Miscellaneous direct action guides

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direct action bunny.jpg

Practical advice, tips, guides and resources to help you plan action as part of a variety of campaigns or struggles.

Submitted by Steven. on October 13, 2004

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.


Affinity groups

Introductory articles on small-group direct action, with basic tips and information on structures like affinity groups.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

Affinity groups: an introduction


For many small group actions an 'affinity group' is the most effective organisational form. This is a page of information about affinity groups, their structure, uses, history and advice.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

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 libcom.org. Last reviewed 2006


Small group direct action advice

This article explains some of the things to think about when planning an action. It's been written for smaller affinity group actions, rather than for mass street mobilisations. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide that has to be strictly followed, but more a list of things that might need to be sorted out for an action to happen successfully.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


Some campaigns will require a geographical space to be protected. This is a short guide with tips and advice on some ways you can use your bodies and other materials to barricade, blockade and defend territory.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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 libcom.org. Last reviewed 2006


How to take direct action and not get nicked

A building owned by the arms company Elbit, covered in red paint with a banner saying "Shut Elbit"

A document from Palestine Action giving advice on how to take covert direct action while avoiding arrest. While this guide is focused specifically on taking action against the company Elbit, much of the advice here may be suitable for other situations.

Submitted by R Totale on September 5, 2022

How to take direct action and not get nicked!

Covert actions are great! You spend no time in police stations, they can be done quickly and require little planning, and most importantly they build real pressure on our targets and are very unpredictable! They are also fun. Anytime you do something and "get away with it" feels like a double win. And the complicit companies we target hate them and they get us closer to our principal goal of shutting down Elbit systems. Most of them to date have been done by small groups of friends, in fact you only need two of you! A few safety precautions are all that is needed and off you go! Let's ShutElbitDown!

Planning and security:


Face to face meetings are best- and leave phones at home or in a different room when you talk. If you have to go online, signal chats are good and secure - make sure to turn on disappearing messages on signal before sending out any messages to anyone else. Also remember the Palestine Action Actions Agreement at all times and especially "the need to know basis". Don't talk outside your small group.


Either don’t bring a phone at all to the action, or bring a burner phone without any compromising information on it (Eg make sure signal is deleted off it beforehand, think about whether people would be compromised if the police accessed the text/call history). Since it’s most likely no one will have phones, make sure everyone is clear where and what time they are meeting before. The best way to have a phone as untraceable as possible is to buy a second hand phone off gumtree or eBay. You can often get an iPhone 6 for as little as £45. Buy a SIM card from a corner shop (many of them will sell these for 99p-£1) and a top up voucher for a phone company like giffgaff with cash. You have to register the SIM card, so do so under a fake email and with fake details. With giffgaff you can use the voucher code to buy a ‘bundle’ which has data and credit without having to register any personal details, so make sure to choose this option.


Make sure to wear unmarked, non-distinguishable clothing and shoes. Wear unbranded and plain clothing (ideally black) so that it is less easy to distinguish you. Cover your face with a mask, and if possible, wear a cap and a hoodie to hide your face.


If using public transport to get to the action, make sure you use an unregistered Oyster card topped up with cash so there isn’t a record of what transport you took or when. Make sure your face and head are covered before you get on any transport. If using a bicycle to get to the action, keep your head (and ideally face) covered when cycling there to minimise the risk of getting identified on CCTV. If there is security outside the building (which is unlikely), it may be easier to park the bike 5-10 minutes away and walk there to do the action if you don’t want to risk possibly losing your bike to security. A lone security guard inside a building is unlikely to exit the building to come after activists as they are there to ‘sound the alarm’ and would compromise the security of the building if they came out or pursued people.

Handling / procuring equipment

Use gloves / latex gloves when handling equipment that will be used for the action (like spray cans, stencils, fire extinguishers etc) to avoid getting your fingerprints/DNA on sensitive objects. Where possible, try and buy any incriminating things needed for the action with cash, or if buying with a card, try and get a trusted friend who is not part of the group to buy it.

Doing a recce beforehand

It is best to do a recce beforehand near to the time you intend to do the action. This can involve doing a ‘virtual’ recce by looking at the site on Google maps. When doing online searches, use ‘Duck Duck Go’ (rather than Google). Try and do the recce at a similar time as the action you will do. Please refer to the Palestine Action recce guide for detailed instructions.

During the action:

Fire Extinguishers are a great addition to the covert activists arsenal. They cover a large area of the target's premises in blood red paint in a short period of time. And its as easy as taking a pin out, holding a nozzle and pressing the trigger and out gushes the paint. In just a few seconds the whole building or windows are covered!! However spray paint is also good and getting slogans like evict Elbit or ShutElbitDown are great pressure building actions. Click here to read the Fire extinguisher guide.
Make sure to not leave anything behind as evidence. Bring something to film or hotograph the action with for social media. If filming on a phone, make sure to film horizontally. Remember to look out for each other, and enjoy it! Most security guards in the buildings are there just to alert superiors of your presence, and won’t come outside. Act speedily, but don’t be shy to stencil or spray paint your messages across the building. Every act is another reason for JLL to kick out Elbit Systems. Together we will win!

After the action

Email the video and/or photos of the action to [email protected]. It is best to email from a proton mail account which is free and easy to set up. Send files using WeTransfer, and then delete from your phone/laptop once confirmed the files have been received. Check in on signal with the others who were part of the action to make sure you all left the area and got home okay as soon as back in a safe place. When checking in, be subtle - i.e write something unrelated to the action in your signal group chat just to show you are back safe rather than saying ‘did everyone get home safe?’.
If you are arrested during the action, don’t panic - ask for Kelly’s solicitors in Brighton when you get to the police station and make sure you make no comment to anything!


Covert-Guide.pdf (41.04 KB)


Scaffold tripods guide


In our blockading guide we cover many ways of defending territory. This page goes into more detail about setting up scaffolds which can be used to effectively block roads or small throughways such as factory entrances.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

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



10 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Entdinglichung on November 8, 2013

with more tripods in the field during the past decades, we would probably live in full communism today

Jason Cortez

10 years 8 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jason Cortez on November 9, 2013

with more people standing outside shops we definitely will.

Subvertising billboards

A guide to subvertising - altering commercial outdoor poster and billboard advertisements to get your message across.

Submitted by Steven. on November 13, 2003

The Art & Science of Billboard Improvement
a comprehensive guide to the alteration of outdoor advertising

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) Security
After 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.

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 www.billboardliberation.com