Archive for the ‘#BLM’ Category

Securing Your Cellphone For A Protest

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

The instructions on preparing for a demonstration in Steal This Book read in part:

Ideally you should visit the proposed site of the demonstration before it actually takes place. This way you’ll have an idea of the terrain and the type of containment the police will be using. Someone in your group should mimeograph a map of the immediate vicinity which each person should carry. Alternative actions and a rendezvous point should be worked out. Everyone should have two numbers written on their arm, a coordination center number and the number of a local lawyer or legal defense committee. You should not take your personal phone books to demonstrations. If you get busted, pigs can get mighty Nosy when it comes to phone books. Any sharp objects can be construed as weapons. Women should not wear earrings or other jewelry and should tie their hair up to tuck it under a helmet. Wear a belt that you can use as a tourniquet. False teeth and contact lenses should be left at home if possible. You can choke on false teeth if you receive a sharp blow while running. Contact lenses can complicate eye damage if gas or Mace is used.

How would you update this paragraph for the age of smart phones?

ACLU counsels protesters to secure their phones (read personal phone books) in The Two Most Important Things Protesters Can Do To Secure Their Phones.

You can do better than that, as Hoffman advises, leave your personal phone books (read smart phones) at home!

Your “whole life is on your phone.” Yes, I know. All the more reason to leave it out of the clutches of anyone interested in your “whole life.”

Buy clean burner phones in bulk.

Preset bookmarks for the protest area on Google maps, along with landmarks, rendezvous points, fall back positions, etc.

For texting during protests, create burner identities drawn from a list of characters in police shows, out of a hat. No changing, no choices. The same person should never re-use a burner identity. Patterns matter. (See the ACLU post for suggestions on secure messaging apps.)

Continue to write two phone numbers on your arm: coordination center and a local lawyer or legal defense committee.

Two reasons for these numbers on your arm: First, you may not have your cell phone when allowed to make a call from jail. Second, you should never have the number of another activist on your person.

Nothing takes the place of a site visit but technology has changed since Hoffman’s time.

High quality maps, photos, topographical (think elevation (high ground), drainage (as in running away from you)) features, not to mention reports of prior protests and police responses are available.

If my security suggestions sound extreme, recall that not all protests occur in the United States and even of those that do, not all are the “line up to be arrested” sort of events. Or are conducted in “free speech allotments,” like the upcoming Democratic and Republican political conventions this summer.

How-To Safely Protest on the Downtown Connector – #BLM

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Atlanta doesn’t have a spotless record on civil rights but Mayor Kasim Reed agreeing to meet with #BLM leaders on July 18, 2016, is a welcome contrast to response in the police state of Baton Rouge, for example.

During this “cooling off” period, I want to address Mayor Reed’s concern for the safety of #BLM protesters and motorists should #BLM protests move onto the Downtown Connector.

Being able to protest on the Downtown Connector would be far more effective than blocking random Atlanta surface streets, by day or night. Mayor Reed’s question is how to do so safely?

Here is Google Maps’ representation of a part of the Downtown Connector:


That view isn’t helpful on the issue of safety but consider a smaller portion of the Downtown Connector as seen by Google Earth:


The safety question has two parts: How to transport #BLM protesters to a protest site on the Downtown Connector? How to create a safe protest site on the Downtown Connector?

A nearly constant element of the civil rights movement provides the answer: buses. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Riders, to the long experiment with busing to achieve desegregation in education.

Looking at an enlargement of an image of the Downtown Connector, you will see that ten (10) buses would fill all the lanes, plus the emergency lane and the shoulder, preventing any traffic from going around the buses. That provides safety for protesters. Not to mention transporting all the protesters safely to the protest site.

The Downtown Connector is often described as a “parking lot” so drivers are accustomed to traffic slowing to a full stop. If a group of buses formed a line across all lanes of the Downtown Connector and slowed to a stop, traffic would be safely stopped. That provides safety for drivers.

The safety of both protesters and drivers depends upon coordination between cars and buses to fill all the lanes of the Downtown Connector and then slowing down in unison, plus buses occupying the emergency lane and shoulder. Anything less than full interdiction of the highway would put both protesters and drivers at risk.

Churches and church buses have often played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement so the means for creating safe protest spaces, even on the Downtown Connector, are not out of reach.

There are other logistical and legal issues involved in such a protest but I have limited myself to offering a solution to Mayor Reed’s safety question.

PS: The same observations apply to any limited access motorway, modulo adaptation to your local circumstances.