Animal Protection > Activist Index

Planning and Stealth for Safety on the Jobsite
from No Compromise Issue 21
By Shadow Activist

Ever wonder how those crazy A.L.F. activists liberate animals without getting caught, shatter windows in the blink of an eye, and leap tall buildings in a single bound? The Shadow Activist knows! And in each action-packed issue of NC will explain how intrepid activists on the front-lines are making direct action work for the animals.

This column is produced independently of No Compromise. It is intended purely for entertainment, educational and other legal purposes. It is in no way meant to encourage anyone to take illegal action. No Compromise, its steering committee, volunteer staff, and other contributors assume no liability for any such actions.

Smart and under the radar

Perfect execution of a plan is required at direct action ‘jobsites’ these days more than ever. High-tech surveillance and a heightened alert due to ‘terrorism’ has narrowed the margin of error for direct action operatives. As a result, operatives who become the focus of police or federal attention, for any reason, typically call their ‘after hours activities’ quits for a while. Attention from federal or local authorities hinders underground activists efforts to save animals or punish animal abusers and therefore is carefully avoided.

This article will provide an overview of how operatives get in, get out, and get home SAFE to fight yet another day.

Lay of the land

Knowing the area surrounding a target is essential. Because activists never want to work in their own back yard, they will more than likely be unfamiliar with the area. They go with a fellow operative in a generic-looking car that is free of bugs (family car perhaps). They are incredibly alert when mapping the area by car. They take, at most, three laps of the area as not to be noticed. They make a note of all bars, gas stations, police stations, or any other late-night or 24hr establishment. If a map is made on paper, they guard it carefully, make sure the job is performed within the next few days, and see that the map is destroyed BEFORE the job is commenced.

Today is the day

Planning the day to do the job is very important. Assuming a night-time effort, good activists work on a night that is either rainy (prefer thunder as well!) or overcast (no moonlight). An overcast night limits visibility and provides cover. Full moons can light up entire fields, so they avoid these nights unless absolutely necessary. Police are much less likely to get out of their dry and comfy cruisers during a rainstorm (heavy or not). And remember: Thunder can disguise the crash of broken windows and rain only quenches fire on the outside of a target, not the inside. There is also some concern with satellite photograph technology. Fires or other alarms may trigger a satellite to take a local photograph of the surrounding area. The owners of cars captured in the image may be subject to questioning. An overcast night would eliminate the satellite’s ability to take a picture of the area and keep the operatives safe from snooping space-eyes.

Free Parking/Valet Service

The pickup/drop-off area presents a different set of problems. Parking the car and leaving it is dangerous, because it may seem out of place. Urban settings may require parking in an empty parking lot near the target (not AT the target - unless necessary). Informed activists park near the entrance to the building instead of near the back of the parking lot. Police may see a car parked in the back of an empty lot as suspicious and investigate, but one near the entrance to the building would look legit. They also wear normal clothes over their urban-gear (dark gray clothes work best) when walking away from their car to a point where they can remove them under cover.

Rural settings are equally challenging. Good activists notice how far off the road they can see at night when they are driving, and how much they actually notice on the side of the road when they are driving.

If they must park on the side of a small road, they are sure to do so in an area that would not be noticed by passer-bys. This includes tire marks on those wet nights. Also, they take care not to cause damage to their car or get stuck so they cannot leave the area after the job is done. A good suggestion might be to have a designated driver (insert beer commercial here) and field radios to facilitate the pick-up and drop-off. A good driver and vehicle promotes stealth: pick-up truck and cowboy hat, luxury car and polo t-shirt, mini-van and “my kid is an honor-roll student at...” bumper sticker. An effective group agrees on a location for the driver to hang out at or a path to drive until the pick-up call is given. Having the luxury of multiple possible pick-up spots, depending on how the job goes, is incredibly valuable, but may not be an option for smaller cells.

You underestimate my sneakiness

Stealth on the way to and from the jobsite is what will make or break the operation. First of all, physical ability and endurance are essential to making the job short and sweet. Good activists use cross-training to make sure the team is safe and ready for the physical challenge of most operations. Running distances of over one mile (with gear), climbing buildings or trees, swimming, and becoming ‘invisible’ on the roadside are commonplace in direct action missions. Being fast reduces the time of the operation. Endurance allows for further away drop-off points if needed. And how can clothing make an operative ‘invisible’?

Well, stealth can be seen in two ways. There is the concept of the ‘visible-invisible,’ such as dressing up as a homeless man with a cart full of recyclable cans (not to mention the bolt cutters, gallon of gasoline, and matches) to get close to an urban target. In a rural setting, an operative in tight jeans, jean jacket and a cowboy hat could be carrying a 5-gallon jug of gasoline down the street and look completely normal. Of course, there’s the good-old black or dark gray gear that has been the uniform for decades. Unfortunately, there is no room for ‘visible’ with this uniform. Tips for operating in stealth in these clothes include: black-taping all zippers for anti-reflection and sound, full balaclavas with small earholes cut out to facilitate hearing, and disposable black shoes. Also, it’s good to keep clean ‘normal’ clothes in the pick-up car.

Moving towards the jobsite almost always takes longer than leaving (usually because there is substantial damage and the operative doesn’t want to stick around). Good activists take time on the way in to notice all the buildings in the area, lights, and sounds. They remove obstacles to their exit (such as cutting down barbed-wire fences). Most drivers on the road are only looking in front of them. Passengers in cars, however, may be looking slightly to the side of the road. Most people in cars in the early morning hours are tired and not looking for anything suspicious. Staying down and absolutely still can be safer than running for cover. It’s also wise to, if possible, keep at least 10 meters off the side of the road and not look directly at the car when it passes (your eyes may cast a reflection).

Night-vision gear can be extremely helpful in many settings to get activists to the jobsite. Remembering that going in is almost always slower than leaving, well-executed actions typically involve plans for when (and how) to meet up with the pick-up driver.

Infiltration of the jobsite is not exactly the point of this article, but again may require much stealth and ability. Being smart and aware of the surroundings is essential.

After the action is complete, the operative is in the home stretch. Most likely, the operative will be leaving the area with some speed. Getting back to the car can be a little more hurried if you have a fire under your butt - literally. Stealthy running techniques involve staying low and keeping the shoulders at a constant level above the ground and running like an animal (usually when running across fields). Of course, the operative must always be aware of the surroundings and stopping points to re-evaluate the situation. Staying close to fences or tree lines can further disguise movements.

Successful operatives make Stealth a part of their balanced breakfast. Stealth needs to become second nature for the accomplished operative. Stealth not only involves the ability to be invisible heading to and from the jobsite, but also in everyday life (dress, behavior, activities). It all starts with thinking about how to move down alleyways, quickly scale one or two story buildings, or hide five feet from the road - or even next to an unsuspecting person. Stealthy operatives are successful operatives. Be safe, smart, and successful.

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