How to organise a direct action
Direct action is a great way to keep a high profile, and crucially to keep visible. These are great ways to get your demands heard, and to recruit new members.
- Hold a meeting with your YG group to discuss what you’d like to prioritise. For ideas give our Youth Manifesto a read.
- Dependent on the focus of the stunt, try to pick a public, and poignant building that will draw attention to you stunt. For example, in 2017 the Green Party staged our Freedom of Movement dance party outside the Home Office.
How many people do you need?
- Think about how many people you’d like involved in the event, and how many spectators you would like. Are the press coming, what would look good on camera, and what would look bad? Ensure that your YG group members are all involved, and attending the event.
- Got any allies? Would any other campaigning groups or societies be interested in collaborating with you on the organisation of this event? Remember this could double your attendance as well as the coverage of the event.
For some events, such as the Freedom of Movement dance Party you need at least 20 people you can definitely rely on to turn up, which if you’re calling a last minute direct action is harder than it sounds!
If you can’t guarantee numbers- don’t worry! There are ways of getting around this. For example, our Paint the Patriarchy direct action was arranged the day before the event. This was organised and achieved by four individuals, yet the event was a huge success.
Paint the Patriarchy - Case Study
Paint the Patriarchy was very well timed. It was organised as a result of three things
- The #Metoo hashtag had surfaced online that week in response to accusations against Harvey Weinstien’s for sexual harassment. #Metoo was a powerful was of reflecting the overwhelming amount of non-men who had experienced sexual harassment.
- Our Deputy Leader, Amelia Womack bravely announced that she had been a victim of domestic violence at our Autumn Conference a week before the event. She hence announced the launch of her women’s campaign, which calls for the recognition of misogyny as a hate crime amongst other measures to tackle insidious sexism, and efforts to involve particularly young women in politics.
- Finally, the week of Paint the Patriarchy was the also national hate crime awareness week.
Resulting in the overall event being highly topical, and one very close to people’s hearts.
Importantly this event was participatory, yet optional. This was particularly important due to the sensitive nature of the event.
The event began with Amelia Womack drawing #MeToo in chalk on the floor of Trafalgar Square which is a very public, central and neutral area highly appropriate for this sort of event. We then left chalk on the floor, and non-men only volunteers handed chalk to passers-by who in turn wrote #MeToo, and often their own experiences of sexual assault. This allowed people to participate at their own pace.
The event was also highly visual, which resulted in many participants sharing photos on social media- which is free publicity! Remember if you have invited press, this element is crucial.
However, despite organising the event online we decided not to bring any Green Party placards, or to make it obvious that this was a Green Party event. This was due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, and primarily that sexual assault is an issue affecting people of all political opinions. Being sensitive and aware of issues you are campaigning on is crucial.
Once you've got these ideas down, it's time to start planning! Have you thought about the below?
Following the above points, it’s important to think about what direct actions will be accessible to those participating. Here you need to think about disability access, trigger warnings and things as simple as personality types. For a more extroverted group a big loud direct action such as the Freedom of Movement Dance Party is perfect, but for an introvert that’s a worst nightmare!
It’s important to use a variety of direct action tactics to involve a wide variety of people. So costume making, videography, creative sessions means you can make sincere use of everyone’s skills, and people can feel meaningfully involved.
- Flyers are good for letting people know about the event, as well as for during the event to be handed out to passing members of the public.
- Need an amp? Make sure it’s tested on the day. Furthermore if you need resources, costumes etc make sure these are prepared so that everything goes smoothly on the day.
- If you would like to speak yourselves, make sure you’ve prepared something concise and poignant.
- Get a member of your local party or councillor to speak but contacting your local party here
- If you’d like to invite one of the party’s leaders, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org though this is subject to availability.
Publicity is crucial to a direct action, the bigger the better.
Think about getting a press release out there! Here's some hints to help you write one:
- Title: Has to both stand out and explain what’s happening (don’t overdo being quirky)
- Standfirst: Further context
- Opening sentence: Describe what’s happening
- Context: 2 more sentences - set the scene
- Quote: Make it LEAP out of the page. Use strong words ‘outraged’ ‘disgusted’ ‘honoured’ etc
- Further Context: A bit more scene setting
- Supporting quote (preferably outside Organisation): Who can add more gravitas to your story?
- Contact details (including people available for broadcast interview): Give a mobile number, and make sure you’re available to answer the phone.
- References: Back everything up using [references in square brackets] - saves journalists the job.
- Top Tip: Write your press releases in the body of an email - don’t send as a PDF or attachment and don’t include any logos.
- Do your student newspaper know your demonstration is happening? Make sure you’ve got an opinion piece or an article in there to spread the word and build momentum.
Contact us on email@example.com for any more support needed.
- Make sure you utilise as many social media channels as possible, namely Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use your Young Green account to promote, and your personal account if possible!
- Create an event group on Facebook and share/retweet as much as possible
- Keep your posts concise and to the point, no-one wants to read a Facebook essay.
- Try to use humour when possible, positivity is important when building a movement!
- Always use images, or boomerangs and videos if you can! People’s eyes magnetise towards moving, colourful images
- Post in the evening when people are most likely to be online
- Don’t over post, compassion fatigue is real, and you don’t want to get blocked! Use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule a consistent and steady flow of reminders.
- Identify what hashtags are already out there, and use them if they attract mass attention.
- Alternatively start your own! Make it short, snappy and memorable and use it consistently.
It’s important to be prepared for the possibility of police involvement. In these cases it’s important to know your rights. We’ve taken some advice from the Green and Black Cross, which we highly recommend printing out their ‘bustcards’ and checking out their website before any demonstration.
Here are a few key things to remember:
- 1. No Comment
You do not need to answer police questions, so don’t.
You don't have to give details under ANY stop and search power.
Use a recommended solicitor with protest experience.
- 4. No Caution
They admit guilt for an alleged offence that might never get to court.
- 5. What Power?
Ask "What power?" to challenge a police officer to act lawfully.
It’s good practice to have a buddy system, just pairing up and keeping an eye on each other throughout so at least one person knows the whereabouts/status of any given person, and a first point of contact for each other if you’re feeling uncomfortable, sensing trouble or if need to step back.
Designated Security / Police Liason
It’s good practice to have a designated security/police liaison whose sole responsibility is to engage with any attention you might arouse. This is good because;
- This person can be trusted to keep their cool, and assure the person(s) what is going on in a calm way (e.g. “we’re just doing this thing, we’ll be here ten mins, this is what’s going to happen and why, totally non-violent etc”).
- It means performers/participants can’t get distracted and side-lined by trying to deal with an attempted intervention. They can be safe to just ignore security trying to talk to them, confident in the knowledge that a pal will calmly take this person aside, and explain what’s going on etc. if a cop/staff member gets into a space, and engages a performance/participant, it’s really easy for the whole thing to lose focus energy.
IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, PLEASE CALL THE PROTEST SUPPORT LINE: 07946 541 511 (Green and Black Cross- see footnotes for reference)
The Green Party is a non-violent, and major political party who do not condone violent activity in our name. Keep the atmosphere accessible and poignant and your demands are more likely to be listened to.
- Make sure you’ve got your next steps planned before the event takes place. Built momentum will only be lost without a strategy, so start to implement that.
- Have you shared your photos and closing statement on social media? Remember quality and not quantity when posting, and to tag people, organisations and places.
- Make sure you have a check in and debrief after the direct action with your group to check everyone’s emotional wellbeing, and to gather thoughts or what went well, and what didn’t. Write this all up if possible.
- Take it easy! Organising and attending a protest is time intensive and emotionally investing. Take some time out for self-care, and avoid burn out at all costs.
For further advice, support and information please email firstname.lastname@example.org