Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! #3 – Affinity Groups

For the purposes of a mass demonstration, affinity groups – small groups of people who attend the same demonstration together – are a great way to stay safe and anonymous, providing a miniature support network that is both empowering and practical. This is one of the first things you should be considering in preparing for this October 20th, so start thinking about people you would like to team up with. Consider the following:

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  • Are they known to you? The most important part is that you have a degree of trust in the individuals you are with. Solidarity is the best weapon we have.
  • Are they like-minded? Make sure you pick people who are going to be supportive of any action you may choose to take. You are aiming to arrive together, and leave together – so it’s not ideal to have one or two people leave the group to pursue one form of action because the rest of the group isn’t comfortable with it, although you may choose to be more flexible.
  • Are they legally savvy? You should all have a read of LDMG’s ‘No Comment’ booklet to brush up on your rights. (This is available for FREE online here or FREE, in print, at Freedom Bookshop.)
  • Are they protest savvy? Similarly, ensure you have all read and understood the rest of our Stay Safe; Stay Anonymous! posts as a minimum if you dont have much experience of big demonstrations.

Advantages of being in an affinity group:

  • It is much harder to be ‘snatched’ from the crowd when the police begin to attack, particularly if the affinity group link arms.
  • It is much easier to negotiate big crowds of people with a small group moving in a considered and tactical fashion.
  • If your affinity group decides to mask up etc. it is much easier to maintain your anonymity.
  • More eyes, more ears and more brains. Much easier to maintain mobility and safety.

Top Tips:

  • ‘Buddy Up’. This is when, within the affinity group, people form groups of two and agree to watch each other’s back all day, aiming not to split up at all until at a safe space. This is a useful way of making sure everyone takes responsibility for keeping each other safe, as well as making personal tactical preferences easier to negotiate. Ideally, your ‘action buddy’ should be the person you feel most tactically similar to on the day.

Have a codename for your group on the day, to identify each other with instead of using names. This should be something benign and something that is unlikely to be shouted at a demonstration, so unfortunately it usually means your codename is kind of silly. Refer to each other as this codename for the duration of the day, so you are in the habit of responding to it when you find yourself in a noisy or stressful crowd situation.

  • Have an identifying hand signal for your group. This is particularly useful when moving through crowds. For instance, if you have to move quickly through a crowd towards a certain goal, you will want to avoid being split up. This may be even more difficult if you are in a situation where there are, say, lots of people in masks and hoods – especially if you happen to be facing the backs of their heads. Having a few people in the affinity group hold their arm high with an identifying hand signal means you don’t have to shout your codename till you are hoarse but essentially performs a similar function.
  • If anyone is arrested, make sure an independent legal observer from an organisation approved by the Network for Police Monitoring is informed right away. This includes LDMG (Legal Defence & Monitoring Group), GBCLegal (Green & Black Cross) and NMP (Newham Monitoring Project).

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