Animal Protection >
Planning and Stealth for Safety on
Compromise Issue 21
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
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
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
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
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
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.