These Protests Are NOT Spontaneous

Do you want to know how activists in places like Portland, Seatle, and Chicago take over roads, smash windows, light buildings on fire, and still have the press call them non-violent? Actually, these are well-trained activists using intelligent, highly developed tactics.

For those that think these demonstrations are spontaneous, they definitely are not.

  • Did you ever notice that many protestors have shields? These shields take 3 hours each to make and are created by a group of 25 volunteers working all day. You don’t do that spontaneously. It takes planning.
  • How about those bricks and rocks that are conveniently located for ready access by these supposedly non-violent protestors?
  • They’ve been using a lot of fireworks lately that they aim at the police. The 4th of July has come and gone so fireworks are not readily available. Where did they come from?

It isn’t just the shields and other ammunition that are planned, everything is, from what protestors wear, to the tactics chosen in each individual situation. These anarchists posing as protestors have a highly developed understanding of the information and media ecosystem and the tactics that work best in that environment.

Their first strategy is to put the target of their aggression into a “decision dilemma.” This is where they select a method of protest that leaves the person with no real good options. Consequently, no matter how the target reacts they will look bad.

That strategy is paired with this one: “The real action is the reaction of your target.” They want to use someone’s reactions to their setup to protest that against them. IE: Blocking a road. If the police arrest you, play the martyr. If they don’t, you now control the road.

These two strategies are used hand in hand to create actions which these activists turn to their advantage. When they do this correctly they can create imagery that paints them as the underdogs even when they are the aggressors. It’s social and political jiu-jitsu.

The above strategies and many others are provided online at the Beautiful Trouble website. Visit it to see the mindset of the very creative anarchists to see what those of us who love and cherish America and what it stands for are up against.

So who are these artistic activists?

Beautiful Trouble is a book, web toolbox, and international network of artist-activist trainers whose mission is to make grassroots progressive movements more creative and more effective. T

The group is composed of  some70 artist-activists with various strategists which include 10+ creative campaign organizations including the YesMen/YesLab, Ruckus Society, Other 98%, and others.

These activist-artists, trainers and creative campaigners  make, teach creative activism in several  ways:

  • Training Network
  • Beautiful Solutions book
  • Climate Action Lab

Key strategies recommended by this group include:

  • Design your action well so you can force your target into a situation where they have to respond, but have no good options — where they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. In fact, many actions with concrete goals (such as blockades, sit-ins, tree-sits, etc.) require such a “decision dilemma” in order to be successful.
  • Consider the blockade of a building. A tactically effective blockade leaves your target with only two options: 1) negotiate with you / meet your demands, or 2) react with force (violence against you or arrest). That’s a decision dilemma. Don’t let your target walk out the back door, and don’t put yourself in a situation where they can wait you out with impunity. You must force a clear decision dilemma. Without it, you let your target and/or the police determine the success of your action, rather than calling the shots yourself. Be sure to cover all the exits — literally or figuratively.
  • Creative activists can modify the blockade tactic to force their target into a similar decision dilemma on a symbolic level.

They are not in their progressive artistic-activist movement alone. Their partners include:

  • is building a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis.  They believe in holding leaders accountable to realities of science and principles of justice and act as a laboratory for the best ways to strengthen the climate movement and catalyze transformation around the world. Their online campaigns, grassroots organizing, and mass public actions are led from the bottom up by people in 188 countries.
  • ActionAid is a non-profit and much more – they’re a partnership between rich countries and poor countries working directly with people in poverty to help them change their own lives. They work to eradicate poverty by providing relief from disasters and conflicts, empowering women, fighting hunger, holding governments accountable, and making education accessible. Their mission is to fight poverty by overcoming the injustice and inequality that cause it.
  • Backbone Campaign is a progressive movement-building organization promoting creative strategic action to deliver power to We the People. Backbone provides creative strategiesartful action support, and convenes training opportunities for change agents across the United States. Their purpose is to accelerate the growth of a social movement powerful enough to manifest a world where life, community, nature, and our obligations to future generations are NOT for sale but honored as sacred.
  • Beyond the Choir is an online space for grassroots change agents — folks who are engaged in grassroots organizing, activism, advocacy, etc. — to share practical strategies, tactics, and tools. It’s also a place to dig into deeper social change theory — and to make it practical. There are lots of great websites that cover and critique the news. is more about figuring out how we can organize ourselves and strategically intervene.
  • The Center for Story-based Strategy (formerly smartMeme) is a national strategy center that offers social justice networks and organizations the analysis, training, and strategic support to win the battle of ideas with narrative strategies. SmartMeme re-imagines methods to achieve fundamental social change with effective story-based approaches to framing that amplify the impact of grassroots organizing and challenge the underlying assumptions that shape the status quo.
  • CODEPINK is a woman-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations, to challenge militarism globally, and to redirect our resources into health care, education, green jobs, and other life-affirming activities.
  • Escola de Ativismo is an independent, non-partisan collective based in São Paulo and active in different regions of Brazil. The school provides training in grassroots and campaign strategies to organizations, collectives, movements, and individuals working for greater democracy.
  • Nonviolence International researches and promotes nonviolent action and seeks to reduce the use of violence worldwide. They believe that every cultural and religious tradition can discover and employ culturally appropriate nonviolent methods for positive social change and international peace that can break the cycle of violence in favor of constructive rather than destructive outcomes.
  • The Alliance of Community Trainers offers knowledge, tools, and skills to individuals, organizations, and communities to empower sustainable transformation. Whether it be community or organizational development, problem-solving or conflict resolution, consensus decision-making, facilitation, strategic campaigns, media, and public speaking, alternative technology, nonviolent action, or environmental sustainability, we support people starting where they are and learning their vision of what they want.
  • The Center for Artistic Activism is the home for artists, activists, and scholars to explore, discuss, reflect upon, and strengthen connections between social activism and artistic practice. We facilitate projects and strengthen networks. Our goal is to make more creative and more effective citizen activists.
  • The Other 98% was founded on the premise that our economy and democracy should work for everyday Americans, not the elite 2% of bankers, CEOs, and lobbyists who’ve hijacked our democracy and rigged the system to serve themselves. It’s the middle class that’s too big to fail, and we’re using creative tactics — both online and in the streets — to, well, rally ourselves to our own cause. We stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and allied efforts to build a people-powered movement that can break the corporate stranglehold on our democracy and achieve true economic justice.
  • The Ruckus Society has trained and assisted thousands of activists in the use of nonviolent direct action. We see ourselves as a toolbox of experience, training, and skills. We provide instruction on the application of tactical and strategic tools to a growing number of organizations and individuals from around the world via skill shares and training designed to move a campaign forward.
  • The Yes Men are best known for infiltrating the world of big business and doing incredibly stupid things to expose the world’s biggest corporate criminals. Although fronted by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, their membership includes hundreds or perhaps thousands of secret agents, all of whom were recently acquired in a hostile takeover by the Yes Lab.
  • Waging Nonviolence is a source for news, analysis and original reporting about nonviolent activism, as well as for discussion of the theory behind it. These stories often go overlooked by the mainstream media, yet people are using nonviolent strategies and tactics all around us in response to the most pressing challenges — and reshaping our world in the process.


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