The Importance of Skills and Equipment for Resistance Movements

Editor’s note: This article was roughly transcribed from the video found here.

    by Max Wilbert / Deep Green Resistance

Many of you have probably experienced this phenomenon.

You’re at a protest or a direct action or a rally, and people are out in force. The police show up, and they are highly prepared compared to the activists. They are wearing specialized boots and equipment belts with encrypted communication radio devices, handcuffs, pepper spray, flashlights, handguns. They may have specialized gloves, high-performance clothing, and are wearing body armor. Most of them have face protection or at least sunglasses, and sometimes they may have shields as well.

They also have the skills to use this equipment, to do “crowd control,” first aid, and other things that are useful in the conflict setting.

They are ready to move and react in any direction.

In contrast, most activists, organizers, and everyday people who show up to conflict zones don’t have similar equipment or skills. Most people are out there in cotton t-shirts, jeans, impractical shoes, and so on. We’re not prepared to take action, and as a result the outcomes are predictable. Often, law enforcement literally herds us like sheep.

This reflects the different mindset that activists tend to have. We don’t approach these conflicts as if they are as serious as we should.

We are living in a war. This culture is waging a war on the planet, it’s waging a war on the poor, a war on women, a war on people of color, indigenous communities, nonhumans, and so on. It’s a war for control of resources, and it’s been a slaughter for 500 years and more.

One of the reasons it has been a slaughter is this lack of preparation, skills, materials, equipment, and training.

Some of you may be familiar with the work of Sakej Ward, an indigenous warrior from the Mi’kmaq Nation. He has been involved in providing trainings to resistance groups for years, and one of the things that is excellent about his work is the focus on skills and equipment.

We underestimate the importance of this at our own peril.

Right now, most of us don’t know what we are capable of. Without the rights skills and equipment, even the possibility of conducting more serious, risky—and effective—actions seems like a fantasy. We can barely even consider these possibilities.

When a member of the resistance has skills and equipment, a whole range of new possibilities opens up. We need to be prepared to use stealth, to move through rough terrain, to take care of our comrades when they are injured, to evade searches.

We also need to make ourselves less dependent on the system. This includes simple things like carrying water and food with you in your daily life, and especially at actions. We need to be prepared to take care of ourselves and be independent. This enables us to take advantage of fleeting opportunities, navigate emergencies, and to be more effective than we are now.

In short, it gives us freedom to act.

Unfortunately, our best examples of this type of mentality come from the military and police. However, they’re winning. Perhaps we can learn something from them.

We need to be thinking:

  • How can we get more independent from the system?
  • How can we get the skills that we need to be effective in taking action?
  • What equipment do I need?
  • How can I always be prepared?

Every activist should consider these questions and begin to answer them in their own context to be able to navigate conflicts now and in the future.

Deep Green Resistance members are working to provide skills and training to our members and to the broader community of activists, eco-warriors, and revolutionaries via outreach and a series of trainings. The next such training takes place in June 2018 at Yellowstone National Park. More information here.

2 thoughts on “The Importance of Skills and Equipment for Resistance Movements”

  1. Will thank you for writing this piece on skills and equipment for activists. Having been a demonstrator in my younger days we did a great deal of preparation. I was surprised when I suggested some of the things I learned. Basic safety measures like if you have long hair braid it and tuck into your shirt. Carrying several masks to protect against chemical warfare. Anyway, I’m so glad that my DGR friends will have the opportunity to learn skills and what important items one should have before engaging in protests and direct actions.

  2. Interesting to consider this in the two different contexts of 1) protest and 2)resistance. At a protest, it’s about “demonstrating” and letting the powers “win” in the sense of brutalizing “peaceful demonstrators.” It’s not about actually out-powering the police and “winning” the conflict at the protest line. It’s about getting arrested, hauled off, and increasingly, pepper-sprayed, beaten, tased. That’s the point, to hopefully mobilize the outrage of the larger population when the police respond violently to peaceful protest. The win comes when political pressure, due to public outrage, comes to bear and the power structure backs down because of it. So gearing up and preparing is all about learning to keep your cool when under assault, how NOT to respond violently when attacked, how to avoid taking serious damage so you can last a little longer (goggles and breathing devices, etc), and how to aid when people do get hurt. There’s lots of good training and gear-thinking in this regard, but it’s not modeled on the security forces.

    Resistance, on the other hand, is about trying to win–to actually stop something directly, not through indirect political pressure. That’s a whole different endeavor. That’s what you see in Greece with people showing up geared up with body armor and weapons to take and hold ground. Arab spring, when you can get enough people to overwhelm the security forces. This requires LOTS of people, and also security forces that are fractured and divided, probably not paid well or at all, and most likely facing their own friends and family across the line. Don’t think we’re close to this in industrial countries yet.

    While we could certainly consider “learning from the winners”–currently the police and security forces–I think it’s sensible to consider ourselves severely outnumbered and out-equipt, when it comes to head-to-head conflict. Are we really going to try and show up and overcome a line of riot police? Padded/armor and shields and sticks and kick their ass because we’ve practiced?? The police are prepared to escalate all the way up to lethal violence with firearms. And if you’re thinking you’ll bring your own guns. . . then I think you’re forgetting the lessons of asymmetric warfare–we can’t go toe to toe in battles with the police and security forces, we’re not even close to that kind of insurrection in western industrial countries. You get Waco and Ruby Ridge when you try that. The gear and training for active resistance, at this point, is all about hitting where the security forces are absent. It is scout-oriented: stealth and evasion. Get in, do damage, get out. Don’t get in a fight.

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