D.I.Y.: How to make change happen
(Adapted from Rush! The Making of an Activist by Tamsin Omond)
The Suffragettes were brave. They were determined to make change happen. They were successful. And as women living in the 21st century, our own lives would have been very different if they had failed. Around the world people are already mobilising over climate change. But in the West we are hardly making a sound. A whole generation needs to show that they are already willing to make the changes needed to make the world a more just and beautiful place. We don’t need empowerment, we need our power to be recognised! We can demonstrate this willingness through living out our ideals in places like Climate Camp or by making simple changes to our homes. And we also show what sort of people we are through the sacrifices we are willing to make. The medium is the message.
Changing your consumer habits, your lightbulbs and your mode of transport is important, but it won’t change society. Yes, our lifestyles must publicise our concern about the environment, but so too must the shops that line our high-street, the industries that fuel our economy and the banks that hold our cash.
If you are going to take action as a community of Climate Suffragettes then the most essential campaigning item is the red climate sash. The original Suffragettes all wore a purple, white and green sash with their key slogan emblazoned across its front: ‘VOTES FOR WOMEN’. For climate change the list of targets and slogans goes on and on and so do the possibilities of what you can write on your sash: ‘NO NEW COAL’, ‘REFORM CLIMATE POLICY’, ‘NO AIRPORT EXPANSION’, TRAINS NOT PLANES’, ‘CLIMATE CODE RED’. Often it’s down to the individual action group to decide on their best slogan. But there is something that unites us. Those with immense influence keep telling us that they are dedicated to cutting their emissions and creating a sustainable future. Yet everything they do undermines the things they say. The call that will unite us all is ‘DEEDS NOT WORDS’.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR CLIMATE SUFFRAGETTE SASH
Go to your local charity shop and buy the largest red item that you can find.
Cut it into strips, approximately 20cm by 120cm.
Fix it onto your body with the curve on your right shoulder and the two loose ends under your left arm.
Mark where you will write your slogan, so that it can be read from left to write.
Use white paint and write your message.
Sew or safety-pin the two loose ends.
HOW TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL ACTION
Invite your local MP and any other local celebrities to come along.
Invite local press.
Invite everyone that you know and even more that you don’t.
Encourage your Rushers to come in period dress, or at least to dress in white with wide-brimmed hats and sashes.
Invite the CEO of the company/industry that you are targeting.
Write a press release and send it to the local and national press.
Make sure that you have good photos of the event.
Send a press release after the event including your pictures.
Send your picture for uploading onto The Climate Rush website.
MEDIA FOR AN ACTION
The media will amplify your message. Those of you who are interested in talking to the press should form a separate group which will deal with the PR. There are three questions that need to at the heart of your strategy. What’s the action? What’s the headline? What’s the photo?
You need to write a press release ahead of the protest. Once the action has begun you should send their release out to your media contacts and all of the local and national newsdesks. It’s also worthwhile chasing up journalists and asking them politely to cover the story. It’s important to organize a photographer for the action. For most newspapers the photo makes the story, and if it’s a good enough shot they might publish it regardless of whether they consider your story news. If you’ve got someone who can film the event then beg them to take their footage, immediately after it’s shot, down to your local broadcaster. If you’re in London then go to Millbank, the television news studios.
This is what a press release should contain:
HEADLINE – A sharp and engaging headline.
PARAGRAPH ONE – three lines on what happened – just the facts of the story.
PARAGRAGH TWO – more on what happened – when it happened, how many were involved, why did they choose this target.
PARAGRAPH THREE – a statement from one of the people in the action explaining why they have taken the action that they have.
PARAGRAPH FOUR – what has your action achieved? Can you find another point of view? Call the offices of your target and ask them to defend their actions.
ENDS. – this is how you let the editor know that he has read to the end of your press release.
NOTES TO EDITOR – include short biographies of those involved and a short biography of your action group, with its mandate and any research links to facts contained in your press release. Give a number to call for interviews, updates and media of the action (photos, film etc). Use a dedicated press phone or sim card so you won’t get pestered by the press after the event.
The photo of the action will be the thing that convinces a newspaper to print or not to print. Whilst designing the action think about the photo – what will it be of? Will it communicate your action? If the newspapers only printed the photo would it make clear what you were doing and why? Send the photo out with the PR with a snappy caption, which will act a bit like the headline.
The person taking the photo or the film needs to be totally dedicated to getting that photo out of the action area and into the hands of the media. Once they’ve taken the photo they should get out of there – you don’t want to risk the camera being confiscated or the photographer being arrested. They should get to an internet café or a wireless hotspot, upload the photo and send it out to the press list, with the same title as the PR that has been sent out. Upload your footage onto the internet – youtube.com is probably the easiest to use – and send the link along with your photos.
Call the contacts on your press list and make sure that they’ve received the PR and the photo. Ask them what they’re going to do with it and use all your powers of persuasion to get them to run it. If the nationals aren’t biting then concentrate on local or niche market papers.
Once you’ve built up relationships with individual journalists, invite them to join you on actions. Tell them about it before it happens and offer them exclusivity. You can also publish your own news on Indymedia.co.uk.
LEGAL FOR AN ACTION
If you want to make your point, be visible and have your voice heard, then you’ll discover that you’re treading a delicate line between the legal and illegal. A night in the nick is made bearable, almost enjoyable, if you know there are people awake on the outside watching your back. If you are going to do a direct action then the legal side is one area where you can never be too prepared.
Find out any laws you might be breaking.
Give your activists a briefing.
After their arrest follow them through their police-cell journey.
Meet them fresh from the cell with a hug, some food and cash for getting home.
Talk to a lawyer and find out which laws you might break during your action. If you’re making yourself immovable then it’ll be ‘aggravated trespass’, if you’re decommissioning a piece of carbon emitting machinery then it’ll be ‘criminal damage’ and if you’re anywhere near an airport then there’ll be all sorts of sneaky by-laws to be aware of. Once you know the laws you can find out the worst case scenario for sentencing. But we aren’t criminals and judges do tend to appreciate that fact. We’re yet to see a climate activist get jail time. Tell your activists what they can expect from the strong-arm of the law, then reassure them – we’re finding the courage to do what’s right.
From the moment they’re arrested your activists will be completely isolated from the real world, and it’s down to the legal team to be their connection to the outside world. Find out what police station they’re in by calling round the closest police stations to the action. You should have the names and numbers of the activists’ nearest and dearest (mums, dads, bosses, husbands, children etc.) who will need to know they’ve been arrested. Call those people and keep updating them throughout the day.
The legal hub needs to be completely secret. While you’re guiding your friends through their cell experience and communicating with their solicitors and loved ones you shouldn’t mention where you are and you should only use ‘clean’ phones – freshly bought, pay as you go, for this action only. If the cops discover where you are then they could come and nick you too, for the crime of ‘conspiracy’. When the activists are arrested they should have your phone number written in indelible marker across their arm. Their one phone-call from the station will be to you. They’ll tell you which police station they’re at (if you haven’t managed to find them) and tell you what they’ve been arrested for, and then it’s your job to get solicitors on their case. Cheer them up by telling them about all the great press that your action has attracted.
If they’re in for a while then send someone down to the police station. There is really nothing better than coming out of a lonely cell and being greeted by a friend with enough money for a drink at the nearest pub and the train-fare home.
For the activists in the cells
Just keep remembering that you have done it! Your action is probably pinging its way around media outlets all over, and while you’re locked up you should keep feeling proud of yourself.
Don’t talk to the police. They’ll call you ‘darling’, wink at you and act super friendly, but be careful – everything you say after the point of arrest is on the record and they’ll be looking for something incriminating. If you give them your name, address and date of birth at the custody desk then it’ll take them less time for them to identify you and they’ll feel pleased that you’ve cooperated. Once they’ve got your arrest they might send someone round to search your house, so warn those you live with and clear your room of anything you’d prefer not to reach police hands.
In the cell you can finally get some sleep.
At some point you’ll be collected for interview. Be sure that you only answer ‘no comment’. They’ll want to waste your time and provoke you to say something, anything. Just keep your cool and stick to your one answer – ‘no comment’. However much they’re pissing you off I promise you’re being far more aggravating by sticking to a ‘no comment’ interview. If you’ve been wiling away your cell time, getting more and more annoyed by the focus of police attention, then this is your chance to give them as good as you’ve got. Always answer ‘no comment’. This will protect you and the people who have been arrested alongside you. It will protect you from implicating yourself or others. It’s a bond of trust between you and your fellow activist.
Eventually you’ll be let out. Your friends will be there waiting. Go get a pint and then head home to bed.
TARGET: Your regional airport:
If you live near one of the following airports then your area is under threat. The government has begun or is planning an expansion of your airport. In doing so they will dramatically increase your local pollution levels and global co2 emissions. Airports up for expansion are: Edinburgh, Glasgow International, Glasgow Prestwick, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Cardiff International, Belfast International, Manchester, Liverpool John Lennon, Blackpool, Carlisle, Newcastle, Teesside International, Leeds≠Bradford International, Birmingham International, East Midlands, Bristol International, Bournemouth International, Exeter International, Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton.
DEMAND: NO AIRPORT EXPANSION. TRAINS NOT PLANES.
Individual – Take fewer flights.
Community – Stage a sit-in / Edwardian dinner party.
Having an Edwardian dinner party is easy and engaging. The first and most important thing is your invitation. Whether you’re sending it out to your facebook group or letter-dropping your community you need an invitation that captures the fun of the event. Cordially invite your local environmental groups, mother and toddler groups, church groups etc to converge in the main terminal of your regional airport at 8pm on your chosen date. Inform them that food will be shared, picnic style, and invite them to make picnic blankets emblazoned with their particular message or demand. At 8pm try and organize a signal that will let your Climate Suffragettes know the dinner has begun. This could be the ringing of a bell, the first chords of some music, or your shouting that it is time to sit down for dinner. Roll out the picnic blankets, pass around fliers about aviation and the environment, open your baskets and begin. The police will want to know when you plan to end your dinner. Just keep in mind that it is not illegal to eat dinner in an airport and end when you’ve all finished. Or stay indefinitely. You have the power and so the decision belongs to you.
Example (organized in six weeks)
The press release
HUNDREDS OF CLIMATE SUFFRAGETTES STAGE SIT IN DINNER AT HEATHROW AIRPORT
Hundreds of protesters from the environmental action group, ‘Climate Rush’, have staged a sit-in dinner at Heathrow Airport, Terminal One. The night before Labour decides whether to allow the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, these women and men have converged to demand an end to airport expansion.
Over six hundred protesters, dressed in Edwardian outfits and wearing red ‘Climate Rush’ sashes, unfurled their picnic blankets (complete with embroidered protest slogans) at 7pm sharp. A string quartet signaled the beginning of their feast and played throughout their three hour occupation. Seventeen check-in desks were closed and over 90% of flights were diverted to other terminals.
Alice, a spokesperson for the group, said,
‘We’ve come to Heathrow to let the government know that whatever tomorrow’s decision, the third runway will not be built. Hundreds of normal, law-abiding people have come together, dressed as Suffragettes, to block the running of an entire terminal. Civil disobedience is growing and we will have our protest heard. I’m sick of government hypocricy. We’ve got to cut emissions but expansion at Heathrow will make that impossible. So tonight we’ve transformed this airport into a space for creative community.’
If the expansion of Heathrow goes ahead then it will become the single biggest of emitter of CO2 in the UK, ten thousand people will be displaced and an Anglo-Saxon village will be bull-dozed. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Mayor of London and the Conservative party have all come out against Heathrow’s expansion.
Notes to editor:
Climate Rush is a peaceful direct action group (www.climaterush.co.uk). Last year they organized a protest where one thousand women stormed the House of Commons. They threaten to escalate their civil disobedience if the government does not take comprehensive action to tackle climate change.
TARGET: Your local RBS-NatWest
The Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, prides itself on being ‘the oil and gas bank’ – that’s from their website! We’re now their biggest shareholder. The British public owns approximately 70% of the largest financers of the fossil fuel industry. The emissions caused by oil and gas projects within the RBS project finance plan to reached 36.9 million tonnes in 2005, which is equivelant to the emissions of ¼ of the UK’s homes. Provisional figures for 2006 show that RBS emissions were greater than the combined emissions of Scotland. The thirty oil and gas project finance deals signed between 2001 and 2006 lock in future emissions of 655 million tonnes over the next 15 years, more than equivalent to the UK’s entire annual emissions. Since we became shareholders they have been involved in financing loans to coal, oil and gas companies worth nearly £10 billion – over a quarter of the amount that the bank has received from us.
DEMAND: Invest in a sustainable future (green technology and infrastructure).
Individual – If you bank with RBS or NatWest then change banks.
Community – Stage a mock robbery at your local branch. Feeling theatrical…
If you’re feeling theatrical then why not find some scraps of white lace, fold them into triangles and make Climate Suffragette balaclavas. Get in touch with the Robin Hood spirit, remind yourself of whose money’s being used to fund the fossil fuel industry (70% is your money) and whose future their investments put at risk. Be sure to let their CEO know that if he invests in environmentally sound industry you’ll call the whole heist off. Take leaflets that detail their cowardly investments and include information on how best to switch to ‘The Cooperative Bank’. As you ‘rob’ the bank ask your cronies to hand out leaflets to customers.
Example (organised in three days):
The Press Release –
CLIMATE RUSH LOCKS DOWN THE HEAD OFFICE OF THE ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND.
Sixty protesters, from the direct action ‘Climate Rush’, held a leaving party for Sir Fred the Shred two days after he retired from RBS keeping his £703,000 pension. The group erupted outside the head-office on Bishopsgate at 1pm and partied until 3pm.
The protest group shared food and heard speeches which were amplified by a bike-powered sound system. After their meal the sound system played music such as ‘Money, Money, Money’ and ‘Material Girl’. The protesters, dressed as bandits, danced around the bankers waiting to be allowed entrance into the building.
Chloe, spokesperson for the group, said:
‘We can see whose side the state is on. Last week Fred Godwin was allowed to walk away from a bank we’ve bailed out taking his £703,000 pension with him. Now the taxpayer has to foot the bill for a protest outside their bank. The Royal Bank of Scotland is largely owned by us and yet there are no regulations over where it spends our money. In a time of climate change it’s the biggest financer of the fossil fuel industry. We shouldn’t be using public money to fund runaway climate change.’
The protesters are calling for RBS to be publically accountable. They ask that taxpayers money should be used to fund projects for the public good.
Notes to editor:
Climate Rush is a peaceful direct action group (www.climaterush.co.uk). They have rushed Parliament, held a picnic at Heathrow Airport and disrupted the UK Coal Awards. They threaten to escalate their civil disobedience if the government does not take comprehensive action to tackle climate change.
TARGET: Your local shell garage.
Although guilty of environmental damage throughout the world, Shell Oil is infamous for it’s exploitation of Nigerian oil reserves. As well as damaging the environment with frequent oil spills, it has destroyed villages by laying pipelines, polluted farmland and rivers, and given the local people respiratory diseases. Shell makes over $300 million a year from Nigeria and is about to begin work on a $4 billion natural gas venture together with the Nigerian government. This money will almost certainly only benefit the corrupt ruling elite, while the poor of Ogoni remain among the poorest in Africa, with no running water or electricity, and inadequate schools and healthcare. The people have endured 25 years of military rule. Oil provides 90% of Nigeria’s foreign income, and about half of this comes from Shell. In May 1994, after a secret meeting with Shell, the Nigerian Head of Internal Security called for “ruthless military operations”. The result? Dozens of villages destroyed, thousands of people made homeless and hundreds massacred. Shell has even admitted that it supplied guns for these ‘security operations’.
DEMAND: Stop exploiting the people whose oil you buy. Use your profits to invest in a clean energy future.
Individual – drive less, get a bike, write to Shell.
Community – organise a bike ride, blockade your local garage.
The Suffragettes looked great making their way round town on bikes.
Get your Climate Suffragette network together. Choose a date and time and organize to meet, in costume and with a bike, in your town centre. Ride through the streets (taking up as much of the road as you want) with skirts blowing in the wind and hat ribbons streaming. Make your way to the local Shell garage and chain your bikes across the entrance way. With no way to enter the garage you’ll effectively have closed it for business. As ever, be sure to invite Shell’s CEO. It’s his business practice that has forced your blockade. Many petrol stations have a safety button to shut off all of the pumps in case of emergency. Perhaps you’ve made a banner that reads: ‘Climate Emergency – Closed for business’. If this isn’t the perfect emergency to turn off the pumps then what will be.
THE BIKE RUSH
Climate Rush introduces Pedal Power
Hundreds of environmental campaigners and keen cyclists will take to the streets of London on June 1 to call for no new coal and tougher environmental measures to control CO2 emissions.
Pedal Power, a bike ride organised by The Climate Rush aims to give the Secretary of State Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband, a taste of the civil disobedience he can expect if real climate justice fails to materialise.
June 1 sees Parliament return from recess for the summer sitting. On the same evening a UK coal conference will be taking place at Chatham House, with all the key players in the coal world present.
The bike rush will begin right outside the conference making its presence known, before winding its way through town, embarking on a tour of companies who put their desire for profits before the genuine needs of the inhabitants of our planet.
A Climate Rush spokesperson said:
“If we are to keep global temperature rises around or below two degrees we must stop building new coal fired power stations, start investing in low carbon energy alternatives and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through more homes and buildings insulation, less consumerism and a turn-around in attitudes to transport: trains not planes, bikes not cars.
“We will not stop our non-violent but highly disruptive campaign of activities until politicians and energy companies stop polluting our world and its inhabitants into oblivion.”
In true Climate Rush style the bike ride will end with a picnic, with blankets and food and drink to share.
For more information visit www.climaterush.co.uk.
For media enquiries and interview requests please contact the Climate Rush press office.
Notes to editor:
About Climate Rush:
*Climate Rush is a broad coalition of people, all of whom believe that drastic action is needed to halt Climate Change. They will pressure the UK government until their demands are met.
*Coal is responsible for 50 % of the climate change gases in the atmosphere caused by human activity.
TARGET: A SUFFRAGETTE ANNIVERSARY
We take inspiration from the Suffragettes, so what better way to show our gratitude than by celebrating a centenary? For over five years they mounted action after action, so there are loads of anniversaries to work with. The first Climate Rush was the centenary celebration of their Suffragette Rush. Six months on and the centenary of Marjory Humes’ action came up. It was also four days since Ed Milliband had declared his plan to invest in a new generation of coal-fired power stations, his answer to our energy insecurity. So what did the Rushers do? They glued themselves round the same statue and spent two hours in the heart of Parliament talking about the need for truly clean energy.