Direct action is any action carried out directly by a person to fulfill their aims without going through a third-party intermediary. Given the lack of action thus far by established channels of authority, the War Crimes Project supports direct action as a way of attaining some sort of reparations for injustice outside of the court system. What follows is a list of direct actions you may be interested in taking.
The citizen's arrest is the heart and soul of the War Crimes Project. A citizen's arrest is an arrest carried out by a person who is not a law enforcement official. Contrary to what the name may suggest, you do not have to be a United States citizen to make a citizen's arrest. If you see a war criminal in public, we highly encourage you to perform a citizen's arrest against them. The War Crimes Project hopes that even if we cannot convince federal law enforcement to take action, by using citizen's arrests against war criminals we can make what are in effect "no-go zones" for these people in their own country. This would have a similar effect to putting war criminals on probation by limiting their travel. The laws governing citizen's arrests vary from state to state, so we recommend look up the laws particular to your jurisdiction.
- Directory of Citizen's Arrest Laws by State
- FindLaw.com's Guide to Citizen's Arrests
- Twiggy Garcia's Op-Ed on His Citizen's Arrest of Tony Blair
- Interview with Twiggy Garcia on Citizen's Arresting Tony Blair
Despite their crimes, many war criminals in the United States, including those profiled on this site, are treated with the utmost respect. In fact, they are given so much respect that they are often invited to special events as honored guests (and typically paid a large sum of money as well). Functions a war criminal may be invited to include company gatherings, town halls, and college graduations. If you're able to get into one of these events, disrupting it is never a bad idea.
War criminals are too frequently given ample time to lie about the "justice" of their actions both in events like these and in all forms of media. Most criminals only have one opportunity to justify their actions: in court. The War Crimes Project believes court is the appropriate place for such justifications to occur and that other attempts by war criminals to justify themselves ought to be stopped. At very least, they should be interrupted so as to raise awareness about the criminality of the honored guest.
There are many ways you can interrupt an event, too many to comprehensively list in any one place. To name just a few though:
- You can stand up and start talking above the featured speaker about the war crimes they have committed. This is especially effective if you can get a few friends to do this with you and stagger your event interruptions. One person can start talking and, if they are led out by security, everyone else can wait a minute for event to restart, giving the appearance the disruption is over, before another friend begins speaking their mind.
- Bring a sign (or a few of them) with a slogan discussing the crimes of the criminal. Walk up to the front of the room displaying your sign and refuse to move.
- Attempt to make a citizen's arrest of the war criminal while they are speaking.
- Set off a smoke bomb or stink bomb in the event, forcing event organizers to close the space and cancel the event.
- The Yes Men's Guide to Crashing a Conference
- Code Pink Interrupts the Congressional Testimony of War Criminal Henry Kissinger
- Seattle Activists Disrupt Meeting on Building More Prison Space
- Philadelphia Teachers' Union Disrupts Meeting on Charter Schools
While not quite direct action in the sense the above actions are, marches are good ways to build political power that will help you complete your goals. Organizing a march is very simple: just pick a time and place and tell everyone you know that's when and where people will be marching to demand the prosecution of war criminals.
Still, there's a few more things that will help make your march more successful. Picket signs and banners can be helpful so people passing by the march can quickly understand what the march is demanding. It's also good to have a few chants you can sing both to spread your message and to keep yourselves entertained. For example, people protesting President Lyndon Johnson's war crimes in Vietnam often chanted, "Hey, hey, L.B.J. How many kids have you killed today?" Furthermore, if your march disrupts the normal functioning of the place the march is taking place, it will be more effective. People generally don't care if you carry signs and chant on the sidewalk, but they do care if you make them late to wherever they're going. Making them care about the issue, even if it is just caring to get you to go away, is always good, because even opposition to your cause gives you political power by forcing people to invest energy in what you're doing. For this reason, you almost always want your march to be in the street, rather than on the sidewalk, and preferably at a time like rush hour when you can cause maximum disruption and gain maximum visibility.
Sometimes it's a good idea to cover your face during a march. This tactic is known as "black bloc," that is, it's the "bloc" of people who wear black over their faces. Covering your face prevents potential enemies from knowing your identity. If there are people who see your march who don't agree with you, they may try to figure out who you are and harm you somehow later on. Black bloc prevents this from happening. Black bloc also ensures that press reports of you march focus on the march's message, rather than the individual personalities of the marchers.
Finally, it's always good to have as many people at your march as possible. Consider doing outreach to local organizations when you plan a march. Good organizations to reach out to include anti-war groups, church groups, and students groups, many of whom can be found online through Google or Facebook.
- How To Make a Protest Sign
- Sample Chants
- "Unmasking the Black Bloc: Who They Are, What They Do, How They Work" by Devon Douglas-Bowers
There are far too many ways to engage in direct action to list here. Remember: if you can think it, you can (probably) do it! But, it's often hard to come up with ideas for actions. If your stuck, we recommend the following sources:
Don't be turned off by their destructive sounding names. You don't have to be some kind of violent, flag burning anarchist for these sources to be useful. The War Crimes Project promotes nonviolence in all its actions and still find these guides very helpful.
The legal statuses of different types of actions vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The War Crimes Project cannot guarantee that an action promoted on this website is legal in your jurisdiction. It is also prudent to check the legal status of an action, preferably with a lawyer though minimally by personally consulting relevant criminal statues, prior to engaging in it to make sure you are comfortable shouldering any legal responsibility that may be assigned to you as a result of your action. The War Crimes Project neither supports nor condemns illegal actions. We merely ask that you follow your conscience and accept responsibility for your actions.