“…It was later learned that the group’s actions relate to their protest against the construction of the Keylime XL pipeline and finances for the project emanating from Deutsche Bank.”
—Officer Rodriguez, Palm Beach Police Probable Cause Affidavit
Today kicks off a Week of Action to Stop Tar Sands Profiteers. As you may have heard, the good folks on the front lines of the tar sands resistance have called for solidarity with their ongoing effort of blockades along the route of Keystone XL construction.
What we have below are some lessons learned from an action in Florida last November, where amidst a call for solidarity with Tar Sands Blockaders fighting the Keystone XL pipeline, four people were arrested at Deutsche Bank (one of KXL’s many financiers). The protest took place on Palm Beach Island, a bastion of obscene wealth and elitism in south Florida.
About two weeks ago, the final case of the four folks who got popped on “the Island” was resolved, resulting in a handful of community service hours and a few measly months of probation. More importantly though, arrestees gained access to police records from the action during the pre-trial process (available to you by clicking the images on the right) and they have the freedom to talk more easily now that a few sketchy charges are no longer hanging over their heads.
We hope some of these seven lessons may come in handy for the folks, both newbies and well-seasoned, who are planning to have an action-packed week:
Lesson #1. Press Releases: Its a good idea to wait ’till after the action is in place before you send a press release out far and wide. Especially if a local newspaper shares an office building with a bank you’re targeting. (The paper in this case being the Palm Beach Daily News, known around here as “The Shiny Sheet” because they pride themselves on using glossy un-recyclable paper for their front page. Every day.) Otherwise, kiss your element of surprise good-bye, and say hello to that beefy mustached undercover cop wandering the park at your deployment site.
Lesson #2. Masks: Wearing a bandana around your face can be helpful at times functional for both its theatrical and security qualities—cool-looking even. But there are additional elements to take into consideration here. For example, like an ostrich hiding its head in sand, sometimes wearing a mask in small group makes you stand out more than, say, a shave and some penny-loafers might. And then there’s the whole being-accused-of-trying-to-rob-a-bank thing (Yes, even if that bank deals only in managing investments.) While this charge got thrown out of court, we found it hard convincing news outlets to retract their false allegations. On that note…
Lesson #3. Media: Don’t expect fair or accurate coverage, especially from a newspaper sharing an office with a bank your protesting. Even if you write up a good solid press release (as we thought we had done.) A potentially-thwarted bank robbery probably trumps an eco-radical office occupation in the corporate news pretty much every time.
Lesson #4. Criminal charges: If, in assessing your action plan and potential criminals charges you could be accused of, you realize they are most likely to be some overly-broad hokey non-sense like “disorderly conduct” or “breach of the peace,” then plan to make them count. For example, u-locking front doors (where there is still an available fire exit), defacing windows with stickers saying “Closed Due to Dirty Investments” and dumping a messy, sticky substance that looks like tar sands oil (but smells like brownie batter)… Those all fall under a single charge, so why skimp? On a side note related to legal strategy, one of the ways in which bogus charges were beaten was in preparing for trial by subpoenaing evidence and witnesses which would further expose and inconvenience our target business establishments, thus sweetening the plea deals offered.
Lesson #5. Pictures: If you end up with a camera which has photos that could be used against someone in court, its a good idea to take precautions that avoid them being confiscated or subpoenaed as evidence. Its a bad idea to hide them so well that you no longer have any pictures from the action to show what happened, leaving you using a message-less picture of someone getting arrested from that stupid corporate newspaper which you will be complaining about, possibly for months to come, instead of the funny-ass pictures of your friends getting tackled in front of a Deutsche Bank looking like 1920s-era bandits.
Lesson #6. Stories: We have to tell our own. While it might be easier to let the police documents do it for us, its not always as reliable as it has been here. And if you can’t publish your story in a timely manor due to pending legal obstacles or other hurdles, then come up with a timeless way, or a new-timelyness, or some other original and/or funny way to present it (like this… Yes. This that you’re reading right now. Click here to start again from the top.) After all, the world changes according to the stories we tell about our actions. Good actions are vehicles for good stories; good stories are a path to all-out-revolution. Conversely, good actions accompanied by boring overly-ideological stories are paths to Joe Stalin’s dinner party (like the one that prompted his wife Nadya to kill herself). Brutal, and totally b-o-o-o-o-r-r-r-i-n-g.
Lesson #7. Winning: We are winning. If you don’t believe the hyperbolic rhetoric on your favorite overzealous anarchist social media webpages, then check out the financial sector’s news on occasion, like Bloomberg’s take last month on Deutsche Bank “re-trenching” on oil and gas investments (“The bank posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.9 billion… due to “reduced client activity,” according to a Jan. 31 earnings statement”) or Platts’ report a few years back on Deutsche’s doubt that KXL could meet its deadlines. Our enemies feel pressure.
The last take-home messages
This fight is growing. Here’s one small example: When this article was started, Credo—that strange activist-phone company combo deal—had just announced a well-crafted, ambitious “pledge of resistance” for mass civil disobedience against the KXL tar sands pipeline coinciding with the State Department’s release of a pathetic environmental assessment which moved it one big step closer to full approval. By the time we hit “publish,” Credo has already gotten well over 50,000 commitments from people looking to plug in… possibly on your plans for next week—plans that will become a part of the victory story.
Oh, wait. A few more things. In case you missed it, there are some great lists of action targets where you can show your solidarity with folks fighting the pipeline, including addresses for all the Michels offices in the US. Michels is the contractor constructing the KXL pipeline (not to mention the Tennessee fracked gas pipeline being fought in Pennsylvania right now). Michels’ CEO is Richard Kinder. He lives at 2929 Lazy Lane Boulevard, Houston, TX 77019-1301. Add to the repulsion, he apparently has no problem hiring nazis.