For lesbian activists and grassroots organizers fighting the Christian Right.
Creating Powerful Visuals
Formulating clear, easily understandable messages is an important step in your planning process. The impact of the action will not be as strong as it could be unless people understand why you are doing what you are doing. This does not mean restricting everyone to a single message! This means having a clear goal, and deliberately considering how to translate it into striking visual props. The creation of visuals (banners, posters, flyers, costumes, sets, free gifts) is crucial to conveying your message. Good visuals not only attract media and crowds, but make the point of your action clear and memorable. The more creative, witty and original the better.
Several meetings were spent planning the Latah County Fair Freedom Picnic. We knew we wanted to create a large lesbian and gay presence at the Fair and distribute information about the queer bashing of previous years. The question was: how would we get the information out there? We wanted to capture people's attention and find a more unusual solution than the typical leafleting approach. The Palouse Avengers came up with the idea of handing out Hershey's kisses along with cards which on one side read, "For the last 12 years lesbians and gay men have been threatened, harassed, and beaten at the Latah County Fair. Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate," and on the other side asked, "How about a kiss instead?" The section of the lawn on which the picnic took place was framed by a large and visible Lesbian Avengers banner on one side, and on the other sides by posters with messages like 'Latah County Lesbian and Gay Freedom Picnic' and 'Bigots Beware, Queers Take Back the Fair. Sound Effects
Be as creative with sound as you are with visuals. Avoid boring speeches. If you're going to chant, have a small group of people get together and think up creative and original chants; type them up and distribute them at the action. Songs might be more interesting, especially familiar tunes re-written for the occasion. For more creative and/or disruptive sound effects, add a marching band or rhythm section, with real instruments or simple sound-makers like trash can lids and tin cans filled with pennies.
Planning for Safety
In both rural and urban areas, the safety of activists should always be planned for before the event. For large street demonstrations, pre-action planning may involve marshal and legal observer training. Actions involving potential arrest will also require civil disobedience training, lawyers, and support sheets.
For actions where no arrests are expected , all potential trouble should be considered within the process of planning for the action. Make contingency plans. But be careful of getting so caught up in possible dangers that you talk yourself out of the action.
Our dance-in at the homophobic and traditionally violent nightclub Xenon is a good example of a non-arrest type of action that had major safety concerns. Prior to the action, many people in the community thought we were irrational for even thinking of doing it. We decided to go ahead, but were careful to strictly implement the above three guidelines. Before the action, we carefully scoped out the space (how many floors, where are the bathrooms, etc.), and the general crowd was assessed (are folks particularly drunk; are there any signs of violent behavior?). Everyone met together before the action, and went to Xenon in groups of at least five or six. A pre-action meeting set down the action guidelines, in which people were told to stay together, especially including not going off to the restroom alone, and to not leave until the action was over, when everyone would leave as a group. Coordinators were assigned to keep track of what was going on at all times. The night ended without any trouble. The forty demonstrators danced alongside the two-hundred regular attendees, with the most direct interaction being a question such as "Are you gay too?"
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