KUDOS TO THE ACTIVISTS!!! And something we say: 'WE WILL NEVER BACK DOWN UNTIL YOU STOP THE KILLING!"
But now you are seeing the "heat" that comes from being effective in this police state. I will share our tips for staying safe, below. We have learned all this the hard way, too - believe me!
We are a very active group of above-ground protesters in Los Angeles, working simultaneously on four campaigns: UCLA, HLS, POM, and the City shelters. We are dealing with assaults from neighbors, citations, arrests, injunctions, civil lawsuits, and home raids by police and federal agents.
Here's what we have learned to do at demos in Los Angeles - and I hope it will help other activists.
YOU MUST HAVE A VIDEOGRAPHER PRESENT AT ALL DEMOS, TAPING THE ENTIRE SEQUENCE. TWO VIDEOGRAPHERS ARE EVEN BETTER. (If need be, one tape can be spirited away for safekeeping.
We had police confiscate a video at one of our home demos - and it was the only evidence we had of an assault against us by neighbors.)
When people are being videotaped, they are much less likely to be aggressive. When the police are being videotaped, they are much less likely to behave unprofessionally, to engage in "selective enforcement, " or to attempt to deny your civil liberties.
YOU MUST HAVE A LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE PRESENT AT YOUR DEMOS.
This is ideally a lawyer who knows Constitutional law and researches local ordinances in the cities where you plan to protest. When we show the police that we know what our Constitutional rights are and that we are aware of the local ordinances governing noise, trespass, blocking, etc., they back off.
THE LEGAL REP ACTS AS POLICE LIAISON - ACTIVISTS STAY "ON MESSAGE" AND FOCUSED ON THE DEMONSTRATION. THEY DO NOT INTERACT WITH POLICE.
When you are approached by police, direct them to speak with the legal rep / police liaison. Do not talk to them.
WHENEVER YOU HAVE TROUBLE WITH AGGRESSIVE NEIGHBORS, SHOP OWNERS, OR ONLOOKERS, YELL "VIDEO!" or "CAMERA!" and "LEGAL!" REPEATEDLY AS LOUDLY AS YOU CAN UNTIL THE VIDEOGRAPHER AND LEGAL REP APPROACH.
This way, any exchanges will be on tape and the aggressors and police cannot lie about what took place. Again, people will be less likely to act aggressively - and the police will be obligated to behave more professionally and honestly -
if they know they are being videotaped and observed by an attorney. Plus the attorney is there to make clear what Constitutional and local laws apply.
Any time a police officer approaches an activist - even if ostensibly to protect him or her - have VIDEO and LEGAL REP in attendance! If the police arrest an activist, make sure the arrest is videotaped. Ask the officer repeatedly why the activist is being arrested.
If he fails to answer or treats the activist poorly, this behavior needs to be recorded. However, if he knows he's being videotaped, he will hopefully be less likely to make the arrest in the first place.
Don't converse with police. We also learned this the hard way. They secured affidavits for search warrants of our homes - and the affidavits were full of spin and contained lies about what we had said.
I commented to one officer that home demos were an effective strategy - and he wrote down that I had said that "harassment" was an effective strategy.
I know I get angry and tend to say things jokingly or sarcastically - but I didn't think I would have said that to a cop! I checked with three other activists, who all confirmed that I said "home demos" - not "harassment. "
But, I did say something sarcastic during a demo that ended up in the affidavits. And when you read the words on paper - taken out of context and without benefit of the mocking tone of voice in which they were said - they can be used against you.
One of the neighbors was calling us "terrorists" - so, I quipped, "Well, if standing up for innocent animals makes one a terrorist, then - yeah - I guess I'm a terrorist!" Anyway, the police claimed that I "admitted" to being a "terrorist."
Anyway, just some tips. Nothing is foolproof, but these strategies seem to be helpful for us in Los Angeles.