Tips for disruption

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all! – Mario Savio

Building a new world based on freedom, cooperation and environmental sustainability in the face of powerful corporations and governments that seek to maintain their domination is not easy. The system isn’t going to topple on its own just because a few of us refuse to participate in the death machine and retreat to our gardens and other lifestyle politics — it needs our help. A wide variety of tactics and strategies — from strikes, street protests, direct action and riots to street theater, community building or educational campaigns — can move us forward. These pages suggest how to create disorder and disruption because sometime doing so is the best option, but other tactics may be more effective in a particular situation.

General Theory

Order is when those in charge know where a crowd is and can manage the situation by re-routing traffic so business as usual can proceed everywhere else. From a police perspective, a bank occupation isn’t such a bad thing. There are a lot of banks so having one shut down for a couple of hours is tolerable.

Disorder is the rare, exciting, spontaneous moment when internal and external systems of repression lose their grip. Suddenly anything can happen and no one knows what is going to happen next. Those in charge fear and hate disorder because they’ve lost control.

When promoting disorder, the main goal isn’t to look tough confronting a line of riot cops. When you confront the police, it usually results in order not disorder, because the police know precisely where you are and its only a matter of time before they can amass enough forces to surround and bust your ass if they so choose.

For disorder, you want to avoid ever seeing the police but rather keep them guessing and confused while you’re free to cause chaos everywhere the police aren’t. Big protests often concentrate police forces and leave the rest of the city unguarded. The police are organized centrally so multiple mobile groups can scramble their hierarchical structures.

Disruption and disorder can take many forms. The system loves a conventional war within traditional categories. Like guerrilla fighters, it’s our job to figure out forms of struggle where we have an advantage. Creating beautiful expressions of the world we seek to build — music, art, gardens, public sex, bicycle swarms, etc. — avoids the system’s us vs. them paradigm.

Organization

Upsetting order is easier when friends cooperate.  Affinity groups are small direct action cells — usually 4-8 people — who share attitudes about tactics and who organize themselves for effectiveness and protection during protests, riots or for middle of the night action missions. The best affinity groups are people with pre-existing relationships who know and trust each other intimately. Decisions are made as collectively and quickly as possible depending on the circumstances. In a chaotic protest situation, affinity groups enable decision making (as opposed to just reacting to the police) while watching each others’ backs. Affinity groups with experience and a vision within a bigger crowd can take the initiative and start something when the crowd is standing around wondering what to do next.

Some affinity groups use a code word which any member can yell if they have an idea for what the group should do next. Upon hearing the word, others in the group yell it too until the whole group gathers up and the person who called the huddle makes a quick proposal. The group can then agree to the proposal, or briefly discuss alternatives, and then move. A code word can also allow regrouping when the group gets separated in a chaotic situation. It is a good idea for everyone in the group to discuss their limits before an action. During the action, taking time to check in about how everyone is feeling will keep the group unified. Don’t forget to eat and take pee breaks, which will be a lot easier when someone can act as lookout while you duck behind a dumpster.

Some affinity groups have division of labor in which some member say away from the action to support members who might be arrested. An affinity group can send scouts on a bike to check out action opportunities. Affinity groups can be ongoing groups that last for years, or they can form just before a particular action.

Sometimes multiple affinity groups cooperate before or during an action using a spokes council. A spokes council is a meeting for making decisions involving large numbers of people more quickly in which each affinity group is represented by a single member. Often the rest of the affinity group sits behind the member who is the speaker so the group can let the speaker now the group’s views.