I asked Twitter what they wanted to know more about, and the initial overwhelming response was “DIY Protest Tactics.” That’s why I’m writing this blog first.
It can be tough to balance your desire to get a message out with the kind of predatory capitalist consumerism that crops up around any social movement. (You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.) For the record, I encourage you to buy from other indie folks like yourself via Etsy or direct sale at local events. Some of those people have invested in craft supplies to support themselves. (You don’t have to do everything yourself.) But before you impulse-buy a #Resist handbag from a major corporation, think. Was is made by ill-treated laborers? Will ten cents of your purchase end up getting donated to anti-choice candidates by the company’s overpaid CEO? Probably.
Look, sometimes you gotta buy things that aren’t perfectly ethical. (No ethical consumption under capitalism, blah blah blah.) Sometimes you have to photocopy things at Staples or eat at McDonalds before a march so you don’t faint. It happens. Don’t worry about it. But sometimes you can do better, and you should. So here are some tips on making your movement without giving too much of your money to jerks.
NOTE REGARDING LINKS: There are a lot of Amazon links plugged into this to show you what you’re looking for, but most of all or these things can be found at your hardware and/or craft store. Get them there instead, if you can.
Do you want to be an effective communicator, or a fucking punk rocker? Either is valid, and you can be both, but I’m going to divide this up into safe and…possibly less safe sections.
If you answered EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR:
What you need are messages and messaging tools.
- Hone your messages. Study your main issue and memorize the pertinent facts. Get together with friends and educate them, then brainstorm images, words, and actions. This is where everything starts. (If you join an organization like Act Up, NOW, the Democratic Socialists, IWW, Planned Parenthood Action, or similar, they will have done the bulk of this work for you.)
- Install GIMP. Back in the day, I would have told you to buy some letter stencils and markers. While you can still make flyers or signs that way, you can also learn the basics of a program like GIMP and create perfectly good material. Make sure that ever time you create a new image, it’s set to at least 300 DPI (under advanced settings) so it won’t be blurry if you print it out big.
- Make your own shirts. There are SO MANY ways to do this, but I’ll point out a few options: puff paint, household bleach, iron-ons, and good old-fashion marker. (They even make a Sharpie just for fabric now.) Remember to start with a cotton or mostly cotton shirt.
- Invest in a screenprinting kit. Only one member of your friend group really needs one, but maybe that member is you. Good for shirts, posters, banners, etc., and you can get artsy with it. If you’re going to run to the copy shop more than once or twice a year, it’s better to just DIY it.
- Turn paper into stickers, and posters into giant stickers, with wheatpaste. Remember to use it ASAP after you make it or it gets funky.
- Sidewalk Chalk is also your friend. Invite some friends to join you. Make a party of it. Leave temporary tags all over town. Chalk out #NoBanNoRaidNoWall in front of City Hall.
- Start a zine. Get collaborators online. Crowdfund your mailing costs.
- Take over your neighborhood. Take your posters, your event fliers, your stickers, and GO OUTSIDE. I know, it feels much easier to get the word out online, but it is not the same as existing in your public space. If you want online impact, put a hashtag on your creations, but sooner or later, you have to take your activism outside. The most effective activism is intersectional, memorable, and PUBLIC.
If you’d rather be PUNK ROCK AS HELL:
You did not hear any of this from me, and I officially do not recommend doing most of it.
- First, the obvious: Steal from work. Or someone else’s work. Fuck paying Staples to photocopy a hundred fliers for you. Also, there may be snacks.
- There are ways to make sure that your public messages stick. Spray paint is well and good, but nothing beats a serious epoxy or etched glass. (Disclaimer This-Blog-Does-Not-Condone-Defacing-Other-Peoples-Property, etc., etc.)
- Likewise, go prepared to remove hate. Sharpie beats sticker. Hand sanitizer beats Sharpie. If some asshole kid in your neighborhood thinks he wants to be a nazi when he grows up, wipe his graffiti from the face of the earth.
- Parody everything, as offensively as possible. I used to have a D.A.R.E parody shirt that said P.U.N.K: Keeping Kids On The Streets. It was my fucking favorite, but it was tame compared to stuff I would encounter later. Go after their sacred whatevers. Dream big. (That said, don’t punch down. “Drumph is fat” is not a joke, it’s a fucking sad commentary on what we criticize as a society.)
- Learn your local laws so you can know when and how you’re gonna break them, and be prepared. See especially: mask laws, nudity laws, nuisance laws, graffiti laws. You’re out to be a pain in the ass, but be a prepared pain in the ass. They hate that.
- Find and share the media. Introduce your friends who loved Sum 41 back in the day to Bad Religion and AntiFlag. Give your kissfriend a RiotGrrrl book for their birthday. Read banned books out loud in the park. Most of the stuff in the Anarchist Cookbook is obsolete, but we gotta remember those who kicked ass before us. (If you click that link, you have to promise me that you will not use any info you find there to hurt any living thing.)
- Learn the many uses of bandanas; face mask, bindlebag, flag. And remember: Don’t go buy a fucking ten pack from Hobby Lobby, just hit a thrift store and cut up some old shirts.
- First, do no harm…then, take any radical, unapproved leap that makes sense to you to save the fucking world.