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Indybay Feature
5 Reasons for Activists to Cover Their Faces at Protests
by Will Potter (repost)
Monday Feb 23rd, 2009 11:26 AM
“If activists have nothing to hide, why are they wearing masks?”

I’ve heard that question over and over again. It usually comes in the form of a soundbite from someone affiliated with a corporation, industry or government agency that is attempting to smear lawful activists as “terrorists.”

Their reasoning goes something like this: If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have no reason to hide your face. If you are hiding your face, it’s an admission of criminal activity. Therefore, wearing a mask justifies rounding up lawful activists as “terrorists.”

That’s exactly what happened in the recent arrests of four activists on Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act charges in California. The FBI argues that activists “wearing bandanas to hide their faces” were intimidating, and that this therefore amounted to a campaign of terror.

To those not familiar with grassroots activism, that might seem like a pretty reasonable point. Masks are generally associated with bandits, ninjas and Hamburgler, all of which are quite intimidating. So, why would someone want to cover their face at a protest?

  • Spying. The FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Forces routinely spy on lawful, above-ground activists. For instance, the ACLU exposed FBI agents spying on animal rights activists who were leafleting outside of HoneyBaked Hams. And corporations have been tracking who activists are dating.
  • Blacklists. Government “watchlists” have millions of names. Recently in Maryland, it was exposed that law enforcement kept terrorist files on environmentalists, antiwar activists, and nuns.
  • Grand jury witch hunts. Vocal, public activists are routinely hauled before grand juries in political witch hunts, and forced to testify about their political beliefs and political associations. If they refuse, they face jail time.
  • Infiltration. The government has been using paid informants and provacateurs to keep tabs on lawful protest movements. The recent case of the RNC 8 is a good example, and even more disturbing is “Anna,” the FBI informant who befriended activists and entrapped them.
  • Legal attacks. FBI agents have shown their incompetence in attempts to track down underground members of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. There have been arrests, but those crimes overwhelmingly remain unsolved. Instead, law enforcement has been cracking down on the public faces of those movements and labeling them “eco-terrorists.” A good example of that is the SHAC 7 case.

In this political climate, many activists have told me they face a difficult decision. If they take to the streets and protest on a controversial campaign (especially a campaign that has involved both legal and illegal tactics), they risk this surveillance, harassment and intimidation.

If they don’t take to the streets, they are compromising their beliefs and remaining silent about the things that matter.

For many, a solution has been to continue protesting on these campaigns, but with masks covering their faces. It clearly isn’t always the best solution. It can alienate and isolate everyday people who might otherwise be open to the message of the protest.

It clearly infuriates the feds that activists want to protect their identities while continuing to advocate for what they believe. A Joint Terrorism Task Force has even gone so far as to arrest an animal rights activist on felony charges for wearing a mask at a protest.

It would be a mistake, though, to blindly buy the FBI rhetoric. Wearing a mask may or may not best campaign decision for activists. But wearing a mask doesn’t mean activists are guilty, or that they are “terrorists.” For many activists, it simply means they don’t trust FBI agents and corporations. The developments of the last few days have shown they have good reason to feel that way.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

see and
by .
Monday Feb 23rd, 2009 3:01 PM
a palo alto cop was spying on tenant ''activist''.cop had weapon and tried to hide,reason not to trust cops
by Night Action
Wednesday Feb 25th, 2009 3:37 PM
There is of course another option: If you are not known the the authorities, keep it that way! Forget the mask and pick up the monkeywrench.

Let those who are known to the cops do the protesting-and do your work at night. If you hate the destruction of your community or the entire planet, but have never been a protester, consider becoming a highly skilled direct action warrior instead.

Far more people have been arrested for protesting things like HLS than for taking direct actions against them. The stakes are higher, but the risks overwhelmingly lower.The cops arrest legal activists because they know they are helpless against the insurgents of the night!

Get in shape, build up your condition-just like a soldier in basic training. By day, pretend to be just another shopper and consumer-you want to be ignored when your work stirs up grand juries, etc.

Stay in the shadows, study military handbooks to learn about cover, concealment, movement, blending in to your environnment, and so on. Study your targets and learn their weaknesses. Nobody notices one more face in the crowd.

Once you are ready, don't protest your targets, get rid of them. Use your most powerful methods against your targets weakest points, just like you were taught in martial arts. Your first missions should be simple, so as to ensure the sucess that builds experience and confidence in the field. Decades ago, Ecodefense suggested billboards as good "practice" targets.

Soon, your skills and capabilities are growing, and it's time to dish out some real punishment.It's time to make the cops wish they'd never even heard of hassling peaceful protesters!

The world is a better place without the banking industry's computerized mortgage files, the homes of wealthy developers, the FBI's fingerprint computer, HLS customer exec penthouses, your local police station, the equipment at a mountaintop removal coal mine, etc etc etc.

Work alone or with those you have trusted most of your life, learn about forensics and security, and you won't get caught. Most of those who got caught were snitched on, so keep your mouth shut. Others disregarded their gut and pushed it when they should have backed off to return another night.

Always remember-lone wolves scare the shit out of the FBI because they are totally impossible to predict or pre-empt and almost impossible to find. The entire Green Scare consists of victims of entrapment and old cases against long-retired activsts dredged up with the help of a couple infamous snitches. No active cells of ALF or ELF have been stopped withn this shit-and to my knowlege no lone wolf has ever been caught doing this stuff.
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