From Industrial Workers of the World and the use of slow-downs, to Black Panthers distribution of free breakfast to children, to the early years of Earth First! unrolling a plastic "crack" down the Glen Canyon dam, Direct Action has a rich history. Often, our institutions perpetuate oppression and exploitation and global corporatism erodes any respect for the sacred quality of life. Our society has proven that "traditional channels" of redress are wholly incapable of delivering anything remotely close to justice, fairness, or equality. Other methods are needed in order to assert our humanity, our deeply held values, and an affirmation of the worth of all life.
What is direct action? This training goes over the basics of how to use direct action effectively and strategically. Skills covered include: forming affinity groups, de-escalation and conflict management, consensus, legal, strategic action planning. This training will provide an introduction to pulling off direct actions, explores what makes an action effective, how to work as a group in a direct action context, action preparation and roles, and features many interactive role plays based on real life scenarios.
This training can be adapted according to the needs and experience of the group.
If we are ever going to elevate human rights above that of criminal corporate or investor interests we need a way to gauge our effectiveness, especially with movement-building work. Although social change has anything but a linear direction to it, we can still develop way-points to orient the direction of our efforts. Grand Strategy highlights a set of principles and theoretical framework which can be utilized for evaluating the effectiveness of our actions and tactics. Topics explored include conceptual frameworks for understanding conflict, building power, the role of social movements in relation to political reform, and creating a sympathetic identity for ones cause through principles-based communications.
Light canons for liberty and justice, non-violent drones flying your banner, helium balloon pairs of buttocks, catchy musical flash mobs, and human murals. We can't win if we aren't having fun. That's what this training is about, an overview of how we can unleash our imagination to invigorate our movement and animate our values and vision!
While simultaneously employing tactics consistent with the principles of grand strategy, and imbuing those tactics with creativity and artful expression, organizers can enliven and engage people in the process of social change. Backbone has specialized in leveraging few material resources for increasing visibility, building identity and power. This is an overview of easily replicable creative tactics and how they might be used in an overall campaign. Participants can learn hands-on, getting a sense of the materials used to deploy these tactics. The workshop can be expanded to include the process of practicing them in the field and building some imagery to leave behind.
Mouse-click activism wont grab the headlines or truly inspire others to join the fight, we need meaningful actions. All the fun creative tactics are of little use to our campaigns unless we've planned for all the aspects of our actions. If we start with a giant flash mob we might have difficulty attracting media when we next hold a 2 person banner.
This training is about putting it all together. When is the best time to plan actions? What tactical knowledge is important to consider? How and why do you leave room for strategic escalation? Who will you need on your team? This training will explore these questions as well as equipping you with the tools needed to create a plan that strategically accomplishes your goals.
Nowhere else is the saying "knowledge is power" more applicable than when dealing with the legal system and the men in blue who enforce it. Despite corporate capital interests having a strong presence even on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, the legal system still affords us useful guarantees. Knowing the tools available to you, the traps you could get hung-up in, and having a basic familiarity with the process will help you act as level-headed as possible when tension and emotions are running high at an action.
This training covers all of the basic legal information for interactions with police. The training teaches you what your basic rights are when you are questioned, searched, detained, and/or arrested, and what methods the police use to manipulate these rights on the spot. The training also takes you through the step by step process from the first interaction with the police, through detainment, arrest, and the court systems. Other topics discussed: tips on jail solidarity, current federal and state legislation threatening your rights, and what to take with you and leave home during an action.
Giant Banners were one of Backbone's first creative tactics and are still one of our most widely used tactics for increasing visibility of our allies and their issues. We can offer a sampling of how this easily replicable, inexpensive, and reusable tactic can be utilized from overpass bannering to helium balloon assisted lifts. When you don't have deep pockets like our trans-national corporate opponents you can easily earn your media. This tried-and-true constitutionally protected form of free speech is a great way to practice your "Know Your Rights" skills.
We can do an overview on how to construct the banner and its uses, and also expand it to include building your own banner for an action.
Projection as protest is a fun and easy tactic to master. It's relatively cheap and potentially super effective. Sometimes also called a "Bat Signal" the use of easily procured theater lights and metal stencils (GOBOs) to amplify your message is one of our favorite tactics among our allies.
Your imagination is the only real limitation. Projection as protest can be used to project on a target exposing their criminal and unjust behavior like HSBC laundering hundreds of millions of dollars of drug money, as a way to raise awareness of a lesser known issue like for-profit-prisons, build solidarity and cohesion among your group, or recruit new allies because it's so fun. After-all, who doesn't want their picture taken holding a "light canon" projecting a message like "Sucks!" on a Bank Of America headquarters building. Even better, it's a very low-risk action, ever heard of someone being charged with trespassing with light? If you've got a message and advanced notice we can guide you through an action out in the field.
Interesting action of projection combined with audio:
Artful Activism & Imagery Building (1/2 - + Hours)
Want to light up your movement or campaign? Think an injustice needs to illuminated? If you have some friends who are itching to raise the visibility of an issue and desiring to take a stand then you can play activist scrabble as an Overpass Light Brigade. Backbone Campaign has built a library of LED light panels and we are eager to help others do the same or utilize our set for an action. The legal issues are the same as overpass bannering when used in that context, but this tactic is infinitely adaptable. We can imagine a helium balloon assisted LED light message floating in the sky... ;-) We can also guide you through building your own library.
Flash mobs can be a fun and engaging tactic that enhances and moves forward your overall campaign. Mobilizing a bunch of people communicates power and draws attention especially if it catches people off guard. The most effective flashmobs involve considerable advanced planning and involve numerous participants in a variety of roles. All the more reason to make sure it goes off without a hitch by taking our training. A key to the success of most flashmobs is the ability to quickly edit raw footage and make it broadly available to the real audience, the online community or media. People at the action are more like extras than your intended audience. Song and dance flash mobs are a particularly effective means of putting pressure on your opponent without them being able to demonize you- its more difficult to demonize someone if they are singing a catchy tune, busting a move, smiling, and have bystanders singing along too. Song and dance flashmobs are a great way lighten the mood of your organizing and lift the spirits of your team.
Blockades have played a pivotal role in the escalation of non violent campaigns. Blockades have been implemented by Earth First'ers rapidly mobilizing to stop the decimation of groves of old-growth redwoods. Blockades have enabled the occupation of representative and corporate offices so that they feel the pressure of accountability to our people-powered movements. Blockades have grabbed newspaper headlines by shutting down entire cities where the meetings of trans-national trade agreements were taking place.
This training discusses the use of hard and soft blockades as an action tactic. Learn strategy and techniques used to stop people and vehicles from accessing areas in the wilderness or an urban landscape, blocking roads, taking over an intersection, or just trying to get out of the authorities’ reaches. This introduction presents a foundation for the use of blockades in actions, the necessary preparations before implementation, the roles of participants during a successful blockade action, and includes an opportunity to practice a blockade scenario. This training is hands on, and will include how to work with the materials such as Ulocks, black bears, and straight boxes, as well as methods of soft blockades using your body. This training can be adapted to include a thorough training of building and using Tripods, which adds an additional hour to the training.
Blockades have played a pivotal role in the escalation of non violent campaigns. Blockades have been implemented by Earth First'ers rapidly mobilizing to stop the decimation of groves of old-growth redwoods. Blockades have enabled the occupation of representative and corporate offices so that they feel the pressure of accountability and our people-powered movements. Blockades have grabbed newspaper headlines by shutting down entire cities where the meetings of trans-national trade agreements were taking place.
This advanced blockade training covers the use of hard blockade equipment like lock-boxes and tripods. This training is geared towards participants who are already familiar with blockades or have participated in our Intro to Blockades training.
Tripods are an awe-inspiring tactic that can effectively communicate your message demanding attention to your campaign. Moreover, tripods can blockade or prevent access to a location even potentially delaying or stopping some form of destruction. Tripods were first used by indigenous peoples and have since been adapted for use both in rural forest defense and in urban settings. Whether you want to stop a clear-cut, halt construction of a tar sands pipeline, or lock down a transnational corporation or complicit regulatory agency, tripods can deliver a major victory for you and a stunning blow to your opposition.
Tripods require a well functioning affinity group and some advanced planning, and depending upon the situation and with enough training can be implemented by about anyone. Tripods function best by intentionally leveraging the spotlight in order to secure the safety of the person/persons at the top of the tripod.
Backbone Campaign trained and provided guidance to activists in Virginia who utilized just a banner and a single tripod to block 5 lanes of traffic, thereby preventing access to the meeting location of the Trans Pacific Partnership in September of 2012. The action was so successful that they were able to negotiate the de-arrest of a team member in exchange for finally removing the tripod, no one was arrested. The fight continues...
Some people wonder if the state of the world needs to get worse to motivate more people to make it better. More likely, we need to organize more effectively. An endless montage of creative tactics wont win us the world we want. Our campaigns are much more likely to succeed if we cultivate the skills needed to alleviate our nearsightedness and develop a long-term vision. Also, we can hardly be effective agents of change without some degree of personal care to make our engagement sustainable.
Looking at the big picture - strategy, targets, setting goals/objectives, choosing tactics etc. This workshop goes over the basics of how to build the campaign you need to create change. It will cover: planning campaigns to be more cohesive, effective and strategic steps needed to implement an effective campaign, identifying your targets, building a network of strategic alliances, and how to coherently evaluate what’s working and not working in existing campaigns. The workshop also explores the concept of burn out in the activist movement, and how to avoid it within your group.
From bird-dogging, to song and dance flash-mobs at your local Target store, to occupying coal plants, staging tree-sits, and beyond, successful action mobilization requires time and energy taken to scout out the location of the action. This training will give an overview of a step-by-step process to ensure you wont miss any details and help you minimize the unknowns and surprises you'll have to contend with during the day of action. You'll develop skills for assessing entrance and exits to the site, staging of imagery and placement of photographers so you get those awesome visuals, coming-up with contingency plans, ways to keep participants safe, and more.
Activists can do a lot on a little budget, especially by employing the festival arts. After you've picked a target who is most deserving of ridicule, be a politician or bankster or other white-collar criminal conspiring against the public good, you can easily craft their likeness using papier mache for a fun public spectacle. Or, use papier mache to build puppets in the likeness of of movement leaders like Frederick Douglas or Emma Goldman to rekindle the spirits of your allies reminding them to honor those who have come before by deeply engaging in the work of today. We provide hands-on training on how to sculpt the likeness of your desired image so it looks as stunning as imaginable for it's debut in the streets. We give you tips and hands-on experience using reclaimed trash as the principle source of materials so your conscience is guilt free.
For a better understanding of what this workshop might look like check out the beginnings of our Papier-mâché Puppet Toolkit: Papier-mâché Puppet Toolkit
The first four letters in "M-o-v-e-ments" are a call to action to animate our values, and what better way than with music. Isn't it way easier to mobilize people into the streets and keep some skip in their step if they have some rhythm guiding them? Trade in those overused chants for some lively percussion! Through a Drumming For Demonstrations training everyone can get in on the fun, regardless of musical background. As an added plus, as much fun as you and the group may be having, the phenomenon of a horde of people banging on pots and pans while marching to the steps of your target's office can be a little intimidating to them. If your issue or cause is so sympathetic or your beat so contagious that you can mobilize moms, their baby strollers, and their children's rattles, then your target will really be sweating!
The first step in recognizing security risks in a community is working towards creating a security culture. Just because we're non-violent doesn't meant that the police don't see us as a threat. It also doesn't mean that we will not be charged with violent crimes if arrested. Maintaining a tight security culture is essential for creating a cohesive, safe, and effective movement based on the principals of trust and solidarity. As our direct action movement becomes more effective, government harassment will only increase. Violations of security culture include behavior that is inappropriate because it intensifies government harassment, jeopardizes the freedom of other activists, and destroys the trust within the movement. This workshop explores how to stay two steps ahead of the government, versus two steps behind in paranoia. Covers the basics of creating and implementing security within your group, and throughout the rest of your life; office, home, personal life, and on your computers.
A critical discussion of carbon trading, carbon offsets, carbon sequestration, biofuels, monoculture tree plantations, and other market based solutions to climate change that are essentially a distraction from the real issue of the continued burning of fossil fuels. The workshop will also look at social movements responses to these false solutions along with case study examples. And, how to create key allies to create change.