COMING TO FERGUSON: BUILDING A NONVIOLENT MOVEMENT
Developed by the Deep Abiding Love Project, Summer 2015 | DeepAbidingLove.com
FERGUSON IS EVERYWHERE According to Killed By Police, 555 people were killed by U.S. police in the first six months of this year.1 Five hundred and fifty‐five people . We hear about some of these cases, not all. Not the majority of them. And when we do hear about them, there always seems to be a police representative standing in front of a microphone justifying their actions, asking for peace and saying “This isn’t Ferguson.” Why do they feel compelled to say that? Because Ferguson is everywhere. Ferguson itself is a small municipality north of Saint Louis, MO. Darren Wilson, the Ferguson Police officer who murdered Mike Brown was one of about 50 officers in the FPD. It’s a small town, and and locals will tell you that compared to other places, the police aren’t even that bad there. But they left Mike Brown on the pavement in the August heat, uncovered and without medical help, for over 4 hours. They wouldn’t let his parents near his body. Pictures of a man holding a piece of cardboard with “Ferguson Police just executed my unarmed son” hastily scrawled on it spread on social media. An unspoken agreement between the Black community and the police had been broken. This disrespect went too far. And so the resistance started. People gathered at the site of his murder, building a memorial. The police brought out dogs, and eventually riot gear. But people did not go inside. More people came out. And they kept coming ‐‐ through tear gas, rubber bullets, mace, live ammunition, tanks, LRAD, and snipers. And in October, when Vonderrit Meyers was killed by an off‐duty officer in Saint Louis City, people took to the streets there too, traveling the 15 miles between the Vonderrit memorial and the Ferguson Police Department. And in late November 2014, when it was announced that Darren Wilson would not be indicted, cities all over the country mobilized in solidarity. And so began a movement. When the police kill now, there is an organized response, no matter where it happens. Madison, Cleveland, North Carolina, New York, Denver, Saint Louis. Everywhere. At a rate of more than a thousand a year, the police are killing people. In this curriculum, you will see both Saint Louis and Ferguson used. Saint Louis generally refers to the city and surrounding areas (including Ferguson). “Ferguson” is almost an abstract concept ‐ it represents much more than that small municipality (one of 90 in St. Louis County). It is a movement of resistance, an uprising, the catalyst for a revolution. Ferguson is everywhere.
2015, Killed By Police: killedbypolice.net 1
- Ella Baker
In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning--getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.
WHY AM I HOLDING THIS? Many people have come to Ferguson with good intentions and have done a lot of damage. The situation here rapidly changes and there is no centralized leadership or primary organization; this is one of Ferguson’s strengths because it can help prevent the replication of oppressive power structures within the movement, but it also leaves room for a lot of bullshit to go unchecked. Read this so that you understand the landscape better. Read this so that you understand your role. Read this to understand your preconceptions and biases and how they can impact your work. Read this so that your time in Ferguson is helpful and not hurtful.
ACTIVITY: The Why Come Survey WHEN YOU ARE HERE: “If you ain’t from here…” There is no consensus among St. Louis activists about outsiders coming to Ferguson to protest and organize. Some local organizers feel that outsiders are disruptive, distracting and extractive. When needed, local leadership extends invitations with specific asks for out of town organizers to support large events like Ferguson October, and many people 2
believe that that is the only good way for outsiders to come in. Local organizers who have sacrificed much of their security and well being to do the work every day for the last year are wary of outsiders coming in for a few days to be in front of cameras and to pick up shine2 from their ongoing hard work. SHOW UP AND SHUT UP: Understand that your role in Ferguson is different than your role in your own community. Here, the only credential that matters is how many times you have shown up. Your role as an outsider is to be present, to really listen. Be flexible and learn to recognize the new forms leadership has taken in this movement, figure out how to listen to new voices without putting that burden on local organizers or giving unasked for counsel. That being said, the impulse to come to Ferguson is understandable. It is the seat of a resistance that has become a global uprising. There is a unique energy that exists in St. Louis and Ferguson that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. The draw is undeniable. Local activists understand that, and many welcome the attention and resources that outsiders can bring here. As someone who is not from here, it is crucial that you come in with humility – Show Up and Shut Up. Movement High: The adrenaline and confidence rush that some people experience during or after a conflict with the police. May result in a desire to change your facebook profile pic to one of you in conflict with the police. When you are not approaching your presence in someone else’s community with humility, you are doing more than being a jerk. You could be placing other people in real danger. At this point in the movement, people have been working and organizing together for well over 300 days. Many people have lost jobs, homes, cars, and relationships. They have been subjected to incredible violence from the state, surveilled, harassed and threatened. We know each other well, and know how people operate and how to watch each other’s backs. You simply can’t know that coming in from outside, so it is crucial that you are always thoughtful about the role you are playing. You could be endangering those around you. If you are coming in to Ferguson with the idea that you are going to engage with the police, get your photograph taken, get more Twitter followers, and/or write something for a national publication, you are seeking a Movement High. Don’t do that. Do not use the work of local activists to build up your own profile. If you find yourself holding a bull horn, leading a march, giving direction, doing an interview, or otherwise putting yourself
raise their own public profile 3
in a leadership position, please sit down3 ‐ you are almost certainly blocking a young, local, Black leader from doing the same.4 Ferguson activists have been on the street for a year – collectively, they hold the entire history of the movement. Come with humility, and follow their lead. They can and will save your life. But please don’t expect local leadership to be available for you at all times, or at all. Some local leaders will be more than happy to tell you harrowing stories of tear gas, and some really need rest and time away from crowds. Sometimes both of these instincts exist in the same person. Be mindful of what you are asking of people. Build a team that you will be with on the street, teach each other, learn together, build love. READ: Building Your Crew
ASK YOURSELF: Before you speak, ask yourself to WAIT and THINK: Why Am I Talking? Is what I want to say: True? Helpful? Inspiring? Necessary? Known? There is a lot of knowledge in our movement spaces, please don’t assume that you know more than the people you are working with. Give only what you are asked for.
Am I white? If you’re white, you are probably used to having your authority and expertise respected in any space you enter at any time, regardless of whether or not you actually have any authority or expertise. That’s white privilege. Please be extra aware of this in Ferguson, and before you insert yourself into a space, WAIT and THINK. READ: Dear Fellow White People by John Costello What impact will my actions have on people who will be staying in this space after I’m gone? One of the frustrations voiced most by local activists is that people come in from out of town, ask a lot from people on the ground, and then leave without contributing much to the community. Take time to think about what impact you are making, and work to ensure that it is positive. Consider donating to any of the local groups or individuals mentioned in this curriculum, or the groups or individuals that assisted you in your trip.5
calm down, disengage, admit defeat If media asks specifically for an “out of town perspective” and you are white or non‐Black POC, what they mean is they are afraid of Black people. Direct them to local Black leadership. 5 See list on page 26 3 4
How can I offset any negative impact I may be having on this community? What resources are you using that would otherwise be going to local people or organizations? Why is it important for you to use them? And how can you help to ensure those resources will still be available after you’ve left? Ex: If I am arrested, and Jail Support bails me out, can I replenish (or help fundraise to replenish) the Bail Fund with the amount of my bail? If you can’t, don’t worry. The Bail Fund is here so that anyone can feel confident enough to participate in protest without worrying about how they will afford the bond if they are arrested. If you can, please donate to the Bail Fund, especially in the event that you are arrested.6 Donate Here: http://bit.ly/stlbailfund
When we engage in civil disobedience, we do so to achieve change, not to get arrested. Getting arrested is of little significance in and of itself. We're not out to accumulate arrests like merit badges. Arrests result from our commitment to achieve change; they are the means to an end, not the end in themselves.7
NONVIOLENCE IN FERGUSON “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” Brother Shahid, long time Saint Louis area activist, coined the chant “Hands up Don’t Shoot” as a response to the countless unarmed Black people being murdered by the police. As eyewitness accounts of Mike Brown’s murder surfaced and it became clear that he had his hands raised in surrender8 when shot by Darren Wilson, “Hands up, Don’t Shoot” became the rallying cry for the movement.
When we realized we were going up against tanks again that day we put our hands up. We realized then we had to be nonviolent - we didn't have any weapons that could win. -- Tory Russell, Hands Up United
It is undeniable that a hallmark of the Ferguson Resistance has been its commitment to militant nonviolence in the face of incredible state violence. The victories achieved in St. See the Legal Support Document in the Building Your Crew section Why We Get Arrested , ACT UP http://www.actupny.org/documents/whywe%20get.html 8 An account that the DOJ report findings disagree with: http://bit.ly/FergusonDOJreport 6 7
Louis since August 2014 have been a result of nonviolent direct actions (as was the case with Occupy SLU; Read: ClockTower Accords9), or as a direct result of the aggregate work of individual protestors and radical organizations (such as the passage of the Civilian Oversight Board) in partnership with consistent political pressure created by targeted direct actions. Nonviolence has been an effective tactic in the fight for Black liberation in St. Louis.
Yes, we’re angry but the anger doesn’t have the last word. Militant nonviolent civil disobedience creates a container for us to direct that righteous anger at the state. It creates a moral drama to prick the conscience of society, and we do it out of a deep, abiding love. - Rev. Osagyefo Sekou
For activists and organizers coming from outside of the St. Louis area, it is of the utmost importance to make a commitment to nonviolence at all times. It is never acceptable to initiate any activity that may put local activists in danger, or to participate in what would be termed as “rioting.” As an outsider, do not escalate interactions with police, and please do not set any dumpsters or buildings on fire. It is widely understood that unknown individuals who do engage in this behavior are almost certainly infiltrators, undercover cops, or COINTELPRO type operatives and they will certainly be treated as such.
WHAT IS VIOLENCE? Many people are willing to define nonviolence rather than violence. That’s fine, as a philosophical exercise. But if you are going to engage in nonviolent direct action as part of the movement for Black lives, it is important that you and your crew10 define what constitutes violence for you as a group.
ACTIVITY: Spectrogram The Spectrogram activity is designed to help your crew decide what violence means for you as a group. Expect that there will be a range of answers to each question within the group. What is important is to find a set of agreements for the group that you can use as guidelines while together in the street. The definition of violence and nonviolence can be fluid. In the late summer and fall of 2014, when protesters were being accused of looting and rioting, there was a strong 9
SLU Clock Tower Accords http://www.slu.edu/x100326.xml affinity group
emphasis of protection of property from within the movement. As the year has progressed, we have seen new tactics arise. Acts of targeted property destruction like when Bree Newsome cut down the Confederate flag over the South Carolina state capitol building or the spray painting of “Black Lives Matter” on Confederate War memorial statues are being celebrated. READ: In Defense of Looting11 Alternative ways to consider violence in the context of visiting Ferguson : 1. All of the Ferguson activists have made great sacrifices (violence at the hands of the state, jail time, family and other relationships, jobs/opportunity loss, financial, personal safety, etc.) Further, most of us suffer from PTSD to some extent. Expecting/demanding that people recount traumatic experiences can be damaging. This is a form of violence. Don’t do it. Some people are more than happy to relate their experiences in this movement, but let them decide. 2. Sometimes it may be necessary to exclude white people from certain meetings, spaces and actions. As a white person, becoming upset at this, or demanding inclusion, is also a form of violence. 3. Similarly, white people co‐opting phrases, chants, etc. that specifically apply to people of color is violent. You CAN breathe. Instead, white people should carry signs, wear shirts, and participate in chants that challenge the white supremacist power structure. (Ex: White silence = violence) Fostering unity and solidarity as an outsider: 1. Follow local leadership at all times. If part of a specific action, find out beforehand who planned/called the action, and do what they say. 2. Do not assume that you know better than local activists. 3. Do not foster discord among activists on the ground. The local activist family is just that, a family. Sometimes we fight, sometimes we dislike one another. We know how to work together despite any disagreements. We do not need strangers getting involved, especially on the ground. Involving yourself in disputes can only serve to agitate people, putting everyone in more danger. 4. Stick with your crew. If things get dangerous, these are the people who will keep you safe. In summary, it is never acceptable to initiate any activity that may put local activists in danger, or to participate in what could be termed as “rioting.” As an outsider, do not escalate interactions with police, and please do not set anything on fire.
WHAT IS NONVIOLENCE?
Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nonviolence is a powerful philosophy and strategy for social change that rejects the use of physical violence. The practice of nonviolence calls for peaceful active behavior in the midst of conflict. At its core, nonviolence embodies respect, and even love, for one’s opponents. The practice recognizes and utilizes the importance of dialogue without the use of physical threat or coercion in negotiating and problem solving. Also key to the philosophy of nonviolence is a core belief that if we wish to achieve just ends, the means we use must also be just. Proponents would argue that it is fundamentally irrational to use violence to achieve a peaceful society. Although absent of physical threat or retaliation, nonviolence is not passive and implies the very opposite of weakness or cowardice. The power of nonviolence lies in patience and self‐control motivated by the intention to meet human needs and promote a more just society.12
From the Center for Nonviolence & Social Justice, nonviolenceandsocialjustice.org 8
WHY DO WE OBEY?
By themselves, rulers cannot collect taxes, enforce repressive laws and regulations, keep trains running on time, prepare national budgets, direct traffic, manage ports, print money, repair roads, keep food supplied to the markets, make steel, build rockets, train the police and the army, issue postage stamps or even milk a cow. People provide these services to the ruler through a variety of organizations and institutions. If the people stop providing these skills, the ruler cannot rule.13 Nonviolent direct action is ultimately about power.
1) All those who govern derive their power from the consent of the governed. Obedience is at the heart of political power. Those in power depend upon the submission or consent of the citizenry, which can be achieved through terror, subtle forms of manipulation, or agreement. 2) People can withdraw their consent. Obedience is not inevitable. 3) It is not punishment that keeps people obedient but fear of punishment. Intimidation is often the first line of defense for those in power. Intimidation works to the extent that it invokes fear in the populace. Resistance to unjust law and authority depends upon overcoming personal fears. The nonviolent resister is more concerned about what will happen to the oppressed if the unjust situation continues then what will happen to them in the process of changing it. Thus, the nonviolent resister becomes engaged in changing history by overcoming fear, apathy and neutrality. 4) Humanity has only progressed through conflict and struggle. Most of the civil rights we enjoy today were not handed down by the founders of our country but were fought for and won through acts of protest and resistance.
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are those who want crops without plowing up the ground. The struggle may be a physical one or a moral one or both, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. – Frederick Douglass From the Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) a training organization started by trainers from Otpor, http://www.canvasopedia.org 13
5) Law is a human construct. Those in power want us to consider law as sacred and inviolate. But law is human and subject to the race, class, and gender biases prevalent in the culture. To hold up law as sacred is idolatry. Justice is sacred but not law. When law does not serve justice, law should be disobeyed. At the Nuremburg Trials, the International Tribunal said that Adolf Eichmann and other Nazi war criminals could not use the defense that they were only obeying orders. They stated that individuals must use their own consciences in deciding whether to obey superiors. 6) There are many claims on our life — family, work, and personal needs. What claims our life at its deepest level will determine who or what we obey and to whom or what we will ultimately pay allegiance. Moral claims may take a variety of forms — a commitment to justice, the common good, life, the people of Central America, God. How clear we are about those ideals and how we integrate them into our lives will determine what form our resistance will take.14
WHY DO WE DISOBEY?
There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
– Mario Salvo
If our obedience upholds oppressive systems, what can our disobedience do? DIRECT ACTION CAN:
1) Directly stop a social, environmental or political injustice 2) Assert or defend a positive right despite consequences 3) Show a willful refusal to cooperate or participate in an injustice 4) Sound the alarm – alert folks to issue 5) Create a community‐based solution
Adapted from the Pledge of Resistance Handbook, 1980’s 10
6) Amplify people’s voices, build people power15 As we discuss the uses of direct action, remember one thing: almost all successful actions occur within the context of an ongoing campaign . This means that political ‐ not only logistical ‐ work has been done before the action. This improves the chances that your action will be understood and successful. This also means you intend to follow up on your action. Intervention demands responsibility. Here are some typical functions of direct action within campaigns: ANNOUNCEMENT OR ALARM You have learned of a situation that demands immediate attention from the public. Your direct action is meant to shine a light on a hidden (more likely, covered‐up) danger that must not be kept secret. REINFORCEMENT You have been campaigning on an issue, yet somehow the issue remains murky to the public. You take action to clearly define the evil or injustice, and the parties responsible. PUNCTUATION Direct action can be used to sustain interest in a campaign. It is a dramatic reminder that the problem has not gone away. Direct action can serve as a milepost ‐ the early anti‐ nuclear movement marked time in the 1970s by occupying the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant in New Hampshire ‐ or it may commemorate an outrage that should not be forgotten, such as the anniversaries of the murders of Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown (among many). ESCALATION A frequent use of direct action is to raise the stakes in an ongoing struggle. If a group of activists who have not previously used direct action turns to it, this sends a message that the situation has become critical and direct action is the last remaining avenue of protest. MORALE Sometimes when a group has suffered a setback and morale is low ‐ or a group is tired from a long struggle ‐ direct action can serve to raise the spirits and renew the struggle. There is no doubt that direct action is a powerful builder of morale and community, but a word of caution: Those of us who have engaged in direct action know its transforming effect. It leads to new discoveries about yourself, changes and intensifies your relationship with your fellow activists, and alters profoundly your notions of power. It is intoxicating. But these personal‐growth benefits are not the reason for doing direct action. Your actions should strive to make an objective change in the world ‐ to literally change the course of history. The change you seek is the main course of the action; empowerment, self‐awareness and community are dessert.16
Organizing For Power: Action Adapted from Ruckus Society: The Function of Direct Action 11
If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end. - Bayard Rustin
TYPES OF DIRECT ACTION Protest : registering dissent. Rallies, marches, teach‐ins, pickets Non‐cooperation : withdrawing your power. Boycott, labor strike, walkouts, tax resistance Intervention : directly intervening in the functioning of the system Creative Solutions : developing alternative community based systems /collectives Points of Intervention Point of Production: where harmful items are created Point of Destruction: where resources are extracted, pollution released, natural resources destroyed Point of Consumption : where products reach consumers Point of Decision : where plans for the future are crafted Point of Assumption: where social norms are developed and held Point of Potential: when cultural or historic moments become actions opportunities17
Organizing for Power: Action 12
WHAT IS MILITANT NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION? Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence. It is about responses which meet the political goals of our communities in the moment, and deal with the repercussions as they come. It is about saying no, firmly drawing and holding boundaries, demanding the return of stolen resources. And from Queer Liberation and Black Power to centuries‐old movements for Native sovereignty and anti‐colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.18
from Radical Faggot, “In Support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars is Logical Political Strategy. https://radfag.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/in‐support‐of‐baltimore‐or‐smashing‐police‐cars‐is‐log ical‐political‐strategy/ 18
MODERN FIGURES OF NONVIOLENCE Dave Dellinger In 1940 Dellinger refused to register for conscription. He was arrested
and sentenced to a year in prison. While in prison he organized protests against the segregated seating arrangements in the jail. This resulted in being placed in solitary confinement. Dellinger was eventually released but was arrested once again when he refused to join the armed forces when the United States entered WWII and spent another two years in prison. After the war Dellinger joined with Abraham Muste and Dorothy Day to establish the Direct Action m agazine in 1945. Dellinger also became the editor of Liberation Magazine . In 1968 Dellinger was one of Chicago Seven charged with conspiring to incite riots around the Democratic Party Convention. Dellinger's fellow defendants included Bobby Seale (Black Panthers) Tom Hayden (Students for a Democratic Society), Rennie Davis (National Mobilisation Committee) and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin of the Youth International Party.
Celeste Faison Celeste is the Black Organizing Coordinator at National Domestic
Workers Alliance and co‐founder of the Blackout Collective. A seasoned organizer, she cut her teeth as a youth organizer in 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and served as lead organizer at Youth Together. An organizing strategist, Celeste served as assistant director of the League of Young Voters, training thousands of young people in new electoral organizing strategies that infused community organizing. Many of those methods were adopted by the Democratic Party in 2008. During her time as a director of the Ruckus Society, Celeste fell in love with direct action. In 2014 she co‐founded the Blackout Collective, an all‐Black direct action collective that assisted with shutting down the BART and the topless #SayHerName action. She spends her free time traveling the country developing Black people as direct action trainers and strategists.
We expect to win, and our strategies, tactics, and organizations are designed to be the foundation of our new social structure. We value creativity, bringing art, music, dance, drums, magic, ritual, masks, puppets, drama and song into action. We refuse to be boring, tedious, dreary or doctrinaire.
Lisa Fithian Lisa has been working for nonviolent social change since the mid 1970’s.
Over the years she has been a anti‐racist organizer on a broad range of issues locally, nationally and internationally. Working within and between movements including youth and students; 14
environmental and climate justice; peace and immigration anti‐capitalism, and the movements for the liberation of all people from NY to Ferguson to Austin, Lisa continues to use a wide range of strategies and tactics, most often advocating for creative, strategic nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience as one of the most effective and rapid strategies for change. Lisa has gone to jail well over 100 times and she invites you to go to jail for justice too! For more information go to www.organizingforpower.org
Gene Sharp Gene founded the Albert Einstein Institution in 1983 to promote research,
policy studies, and education on the strategic uses of nonviolent struggle in face of dictatorship, war, genocide, and oppression. It is claimed by some that Sharp's scholarship has influenced resistance organizations around the world. His works remain the ideological underpinning of the work for the Serbian‐based nonviolent conflict training group the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies , which helped to train the key activists in the protest movement that toppled President Mubarak of Egypt, and many other earlier youth movements in the Eastern European color revolutions . He maintains that the major unsolved political problems of our time — dictatorship, genocide, war, social oppression, and popular powerlessness — require us to rethink politics in order to develop fresh strategies and programs for their resolution. He is convinced that pragmatic, strategically planned, nonviolent struggle can be made highly effective for application in conflicts to lift oppression and as a substitute for violence.
REDEFINING RESISTANCE: Resistance is broad: it has many pieces and there is room for everyone. Especially in the Ferguson Uprising, there is a pressure to be out in the streets, in direct conflict with police and putting your body at risk. Not everyone wants to or can participate in disruption, and are left not knowing what they can do. Direct action is a critical component of change making, but it is just that, a component. As discussed in Why do we disobey? direct action creates political space to affect real societal change. It takes many roles to make direct action happen, and many more roles to make sure it doesn’t happen in vain. THE BIG PICTURE
Radical Imagination is refusing to accept the dominators’ picture of the world. Thinking outside the lines. Daring to dream what has never been before, to think the unthinkable, and then to create it.
-Starhawk In this movement we see artists and cultural organizers helping us access our radical imaginations through music, art, poetry and satire. (examples19: Intelligent Mischief, Artivists, Artists Against Police Violence, Favianna Rodriguez, Tef Poe, Rebel Diaz, Damon Davis, Clint Smith, etc.) Public Intellectuals: Public intellectuals help shape the narrative of our struggle, and bring our facts and arguments to light. (examples:: Ta‐Nehisi Coates, Cornel West, The Trudz, Feminista Jones, etc.)
ACTION SUPPORT There are countless support roles for actions. Below are some of the larger, organized types of support. For more detailed action roles, check out the Action Planning Template20 in the additional resources section.
Training: Training collectives provide skills, resources and experience to ensure that the movement is always growing and people are planning and executing the safest, most effective and meaningful actions possible. (examples: ACT, BlackOut Collective, Ruckus, Training for Change, Creating a Culture of Peace, Deep Abiding Love, etc.)
select, incomplete examples from the movement for Black lives, to help guide your exploration, reading & intellectual growth. 20 Action Planning Template: http://bit.ly/actionplanningtemplate 19
Legal Support: Movement work would be impossible without the work done by the legal teams. Legal observers and volunteers record the actions of the state against protesters, track who has been arrested, find where people are being held, and negotiate the bond process for protesters who have been arrested. Jail support volunteers and lawyers meet arrestees as they are being released, often with food and rides. They defend us in court, and sue police officers and departments, creating and defending legal precedents that protect our right to protest and our lives. (Examples: National Lawyers Guild, ACLU, Arch City Defenders, etc.) Medic Collectives: Medics come to actions in a support role. They are trained to administer emergency field treatment for everything from foot blisters to injuries due to chemical weapons. Without street medics, many protestors would be in danger of suffering even more damage at the hands of the state. (Examples: Gateway Region Action Medics (GRAM) ‐ St. Louis, MO, Chicago Action Medical (CAM) ‐ Chicago, IL, Boston Medic Collective, Boston, MA, etc.) Live Streamers / New Media: Live Streamers literally broadcast protests and direct actions on the internet in real time to people around the world. Similarly, members of new media (people who use twitter or write think pieces for independent media sources) post first hand accounts, photos, and videos live from actions and protests in addition to analysis. Without live streamers and new media, police accounts of what happens on the ground at protests, or in any other police‐civilian interaction, would go virtually unchallenged.21 Example: In the first couple of weeks of the Ferguson Uprising, the police used false claims of looting a McDonald’s on West Florissant to justify the use of tear gas on thousands of protesters (including many young children), an account that was abandoned when live streams and photographic evidence proved that no looting had occurred. (Example: Netta and Deray, Rebelutionary Z, Heather and Derk, etc.)
Healing Space: Holding self care events for the protest community with massages, reiki, etc. (Example: Angel Carter in St. Louis) Social Space: Any spaces where activists and protestors can fraternize and enjoy each others company, ideally without conversations being dominated by the movement. (Ex: Blank Space, MoKaBe’s, cafés, bars, bowling alleys, livingrooms, kitchens and cars) Safe Space: Places where protesters can safely meet, organize, and plan actions. Safe spaces also generally provide food and beverages, medical supplies, and, in extreme cases, shelter from chemical munitions fired by agents of the state. (The places are usually either negotiated with the police before hand22 if they need to be posted publicly for large actions, or kept a closely guarded secret for smaller actions)
Another perspective: Live Streamers Make Great Informants by WeCopWatch http://wecopwatch.org/live‐streamers‐make‐great‐informants/ 22 Never. Trust. The. Cops. The police lie. They will lie during these negotiations, and they may raid the safe space or attack them with chemical weapons. 21
Direct Service: Organizations that provide services like housing and food to communities and protesters alike. In St. Louis, Operation Help or Hush provides housing for displaced protestors and runs the Ferguson Food Share and St. Louis Lunch. They have provided on‐the‐ground support in other cities as well, including running a free lunch program in Baltimore while the schools were shut down during the uprising. Mama Cat has been feeding protesters out on the streets since August and can be counted on to be catering or organizing meals and gatherings for any special occasion. Hands up United does Books and Breakfast on the North side of St. Louis and has also started a food pantry. Clergy: Clergy have taken on many roles in this movement, from protest leaders and organizers like Bishop Selders in Hartford Connecticut to action support like Reverend Renita Lamkin in Ferguson.
READ: The Clergy’s Place is with the Protestors in Ferguson by Rev. Sekou23 Legislative Advocates: Legislative advocates are essentially lobbyists, but their work is on behalf of grassroots organizations and towards movement goals (Example: ACLU, SEIU, OBS) Ground Support: Ground support covers everything from bringing food and water to protesters on the ground, to canvassing on behalf of local candidates and ballot initiatives. Example: Ground Support in Ferguson running a campaign to recall the Mayor. White Solidarity: White solidarity groups often provide logistical support for other groups, they can get their cousins through white people work24, and they can fundraise for Black and Brown led groups.
No one person or group can or should play all of these roles simultaneously. As we come up on the one year anniversary of the murder of Mike Brown, groups are beginning to find their space. As detailed above, there is room for all different kinds of work (and people!) in the movement.
Millennial Activists United does direct action, and Operation Help or Hush does direct service, and there is plenty of space for both of us in this movement. -- Charles Wade, Operation Help or Hush
http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/11/ferguson‐protestmovementreligious.html Get your cousins means reach out to your immediate community of white people. White people work is the work whites need to do amongst themselves to dismantle white supremacy. Malcolm X said: “I tell sincere white people, 'Work in conjunction with us‐ each of us working among our own kind.' Let sincere white individuals find all other white people they can who feel as they do‐ and let them form their own all‐white groups, to work trying to convert other white people who are thinking and acting so racist. Let sincere whites go and teach non‐violence to white people!” 23 24
STAYING SAFE & SENSIBLE IN ACTION (from FergusonAction.com)
A protest where police might attack requires a higher level of tactical awareness than your run‐of‐the‐mill march. Here are some generally applicable suggestions to help you stay safe and effective in the streets. Be aware of what is going on, what you want to happen, and how crowd and police dynamics are evolving, or could rapidly change. Always have a safe space in mind. All protestors need to be aware of a safe place to get to if a situation grows out of hand. You define “safe” and “unsafe” for yourself. It could be behind some trees, in a park, a parking lot, a door‐way, alleyway, a restaurant, several blocks from the action, etc. For some, safe is among the locked arms of fellow activists, right on the front lines. Safe spaces change depending on movement and barriers by other protesters and the police, etc. There’s no hard and fast rule about finding a safe space, but always have one in mind before the shit hits the fan. Similarly, you should always have an exit in mind . Assess how to leave a bad situation. Maybe it is best to be in a large group for protection. But if the police are herding you like cattle, then the large crowd is their focus and you may need to break up and leave in small groups. You should always be ready to quickly change clothing to avoid being recognized in case of pursuit. Getting away one moment might be your only chance to be active the next. Arrange with your buddies how to leave, and how to re‐connect if you get separated during an exit. Use the buddy system and move in a group . If at all possible, make sure to have a partner you can trust, to whom you will always stay close. That way, at least one person always knows your whereabouts and condition. Working in small groups of people, all of whom you know well and trust with your own safety, is another important factor. Even if you are not part of an organized affinity group with a plan of action, it is helpful to at least be with folks you can rely on. Arrange with your buddies how to re‐connect if you get separated in a large demo. An easy technique is to agree to go back to the same spot you last saw each other. Be aware of crowd dynamics and dangers. You need to know what is going on – not just in view, but around the corners and a few blocks away. Pay attention to the mood of the crowd and the police. Certain actions like property destruction and violence will likely be caused by or result in violent behavior on the part of police. Be aware of police movement and different groups of protesters entering or leaving an area. Try to monitor the vibes and focuses of friends and foes at all times. Know what is going on out of view by regularly sending out scouts to investigate what the police and other protestors are up to. Since the situation at a dynamic protest will 19
change frequently and rapidly, scouts need to check around and report back often. It’s a good idea to appoint a pair of group members as scouts. Don’t act on rumors. It’s common at protests for someone to approach a group of activists shouting, “The riot cops are coming!” As often as not, of course, there are no police coming at all. These people may be panicking, or may be agents trying to disrupt you. Acting on bad information can be dangerous. All critical information must be verified. If the person conveying info can’t claim to have witnessed something directly, or if he or she is a stranger, then that information is unreliable. Assume the riot cops will come. It shouldn’t be surprising when the “authorities” do decide to blockade, surround, penetrate or break up a protest This happens frequently, and the key to not being caught off guard is to stay prepared. Don’t panic; help others stay calm. Sometimes at actions, the situation grows just plain frightening. But panic reduces critical judgment, adapting and coping abilities, and it can spread rapidly. Our best defense in a crisis is our collective cool – keeping each other centered & focused. If you can’t stay focused and centered, then you need to quit the demo to chill. Similarly, if someone else can’t be calmed down, they need to leave. Be prepared to be photographed. If you don’t want to be photographed by the police or media at an action, the only sure antidote is to not attend. There is simply no guarantee that you will not be later identified, almost no matter how you attempt to disguise yourself. Assume some photographers are working for the police. Know your options, and what you and your comrades intend to do, in case of arrest or injury. In order to be aware of how to prepare for and respond to such situations, you should seek training and advice from the team providing legal & medical services to activists at a particular demo. The legal information changes from city to city.
ACTIVITY: STAYING SAFE
SELF CARE AS COMMUNITY CARE We cannot pretend that this work isn’t exhausting, dangerous, and often traumatic. As activists in this movement, we are essentially first responders to violence against Black and Brown bodies. “Many of us come into the work because we have personally experienced abuse and neglect, experiencing first hand inequality while living in the very communities that we are fighting for and with. As such, we are at risk for developing short term and long term dis‐eases of the mind, body and spirit. As first responders, we experience both personal and systemic trauma that shapes our identity and the way we relate to ourselves, each other and the world, often times creating and generating the same trauma in our lives. It is important through our rebuilding efforts to create practices to work through internalized oppression and create self‐care action plans and practices as part of our personal and collective sustainability strategizing moving forward. Disasters affect everyone. First responders also include: those that experience, witness and respond to it (survivors, family members that live in places other than the disaster, rescue workers, emergency medical and mental health care providers, volunteers, members of the media, everyone in the community, the entire country and the world that is seeing it on TV). All of which are experiencing intense emotions as part of the relief and recovery process which include: ● ● ● ● ● ●
Physical and emotional exhaustion Feelings of grief, hopelessness, helplessness, sadness and self‐doubt Difficulty sleeping or developing eating disorders Guilt over not being able to do more, or not having the necessary resources Frustration and anger at the system Consistent memories of the event, what you saw what you heard, what you have experienced ● Physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea, chest pains, cold/flu” from On the Front Lines: 10 Spiritual Practices for First Responders, Organizers and Activists25
You may hear some activists in St. Louis speak openly about anxiety, depression and PTSD, but know that many more people remain silent. Activists and organizers who have been on the street for the past year have been subjected to incredible violence and trauma at the hand of the state. And remember ‐ the first people to stand in resistance https://inboldrebirth.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/on‐the‐front‐lines‐10‐spiritual‐practices‐for‐fir st‐responders‐organizers‐and‐activists/ 25
were poor Black and Brown people who are very likely to have experienced trauma before the police tear gassed them. Different people respond differently to trauma. Two people may experience the same event completely differently. It is important that we are mindful of our own experience, and acknowledge where we are. Sustaining our spirit is critical to the work. It is our responsibility to our community to check in with ourselves, and be honest about how we are feeling. If you have been traumatized, and you are not honest about your experience, you may be putting yourself and others in your group at risk on the street. It is also the responsibility of the group to check in with each other, to create healing spaces for group members, to ensure that individuals have the ability to move up or back in the work as is necessary for their own spiritual health.
It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and protect each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.
-- Assata Shakur
Processing Emotional Events with a Listening Partner as typed up by the Boston Area Street Medics
Any way you feel after a traumatic event is ok. Any approach to working through your feelings is all right. If you think talking to a friend would be helpful, then you should. You don’t have to go it alone! Here are some tips on being a listening partner for someone who’s experienced a trauma… ●
you don’t need any formal training to be a listening partner
you do need to consider how available you are before you agree to listen. Do you have the energy and emotional health and boundaries to be supportive? It’s okay to say no.
your biggest job is to really listen with an open heart and mind.
Keep the focus on the person doing the debriefing. Remember that a debriefing session is not a discussion but a time primarily to listen and provide support.
validate the person’s feelings, don’t question or judge their experience.
respect their boundaries and needs.
do your best to remain calm and grounded during the session. Take breaks!
Offer help only within your limits (time, energy, resources, knowledge, experience, training, etc.).
keep the content of the debriefing session confidential.
Warning signs for professional help, if persistent: sleep disturbances and insomnia, nightmares, hypervigilance, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, flashbacks, and any mental/emotional state that interferes with your ability to carry out and enjoy your normal activities.
CONNECTING PERSONAL EXPERIENCE TO STRUCTURAL TRUTHS Whatever role you are playing when you come to Ferguson, you must always consider how your experience connects with the larger, systemic issues we are working to dismantle. You don’t need to already know everything before you come here, but let it be an opportunity for you to see what you still have to learn. A lot will happen. It may be a good idea to keep a journal of your experiences26, new connections you’ve made and ideas you have for your work at home.
Please note that some people find that journaling (or speaking) about traumatic experiences can be retraumatizing. If you choose to write about any traumatic event, recount factual narratives in conjuncton with your emotional reaction ‐ it will help you process the event. http://transformationalchange.pbworks.com/f/stressjournaling.pdf 26
BRINGING FERGUSON HOME: WHAT DO I DO NOW?
Self Care As Community Care First things first. Coming home from Ferguson can be very difficult, especially if you were subjected to extreme violence at the hands of the state. It will be helpful to remain in contact with the other people in your group. These are the people who will best be able to relate to and help you identify some of the feelings that trauma can cause. Do not be afraid to let someone know if you are struggling. Allow others to be there for you and make sure you are available to be there for them. Remember: We must love and support each other! Reflect Think about what you saw and experienced in Ferguson. Refer to your journal if necessary. What struck you the most? What connected with work you’re already doing? What do you want to do with new knowledge you gained? What do you need to learn more about? Who can help you? Who are your targets? Organize, Organize, Organize The most important thing you can do to honor the work of the people on the ground in Ferguson is to bring your experience back home. You have undoubtedly already been considering the various ways that you can mimic and expand upon the work you have witnessed in Ferguson in your community. How can you apply lessons learned to the work you’re already doing? How can you create new frameworks from which to fight white supremacy? Work with your affinity group from your trip, or seek out friends and neighbors interested in becoming involved. Make a commitment to meet regularly, no matter what aspect of the work you want to do. Collaborate Connect with individuals and organizations in your area already committed to this work. Seek out natural allies who may want to engage or support (such as unions, church groups, social workers, veterans). Make sure the community knows who you are and what you do; that you can be relied upon to provide support and are eager to collaborate.
ACTIVITY: POWER MAPPING Anti‐Racism You are part of a struggle for Black Liberation. Commit to continuing this work together beyond your experience in Ferguson. Make sure your group incorporates 24
anti‐oppressive values as it expands. Practice self‐criticism as often as possible. Be reflective, question your motives. Anti‐racism is a lifelong process, never be afraid to admit mistakes and to continue to learn and grow. Hold yourself and those around you accountable. Remember… none are free when others are oppressed. READ: Building Beloved Community
Donate To Support Black and Brown Led Organizing: In order of appearance: Damon Davis ( http://www.heartacheandpaint.com/ ) STL Bail Fund ( http://bit.ly/stlbailfund ) Hands Up United ( http://www.handsupunited.org/ ) Tribe X ( http://www.tribex‐stl.org/ ) Blackout Collective ( http://www.blackoutcollective.org ) Intelligent Mischief ( http://intelligentmischief.com/ ) Artivists ( https://twitter.com/ArtivistsStl ) Deep Abiding Love Project ( http://www.deepabidinglove.com/ ) Operation Help or Hush ( http://operationhelporhush.org/ ) Millennial Activists United ( http://millennialau.tumblr.com/ ) We Cop Watch ( http://wecopwatch.org/ )
Support STL Infrastructure:
Ferguson Action ( http://fergusonaction.com/ ) National Lawyers Guild STL ( http://www.nlgstl.org/ ) Arch City Defenders ( http://www.archcitydefenders.org/ ) Gateway Region Action Medics ( http://www.gramedics.org )
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: In writing this I know I stand on the shoulders of my elders and ancestors. The movement for Black lives is a new era of a long struggle against institutionalized anti‐Black racism, and owes its life as much to the organizers who have been working for decades againsts the new Jim Crow as to the people of Ferguson who did not go home. Much of this curriculum was compiled from research. I did my best to give credit where it was due. Any original content is the result of many hours of conversation with many people as well as reflections on my own personal experience as an out‐of‐towner who moved to St. Louis to do movement work. This curriculum would not have been possible without the support, work and love from the following: Lisa Fithian, Reverend Sekou, Terry Marshall, Gretchen Honnold, Yamila Shannon, Damon Davis (who illustrated the curriculum), John Costello, Ethan Vesely‐Flad (who edited it), Mo Costello and MoKabe’s, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Taylor Payne, and Isaiah Qualls. Thank you for everyone who has made the work of the Deep Abiding Love Project possible especially Terry Marshall, Aisha Shillingford, Chrislene DeJean, and Collique Williams of Intelligent Mischief. ‐
Sponsored by: The Fellowship of Reconciliation http://forusa.org