Tactics – 30+ Ways to Subvert, Educate & Incite Social Change

Movements begin with creative passion, and a gut sense that it is necessary to challenge a specific injustice or imbalance in order to preserve a healthy quality of life for all beings. Here at CALM, we believe collective action can lead to systemic change.

Just like dancers, successful activists use specific forms of action to get their point across. Some, like a sit-in, march or picket line, have been used for generations. Others, like flash mobs and hashtag campaigns are more recent innovations. As in the game of chess, a single action, no matter how well executed, rarely wins the day. Victory comes by combining and varying our tactics in novel ways.

When Big Apple came to town, a group of women in Mals, Italy turned to creative mobilization to keep their apple orchards pesticide free. 

5G Activists in Segovia created a human chain as well as a singing, dancing parade of cell antennas marching down the street.

Segovia ~ June 2018

In December 2020, an artists’ collective called Les Déconnectés organized a street theater event in Bordeaux, France to protest 5G. 

Street theater performed by  “les deconnectes” in front of an Orange phone store,,Bordeaux, France. Photo by Stephane Duprat / Hans Lucas.

Choose Your Tactic

Use the following ideas as a launching pad to help you design unique, memorable and effective actions. Click on the green subject headings below, and get inspired!  

Adapted with gratitude from Rise for Climate and Beautiful Trouble


Don’t just hand out leaflets. Make it fun. Make it unusual. Make it memorable.

An Example

In the 1980s, American activists opposed to U.S. military intervention in Central America dressed up as waiters and carried maps of Central America on serving trays, with little green plastic toy soldiers glued to the map. They would go up to people in the street and say, “Excuse me, sir, did you order this war?” When the “no” response invariably followed, they would present an itemized bill outlining the costs: “Well, you paid for it!” Even if the person they addressed didn’t take the leaflet, they’d get the message.


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People are more likely to take your leaflet, read it, and remember what it’s all about if you deliver it with flair. 

London, England in 2017. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images.

Blockades can consist of soft blockades (human barricades, such as forming a line and linking arms) or hard blockades (using gear such as chains, U-locks, lock-boxes, tripods or vehicles.) Blockades can involve one person or thousands of people.

An Example

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Friends of Clayoquot Sound successfully protected the old growth forests of Canada’s west coast from logging by organizing blockades. 

A blockade in protest of the Pacific Trails Pipeline, 2014. Those who want to come onto Unis’tot’en territory must have the consent of the community.

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A human chain or physical barrier that shuts down something “bad” (a coal mine or fracking), protects something “good” (a forest, our water), or makes a purely symbolic statement.

The Friends of Clayoquot Sound successfully protected the old growth forests of Canada’s west coast from logging by organizing blockades in the1980’s & 1990’s.

A citizen’s arrest is a way for the less powerful to hold the more powerful to account. Although this “arrest” can be physical (surrounding the car of an escaping corrupt official until the police arrive to arrest him for real) or quasi-legal (some legal systems encourage citizens to help apprehend law breakers), the safest way to do this type of action is to stage a symbolic citizen’s arrest.

For instance, you might hand a DIY arrest “warrant” to a CEO whose lobbying efforts for wireless technology are tantamount to manslaughter. In Canada, Big Telecom lobbies the federal government an average of twice a day.

What kind of ethics should guide our use of citizen’s arrest? Here’s a start:

  • Arrest up, not down —A citizen’s arrest is a way for the less powerful to hold the more powerful to account.
  • Nonviolent This is not a kidnapping or act of terror or intimidation, and should not have the feel of such.
  • Intentional Be clear about your motivations. Plan carefully. Stay unified. Follow the legal and cultural protocols involved — or if you choose to exceed them, do so with wisdom and deliberateness.
  • Transparent — Perform the arrest in public in the light of day. Clearly state your reasons and present your evidence. Invite the public to witness and/or participate in the arrest.
  • Grounded Do your due diligence. Make sure your rationale for the “arrest” is solid and well-researched.

An Example

In Capitalism, a Love Story, political-stunt filmmaker Michael Moore performed a symbolic citizen’s arrest of everyone on Wall Street by surrounding the area in yellow crime scene tape.

Filmmaker Michael Moore’s Citizen’s Arrest of Wall Street, 2009

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When government or corporate leaders are above the reach of the law …. arrest them.

In response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an umbrella group of environmental organizations made a citizen’s arrest of British Petroleum CEO Tony Haward, 2010.

Art is anything you can get away with. – Marshall McLuhan

In some situations, the simple act of sharing your opinion on a leaflet can be highly dangerous. A creative approach can both keep you safe, and memorably spread your message. Even when there is no risk involved, sometimes leafleting in creative ways –sending your message on a floating lantern or a balloon – can be a more effective way to get people’s attention.

An Example

In the early days of the uprising against President Assad, Syrian activist Ahmed Zaino would write the word “Freedom!” on hundreds of ping-pong balls, release them from the top of a hill in Damascus, and let them bounce through the streets. 

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When it is unsafe to protest or campaign publicly, there are many creative ways to deliver your message without putting yourself at risk – even on ping pong balls.

Syrian activist Ahmed Zaino tossed ping pong balls with Hurriyah! (“freedom”) written on them down the streets of Damascus, 2011. Photo by Pieter de Swart.

Boycotts encourage change by threatening industry and corporate profits. They have seen repeated successes and have played an important role in ethical consumption since the movement to boycott South African products during the Apartheid in the 1980s. 

An Example: Taco Bell 

For years, workers in Florida’s tomato fields have endured poverty wages and terrible working conditions. In 1993, a small, community-based organization called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) formed to demand an end to these unfair labour practices. By 2005, they had won a boycott campaign against Taco Bell, one of the largest fast-food corporations in the world, raising wages by almost 75 percent and setting an inspiring precedent for farm worker organizing.

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An organized, mass refusal to purchase products of a company, industry or country in order to economically pressure your target.

In 2015, the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida of Alaska called for a boycott of FedEx for as long as they continue to sponsor the Washington Redskins. 

The Commons

Our common wealth — the shared bounty that we inherit and create together — precedes and surrounds our private wealth. By building a system that protects and expands our common wealth rather than one that exploits it, we can address both our ecological and social imbalances.

In pre-capitalist times, shared commons were the source of sustenance for most people. Though corporations have enclosed and diminished much of the commons, it lives on in three areas:

  1. Natural wealth (air, water, seeds, ecosystems, other species)
  2. Community wealth (streets, parks, the Internet, money, social insurance); and 
  3. Cultural wealth (music, art, science, open-source software)

All of these are gifts we share and are obliged to preserve for others and for future generations.

The Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle stems from this idea of protecting the commons for all beings. It tells us that if a substance like electromagnetic radiation is even suspected of harming our ecosystems or our well-being it must be prohibited, as we must prioritize long-term health, not short-term profit.

Class Action

A class action lawsuit that protects the commons would hold telecom liable for the costs (such as illness and environmental pollution) that they impose on the rest of us. 

Learn more about pursuing a Liability tactic here.                                    

An Example:  Big Tobacco

In the U.S., revelations regarding the tobacco industry’s extensive campaign to deceive the public about the public health risks of tobacco use came to light through the release of internal industry documents in May 1994.

By the time of the Master Settlement Agreement in 1998, 46 states had filed class lawsuits against Big Tobacco. The impacts of these cases were enormous. As the lawsuits mounted, public opinion continued to shift, leading to public health protection policies in countries all over the world. In the end, the Master Settlement Agreement forced the tobacco industry to pay billions of dollars in damages in perpetuity.

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When done the right way, holding environmentally contaminating industries like Big Telecom liable can help deliver systemic change that protects the commons, and challenges the abusive practices of polluting corporations.

“Heads in the Sand” ~ Protesting the desecration of the Commons at the G20 in Sydney, Australia, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Involve people in co-creating a street mural to:

  • amplify your message visually, and
  • engage them in a unique form of positive, family-friendly, mass participatory action.

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Artwork created collectively in public spaces provokes thought, invites dialogue and challenges the dominant narrative.

Praveen Kumar paints images from the farmers’ protest at Singhu, India, 2021

What’s the best way to challenge your target’s ideas and the spin they put on their misdeeds? Choose a high profile event and disrupt it creatively. Step out of the “combative speech box”, and consider alternate modalities, like visuals, song, theatre, and humour to outshine their message.

An Example:  Stolen Beauty

In June 2009, a group of women entered the Ahava (which means “love” in Hebrew) cosmetics shop in the Tel Aviv Hilton. Sporting bikinis, they smeared mud across their bodies, scrawling the words “Stolen Beauty” and “No Love in Ahava.” Questions were asked, and a dialogue began. A few weeks later at a “Tel Aviv Beach Party” in New York, another group of women in bikinis conveyed the same messages.

These actions were just the beginning of a multi-pronged international boycott campaign against Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, an Israeli company located in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The message is in the mud: there is nothing beautiful about occupation. Stolen Beauty used creative disruption to educate consumers, store managers, CEOs, and the general public about Ahava’s illegal practices.

CODEPINK- Protesting Ahava, 2009

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When your target controls the mic, the store, or the event, use creative disruption to get your message heard.

Disrupting commerce creatively in Tel Aviv, 2009

Creative lobbying uses the principle ‘Show Don’t Tell”, making your issue hard to ignore.

An Example:  Daycare Center Sit in

In 1989, low income working moms at a public housing project in Rhode Island pressured a public housing official for the daycare center they needed by turning his office into a child care center.  They brought their kids. They brought their toys, books, art supplies and even a diaper change table.

They stayed for the whole day, and invited the press. Eventually the official caved, and a permanent daycare center was set up in their housing project.


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Sometimes the quickest way to get what you want is to ask for it in a way your target – an elected representative or a corporate official – cannot refuse.

Protesters set up tents outside the Regina offices of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, April 18, 2016. Photo: Adriana Christianson/CJME News

Creative petition deliveries allow organizers to turn online outcry into offline action. By becoming unavoidably visible to a campaign target, creative deliveries make sure the voices of thousands of petition signers are publicly heard. It’s helpful to find creative ways to physically quantify the number of petition signatures. A number of well-labeled boxes rolled into a target’s office is a tried and true approach,

You don’t have to physically occupy the same space as your target. Attracting media attention can also be an effective way to make sure your message is heard.

An Example

For a petition asking the World Health Organization to investigate and regulate the link between swine flu and giant pig farms, Avaaz set up 200 cardboard pigs — each representing 1,000 petition signers — in front of the World Health Organization building in Geneva, providing the media with a visual hook on which to peg stories about factory farms and swine flu.



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Petitions can often feel ineffectual, but when you deliver them creatively — with art, theater, or humor — you can make public opinion more visible.

38 Degrees members deliver a petition of over 410,000 names to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) 2012. Their message: Save Our NHS. Photo by 38 Degrees.

Détournement appropriates and alters an existing message, advertisement, piece of corporate art or cultural icon and infuses it with new meaning. By injecting artifacts drawn from popular media with radical connotations, subversive and marginalized ideas can spread contagiously.

UC Davis police officer Lt. John Pike began to pop up in some unexpected places after he was captured on film casually pepper spraying students during a peaceful protest, 2011.


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A cultural intervention that alters a brand or meme to make a subversive political point.

Artist Ester Hernandez expresses her anger at the human and environmental cost of pesticide use in commercial grape growing in California, 1981.

A distributed action is a particularly useful tactic when a movement is young, dispersed, and minimally networked.

This is how it works:

A group of people create a call to action, and provide a message or framework for others to take similar action at the same time. Days (or weeks) of action can be highly disciplined and structured, or they can be more like a potluck dinner, where everybody brings the dish they feel like cooking up.

The call to action should resonate not just with your core supporters and networks, but should tell a story that the general public will understand, motivating new leaders to participate. It can be helpful to provide some extra resources for those activists who have never organized an action before. This can be as simple as posting a web link to this site.

An Example

Coordinate a Non-Consent to Wireless Infrastructure Campaign in your community or your Province. This campaign relies on a large group of people sending the same form to the same people at the same time. Get the form you need and learn more HERE.


Stop 5G International coordinates global days of protest throughout the year. Get notified through their mailing list so you can organize an event in your area.

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A decentralized mass protest where large numbers of people express their support by taking many small, simple, coordinated actions like banging pots, turning lights off or wearing the same colour of clothing.

An aerial view of the human banner made at the first 350 International Day of Climate Action rally in  Gibsons, B.C. in 2009. Image by 350.org.
Meanwhile in Egypt…

Divestment focuses on one secondary target at a time (e.g. the Tate Museum’s sponsorship of British Petroleum) in order to increase pressure and build public anger against the primary target (e.g. the fossil fuel industry as a whole), so that it becomes isolated and eventually has no choice but to comply. People start to personally identify the primary target with the injustice you are fighting, eventually seeing it as the main obstacle to a just solution. The idea is to dismantle the network of support that your target enjoys, including clients, sponsors, shareholders, or the general public, until the target accedes to your campaign’s demands.

Who to Target

Potentially, any company or institution can become a target of a divestment campaign, but it is absolutely critical that the target is chosen strategically (see: PRINCIPLE: Choose your target wisely). Often, a divestment campaign will focus on secondary targets because the primary target is too powerful or too removed from your supporters’ daily lives to be directly pressured (see: TACTIC: Consumer boycott). Once a target is chosen, power map the web of relationships around that target. In weighing the range of primary and secondary targets, organizers should consider the degree of involvement of each potential target in the violations at hand, and how vulnerable the target might be to pressure or persuasion.

Almost all entities being lobbied to divest will initially resist or ignore your call. It is thus important to remain persistent and have an escalation plan you can stick to until your target concedes to your demands.  Remember: A divestment campaign is only one piece of a long-term, multi-pronged strategy, and the breakthrough will come only after a trickle of small successes that continue to accumulate until the last straw breaks the camel’s back — and you win.

Bonus Benefits

While the core focus of a divestment campaign is to bring direct or indirect economic pressure on a target, the campaign’s most important function is often more broadly political and moral. By drawing a clear ethical line in the sand and offering many local targets, a divestment campaign creates many points of entry for activism, and can be particularly effective at deepening and broadening the movements they are part of.

An Example

The global climate justice movement has chosen to target the fossil fuel industry, identifying it as the main obstacle blocking serious action on climate change. The 2015 climate talks in Paris saw 500 institutions commit to divest their capital from fossil fuel companies, while many students have launched campaigns pressuring the universities they attend to divest. So far, the movement has won pledges to divest $3.4 trillion — a sign that the tide of public opinion is turning against the fossil fuel industry.

Read more climate divestment stories at 350.org.

NY Youth Climate Leaders chalk DIVEST NY in front of NY Capitol, May 2020.
In Sept 2020, the New York State pension fund, valued at over $226 billion (USD) announced it will divest from a bold climate action and divestment plan. It came about after years of campaigning by the DivestNY coalition.

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A divestment campaign is an effective way to apply economic pressure on an industry or government that is profiting from injustice and destruction. The idea is that stock sell-offs, cancelled contracts, and the like will scare off potential investors and create enough economic pressure to compel the target to comply with your demands.

In Sept 2020, the New York State pension fund, valued at over $226 billion (USD) announced a bold climate action and divestment plan. It came about after years of campaigning by the DivestNY coalition.

Flash mobs first emerged in 2003 as a form of participatory performance art, with groups of people using email, blogs, text messages, and Twitter to arrange to meet and perform some kind of playful activity in a public location.

Bryan Divisions “5G-5D” is the perfect song for a 5G flash mob dance choreography.

Whether it’s a mass pillow fight – bring a pillow, hit anyone else carrying a pillow – or a bank shut-down  – get in line, ask the teller for your entire account balance in pennies, and be disarmingly polite – the invitation to participate in a flash mob is easy to share. When multiplied by tens or hundreds of people, it can lead to complex, dispersed and powerfully effective actions.

Pillow fight on Wall Street, organized by Newmindspace in 2009. The widely circulated invitation read simply: “Bring a pillow to Wall St & Broad St at 3:00 pm. Dress in business suits, demand your bailout.” Photo by Karen Blumberg.

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A spontaneous, contagious, and often celebratory protest that uses social media or word of mouth to gather people on short notice in a particular place at a particular time.

A flash mob in Leeds, England in 2013 organised by Simon and the Streets to raise awareness of homelessness.

A frame is a thought organizer, highlighting certain events and facts as important, and rendering others invisible.  Changing the way our issue is presented and perceived will provoke a shift in the public conversation and benefit our movement’s goals.

When designing an action that focuses on framing, some questions to ask include:

  • What is the conflict, and what is at stake?
  • What hidden forces or new solutions must be revealed?
  • What are our underlying values?
  • Is there a unifying theme that can create a framing structure for our story?

An Example: Mining the Museum

In 1992, a huge sign appeared on the façade of the Maryland Historical Society announcing that “another” history was now being told inside. The sign referred to African-American artist Fred Wilson’s exhibition project “Mining the Museum,” which presented the museum’s collection in a new, critical light. 

Wilson reshuffled the museum’s collection to highlight the history of African Americans. The installation “Metalwork 1793-1880” juxtaposed ornate silver pitchers and goblets with a pair of iron slave shackles. By displaying these artifacts side by side, Wilson created an atmosphere of unease and made apparent the link between the two kinds of metal works: The production of the one was made possible by the subjugation enforced by the other. 

Fred Wilson’s 1992 installation “Metalwork 1793-1880,” juxtaposes ornate silver objects with iron slave shackles. Photo – Maryland Historical Society.

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Disrupt the dominant framing of an issue by creating an action or campaign that portrays the problem or conflict in a new light.

Undocumented. This popular T-shirt campaign helped to reframe the immigration debate in the U.S. away from describing people as “illegal.” Photo by Axel Lopez/Daily Bruin

With a single high-powered projector, you can turn the side of a building into a huge advertisement for your cause, plastering your message on a spot that would otherwise be out of reach. It is relatively cheap and risk free compared to, say, trespassing onto a building’s roof to hang a banner off it. Most importantly, it is visually powerful. Before you do it, check that it is legal to place an “advertisement” on someone else’s property where you live.

An Example

On the eve of the Great American Smokeout in 1994, INFACT hit the Philip Morris building in New York with a running count of the number of children addicted to cigarettes. With simple online tools, your projection can become interactive and crowd-sourced. Supporters on the street — or a continent away — can text, tweet or email in their own messages to be projected in real time.

An up-to-the minute count of the number of kids that have become addicted to tobacco is projected above the front entrance to the corporate headquarters of Philip Morris in New York City,1994.

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With a clever image, a high-powered projector, and a little moxie, you can literally put your message in the spotlight.

Artist Robin Bell projects an image onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C, to protest the president’s response to a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that turned violent, 2017. Photo by Liz Gorman.

What is a hashtag?

Twitter hashtags combine a “#” symbol and a keyword that connect posts from different authors. Posts that share a hashtag can be viewed together in a single place.

Hashtag campaigning is all about using hashtags to strategically frame, convene, and drive key conversations. A well-chosen hashtag will positively define the values associated with your political position, and draw more people to your side of the debate.

Learn more about launching successful Social Media Campaigns and find some Safe Tech Hashtag suggestions HERE.

An Example: Round Dance Revolution

By December 2012, the Idle No More movement was in full swing. Rallies were being held across Canada and internationally; the hashtag #idlenomore was trending on Twitter It was in this context that a group of organizers put out a call to action on Facebook asking “Aboriginal people, non-Aboriginal people, Metís, youth, and anyone willing to dance/sing/drum with us” to meet at the Cornwall Centre shopping mall in Regina, Saskatchewan. While the flash mob itself lasted less than 15 minutes, videos and articles about it circulated widely on the Internet.

Another round dance took place the following day in the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta. These actions captured the imagination of others in the movement, and dozens of round dance flash mobs began popping up in malls and public spaces across Canada and the US.

Round dance flash mobs became a strong enough presence in the Idle No More movement for some to begin referring to it as the “round dance revolution.” Organizers had hit upon a way to combine social media and flash mobs — both highly popular forms of activism among young people — with traditional music and dance in a way that bridged generations and cultures.

Drummers at a round dance flash mob held at the Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto, December 30, 2012 as a part of the hashtag campaign #idlenomore. Photo: Kevin Konnyu

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By choosing a strategic hashtag and curating the ensuing conversation, you can use Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms to shift the debate and expand your support.

Members of the Haisla First Nation march in Kitimat, B.C. as part of a rally in support of the Idle No More movement, 2012. Photo by Robin Rowland/Canadian Press.

Through thoughtful symbolism, the right tone and a distinct look and feel an artistic vigil clearly conveys a specific message.

Like all rituals, a vigil should work at both the personal and political levels. It should offer a sacred experience for participants while effectively reaching out to nonparticipants. The more these two goals align, the more powerful the experience is for  participants and the greater the impact is on the broader public.


Families of deceased Samsung employees staged this Artistic Vigil for almost 3 years running. It was part of their campaign to demand compensation from the company for the deaths of their loved ones, attributed to toxic chemical exposures that occurred while assembling Samsung components and devices.

A memorial for deceased Samsung workers at the sit-in protest outside the company’s four towering skyscrapers in downtown Seoul, which started in October 2015 and ran for almost three years. (Sandra Bartlett/CBC)

“Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War” vigils were organized by the Artists’ Network of Refuse & Resist in New York City in the wake of 9/11People were asked to wear a dust mask (common in NYC after 9/11), dress all in black (common in NYC all the time), show up at Times Square at exactly 5 pm, and remain absolutely silent. Each participant held a sign that read: “Our Grief Is Not a Cry for War.” These vigils were silent and solemn, but there was a precision to the message that gave them a visceral potency in that emotionally raw time, for participants and observers alike.

“Our Grief is not a Cry for War” vigils organized by Artists’ Network of Refuse-Resist, New York City, 2001. Photo: Library of Congress

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Create a vigil that draws upon artistic and ritual elements — thoughtful symbolism, the right tone, and a distinct look and feel — to create a meaningful experience for both participants and observers.

Members of LGBTQI activist group Inkanyiso held a night vigil in April 2013 at Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill, Braamfontein, Johannesburg to honour the lives of late arts activists Buhle Msibi & Busi Sigasa. Photo by Zanele Muholiart

By catching powerful entities off-guard —  by speaking on their behalf about wonderful things they should do (but in reality won’t) — you can momentarily expose them to public scrutiny. This is identity correction: exposing an entity’s inner workings to public scrutiny.

An Example

In 2004, The Yes Men impersonated Dow Chemical on the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe and announced on Dow’s behalf that it was finally taking responsibility for the disaster. The consequences were immediate: voluminous news reports about the unlikely turn of events and giant temporary drops in the company’s stock value.

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An act of activist ventriloquism in which you momentarily assume the mask of power to speak a little lie that tells a greater truth.

“Yes Man” Andy Bichlbaum, impersonating Dow Chemical, poses with an “Acceptable Risk Golden Skeleton” that celebrates the concept of acceptable (i.e., economically profitable) human risk, 2004.

Sneak into a meeting or conference to see what’s going on, or to play a trick of some sort. Or, stage a guerrilla musical in the middle of the keynote speech of an evil lobbyist. That’s what health care activists did at a major U.S. insurance industry conference in 2009.(Watch “Public Option Annie” video below.)

Always make sure that one or more of your team is filming your action. Remember: it is not the audience there in the room that you’re most concerned with, but the audience who will see your footage or benefit from the secrets you’ve liberated from behind closed doors.

In many cases, the actual sneaking-in is so easy it’s almost an afterthought. Simply walk up to the table near the entrance that’s full of name badges; choose one, and say it’s yours (and, if asked, say you’ve forgotten your business cards). Take the conference materials you’ll be graciously offered along with the badge, and proceed inside, or, if you like, to your nearest copy shop to make a bunch of other badges with other names for your pals.

If you choose to do something audacious, like stage a fake speech, set up the action not for maximum impact in the moment, but for how you want it to be seen and heard via the photos and videos that you take and later supply to the press.

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The people destroying the planet don’t just have names and addresses, they also have gatherings. When they gather near you, stop in and see what they’re up to.

Health care activists infiltrate a major U.S. insurance industry conference in 2009.and perform a guerrilla musical in the middle of the keynote address.

A human banner is an engaging, participatory action that makes a single, unified statement with hundreds or thousands of people. It is a powerful, expressive tactic that works well for media coverage. It’s unusual, remarkable, notable, people-powered, and made up of a lot of individual human interest stories. When composed correctly, it delivers the money shot the media is always looking for – a single iconic photo.

How to Do it

Message: Your image needs to communicate your message concisely and powerfully. Words and symbols are easiest to lay out.

The site: An iconic background anchors your photo to a place.

Photography: Getting at least one great aerial photo is your goal.

Crowd: You’ll definitely want enough folks to fill in your lettering, plus a cadre of event volunteers. Pre-registration prevents last-minute scrambling. 

Water is Life – Clayoquot Sound, 2017.Photo by Adam Clinton

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Design a political rally arranged into a huge work of human aerial art; compose a single iconic photo that captures what’s at stake.

“Women say no to war”, 2006. Photo by CODEPINK.

Politicians, corporations, and lobbyists have much bigger public relations budgets and name-brand draw to attract press to their staged media events than you do. Creatively hijack the event and highlight your side of the story.

A media-jacking can be as simple as holding up signs snuck into a high profile event, like Canadian Senate Page Brigitte DePape did in 2011.

Here are Two Examples

Fight Aids, Not Arabs

In 1991 during the first Gulf War, activists from the organization ACT UP burst into a CBS TV studio during a live prime-time news broadcast and took over the set, chanting “Fight AIDS, not Arabs.”

I Need a Kleenex

In 2007, Kimberly-Clark – the world’s largest tissue company – was doing an expensive PR stunt in Times Square, New York, where they asked participants to cry and say, “I need a Kleenex.” Greenpeace activists lined up to be interviewed, and cried because Kleenex was clear-cutting old growth forests to make their tissues. This successfully shut down the shoot for the rest of the day, and a video of the action went viral.

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Through well-planned creative intervention, subvert your opponent’s spectacle for your own purposes.

Media-jacking the Canadian Senate “Speech from the Throne.” To support her vision of a fairer, greener, more democratic Canada, Senate page Brigitte DePape holds a sign saying “Stop Harper,” in reference to then-President of Canada Stephen Harper, on the floor of the Senate in 2011. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick | Canadian Press

Does the government or a corporation have hidden documents or secret plans? Liberate them!

This tactic is rooted in Gandhi’s strategy of nonviolent raids on colonial salt deposits. Even though it is unlikely to succeed directly, the ensuing controversy can nonetheless bring the undisclosed documents to the public’s attention. In several high-profile cases, the successful application of this tactic has created enough of an outcry to force the target to release the documents in question.

An Example

In 2001, Philippe Duhamel, co-founder of Operation Salami was working with a campaign to expose the secretive Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) trade agreement being negotiated by the Canadian government. Even senators and members of parliament could not see the negotiating texts — only key CEOs and the leaders of participating nations.

Weeks ahead of the Québec City Free Trade summit, the campaign announced it would attempt to “liberate” the texts for public scrutiny. On the day of the action, wave after wave of participants approached the police barricades erected (for their benefit) around the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Each wave read aloud a citizens’ search warrant: “Hello, my name is ____. Access to information is basic to democracy. Without that information we cannot have a meaningful public debate. We ask the police to do their job and help us search for the texts. Please let me through.”

The first wave went over and was promptly arrested. Over several hours, eighty people — some dressed as Robin Hood — climbed over the fence and attempted to liberate the documents.

As the public saw the lengths the government and corporations were going to hide the texts, public outrage mounted until eventually the Canadian government broke down and released the texts. Exposed to public scrutiny as the corporate coup d’état it was, the FTAA never moved forward.

Protesters at the Free Trade Summit in Quebec City, 2001 ~ Photo by Rachel Showstack

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A direct action tactic that involves showing up with a “citizens’ search warrant” and attempting, nonviolently, to liberate important documents that are being kept from the public.

Non-violent search and seizure is rooted in Ghandi’s 1930 protest raids on colonial salt deposits

Phone banking can be done from virtually anywhere and by anyone, but it can also be done collectively from one location to boost morale (if there are a number of corded landlines available.) Results of the calls can be announced while the tactic is taking place to keep momentum flowing and engage the wider public.

An Example

This tactic was used by Jordan Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) activists to pressure parliamentarians into taking a firm stance against a proposed deal of importing natural gas from Israel. Jordan BDS activists issued a call to action asking all their followers and members to phone parliamentarians and demand that they announce their opposition to this deal. They provided activists with a list of parliamentarians’ names and numbers along with a suggested script and a ten-point fact sheet. 

Find ten Talking Points for 5G Here. Here is a more detailed printable two page Fact Sheet.

BDS Jordan members gathered in one place and made calls over five days. At the end of each day, the names of parliamentarians who took a stance against the deal were published online. The tactic ended when activists secured pledges from the majority of the house to oppose the deal.

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Mobilizing the public to call or text a government or corporate target to pressure them into taking an action. It can be a contagious tactic for lobbying decision makers.

Phones are a vital part of the operation of most business and government offices. If you can deliberately tie-up their phone lines for an hour or two (or a day or two!), they’ll be more likely to respond to your campaign’s demands.

Not only are you applying economic pressure by interrupting business-as-usual, you are delivering a message with every call. Also, it is it can be done from anywhere, and it’s easy for people to participate.

An Example

In 2015, Shell Oil leased a Port of Seattle terminal to house their Arctic drilling fleet. Activists opposed deluged the phone lines and email accounts of firms that were supporting the company’s stay in Seattle.

Protesters created a website where they distributed a sign-up schedule and links to phone numbers and email addresses of Shell affiliates to be targeted throughout business hours on a Monday.

The aim was to “keep their phones ringing, their voice mail full and their email mounting for eight hours,” the post stated. “We make our voices an immediate concern because we are tying up the resources they use to do business.”

The Royal Dutch Shell’s oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer is towed toward a dock in Seattle on May 14, 2015.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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When large numbers of people repeatedly dial the key phone lines of your target, you can tie up their service, and pressure them to comply with your demands.

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ~ Buckminster Fuller

The lunch counter sit-ins of the U.S. civil rights movement were profoundly prefigurative. As mixed-race groups of people sat at lunch counters and demanded to be served, they were enacting the integration they wanted.

Critical Mass Bike Rides, like this one in Vancouver, BC also affirm that another world is possible.

Pranks, art interventions, tactical media, alternative festivals and temporary communities can also be effective ways to prefigure the world we want to live in.

An Example

The Oil Enforcement Agency was a 2006 theatrical action campaign in which environmental activists — complete with SWAT-team-like caps and badges, posed as agents of a government agency — one that didn’t exist, but should have. Agents ticketed SUVs, impounded fuel-inefficient vehicles at auto shows and generally modeled a future in which government took climate change seriously.

Oil Enforcement Agency talks with Office Fred


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A prefigurative intervention offers a compelling glimpse of a better future to show how the world could be and to make that world feel not just possible, but irresistible.


PARK(ing) Day, in which people in cities across the country put a day’s worth of coins into a parking meter and transform their parking space into a mini-park or jazz lounge prefigure a greening of urban space and a reclaimed commons.

Use Art to evoke, educate and inspire Action.

An Example

The AIDS Quilt was first laid out on the National Mall in Washington, DC in October 1987 during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The Aids Quilt on the Washington Mall, 1987.

Chalkavism ~ Adapted from All-Creatures.org

“Chalkavism” can be an effective and cheap form of activism. It is meditative, artistic, and fun for the activist. Without engaging in verbal debate, you might inspire someone to think about our issue and search for information.


  • Use a ruler for straight lines and use block lettering.
  • Red and white are the best stand-out colors with black lines for shadowing and highlighting.
  • Use simple language and as few words as possible.
  • Put it where people will see it, but where it won’t get rubbed out right away.
  • Include a link to this website – thecalm.ca – for further education.
Chalkavism for Veganism, 2020


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Installing artwork designed to provoke thought and challenge power in a public space.

The art installation Thinking Of You by artist Alketa Mrripa-Xhafa. On a washing line strung in Kosovo’s Pristina Football Stadium, the artist hung thousands of dresses donated by survivors of sexual violence stemming from the war in Kosovo, 2015. Photo by Hazir Reka/Reuters

To an unsympathetic eye, disrupting a meeting can come across as mob rule. The power of the public filibuster depends on:

  1. Framing the tactic properly.Calling it a “public filibuster” helps lend the kind of legitimacy recognized by reporters and the broader public.
  2. Carrying out the action in a positive, dignified and respectful manner

Your tone, bearing and presentation should be above reproach. Be honest, expressive, polite and on-message. Focus on the issue at hand, not the person trying to run the meeting. And show some compassion for the chairperson, whose position of power is being challenged.

Washington DC, November 2017. A “People’s Filibuster” in opposition to a Republican tax plan designed to favor the rich at the expense of the working poor and middle class. Photo Stephen Melkisethian


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In a public filibuster, a group of people interrupt and seek to shut down a public hearing or government vote by standing and speaking, one after the other. It’s confrontational, but polite and constructive.

A public filibuster on the appointment of judges to the US supreme Court, 2017


Sit-ins (or die-ins) can be an easy way to get people to step towards escalated action and civil disobedience, without risking too much. Can you occupy your townhall, university, or key public space to highlight the problem and demand policy change?

When organising a sit-in (or a die-in), the most important thing is to choose your location carefully – it obviously has to have a meaning connected to your demand or your target, but it also has to be an iconic place – not too large (so that your group doesn’t look lost in the middle of a giant square) but not too small either (so that pictures can have some magnitude).

If you organize a die-in, you can draw the forms of the many bodies using white-chalk, so that something remains once you’re gone.

Protesters supporting an independent Tibet lie on the ground holding placards at the G20 leaders summit  in Brisbane in 2014. (Reuters / David Gray) © Reuters

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Physically occupying contested space can create community and disrupt the functioning of power.

A sit-in at Chicago City Hall in 2014 to address urban violence, police brutality and the lack of economic opportunity for blacks in Chicago. The sit-in lasted 28 hours, representing how often a black person is killed by police or vigilantes in the U.S.

Hoaxes are one way for activists to “buy” some airtime that they can’t afford. Instead of complaining that the press is set up to give voice to the interests of the powerful, the hoax puts that bias to work. By speaking as the powerful, and telling a more interesting story than the powerful usually do, one can often commandeer a pretty big soapbox. After the hoax is revealed (usually within minutes or hours) then the activists can explain themselves to the public in their own true voices, with the help of the usually massive numbers of journalists all stirred up by the trick that’s just been played on the powerful.

An Example

In 2009, The Yes Men distributed over one million copies of a fake edition of the New York Post (headline “We’re screwed”), which contained stories about the real effects of climate change.

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By impersonating your target through a fake press release or media event you can use satire and exaggeration to expose an injustice or demonstrate another reality is possible.

On May 1, 2019, volunteers distributed a lookalike “special edition” of The Washington Post which predicted Trump leaving office after months of women-led protests in Washington, DC. Online, a website bearing an eerie similarity to the Post’s described a secretive resignation, and global celebrations. Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Yes Labs.

Choose a theme – nature, children, well-being –  or ask participants to share from their hearts in a short video compilation that you can post on social media and send in place of written letters to elected representatives, media and telecoms.

This video was produced by Stop5g International, in anticipation of the Global 5G Protest Day in September 2020.

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Invite activists from your community or from across the globe to share the same message, or their own short unique message through art, poetry, dance, music or spoken words. Link these messages together to create a powerful video letter to send to your target.


5G Warning Signs on Utility Poles and Small Cells

Here is a sign you can place on utility poles, mailboxes, streetlights and more that do not have 5G antennas attached to them. 

Protect Our Future Sign, Oakland, California

Costuming Death

Anti-smoking demonstrators dressed as the grim reaper and a cigarette protest in front of the Philip Morris company”s headquarters in July 2001 in New York City. A report commissioned by the Philip Morris company and made public a week before outlined the financial benefits of smoking on a country”s economy by the “indirect positive effects” of early deaths. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Yellow Pigs in Parliament

In 2014, to protest government corruption and high rates of youth unemployment, young activists painted two pigs yellow (the colour of the ruling party), and let them run wild in Uganda’s Parliament.

Photo by Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

These pigs made quite an impression during their political debut, creatively disrupting parliamentary proceedings while squealing truth to power. 

Police apprehend yellow pigs released by Ugandan youth activists. Photo by Kenneth Kazibwe.

IPod’s Dirty Secret

After being refused a replacement battery for an 18-month old iPod in 2003, the Neistat Brothers took to the streets of Manhattan on their bikes to sabotage iPod’s omnipresent advertising.

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An action that seeks to draw public attention to a cause or an injustice by making it visible. 

Small Cell Warning Sign, Kingston, Ontario