wonder how those crazy A.L.F. activists liberate animals without getting caught,
shatter windows in the blink of an eye, and leap tall buildings in a single bound?
The Shadow Activist knows! And in each action-packed issue of NC will explain
how intrepid activists on the front-lines are making direct action work for the
This column is produced independently of No Compromise.
It is intended purely for entertainment, educational and other legal purposes.
It is in no way meant to encourage anyone to take illegal action. No Compromise,
its steering committee, volunteer staff, and other contributors assume no liability
for any such actions.
Smart and under the radar
execution of a plan is required at direct action jobsites these days
more than ever. High-tech surveillance and a heightened alert due to terrorism
has narrowed the margin of error for direct action operatives. As a result, operatives
who become the focus of police or federal attention, for any reason, typically
call their after hours activities quits for a while. Attention from
federal or local authorities hinders underground activists efforts to save animals
or punish animal abusers and therefore is carefully avoided.
will provide an overview of how operatives get in, get out, and get home SAFE
to fight yet another day.
Lay of the land
Knowing the area
surrounding a target is essential. Because activists never want to work in their
own back yard, they will more than likely be unfamiliar with the area. They go
with a fellow operative in a generic-looking car that is free of bugs (family
car perhaps). They are incredibly alert when mapping the area by car. They take,
at most, three laps of the area as not to be noticed. They make a note of all
bars, gas stations, police stations, or any other late-night or 24hr establishment.
If a map is made on paper, they guard it carefully, make sure the job is performed
within the next few days, and see that the map is destroyed BEFORE the job is
Today is the day
Planning the day to do the job
is very important. Assuming a night-time effort, good activists work on a night
that is either rainy (prefer thunder as well!) or overcast (no moonlight). An
overcast night limits visibility and provides cover. Full moons can light up entire
fields, so they avoid these nights unless absolutely necessary. Police are much
less likely to get out of their dry and comfy cruisers during a rainstorm (heavy
or not). And remember: Thunder can disguise the crash of broken windows and rain
only quenches fire on the outside of a target, not the inside. There is also some
concern with satellite photograph technology. Fires or other alarms may trigger
a satellite to take a local photograph of the surrounding area. The owners of
cars captured in the image may be subject to questioning. An overcast night would
eliminate the satellites ability to take a picture of the area and keep
the operatives safe from snooping space-eyes.
Free Parking/Valet Service
pickup/drop-off area presents a different set of problems. Parking the car and
leaving it is dangerous, because it may seem out of place. Urban settings may
require parking in an empty parking lot near the target (not AT the target - unless
necessary). Informed activists park near the entrance to the building instead
of near the back of the parking lot. Police may see a car parked in the back of
an empty lot as suspicious and investigate, but one near the entrance to the building
would look legit. They also wear normal clothes over their urban-gear (dark gray
clothes work best) when walking away from their car to a point where they can
remove them under cover.
Rural settings are equally challenging. Good activists
notice how far off the road they can see at night when they are driving, and how
much they actually notice on the side of the road when they are driving.
they must park on the side of a small road, they are sure to do so in an area
that would not be noticed by passer-bys. This includes tire marks on those wet
nights. Also, they take care not to cause damage to their car or get stuck so
they cannot leave the area after the job is done. A good suggestion might be to
have a designated driver (insert beer commercial here) and field radios to facilitate
the pick-up and drop-off. A good driver and vehicle promotes stealth: pick-up
truck and cowboy hat, luxury car and polo t-shirt, mini-van and my kid is
an honor-roll student at... bumper sticker. An effective group agrees on
a location for the driver to hang out at or a path to drive until the pick-up
call is given. Having the luxury of multiple possible pick-up spots, depending
on how the job goes, is incredibly valuable, but may not be an option for smaller
You underestimate my sneakiness
Stealth on the way
to and from the jobsite is what will make or break the operation. First of all,
physical ability and endurance are essential to making the job short and sweet.
Good activists use cross-training to make sure the team is safe and ready for
the physical challenge of most operations. Running distances of over one mile
(with gear), climbing buildings or trees, swimming, and becoming invisible
on the roadside are commonplace in direct action missions. Being fast reduces
the time of the operation. Endurance allows for further away drop-off points if
needed. And how can clothing make an operative invisible?
stealth can be seen in two ways. There is the concept of the visible-invisible,
such as dressing up as a homeless man with a cart full of recyclable cans (not
to mention the bolt cutters, gallon of gasoline, and matches) to get close to
an urban target. In a rural setting, an operative in tight jeans, jean jacket
and a cowboy hat could be carrying a 5-gallon jug of gasoline down the street
and look completely normal. Of course, theres the good-old black or dark
gray gear that has been the uniform for decades. Unfortunately, there is no room
for visible with this uniform. Tips for operating in stealth in these
clothes include: black-taping all zippers for anti-reflection and sound, full
balaclavas with small earholes cut out to facilitate hearing, and disposable black
shoes. Also, its good to keep clean normal clothes in the pick-up
Moving towards the jobsite almost always takes longer than leaving
(usually because there is substantial damage and the operative doesnt want
to stick around). Good activists take time on the way in to notice all the buildings
in the area, lights, and sounds. They remove obstacles to their exit (such as
cutting down barbed-wire fences). Most drivers on the road are only looking in
front of them. Passengers in cars, however, may be looking slightly to the side
of the road. Most people in cars in the early morning hours are tired and not
looking for anything suspicious. Staying down and absolutely still can be safer
than running for cover. Its also wise to, if possible, keep at least 10
meters off the side of the road and not look directly at the car when it passes
(your eyes may cast a reflection).
Night-vision gear can be extremely helpful
in many settings to get activists to the jobsite. Remembering that going in is
almost always slower than leaving, well-executed actions typically involve plans
for when (and how) to meet up with the pick-up driver.
Infiltration of the
jobsite is not exactly the point of this article, but again may require much stealth
and ability. Being smart and aware of the surroundings is essential.
the action is complete, the operative is in the home stretch. Most likely, the
operative will be leaving the area with some speed. Getting back to the car can
be a little more hurried if you have a fire under your butt - literally. Stealthy
running techniques involve staying low and keeping the shoulders at a constant
level above the ground and running like an animal (usually when running across
fields). Of course, the operative must always be aware of the surroundings and
stopping points to re-evaluate the situation. Staying close to fences or tree
lines can further disguise movements.
Successful operatives make Stealth
a part of their balanced breakfast. Stealth needs to become second nature for
the accomplished operative. Stealth not only involves the ability to be invisible
heading to and from the jobsite, but also in everyday life (dress, behavior, activities).
It all starts with thinking about how to move down alleyways, quickly scale one
or two story buildings, or hide five feet from the road - or even next to an unsuspecting
person. Stealthy operatives are successful operatives. Be safe, smart, and successful.