Event Reflection: Direct Non-Violent Action Training

Cait, Maria, and I (Sophie) attended 350.org’s Direct Non-Violent Action Training last night.

I think our basic reaction was the legal advice was the most useful part (to the point of actually being pretty useful), other parts were a little low on content, the role of being arrested was overemphasize, but overall we were glad we went.

Here are our take aways:

The 3 A’s

Agreement, Action Roles, Affinity Groups- I’ll just mention the “agreement” part. Shannon (? Sharon? Sorry, I can’t remember), a 350.org member, talked about the importance of coming up with some agreements  before going to a direct action. First, check in with yourself about what actions (marching, chanting, civil disobedience, risking arrest) are going to be manageable for you given your own individualized “comfort, growth, and danger zones” as well as  factors that make interacting with law enforcement more or less dangerous, such as your age, health, job, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. Then your group should come up with some agreements and guidelines for being at the direct action so that you can help support each other (for instance, prioritize bailing out someone who is a non-citizen before ICE can get involved, with only takes a matter of hours).

Know Your Rights

Cooper Brinson from the Civil Liberties Defense Center gave this spiel and did a great job. I recommend checking out this video from the CLDC to get a better idea of your rights and how to use them during a mass action, but here are the highlights from his talk.

Don’t talk to cops

Cops are strangers, and should be treated as such. Cops can never be used to testify in your favor, therefore, anything that you say to a cop can and will  be used against you.  Even if cops just seemingly want to have a casual conversation, you might accidentally say something that reflects badly, even criminally, on the action you’re attending. So just avoid talking to cops as much as you can.

If you do get in a situation where you are talking to a cop, this is your script:

 Am I being detained? Am I free to go?

[Ask until you get a yes or no answer. If no, walk away to end the interaction. You do not have to give cops any information about yourself if you are not being detained]

If yes, you are being detained:


[Ask until you get an answer. Cops must tell you what crime you are suspected of in order to detain you. This stops them from slapping on charges ad hoc.]

And then… These are the 3 most important things to say to cops:

  I wish to remain silent 

[Invoke your 5th amendment right! Remember, cops do not have the power to do you any favors or testify for you. Cops can lie. Better not to talk to cops. If you are being detained, cops can ask you for id. In Oregon, all you must provide to a cop if you are being detained is your name, your address, and your date of birth.]

 I do not consent to this search

[Invoke the 4th! You must communicate this vocally. Cooper hammered home the point, never consent to any search!! Even if you believe the cop is completely within his or her rights to search you or your things. There are lots of legal technicalities around searches, and not consenting may get your case dismissed.]

 I want a lawyer

[Invoke the 6th! Do not say anything to cops or make any deals until you have a lawyer].


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