Occupy Well Street 101

Donate with WePay
This is a fund to be used for bail when people fighting the use of hydraulic fracturing are arrested during a direct action at well sites, government officials' offices, corporate offices, and to block natural gas industry infrastructure. When arrestees attend their court dates, bail money is recycled back into the fund, so your donation helps more than once over time. Donations are not tax deductible. The fund will be deposited into a club account monthly at a small community bank. For more information, contact Alex Lotorto, (570) 269-9589

Here is a new hand out (PDF) based on the information below that you can use in your community group to talk about the idea of blockading a gas industry operation.

1. So You Think You Can Occupy?

It's the last straw. The drillers have moved into your neck of the woods, and for a multitude of reasons, you are itching for action to shut the frackers down. Yes, I'm talking about blockading gas drilling sites.

You are in one of two situations:
1. You have a local anti-fracking group, big or small.
2. You are trying to start up an anti-fracking group in your area for Occupy Well Street. 
In either case, you're going to end up presenting the idea of Occupy Well Street to a group.

Hopefully, your community group will support Occupy Well Street and you can get down to planning it. If not, some common resistance you'll hear are things like:
"The time isn't right for Occupy Well Street. We should do more letter- writing/lobbying/phone calls to our elected officials." 
"Our organization can't support any action that could get people arrested." 
"Occupy Well Street will alienate people we're trying to reach."
"I don't support a ban or stop to fracking, I want it to be safe so we can tax the gas. Let's wait for further studies and regulations to see if it's really that bad."
IMPORTANT, the people who say that are not the people you want to be organizing Occupy Well Street with, at least right off the bat. Tip: Encourage them to see our PA Government and Legal Resources page and fight fracking how they see fit. Respectfully tell them that you are going to organize Occupy Well Street separately. Don't claim to speak for them as you move forward.

The people who vocally support you when you propose Occupy Well Street should become your core group, so make good friends with them and pick a time and place to have your first Occupy Well Street planning assembly.

2. Your First Occupy Well Street Assembly

First step, find a spot and promote the first assembly through e-mail lists, flyers, Facebook pages, local papers, and through good old fashioned phone calls. Be creative! Make sure that folks know they can bring friends and family.

Next step, choose a facilitator or two before the meeting. The facilitator's job is to make sure people are talking about the topic on hand, that they don't talk too long or too often, and to encourage people who haven't spoken to speak up.  The facilitators should keep time, count votes, and help guide compromises when conflicting proposals are made. A facilitator is not the "president" "chair" or "leader" of Occupy Well Street.

Have an agenda, snacks, and a nice atmosphere. A song or two, if you have a musician, can really lighten up the crowd. A raffle drawing at the end of the meeting can get and keep people there (and raise money). If you don't have anything to raffle, make up vouchers for favors like yard work or home cooking and raffle those. It is always a good idea to have a volunteer to do child care so parents can fully participate. Remember to thank the organization or individual that donated the meeting space by doing chores, clean up, or making a donation. Also, don't let the meeting run too late!

Break out groups are your best friend in big meetings. The more work and meeting time you divvy up among small groups, the less time your meeting will take. Don't be afraid to stop someone from going on and on about their ideas and ask them to form a small group during break out sessions.

FINALLY, it is important to have an actual proposal for a date, time, and place of Occupy Well Street ready to go by your first assembly. A plan A, B, and C ranging from most badass (blocking frack trucks) to least badass (rally at a gas well) should be on the table.

Take a hand raise of people who are willing, given the right circumstances, to get arrested and possibly spend time in jail blocking a frack site. This will be your tactical group that devises the plan about how they would like to block the site, practices the blockade together, and needs to build trust. (See 4. Blocking Trucks 'n' at)

Don't forget to send a Media Advisory to as many local newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations as you can to notify them of your Occupy Well Street action.

An agenda has times for each item and might look like this:
1. Welcome everyone to the meeting, present the agenda. (2-5 minutes) 
2. Introductions (5-10 minutes) (if you have too many people to introduce themselves one by one, have them greet their neighbors around them). 
3. Song, inspiring story, joke, or video. (5 minutes)
4. Present Proposal for Occupy Well Street- Plans A, B, C (including dates, times, locations) (5 minutes)
5. Questions (10 minutes)
6. Break out into small groups to discuss changes. (15 minutes)
7. Come back together and ask for amendments or concerns. (15 minutes)
8. Agree on the action (repeat small group discussion until there's an agreement) (2 minutes)
9. Break out into groups (media, legal, tactical, fundraising, art, literature, etc.) (30 minutes)
10. Come back together and each group reports back, makes proposals. (10 minutes)
11. Set time for next assembly, press conference, meet ups, etc. (10 minutes)
12. Announcements (5 minutes)
13. Raffle drawing (5 minutes)
14. Goodbyes! (2 minutes)
Total Time ~ 2 Hours 

3. What Does Occupy Well Street Look Like?

Your Occupy Well Street action might look something like this diagram. As you can see there are many roles people can play.

1. The Safe Zone
This is the place where people who are not going to risk arrest can stand along the shoulder of the road, away from any civil disobedience or police interaction. Medics with a First Aid kit should be in the Safe Zone as well as Food and Drink Captains. Folks here should NOT chant when the police or gas company representatives are talking to the Police and Worker Liaisons.

2. Police Liaisons
These folks will be the group that meets with the police if and when they arrive and are the communicators of police orders to the rest of the group. They should introduce themselves and document the names and badge numbers of officers. They should present a handout that explains the action, it's intent, it's length, and that the people in the Safe Zone do not wish to be arrested. They should not be wearing sun glasses and should generally be non-threatening in their communication styles. Elders, veterans, former police officers, and women are generally the best folks for the job.

3. Worker Liaisons
These folks will be the group that meets with gas industry workers on site. They should have a hand out that explains who is participating in Occupy Well Street. They explain that we support men and women who have taken jobs in the gas industry and that they should not have to work jobs that threaten their health, the health of their communities, and the health of the environment. Skilled laborers like mechanics, welders, factory workers, building trades, equipment operators, and union employees are generally good worker liaisons.

4. Media
There should be a place for interviews with the local media and for Occupy Well Street camera people to safely observe the demonstration. Your group should have a handful of media spokespersons to do interviews that all agree on the same talking points. If media approaches other demonstrators, make sure they know to point them towards the media spokespersons. When the interview is going on, make sure the Safe Zone people are posing and chanting in the background!

5. Blockade
If your group decides to include civil disobedience in your Occupy Well Street action, do it when the media is there! This is to both protect the participants from police abuse and also to have the most badass part of the action well-documented. There are many ways to block an access road including a moving picket, a sit-in, standing up, laying down, locked together, and locked to an object. Those methods will be discussed below.

6. Off-Site Roles
Legal - There should be people next to the phone at a house or office to receive phone calls from arrested  people in jail. The phone number should be written on every demonstrators forearm or calf in permanent marker before the Occupy Well Street action. Also, the legal team should have a relationship with the local bail bondsmen beforehand in order to coordinate bail for arrested people as quickly as possible. For more information, see the National Lawyers Guild website: http://www.nlg.org/occupy/  
Media - A media team should be ready to send out a Press Release about the action with pictures, video, and quotes from demonstrators. Pre-draft one so that it's easy to send out right away.
Media Checklist (very useful): http://www.ruckus.org/article.php?id=107 
For a Media Guide, check out Ruckus Society: http://www.ruckus.org/article.php?id=101 
Jail Support - There should be at-the-jail support for arrested demonstrators. This is a great way to conclude your day and watch your friends get out of jail. Sometimes, they get out of jail faster when there are a lot of eyes watching.

4. Blocking Trucks 'n' at.
Three Blood Nation women were arrested, Friday night, Sept. 9, 2011 while blockading oil and gas fracking on Blood Nation land in southern Alberta, near the Montana border.

The purpose of including a blockade in your action is to show that members of your group are willing to risk being arrested to stop fracking and that you will shut down drilling sites yourself, if no one else does. "We are the moral compass" is a powerful message to send to the public, elected officials, the drilling industry, and their investors (so make sure you copy them on the press release!).

IMPORTANT: It is possible to participate in the blockade and not be arrested. Often the police will give you a warning before they arrest you, especially if you are being civil. Out in the rural counties, they may not have that kind of patience. However, good Police Liaisons will notify you of what the police are planning to do.

At your first Occupy Well Street assembly, you should have gotten a hand raise of people who are willing, given the right circumstances, to get arrested and possibly spend time in jail blocking a frack site.

That group should become familiar with different blockades and come to a consensus about which one they would like to use. Once you've chosen a blockade style, there is no reason to tell anyone else what you've chosen. It's best to keep the plans of your blockade group confidential until the day of the action. This will keep it a surprise and possibly make it last longer as police figure out how to remove you. Make sure you have practiced it enough times as a group, alone, so that it's executed quickly and calmly.

Practice, practice, practice and expect best and worst case scenarios. Have a "safe word" that calls off the action in case there is a serious injury. Understand that the reality of a practice run and the real thing, in real time, will feel completely different. Make sure Worker Liaisons tell all truck drivers entering the site to put their air brakes on and stop WELL BEFORE the blockade. Here are a few ideas:

- Sitting down (sit in tight rows across the access road)

- Standing up (stand in rows across the access road)

- Laying down (lay in rows across the access road)

- Lock Boxes (use a device that locks to a partner or a thing) More information on lock boxes: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/lockbox.html

- Moving Picket (Walk across the road in a long tractor-tread shape)

- Lawn Chair (it works!)

5. After the Action: Rinse & Repeat

It's important to use the momentum from your Occupy Well Street action to launch you forward in your organizing. Suddenly, your community has become aware of what's going on. They probably checked this website to get more information. Maybe your local government is considering an ordinance to limit or ban gas drilling in your community (if you need help working on a local ban ordinance, contact the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund www.celdf.org ).

See our PA Government and Legal Resources page for more ideas for legal actions including community enforcement, water testing, permit appeals, local bans, and more!

It will be helpful to have another event planned soon after. Another general assembly or another demonstration might be your best bet. That's up to you!

Make sure you send a report about your action to us at alex@energyjustice.net and we'll post it on this site!