Sojourner's Blog

May 27, 2011

Creative Campus Tactics

Filed under: Education — brucehartford @ 9:15 pm

The effectiveness of Nonviolent direct-action protest tactics are measured by how well they:

  • Communicate political ideas
  • Generate discussion (and media coverage) of the issues
  • Involve new people in activity
  • Increase the commitment & understanding of participants
  • Cause a visible reaction from authorities
  • Win some positive change

By those measures, over the past year some of our most successful tactics were creative uses of nonviolence beyond the standard post-rally march around campus or occupation/sit-in. For example, the Wheeler Hall ledge sit-in at U.C. Berkeley that resulted in charges against demonstrators being dropped Protesters on Ledge at UC Berkeley, S.F. Chronicle, March 4, 2011).

Symbolic Building Closures

Buy a roll or two of yellow Caution tape and prepare some official-looking signs (including some that can be stuck in a flower-bed or grassy area) that say something like: “This building closed in order to pay for tax cuts & subsidies for [name of corporation or wealthy individual]” If possible pick a company or person associated with the school’s governing body. For example, for the UC system multi millionaire Regent Blum and his ITT Tech empire of tax-payer-funded for-profit diploma mills. Or an energy company receiving subsidies and tax breaks, or some other name that makes a political point.

Just before classes begin in the morning, post the “closed” signs on (and in front of) an appropriate classroom building, and string up the caution tape across the doors and wherever else you can (bushes, pillars, windows, bike-racks, whatever). Distribute flyers explaining the symbolic action to students as they arrive. Of course, they’ll break the tape to get into class (or you break it for them) and that provides good symbolism for us — students tearing down the barriers and stepping on the tape to get to class. So long as the signs and Caution tape that is not barring entrances remains up it continues to be a powerful visual.

A note on snitches. If you find the building heavily guarded before you arrive in the morning, you probably have a snitch in your committee. That’s a good thing, it shows they’re taking you seriously. Don’t over-react. The power of nonviolent resistance lies in tactics that don’t require secrecy. Simply go to another building that’s not guarded. Cops are good at fighting, and if they see violence they’ll chase after it, but absent some clear threat of danger to themselves or others they’re not agile because they can’t move from their posts until the chain of command orders them to. So quick-moving nonviolent protesters can stay ahead of them.


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