The idea is to help individuals defend themselves from assault by the agents of the state. Remember: the cops are trained to hurt people. Whenever you hear that two hundred people have been injured on a demonstration, you can safely assume they were not hurt by tripping up and grazing their knees.
This may all sound quite scary, but it is better to be prepared for the depredations of the police than to run around with head wounds.
Think: if we are not intimidated and if we are not injured, attacks will become self-defeating.
We will be able to go home knowing that we have done the right thing: will they?
People are most vulnerable to assault and arrest when they are on their own: having at least one friend with you will mean they can watch your back while you watch theirs.
The Wombles strongly recommend that people coming to a mass action are not on their own: find a friend who will come with you AND THEN NEVER LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT!
Health: Water Water Water!
Regardless of the weather conditions, being a Womble is a very hot business, so you must bring as much water as you can carry. Do not rely on helpful shopkeepers remaining open. You will need AT LEAST TWO LITRES.
People with medical training should make themselves known to the wider group at the earliest opportunity. Likely injuries could include wounds from baton strikes to the head, face and upper body, crush injuries from police vans running over people, or from horse charges. Gas is unlikely to be used though some cops may have pepper spray or small amounts of CS gas.
White overalls can be bought for about £3 ($6) each from DIY stores. They are easier to find in ‘trade’ shops like. New York Ya Basta! wear yellow overalls in solidarity with the yellow suits worn by chain-gang prisoners working on the streets in their country.
At secret training bases cops are instructed in how to cause maximum damage to an individual: smashing them repeatedly about the head and upper body with a two-foot long steel bar. This – not surprisingly – can be somewhat painful experience.
The only rational response to such tactics is to wear some form of protective headgear. The best option is a motor cycle crash helmet (about £25 / $50), but these can restrict your sight. On the positive side, they offer all-round protection for your head and face. On the down side, they are almost impossible to smoke in!
Builder’s helmets ($8 to $16 each, from DIY stores) are effective for direct head strikes but offer no protection to the side of the head, the face or your neck. Also, this type of helmet has no chin strap so they are easy to dislodge or lose. While not perfect, they are better than nothing. If you use one, remove the plastic frame inside it and replace it with some bubble wrap (2-3cm thick). You can then wrap tape around the top and around under your chin to make a chin strap. Don’t make it too tight otherwise you wont be able to get it off!
Bicycle helmets cost from £10 ($20) each, and offer better protection than builder’s helmets and have the added advantage of having a strap to hold it on. Again, little face or neck protection but they are a good compromise solution.
As all good Wombles should already know, the idea is to make good use of the things that everyday people leave behind. This includes old sofas, mattresses, bubble wrap and cardboard.
For the body: take one sofa cushion and remove any external covering. Use a knife or scissors to cut the cushion in half down the center of the thin end, so that you have two pieces to form a front and back. Then cut a semi-circle out of the top of each piece to create a space for your head to go through.
Use strong electrical tape to bind the two pieces together with as much overlap as possible to create double-thickness sections for your shoulders.
The body piece can then be worn either within the white overall or over the top. If you wear it over the top you will need some rope or string to tie it around your body securely.
People have been injured by being kicked or batoned across the shins. You could use cricket pads for your legs, or football shin pads, both available from sports shops. Hockey or American football gear works just as well, but is expensive. Skateboard protection (especially elbow, knee and wrist pieces) have been proven useful too. Knee pads can also be bought from DIY shops.
Arm pieces can be made from bubble wrap, cushion foam and cardboard. Fold the card over a couple of times to make triple-ply sheet (about 50cm long x 20cm wide). Take a piece of cushion foam (about 20cm wide x 50cm long x 5cm deep) and tape the card sheet to it. Make sure that the cardboard is on the outside so that it will disperse the pressure from a blow.
Wind the bubble wrap around your arm and the cushion/card to create sleeve; wrap tape around a few times to make it secure – not too tight as you will need to get it off at some point. The same approach can be used for making padding for your legs.
Trashcan lids are really good if you can find them, though you may need to do some work to make a comfortable strap to attach it to your arm.
Alternatively, think inflatable: rubber dinghies have been used by Ya Basta! before (use loads of plastic packing wrap to bind six or seven of them lengthwise so that you have a wide group shield).
Also, ask local garages / car workshops if they have any spare car wheel inner tubes. They usually cost (as second-hand) only 50p ($1) at most, and so a few of these taped to a bit of stiff board (or layered cardboard) can make an effective lightweight shield.
Truck tire inner tubes make good, large defensive barriers, but can cost up to $40 each new (maybe try scrap metal merchants or car-breakers’ yards for supplies).
Further Tips on Physical Protection from Police Attacks
Stuff to think about when making protection:
1. Duct tape (always useful), electrical tape, adhesive tape, super glue, regular glue, spray adhesive, twine, wire, staple gun, etc.
2. Gas masks, filters, respirators (like painters use, handkerchiefs with vinegar in zip-lock bags.
3. Some thing to protect your noggin. Here is a list from best to worse: Motorcycle helmet, army helmet, football helmet (face guard removed) or other sports helmets, bicycle helmet,or skating helmet, construction hard hat, batting helmet.
4. Paint: day-glo orange or yellow; red and black paint may also be useful.
5. Cloth or tarps for banners, the larger the better.
6. Shin guards, sports padding, martial arts padding, construction knee and elbow pads, etc.
7. Foam padding, carpet padding, rubber padding.
8. Chemical suits, rain gear (preferably yellow or orange).
9. Thick and padded gloves or mittens.
10. Raw materials for building DIY armor two-liter bottles, plastic 5-gallon buckets, foam, cushions, garbage cans or lids, etc.
11. Good footwear, boots are best, steel toe is great.
12. Warm thick clothing (to protect from weather and to add padding).
13. First aid equipment: bandages, gauze, anti-tear gas solutions in squirt bottles, etc.
14. Thin PVC piping to hold banners, long cardboard tubes, etc.
15. Tools: Bring lots of extras to an action because you should be able to swap for stuff you do not have or just help out our other comrades.
Ear plugs are useful. They are cheap and will offer some protection against concussion grenades and other acoustic attacks. They are light and easy to use.
It is also good to bring a paper, small pencils (golf or pew pencils) in case. At least one piece of paper should be in your shoe or somewhere else to avoid being taken if arrested. It sucks not having paper in jail. It is useful for all sorts of things. Sharpies are also a high demand item or any other permanent felt tip marker to write numbers on arms and clothing.
People should add to these lists of things. It is key that people come defensively prepared and bring extras to trade and create a mutual aid network.