the crowd and start politely encouraging the timid ones onto the pavement. Once the crowd starts moving the way they want, those little groups of cops will get bigger and start joining up. Before you know it, there’s two crowds on two pavements with two lines of cops penning them in. Let the head cracking commence. Or… • Don’t stand and watch them. • Don’t look like you’ll let them get anywhere near you. • Spot gaps in the crowd and fill them. • Work out which space they want to take and get there with your mates first. • Get long tarp banners to the front to stop them advancing and filming. • Protect your escape routes by standing in them. • Get those who have turned into spectators off the pavements, back in the crowd and moving around. Of course, now having resisted being split up and penned in, they may just let fly with the baton charge. But at least you’re now in a stronger position to deal with it and escape. Whatever happens next, don’t just stand there waiting for it. If you’ve managed to get their line drawn far away, you’ve bought valuable time and space – so use it! Even if their line is right up against you, they still haven’t broken down your numbers. However, it’s only a matter of time before the police try and get closer/break you up again. Use the time to get out of there slowly and in one block, this is the last thing they want – a large mob moving around freely. Whatever you do, don’t stand there waiting for them to try again. You are now in control to go and do whatever you want, so do it. If they have blocked your only exit, try… Counter advancing This involves moving your lines forward into theirs, thus gaining more space and opening up more exits. Use the front line as a solid wall, linking arms and moving slowly forward. Use the long banner like a snowplough (this stops them grabbing you or breaking the line, they can still hit you with truncheons though). If there’s enough of you WOMBLED up, your protective clothing will make that getaway that much safer and easier. Snow plows A line of crowd control barriers can also be carried by the front line like a snowplough to break into the police ranks. The front of the ‘plough’ can then be opened once their line is breached and the barriers pushed to the side to contain the cops. This all needs a lot of co-ordination and balls, the advantage gained will not last long, so push all your ranks forward through the gap straight away. Using your body Your body is your best and most adaptable tool. It is best used in concert with others. For instance it could take a long time for twenty to scale a wall, but stand two people against the wall, bowed together with their arms locked and you’ve got a set of human steps! (Those waiting to climb can link arms around the steps to protect them). Always look for ways to use your body to escape. Re-forming Keep looking for ways of increasing your numbers, by joining up with other groups and absorbing stragglers. Everyone has to get out and you’ll stand a better chance of getting out unharmed, with all your belongings and equipment if you leave together at the same time. Snatch squads When the police want to isolate and arrest an individual in a crowd they will usually employ a snatch squad. Watch for groups of ten or so fully dressed cops, rallying behind the police lines. They will be instructed by evidence gatherers and a superior (you can often spot them pointing out the person to be snatched). The lines will open temporarily to let the squad through. Half the officers will perform the snatch, the other half will surround them with batons, hitting anyone who gets in the way. Once they have their target he/she is bundled away, back behind police lines. Try and beat the snatch squad by: 1. Keeping the crowd moving around. 2. Spot the squad preparing. 3. If possible warn the target to get the hell out of the area. 4. Linking arms in an impenetrable wall in the squad’s path. 5. Surround the squad once they are in the crowd and intimidate them so much that they panic and give up. 6. If you are being grabbed or pressure pointed, keep your head and arms moving. Don’t lash out if you can help it, or you will end up with an assault charge too. De-arresting The best time is to do this is as soon as the snatch has happened. You need a group who know how to break grips and some people to act as blockers. Once you’ve got your person back all link arms and move off into the crowd. The police may try and snatch back or arrest one of the de-arresters. This guide is an ongoing project. Please send your comments and additions to us for the next version, to ‘Public Order Guide’ c/o Manchester Earth First! Dept. 29, 255 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 5LW Edited by, last reviewed 2006

Section 60 advice guide

At some recent demonstrations, police have cordoned off the demonstration, corralling large numbers of people into an increasing confined area before taking their names, addresses and photographs, eventually releasing them one by one. This was done under the obscure Section 60 of the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 (originally designed to prevent minor football disturbances). The S60 order is a new police tactic at major demonstrations used effectively to control, subdue and gain personal information about protesters despite having the extraordinarily limited power simply to "Stop and search in anticipation of violence". Its effectiveness in the past was due to the fact that no-one knew just exactly what powers the police had under S60. As it turns out, they have very few powers. In the event of an S60 order being issued these are the important things to remember: The police have the power to search you for weapons (and dangerous instruments). They have no other powers under S60. They can only detain you "for as long as necessary to carry out a search". They have no legal power to force you to give them your name and address. Under no circumstances give it to them: it will be kept on file for seven years. When asked, say "no comment". They have no legal power to force you to have your photograph taken. Do not allow them to do this. This too will be kept on file for seven years. Keep your head turned away, or put your hand in front of your face. They have no legal power to ask you to remove any item of clothing in public view, other than that which is concealing your identity. Any facial masking can be confiscated. If you are asked to remove coats/jumpers etc, refuse outright. They have no legal power to search wallets, purses, inside small pockets etc. This is an S60 search, for weapons only. If they ask to search wallets, purses, inside small pockets etc, refuse outright. If you have a bag they will search that, but again for weapons only. Any other items, documents, potentially incriminating articles are off limits. Do not allow them to examine any of your personal possessions (cash cards, student cards, diaries, organisers etc). This is not part of S60. Under Article 8 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998 your privacy is assured. Make sure they know this. They can only confiscate weapons and facial masking. They have the power to use "reasonable force" but ONLY if you do not submit to a search. No other force can be used for any other purpose. They must tell you their name, number, station they're based at the reason for the search. Ask them for this. Not only will it piss them, off but if they don't provide this information the search will be illegal. Remember: in an S60 situation, you are accused of nothing and you have done nothing wrong. Do not answer any questions, however insignificant or polite. Say "no comment" to everything. Most of all, don't be scared by them! They know the law, and now so do you. Use it! Legal advice: Section 60 Contrary to information being circulated, the legal basis of the tactic of police cordoning off demonstrations and forbidding large numbers of people to leave from inside the cordon - as used at J18, N30 and Mayday2K - is NOT s60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Police, indeed anyone, can use reasonable force to detain people to prevent a breach of the peace where they fear one is imminent. This was the basis of the effective mass imprisonment at previous demonstrations. It is not an arrest. The powers in s60 have been used to search people individually as they are being released from the cordon and this is where the confusion stems from. S60 can be used where a senior cop reasonably suspects there will be incidents of serious violence or that people are carrying dangerous weapons or offensive weapons in a locality (inserted by s8 Knives Act 1997). 1. Once police have released you from the cordoned area, they can then only detain you "for as long as necessary to carry out a search". While in the cordoned area they can detain you as long as they have reasonable (i.e. objectively justifiable) grounds that this is necessary to prevent a breach of the peace. 2. While performing a search they can ask you to remove outer clothing, such as coats and jumpers in public. In addition, s60(4A) - inserted by s25 CDA 1998 - allows the police to force you to remove anything they reasonably suspect you are wearing wholly or mainly to conceal your identity. There is nothing to stop you putting something else on after you have taken off a mask or had it confiscated. 3. The s60 search is for "offensive weapons or dangerous instruments". This is not limited to large things such as samurai swords and stun guns (taking examples from certain Sunday papers) but can include razor blades. They can search inside wallets, purses, small pockets for these. 4. They can search personal possessions for dangerous instruments that might be hidded inside and they can also seize prohibited articles such as drugs. While it is true that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) contains a qualified right of respect for your private life, and that under s6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 public authorities such as the police will be acting unlawfully if they breach any right in the ECHR, it is wrong to see this as doing something as absolute as assuring your privacy. Before police start searching through personal possessions, e.g. address books, cards in wallet, warn them politely that if they do start trying to read what's in your address book or on the cards in your wallet rather than performing a cursory search, i.e. seeing if razor blades fall out onto the ground from your address book, they will be acting outside their powers and you will stop them. 8. Before conducting the search, an officer must take reasonable steps to communicate their name, number, station, etc. They also have to provide you with a written record of the search, which you should ask for. If they can't provide one straight away they must tell you which police station you can get it from. Police dislike form filling and paperwork particularly when it leaves less time to bash anti-capitalists and then fit them up. 9. Under the Data Protection Act, anyone holding personal data relating to other people (this includes video and photographic footage) has to provide copies to those people for £10, as demonstrated by Mark Thomas on C4. If substantial numbers of people on the Mayday demonstration exercise this right, the police will have to spend their resources on finding footage with those individuals on, in order to collate it and send it to them, rather than gathering intelligence and preparing for arrests. Taken from the UHC Collective website Edited by, last reviewed 2006

Terrorism Act 2000 guide

"Terrorism" is defined very widely and could include what people would normally think of as direct action. It gives the Police very wide powers to stop search and arrest, and limits people's rights - including on arrest. The Act has been (mis-)used extensively against workers - most famously against 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang who heckled Tony Blair and the Labour Party conference in 2005.1 Terrorism as defined by S1 of the TA 2000 It includes: The THREAT of action (threat is enough - no actual action needed)-which is designed to influence the government , with the purpose of advancing a political or ideological cause, involving : - serious damage to property - interference with or seriously disrupting an electronic system. This is only part of the definition, and does not include actions which we would normally think of as being defined as terrorism. All 3 parts must be satisfied to come within the definition - there must be an act or threat (of eg serious damage to property), it must be done to influence the government, and it must be to advance a political or ideolgical cause. S33 Cordoned areas Where the Police are undertaking a "terrorist investigation (preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism- see definition above) they can cordon off an area. Lasts for 14 days, can be extended to max of 28 days. While an area is cordoned, Police can order people to leave and prohibit access to that area. S41 Police can arrest at any time anyone they reasonably suspect to be a terrorist (see definition above). Detention can be for up to 48 hours (extension can then be applied for to court) access to a lawyer can be denied and normal PACE rules do not apply. S43 Police can stop and search to see if a person has anything on them to prove they are a terrorist - must be same sex search. S44 Stop and search powers Authorization is given by Assistant Chief Constable and can only be given to prevent acts of terrorism. It relates to a specified area and can last for up to 28 days. It an only be used to search for things that could be used for terrorism, BUT Police can search even if they don't have grounds to suspect that people have anything on them of this kind. They can search pedestrians and anything carried by them, cars, drivers passengers and anything they have with them Police can't ask for removal of any clothing in public except hats shoes jacket/coat and gloves. Police can detain people for as long as is reasonable to search Police can use "reasonable force" If you are searched under this section you can ask for a written statement from the police to confirm you were stopped, and they must give you one - so that makes it all OK then! Where an authorisation is given it must be confirmed (or cancelled) by the Secretary of State within 48 hours. Failing to stop is an offence max sentence 6 months or a fine. S57 Possession for Terrorist Purposes It's an offence to possess an "article " ("substance or any other thing") in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that it's connected with the prearation of instigation of acts of terrorism. It's enough if it's found in the house you live in - unless you can prove that you didn't know it was there S58 Collection of information It's an offence to collect or have information likely to be useful to someone preparing an act of terrorism (see S1 definition above). This can include photos or e-mails, unless you can prove that you had a "reasonable excuse "to have it. Taken from the UHC Collective website Edited by, last reviewed 2006

An activist's guide to basic first aid

Preparation What to wear - Comfortable, protective shoes that you can run in. - Clothing covering all your skin to protect from sun and pepper spray exposure. - Shatter-resistant eye protection (ie. Sunglasses, swim goggles, or gas mask) - Bandana to cover nose and mouth soaked in water or vinegar, it can aid breathing during chemical exposure. - Weather-related gear (ie. Rain gear or sun hat) - Heavy duty gloves if you plan to handle hot tear gas canisters. - Fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours get contaminated by chemical weapons) - A cap or a hat to protect from the sun and from chemical weapons. What to bring - Lots of water in a plastic bottle with squirt or spray top, to drink and to wash your skin and eyes in need be. - Energy snacks - A small medi-kit with bandages, plasters, tape etc. - Identification and/or emergency contact information ONLY if you want to be cited out of jail in the event of an arrest. - Just enough money for pay-phone, food, transportation. - Watch, paper, pen for accurate documentation of events, police brutality, injuries. - Water or alcohol based sunscreen. - Inhaler, epipen, insulin or other meds if applicable. - Several days of prescription medication and doctor's note in case of arrest. - Menstrual pads, if needed. Avoid using tampons; if you're arrested you may not have a chance to change it (tampons left in for more than six hours increase your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome) What not to do - Don't put Vaseline, mineral oil, oil-based sunscreen or moisturisers on skin as they can trap chemicals. - Don't wear contact lenses, which can trap irritating chemicals underneath. - Don't wear things that can easily be grabbed (ie. Dangly earrings or other jewellery, ties, loose hair) - Don't go to the demo alone, if you can help it. It is best to go with an affinity group or some friends who know you well. - Don't forget to eat food and DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Medication in jail If you are risking arrest and take medication for any health condition that might pose serious problems were your medication to be interrupted ( such as: behavioural disorders, HIV, diabetes, hypertension) you should be aware that you may not have access to proper medication while you are in jail. A letter from a doctor will help. Three copies are needed, one for the legal team, one for the medical team, and one for you. It should include your name, diagnosis, that you must have access to medication at all times, a list of all meds required and a statement that you can must be allowed to keep meds on person to administer properly, and that no substitutions are acceptable. Since your name will be on the document, you may want to hide it on your body as a sort of insurance policy - perhaps you won't need it and then could eat it and participate in jail solidarity tactics, but perhaps you'll be worn out already at the time of arrest and will want to cite out in order to take care of yourself. Better to cite than pass out. Make sure that your affinity group and the legal team is aware of your needs so they can help care and advocate for you. Blood, bruises and broken bones The most common injuries on demonstrations are cuts or bruises sustained either by falling over whilst running or following a kicking from the cops. They are usually minor and treatable 'on site' though some will require hospital treatment. Bruises require little treatment and it may be the case that you or an injured comrade need simply to rest for a while, whereas cuts should be treated with a plaster or bandage. If bleeding is heavy this can be stopped by firm direct pressure on the source for 5/10 minutes. If an artery has been cut and bleeding is severe, a tourniquet will be needed for short-term management but proper medical attention must be sought if blood loss continues. Use a scarf, bandana, belt or torn shirt sleeve and tie around the arm or leg directly over the bleeding area and tighten until the bleeding slows. Wrap the injury to protect it and get the hero to a hospital - fast. I someone has glass or metal lodged in their body DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove it: this could cause further injury and increase the risk of infection. If a limb appears to be broken or fractured, improvise a splint before moving the victim. Place a stiff backing behind the limb and wrap both with a bandage. Try to avoid moving the injured limb. This person needs to go to hospital for an x-ray and treatment. Head injuries have to be approached with more caution than other body parts. Following a head injury it is essential that the person has an x-ray within 24 hours. Again, bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure. If the person is unconscious, do not attempt to move them: this could exacerbate the injuries already sustained: seek professional medical attention. Internal injuries can occur from blows to the kidneys. These are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, shock and persistent abdominal pain. Get prompt professional care. And finally... Remember the best protection against injury is our awareness. We must be alert and on guard for possible situations where injury may occur and keep an eye out for our comrades. We have to look after ourselves on actions and we hope that this information has been of help to fellow activists. We welcome feedback and further advice in order to provide ourselves with the best protection whilst out on the front-line of the revolutionary struggle. Taken from the UHC Collective website Edited by, last reviewed 2006

Dealing with the police

No comment: the defendant's guide to arrest

If you think you might one day run the risk of being arrested, you must find out what to do in that situation. If prison, fines, community service etc. don’t appeal to you by following what’s written in this article you can massively reduce the risk of all three. In the police station, the cops rely on people’s naivety. Getting arrested is no joke. It’s a serious business. All convictions add up: e.g. if you’re done three times for shoplifting, you stand a good chance of getting sent down. If there’s a chance of you getting nicked, get your act together: know what to do in case you’re arrested. Unless you enjoy cells, courtrooms, prisons, you owe it to yourself to wise up. When you have been arrested You have to give the police your name and address. You will also be asked for your date of birth - you don’t have to give it, but it may delay your release as it is used to run a check on the police national computer. They also have the right to take your fingerprints, photo and non-intimate body samples (a saliva swab, to record your DNA). These will be kept on file, even if you are not charged. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, removed the traditional ‘Right to Silence’. However, all this means is that the police/prosecution can point to your refusal to speak to them, when the case comes to court, and the court may take this as evidence of your guilt. The police cannot force you to speak or make a statement, whatever they may say to you in the station. Refusing to speak cannot be used to convict you by itself. We reckon the best policy if you want to get off is to remain silent. The best place to work out a good defence is afterwards, with your solicitor or witnesses, not under pressure in the hands of the cops. If your refusal to speak comes up in court, we think the best defence is to refuse to speak until your solicitor gets there then get them to agree to your position. You can then say you acted on legal advice. If you are arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police can keep you in custody for longer. They have already used this against protestors and others to intimidate them. Remember being arrested is not the same as being charged. Keeping silent is still the best thing to do in police custody. Remember - All charges add up Q: What happens when I get arrested? When you are arrested, you will usually be handcuffed, put in a van and taken to a police station. You will be asked your name, address and date of birth. You should be told the reason for your arrest - remember what is said, it may be useful later. Your personal belongings will be taken from you. These are listed on the custody record and usually you will be asked to sign to say that the list is correct. You do not have to sign, but if you do you should sign immediately below the last line, so that the cops can’t add something incriminating to the list. You should also refuse to sign for something which isn’t yours, or which could be incriminating. You will also be asked if you want a copy of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act codes of practice) and to sign to say you have refused. We suggest you take a copy – it’s the only thing you’ll get to read and you might as well get up on the rules the cops are supposed to follow. Your fingerprints, photo and saliva swab will be taken, then you will be placed in a cell until the police are ready to deal with you. Do not panic! Q. What if I am under 18? There has to be an ‘appropriate adult’ present for the interview. The cops will always want this to be your mum or dad, but you might want to give the name of an older brother or sister or other relative or adult friend (though the cops may not accept a friend). If you don’t have anyone, they will get a social worker - this might cause you more problems afterwards. Q: When can I contact a solicitor? You should be able to ring a solicitor as soon as you’re arrested, once at the police station it is one of the first things you should do, for two reasons: 1. To have someone know where you are. 2. To show the cops you are not going to be a soft target - they may back off a bit. It is advisable to avoid using the duty solicitor as they may be crap or hand in glove with the cops. It’s worth finding the number of a good solicitor in your area and memorising it. The police are wary of decent solicitors. Any good solicitor will provide free advice at the police station. Also, avoid telling your solicitor much about what happened. This can be sorted out later. For the time being, tell them you are refusing to speak. Your solicitor can come into the police station while the police interview you: you should refuse to be interviewed unless your solicitor is present. : What is an interview?Q An interview is the police questioning you about the offences they want to charge you with. The interview will take place in an interview room in the police station and should be taped. An interview is only of benefit to the Police Remember they want to prosecute you for whatever charge they can stick on you. An interview is a no-win situation. For your benefit, the only thing to be said in an interview is “No comment”. Remember: They can’t legally force you to speak. Beware of attempts to interview you in the cop van or cell etc. as all interviews are nowadays recorded. The cops may try to pretend you confessed before the taped interview. Again say “No comment”. Q: Why do the police want me to answer questions? If the police think they have enough evidence against you they will not need to interview you. For example, in most public order arrests they rely on witness statements from 1 or 2 cops or bystanders, you won’t even be interviewed. Also if they have arrested you and other people, they will try to get you to implicate the others. The police want to convict as many people as possible because: 1. It makes it look like they’re doing a good job at solving crime. The clear-up rate is very important to the cops; they have to be seen to be doing their job. The more crimes they get convictions for, the better it looks for them. 2. Police officers want promotion, to climb up the ladder of hierarchy. Coppers get promotion through the number of crimes they ‘solve’. No copper wants to be a bobby all their life. A ‘solved crime’ is a conviction against somebody. You only have to look at such cases as the Birmingham 6 to understand how far the Police will go to get a conviction. Fitting people up to boost the ‘clear-up rate’, and at the same time removing people cops don’t like, is wide spread in all Police forces. Q: So if the police want to interview me, it shows I could be in a good position? Yes - they may not have enough evidence, and hope you’ll implicate yourself or other people. Q: And the way to stay in that position is to refuse to be drawn into a conversation and answer “No comment” to any questions? Exactly. Q: But what if the evidence looks like they have got something on me? Wouldn’t it be best to explain away the circumstances I was arrested in, so they’ll let me go? The only evidence that matters is the evidence presented in court to the Magistrate or jury. The only place to explain everything is in court; if they’ve decided to keep you in, no amount of explaining will get you out. If the police have enough evidence, anything you say can only add to this evidence against you. When the cops interview someone, they do all they can to confuse and intimidate you. The questions may not be related to the crime. Their aim is to soften you up, get you chatting. Don’t answer a few small talk questions and then clam up when they ask you a question about the crime. It looks worse in court. To prosecute you, the police must present their evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service. A copy of the evidence is sent to your solicitor. The evidence usually rests on very small points: this is why it’s important not to give anything away in custody. They may say your refusal to speak will be used against you in court, but the best place to work out what you want to say is later with your solicitor. It they don’t have enough evidence the case will be thrown out or never even get to court. This is why they want you to speak. They need all the evidence they can get. One word could cause you a lot of trouble. Q: So I’ve got to keep my mouth shut. What tricks can I expect the police to pull in order to make me talk? The police try to get people to talk in many devious ways. The following shows some pretty common examples, but remember they may try some other line on you. These are the things that often catch people out. Don't get caught out. 1. “Come on now, we know it’s you, your mate’s in the next cell and he’s told us the whole story.” If they’ve got the story, why do they need your confession? Playing co-accused off against each other is a common trick, as you’ve no way of checking what other people are saying. If you are up to something dodgy with other people, work out a story and stick to it. Don’t believe it if they say your co-accused has confessed. 2. “We know it’s not you, but we know you know who’s done it. Come on Jane, don’t be silly, tell us who did it” The cops will use your first name to try and seem as though they’re your friends. If you are young they will act in a fatherly/motherly way, etc. 3. “As soon as we find out what happened you can go” Fat chance! 4. “Look you little bastard, don’t fuck us about. We’ve dealt with some characters; a little runt like you is nothing to us. We know you did it you little shit and you’re going to tell us.” They’re trying to get at you. 5. “What’s a nice kid like you doing messed up in a thing like this?” They’re still trying to get at you. 6. We’ll keep you in ‘til you tell us”“ They have to put you before the magistrate or release you within 36 hours (or 7 days if arrested under the Terrorism Act). Only a magistrate can order you to be held without charge for any longer. 7. “There is no right to silence anymore. If you don’t answer questions the judge will know you’re guilty.” Refusing to speak cannot be used to convict you by itself. If they had enough evidence they wouldn’t be interviewing you. 8. “You’ll be charged with something far more serious if you don’t start answering our questions, sonny. You’re for the high jump. You’re not going to see the light of day for a long time. Start answering our questions ‘cos we’re getting sick of you.” Mental intimidation. They’re unlikely to charge you with something serious that won’t stick in court. Don’t panic. 9.“You’ve been nicked under the Terrorism Act, so you’ve got no rights.” More mental intimidation and all the more reason to say “No comment”. 10. “My niece is a bit of a rebel.” Yeah right. 11. “If someone’s granny gets mugged tonight it’ll be your fault. Stop wasting our time by not talking.” They’re trying to make you feel guilty. Don’t fall for it, you didn’t ask to be arrested. 12. Mr Nice: “Hiya, what’s it all about then? Sergeant Smith says you’re in a bit of trouble. He’s a bit wound up with you. You tell me what happened and Smith won’t bother you. He’s not the best of our officers, he loses his rag every now and again. So what happened?” Mr Nice is as devious as Mr Nasty is. He or she will offer you a cuppa, cigarettes, a blanket. It’s the softly-softly approach. It’s bollocks. “No comment”. 13. "We’ve been here for half an hour now and you’ve not said a fucking word.... Look you little cunt some of the CID boys will be down in a minute. They’ll have you talking in no time. Talk now or I’ll bring them down.” Keep at it, they’re getting desperate. They’re about to give up. You’ve a lot to lose by speaking. 14. “Your girlfriend’s outside. Do you want us to arrest her? We’ll soon have her gear off for a strip search. I bet she’ll tell us. You’re making all this happen by being such a prick. Now talk.” They pick on your weak spots, family, friends, etc. Cops do sometimes victimise prisoners’ families, but mostly they are bluffing. 15. “You’re a fuckin’ loony, you! Who’d want you for a mother, you daft bitch? Start talking or your kids are going into care.” Give your solicitor details of a friend or relative who can look after your kids. The cops don’t have the power to take them into care. 16. “Look, we’ve tried to contact your solicitor, but we can’t get hold of them. It’s going to drag on for ages this way. Why don’t we get this over with so you can go home.” Never accept an interview without your solicitor present, a bit more time now may save years later! Don’t make a statement even if your solicitor advises you to - a good one won’t. 17. “You’re obviously no dummy. I’ll tell you what we’ll do a deal. You admit to one of the charges, and we’ll drop the other two. We’ll recommend to the judge that you get a non-custodial sentence, because you’ve co-operated. How does that sound?” They’re trying to get you to do a deal. There are no deals to be made with the police. Much as they’d like to, the police don’t control the sentence you get. 18. “We’ve been round to the address you gave us and the people there say they don’t know you. We’ve checked on the Benefits Agency computer and there’s no sign of you. Now come on, tell us who you are. Tell us who you are or you’ve had it.” If you’re planning to give an address make sure everyone there knows the name you are using and that they are reliable. The cops usually check that you live somewhere by going round. 19. “Wasting police time is a serious offence.” You can’t be charged for wasting police time for not answering questions. The cops may rough you up, or use violence to get a confession (true or false) out of you. There are many examples of people being fitted up and physically assaulted until they admitted to things they hadn’t done. It’s your decision to speak rather than face serious injury. Just remember, what you say could get you and others sent down for a very long time. However, don’t rely on retracting a confession in court - it’s hard to back down once you’ve said something. In the police station the cops rely on people’s naivety. If you are aware of the tricks they play, the chances are they’ll give up on you. In these examples we have tried to show how they’ll needle you to into speaking. That’s why you have to know what to do when you’re arrested. The hassle in the cop shop can be bad, but if you are on the ball, you can get off. You have to be prepared. We've had a lot of experience of the Police and we simply say: Having said nothing in the police station, you can then look at the evidence and work out your side of the story. This is how you will get off 1. Keep calm and cool when arrested (remember you are playing with the experts now, on their home ground). 2. Don’t get drawn into conversations with the police at any time. 3. Get a solicitor. 4. Never make a statement. 5. If they rough you up, see a doctor immediately after being released. Get a written report of all bruising and marking. Take photos of all injuries. Remember the cops’ names and numbers if possible. Remember: An interview is a no win situation. You are not obliged to speak. If the police want to interview you, it shows you’re in a good position… And the only way to stay in that position is to refuse to be drawn into any conversation and answer “No comment” to any questions. Q: What can I do if one of my friends or family has been arrested? If someone you know is arrested, there's a lot you can do to help him or her from outside. 1. If you know what name they are using ring the police station (however if you're not sure don't give their real name away). Ask whether they are being held there and on what charges. However, remember that the cops may not tell you the truth. 2. Remove anything from the arrested person’s house that the police may find interesting: letters, address books, false ID etc. in case the police raid the place. 3. Take food, cigarettes etc. into the police station for your arrested friend. But don’t go in to enquire at the police station to ask about a prisoner if you run the risk of arrest yourself. You’ll only get arrested. Don't go alone. The police have been known to lay off a prisoner if they have visible support from outside. It’s solidarity that keeps prisoners in good spirits. Notes on this text This is the third edition of No Comment. It has been updated and reprinted by former members of the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) in conjunction with the Legal Defence & Monitoring Group (LDMG). The printed version was funded by the proceeds of a damages award from the Metropolitan Police, who were sued for false arrest and imprisonment and breach of human rights. We are sure that they will be pleased to know that their funds are being invested in a public information campaign as vital and deserving as this. Copies can be obtained free by sending a 2nd class stamped SAE to No Comment c/o BM Automatic, London WC1N 3XX or you can download copies from
No_Comment_5th_Edition.pdf179.54 KB
NoComment in welsh DIM SYLW.pdf264.46 KB

Stop and search guide to your rights

What is a ‘Stop and Search’? Police officers can stop and talk to you at any time. But they should only search you if they suspect you are carrying: - Drugs - Weapons - Stolen property - Tools which could be used to commit a crime Why me? If you are stopped or searched it doesn’t mean you have done something wrong. But a police officer must have a good reason for stopping you and should tell you what this is. You should not be stopped or searched just because of your age, race or the way you dress. Where can I be stopped and searched? - In a public place - Anywhere – if the police believe you have committed a serious crime If the police think there may be serious violence then they can search everyone in an area for weapons – e.g. near a football ground – without a good reason to search each person. A police officer can stop a vehicle at any time and ask to see the driver’s licence and other documents. If they have good reason to think your car contains stolen goods, drugs or weapons, they could search it – even if you are not there. But the police must leave a notice saying what they have done. If the search causes damage, you can ask for compensation but only if they didn’t find anything to connect you to a crime. How will they search me? Before searching you, the police officer must normally tell you: - Their name - The station they work at - Why they are searching you - What they are looking for If the officer is not in uniform, they must show you their identity card. If you are in a public place, you only have to take off: - Your coat or jacket - Your gloves The police can only ask you to take off more than this or anything you wear for religious reasons, such as a face scarf, if they take you somewhere private e.g. a police station or the back of a police van. This does not mean you are being arrested. In this case, the officer who searches you must be of the same sex as you. What happens next? The police officer must write down: -Your name or a description of you - Why they searched you - When and where they searched you - What they were looking for and anything they found - The name and number of the officer who searched you - Your ethnic background The police do not have to write this down if they just stop you and don’t search you. The police will ask for your name, address and date of birth. You do not have to give any of this information if you don’t want to, unless the police tell you they are reporting you for an offence. If this is the case you could be arrested if you don’t tell them. The police will write down your ethnic group. They may ask you to say what this is. This is just to check they are not stopping and searching people just because of their race or ethnic background. If you don’t get a copy of what they wrote down then and there, you can get a copy from the police station within 12 months. How can I complain? The police should treat you fairly and with respect. If you are unhappy with how you were treated, you can complain. It will help if you keep a copy of the details that the police wrote down when they searched you. You can get advice from, or complain to: - A Citizen’s Advice Bureau - The Commission for Racial Equality - A solicitor

Miscellaneous direct action guides

The advice here concerns small group actions whose use may be decided upon by a larger campaign or movement. Due to their nature these types of action are often best undertaken by affinity groups.
Miscellaneous direct action guides.pdf643.36 KB

Affinity groups

Affinity groups: an introduction

What is an affinity group? An affinity group is a small group of 5 to 20 people who work together autonomously on direct actions or other projects. You can form an affinity group with your friends, people from your community, workplace, or organisation. Affinity groups challenge top-down decision-making and organising, and empower those involved to take creative direct action. Affinity groups allow people to "be" the action they want to see by giving complete freedom and decision-making power to the affinity group. Affinity groups by nature are decentralised and non-hierarchical, two important principles of anarchist organising and action. The affinity group model was first used by anarchists in Spain in the late 19th and early 20th century, and was re-introduced to radical direct action by anti-nuclear activists during the 1970s, who used decentralised non-violent direct action to blockade roads, occupy spaces and disrupt "business as usual" for the nuclear and war makers of the US. Affinity groups have a long and interesting past, owing much to the anarchists and workers of Spain and the anarchists and radicals today who use affinity groups, non-hierarchical structures, and consensus decision making in direct action and organising. Affinity group roles [in a demonstration] There are many roles that one could possibly fill. These roles include: Medical - An affinity group may want to have someone who is a trained street medic who can deal with any medical or health issues during the action. Legal observer - If there are not already legal observers for an action, it may be important to have people not involved in the action taking notes on police conduct and possible violations of activists rights. Media - If you are doing an action which plans to draw media, a person in the affinity group could be empowered to talk to the media and act as a spokesperson. Action Elf/Vibes-watcher - This is someone who would help out with the general wellness of the group: water, massages, and encouragement through starting a song or cheer. This is not a role is necessary, but may be particularly helpful in day long actions where people might get tired or irritable as the day wears on. Traffic - If it is a moving affinity group, it may be necessary to have people who are empowered to stop cars at intersections and in general watch out for the safety of people on the streets from cars and other vehicles. Arrest-able members - This depends on what kind of direct action you are doing. Some actions may require a certain number of people willing to get arrested, or some parts of an action may need a minimum number of arrest-ables. Either way, it is important to know who is doing the action and plans on getting arrested. Jail support - Again, this is only if you have an affinity group who has people getting arrested. This person has all the arrestees contact information and will go to the jail, talk to and work with lawyers, keep track of who got arrested etc. Affinity groups are not just useful within a protest or direct action setting, this form of organisation can be used for a wide variety of purposes as the history of affinity groups below illustrates. History of affinity groups The idea of affinity groups comes out of the anarchist and workers movement that was created in the late 19th century and fought fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Anarchist movement provides an exhilarating example of a movement, and the actual possibility of a society based on decentralised organisation, direct democracy and the principles behind them. Small circles of good friends, called "tertulias" would meet at cafes to discuss ideas and plan actions. In 1888, a period of intense class conflict in Europe and of local insurrection and struggle in Spain, the Anarchist Organisation of the Spanish Region made this traditional form (tertulias) the basis of its organisation. Decades later, the Iberian Anarchist Federation, which contained 50,000 activists, organised into affinity groups and confederated into local, regional, and national councils. Wherever several FAI affinity groups existed, they formed a local federation. Local federations were coordinated by committees were made up of one mandated delegate from each affinity group. Mandated delegates were sent from local federations to regional committees and finally to the Peninsular Committee. Affinity groups remained autonomous as they carried out education, organised and supported local struggles. The intimacy of the groups made police infiltration difficult. The idea of large-scale affinity group based organisation was planted in the United States on April 30, 1977 when 2,500 people, organised into affinity groups, occupied the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear power plant. The growing anti-nuclear power and disarmament movements adopted this mode, and used it in many successful actions throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. Since then, it has been used by the Central America solidarity movement, lesbian/gay liberation movement, Earth First! and earth liberation movement, and many others. Most recently, affinity groups have been used in the mass actions in Seattle for the WTO and Washington DC for the IMF and World Bank, as well as Philadelphia and Los Angles around the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. What is a 'cluster' and a 'spokescouncil'? A cluster is a grouping of affinity groups that come together to work on a certain task or part of a larger action. Thus, a cluster might be responsible for blockading an area, organising one day of a multi-day action, or putting together and performing a mass street theater performance. Clusters could be organised around where affinity groups are from (example: Texas cluster), an issue or identity (examples: student cluster or anti-sweatshop cluster), or action interest (examples: street theater or [black bloc]). A spokescouncil is the larger organising structure used in the affinity group model to coordinate a mass action. Each affinity group (or cluster) empowers a spoke (representative) to go to a spokescouncil meeting to decide on important issues for the action. For instance, affinity groups need to decide on a legal/jail strategy, possible tactical issues, meeting places, and many other logistics. A spokescouncil does not take away an individual affinity group's autonomy within an action; affinity groups make there own decisions about what they want to do on the streets. How to start an affinity group An affinity group could be a relationship among people that lasts for years among a group of friends and activists, or it could be a week long relationship based around a single action. Either way, it is important to join an affinity group that is best suited to you and your interests. If you are forming an affinity group in your city or town, find friends or fellow activists who have similar issue interests, and thus would want to go to similar actions. Also, look for people who would be willing to use similar tactics - if you want to do relatively high risk lockdowns, someone who does not want to be in that situation may not want to be in the affinity group. That person could do media or medic work, but it may not be best if they are completely uncomfortable around certain tactics of direct action. If you are looking to join an affinity group at a mass action, first find out what affinity groups open to new members and which ones are closed. For many people, affinity groups are based on trusting relationships based around years of friendship and work, thus they might not want people they don't know in their affinity group. Once you find which affinity groups are open, look for ones that have an issue interest or action tactic that you are drawn to. What can an affinity group do? Anything! They can be used for mass or smaller scale actions. Affinity groups can be used to drop a banner, blockade a road, provide back-up for other affinity groups, do street theater, block traffic riding bikes, organise a tree sit, [confront the police, strategic property destruction], change the message on a massive billboard, play music in a radical marching band or sing in a revolutionary choir, etc. There can even be affinity groups who take on certain tasks in an action. For instance, there could be a roving affinity group made up of street medics, or an affinity group who brings food and water to people on the streets. What makes affinity groups so effective for actions is that they can remain creative and independent and plan out their own action without an organisation or person dictating to them what can and can't be done. Thus, there are an endless amount of possibilities for what affinity groups can do. Be creative and remember: direct action gets the goods! This text was taken and edited from Anarchism in Action by Shawn Ewald Edited by Last reviewed 2006

Small group direct action advice

Pre-action Aims and activity What would you like the action to achieve? It may be education and agitation, economic damage, physical disruption, solidarity with others in struggle, or elements of all of these and more. It is best to clarify which is your priority. This helps identify the activity needed to achieve your aims. You may decide on a banner drop, GM crop trashing, machine sabotage, office or site occupation, leafletting, propaganda production or something else completely. Target You may have a target in mind already. If so, think through whether it is possible to achieve the aims wanted with the activity you've decided upon. When you have an idea of the aims, activity and target you have an outline plan. That is - you know what you want to achieve, and will do so by taking a certain type of action on a specific target. When you have this you can move onto the first reconnaissance (recce) for the action. Primary recce Even if the action is to be done at night it may be best to make this first recce a daylight one. Use it for gathering ‘hard information'. Get maps, photographs and plans of the target and the surrounding area. Look for likely drop off points for people, entrance and exit points from the target as well as escape routes. Also look for places for the driver to park up away from the target, or circular routes that could be driven whilst the action takes place. Primary plan After the first recce sit down with your fellow planners in a secure location and work out a basic plan. This should include a route to the target that is free of CCTV, a drop off or park up point, entrance point/s into the target, exit point/s and escape route/s. It should be decided when the action will take place, what time of day or night, roughly how long each part will take (getting to the drop off point, drop off point to target, doing the action, re-grouping, getting back to the pick up point and getting away) and how many people will be needed. The plan should also include where the vehicle will be left/taken and possible routes there. The plan should also involve communications. This includes who might need to communicate with who and how on the action. This might be between drivers and the people they have dropped off, lookouts and people on the action or a radio scanner monitor and everybody else. Secondary recce If the action is going to be at night make this second recce at night as well so as to familiarise yourself with the area in the dark. It may be possible to do both recces on the same day, and then have time for planning the action afterwards. On this second recce look at the target in more depth. Pay particular attention to any security systems. Actually time the different stages of the action. Think about what tools you will need to do the job and what you will do with them afterwards. Check out the approach and escape routes in more detail, and also the vehicle park up/driving route for during the action. They should all be CCTV-free and there should be alternatives in case of unpredictable circumstances such as cops, roadworks or other people parked up. Check that the drop off and pick up points are away from buildings and lights, and there is space to turn a vehicle around. If the pick-up point is quite away from the target you may need to decide on a re-group point near the target so everyone leaves together. Decide what communications equipment you will need and test that it works in the area. Think about the likelihood of carrying away evidence on your clothes and look for places on the getaway route for dumping clothes and perhaps tools. Look for possible regroup points (perhaps a mile or so away) where people could meet up if the action goes wrong and everyone has to scatter. Detailed action plan This plan should fill out the basic plan with all the rest of the information needed to carry out the action. It should go from the point people meet to go on the action to the point people disperse at the end. It needs to include precise timings, which routes will be taken, what will be happening at each stage of the action, who will be communicating with who, what tools and other equipment will be needed, what will happen to the vehicle, and what roles need to be filled, e.g. driver, navigator, spotters etc. The plan should also identify places to dump incriminating evidence as well as regroup point/s. If possible try and arrange to have a trusted person on the end of a phone, well away from the area the action is taking place in, who can be called in an emergency. It might be helpful if they had a large detailed map of the area to direct you if you ring up and are lost. Use a secure mobile for this rather than a landline. Back up plans The back up plan/s should be done in the same way as the main action plan. Back ups could be alternative actions to do at the target selected, or new targets entirely. Consideration should be given to the conditions in which the initial plan will be abandoned and how the decision to revert to a back up plan will be made and communicated to others. Running through the plans If possible everyone going on the action should be involved in talking through the plan and making any changes needed. Roles identified should be filled so everyone knows who is doing what. Decisions should be made about what to take (see box on ‘Checklist for Recces/Actions') and it should be established who is going to acquire the different items and bring them to the meeting point for the action. Everyone should make sure they have any mobile phone numbers or radio channels being used on the action. This is the point to identify any new skills the group will need to use and arrange to practice them in a ‘neutral' setting rather than in the middle of an action. Finally, people should decide how to organise themselves on the action. You could pair off in buddies or split into smaller groups. Doing this makes it easier to look after one another, move quickly and know if anyone is missing. Make sure everybody knows the names and addresses they will be using if arrested. Action Before going to the meeting point for the action, run through the checklist of what you will need and give yourself time to get it all together. Be on time to meet up so people aren't left suspiciously hanging around. It may be best to meet up at a neutral place rather than somebody's house or the centre of town. Once on the way to the action, make sure everyone is clear about what they are doing. Try not to stop on the way unless you really have to, and remember that if you do have to stop most petrol stations and town centres have CCTV. All being well, you'll arrive at your destination without incident. Put any disguises, such as hoods, masks or gloves, on at the last moment, as if you get pulled by the cops it's good to look straight. If the action is taking place at night it's best not to use torches or internal car lights for around 20 minutes before you get dropped off. This allows your eyes to become accustomed to the dark. Once the action starts try to keep focussed on what you are doing, but aware of where others are and what is going on around you. It's important to follow the communication structures you have decided on, e.g. making sure you are in earshot/sight of each other if you need to pass a message on/check everyone is there. Everyone should have a watch that has been synchronised beforehand, so at the designated finishing time for the action people know to re-group and get ready to leave. If there is no finish time maybe have an easily identifiable signal. Get together at the re-group point and check everybody is there and okay. This is easier to do if everybody has teamed up into buddy pairs before the action and then sticks together and keeps an eye on each other. If people are missing try and find out what has happened to them. Depending on the type of action and what happened this may be a point where you want to destroy any incriminating evidence. If the action doesn't go according to plan and people are forced to scatter, try to stay with your buddy or group, move fast and keep in mind the direction you are going. If it's taking place at night you can very easily get disorientated and lost, so before the action have a look at the map and get a clear idea of what direction and where you could head to if this happens. The most important thing is to not panic. Remember that many people have got out of the most pear-shaped situations by having a clear head and a grim determination not to be caught! If it's possible get to the pre-arranged meeting point. If that's not an option get out of the area as quickly as you can, and ring the emergency mobile as soon as it is safe to do so so people know you're okay. Post-action Debrief Try and have a meeting of all those that were on the action to discuss how the planning and execution of it went. Think about what was good and bad and try and learn lessons for the next action. This is best done in the first few days after before memories get fuzzy and important details are forgotten. Mutual aid Look after yourself and one another. Don't pressure people to go on actions if they are tired or stressed out. Take time out to relax and don't get into ‘the struggle is my life' martyrdom headspace. Address problems and power relations within the group. In the longer term make an effort to learn skills that only one or two people have. This stops them being put under unnecessary pressure, and ensures a balance of responsibility. Security Don't let your security slacken because the action is in the past. The cops have longer memories than we do and if your action is considered serious by the state an investigation into it can continue for months - or even years. Political understanding Analyse the tactical and strategic impact of your actions. Are there better targets or ways of operating? Read our history and learn from current and past struggles, movements and groups. Communication It is sometimes useful to communicate to other people what you have done. Maybe write a short article reporting the action for SchNEWS, Earth First! Action Update and other newsletters. Consider issuing an anonymous press release/communiqué to other media. These could be done through an anonymous web based email service set up for this purpose and then only used once. Maybe produce flyposters or stickers about the action and put them up around your local area and send them to other groups. If useful lessons were learnt from the action let other people know by writing a leaflet, discussion document or article. Broadening the struggle Help facilitate other people's involvement in the resistance. If you have a closed cell/group help interested people set up another group. If you work in an open group let people know what you are doing and how they can get involved. Doing stalls and printing leaflets with your contact details on are two ways of doing this. Continue with your own activity!. Taken and edited by libcom from Do or Die

Blockading: a guide

This area could be houses set for eviction, a large workplace being picketed, a forest, an endangered eco-system, an area through which and environmentally destructive road is to be built... Also included are tips on protecting trees Tools for the Job Direct action is an evolving art form - "necessity breeds ingenuity". Remember that the enemy have avidly read this and every other similar guide, and will be constantly devising methods to beat the "tools" described - so you must innovate, improve and invent. Your imagination is the limit! Various different methods of obstruction can be used in combination. Here are some ideas used now. Locks Padlocks and chains put on gates cause confusion and may hold up work, while they run around looking for the keys and then bolt croppers. Superglue or liquid metal in their padlocks means that they have to cut off their own locks and keep buying new ones. are a classic direct action tool. Get them from bike shops - the more you pay, the stronger they are. They fit neatly around pieces of machinery, gates and your neck. It is worth working in pairs when trying to lock on. The person to lock on carries the U shaped section, and loops it around both a suitable fixed piece of machine and their neck. Then their "buddy", carrying lock barrel and key, secures the lock, and hides, or runs off with the key. If locking on to a machine, someone must let the driver know that operating it will break someone's neck. If locking on, you may be there for some time, so choose your point carefully. They may remove any blankets or seats you have, and isolate you from other protesters, sometimes forming a screen around you. You may want to keep a spare key about your person but they may search you for it. If the buddy stays (with key) within earshot, then you can be released in an emergency. It is important that anything you lock onto cannot be removed or unscrewed. Gates can be removed from their hinges, so consider securing the hinge side as well as the opening side. Most contractors have their own hydraulic bolt croppers, which cut the strongest lock in seconds. The lock gives a frightening jolt when cut, so don't lock on if you have a neck injury. Locks are most effective on targets remote from croppers. Handcuffs are particularly good underneath machines if you can find inaccessible bits to lock yourself to. They have also been used in tree evictions to attempt to "capture" bailiffs. Loops of strong cord or tape can often be just as effective and are cheaper. Decent handcuffs are difficult to find. Army surplus or "sex shops" sometimes sell weak but expensive ones. Most handcuffs can be undone with a standard key type, which security, police and bailiffs often carry. coat loop Thumb cuffs (from army surplus shops) are quite good, pocket-sized and tricky to get off. However, some would argue that contractors may take less care if it is just your thumb locked on. Try to get double-locking ones which won't keep tightening. Coat loop lock-ons These are effective, low tech and cheap. They work by you wrapping your arms around something e.g. a tree or a vehicle axle, and then putting your wrists through loops sewn into your coat lining, under your armpits - right wrist to left armpit and vice versa. Coat loop lock-ons are inconspicuous and mean you are always ready for action! Sew about a metre of strong, tough material - old seat belts and climbing tape - into your coat horizontally across the shoulder blades up to the armholes. Then double back the excess and sew the ends very firmly into place to form loops. The bigger the loops, the easier they are to find in a panicky situation. The smaller they are, the harder it is for them to pull your hands out (although you can twist the loops round and round so they tighten around your wrists). Practice with them. It works as the tape goes around your shoulder blades directing the pressure around your back rather than on the coat. The loops are very difficult to get to, being under your garments and under your armpits. They may rip or cut your coat to get to them, so use an old coat. Cherry-Picker Catchers It would be lovely to see a "cherry-picker" hydraulic platform locked to a tree or building during an eviction. To make a cherry-picker catcher you will need several metres of strong chain or steel cable that can't be cut by manual bolt croppers. The length will depend on the height and method of attachment. The basic idea is to firmly attach one end to a tree or building and then, during eviction, quickly lock the other end through the cherry-picker basket. You will need to surprise and distract the bailiffs. Cable will require a loop at each end, secured with U-bolts with screw threads mangled, so that they can't be undone. Get the best D-lock you can afford and use it either to directly lock the end to the cherry-picker, or loop the cable or chain around part of the bucket, locking it back to itself. They shouldn't be able to cut this unless they start to carry expensive hydraulic bolt croppers in every cherry-picker. If they do, throw them to the floor. If they send another cherry-picker up to rescue the first, catch that too! arm linkArm Tubes Tubes made from plastic or metal piping, the diameter of a clothed arm, are a versatile tool. They need to be the length of two arms, ideally with a strong metal pin welded in the middle. Pairs of people with two tubes can defend a small tree or immobilise a machine. You need to link your arms together inside the tubes, either with handcuffs, or loops of strong cord or climbing tape with karabiners, encircling the object. Be aware that if you lock-on with handcuffs, you won't be able to release yourself. A shorter tube can be used by one person around a digger arm or prop-shaft for example. For comfort, pad the top of the tube, and keep your arm lower than your heart to maintain blood flow. The number of people in arm tubes determines how large an object you can encircle. If you lie down as a group of say ten people (i.e. 10 tubes) with your feet in the centre of a circle, quite a large area can be covered. Arm tubes have been used to blockade gateways, roads and even airport runways. To remove you, they must cut the tube using hacksaws or angle grinders. Once one tube is cut then the whole circle is broken. Lock-Ons Concrete lock-ons, also called "dragons", are an advancing technology. Set in chimney stacks, in houses, up trees, at the base of trees, in oil barrels, in roads, in cars (immobilised or still drivable) and in tunnels, they have delayed evictions by days. Mobile lock-ons pose a real threat to free flowing infrastructure systems... All lock-ons are constructed from an arm tube, with a metal crossbar at the bottom, which is then set in concrete. The concrete mix, 1 part cement to 3 parts sandy aggregate, can be strengthened using washing up liquid. Pieces of chopped-up tyres and metal mesh can be added to the mix to hinder drilling out the concrete. Surround the cross bar and arm tube with lots of metal, e.g. a car wheel. The concrete ideally needs months to set to its full strenght. Make them well in advance. On some campaigns, gas canisters have been conspicuously embedded in the lock-on, to deter use of power tools. This has led to the police threatening arrest for explosives offences, so those lock-ons were dismantled by protesters. When building, plan for a comfortable locking on position. If you're making lots of lock-ons over a large area in a short time, a mobile concreting team with a small mixer might be a sensible way to organise. Ideally, the person who makes the lock-on should be the person who uses it. Try to keep the location of lock-ons quiet and perhaps have one show- piece lock-on to demonstrate to new people. To lock-on, put your arm down the arm-tube and use climbing tape (perhaps reinforced with wire) plus a karabiner, or anything strong and comfortable which can join your arm to the cross bar. The bailiffs will remove you if they can without actually cracking the lock-on. They often stick a hooked blade on a pole down the tube, to cut any cord or tape attaching you to the lock-on. Fibre-optic remote scopes have been used to see what your arm is attached with. Padding the arm-tube with foam, fabric, cardboard etc, can hinder this. Of course they may tickle you, use threats and intimidation or inflict pain using pressure points or twisting your arm until you unlock yourself. If you are up a tree, they may light fires underneath you to smoke you out. If they can't get your arm out, they will firstly use an angle-grinder or similar to cut through any outer barrel or other metal coating, then use small pneumatic drills to get through the concrete. They will then need to cut through the arm tube - probably using an angle-grinder. Try surrounding the arm tube with several concentric tubes of increasing diameter, with the spaces filled with concrete to slow their progress further. All this should take quite a while, and will be noisy, dusty and scary. Have your own goggles, ear plugs and dust mask. Prepare for a long stay with food, water and warm clothes. Lock-on at the very last moment as it can be uncomfortable, and go to the loo first! Ground lock-ons Dig a hole and drive metal rods halfway into the surrounding soil from the hole before pouring the concrete in. Use one of the rods as the cross bar for the arm tube. Ground lock-ons are best positioned on access routes and at the base of trees. If you can build it amongst the tree's roots, this will reduce the area they have to work in. Multiple arm tubes are more sociable and restrict access to the lock-on, due to the number of people lying around. Try placing something over a lock-on, leaving enough room to get your arm to it. Cattle-grids, steel plates, lorry wheels and dead cars have all been used. To make it even harder, weld the object to the lock-on. Alternatively you could build a scaffold / steel bar sculpture, embedded in concrete, leaving only enough room in between to lock-on. You could use rotating bars for this sculpture. Place metal bars inside scaffold poles, packed with grease and ball bearings. Weld the ends to seal them. The rod will spin inside the pole if they try to cut it with an angle grinder. These bars could also be embedded in a lock-on. Ground lock-ons in the bottom of a deep, narrow shaft should force them to dig down to you to before they can attack the lock-on. Lock on with your feet. One lock-on has been made with ski-boots! Tree lock-ons Find a sturdy fork in a strong tree. You may need to build a small platform as a base. Then build the lock-on up the tree, hauling cement up a bucket at a time. Make it big, or they'll lower you still attached to it. They may chip some of it away, then lower it. Try and place it somewhere awkward. Felled tree lock-ons With this method, each felled tree returns to haunt them! If doing a single lock-on, drill a hole the diameter of your arm and a forearm's length into the thickest part of a felled trunk. To make the hole use a large auger or a chainsaw (very carefully). Remove the bark gently and use it to conceal the finished work. Get a steel eye with a strong screw thread on it, e.g. a gate hinge eye, and screw it into the bottom. Lock onto this. Alternatively, you could drill all the way through so that two people can lock their wrists together, in the middle from either side. Reinforce the trunk by hammering nails and bits of metal around the lock-on. Smaller logs can be used as a mobile road blocking lock-on. Some suggest that similar lock-ons in living trees would be effective and wouldn't kill the tree, but this is very controversial and likely to upset a lot of people. Tripods Tripods have successfully been used as a mobile, easily-erected blockade. They are made from easily obtainable materials - scaffold poles from building sites, or long, straight tree trunks (use their work against them!). Sustained tripod sits in conspicuous places near major roads are a good campaign advert and focal point. Read our detailed guide to making and using tripods If you have rope or short scaffold poles fixed about 5 foot from the top of the tripod, they won't be able to lower the tripod by pulling it's legs apart. At Newbury in 1996, security guards used a LandRover with a roof rack, which they reversed in under the tripod apex. They stood on the roof and pulled down the sitter, after cutting any handcuffs or locks. It may be worth working on LandRover-proofing; for instance, positioning the tripod so they can't drive under it, or overlapping the legs of several tripods for mutual protection. Cherry-pickers have also been used. Bipods These haven't been used in Britain, but have successfully blocked logging roads in the US and Australia. They generally need careful assembly in advance. A bipod can be incorporated between two tripods, linked with a rope or further poles via the apex of each structure. The stability of the bipod depends entirely on its link to the two tripods. This method defends a larger area than separate tripods. Monopoles These haven't been used much. They can be dug vertically into the ground and shinned up to create an obstacle. Alternatively, you could perch them at bizarre angles, fixing one end, to form a cantilever, and dangle from the free end! There are lots of variations on this basic technique. All look fairly dangerous. Scrap cars You can buy these very cheaply, and register them with a false name and address. Be aware that driving an unroadworthy, uninsured, untaxed car will get you arrested if you're stopped. You can use scrap cars to quickly blockade a gate, road, motorway, or just about anything. Lock- ons can be built into the car to make them an even more potent tool, or you can just lock onto the chassis. To start the blockade, quickly immobilise the car by slashing tyres, removing wheels, or turning it over. Caltrops These are nasty, small, multi-spiked metal objects, designed so that they always lie with a point upwards. They puncture the tyres of any vehicle which drives over them, and so can be placed on access roads or tossed under the wheels. They should only be used on a slow-moving or stationary vehicle. There are many problems with caltrops. They are dangerous to drivers if used on a fast-moving vehicle, and to people and animals if trodden on. If you are caught using or even carrying them, you are likely to be arrested for possession of an offensive weapon, or perhaps something more serious. Because they look menacing, the police will happily use them to discredit your campaign by calling them "weapons". They are not even a particularly reliable vehicle-stopper, as a tyre can miss them. Therefore, we advise thinking very carefully before using caltrops at all. Smoke bombs Reliable smoke distress signals can be bought at boat jumbles for about £4. (see a copy of Practical Boat Owner magazine). They billow out loads of thick coloured smoke, and will float on water. Smaller, cheaper versions can be bought at paintball shops. Set them off upwind, to hinder an eviction, cover an action, escape, or provide a diversion. Don't get caught with one, as the police don't like them. Anti-quickcuff gauntlets Quickcuffs and handcuffs may be used by police, bailiffs and climbers to catch you during evictions. To prevent this, try this simple and effective idea. Cut a cardboard strip about 20 cm x 60 cm. Wrap this quite tightly around your wrist and forearm, and tape it to form a tapering cylinder. Then cut a hole for your thumb, so that you can hold onto the gauntlet if anyone tries to pull it off. Protecting trees For protecting trees, in addition to blockades you can use weapons against chainsaws. If you are unable to remove or sabotage chainsaws or their fuel from the developers, you'll need special tools to stop them. Chainsaw whips These are made from frayed synthetic rope or fabric. If flicked at the chainsaw blade, the whip will catch in the saw teeth, and be dragged into the drive mechanism. Make sure you let go! The synthetic fibres clog up the drive mechanism and may melt into it. Note which direction the saw teeth are moving, so that you whip the correct side. Gunk bombs Fine grain sand, mixed with wallpaper paste and short lengths of fishing line, can be used to stuff condoms or balloons. Throw these at chainsaw blades. The mixture needs to be viscous so that it sticks to the blade when it hits. Tree-bark gunking Try coating the tree at chainsaw level with sticky biodegradable gunk, such as molasses. You can embed sand, kevlar pieces (from tree surgeons' protective trousers) and pieces of wire into the gunk. Invasive tree defence Invasive techniques may cause some damage to trees. Iron does not kill trees, but copper or brass will poison it. The safest, and arguably most useful, invasive technique is to wrap the tree in frayed polyprop covered in stapled-down chicken wire and metal cable, nailed down corrugated iron and other bits of metal, bitumen, etc. Please remove it if you win! Spiking involves driving large nails or similar deep into the tree. Chainsaw operators might be injured if their saw unexpectedly hits a spike within a tree, and "kicks back". Therefore you must have permanent warning signs, and you should also make the spiking blatantly obvious. The chainsaw operators will then have to carefully and slowly remove all metal before starting work. They may use metal detectors for this, so make sure they know if you're using non-metal spikes (eg. ceramic or plastic). Be very, very conscienscious and careful if using this tactic. Spiking has been most effective when used to fight large logging operations outside Britain, where the developer's goal is to clear-cut forest and process the timber. Spikes can mangle processing machinery in the saw mill. Where the objective is to stop trees being trashed rather than to stop their felling for timber, spiking may not be very effective - especially as many trees are simply bulldozed here, and usually burnt. This text was taken and edited from Road Raging: Top Tips for Wrecking Roadbuilding Edited by Last reviewed 2006

Scaffold tripods guide

For your basic Tripod, acquire: 3 scaff-poles, about 25 feet long

2 swivelling scaff-clips

Rope (cheap blue poly-prop available from the local hardware shop is fine)Spanner to tighten scaff clip

A Spanner is needed for the nuts on the clips. You also need a fairly large (high if indoors) space for fixing them, experimenting and practising.

It's tricky to get the clips fitted on so that the poles can be held parallel (for carrying etc.) and at the same time be in the right position to erect as a tripod.

The main assembly is formed by securing two poles in an 'A' Shape and using a third to prop the two up.

The securing clip for the third pole has to be about a foot below the 'A ' shape clip, this allows the main poles to close over it in the folded position.

This clip should be mounted at roughly 120 degrees in relation to the main clip in order to swivel open correctly.

With a little experimentation you will find where to place the clips so that the poles lie parallel for transport yet are easily opened into a tripod.

You will probably need at least 5 people to erect a tripod made with steel poles:

At least one strong person to lift each of the two main legs by walking down beneath it from apex to base;

one person to do the same with the third leg and at a crucial moment, to swing this leg out and to prop up the 'A';

and one person with their foot braced against the base of each main pole to stop it skidding forward.

With aluminium poles the job is easier, demanding only 3 people.

Once the tripod is erected, at least one person must shin up the pole at the speed of light in order to be out of reach at the top.

A simple circumference rope tying the poles together about three feet from the top can be fixed prior to erection if desired and used to take the weight of up to three people.

A simple hammock sling is more comfortable and stylish. It's made out of a length of strong light material, such as rip stop nylon, knotted at either end, with the two ends of a short rope tied securely just inside these knots. The rope can be slung over your shoulders as you shin up the poles, and when you reach the top simply slipped over the poles making your stay much more comfortable.

For extra stability and a convivial number at the top, three short horizontal poles with clips can be used as braces. Leave each short pole dangling from one of its clips until the tripod is up, then do up the second clip.

Before climbing remember to take the spanner - you may not have a second chance to get up with it.
A climbing harness and slings make this job easier.

This augmented tripod will be heavier and may require a greater number of people to lift it.

A tripod lacking these bars can be stabilised using a circumference rope linking the legs a couple of feet above the ground. This will secure against collapse due to accidental slippage, but not against attack. Car exhaust clips are useful to stop the ropes riding up.

Hot tip
Painting "L", "R" and "M" on the poles near the bottom, so it's easily visible

Subvertising billboards

The Art & Science of Billboard Improvement a comprehensive guide to the alteration of outdoor advertising Introduction Look up! Billboards have become as ubiquitous as human suffering, as difficult to ignore as a beggar's outstretched fist. Every time you leave your couch or cubicle, momentarily severing the electronic umbilicus, you enter the realm of their impressions. Larger than life, subtle as war, they assault your senses with a complex coda of commercial instructions, the messenger RNA of capitalism. Every time you get in a car, or ride a bus, or witness a sporting event, you receive their instructions. You can't run and you can't hide, because your getaway route is lined to the horizon with signs, and your hidey-hole has a panoramic view of an 8-sheet poster panel. There are a million stories in the Big City, and as many reasons to want to hack a billboard. We have our reasons, and we don't presume to judge yours. In this manual, we have made a conscious effort to steer clear of ideology and stick to methodology. The procedures outlined here are based on our 20+ years' experience executing billboard improvements professionally, safely, and (knock wood) without injury or arrest. In most cases, is should not be necessary to follow the elaborate, even obsessive precautions we outline here. A can of spray paint, a blithe spirit, and a balmy night are all your really need. - Blank DeCoverly BLF Information Systems 1) Selecting a Billboard In choosing a sign, keep in mind that the most effective alterations are often the simplest. If you can totally change the meaning of an advertisement by changing one or two letters, you'll save a lot of time and trouble. Some ads lend themselves to parody by the inclusion of a small image or symbol in the appropriate place (a skull, radiation symbol, happy face, swastika, vibrator, etc.). On other boards, the addition of a cartoon "thought bubble" or "speech balloon" for one of the characters might be all that is needed. Once you have identified a billboard message you wish to improve, you may want to see if there are multiple locations displaying the same advertisement. You should determine which ones give your message optimum visibility. A board on a central freeway will obviously give you more exposure than one on an obscure side street. You must then weigh the location/visibility factor with other crucial variables such as physical accessibility, potential escape routes, volume of foot and vehicular traffic during optimum alteration hours, etc. Of course, if you can improve more than one board in the same campaign, so much the better. There are several standard sign types in the outdoor advertising industry. Knowing which type of sign you are about to alter may prove useful in planning the operation: Bulletins are large outdoor sign structures, typically situated alongside federal highways and major urban freeways. They measure 14 x 48 feet and are usually leased in multi-month contracts, meaning that an advertisement will stay in place for at least 60 days. 30-Sheet Poster Panels measure 12 x 25 feet, are situated along primary and secondary roadways, and are usually updated every 30 days. 8-Sheet Poster Panels measure 6 x 12 feet and are usually found in high-density urban neighborhoods and suburban shopping areas. They are designed to reach both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and are leased in 30-day increments. Out-of-Home Media is the industry term for advertising targeted at people on the go, including bus shelters, bus exterior s, taxis, subway stations, street furniture (newsstands, benches, kiosks), painted walls, and "indoor out of home" locations like airports and malls. There are of course many non-standard formats as well, and these frequently make the most intriguing targets. Oversized bulletins, animated signs, painted buildings, and boards with neon all offer unique challenges for advanced operations. Signs featuring large, illuminated text can often be improved simply by turning off a few letters, converting 'HILLSDALE" to "LSD," for instance, or "HOTEL ESSEX" to "HOT SEX." The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. 2) Planning the Improvement Action Though the sudden urge to just climb right up a sign and start hacking can occasionally be overwhelming, in our experience this type of "impulse improvement" tends to deliver unsatisfactory results, at unnecessary personal risk. The guidelines that follow draw on the BLF's proud 20-year history of planning and executing such actions without injury or arrest. A) Accessibility How do you get up on the board? Will you need your own ladder to reach the bottom of the board's ladder? Can you climb the support structure? Is the board on a building rooftop, and if so, can it be reached from within the building, from a fire escape, or perhaps from an adjoining building? If you need ladders to work the board, they may occasionally be found on platforms on or behind the board, or on adjacent boards or rooftops. B) Practicality How big are the letters and/or images you would like to change? How close to the platform at the bottom of the board is your work area? On larger boards you can rig from above and hang over the face to reach points that are too high to reach from below. We don't recommend this method unless you have some climbing and rigging experience. When hanging in one position your work area is very limited laterally. Your ability to leave the scene quickly diminishes proportionately to how convoluted your position has become. Placing huge words or images is much more difficult. C) SecurityAfter choosing your board, be sure to inspect it, both during the day and at night. Take note of all activities in the area. Who is about at 2:00 a.m.? How visible will you be while scaling the support structure? Keep in mind you will make noise; are there any apartment or office windows nearby? Is anyone home? Walk lightly if you're on a rooftop-who knows who you're walking over. What is the visibility to passing cars on surface streets and freeways? What can you see from your work position on the board? Even though it is very difficult to see a figure on a dark board at night, it is not impossible. Any point you have line-of-sight vision to is a point from which you can be observed. How close is your board to the nearest police station or Highway Patrol headquarters? What is their patrol pattern in the area? Average response time to Joe Citizen's call? You can get an idea by staking out the area and observing. Is it quiet at night or is there a lot of foot traffic? When the bars let out, will this provide cover-i.e., drunks keeping the cops busy-or will it increase the likelihood of detection by passersby? Do they care? If you are definitely spotted, it may pay to have your ground crew approach them rather than just hoping they don't call the cops. Do not let them connect you with a vehicle. Have your ground crew pretend to be chance passersby and find out what the observer thinks. We've been spotted at work a number of times and most people were amused. You'll find that most people, including officials, don't look up unless given a reason to do so. Go up on the board prior to your hit. Get a feeling for being there and moving around on the structure at night. Bring a camera-it's a good cover for doing anything you're not supposed to: "Gee, officer, I'm a night photographer, and there's a great shot of the bridge from up here . . . " Check your escape routes. Can you cross over rooftops and leave by a fire escape across the block? etc., etc. D) Illumination Most boards are brightly lit by floodlights of some type. Most large boards are shut off some time between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 am by a time clock control somewhere on or near the board. Smaller boards frequently are controlled by photo-electric cells or conventional timeclocks, also somewhere on the board. If you find the photo-electric cell, you can turn the lights on the board off by taping a small flashlight directly into the cell's "eye." This fools the unit into thinking it's daytime and shutting the lights off. As noted, most larger boards are controlled by timeclocks. These can be found in the control panels at the base of the support structure and/or behind the board itself. These panels are often locked (particularly those at the structure's base). Unless you are familiar with energized electrical circuitry and devices of this type we caution you to wait until the clock shuts itself off at midnight or so. Many of these boards run 220 volts and could fry you to a crisp. E) Daytime Hits We don't recommend this method for most high boards on or near freeways and major roads. It works well for doing smaller boards lower to the ground where the alteration is relatively quick and simple. If you do choose to work in the light, wear coveralls (company name on the back?) and painters' hats, and work quickly. Keep an eye out for parked or passing vehicles bearing the billboard company's or advertiser's name. Each board has the company emblem at its bottom center. If you're on a Sleaze Co. board and a Sleaze Co. truck pulls up, you're probably in trouble. It is unlikely that the workers will try to physically detain you (try bribery if necessary), but they will probably call the cops. 3) Producing Graphical Overlays Though powerful improvements are occasionally executed with nothing more than a spray can and a sharp wit, most actions require the production of some type of graphical overlay to alter the board's message. The more professional-looking these overlays, the greater impact your modified ad is likely to have on the public. This is not to say that every hit needs to look exactly like an original - this would be prohibitively expensive for most groups, and in these days of computer-assisted photo enhancement, could arguably lead to the accusation that your hit was a binary illusion, crafted on a Macintosh rather than on the urban landscape. While technical competence is a worthy goal to pursue (and a major motivator for the BLF), the success or failure of your alteration will ultimately depend more on the quality of your thinking and the power of your altered message than on how well you can match a font. A) Choosing a Production Method Before you get too deep into the design process, you need to decide how the overlays will be produced. If you're lucky enough to have access to commercial sign-printing equipment, you can go the professional route and opt for industry-standard vinyl. Vinyl overlays are strong, light, easy to transport, and easy to apply, but unless you have an industry insider on your team, they will probably be too expensive to produce. If you or a collaborator have late-night access to the facilities of a commercial printer, neighborhood copy shop, or advertising bureau, you may be able to output your overlays on a large-format color printer or plotter. The venerable LaserMaster, with its sturdy coated paper and 36-inch track, is a BLF favorite, but there are many other models in the field. Printing on paper nearly always requires a process known as "tiling" - cutting the image up into smaller pieces that are then reassembled into a whole. Popular computer programs like Quark Xpress and Adobe PageMaker can perform this function automatically, by selecting the "Tiling" option from the Print menu. If you don't have access to a wide-track printer, try to locate a machine that can handle 11x17 tabloid-sized paper - the bigger your printer's output, the fewer pieces you'll have to tile back together to create a finished overlay. Most neighborhood copy shops and many corporate offices now have color printers/copiers with 11x17 output. For low cost and maximum durability, consider canvas. When impregnated with oil-based lacquer paint, a canvas overlay has the potential to last longer than the sign surface it's affixed to. It's heavier to carrier and more difficult to secure to the sign, but it's a reliable, low-tech alternative that can be implemented inexpensively. We don't recommend using overlays much larger than 4'x3'. If your message is larger, you should section it and butt the sections together for the finished image. It gets very windy on boards, and large paste-overs are difficult to apply. B) Scale If you are changing only a small area (one letter, a small symbol, etc.) you probably do not need to go to any elaborate lengths to match or design your "overlay" (we'll use this term to describe the finished image/lettering you'll be applying to the board). Just take actual measurements or tracings directly off the board. If, however, you intend to create overlays of great size and/or number of letters and you want the finished image to look as much as possible like the advertisers themselves had made it, you should plan on more elaborate preparation. Find a position roughly level with the board and looking at it square on (200 to 1000 or so feet away). Photograph the board from this position and make a tracing from a large print of the photo. Using measurements you have taken on the board (height, width, letter height, etc.), you can create a scale drawing of your intended alteration. From this, it is possible to determine how large your overlays will need to be and what spacing will be required between letters. C) Color Matching There are two basic ways to match the background and/or colors of the lettering or image area: On painted or paper boards you can usually carve a small (1"x1") sample directly off the board. This does not always work on older painted boards which have many thick layers of paint. Most large paint stores carry small paint sampler books. It is possible to get a pretty close match from these samplers. We suggest sticking to solid colors and relatively simple designs for maximum visual impact. D) Letter Style If you wish to match a letter style exactly, pick up a book of fonts from a graphic arts store or borrow one from a self-serve print shop. Use this in conjunction with tracings of existing letters to create the complete range of lettering needed for your alteration. You can convincingly fake letters that aren't on the board by finding a closely matching letter style in the book and using tracings of letters from your photo of the board as a guide for drawing the new letters. E) Producing Overlays From Computer Output Computers with desktop publishing software offer many advantages to the modern billboard liberator. Fonts and colors can be matched precisely, professional-looking graphical elements can be added to your text message, and scale and spacing become much easier to calculate. There are many software packages suitable for producing overlays, including PageMaker, Quark Xpress, Illustrator, Freehand, CorelDraw, and various CAD programs. Adobe Photoshop gives you the additional flexibility of being able to preview your hit - just scan in a photograph of the original board and apply your modification over it as an independent layer. After you have designed the overlay and printed out your tiles, you'll need to assemble the individual printouts jigsaw-style and glue them onto some sort of backing material. Heavy pattern paper works best for this, but you can also use 1/8-inch foamcore for smaller overlays, i.e. those less than 30 inches on a side. Start in one corner, adhering the first tile with spray adhesive to the backing material. Carefully assemble the rest of the tiles, trimming off unprinted margin space as required and laying them down one at a time, making sure all the edges are well-secured. If you get a little off-kilter at some point in the process and the pieces don't line up with absolute precision, don't worry - large-scale work is more forgiving since people will be viewing it at a distance. When all the tiles are secured, reinforce the edges with clear packing tape. If it's going to be a wet night, or if there's a chance your work may stay up for a few days or more, consider weather-proofing your overlay with a coat of clear lacquer. F) Tiling With a Photocopier If you don't have access to a computer with desktop publishing software, but do have access to a good copy machine, you can duplicate the procedure described above using the copier's "enlarge" function. First, create a scale original of your overlay on a single sheet of paper, using stencils or rub-off lettering. Next, pencil a grid over your drawing, with each square being equivalent to the largest size of paper the copier can accommodate (letter, legal, tabloid, etc.). Cut the original into pieces along the penciled lines, then enlarge each piece on the copier, going through as many generations as necessary until each piece fills its own sheet of paper. Assemble the pieces as described above, adding color with lacquer paints or permanent markers. Weatherproof if desired. G) Producing Overlays by Hand We recommend using heavy pattern paper and high-gloss, oil-based lacquer paints. The lacquer paint suffuses the paper, making it super-tough, water resistant, and difficult to tear. For making overlays, roller coat the background and spray paint the lettering through cardboard cut-out templates of the letters. For extremely large images or panels, use large pieces of painted canvas. The canvas should be fairly heavy to avoid being ripped to shreds by the winds that buffet most billboards. Glue and staple 1"x4" pine boards the entire horizontal lengths of the top and bottom of the canvas. The canvas will then roll up like a carpet for transportation and can be unrolled over the top of the board and lowered into place by ropes. H) Methods of Application Although there are many types of adhesive that can be used, we recommend rubber cement. Rubber cement is easily removable (but if properly applied will stay up indefinitely) and does not damage or permanently mark the board's surface. This may become important if you're apprehended and the authorities and owners attempt to assess property damage. Application of rubber cement on large overlays is tricky. You need to evenly coat both the back-side of the overlay and the surface of the board that is to be covered. Allow one to two minutes drying time before applying the paper to the board. To apply the cement, use full sized (10") house paint rollers and a five-gallon plastic bucket. Have one person coat the back of the overlays while another coats the board's surface. Both people will be needed to affix the coated overlay to the finished board surface. On cool nights there may be condensation on the board, in which case the area to be covered needs to be wiped down first - use shop towels or a chamois for this. To level overlay panels on the board, measure up from the bottom (or down from the top) of the board to the bottom line of where it needs to be in order to cover the existing copy. Make small marks at the outermost left and right-hand points. Using a chalk snap line with two people, snap a horizontal line between these two points. This line is your marker for placing your overlay(s). If you have a canvas or paper overlay as described in (F) above, you can either tie the four corners and middle (top and bottom) very securely, or, if you can reach the face of the board by ladder or rope, attach the panel by screwing the 1"x4" boards to the billboard. A good battery powered drill is needed for this. We recommend hex-head "Tek" sheet metal screws, #8 or #10 size. Use a hex head driver bit for your drill. These screws work well on either wood backboards or sheet metal. 4) Executing the Hit Once you've completed your preparations and are ready for the actual hit, there are many things which can be done to minimize the risk of apprehension and/or injury: A) Personnel Have the smallest number of people possible on the board. Three is about optimum-two for the actual work and one lookout/communications person. Depending on your location, you may require additional spotting personnel on the ground (see below). B) Communications For work on larger boards where you're exposed for longer periods of time, we recommend compact CB units or FM-band walkie-talkies. Low cost CB walkie-talkies are available from Radio Shack and elsewhere, and can can fitted with headsets and microphones for ease of use. Have one or two cars positioned at crucial intersections within sight of the board. The ground crew should monitor oncoming traffic and maintain radio contact with the lookout on the board. (Note: Do not use the popular CB or FM channels; there are many other frequencies to choose from. A verbal code is a good idea since the channels you will be using will not be secure.) It's crucial that the ground crew don't lounge around their vehicle(s) or in any other way make it obvious that they're hanging around in a (likely) desolate area late at night for no apparent reason. A passing patrol car will notice them much sooner than they will notice operatives on the board. Keep a low profile. We've found that lookouts dressed as winos, or as homeless couples, are virtually invisible additions to the urban landscape. Park all vehicles out of sight of the operation. C) Safety The risk of apprehension on a board pales in comparison to the risk of falling, and safety concerns should always prevail over security. If you're not an experienced climber, you're better off helping out on the ground: as a security lookout, graphic designer or publicist. Even if you are an experienced climber, we don't recommend solo actions on any board larger than 8 panels (6x12 feet). Ideally, all field actions should incorporate the buddy system, but particularly those that require any sort of rigging. If you're going to lean over the top of the board to affix any overlays, you should have a secured partner belaying you. It's a long way down, so be careful up there. D) Clean-up Billboard structures are notorious trash magnets as it is; don't make matters worse by leaving your empty glue tubes, discarded vinyl backing, cigarette butts and empties on the property. The responsible billboard liberator leaves nothing of his own behind (not even fingerprints), though he may on occasion leave a cold six-pack for the benefit of those hard-working signmen assigned to the unglamorous task of un-altering his alteration. E) Escape If you've done your homework, you'll know the terrain surrounding the board quite well. In the event of detection, prepare a number of alternate routes out of the area, and a rendezvous point with the ground support crew. If a patrol is approaching and you are in a difficult spot for quickly ditching and hiding (hanging on a rope in the middle of the board, for instance), it may be better simply to stay still until they pass. Movement is more likely to catch the eye. Once on the ground, if pursuit is imminent, hiding may be your safest bet. If you've covered the terrain carefully, you'll be aware of any good hiding spots. Keep in mind that if the police do a thorough search (doubtful, but not impossible), they will use high-powered spotlights from cars and flashlights if on foot. Stashed clothing in your hiding spot may prove useful. A business suit, perhaps, or rumpled and vomit-encrusted leisure wear. Be creative. 4) Publicizing Your Action Like the advertisements they improve, your actions should aim for the greatest possible reach. Try to time your improvement so it stays up for as long as possible, and generates the greatest possible number of "impressions." Actions executed at the beginning of a holiday weekend tend to stay up longest, since repair crews are less readily available. Yet even if your improvement survives for two or three days on a major urban thoroughfare, it won't attain the kind of reach you can get with media attention. A) Photographs Color slides are best for magazine and newspaper submissions, but online publishers prefer high-resolution .jpeg files. Be sure to get a good "before" picture of the board to be altered, ideally taken from the same camera position and at the same time of day (or night) as the "after" photograph. An "after" picture should be taken as soon as possible after the action is completed; if you want a daytime shot as well, come back for it later. B) Press Releases May be serious or surreal, according to your motives and whim. Basically a cover letter for your photographs, which comprise the essence of the story. Most libraries carry one of the major PR reference guides, which list contacts for every printed publication and broadcast company in the country (while you're there, research standard AP style for press releases). Better yet, record your manifesto on an audio cassette or CD, then tape it to the bottom of a payphone outside a reporter's office and call in your "anonymous tip." The more creative you are, the more likely you are to get the desired response. Postscript If anyone reading this primer finds it of any use in their own advertising endeavors, we at the BLF will consider it successful. We believe roadside advertising enhancement is a pastime more individuals should engage in. It's not that difficult to do smaller, low-to-the-ground boards. A quick hit-and-run on such a board will not require all of the elaborate preparations and precautions we have detailed. The more "real" messages we have on the freeways and streets, the better. - R.O. Thornhill BLF Education Officer - Blank DeCoverly BLF Minister of Propaganda © copyright 1990, 1999 by Billboard Liberation Front. Reprint permission granted to non-profit, anti-authoritarian websites and periodicals. Commercial websites and publishers may not reproduce this manual or any portion of it except for review purposes The Art & Science of Billboard Improvement was originally published in Processed World magazine. We wish to thank the PW staff for their help in making this document possible. Thanks also to Lloyd Void and Paizley Hayes of Twisted Times magazine, the Institute of Media Deconstruction, the Institute of Rational Analysis of National Trends, and -- of course -- the sign industry. Pre-press services made possible by a grant from the FUCK YOU, IT'S ART! Foundation. Published in the USA by Infohazard Heavy Industries, a non-traceable subsidiary of NeverMind, Inc. Text taken from

Prison organising

If you're struggling for a better world, there is a chance that someone you know or even you yourself could go to prison. Thousands of people have been jailed for standing up for themselves and their communities - be they strikers, anti-war demonstrators, non-payers of unfair taxes... The following articles are guides to help people deal with various aspects of prison life.
Prison organising.pdf453.46 KB

Prison survival guide

Imprisonment as a form of punishment can be traced back to Greek times, but until relatively recently long-term incarceration was extremely rare, only flourishing in modern times after transportation to 'the colonies' became unviable (in no small part due to the American Revolution).

Traditionally, those that offended against society were punished publicly, generally in the most brutal way, from the stocks to the gibbet. Public executions, often with attendant torture and/or mutilation, were the norm in this country until the 17th century. Even when they were abolished it was not out of any sense of decency or humanity, but according to the Oxford History of the Prison, because they had "become the occasion of rowdiness and disgust - both because the crowd had begun to identify with the victim, not the executioner, and because the spectacle had become revolting, offending a new sensibility about pain and bodily integrity. Thus, it became desirable to mete out punishment away from the public gaze."

Today, prison is still very much a closed world, and while within the past two decades TV cameras have occasionally been able to show a very limited view of life behind bars, they rarely capture anything more than that which the authorities wish them to see. The true misery of imprisonment is deliberately kept secret from the general public, while the right-wing press and unscrupulous politicians conspire to present a picture of cushy 'holiday camps' and 'health farms'. The prison authorities do everything within their power (legal and illegal) to prevent investigative journalists having contact with prisoners and vice-versa, while Michael Howard and Jack Straw imposed a ban preventing visiting journalists reporting anything at all. Though the ban has subsequently been deemed unlawful, the vast majority of journalists are so lazy, cowardly, and/or clueless that it might as well still be in place.

With the British prison population currently growing at a rate of four hundred a week, and New Labour's draconian policies criminalising dissent, as a political activist it is more likely that you will see the inside of a prison cell than at any time in recent history. For those committed to the overthrow of the state, imprisonment has to be seen as an occupational hazard, and as such it's better to consider it beforehand, rather than when it's too late.

During my life I've spent time in over 20 British prisons (plus at least a dozen more I've visited or 'stopped over' at) including local prisons, remand centres, long-term Category B prisons, all Britain's maximum security dispersal prisons, a couple of Category A units and 16 segregation units. I've been around a bit, but I've never been anywhere near a low security or 'open' prison, and though I correspond with a number of women prisoners, I've obviously never been held in a women's prison. So while I think I'm pretty well qualified to talk about the prison experience, there are limits to what I know, and inevitably this piece reflects that.

Preparing for prison
If you know you're going to be imprisoned, at least that gives you a head start. Maybe you can even talk to someone who's been in your local nick, and who knows the rules and can give you an idea what to expect. The 'unknown' is the scariest thing of all, isn't it? Prison is the worst thing our society has.

The most common fear, certainly among men, seems to be that if they get locked up they'll 'have to go in the showers with Mr. Big.' Forget that - predatory homosexuality is as rare in British prisons as malt whisky, in fact in some prisons it's a great deal rarer. There's probably more chance of you being raped or sexually assaulted 'outside' than in here. I have never actually come across a single occurrence.

Then there's the fear of non-sexual violence - are you going to be locked up with a load of thugs and psychopaths who'll cut your throat as soon as look at you? Again, this is largely exaggerated, but violence does exist in prison. However, it's a relatively simple matter to minimise the likelihood of being attacked. In my experience there's far less random violence in prison than in wider society. I was in an adult long-term prison at 19, and the only time I've ever been attacked it was by the screws.

The prison lexicon
While some words of prison slang are hundreds of years old, others are being introduced all the time. Here are just a few examples:
Adidas sex-case: prison issue plimsolls.
Apple or Apple core: Score - 20, hence 20 years or £20.
Bang up: time locked in cell.
Bed-leg: a homemade cosh. The word comes from the small section of steel pipe used to separate prison bunks, which would be put in a sock to make a weapon.
Burglars: security or 'DST' ('Dedicated Search Team').
Chip-net: safety net strung between landings.
Cucumbers (or 'Numbers' or 'Protection'): 'Nonces' or 'Bacons' (sex offenders) and other 'Protection-heads' (debtors, grasses, cell thieves etc.) are usually segregated for their own safety under Prison Rule 45 (formerly 43). They should not be confused with prisoners held in the block (the segregation unit) under Prison Rule 45 GOAD (Good Order and Discipline).
Diesel: prison tea.
The enchanted: prisoners on the 'Enhanced Privilege Level'.
Ghosting: to be transferred to another prison, suddenly and without notice.
Jam-roll: parole.
Jimmy or Jimmy Boyle: foil used by smackheads to smoke heroin.
Kangas (or 'Scoobys'): screws.
L-Plates: a life sentence.
Little fellers: cigarette butts.
Midnight: Midnight mass - grass.
Pad: a cell.
Patches: a prison uniform with prominent yellow panels worn by prisoners captured after an escape or following an attempted escape.
Peter: an older name for a cell, also for a safe.
Pie and liquor: the vicar.
Salmon or Salmon and trout - Snout: tobacco.
Shit and a shave (or shit and a shower): a short sentence.
Spin: a search (as in 'pad-spin').
Stiff: a smuggled note.
Stretch: a sentence or a year (a '10 stretch' is a 10 year sentence).
Tram lines: a distinctive scar caused by a prison-made weapon which uses two razor blades melted into a toothbrush.

Wet-up (or Jug-up): to scald someone, usually with a mixture of boiling water and sugar.

Staying safe comes down to basics. Stay alert and learn some manners - prison is a close environment containing too many people, so manners are extra important. Be polite to people, treat them with mutual respect, don't be nosy or impinge on their limited personal space, never borrow things without asking, don't boast or bullshit, never grass anyone up, and even more importantly, avoid drugs (heroin) and stay away from junkies. When I was at Full Sutton in 1996, there was an average of one stabbing a week, but almost all of them were related to smack.

While adult prisons, particularly long-term ones, tend to be a fairly mature environment, 'Young Offenders Institutions' (for those under 21) can be different, and violence less easy to avoid. The general advice still applies though - be assertive not aggressive, but don't let people take liberties with you, and if necessary be prepared to fight. Some self defence training may give you an edge, but be warned that prison fights are always dirty - you can expect to be bitten, scalded, stabbed, coshed, and/or attacked by multiple assailants. Attacks are likely to take place in the showers or when the victim is still in bed.

In reality, it's not other prisoners you should be worried about, they will become your friends and comrades. In the harsh prison environment bonds will be forged that can last a lifetime. Your problems will come from the system, and from the screws, particularly if you're a person of integrity. From the very first moment you enter prison your principles, your sense of selfhood, and your very humanity will be under attack. If you are to survive unbroken, you must resist all attempts to turn you into a numbered, subjugated, compliant piece of jail-fodder, a 'Stepford Prisoner' who has had their spine and brain removed. You are, after all, not just an individual, but a member of a movement, and those that come after you will be judged by how you behave.

Unfortunately, for those of you entering prison today, the level of political consciousness among British prisoners is at the lowest point for many years. Divide and rule scams like the loathsome 'Incentives and Earned Privileges' scheme have undermined solidarity, and in-cell TVs and heroin have helped a culture of selfishness to develop. You will hear people come out with things like, "I can't afford to get involved" or "I've done my bit" or "I just want to get out." Ignore these wankers, they're just trying to justify their own cowardice. Everybody wants to get out of these rotten places, but how do you want to get out - on your feet or on your knees? Resistance and solidarity will always exist within prisons, and if you have anything about you at all, your place is with that resistance, not with the grovellers and forelock-tuggers who shit on their fellow cons in the foolish belief that they can make a comfortable life for themselves in here.

Prison Receptions, the entry point into any jail (unless you go straight to the punishment block - the segregation unit), have changed a lot since the days when you were very likely to be met with a beating, but they are still inevitably an unpleasant experience. It is here that your prison file will be opened, that you will be given a number, where strangers will begin to address you by your surname only, where others will decide what clothes you can wear and what possessions you can have, and where you will receive your first strip-search. It is in Reception that the battle begins.

The first Prison Reception I was ever in was at Canterbury in 1980. There were certainly worse places back then, but there were still some vicious screws working there. In every nick in the country they used to read you a little speech at Reception, part of which went, "You will call all prison officers 'Sir'." So it didn't take long for my first confrontation to come, I would not, and will not, be forced to call anyone 'Sir'. Nor was I prepared to substitute 'boss' or 'guv'nor' as was acceptable in some prisons. Like a lot of principles it's ostensibly a small thing, it would be so easy to compromise, especially when almost everyone else does, but what are we without principles? Once you start abandoning them for the sake of convenience, who's to say where it will end? I remember a few years ago when I was forced onto a blanket protest at Durham. Having failed to intimidate and bully me into putting on the prison clothes, the screws tried persuasion - "You're alone down here in the punishment block, away from your mates, nobody will even know you've put them on." But I'd have known, and the screws would have known, and that was enough.

Today there's no longer an obligation to call your captors 'Sir', and many nicks no longer require you to wear prison clothes, but your integrity will still be tested, and you will have to struggle to retain it. Relinquish it, and I imagine prison will have far more of a lasting effect on you than if you spend the whole of your sentence in the block.

Screws often behave like playground bullies and when you come into a new nick, they'll try it on to see how much they can get away with. A classic example is to try to get you to 'squat' or bend over during a strip-search - tell them to fuck off. Every prison has its own rules about what you can and can't have, and they change constantly, but if you know you're getting sent down you can still try to be prepared. Often, little can be sent in after you're imprisoned, so have anything you need and might be able to have with you. Most prisons allow you to wear your own training shoes these days, so get yourself a good sturdy pair. Prisoners generally wear sports clothes, which are easily cared for, avoid black and dark blue colours which aren't always allowed, and go for cotton fabrics that will survive the prison laundry. A radio or small stereo will be useful, as will one or two books, and some basic stationery. A watch is more or less essential, ideally get one that doesn't require batteries, is tough and waterproof (so you can wear it in the shower), but not unduly expensive or ostentatious. While highly desirable, food and drink and toiletries won't be allowed. If you smoke (and it's a big advantage not to), you may be permitted to keep a small amount of tobacco. Make sure you have cash with you, so that you can buy phonecards and other items you need from the prison shop.

There was a time when every cell contained a copy of the prison rules, and prisoners were required to read them. Now the prison authorities generally do their best to keep them secret, because they are so regularly broken. You will find it useful to consult the Prison Rules and Standing Orders, which outline your few rights and entitlements, and they should be available in the prison library. The Prison Service also publishes its own information booklets, but the contents are very selective. If you have difficulty getting hold of a copy of the rules, or think you are not getting what you're entitled to, as regards diet or exercise for example, either contact your solicitor or the Prisoners Advice Service at the address given elsewhere in this section. Prisoners' letters are generally censored, and so have to be handed in or posted with the envelopes unsealed. However, you may write to a solicitor or the Prisoners Advice Service in confidence under Prison Rule 39. Contrary to what you may be told, you do not have to allow a member of staff to seal the envelope for you, and if you do not have stamps you can ask for a 'Special Letter', which should be sent at public expense. Simply seal the envelope, write your name and 'Rule 39' on the back, and hand it in or post it in the box provided.

There is a good deal of variation in prison architecture, from the ancient cathedrals of human misery to the stark modern control-units. The accommodation parts of prisons are known as 'wings' or 'houseblocks', and they generally have cells on 'landings' or 'spurs' on more than one level, known as 'the ones', 'the twos' etc. Most modern prison cells are approximately 7ft x 11ft, but some are a good deal smaller, and in some prisons each cell may contain 2, or even 3 prisoners. Personally, I am not prepared to share a space that small with another person, and if necessary will opt for a single cell in the block. Prisoners are having to spend more time locked in their cells than for many years, but you should not be 'banged up' for more than 23 hours at a time.

Prison really is a bizarre institution to come into, and it'll take you a while to get used to it. Humans are an adaptable species though, and within a few weeks you'll probably find you're cracking on like an old lag. If you're on remand though, this can be a time when you fuck up, and it's something I always warn people about. Time is different in jail and particularly when you're first locked up, a couple of days can seem like a month. It's a harsh environment, and you'll be spending a lot of time with the same people. Many of these will turn out to be good friends, but always try to bear in mind that in reality, you've known them for days or weeks, not years, and that not everyone in jail tells the truth about themselves. In particular, be wary about discussing the details of your case with those you hardly know - too many people wind up in court with former cell-mates giving evidence against them. Also be careful about giving out your home address or personal details until you know your new friends a lot better.

There's a thousand scams and tricks in jail - cons are extremely inventive people and are always one step ahead of the screws. As you pick up your jail-craft, you'll learn everything from how to pass a cigarette from one end of the wing to the other, how to make prison 'hooch' without yeast, how to make weapons out of next to nothing, how to defeat electronic door systems, how to make a cup of tea without a kettle, and all sorts of other survival skills. When you first get locked up, you'll doubt that you could last more than week in this environment, but in all likelihood you will, and will even share in the gallows humour endemic to this otherwise joyless existence.

The human spirit can flourish and triumph in the face of the darkest adversity, but I'm not going to tell you that prisons are anything other than utterly rotten places, particularly for those of us who have to endure year after year of long-term imprisonment. Prison kills you physically and psychologically - it's a living death, like being buried alive. I once read about a Native American woman who suddenly woke up from a coma as if from sleep. She wanted to know where her husband and her children were, but she'd been unconscious so long her husband had remarried and her children grown up. It's a tragic story, but at least she didn't have the slow torture of having to watch, helpless, as her life slipped away from her, together with everything she cared about. That's how it is for most long-term prisoners, and many lose their families, homes, jobs, savings, and possessions even before their cases come to trial. Hang onto your integrity, because when the system's finished with you and spits you back out on the street, it may be all you have left.

But hey, nobody said it was going to be easy - if it was easy they wouldn't call it 'struggle' would they? As political activists we're the lucky ones in here, given a rare opportunity to get inside the machine and act like a virus. As an activist, you're not locked up to take a holiday - there's a real struggle to be fought in here, so keep militant and get involved...
By Mark Barnsley, Whitemoor Prison, England

More notes on surviving prison
Britain has the largest prison population per capita in Europe and if the government has its way it'll carry on growing! More and more people are likely to do time for crimes they did or didn't commit, partly because the state is always creating more + more laws that we can break, especially laws criminalising political protest. The fear of prison is one of the state's ultimate deterrents to stifle dissent and protect the ruling classes from the wrath and poverty of the masses. This deterrent only works as effectively as we are fearful of it, and this is an attempt to dispel some of the fears and myths that surround prison.

Experiences of prison can vary greatly from person to person and from prison to prison. Obviously there's a big difference between a short stay and a long stretch, not so much on the experience while there but mentally it can be harder to remain unaffected, and will take longer to re-adjust to the outside world as it will have changed more, and old skills will have to be remembered. Being in prison on remand can be mentally and emotionally taxing, because of the uncertainty regarding length of sentence, and the stress of an approaching court case, etc. Women's prisons are also quite different, not only are you likely to be further from friends and family because of the scarcity of women’s' prisons but my women are in for gender/poverty related in a way that men aren't, basically because most coppers/judges are male chauvinists. Category ‘A’ prisoners (high security) also have less privileges than Category ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ respectively. It should be remembered worldwide, British prisons have a reputation for being soft compared to elsewhere especially outside of Europe.

If you know in advance that you're going to be going inside it's helpful to talk to others with experience of prison. It's good to tie up any loose ends regarding family, housing, money, support before you go in. Also get a few good reading books together!

This section is aimed mostly at those who do time for political 'crimes' or crimes(?) of conscience although it can apply to anyone. Some political activists see going to prison as a natural extension of direct action. Political prisoners have the advantage of being part of a wider movement, which can offer practical support and boost moral. Having a good understanding of why you are there can give a degree of inner strength, calm and confidence and so from this perspective prison can be an empowering experience, and can also be somewhat amusing at times as well!

Most folk on knowing they're about to go down have a flood of varied emotions and/or passing attacks of anxiety and fear. It can feel like the whole weight of the world is falling upon your head.

with the threat of prison hanging over my head I try and find out as much as I possibly can about the prison I am likely to be sent to... I worry about what the other prisoners are like; will I fit in? How much stuff I can take with me? Will I be on my own or sharing? When I arrive different questions become a problem: where do I go to eat, to shower, where is everything, this place is big. After you come out of prison, take a holiday, or rest, to give yourself time to adjust to being out again and having space to move about. Give yourself time and tell others how you are feeling.
"Prisons and prison experiences vary enormously.. the first time I went to a British prison was one of the most hellish weeks of my life: I was beaten up by the guards, denied a vegan diet, taken before the governor three times (and threatened with everything from the punishment block to the psychiatric wing) and put in a cell with someone in for murder and someone in for manslaughter. In contrast, much of my five months in another prison was a leisurely rest - badminton, jogging, table tennis, evening classes, my own cell, passable vegan food, friendly enough screws

I had sort of expected I was going to prison and actually felt quite prepared and calm. As the prison van pulled up at the gates I felt a strange sort of excitement mixed with a bit of nervousness and uncertainty. I found it fairly easy to settle in after the initial 'crikey! I'm in prison' type feelings. Getting used to the regime can be a bit hard - so many rules. When your life is totally in the hands of authoritarians you just have to adapt and get used to it, and know that they can’t confine your thoughts or hold your true freedom. It's important to use the time well with things to focus your mind. There lots of potential for self development and learning from people of different backgrounds. I really benefited from doing lots of meditation and tai chi, which helped me keep calm, especially when dealing with some of the screws who would try and draw me into confrontation because of my beliefs

However the reality is a lot easier than the fears, and when you start meeting the other cons you realise most of them are just ordinary enough people brought here by unfortunate circumstances, rather than the social monsters the government and media would have you believe. Obviously there are some nutters but they aren’t that common, and let’s face it there are plenty of nutters on the outside as well! Very few people are looking for a fight because that can mean time in solitary and less parole, so if you're not looking for trouble you're unlikely to find it. If you try and act hard, someone's going to challenge you, so just be yourself and be calmly confident, and, keep a good sense of humour!

Political prisoners tend to get a fair bit of respect in prison, if not a few strange looks for having somewhat alien beliefs. Most trouble in prison is over drugs and addictions (including tobacco) and bullying to get them when personal supplies run low (the prison shop's only open once/twice a week and everyone's skint anyway)... Time to give up? Sometimes, especially if it's obviously your first time inside, you may find yourself challenged in some way by other prisoners, as a kind of test of strength which as long as you stand your ground in a calm but confident manner, will generally pass off without incident. Backing down to any threats or bullying leaves you wide open for abuse and bullying later if you become seen as an easy victim, so stand your ground. It's pretty similar to school playground philosophy really.

An open mind and a bit of common respect can go a long way in prison meeting half-way the many different lives, experiences and expectations that you'll meet there. It can be a time of 1earning and an insight into the inner workings of Babylon, both in the oppressive and overly bureaucratic organisation of prison and in the inmates themselves, most of whom are in for some kind of poverty (class) related crime. Prison can be a lonely place, it is designed to isolate. Communication and solidarity is essential, both with other inmates and with the outside world as well. Political prisoners usually get a lot of support correspondence from the wider movement, this gives a big boost to morale and in some cases can be a lifeline (make sure they know you're there - see contacts below) It also makes a prisoner feel less anonymous, less of a number in a system to be pushed about.

Adapting to prison regime can be strange (if not interesting)... it's a culture unto itself- so many new rules and regulations, new behaviour norms, respective routines, social hierarchies, different language. You can expect some overcrowding, frustrating and irritating levels of noise and distraction and little personal space or privacy. It may be difficult to sleep properly, radios blaring, bars, loud arguments etc. Food will be starchy and dull. You will learn to wait...for a phone call, a shower, a meal, the answer to a question even the time of day. Time can become distorted, days will slip by but each hour could seem like an eternity. Focusing your mind on something like a campaign, reading, studying, drawing, yoga etc. can be a great help in dealing with the monotony and stresses of prison life.

Different diets can be catered for upon request although you are only guaranteed a vegan diet if you're a member of the Vegan society before getting sent down. Some progress has been made recently on getting GMO-free diets, although such decisions (as are most decisions regarding personal welfare) are at the arbitrary discretion of the individual prison Governor. Visits and the sending of books, money stereos, what you can and can't send in/out varies greatly from prison to prison so check with the Prison Visitor Centre concerned. The screws are generally alright, if not a bit uptight, with a predisposition towards having authoritarian fantasies. Their prime concern is to preserve order through obedience and submission. However you don't have to indulge them in this fantasy and as long as you don't take the piss they generally leave you alone. Let them be responsible for keeping order while you stay responsible for keeping your conscience.

A sense of humour goes a long way in dealing with the daily routine of being inside, and a smile can disarm all but the meanest screws and cons. Sometimes it's hard not to laugh at those in authority when they take themselves far too seriously especially if their authority and power in not having the desired effect on you. Just because your body is behind bars doesn't mean you've got turn in your conscience or convictions with all your other belongings at the gate. Whether in prison or not, the freedom we enjoy is the freedom we claim for ourselves, and while the body can be incarcerated the spirit is as free as it wishes. Being in prison can be an incredibly empowering experience by bringing this message home.

When you come out, give yourself time to adjust. If you've been in for a while, take it easy, it can take a while to psychologically adjust to looking after yourself again - cooking, cleaning, socialising. Tell friends how you're feeling and above all keep smiling, ‘cos there’s nothing you can't laugh at...
From the UHC Collective website

Notes on this text
The first part of this guide is taken and edited from an article "Preparing for Prison" by Mark Barnsley, from Whitemoor Prison, England written for Do or Die. We are glad to say that at the time of printing Mark Barnsley is now out of prison. Prisons Mark Barnsley has been in are:
HMP Canterbury (x3), HMP Maidstone (x2), Ashford Remand Centre (x2), HMP Wormwood Scrubs (x5), HMP Armley (x3), HMP Hull (x2), Wolds Remand Centre, HMP Doncaster (x2), HMP Lincoln, HMP Full Sutton (x3), HMP Brixton, HMP Wolds, HMP Garth, HMP Durham, HMP Long Lartin, HMP Cardiff, HMP Woodhill (x2), HMP Parkhurst, HMP Wakefield (x2), HMP Frankland, HMP Whitemoor.

The second part is edited from the article "Surviving prison" from the UHC Collective website.

Edited by, last reviewed 2006

Prisoner support guide

Adopt a prisoner
If you’re active in a group or campaign why not choose one or two prisoners to consistently support. Pass cards round meetings, send useful stuff, knock up a flyposter and get their case some publicity if they could use it, get in touch with the prisoner’s support group if there is one. Of course you can take this on as an individual, too.

Starting out
Since practice and procedure varies considerably from prison to prison and is liable to change in each prison, it is impossible to provide a template of procedures that will cover all cases. What can be done from experience is to put down a few pointers and pose a set of questions that those undertaking the support will need to address.

Firstly, it may be necessary to find out what the prison rules are about:

- Visits
- What can and cannot be sent in
- Property
- Money
- What the scope is for the prisoner to communicate outwards
- Arrangements for release and travel warrants.

If things are reasonable the prisoner will be able to get that information to you but you can also phone the prison and ask. There is no harm in developing contacts within the prison officialdom as that may have long term benefits.

Writing to prisoners/sending things
Prison is isolation, so contact with the outside world, letting a prisoner know s/he is not forgotten, helps break this down. Sometimes just a friendly card can boost their morale. Writing for the first time to a complete stranger can be awkward. A card with some well wishes, a bit about who you are and asking what you can do to help is often enough. Don’t expect prisoners to write back. Sometimes, the number of letters they can receive/write is restricted, or they just might not be very good a writing back. To help, include a couple of stamps or, if writing abroad, International Reply Coupons (IRC’s) that you can get from any post office. Write on clean paper and don’t re-use envelopes. Remember a return address, also on the envelope.

Ask what the prisoner can have sent to them, as this varies from prison to prison. Books and pamphlets usually have to be sent from a recognised distributor/bookshop/publisher (ask at a friendly bookshop). Tapes, videos, writing pads, zines, toiletries and postal orders are some of the things you might be able to send. Newspapers can often be provided (usually by a local newsagent recognised by the prison). Food just gets eaten by screws.

Other countries have their own rules, so check with the prisoner themselves before trying to send anything to them - it might be a waste of your money and could, if what you send is considered to be contraband, have adverse effects on the prisoner themselves.

There is also a prisoner e-mailing service, which now covers most prisons in the UK (check here for which nicks). It only costs 35p, cheaper than snail mail (though there is a 2500 characters and 50 lines maximum per message) and many prisons also allow you to pay 20p up front for the contactee to email you a reply (check here for those locations). Give it a try.

The same organisation also has a Secure Payment Services system as an alternate for sending money to prisoners. However, they charge a 20% fee for each transaction, so stick with the cheaper option of a cheque or the slightly more expensive (but more anonymous) option of a postal order [see above].

Remember that all letters are opened and looked through so don’t write stuff that could endanger anyone – this doesn’t mean you should be over paranoid and write one meaningless comment on the weather after the other. Be prepared to share a bit of your life to brighten up someone’s on the inside.

e.g. We received a letter from Herman Wallace, after sending him a card from the group. He said:

It is quite essential that I take out a moment to express my gratitude to all the wonderful folk who sent me so much love & support in this one card. I am really touched by the intensity of energy from this card and I just had to stand up from my seat and smile. Thankyou. Right now, in spite of my repressive condition you guys have made me feel GREAT!

Protest letters
Petitioning Tony Blair asking him to stop being a capitalist bastard might well be futile. But writing letters to relevant places requesting something realistic such as an appeal, transfer, vegan food etc on behalf of a prisoner can help improve their chances. Prisoners who seem to be ‘in the public eye’ do tend to be treated better.

Remember too that each prison will have a Visiting Committee and at least one Chaplain, plus a Quaker visitor. These can be most useful allies in getting over any communication difficulties and helping if there are problems. The prison will provide you with names and contacts.

Other support
There is so much more than can be done, up to you and your imagination and your contact with a prisoner, such as publicity for their case, financial support, pickets of prisons, helping them get a mobile phone, any legal support issues to be dealt with, such as getting documents, research, liaison with lawyers etc.…

Edited and added to by from two articles from the UHC Collective website. The above information matches that on the Brighton ABC site.

NYC Anarchist Black Cross letter-writing guide:

Writing a letter to a political prisoner or prisoner of war is a concrete way to support those imprisoned for their political struggles.

A letter is a simple way to brighten someone’s day in prison by creating human interaction and communication–something prisons attempt to destroy. Beyond that, writing keeps prisoners connected to the communities and movements of which they are a part, allowing them to provide insights and stay up to date.

Writing to prisoners is not charity, as we on the outside have as much to gain from these relationships as the prisoners. Knowing the importance of letter writing is crucial. Prisons are very lonely, isolating, and disconnected places. Any sort of bridge from the outside world is greatly appreciated.

With that in mind, avoid feeling intimidated, especially about writing to someone you do not know. And if possible try and be a consistent pen pal.

For many, the first line of the first letter is difficult to write–there is uncertainty and intimidation that come with it. Never fret, it’s just a letter.

For the first letter, it’s best to offer an introduction, how you heard about the prisoner, a little about yourself. Tell stories, write about anything you are passionate about–movement work and community work are great topics until you have a sense of the prisoner’s interests outside of political organizing.

And what we hear from prisoners time and time again is to include detail. Prison is so total that the details of life on the outside become distant memories. Smells, textures, sounds of the street all get grayed out behind bars. That’s not to say that you should pen a stream-of-consciousness novel.

For things you should and should not remember when writing to folks, read GUIDELINES.

You cannot enclose glitter or write with glittery gel pens or puff paint pens. Some prisons do not allow cards or letters that include permanent marker, crayon, or colored pencils and it is best to check with the prisoner beforehand. That said, it is usually best to write in standard pencil or non-gel pen in blue or black ink.

You cannot include articles or anything else torn out of a newspaper or magazine. However, you can print that same article from the internet or photocopy it and write your letter on the other side.

You cannot include polaroid pictures (though these days, that’s not much of an issue), but you can include regular photographs. Some prisoners are limited to the number of photos they can have at any given time, so again, check with the prisoner before sending a stack of photos.

If mailing more than a letter, clearly write the contents of the envelope/package. Label it “CONTENTS” and include a full list.

A couple of technical details– make sure you include your return address inside the letter as well as on the envelope. It’s common for prisoners to receive letters without the envelope.

Make sure to paginate– number each page, such as 1 of 3, 2 of 3, et cetera. This insures that if pages of your letter don’t make it to the prisoner, they will know it.

Be careful about making promises and only commit to what you are certain you can do. This should go without saying, but it’s not a good idea to make commitments to someone you don’t have a relationship with. If you can’t maintain a correspondence, let them know up front. Conversely, if you want to maintain an ongoing correspondence, let them know that as well.

If you are writing to someone who is pre-trial, don’t ask questions about their case. Discussing what a prisoner is alleged to have done can easily come back to haunt them during their trial or negotiations leading up to it.

Don’t valorize the person you are writing. Keep in mind that these are folks coming from the same movements and communities that you are. They aren’t looking for adoration, but rather to maintain correspondence.

Finally, do not write anything you wouldn’t want Fox News, a cop, or a judge to see. Assume that intelligence and law enforcement agencies are reading your letter. On a related note, this advice goes for any snail mail, e-mail, texting, messaging, or talking that takes place in known activist spaces or homes. This is not legal advice, just basic movement survival common sense (to review, read STAYING SAFE).

You never have to, and it is never a good idea to talk to police, FBI, ICE, or any other law enforcement agent or investigator. Other than providing your name and address to a police officer who is investigating a crime, you never have to talk. You will not outsmart them by talking or sound less suspicious by talking or make things easier for yourself by talking. Anything you say will be used against you and others. If they catch you in a lie or inconsistency they can charge you with a separate crime.

Say: I have nothing to say to you OR I need a lawyer present to continue this conversation. If they come to your home, workplace, or school, ask them for a card and tell them your attorney will be in contact with them.

The FBI may threaten you with a grand-jury subpoena for not talking. It doesn’t matter because they were probably going to subpoena you anyway and you weren’t going to talk anyway.

If you receive a grand jury subpoena you should contact a lawyer immediately and let others in your community know. People can be held for up to 18 months (potentially longer) for refusing to talk to grand juries. Even so, for our own survival, it is imperative that we take that risk and do not participate in grand juries as they are used to indict political prisoners and prisoners of war.

In the federal legal system, the grand jury is used to decide whether someone should be charged (“indicted”) for a serious crime. The grand jury hears evidence presented by the prosecutor: the U.S. Attorney. The grand jury uses subpoenas to gather this evidence. It can subpoena documents, physical evidence, and witnesses to testify. The “special” federal grand jury, created in 1970, can be used to investigate “possible” organized criminal activity rather than a specific crime.

Currently there is more than one active grand jury in new york city. There are also more than likely informants and agent provocateurs infiltrating anarchist communities here.

It is imperative that we continue our work as anarchists including the support of political prisoners and prisoners of war towards the abolition of the state, of capitalism, and of all oppression.

It is also imperative that we do so in a way that is smart, strategic, and sustainable.

It's Going Down guide to writing to prisoners:

Not too long ago we hosted a small letter writing night amongst friends. It wasn’t a public event, just friends getting together over some food and writing letters to our anarchist comrades who have been stolen by the State. While we’ve been in the thick of prisoner support work for more than ten years, it was a huge surprise to learn how many of our friends had never written someone inside prison. At all.

This got us thinking about how maybe there has been a shift of some kind amongst anarchists. We are meeting less and less anarchists who have made prisoner support an integral part of their revolutionary praxis. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water folks! Prisoner support is a vital part of our movements and our culture. When the State steals away one of our comrades it is paramount that we continue to engage with them, keeping them involved in our movement as much as possible. They’re inside there for us and we are outside for them. We have to mean this and we have to back it up.

We know that letters are an absolute lifeline for those held inside the cages. What fewer people anticipate is how much it benefits us out here to do this work. Being involved in prisoner support has greatly impacted the work that we do at It’s Going Down, in our cities and with our crews. Having relationships with people inside has strengthened our organizing capacities in ways we couldn’t have anticipated. Being connected to other anarchists engaged in prisoner support has also helped us in building strong relationships and networks across North America. Did we hard sell this enough to you yet?

We wanted to share some brief prisoner letter writing tips for getting started, borrowed from Water Protector Anti-Repression Crew and their tour zine The Frontlines Are Everywhere. We also encourage you to check out the NYC ABC Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners & Prisoners of War for regularly updated prisoner listings. Gather up these tips, a copy of that guide, maybe a Political Prisoner Birthday Poster, make some cards, invite some friends over and write some letters together!

Getting Started and Keep Each Other Safe

Writing to prisoners is one of the most important aspects of support. Letters from relatives, comrades and new friends is a lifeline for those inside and provides connection to the outside world. One of the hardest things for many prisoners to cope with is the feeling of isolation – being cut off from friends and family and everything they know in their lives on the outside. Prison and jail are designed to be isolating, but communication from the outside can cut through isolation and remind those inside that they are never alone.

In many cases, contact from the outside lets the prison authorities know that there are people on the outside who care and are monitoring the situation. For example, religious freedoms and special dietary requirements (halal, kosher, vegan, etc) are more likely to be adhered to if a prisoner is obviously not forgotten.

Here are some important reminders for you prior to writing your letter to prisoners:

● Every letter is potentially read by the guards, so don’t write anything that might incriminate yourself or others. Do not write about illegal activities. The rule of thumb here is don’t put anything in a letter that you wouldn’t say to directly to the police.

● Remember that some prisoners are pre-trial, which means that beyond their mail be generally monitored, it can be entered into evidence against them.

● These are political prisoners and you should obviously let them know you support their politics, but don’t start praising them as heroes. “Hero letters,” can add to the State’s repressive tactics and help label people as “leaders.” If someone is caught up for a political action they probably don’t want to be seen as martyrs – they’re just normal people, so write to them like normal people rather than fawning! Human connection is more important than heroism.

● Don’t EVER promise things you can’t deliver. Whether you’re promising books, commissary money, et cetera – breaking promises to someone inside is not in line with supporting them.

● Political literature – be careful! Unless the prisoner asks for it, avoid sending any overly contentious political material in as it can potentially cause them issues with the prison. There’s no problem sending this kind of thing as long as you ask the prisoner first and always respect their wishes!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions people have about writing to those in prison or jail:

What should I write them?

Starting your first letter can feel difficult, especially if you are writing to someone you don’t already have a relationship with. You may be worried that what you write might sound stupid, or make the prisoner feel worse, or you simply can’t think of anything. Of course if the prisoner is your relative or friend then this part is easy, but what about a total stranger? You can simply start by telling them about yourself, what you do, what you’re into, where you got their address and so on. This breaks the ice and also make a reply easier. Apart from that, just fill a side of paper with whatever you can think of – a hike you took, a tender moment you saw at the park between a mother and child, the last movie you saw, or pretty much anything!

Most prisoners that we know have commented that while robust political discussions are great, so are letters about Harry Potter books or space exploration or poetry! The point being that these folks are dynamic humans with varied interests and parts of themselves they’d probably like to share while in a place that is designed to strip them of their humanity.

I’m not sure I can manage a full letter…

That is okay! A quick message of support on a postcard can still really brighten up someone’s day. Try taking a card to a meeting, a family gathering or a protest where everyone can sign it

How do I make sure my letter gets in?

Make sure to write the prisoner’s full name and prisoner ID number on the envelope. Put your name and address at the top of the letter and on the top left corner. You can use a pen name if you’ve got any reservations, but bear in mind this is what the prisoner will see if they’re going to write you a reply. Some prisons will refuse to accept letters with “care of‟ or PO Box addresses so it’s best to use a street address. Some prisons have rules forbidding certain imagery (e.g. gang symbols being banned from US prisons) and this may encompass political symbols as well. Different facilities have different rules, so call the prison or jail if you aren’t sure if something can be mailed in. Typically you cannot send pictures drawn with anything other than markers, Polaroid photos, or cards that have glue or glitter on them

What about getting a reply?

Remember that you’re doing this to support the prisoner, not to acquire a new pen-pal – although the two often go hand-in-hand! You may not get a reply for several reasons: obviously the prisoner might not have received your letter or they might be getting a lot of mail (if they’re fortunate enough), so they may not have time to reply to everyone. They may be limited in the number of letters they can write by the prison authorities and prefer to prioritize relatives and close friends. They may not have access to sufficient writing materials or stamps, they may have been moved, or they may simply not be very good at writing letters. Regardless, don’t be put out if there’s no reply and don’t let this deter you from continuing to write. Keep sending postcards and letters!

Can I send anything else in?

The golden rule here is to ask the prisoner if you’ve got any doubts. You can always try contacting the prison, asking to speak to the mail-room or an administrator about what items are approved by the facility. If you feel that the prison or jail staff is not being truthful or is misleading you, a common tactic of repression by the institution, ask if they have a copy of their inmate handbook or mail regulations for you to review. These are often available online, but not always. The rules vary widely between different prisons and are sometimes baffling or nonsensical.

If you send anything in, clearly write at the top of your letter what you’ve enclosed as this lessens the chances of guards taking items without the prisoners knowledge. Generally, books have to be from a publisher, although the guards get to decide which publishers are “legitimate.” Some people get around this by sending books from an Amazon account, which many guards accept as “legitimate.” Many prisoners have Amazon book wish lists that have been set up from which you can mail something directly. Guards may withhold some literature on the grounds of content, it all depends on which guard is looking through the mail any given day. Sometimes books or zines get through just fine, other times a prisoner never receives them.

Ready to get started? Check out this list of political prisoners here from NYC Anarchist Black Cross (ABC).

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Starting an Anarchist Black Cross – A Guide


This zine is a resource for anyone wanting to start an Anarchist Black Cross group. It was a collective effort of people from various ABC groups across Europe. We hope you find it inspiring and useful.

The past several decades we have witnessed various forms of crisis emerging all over the globe and while resisting and fighting back, we as anarchists are paying close attention to the changing patterns and tactics of state repression. To save the status quo and powers-that be they divide and rule. They co-opt struggles and pacify subversive movements. Meanwhile, we are striving to break free.

We need to destroy all the prisons, and free all the prisoners. Our position is an abolitionist stance against the state and it’s prisons. Of course, the only easy solutions to such a complex problem like prisons are the false solutions. But abolition is not a simple answer nor an easy solution. It is a long way to go. That is why exactly we are talking about the Anarchist Black Cross and not liberal, statist or reformist ways of organising. Our tactics are based upon sharing and solidarity, not charity. More than ever, it is critically important to share the knowledge and organisational tips with people that want to take action. That is why we wrote this zine: shared knowledge is an important tool in fighting against repression. The best defense against repression is preparation. We hope this zine can support you to organise where you are and build more resilience to repression in your movements and struggles for liberation. If you would like support or have questions about this zine please email: tillallarefree at

What is The Anarchist Black Cross and Why Does It Exist?

The Anarchist Black Cross is an international network of anarchist groups and individuals engaged in practical solidarity with prisoners and broader anti-repression struggles.

Prisoner Support

We support revolutionaries, anarchists and others trapped in the prison system. We support and publicise prisoners’ efforts to organise and resist the system from the inside. We try to work through letters, visits, material aid, as well as demonstrations, campaigns and spreading information about prisoners, the reality of prisons and the class system which created them. Fundraising and material support is a key part of our work. Many of us also support prisoners and those affected by repression emotionally, with friendship and solidarity as our weapons. In all of what we do, we try to create links in and out of prisons.

Anti-Repression and Movement Defence Work

The state and those that wish to destroy movements for liberation attack us on many levels. The Anarchist Black Cross network aims to build the infrastructure to be resilient to repression so that we can continue fighting for liberation and support comrades harmed by this state violence. Many groups organise ongoing long-term solidarity campaigns with those affected by various waves of repression across the world. Indeed, many ABC groups start in response to a repressive operation in their region.

Movement and community defence can involve many things. The Anarchist Black Cross has been engaged in diverse forms over decades – from legal defence campaigns and committees, to maintaining physical solidarity against the police during factory and school occupations, performing roles of security and physical defence against white supremacist and neo-fascist attacks, as well as engaging in armed defence of social movements. ABC groups also often organise workshops, zines and other material to support people to learn about repression, security culture and solidarity.

The Anarchist Black Cross exists to strengthen struggles for freedom and liberation by providing mental, emotional, material, and physical support to individual, groups, communities and movements. Ultimately, we want to help ensure the strength of our movements from the inside out. We want to support struggles to be a threat to state, capitalist, white supremacist, patriarchal power and other forms of domination.
The History of the Anarchist Black Cross

The Anarchist Black Cross Federation in the United States have written an overview of the history of ABC which we have shared below:

Since the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), has been on the frontline in supporting those imprisoned for struggling for freedom and liberty. Until recently, the history of the ABC movement has been lost to the pages of time. The present generation of ABC collectives were left rootless with little known information about this organisation. Now, specific questions regarding our origin can now be put to rest. We have now begun to rediscover our roots.

The year of origin has been a nagging question regarding the history of the Anarchist Black Cross, also known as the Anarchist Red Cross (ARC). According to Rudolph Rocker, once the treasurer for the Anarchist Red Cross in London, the organisation was founded during the “hectic period between 1900 and 1905.” Despite his involvement in the early stages, we do not feel these dates are very accurate. According to Harry Weinstein, one of the two men who began the organisation, it began after his arrest in July or August of 1906. Once released, Weinstein and others provided clothing to anarchists sentenced to exile in Siberia. This was the early stages of the ARC. He continued his efforts in Russia until his arrival in New York in May of 1907. Once he arrived, he helped to create the New York Anarchist Red Cross.

Other accounts place the year origin in 1907. During June and August of 1907, Anarchists and Socialist Revolutionaries gather together in London for two conferences. It is believed that Vera Figner, a Socialist Revolutionary, met with Anarchists to discuss the plight of the political prisoners in Russia. After this meeting, the Anarchist Red Cross organized in London and in New York. In addition to this information, we do know that members of the organisation were on trial in 1906-1907 in Russia. Therefore, We feel the most accurate date of origin for the Anarchist Red Cross would be late 1906- early 1907 for the Russia section; June or August 1907 for the creation of the International section.

However, the reason for the creation of the Anarchist Red Cross is not in dispute. It was formed after breaking away from the Political Red Cross (PRC). The PRC was controlled by the Social Democrats and refused to provide support to Anarchist and Social Revolutionary Political Prisoners, despite continued donations from other Anarchists and Social Revolutionaries. As one former Political Prisoner and member of the Anarchist Red Cross stated,“In some prisons there was little distinction made between Anarchists and other Political Prisoners, but in others Anarchists were refused any help.”

The newly formed ARC considered these actions criminal and vowed that any prison where Anarchists were in the majority, the ARC would provide support to all Anarchist and Social Revolutionaries Political Prisoners.

Because of their support for Political Prisoners, members of the group were arrested, tortured and killed by the Tsarist regime. The organisation was deemed illegal and membership was reason enough for arrest and imprisonment in Artvisky Prison, one of the worst hard labor jails in Siberia. ARC members and prisoners who managed to escape from prison fled from Russia creating chapters in London, New York, Chicago and other cities in Europe and North America.

The 1917 Revolution caused a celebration throughout the Socialist, Anarchist, and Communists communities. The ARC liquidated and members began to make plans to return to Russia in hopes of participating in the new society. Sadly, their return was met by Bolsheviks repression, similar to that of the Tsarist era. After a few years of hibernation, the group was forced to resurface to assist the Political Prisoners in the new Bolshevik society. Once again the organisation was made illegal and membership meant imprisonment and/or death.

During the Russian Civil War, the ARC’s name changed to the Anarchist Black Cross to avoid confusion with the International Red Cross, also organising relief in the country. It was also during this period that the organisation organized self-defence units against political raids by the Cossack and Red armies.

During the next 7 decades the group would continue under various different names but has always considered itself part of the Anarchist Red Cross/ Anarchist Black Cross formation. ABC’s support for Political Prisoners spread to the four corners of the globe. What was once a typically Russian-Jewish organisation, now had many faces and ethnicities.

During the 1960s, the Anarchist Black Cross was reformed in Britain by Stuart Christie and Albert Meltzer with a focus on providing aid for anarchist prisoners in Francisco Franco’s Spain. The reason for this was Christie’s experience of the Spanish State’s jail and the importance of receiving food parcels. At that time there were no international groups acting for Spanish anarchist and Resistance prisoners. The first action of the re-activated group was to bring Miguel García García, whom Christie met in prison, out of Spain on his release. He went on to act as the group’s International secretary, working for the release of others.

In the 80’s, the ABC began to grow and new ABC groups began to emerge in North America. In the United States, the ABC name had been kept alive by a number of completely autonomous groups scattered throughout the country and had grown to support a wide variety of prison issues.

The 1990’s and 2000’s brought several ABC formations in North America (ABCC, ABCN, ABCF). The relationship between these formations has always been considered strenuous. The Break the Chains conference in August 2003, along with side bar discussions between collectives, brought about a better working relationship between the ABCF and ABCN formations. (The ABCC was a short lived formations, dying off in the early 1990s.)

Various ABC groups have also been existing in Europe in different forms for decades.

How do ABC Groups Organise?

There are a lot of different ABC groups around the world. Each of them have autonomy to decide on how the group functions and what are the principles that are in the core of the group. Autonomy and decentralization are helping us to make sure that no group or individual is capable of forcing other groups to do things against the principles of those groups.

To make sure that decisions within the groups are made with consideration of all the members of the group, we encourage everybody to use consensus. Some groups who do not want to practice consensus are choosing to use simple majority or super majority voting. Eventually, it is completely up to you to decide what kind of decision making fits your group. However, it is important to talk it through before hand at the beginning of group formation to avoid misunderstandings with other members of the group

Types of Organising

Depending on the current political situation in different countries, groups can select different types of organising itself, starting from open groups with open membership and ending up with clandestine groups that are known only to the people facing repressions. All types have their pluses and minuses that should be taken in consideration when you start your own group.

Open Group

This type of organising is not often used and is common to liberal democracies, where solidarity work might be not a threat to activists. In this form, the group is open to new members and have processes established to let new willing people join decision making processes.

With an open process, we can bring new passionate people to the work of solidarity without complicated procedures of building up your reputation and earning trust from the movement. With more energy inside of the group, more can be achieved. It is also quite easy to collect money, as real faces presenting the group can earn more trust among people than masked anonymous activists.

As for the negative sides, you can see an easy possibility for police to infiltrate the group and disrupt processes going on inside. Consider this question seriously and how you are going to confront this in case it appears.

Also, it is quite easy to figure out who are the activists of the group and bring the group down by direct repression as membership is transparent.

Semi-Open/Closed group

This is a type of group that only allows trusted or well-known activists inside of the group. These groups might be built from individuals but also members of local anarchist organisations that are aware of upcoming or existing problems.

It might also be decided that membership of the group shouldn’t be exposed to the third people if it is not required. This might help you avoid possible repressions in future, even if risks are minimal at the current stage of state repressions.

The benefit of this group structure is the atmosphere of trust that might push group activity further in different directions. It is harder for the state or capital to disrupt activity of the group. On top of that, many such groups are developing into affinity groups that is hard to do with open groups.

Apart from that, in case of repressions targeting the whole group it will be hard for the state to attack all the members, meaning that semi-open or closed groups have a bigger level of survivability against direct repression.

One of the main negatives of semiopen/closed groups is the bigger dependence on individual members. Due to the complicated procedures of building trust, it might be complicated to find new people to join the group instead of those who have decided to change their activity focus.

It is harder for people to get in touch with the collective in case of repression or some questions connected with upcoming repressions. This can be addressed by building up additional ways of contacting the group. For example, mail that is checked every day, or even one or two people from the group that are known inside of the anarchist circles as activists of ABC.

Organise Locally

Eventually, ABC work is done locally and is heavily connected with the specifics of the region. That’s why, for example, it is quite hard for people from Russia to support activists from Finland and vice versa. We discourage local groups from forming one big group that is covering a big region. We are decentralising our structures and making it hard for the state to hit everyone at once.

However local organisation doesn’t mean isolation. At the same time we are organising together with different groups and learning from each other. Solidarity and support from neighbouring regions or even from distant parts of the world are extremely important for ABC work. We strong decentralised but the real power comes in cooperation.

Decentralisation is also giving us the possibility to go different ways. There are situations where groups were deciding not to support some activists/cases due to political principles, while others were eager to help. This eventually gives autonomy of decision that doesn’t paralyse other activity in contradictory cases.

It might be worth asking close to your group if there are bigger cooperative projects happening between groups in your region. Most probably, there is already! If not – don’t get desperate, there are some groups that prefer working on their own, but it doesn’t mean that everybody is sticking to the same plan. Keep asking and searching and you might find the groups that you will be working with together for years to come.

Don’t get surprised that some groups are more open than the others. Different political situations are building different political profiles, where activists might be suspicious of new groups/people before they figure you out. This is a process that most of us have to go through one way or another to build up networks of trust.

What do ABC Groups do?

To make this section more interesting, we published interviews with ABC organisers from around the world. They share what their different groups have been doing, as well as the highlights and challenges they have experienced.

I got involved in ABC a few months after a close friend was murdered in prison in Texas. I wanted to do something productive with the anger I felt after his death.

Our group do all kinds of stuff, from fundraisers (we have started doing monthly burger nights as one of us is an amazing chef) to letter writing, to demos. It’s important because of how nonjudgemental the approach is – we aren’t looking for “worthy” people to support, but want to show love and solidarity to all people in prison, en route to destroying the prison system altogether.

The group itself keeps me going, because whilst the crew is super on it, they are also super kind and thoughtful. I only hope I can do the same for them!

My advice would be take care of the other people in your crew, and yourself. You have an incredible potential to change so much, so take care of each other.


I joined a new group that formed in Warsaw at the very beginning of 2014 or 15. I already knew about ABC and how it works in Poland but the situation in Warsaw started to be complicated for some activists and there was a need to have a supporting group here. Plus I was sceptical and critical about how support for the the political repressed people looks like and how it could look like. We are doing good. Feeling like this small group of people are very dedicated to this work and we are building good relations in the group step by step.

We are trying as much as it’s possible to skip the way of ‘bureaucracy’ and trying to take an individual decision about individual cases. We are also interested in communicating about the values and political beliefs that this group works on.

I believe this work really needs to be done - that’s my biggest reason for starting in this group and keeping it together in the hard times. I think that we need to build not just network, infrastructure, critiques, resistance but we need to take care of each other at the same time.

I think the biggest challenges for me were:

How to deal with keeping this group open and accessible and working well the same time. How to communicate that you can join it, support it and how to leave a space for different ideas and expressions and not lose the feeling that you know exactly with whom you work with and who should be involved in the decision making process

How to create new way of working in this group in the sense of who you support and how to overcome mechanisms that people already get used to.

I think that the first huge benefit on the new years eve that we made was worth remembering - this was my favourite moment.


I got involved in ABC because I have an inspiring friend who made me aware of the importance of supporting people on the inside “ and I saw how few people give time to it. Our group spend a lot of time fundraising (gigs/ meals/raffles) and then a small amount of time quickly giving that money away to groups all over the world that are in need because of state repression. We organise letter writing and demos and act as occasional rent-a-mob for other prison groups that we may or may not be a part of. It’s important because prisons are incredibly isolating and so staying in contact with people on the inside can make a massive difference to peoples lives

ABC means solidarity to me, the threat of prison is a relentless form of state intimidation and repression for many people and so our solidarity must also be relentless!

The challenges have been trying to make people write letters – its unglamourous work and often doesn’t get as much support as it should. My favourite abc moment was hearing first hand from an ex-prisoner how the letters of a friend of mine and ex-abc-mum changed his life.

The sense of support in the group has been memorable, and it keeps me going with the work that we do. I have also been blown away at the international solidarity that gets spread around through the ABC network. This is a rare thing and should be fucking cherished! Prisoner support also keeps me going with wider prison struggles – whilst our long term aims are to bring down the prison system helping people on the inside in various ways can bring little victories which are important!

One piece of advice is don’t get sad if you don’t get a reply to your letter, and don’t let that be a sign that the other person doesn’t want more letters!


Somewhere around 2009-2010 it became clear to many of us in the anarchist movement in our country that we will get repressed by the state sooner or later. We started ABC to get organised before the state strikes. After almost a year of existence, we did get in trouble with the state with massive wave of arrests and detentions of anarchists and antifascists.

The main focus of the group is supporting prisoners and people on trial. This is also the main part of spendings. Apart from that, we publish our own brochures on security culture, how not to talk to police and so on. We also run our website where we try to track all the repressions against anarchists and antifascists around the country. We are also one of the groups trying to push the international week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners.

For me, ABC is somehow this wall you build in front of the repressive regimes that allows activists to do their stuff without worrying about the necessity to gather money or bother about organising your own solidarity campaign in case of repression.

Apart from that, the value of ABC is also in it’s political core of solidarity, where support is not just humanitarian aid, but a political statement that unites us in struggle.

Our challenges have been surviving! For all the years the group has existed, it’s been underground with invitation only membership. With that in mind it is worth mentioning that we try to act in most of the cases without bringing the ABC brand to the table as it might potentially cause some troubles for those who are calling themselves ABC members. But those who need to know, know it anyway.

Another challenge is always the collection of money. It might be one of the most boring jobs ever. At the same time, if you do it properly it might turn into fun. But it is anyway a real challenge not to end up broke after another wave of repressions that the state starts against the movement.

I think the most inspiring moment was when we organised an infotable with letter writting at one of the big events. A really young girl came with her mother to write letters to prisoners. Her mother was crying, while the daughter was writing something on the postcard. I think moments like that boost my faith in humankind even if sometimes it crumbles.

What keeps me going? I think there is this egoistic approach that if something happens to me, I would love people to help me out. This is one of the reasons, and the other thing is that through the years of work in ABC it is becoming clearer what solidarity means and how important it is. Not just the words, but actions that move the walls around the people and make repressions a little bit less successful.

My advice to new people - Ask other groups if you are hesitant about how to start. Some support from collectives now far from you might help you understand how the things are working way faster and you can start spreading your solidarity very soon! And try it! It is a lot of fun although from the very beginning it might look overwhelming.

Just start doing and trying to support people and it will give you this burst of doing something that makes difference. Starting from the small letters and ending up supporting people during the trial. Every drop in the ocean of struggle counts.


I actually first received support from an ABC when I was in prison. This solidarity and support from the group made a huge impression on me, and when I was released and then finally free of these state conditions, I joined the group.

Our ABC group has engaged in many activities over the years. At some points, we have friends and comrades we know personally who are in prison, and our work may be more directly supporting them – like prison visits, writing letters, fundraising etc. Other times, our work is more focused on international solidarity. We try to organise at least one monthly event; this could be anything from a vegan burger night to raise money, to hosting a speaker who is touring and talking about a certain situation. We also try to keep our website updated with news from around the world. We have produced a number of publications and also write articles. Fortunately, there is another group in our area that focuses on supporting defendants before prison, so our main focus can be supporting people in prison. We also get involved in national campaigns against prison expansion and more. We also organise actions as part of international days of action.

I feel that ABC is beautiful and necessary for many reasons. I feel it is really important that the anarchist movement builds up the infrastructure that enables us to be resilient to repression. It’s clear from history that effective struggles will always be met by state and capitalist forces.

We need to learn from history and be prepared. It’s useful to have ABC groups in existence so that when the shit hits the fan, we are ready and can respond. It’s also meaningful to be organising international solidarity and constantly be developing and strengthening these relationships. For myself, on a very personal level, ABC gave me hope and strength in prison. Knowing that oneday I could get out and meet these kind people who supported me really meant the world. It kept me going and it gave power to my heart knowing these people existed!

I think our main challenge has been finding enough people willing to organise in a dedicated way. It is very easy to find people to help with certain events, like doing cooking, but it has been harder at times to have enough people who will do this more boring or invisible work like checking emails or updating the prisoner list. There have also been some challenges with the gendered division of labour but this is improving!

Sometimes, the emotional work involved in ABC can be challenging too. Like when you hear from comrades who have been tortured or beaten in prison, or are just struggling with imprisonment. Organising can help you to feel less powerless, but you still feel like you just want to go there and destroy the walls and get these people out! I think this feeling of ‘not doing enough’ is something that many people feel who are engaged in struggles, its not exclusive to ABC.

My favourite moment is I think definitely visiting one prison on the New Year’s Eve solidarity demos and making noise outside. Inside the women were shouting back, and banging on the doors – and it’s like the whole prison came alive with noises of defiance. It was amazing! We later heard from a woman in this prison at the time who said it really ‘kicked off’ in the prison that night and everyone their felt amazed that people would come on NYE to support them. What keeps me going? It sounds really cheesy to say things like “Until All Are Free” or “Until Every Cage is Empty” but I really feel this way. That, we simply cannot stop until all the cages and prisons in this world are destroyed.

What keeps me going is knowing that these systems of oppression and exploitation still exist and that the necessity to fight remains. Emotionally, what keeps me going is friendships that I have gained through the ABC network. There are some incredibly inspiring people active in this struggle and it is an honour to know them.

My advice for new groups is to ask for support when you need it – contact one of the longer running groups and simply ask for help. We have all made so many mistakes and learned so much over the years that people are happy to help others to get started. Also, make sure you take care of yourself and each other! And fuck macho bullshit smile


For some years, I was aware about the existence of such a group in our city. I rather felt it is something super-secret and to me it was a kind of 7th level of anarchism or something. Now it sounds really ridiculous, but I guess it was so because it was vital to not talk about who is doing what and who is who, you know.

My involvement started with wave of repression which also hit me and my comrades, and anti-repression work got much wider scale than before and involved more people. After some time, I realised that actually we are doing things which ABC is doing for a long time, and the only difference is that I don‘t meet other people from the group, who don’t necessarily do public things and don’t want many people to know about their involvement.

So after some time I got closer and took some responsibilities that I wanted to take care of. It was simple because we are just bunch of friends and see each other very often, and it is actually hard to name the day when I got involved as our ABC group doesn‘t have ritual for accepting new people, like oaths around the campfire when it’s a full moon – which is really nice ritual I think..!

My favourite moment - I think I really liked how we were inventing nicknames for all these police and state assholes who were trying to send us to prison. Making jokes about all of them while writing an article and sometimes trying to write it in the most funny way we could – I think I could count so many hours that we spent laughing about the police.

And I think all these organising moments were not how many people imagine activism or how actually activism looks like – something boring and taking a lot of time. Because it is not activism. Our case is a bunch of friends, cooking food together and having a good time, and meanwhile actually doing things. But also I got to say that there are things which start to be hard after some time, like publishing things on the website – especially if you have dozens of other things to do.

It is good to share these responsibilities and not to create these hierarchies, I mean, for example, really try to avoid a situation when there is only one or two people who know how to put things on a website or has an access to e-mail, because these things are very routine or they start to be routine very soon. So share it, and when you feel that this time it was hard for you, share it with people in group and make yourself a small reward. I thing it’s a tip for how to make things a bit more inspiring.


I’m doing anti-repression-stuff for nearly 18 years and, as an anarchist, I was always interested in organising as an ABC group and doing anti-prison-projects. There was an ABC group somewhere else in the country in the late 90s/ beginning of 2000, when I just started by myself doing things in the radical left and I had some loose contact.

Later, I was organised in an antirepression-group that did some kind of legal support service for demonstrations and so on. I left this group because of some big differences concerning the political goals we are fighting for and my personal affections to radical theory and practice. Then some people in my home town started an ABC group in 2008. It took some years because of different personal and political issues but then I joined them.

One of my favourite moments was when we organised the Anti-Prison-Days some years ago and an anarchist long-termprisoner joined the meeting. He was 16 years behind bars and was released 10 days before he traveled to the meeting. It was really impressive to meet him and listen to his words during the discussions. He was so open-minded and talked about his experiences in prison. For me, it was the affirmation of why I’m fighting against the prison industry and that we are right.

What keeps me going? It’s fucking important. Yes, it’s hard work and nothing fun about that, but it has to be pushed forward. We are not just doing antirepression work, we are enemies of the state and capitalism and ABC is just one part of a lot. I can not stop. There will be always repression as long there is the state, so we will continue.

My advice to people starting - do your work and fight. It’s not a hobby or some kind of project that you can quit when you are interested in something new or more fascinating.

For me, it makes no sense to start an ABC group and then stop with it some years later because nobody is interested in the things you are doing or the fights you are going through. Of course not. Anti-Repression is never some fun-stuff. It’s hard work. And it’s hard to continue. But don’t give up. Some small breaks, ok, but don’t give up. It’s also a story of trust and dependability for other people in the same or similar fights.


This work started for me almost 20 years ago, when I started to get involved with a quite active punk scene. At this time, there was an active ABC group in the south of this country and one of the people was also doing a DIY Punk Zine and I ordered it. And with and within the zine was also ABC Material. I immediately had the feeling that this is important and got drawn to this topic. And so a friend and I made an ABC Solidarity Benefit Compilation on Tape. We spread and printed flyers and pamphlets about ABC and prisoners. Over the next years, the topic was still important for me and I did some solidarity stuff for ABC groups but it would take almost 10 more years to start our own group in my city in 2008.

Prison or Anti-prison perspectives were not a topic in the anti-authoritarian movement at all and the anti-repression groups did not have an anti-prison/antiauthoritarian perspective. We wanted to change this.

In the first years, our main focus was to spread the ideas of an anarchist view against prisons and make prisons/ repression and solidarity a bigger topic within the anti-authoritarian movement. After a while, the banners on solidarity demonstrations changed from “freedom for all political prisoners” to “freedom for all prisoners” wink haha. But we did a lot of talks about why we as anarchists are against prisons and that there can’t be a free society with prisons. A lot of people within the movement seemed to have a hard time with these ideas at least at first. We also did an Infotour through the country about this topic.

We made and printed flyers and zines about prison related topics, made talks about current cases and prisoners and always collected money to support prisoners and other groups. We took part in international gatherings and also organised Anti-Prison-Days.

We participated in solidarity actions and since 6 years now, we organise a solidarity-festival once a year. Since 4 years, we publish a monthly printed newsletter. We have a regular updated website with current events and an incomplete list of prisoners.

And we have an always growing book and zine distro. Sometimes, we manage to travel around and give talks about ABC related topics and/or the history of Anarchist Black Cross in general. We are always happy to get asked for doing talks.

We consider ourselves more an antiprison group than an anti-repression group, but also do anti-repression work. Since about one year, we do a monthly letter writing workshop.

I think ABC is important because think it’s an important part of an anarchist struggle. We have to support (our) prisoners and also have to keep the struggle against this prison society going. ABC can be a useful label under which different groups can also connect more easily. There is a lot of material to use from other ABC groups and the ABC also has a long history we can look back and try to learn but also take inspiration from.

Most people who are somehow involved with an anti-authoritarian movement or just the punk scene know what ABC is. There are punk-festivals all over Europe in solidarity with ABC groups who want to support this cause even if they are not part of groups themselves.

On the other side, I think it is important to get organised and have anarchist structures to support prisoners, which keep on going and not form new from case to case. And also not to completely rely on the German Rote Hilfe, for example, who managed to print in the last two years at least two articles in the Rote Hilfe-Newspaper celebrating authoritarian communism (who killed and incarcerated anarchists/antiauthoritarians). Of course many of the “sub-groups” who are part of Rote Hilfe are not like this, but I think this overreliance in Germany on this structure is dangerous. And it also shows somehow that we are everywhere! wink And that we are connected in a loose international network.

The challenges have been to keep going and not to burn out. In this line of work so to speak there is not so many moments of success, where you see immediately a result. We started with a group which was more than twice the size than we are now. Many people lost interest in the group, the ideas, the struggle… But I guess otherwise the usual stuff like life in a capitalist society in general.

The best moment is often its just a letter you get from inside prison. The last two years we also got invited to talk at a festival about our work and they wrote some really nice words about our group and our work and why they do a benefit especially for us. It felt really nice to get appreciated for the work you do. It’s not why we do it, but to be honest it felt just really good.

What keeps us going? It is just really important and it’s just part of our struggle as anarchists. It sometimes does not feel like much what you can do, but then you get letters from prisoners and they still have so much fight in them and they let you feel how important your support is to them. And most of the time you never met them but you read their words and you feel this strong bond and affinity. I personally get a lot of power and energy back from these letters.

Also meeting people over the years who are involved since the 80s and even 70s in anti-prison-struggles is always very inspiring for me. Or people who do this work living in far more repressive countries. And their experiences and how they manage. And there is still prisons and capitalism and no liberated society, so there is also still the need of ABC. wink

My advice to new people is don’t do it because it’s cool or trendy, or because you think it gets you scene credibility or shit like this. Don’t do this if you see this as “activism”, what you do for a while get disillusioned because things don’t work as you want them, or prisoners are difficult or you just get bored and just quit again. Anarchism and solidarity isn’t a hobby. People rely on you and your support.

Give yourself realistic goals (for the start). I mean of course, the anarchist revolution the main goal but you know what I mean. wink You will need a lot of stamina and it will take a lot of energy. Maybe get in contact with other ABC groups, there is a lot you can learn from their experiences. You don’t have to start at zero.

International Days of Solidarity

Many international days and weeks of action take place throughout the year in solidarity with prisoners. This list represents a few of those that take place. These days can help keep prisoner support active and visible in our movements and struggles - but we are not limited to them.

ABC groups organise many other events and actions at any day of the year. Shared days of action help us to build momentum, share resources and gain strength for particular prisoners and struggles. These days are the same each year, but many new days and weeks of action are announced spontaneously when solidarity is urgently needed.

New York ABC also produce a poster each month of political prisoner birthdays. This is a great resource for regular letter writing events:

Trans Prisoner Day of Action and Solidarity - January 22

This grassroots project was initiated by Marius Mason, a trans prisoner in Texas, US. This annual event is being lead by trans prisoners and their supporters from around the world. It is a chance for those on the outside to remember those behind bars, give real solidarity and support and raise awareness about issues facing trans prisoners. It is a chance for those on the inside to have a voice and organise together.

International Women’s Day - March 8

While this day continues to be whitewashed and channeled into liberal and capitalist feminisms, many anarchists and others use this day to fight against patriarchy and remember the radical history of Women’s Day. ABC groups have organised letter writing events and info nights about incarcerated women worldwide.

International Day Against Police Brutality – March 15

The International Day Against Police Brutality is observed on March 15. It first began in 1997 as an initiative of the Montreal based Collective Opposed to Police Brutality and the Black Flag group in Switzerland. Acceptance of March 15 as a focal day of solidarity against police brutality varies from one place to another.

Palestinian Prisoners Day - April 17

During this day, people worldwide organise rallies, events and actions in solidarity with Palestinian Political Prisoners. Every year, Palestinian prisoners carry out an open-ended hunger strike, while those on the outside seek to amplify their voices.

International Workers’ Day of May Day - May 1

May Day is held in commemoration of four anarchists executed in the US in 1886 and all the thousands of others who have struggled for the working classes. Many groups in this period organise solidarity actions and use it as an opportunity to highlight prison labour and all the incarcerated workers in prison.

Read more about the history here: haymarket-martyrs-mayday

International Day of Solidarity with Long-term Anarchist Prisoners - June 11

Each year, June 11th serves as a day for us to remember our longest imprisoned anarchist comrades through words, actions and ongoing material support. The June 11 website shares many resources and a listing of prisoners who value increased support in this period. People are encouraged to take actions all over the world and report them back. Each year, a zine is created of writings and reports.

International Day of Solidarity with Eric King - June 28

Eric King is an anarchist prisoner in the US who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on June 28th 2016 for an attempted firebombing of a government official’s office. Since his arrest and subsequent incarceration, he has been extremely isolated from his loved ones and has repeatedly been targeted by the guards. He has spent many months in solitary confinement. This day of action is to build support for Eric in his final years of surviving prison.

International Day of Solidarity with Anti-Fascist Prisoners - July 25

The July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners originated in 2014 as the Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman, an Australian man serving a 20-year sentence in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men from an attack by fascist football hooligans. It is now expanded to support all anti-fascist prisoners. Groups are encouraged to organise solidarity actions, events, fundraisers, letter writings and more. Find a list of prisoners here:

Prisoners Justice Day - August 10

August 10th is a day set aside to remember all those who have died unnatural deaths inside Canadian prisons. The day of action started in Canada in 1974 when prisoner Edward Nolan bled to death at Millhaven Maximum Security Prison in Bath, Ontario. This date has now become a marking point for prison struggle across the world.

International week of solidarity with anarchist prisoners 23 - 30 August

This is a global week of action dedicated to anarchist prisoners. Solidarity can express itself in many forms; from graffiti to attacks to letter writing evenings. A collective poster and call-out is written and shared online and then groups make autonomous actions and can send reports for the website if they wish. The beginning of the week was chosen because of the historical execution date of Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian-American anarchists, in 1927. They were convicted with a very little amount of evidence, and many still consider that they were punished because of their anarchist views.

International Trans Day of Remembrance - 28 November

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialise those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It honours the dead, and fights for the living. Many anti-prison groups have taken actions against prisons on these days, remembering trans prisoners who have died inside.

New Year’s Eve Noise Demonstrations

It has become tradition, that on the noisiest night of the year - we also make noise for prisoners. Internationally, noise demonstrations outside of prisons are a way to remember those who are held captive by the state and a way to show solidarity with imprisoned comrades and loved ones. We come together to break the loneliness and isolation. Demos take place all over the world to let prisoners know they are not alone.

Fundraising: Top Tips

Fundraising is one of the biggest parts of our activity. Whether we want it or not, a lot of solidarity work requires money. Starting from lawyers for the legal aid and ending up with parcels to the prisoners and support for those that are at the financial bottom due to repressions.

Some people find it to be a nasty business, others turn it into quite a positive experience. It is up to you to decide which approach you take but it should be clear that if you are taking your ABC activity seriously you won’t be able to avoid fundraising.

Here are some tips from our own experience on how you can make some money. Some of it might not fit into reality due to political repressions. This list is for updating for sure. So if you or your group have something to add – feel free to write us back with your experience.

Fundraising evening/Presentation

These are some kinds of presentations, discussions or workshops that are connected with the matter for which you are fundraising. For example, a presentation on repression against activists protesting against G20, that might be a platform to raise solidarity funds. These are quite good in case you want to collect money for causes that are not really present in your region. Through these events you can inform people and potentially inspire people to start being active in support of this or that cause. However, you shouldn’t expect a lot of money from these kinds of events, as people are normally not eager to donate money directly after a presentation. The interest in donating might be encouraged with some materials for sale/donation on the topic. Even such things as t-shirts or patches might be a small connection to the topic for some people.

You can also go away from a traditional presentation format and organize a solidarity dinner. Some groups are reporting that well organized dinner might raise more funds and attract more people than just a presentation.

Solidarity calls

Sometimes it is worth to giving a shout around the anarchist movement for help. It might be that the other groups have more possibilities to access funds than you do. For example, western countries have more wealth than eastern or southern countries.

In that case, such a call can provoke other people to take action in their own town and raise funds for you. Do not underestimate the power of solidarity – you might be positively surprised how people are eager to help those they don’t know, but with whom they share ideas.


This is one of the most popular ways of fundraising in western countries. In most of the cases you can openly advertise the cause of the party and give people possibility to party for cause. It is a great way of raising money, because people are eager to spend it on drinks or they just donate more in good mood.

However, good parties require a lot of efforts from multiple individuals. There is nothing worse than organizing a bad fundraising party. If you get a reputation of bad party maker, there is little chance that this fundraising way will be open to you for long.

That’s why parties should be original and fun. Some of the groups due to political decisions are not selling alcohol or any other drugs at their soli-parties.


Infotours are the more advanced version of a presentation event/party. An infotour is a set of events happening around different cities with the goal of informing people about the situation, but also raising funds for the cause.

Not only are they are good for raising funds, but also for establishing networks with other activists. Connections that you are building on the road are irreplaceable in your struggle. People that you might meet during an infotour might become comrades till the end of your life.

However, it is also a lot of work. In many cases infotours have an intensive schedule and we would suggest not to do it longer than a couple of weeks, otherwise your head might give up before your body

Tattoo Circus

Many ABC and other autonomous groups raise money for prisoners through organising Tattoo Circuses. These are events where tattoo artists give their time for free. People pay to get tattooed and all this money goes to prisoners or support campaigns. They can raise many thousands of euros over one weekend. Tattoo Circuses also have programs of workshops and presentations to raise awareness about different cases of repression and different struggles. Many groups also organise music, food and drinks to sell to fundraise over the weekend.

Benefit Gigs/Shows/Concerts

Fundraising gigs are a great way to raise money. However, if you are paying the bands or even just paying their petrol, sometimes it is hard to even ‘break even’. Benefit gigs are often the best when bands give their time for free and so all the money can go to prisoners. They can be a good opportunity to do a stall and prisoner letter writing too.

Many groups find they make more money from music events that can have more people, such as a rave or a hip hop night compared to a punk show. However, some people organise whole festivals that raise a lot of money through punk/metal/crust music - see the Fest in Vienna for inspiration!

Sport and Sponsored Events

Some individuals and groups will raise money through sponsoring. They will ask friends to give them a donation if they do a 10k run for example. Some people even do this with shaving their head or other silly things! It takes a lot of energy and commitment but can be a nice way to fundraise.

New York ABC and supporting groups also organise a ‘Running Down the Walls’. These sponsored runs raise much needed funds for their work. People can also walk/bike/roll the 5k routes.


Raffles are simply where people buy a ticket and potentially win a prize. They can be a great addition at any event, such as a presentation or benefit gig. You can ask supporters to donate prizes and can get extra-nice things through five-finger discounts at your local stores!


Merchandise never goes out of fashion. People always seem happy to buy benefit t-shirts, patches and other items. They can be expensive to print and organise, however, costs can be reduced through doing the screen printing yourselves in your group (or finding volunteers to do it), as well as finding t-shirts in charity shops. Some groups will also appropriate blank t-shirts from corporate stores ready to be screen printed on!

Monthly donations

Many antiauthoritarian and anti-fascist groups have the option for people to donate regularly, such as £3 per month. This creates a sustainable income source and is a good model to replicate if you have a bank account and this structure. It can be more difficult if you are informal without an account (many groups do not have a formal account for security reasons).

Anarchist Defence Fund

An International Anarchist Defence Fund was launched in 2018. It collects funds from members who join and can then contribute to decision making in response to applications for the fund. The collective solidarity structure provides support to anarchists around the world who are persecuted or find themselves in a difficult life situation because of their political ideas or activities.

Last words

Whether it is a dinner or a party, infotour or single presentation it is important to understand that fundraising events are also building up an atmosphere of solidarity inside of the anarchist movement. If today people are taking care of comrade A. when he/she/they are facing repressions, than it means that tomorrow nobody is going to give up! This feeling of support from your comrades is extremely important in building up revolutionary community that is embarking on the way of revolution.

So don’t hesitate. If you don’t have experience – ask other groups or your friends to help you out. Be creative and embrace the hard parts of fundraising work just to enjoy the good parts of it. Disclaimer: with this list we don’t want to list only legal options. Please remember that this zine doesn’t cancel more traditional ways of fundraising that anarchists exercised in previous centuries: for example expropriation wink

How to Keep an ABC Group Going

One could say: the fuel that ABC goes on with, is active work with the case of repression that group has to deal with. That is to say, when repression is not happening and people took security culture into their blood and heads, antirepressive groups like ABC should go into sleeping mode, if not just disappear. People just stand up like after the film finishes in the cinema, and folks go home since the action is over.

That is also the case sometimes; some contemporary ABC groups stop being active after the most visible and actual part of repressions that are happening at their places are over. But it doesn‘t mean it should always go this way.

There are plenty of reasons why ABC groups would stop existing after repressions. For example, very often people who are involved in ABC group are part of other projects, and starting an ABC group might be a practical necessity to organize against repression, especially if no anti-repressive groups already exist. Among other reasons, there might be some traumatic experiences that were connected to the support work that had been done. All of this is understandable. But many of us who participated in ABC noticed a continuing need to keep it going. Why so?

ABC as a type of organisation, and as part of tactical ways of how anarchists have been fighting against states and supporting those who got caught, has a great tradition. And the Black Cross organisational philosophy is sill an abolitionist philosophy.

More than 100 years ago, anarchists in the same type of organisation that had a different name for a while, were actively opposing the tsarist regime, and just few years later they became an enemy to the Bolshevik state, same as to all other states states on Earth. Coming through both Tsarist and Bolshevik prisons and executions back then, and today fighting against prisons and state repressions all over the world, Anarchist Black Cross as an idea gains not only sad but true historical perspective on revolution, the State and its prisons, but also brings a clear abolitionist perspective to ABC’s long term goals and everyday struggle.

It‘s clear: we absolutely need to destroy all prisons; this institution of control that takes a role of being a connecting glue in relation to other systems of oppression, such as patriarchy, class or racism. Prisons never solved any problems and only created countless numbers of them, destroyed so many lives, cultures and beautiful human and animal beings.

However, we all know it’s not easy as that. Destroying prisons is not a single act of liberating violence, but rather a complicated and long-term process of building other kinds of relationships within society. It is about moving our mutual understanding of punishment, prison and life without them towards an uncompromisingly deep and radical analysis of how they work, what can be done do destroy them and what are the social relations that we want. All three are just proposals, there are many ways of how to put it. But of course, all of these go together. We can’t create an analysis as first, and then destroy prisons, and then think of how we want to live. We do it all in one piece, and that is what makes our abolitionist ideas strong.

The positions presented above also means a damn huge amount of work to be done. And that’s why your local ABC group should go on. As destroying prisons is a hell of an effort, it has to be said also that repressions never stop – obviously, that is quite against an example of an ABC group that appears as repressions come and falls apart as they go.

What Might Be Done to Keep an ABC Group Going?

First of all, try think of repression in a wider context. It might seem that repression is a relatively short-term situation but repression is actually a part of The Situation. That means that The Repression is always present. The State is always out there and it’s control over people lives itself means repression and social warfare. Whatever it is: a fine, the laws and the whole mechanism and collective illusion that make them work, the borders, a criminal case, the cop which passes by in a police car on your street, the papers, the courts, the whole so-called public order etc. Not all repression is visible: some of them are so much part of our everyday life that we rather don’t consider them to be repressions in our usual understanding, whether the state is opening a large criminal case against our comrades or it’s cops are beating us up on the streets. Our desire for liberation is equally in conflict with ‘small’ and ‘big’ repressions, and prisons uphold all of them.

Practically then, think of ways how you as a group can work with all of that. Basically, keeping ABC group going means working with it as with a kind of a project. But there is no recipe for every group, on what has to be done to keep going. Before setting particular goals, try to talk to each other inside your group. Discussion can be much more useful than a manual. Discuss these or any other ideas that you find meaningful:

- What kind of anti-repressive or abolitionist work is missing in our local area?

- What is the new thing that your ABC group could come up with from an anarchist tactical perspective of fighting prisons and the State that hasn’t been present in your area and could be meaningful?

- What kind of projects or initiatives inspire you?

- Are there any legal support groups that you can be in contact with? Does it make sense to start one?

- How could you make happen some periodic educational events, connected to raising the level of security culture and awareness? Are there ways how you could make such events more interesting, interactive and easier? What can be done to get more people interested?

- Consider the idea of making benefit events for collecting money for your project and/or for prisoner support. How can you make such events more effective and get more people involved? How can you connect such events to other ideas and discussion you’ve been having with your group?

- Look out for events that you could participate in as a group and present your ideas, perspective and work that you are doing.

- Has there been any large and/or known state repression cases in your context that you are familiar with and which could be a lesson for more people in your area and beyond? How can you make in-depth analysis of what happened and what it can potentially teach you?

- Think of starting cooperative and common projects with other ABC groups and other friendly collectives near your area and even further.

- What are some possible short-, middle- and long-term goals for your ABC group that might exist?

- What are the practical ways in which you could connect your ABC work outside of prison with things that are happening on the inside? How can that can empower and widen the struggle?

- What are the limitations of your ABC group?

- Is there anything that can bring people in your ABC group closer together as friends and comrades? What could empower you as a project, or as a group of active individuals?

- What is your relation to the dichotomy of political and social, especially in relation to ‘political’ and ‘social’ prisoners? What are the limitations of such divisions and where do these divisions rise from? What has to be done to bring this discussion to the broader public?

- What can be done to keep your group activities more sustainable?

Go on and talk to your comrades. Share ideas, make things happen, organise – the sky is the limit.

Taking Care of Each Other

ABC work can be hard, stressful and emotionally be challenging at times. Seeing our friends and comrades be arrested, beaten, have their houses raided by police, sit through trials, go to prison and more can be seriously tough. Many people in ABC groups will also be active in other groups so may be simultaneously experiencing repression and supporting others to survive repression.

Prisoner support work can mean an intimacy with death. We may lose the people we love due to medical neglect, suicide or even at the hands (or guns) of the police. Coping with grief and managing chronic stress are important skills for ABC organisers.

Many people burn out from prisoner support and anti-repression work and this is why taking care of ourselves and each other is super important! This section of the zine aims to explore this topic and share some resources.

Vicarious trauma & ABC work

As anarchists, as people resisting the dehumanising nature of capitalism and the state, we see a lot of fucked up shit. We may experience this ourselves directly (like prison), or we may support people we are close to surviving certain chronically stressful and traumatic situations. Or we may just be reading and writing about what other people are going through. Either way, we are exposed to a lot of heavy and upsetting things and it is obvious this is going to begin to affect us (otherwise we wouldn’t be human).

One way this is recognised is in the concept of ‘vicarious trauma’. Vicarious trauma has been described by the Headington Insitute as the “process of change that happens because you care about other people that have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them. Over time this process can lead to changes in your psychological, physical and spiritual wellbeing.”

Increasingly trauma conversation and writing acknowledges the effects of long-term and complex trauma, beyond one-off traumatic incidents like a car accident. It shines a light on the potential cumulative consequences of bringing other people’s grief, fear, anger, and despair into our own awareness and experience over a longer period of time. Some of these changes might be noticed through different signs.

Physical and physiological signs can include:

- Hyperarousal symptoms (e.g., nightmares, difficulty concentrating, being easily startled, sleep difficulties)

- Repeated thoughts or images regarding traumatic events, especially when you are trying not to think about it

- Feeling numb

- Feeling unable to tolerate strong emotions

- Increased sensitivity to violence

- Cynicism, Anger, Disgust, Fear

- Generalized despair and hopelessness, and loss of idealism

- Guilt regarding your own survival and/ or pleasure

Behaviour and relationship signs may include:

- Difficulty setting boundaries

- Feeling like you never have time or energy for yourself.

- Feeling disconnected from loved ones, even when communicating with them

- Increased conflict in relationships

- General social withdrawal

- Acting out/exhibiting the “silencing response” – finding yourself unable to pay attention to other’s distressing stories because they seem overwhelming and incomprehensible, and directing people to talk about less distressing material

- Decreased interest in activities that used to bring pleasure, enjoyment, or relaxation. Sexual difficulties.

- Irritable, intolerant, agitated, impatient, needy, and/or moody. Impulsivity.

- Increased dependencies or addictions involving nicotine, alcohol, food, sex, shopping, internet, and/or other substances

There can also be changes in how we see and experience the world:

- Changes in spirituality and beliefs around meaning and purpose. We may start to question what we believe or lose hope or lose our sense of purpose. Our political worldviews and beliefs may change over time too in response to the ongoing trauma we witness. For example, for many going to prison may increase their rage and keep them going in their fight. For many others, prison will make them feel that fighting back is pointless and hopeless and they may abandon their social movements that were once a huge part of their life.

- Changes in identity – you may feel disconnected from certain identities that you once held dear (such as calling yourself an anarchist or feminist). You may find that you can’t cope with organising any more and this affects your sense of who you are.

- Changes in beliefs related to major psychological needs (e.g., beliefs regarding safety, control, trust, esteem, and intimacy). In an ABC context, this might mean that perhaps you no longer trust certain friends because they let you down while you were in prison. Or it can mean that after police infiltration that intimate relationships feel impossible.

Taking Care of Ourselves - Some Ideas

Resources on vicarious trauma suggest some strategies that can help. These include:

- Escaping - taking time off, watching movies, reading etc

- Resting - making sure we get adequate rest and respite from it all

- Playing - Doing fun things, exercising our bodies etc

- Nurturing a sense of meaning and hope - finding things that keep us inspired, that could be reading about historical comrades, going to gatherings, spending time with particular people etc.

- Mourning our losses - grief is such a huge part of ABC work at times, finding a way to mourn in a healthy and nourishing way is super important

- Marking transitions - this may include celebrating small achievements, like having a successful event or completing a new zine, or reflecting at the end of the year

- Investing time in ourselves - this means investing energy in ourselves beyond our political work, this might involve studying, or learning self-defence, gardening and more. Whatever we also yearn for, we need to cultivate it too.

- Being aware of our risk factors - knowing your signs when you are teetering on the edge, learning to listen to your body and take action to meet your needs, so that you can set better boundaries with projects and the amount of support work you can realistically do

- Connecting with other people - especially those who have a shared sense of understanding of what you are going through, or have been through

- Trying to cultivate a sense of joy and wonder - check out the book ‘Joyful Militancy’ which shares a different understanding of joy (which is not necessarily skipping in the meadows or even happiness) but more of a becoming who we are in working for liberation

Building Care into our Collectives

A lot of the ‘self-care’ suggestions create some idea that it’s our fault if we burn out because we haven’t taken care of ourselves well. While our personal actions for sure contribute to our health and survival, they are part of a much bigger system than ourselves - from how our collectives share labour to how capitalism destroys our access to healthcare, and so forth. So no blame or shame - let’s just all care for each other better so we can better destroy what destroys us!

Here are some suggestions and ideas for what ABC groups can do to take care of each better in our groups:

- Encouraging regular time off organising for each other, making people feel supported that they can take a step back if they need.

- Have adequate expenses policies/ financial support when appropriate to support people to participate - this might mean using ABC funds to pay for healthy meals when touring so we are not just getting sick doing this work because we cannot afford to pay for lunch.

- Ensure solid introductions to how groups work/how to do things and give support for new people. Create opportunities for people to learn new skills.

- Pay attention to the division of labour in your group and don’t take each other for granted! Be especially aware of race, gender, class and other factors that can often deeply affect who does what.

- Be aware of who is often setting the pace in the group and check in with each other if it’s sustainable for you all.

- Talk about how you communicate as a crew and what you expect from each other. Find a way of getting things done and tracking your action points so it’s not just one person reminding everyone, which can be exhausting and disempowering for people.

- Organise fun/nice/adventurous opportunities for yourselves, like traveling to an event in a different city, or doing a speaking tour in a different city. These ‘perks’ can help keep us going when we may have done years and years of heavy things like endless prison visits.

- Getting training for our groups e.g. Workshops, courses, reading groups, gatherings and skillshares (especially around trauma and burnout prevention)

- Organising accessible counselling or fundraising to pay for a counsellor for people experiencing repression so that people have solid, reliable support and the weight of emotional labour is not all on each other.

- Medical and health support - for example, connecting with local herbalists who can make herbal medicines to help bodies cope with stress, like the J20 who received support from the herbal community in the US during their stressful trial.

- Creating collective models of care for childcare, elder care, supporting people with chronic illnesses etc (and respite for carers).

- Creating face-to-face time together to work together so we are less isolated and feel more connected to each other. Invest time in building your friendships!

- Working collectively especially when shit gets distressing (so we all feel more supported).

- Ensuring appropriate decision making in groups so people feel able to share their feelings, opinions and ideas.

- Autonomy – building a group where folk feel control and agency over their own work and tasks.

- Having regular check-ins with your group about how you are all feeling/ coping and support you might need right now.

- A culture where everyone calls each other out/flags up when the pace is unsustainable or potentially harming each other.

- Paying attention to the partners of prisoners who often do the most support work practically and emotionally, while coping with their own grief and loss about their partners imprisonment.

- Destroy machismo!! We can encourage prisoners to write honestly about how they are feeling, make sure in workshops and talks we talk about the reality of prison and not try to dismiss people as weak if they are finding situations harder or expressing their vulnerability more visibly.

- Don’t judge people for drinking or drug use if this is connected to trauma or repression, everyone is at a different point of their journey in healing and finding coping tools.

- Centre the person who is experiencing repression and make sure they have as much power and agency as possible. A lot of traumatisation relates to feeling powerless. Make sure anyone you support is actively involved in decision making about the support they want and need.

- Valuing people might involve: challenging multiple and intersecting forms of oppression in groups, supporting people that have experienced abuse or violence, squashing machismo, having support for folks experiencing repression, supporting people that have burnt out etc. Basically not treating each other like we are disposable.

- Having fun!!! Trying to make tasks enjoyable, like cooking a fundraising dinner and listening to music, or taking snacks to court etc.

- Express care for each other in any way you can. Whether it is sending each other silly memes or bringing cakes to a meeting. These small acts of care can really help people feel loved and appreciated.

These are just a few ideas! Explore more in your ABC groups about how you can make this work a little bit easier by caring for each other better.

In the words of Kevin Van Meter:

“Our task is to care together as we struggle together. By pushing forth the complexity of experience and realities that arise in caring for those who are mentally and physically ill, traumatized, dying, survivors of intimate violence and incarceration, addicted, suffering from chronic pain, struggling against the imposition of binary gender, and working in the care and medical industries our movements deepen our relationships with one another and construct new fronts for revolutionary struggle. It is these everyday realities that need to be considered on the long arc of sustained organizing and revolutionary change”


In this chapter you will find links to materials in the English language, which are useful before, during and after prison.

We assume this category as very broad to think of; a category for a thick book about literature, films, and practical knowledge. Now, due to the context of a zine, we will relate accordingly to zines, films and some books. The choice of materials we present and link to in this chapter is influenced by our personal preferences and experiences, and relates to our organizing in so-called European and North American contexts. We also copied some brief descriptions for films, represented in pop culture media. Some of the films may seem cheesy and you could be surprised why some of them were included on the list.

Watch, read, wonder, explore, think. Sometimes you can find great material to analyze in something you would not expect to be anything else than a waste of time.

Zines and Books

Transformative Justice

- Creative Interventions - Toolkit to stop interpersonal violence

- Furthering Transformative Justice, Building Healthy Communities - An interview with Philly Stands Up

- Towards Transformative Justice - pdf produced by Generation Five

- What About the Rapists? - Zine Collection of articles representing different approaches to the problem of harm and domination in our communities, from transformative justice-based accountability processes to retributive-based acts of survivor-led retaliation

Racism and Colonialism

- Beyond Walls and Cages - Prisons, borders and global crisis Important book linking migration and the P.I.C. Edited by Jenna M Lloyd, Matt Mitchelson and Andrew Burridge, 2012.

- The New Abolitionists: (Neo)slave Narratives And Contemporary Prison Writings Written by prisoners about the contemporary prison system in the US

Prisoner Writing and Organising

- Solidarity Without Prejudice - Long term prisoner John Bowden asks what criteria could be used when supporting prisoners

- Tenacious, Art and writings by women in prison - Regular zine coming out of the US produced by prisoners

- Thoughts on Prisoner Support - Written by long term prisoner John Bowden Prisoner Support and Solidarity

- Never Alone - A zine about supporting prisoners by those on the outside. Produced by the Empty Cages Collective and Bristol ABC.

Prison Industrial Complex

- Captive Genders: Transembodiment and Prison Industrial Complex - Book about gender and the P.I.C. An important read.

- Challenging the Prison-Industrial Complex: Activism, Arts, and Educational Alternatives_ Book about how to creatively challenge the prison industrial complex.

- Close Supervision Centres - Torture Units in the UK #2_ Publication produced by Bristol ABC about Close Supervision Centres.

- The Prison Works. Occasional texts on the roles of prison and prison labour - By Joe Black/Bra Bros. Published by the Campaign Against Prison Slavery and Brighton Anarchist Black Cross

Prison Abolition

- Abandoned: Abolishing female prisons to prevent sexual abuse and herald an end to incarceration - Article by David W. Fran. Exploring examples in the US and the UK.

- Abolition Now! Ten years of strategy and struggle against the prison industrial complex - Short book of different articles around prison abolition, mainly US focused but still very real and inspiring.

- Are Prisons Obsolete? - Incredible book by Angela Yvonne Davis, 2003, Seven Stories Press .

- Instead of Prisons: Handbook for Abolitionists - Comprehensive text on alternatives to prison and the decarceration movement

- Prison Abolition is Practical - Article by Nathan Goodman

- The Abolitionist Toolkit - Toolkit for abolitionists developed by Critical Resistance

Policing and Repression

- On the Out - A zine about life after prison, produced by Bristol ABC.

- Under the Yoke of the State - Selected anarchist responses to prisons and crime, vol 1. 1886 – 1929

- On Repression Patterns in Europe - A zine from ABC Dresden bringing analysis and interviews with anarchist folks who encountered repression and terrorist charges in European context in last several years

Organising and Resistance

- How Nonviolence Protects the State - Written by Peter Gelderloos.

- Winds from Below: Radical community organising to make a revolution possible. Book produced by the Team Colours Collective

Health and Prisons

- Dying with cancer: a booklet for prisoners. Guide produced by Macmillan Cancer Support

- Treatment Industrial Complex - A new report from the US on how for-profit corporations are undermining efforts to treat and rehabilitate prisoners for corporate gain.

Gender and Queer Struggles

- Lockdown: prison, repression and gender nonconformity - A 22-page zine analysing the enforced gender segregation and classification in prisons as well as strategies for resistance.

- Prison Abolition is a Queer issue - A4 handout on why prison abolition is a queer issue

- Prisons Will Not Protect You - An anthology by the radical LGBTQ group “Against Equality”

- Resource section on Prisons by Against Equality_ A full library of links and articles about queer struggle and prison

- Still We Rise - A resource pack for transgender and non-gender conforming people in prison

- The Queer, feminist and trans politics of prison abolition toolkit

Videos, Films and and Podcasts


- Resisting Gender Violence Without Cops or Prisons Talk by Victoria Law

- Decolonization Means Prison Abolition Film of a discussion at a conference in Portland.

- Crimethinc Radio #4: Prisoners of the World Unite

- Crimethinc Radio #6: Making Police Obsolete

- Crimethinc Radio #8: Prison Abolition and Community Accountability

- Crimethinc Radio #17: Conspiracy! State Repression Strategies and Anarchist Resistance

- Crimethinc Radio #27: Anti-Police Riots in Ferguson

- Crimethinc Radio #50: The History and Future of Prison Strikes and Solidarity

- A-Radio Berlin. Presentation: the Prison Strike in the USA 2016

- A-Radio Berlin: Belarus. Former anarchist prisoner about his experiences on how to survive jail

- A-Radio Berlin: Interview with Anarchist Black Cross Belarus on the repression, Ukraine and the refugees

- A-Radio Berlin: Chile. The hungerstrike of Mapuche Political Prisoners in the Iglesias Case

- A-Radio Berlin: Anarchist Black Cross in Czech republic. Antifenix Presentation

- The Channel Zero Network. Network of the anarchist podcasts and radios

Some Cheesy and Not Cheesy Films

We chose couple of our favorite pop culture (not only) films about prison. For more, follow: php/2018/06/05/movies-for-screenings and check out larger list of films.

Brubaker (1980): Brubaker is a 1980 American prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg. It stars Robert Redford as newly arrived prison warden Henry Brubaker, who attempts to clean up a corrupt and violent penal system

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2008): Set during WWII, a story seen through the innocent eyes of Bruno, the eight-yearold son of the commandant at a German concentration camp, whose forbidden friendship with a Jewish boy on the other side of the camp fence has startling and unexpected consequences.

Escape from Alcatraz (1979): Take the tour around San Francisco’s notorious Alcatraz prison island and you’ll hear that nobody has ever successfully escaped – but one man broke out and disappeared, and this movie tells his tale. Clint Eastwood is as fine and understated as ever as Frank Morris, and the movie manages to sidestep the majority of prison movie cliches

Escape from Sobibor (1987): Escape from Sobibor is a story of the mass escape from the extermination camp at Sobibor, the most successful uprising by Jewish prisoners of German extermination camps.

The Green Mile (1999): The lives of guards on Death Row are affected by one of their charges: a black man accused of child murder and rape, yet who has a mysterious gift.

Guerilla (2017): Guerrilla is a six-part British drama miniseries set in early 1970s London, against the backdrop of the Immigration Act 1971 and British black power movements, such as the British Black Panthers and Race Today Collective. A plot is a love story set in the atmosphere of one of the most politically explosive times in UK history.

Hunger (2008): IRA fighters are struggling in a Northern Irish prison and setting up a hunger strike.

Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985): The film tells of two very different individuals who share a prison cell in Brazil during the Brazilian military government: Valentin Arregui, who is imprisoned (and has been tortured) due to his activities on behalf of a leftist revolutionary group, and Luis Molina, a transgender woman in prison for having sex with an underage boy

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015): Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo conducts a psychological experiment to test the hypothesis that the personality traits of prisoners and guards are the chief cause of abusive behavior between them. In the experiment, Zimbardo selects fifteen male students to participate in a 14-day prison simulation to take roles as prisoners or guards [editors note: the original SPE's validity is questionable ]

In The Name Of The Father (1993): In the Name of the Father is Irish-BritishAmerican biographical courtroom drama film co-written and directed by Jim Sheridan. It is based on the true story of the Guildford Four, four people falsely convicted of the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and a civilian

Salvador (2006): Salvador (Puig Antich) is Spanish film directed by Manuel Huerga. It is based on the Francesc Escribano book Compte enrere. La història de Salvador Puig Antich, which depicts the time Salvador Puig Antich spent on death row prior to his execution by garrote (the last one by mean of this), under Franco’s Francoist State in 1974.

Sacco e Vazetti (1971): The story is based on famous events surrounding the trial and judicial execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two anarchists of Italian origin, who were sentenced to death by a United States court in the 1920s.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994): The Shawshank Redemption is a drama film based on the 1982 Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. It tells the story of banker Andy Dufresne, who is sentenced to life in Shawshank State Penitentiary for the murder of his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence.

Zero for Conduct (1933): The film draws extensively on boarding school experiences to depict a repressive and bureaucratised educational establishment in which surreal acts of rebellion occur, reflecting anarchist view of childhood.

Organizations and Projects

- TGI (Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex) Justice Project - TGI Justice Project is a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom.

- The Anarchist Black Cross Federation - Federation of groups supporting prisoners, political prisoners and prisoners of war.

- Przeciwko Więzieniom_ A project of ABC Warsaw and virtual library of antiprison and anti-repression zines.

- Empty Cages Collective - organising against the prison industrial complex in the UK.

- Community Action Against Prison Expansion (CAPE) - Grassroots coalition of groups fighting prison expansion in the UK.

- The Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee - A union for the incarcerated fighting for prison abolition started by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Mostly in the US and the UK. Supported prisoners to organise the biggest prisoner work strike in history in September 2016.

- INCITE! - Activist organization of radical feminists of colour advancing a movement to end violence against women of colour and through direct action, critical dialogue and organizing.

- Critical Resistance - Building an international movement to end the prison industrial complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.

- Wild Fire - Anarchist Prisoner Solidarity project producing newsletters.

- The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System Collective - Organising efforts for community safety resisting police violence.

- Bent Bars Project - a letter-writing project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, gender-variant, intersex, and queer prisoners in Britain.

- Generation Five - Organisation working to end child sexual abuse in five generations, from an abolitionist perspective.

- Sisters Inside - Australian based group who work from an abolitionist perspective

- A World Without Police - a collective of organizers from across the U.S. and internationally. We work to connect people struggling against the everyday violence of the police, and to provide practical, organizational and theoretical tools for use in our movement.

Anarchist News Sites

- It’s Going Down - a digital community center for anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements.

- 325 - Anarchist/anti-capitalist information clearing house and DIY media network for social war.

- Contra-Info - is an international multilanguage counter-information and translation node, maintained by anarchists, anti-authoritarians and libertarians across the globe.

- Act for Freedom Now - News of insurrection and resistance from around the globe.

- Anarchist News - Non-sectarian source for news about and of concern to anarchists.

- Untorelli Press - Anarchist publishing project.

- Elephant Editions - Collection of ideas, dreams and experiments.

- Anarchist Library - Site that collates many publications for reading/download.

Anarchist Black Cross Groups Worldwide


- htttp:// – ABC Melbourne

- – ABC Oceania Austria

- – ABC Wien


- – ABC Belarus


- – ABC Rio de Janeiro


- – 4 Struggle Mag

- – ABC Toronto


- – Bogota CNA/ABC


- – ABC Czech

- – Antifenix solidarity campaign


- – ABC Brighton

- – ABC Bristol

- – Green and Black Cross


- – ABC Helsinki


- – Marseille ABC


- – Prisoner Solidarity Jena

- – ABC Rhineland

- – ABC Dresden

- – ABC Jena


- – ABC Derry

- – ABC Dublin


- – CNA/ABC Napoli


- – ABC Mexico


- – ABC Nijmegen


- – ABC Poznan and Warsaw


- – ABC Moscow.

- - ABC Moscow’s Twitter.

- - ABC St. Petersburg

- – ABC Irkutsk

- - Informational and solidarity campaign for anarchists and antifascists in Russia accused of forming a terrorist network


- – ABC Spain

- - Solidaritat rebel, a solidarity group for support accused anarchists in Aachen bank robbery case


- – ABC Stockholm

- – ABC Umeå


- – Anarchist Black Cross Federation

- – South Brooklyn ABC

- – Denver ABC



This zine is dedicated to Anna Campbell. Anna was killed by Turkish forces while fighting alongside Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) in the defence of Afrin in March 2018.

Anna was a dedicated member of Bristol Anarchist Black Cross and took her commitment to solidarity and mutual aid to her grave.

Rest in Power Anna

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