Protest Sabotage


Protest Sabotage
by Sue Basko

July, 2012.  Sabotage methods used against recent protests give a guide of what to expect in upcoming protests.  Here’s a list of some of the most obvious sabotages we’ve seen, with suggestions on how to handle them.  Keep in mind this is not legal advice.  If you need specific legal advice, talk to a lawyer in the location where your protest is being held. 

1) Hashtag Swamping: Protests announce their twitter hashtags in advance. Example: #NatGat for the Occupy National Gathering.  On the first day of NatGat, the hashtag was flooded with tweets from profiles that seemed to be sponsored by the state, a corporation, right wing nut jobs (RWNJs), or other deeply disturbed individuals.  The same types have flooded #Assange and other hashtags. 

What to Do: NEVER respond. Immediately BLOCK. If you want to block a bunch of them at the same time, search on the hashtag and block anyone that has tweeted something demented.

2) Rape Talk.  Saboteurs try to grab attention from the activity at hand by talking about rape.  When NatGat was deliberating on a written plan, saboteurs online were posting that a rape tent was needed.  One Occupy location has been torn apart by a couple probable infiltrators talking and writing blogs on and raising a ruckus about claims of rape or sexual assault.  Big official governments have gone so far as to invent claims of sexual assault under Swedish law against Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks, although it is has been a few years and he has never been charged with any crime.

The people using rape talk as a sabotage tool do so because of its shock and shame value.  They also manipulate, using some Occupy groups’ distrust of the police or pressure to not report crimes.  If you question their words or intentions, you, too, are subject to the manipulation and harassment.   Rape is the ultimate taboo. 

What to Do: If anyone is tweeting about rape, block them.  If anyone is claiming they were sexually assaulted or raped at a protest, tell them to report it to the police.  If a serious crime has taken place, that is not for protesters to deal with or resolve.  And if a crime has not taken place, don’t let your protest be broken apart by false rape talk.  Don’t let your group be manipulated by infiltrators using rape talk as a tool.  Be aware that this is apparently happening in various places nationally.  Ask yourself: Are we being manipulated, or are these concerns or claims serious and real?  Also keep in mind that with some mental illnesses, a person may make false claims of being sexually assaulted, either to get attention or because their mental illness makes them believe their own claim.  In any case, the group best equipped to handle such claims is the local police force.  Tell the person: “We can’t deal with that here.  Please go report it to the police.”

3) Anarchist Delay.  You group is about to accomplish something, and then a few people claiming to be anarchists stop up progress by saying they don’t recognize the legitimacy of the state and so they can’t: sign a petition/ attend a meeting/ agree on a list/ talk to a representative/ stay on the sidewalk/ obey a street sign/ whatever.  By the way, this is one of the oldest infiltrator tricks in the book, used to keep groups from accomplishing things.

What to Do:  Before you begin, state that your activity is only for those who go into it operating in good faith, that if someone does not believe in the process at hand, please do not participate.  If people try to derail your whole activity by questioning the legitimacy of it, say they have 2 minutes to talk and that’s it.  Keep in mind that a real anarchist is not likely to show up at your organized, planned, scheduled activity, because they will not accede to its legitimacy.

4) Denial of Basic Services.  At NatGat, an Occupier made arrangements to use a publicly-located water faucet in the yard of a firehouse to fill large group water containers.  The next day, the yard was locked and the Occupier was refused entry and use of the water faucet.  He was told that an order to do so was given by the city.  A City official denied there was an order, and at the same time implied the Occupiers could not have such “special treatment,” and also called the journalist who first reported on the story a liar.  The official was also tweeting that Occupiers could have use of cooling centers, swimming pools, and splash pads, while knowing it was use of a specific nearby water faucet that they needed and were requesting.  It was a heat wave, with a real risk of injury or death to the protesters, and it was seriously no time to be denying water to people who could get heat stroke.  I tweeted a photo of the firehouse to the official and to the mayor asking if they could make sure that the firehouse allowed NatGat to have water, and the next day, there was access to the water.   I then thanked them. 

What to Do:  If specific services are being denied, get the attention of the official who can make a command decision and ask for the specific services you need.  Be as specific as possible.  If the services are given, say thank you.  Try not to worry about who did what or why, concentrate on getting the needed services.   The same might be true of denial of access to bathrooms, denial of medical services to injured protesters, and on. You won't always get the needed services, but it is worth asking.

5) Broad Interpretation of Rules:

Water:  At NatGat, a Park Services Police officer refused to let protesters pass out water, saying they needed a permit. This has happened elsewhere across the nation. 
What to Do: Put cases of water bottles on the ground with a simple sign taped to the top: “Free Water.  Take Me.”   

Food: Police saying protesters need a permit to have a meal. 
What to Do: Try to have meals on private land or public sidewalk, not in a park.  Police do not usually interfere with Food Not Bombs, even in a park, so that is a good choice for meals.

Structures: Police at NatGat called a regular-sized foam core board sign a “structure,” and would not allow it into the park.  Police in Oakland called tiny tents “structures.” In one city, police called a folding table a “structure.” 
What to Do: If you are in such a situation, there is no winning.  There is no point in arguing, and police have been known to bash a person’s head in while arresting them.  Try asking them if you can leave your structure with them to pick up later.  You might be legally within your rights to have the item  in that location, but it's not likely worth fighting about. 

SIGNAL BLOCK: Some indie journalists think their cell signal is being blocked.  This can be done with cell phone jammers, which block signal within about 50 feet,  or by using a fake cell tower or spoofer, with one brand called a Stingray.  The jammers simply jam signal within a certain radius.  Spoofers trick cell phones into connecting to them.  Both of these can steal phone data that makes it easier to jam signal on that phone in the future. For that reason, if you think you have been jammed or spoofed, you may want to trade phones and/or sim cards.

In the U.S., jammers are illegal, except in certain instances for use by Department of Homeland Security.   However, jammers are sold all over the internet and are easy to make at home, so any RWNJ who wants to jam your signal can have one in his backpack.  Spoofers are more complicated, but also come in carry-size models for possible use by infiltrators at protests.  

Would law enforcement be using jammers and spoofers at protests?  No, this just is not likely, because they could potentially be interfering with police and emergency communications.  If you are being jammed or spoofed at a protest, it is most likely a corporate or private harasser.  I'm not ruling out that it could be police, DHS, or FBI jamming or spoofing you in public, but it seems a waste of resources.

Avoid jammers and spoofers:  A jammer or spoofer may be stationary and meant to stop signal of whoever is there.  One main way to avoid this is to move away from it by about 50 feet.  A jammer or spoofer may also be carried through a crowd, probably in a backpack. Watch who is around you.  If you are being tagged by someone, ditch that person and see if your signal improves.  Go places where it becomes obvious if you are being followed. Move quickly.  Be agile.  

Other tricks: Change elevations – get up higher.  Or hold your phone up above your head.  Another trick is to carry a doubled piece of thick aluminum foil (the thicker kind sold for barbecues) about 12 inches square and hold it up behind and draping below your phone.  Leave the top of your phone free and clear.  This can work if the jammer/ spoofer is behind you.  If you see a person jockeying for position as you do this, that may be the person carrying the jammer/ spoofer.  Some people say there is no way to "jam the jammer," but in reality, people in prisons do so all the time using sheets of aluminum foil and other simple methods. 

NEVER announce what equipment or services you are using.   

AVOID clicking on unknown sites or downloading apps.  Even seemingly harmless apps may contain tracers or install commands onto your phone.   If you want a safe phone for streaming, don’t use it to also surf the web.  OR use a camera with wifi that is not a phone at all.