A recipe for nocturnal direct actions!

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May 172017

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

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“Direct action, simply put, means cutting out the middleman: solving problems yourself rather than petitioning the authorities or relying on external institutions. Any action that sidesteps regulations and representation to accomplish goals directly is direct action—it includes everything from blockading airports to helping refugees escape to safety and organizing programs to liberate your community from reliance on capitalism.”

A Step-by-Step Guide to Direct Action: What It Is, What It’s Good for, How It Works

We believe that the greatest barriers to participating in direct actions are social ones: finding comrades to build affinity groups takes time, patience, and trust (see How to Form an Affinity Group: The Essential Building Block of Anarchist Organization). This recipe assumes that you already have people who you can get mischievous with.

Before we had ever done a night-time direct action, we felt hesitant to begin. We had no one to teach us the basics, and feared making stupid, easily preventable mistakes. For that reason, we want to share several logistical tips that we feel may be helpful in carrying out these actions.

Legal disclaimer: All information contained in this publication is for educational purposes only, and does not condone or encourage any illegal activity.

1. The secret is to begin

First, you need to choose the target of your direct action and what tactic you will use. Although this could vary widely, for this recipe we’ll use the classic example of smashing out the windows of a gentrifying business in an urban neighbourhood.

Think about what the action will communicate to people you’ve never met – from possible accomplices to the most passive citizen. What possibilities might this communication open up? For example, the numerous smashings of luxury businesses in Hochelaga and St. Henri over the past years have communicated a resistance to gentrification, have spread signals of disorder (see Signals of Disorder: Sowing Anarchy in the Metropolis) that visibilize how anarchists are fighting back against social control, and in some cases, have contributed to such businesses having to close up shop.

There are introductions to ‘security culture’ available elsewhere (see What is Security Culture?), but here we’ll just say to do all of your planning in person, with people you trust, outside of houses and with no phones present (both being vulnerable to police surveillance).

When we started getting our hands dirty, we found it helpful to first get comfortable with less risky activities like graffiti or wheatpasting posters, practicing the same communication habits we would later apply in attacks. This helps us become acquainted and feel more comfortable with our ability to act in stressful conditions (encounters with police, evasion, etc.) and our relationships with each other.

2. Scouting

Scout the target ahead of time; look for the safest entrance route and exit route, prioritizing paths with fewer cameras (alleys, woods, bike-paths, train-tracks, residential areas). If you use bolt-cutters to cut a hole in a fence, will that open more possibilities? Have fun subverting the urban organization of space designed for social control to your purposes of social war.

Be discrete; don’t point at the cameras you want to smash, or walk in circles around the target. Decide where to position lookouts (if you think you need them), posted up smoking at bus stops that aren’t on camera, for instance. How will they be communicating with those doing the direct action: hand signals, inconspicuous shouts of random names to signify different situations, walkie-talkies, flashlights, burner phones (see Burner Phone Best Practices)?

It helps to know what the traffic patterns are like at the time you’ll be acting. How busy is foot traffic? Where is the closest police station, and what are the most patrolled streets? Doing the action on a rainy night at 3 am means there will be fewer witnesses, but also fewer people to blend in with afterwards when police might be combing the area, so sometimes closer to midnight will make more sense. Once you’ve gained confidence in nocturnal actions, maybe you’ll want to experiment with day-time actions that are more visible to passersby and thus harder for the authorities to invisibilize, like the looting of the yuppie grocery store in St. Henri last year. Leave at least a week or two between scouting your target and the action because that’s the average amount of time it takes for surveillance footage to be overwritten.

3. Fashion decisions! (and other prep)

Wear two layers of clothing; a casual layer for the action that includes a hood and hat, and a different layer underneath so that you don’t match any suspect descriptions. Blend in with the character of the area; it doesn’t make sense to dress like a punk in a yuppie neighbourhood, but it does make sense to be in flashy jogging gear if you’re going to be running down a bike-path. Baggy clothing can help to disguise body characteristics. A hat and hood will keep you relatively anonymous during your approach – most cameras are pointed from above, so your face will be mostly obscured when you’re looking down.

You can pull up a full mask for the last few blocks and the action itself (see Quick Tip: How to Mask Up). Depending on the terrain and where cameras are located, you may afford to wait until right before the action to mask up to avoid arousing suspicion preemptively.

Expect to be seen on camera during the action. Don’t get too paranoid about cameras in the surrounding area – a standard CCTV camera has poor resolution in the dark, if police even bother to get the footage before it’s overwritten automatically. All surfaces of any tools you’ll be using should be thoroughly wiped with rubbing alcohol ahead of time to remove fingerprints, and cotton gloves should be used during the action (leather and nylon will retain your fingerprints on the inside). Do not take your cell phone, or if you must, remove the battery; it geo-locates even when powered off.

Make a plan in case a good citizen intervenes, or starts following you to call the police. Dog-mace has worked wonders for us, but if that feels too intense as an immediate response, being verbally confronted by a masked group is enough to deter most people.

4. It’s witching hour

Once lookouts are in their locations and they give the agreed upon starting signal, take a final glance around, and go for it! For breaking the windows of a gentrifying business, bring enough rocks for several windows, aim for the bottom corners, and make sure you’re finished up within, say, thirty seconds of the first crashing glass pane. If you also want to put glue in the locks, paint-bomb the sign (see Paint bombs: light bulbs filled with paint), pull down the cameras (see the tips in Camover Montreal), write a graffiti message (in blocky ALLCAPS to hide hand-style particularities), or anything else that’s relatively quiet, do this before you make a kerfuffle breaking the windows, or plan for an extra friend to do it simultaneously.

Ditch everything including your top layer of clothing at the soonest appropriate place along your exit route – cops have lights that will reveal glass shards on clothing (more of a problem if you use hammers than rocks). Find creative hiding spots ahead of time to ditch anything you don’t want found, but as long as your materials and clothing are free of fingerprints it shouldn’t matter. The exception to this is arson tactics, where DNA forensics are more likely to be used, in which case you may want to take everything with you in a backpack and dispose of it farther away.[1. A note on DNA forensics: a basic principle is to never touch (or otherwise contaminate with hair, sweat, skin cells, dandruff, saliva, etc.) anything you’ll be leaving behind, because unlike fingerprints, DNA can’t be scrubbed off. Surgical gloves (sold at many drugstores) used with ‘sterile technique’ (learned on youtube) can allow you to manipulate materials without contaminating them once they leave their packaging. This should be accompanied by securing hair under a tight-fitting hat or swimming cap, a surgical mask to prevent airborne saliva, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt you’ve never worn that goes under your gloves (or even better, painter’s coveralls used for mold and asbestos removal). Work on a raised surface so that you don’t have to be bent over your materials. Have a second person (taking the same precautions) drop materials out of their packaging and onto your ‘sterile field’ (you can use a newly opened shower curtain, for instance), so that once you’re sterile you don’t contaminate your gloves with packaging you may have touched. To transport your materials, seal them in a garbage bag.]

Ideally, even if you are detained by police on your way out, you’ll have nothing on you that they can use to connect you to the crime. Know your story of why you’re in the neighbourhood, or be ready to remain silent because if they find evidence to contradict your story, it can be used against you in court, while your silence can’t be held against you. When arrested in Quebec, you only have to give the police three pieces of information: your name, date of birth, and address (this may differ in other places; it may be useful to be knowledgeable of local laws before carrying out any illegal action).

Once you’re arrested, saying anything else will do more harm than good. After providing the above three pieces of information, you can repeat the following phrase: “I have nothing more to say. I want to speak to a lawyer”. (If things go south, check out How to Survive a Felony Trial: Keeping Your Head up through the Worst of It. In Montreal, get in touch with the Contempt of Court collective for help with legal representation.)

A typical police response (if there even is one – often times vandalism is only discovered the next morning) will involve police first going to the scene of the crime, maybe taking the time to ask possible witnesses if they saw anything, then driving around the surrounding streets looking for possible suspects. If you get out of the immediate area quickly, you’ll avoid all of this. Hiding can be a viable option if something goes awry and leaving as planned looks risky – backyards, corners of driveways, rooftops, bushes, etc. can all be helpful in waiting it out.

5. Sweet dreams!

Consider using a bike to get out of the area quickly – you can have it locked a short jog away. Bikes can be disguised with new handlebars and saddles, black hockey-tape on the frame, removing identifying features, or an all-black paint job.

It’s best to avoid using cars if possible – a license plate is far easier to identify than a hooded figure on a bike. But if you must because the location is too difficult to get to otherwise, be careful. You could park a bike-ride away in an area that’s not on camera. Be dressed totally normally when entering the car. Take back roads and know your way around. Don’t use cars that may be already known to police, in case they have been tagged with a GPS surveillance device, and don’t use a rental (in part why Roger Clement got caught for arsoning an RBC branch against the Vancouver Olympics).

Rest well knowing that you’ve fucked up a small part of this fucked up world.

Check out How to safely submit communiques if you want to claim the action! Also check out this How-to page for more direct action guides: blocking trains, shutting down pipelines, demonstrations, riots, and more!

Montreal Counter-information is now a publication!

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Mar 142017

[For reading]
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[Poster center-fold, 11”x17” (optional)]

The first issue collects content from the last two years. Future issues will be released every several months, to keep the material timely. For those with free access to colour printers, we’ve included a center-fold of 24 posters that can be attached with an elastic.

You can get copies at La Deferle and L’Insoumise. If you’d like more copies for distribution, please get in touch! If you live outside Montreal and don’t have access to free printing, we’re down to print some for you if you can pay for shipping (and if you can’t afford shipping, still get in touch and we’ll try to figure something out).

Can’t stop, won’t stop
Montreal Counter-info

Sounding out the void: reflections on the night-demos of December 2015

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Mar 312016

witchesThe three night-demos of this past November and December left a mark on us, a call for reflection. This is what we propose to share with you in the following pages.

Before and after these three demos, we were able to follow the unfolding of conversations – those that happened between friends as much as those we heard by chance in bars, living rooms and in the street – the furtive or noisy course of a feeling that seemed to be shared by many people: a feeling of emptiness. After the 200 person black bloc, after the broken windows, we heard “what else?” insistently. To the point where, when we asked friends if they were going to the third demo on December 18th, the majority answered that they had other things to do, like having dinner at a friend’s house.

So today, and in the past few months, we continue to ask ourselves what pushes those close to us, those who share the same desires to tear up the world and to nourish our rage, to chill with friends as we always do, rather than to seize the (rare) opportunity for a wild unleashing. This brings us to more questions: how can we think of these demos outside of the moments of strike which often push people to prioritize demos over dinners? What can our place be in these demos outside of social movements? What place do these demos take in our daily lives?

What is at the heart of our reflections, this feeling of emptiness, we have felt in all its force. These phrases repeated ad nauseam: “but where are we going with this?”, “what are these demos embedded in?”, “it’s not by breaking windows that we harm Capital”, “the State isn’t shaken by our nocturnal destructive wanderings”. The void, we feel it in the absurdity of gestures engaged for anyone other than ourselves, in the ridiculous silence of those we hate, in the infantilizing and numbing response of the Media that will only ever see us as violent imbeciles – not really dangerous. And worse still, they reflect to us a mirror image that strips away our power. This brings us to think that these demos, these moments of revolt that we open, can only be for us. If they are directed as messages for others, they become meaningless.

We refuse to fill the void that we felt with more demands addressed to those we wish to destroy. We don’t want to wait for the next mass movement to attack this world that does violence to us. We aren’t here to sacrifice ourselves for “the cause”, nor “because we have to”. In these demos, we draw strength from the feeling of deciding to live in the city differently. We take control, with the sense of chaos making us alert, the feeling that we are learning to navigate because it is the enemy of order and the normative universe. In these moments of chaos we no longer hear the trendy slogans repeated until they lose meaning, but bursts of destruction, fireworks and the howling that echoes them, windows shattered by rage and hammers. We feel the force of overturning this order, for the time that it lasts.

And if there is a feeling of emptiness that lives with this furious and ecstatic jouissance, it’s because we know that we seek to destroy more than windows. We can’t be content with the image of destruction. We don’t want to bask in in the spectacle of our own radness. We couldn’t, it rings false. This void, we feel it at our fingertips, because at the end, we are left bored. At the end, you’ve broken a window but this changes nothing; nothing but a sort of catharsis, finally hurting something other than ourselves. So how can we go further than breaking windows, how can we nourish these signs of power within us, against the world?

Already, we crave to see the demo as a space of exploration. To try a little to imagine beyond the gestures already learned – breaking windows, throwing rocks at cops, putting up graffiti, distributing flyers, shooting fireworks, etc. And for us, this doesn’t necessarily imply starting to seek new gestures, but perhaps to find in these gestures, repeated a thousand times by all kinds of people, a little more than their habit. To reflect on the intentions behind these gestures, looking for their unique meaning each time. Even if it is only in search of taking pleasure in them, a feeling of euphoria in the action. Making these gestures active, and not only reproducing them as images of themselves. Further, what this implies for us is to take demos seriously, to prepare ourselves for them before they are even called. Knowing that there will be others and we are already ready, already charged up, like springs only waiting for the moment of release.

What this also means for us is to avoid falling into this trap of living demos as pressure valves; moments where we feel like we are acting against the forces of this world and which then permit us to forget, to feel better so that we return to school and work. We want the demo to overflow into our lives, for it to be contagious and animate our daily gestures. For it to light fires in our lives so that we can then imagine a network of destructive and subversive actions; a web of rebellions that we give name to and tie together. So that we manage to make sense of all these spasms of resistance, without waiting to embed them in a social movement. For us, the demo can be a celebration that overturns and subverts lived time, that drags us out from the banality of daily life. We burn together, running where we wish in the streets and sidewalks with speed and determination, and we violently repel cops as soon as they approach us. We are here because we feel life differently in a demo, because we love the butterflies in our stomachs and our wildly pounding hearts, adrenaline rising.

We also wish to avoid that the demo only replies to itself and is contained to its own temporal-spatial limits and automatisms. We wish to avoid forgetting it the following day, because we have other things to do. We wish to carry the demo within us, to think about it, to talk about it with friends, to see what we would like to do the next time the opportunity presents itself, to always be alert. To not forget the feeling and exaltation possible when we give ourselves the chance, if we let ourselves actualize what we know we’re capable of when we prepare well. We don’t want to return to demos as if we don’t believe in them. Because by continually not believing in them, we bar ourselves from the possibility that the demo will be virulent and combative, that it will only be a parade of the normative order, whose dissenting role permits the maintenance of order. We don’t want to be fearfully lead by cops who are better prepared than us anymore, with our bags too heavy to run and our hands and ears frozen by cold because we forgot a hat and gloves, the too-recognizable clothing we wear everyday. We want every demo to create an unquenchable thirst for the next, because we are ready, because we are just waiting for the space to attack again with the weapons that we are sharpening every day.

We have also asked ourselves: why is it that we feel so called to by demos? Why not concentrate our energy on ninja-actions? Why wait for the next demo if we can do actions in the night with our trusted friends…? Because the demo has something of its own that these actions don’t; the demo is open, the demo is public. In the demo there are those we don’t know, who desire to be there. Like us at one point, who were alone and who came to demos. And who saw the distance between those who throw rocks and ourselves falter. Ourselves, who were there because we didn’t find any other space in our lives for insurgence, to “do something”. So, going to demos, and seeing ourselves become protagonists of this rebellion. No longer having in our minds this far off imaginary where others attack. Demos have opened up our possibilities, have allowed us to face our fear of cops, perhaps slowly, over the years, but always surely. To better understand the terrain, how the cops move, how to heal ourselves, when to run and how to stay calm. Where to hit, and how to see every bank, bourgeois car, and government building as a target. To no longer only see police as executioners, but as targets and beings that we can fight. The moment when we ceased to only be those who watched. And even, the moment when we looked at others, but when this was an active look. We were no longer spectators. If we didn’t pick up the stone, we nonetheless felt the euphoria of the gesture as the glass shattered. There was no longer distance between the throwers and ourselves, because the demo makes it possible to reduce this distance. It is us too, we are there, we are them, we are accomplices, we desire this, our being-spirit is in the rock that smashes.

We would lastly like to question the often-repeated strategy of calling a demo in the week following a successful demo, up until the last demo no longer kindles enthusiasm and is ferociously repressed. Because we feel it in advance, it was said, that the demo of December 18th would be less strong, that it wouldn’t have the same possibilities as the last. And some of us did not go to this demo; we gave power to the self-realizing prophecy that the third demo wouldn’t have the scope of the second or even surpass it in intensity.

And until the next demo, we aim to better plot the intentions that bring us to walk against the flow of traffic.

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May 122014

Updates on the situation of Amelie, Carlos, and Fallon can be found on SabotageMedia (En/Fr/Esp), and Fuego a las Carcelas (Esp), and Cruz Negra Anarquista Mexico (Esp)

(…) Perhaps the words of Fallon, Amélie, and Carlos will inspire you to build friendships based on trust and affinity, to have each others’ backs, and to translate your own rage against the world of prisons and police and borders into actions. As Carlos “El Chivo” wrote, “I know that anarchist solidarity is strong like an oak tree, and that always goes farther than simple words.” And as anarchists everywhere never cease to remind us: it’s easy to attack.

Somewhere between Mexico City and Montréal, March 2014.

Letters from Insurgent Comrades Imprisoned in Mexico

English | Size: Letter (8.5×11″) | Format: PDF

Cartas de companeros anarquistas apresados en Mexico

Spanish | Size: Letter (8.5×11″) | Format: PDF

Dec 072013

The Plan Nord/Le Nord Pour Tous is a plan by the Quebec Government to invest in and promote resource extraction projects in Northern Quebec. Le Plan Nord was originally proposed by Jean Charest’s Liberal government in May 2011, and was presented as an economic development strategy to create job in quebec. When the Parti Quebecois replaced the Liberals in 2012, Le Plan Nord was simply slightly modified and re-named Le Nord Pour Tous. Under Le Nord Pour Tous, the quebec government plans to invest 1.368$ billion of public finds, from 2013-2018, into resource extraction projects and their associated infrastructure in Northern Quebec.

Le nord Pour Tous is not the purported ‘solution’ to an economic crisis, but is part of an ongoing strategy of colonization of nations within canada. Every river diverted and forest destroyed represents areas where hutning food, harvesting medicine, and passing this knowledge onto younger generation can no longer occur. In the words of Pishu Pilot, from the Uashat reserve (one of the territories within the scope of Le Nord Pour Tous), “The Plan Nord affects our territory, and when it affects our territory it affects tradition, culture, our language, our roots, and our history…Plan Nord is a plan that will destroy everything we are as First Nations people.”

There has already been plenty or resistance to Plan Nord/Le Nord Pour Tous. One of the more memorable afternoons during the quebec student strike and associated generalized uprisings was the April 22nd disruption of the ‘Salon de l’emploi du Plan Nord’ in Montreal, where two demos converged to disrupt the functioning of day-to-day society and to wreak havoc on this promotional event for Le Plan Nord. In march 2013 two instances of sabotage, where a SOQUEM office in Chibougamau was vandalized and a poster which hindered access to the highway leading to the Renard Project mine, were claimed in solidarity with resistance to the Plan Nord. There has also been a more consistent resistance from the communities of Uashat and Mani-Utenam, who’s territories would be directly affected by the creation of hydroelectric dams and associated infrastructures along the Romaine River. Resistance has taken the form of blockades of Highway 138 (the main highway in the region), hunger strikes, and Innu-lead demonstrations in Montreal.

The intention of this booklet is to begin to map out what exactly Le Nord Pour Tous is, what the extraction and development projects are, where they are located, who is responsible for them, and which communities are being affected the most immediately. This booklet is in no way complete; but we hope it was act as a good starting point for any further research.

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