Prepared and Peaceful– Bringing Back the Nonviolence Training from the Wisconsin Capitol

January 25th, 2017
Back in 2011 I had the good fortune to get a phone call from the TAA in Madison, WI.  They needed a little help.  You see some folks had gathered in the state capitol because Governor Scott Walker was breaking the hearts of Wisconsinites with his anti-union, anti-worker behavior.  And, well, those folks who gathered there had had enough of the governor cheating on them and they’d decided not to leave.  The TAA and friends were hosting a gathering at the people’s house that would engage hundreds of thousands of people over the next several weeks.  They needed a little help making sure the space would stay safe and nonviolent.

I got the call in the afternoon and in a few hours my good friend Jeff and I were giving the first nonviolence training. Soon, I’d brought together a crew of trainers and we created “Prepared and Peaceful” a document that was shared throughout the capitol and later given to the Occupy Movement.   I’m proud to say the capitol protests remained nonviolent through the weeks were there.
With the changes in our government I expect we’re going to see a massive change in community organizing in the near future with a great increase in direct action organizing.  I’d like to share with the world again the materials that we used in Wisconsin during the capitol occupation and encourage you to be well prepared and peaceful.   Below is the text of “Prepared and Peaceful.”  If you’d like to get a pdf copy, please let me know.


prepared + peaceful
training for being in and around the Capitol

Each of us is here because we’re committed to something important.
How we express that commitment matters.
Remember, the whole world is watching.
For your safety, the safety of others, and the safety of the protest, we ask that you plan ahead,
consider your options carefully, and get whatever support you need to remain calm and peaceful in
the event that we are asked to leave.
Nothing written here is intended as legal advice. We just want every person in and around
the Capitol to make informed choices about if, how, and when to leave.

Nonviolence is a philosophy, a lifestyle, and a strategy. Here we address it as a strategy to:
• Keep the public on our side
• Inform our interactions with counter-protestors
• Inform our interactions with police (who mostly support the goals of this protest)
Strategies that support our ability to practice nonviolence include:
• Connecting with others
• Planning ahead, visualizing nonviolent responses, role-playing
• Staying sober and free of alcohol/illegal drugs
• Song, prayer, meditation, compassion—remaining centered, calm, and focused on purpose

Affinity groups are a long-standing way of
organizing nonviolent protest. Consider forming
a small group of people you already know or
meet here to:
• Watch out for each other
• Know each other’s contact information
• Help each other stay healthy and safe (food,
sleep, medications, mood, etc.)
• Have a designated meeting place if you get
• Decide together what actions you’ll take
• Support each other to leave if anyone can’t
stay nonviolent
• Have a plan for what to do if you are at risk
of arrest

One of the biggest health concerns in a situation
like this is burnout. Take time to take care of
yourself. Use your affinity group to support you.
• Breathe consciously. Even a few deep
breaths can make a real difference in your
ability to think clearly. Make a habit of
breathing consciously 10-15 minutes every
• Rub your feet! At the end of a day at the
Capitol, get the blood circulating, then
elevate your feet so they’re less swollen in
the morning.
• Be sure to take all medications as
prescribed. See “Being Arrested” (back) for
how to prepare if your meds are critical to
your moment-to-moment well-being and
you plan to risk arrest.

To avoid unintended consequences, consider in advance: “If the police ask us to leave, will I
leave when asked, or will I refuse respectfully?” This is your individual choice. Opinions
differ on whether or not it would be useful for the movement for people to be arrested. If you are
told to leave, you have three choices: Leave peacefully, cooperative civil disobedience, or
passive civil disobedience.
brought to you by the Grassroots Leadership College | | updated March 11, 2011

• Follow police instructions
• Do not interfere with arrests of others, even verbally
• Leave—walk, don’t run
• Meet up with your affinity group to confirm that everyone is away who
intended to be away
• Provide planned support for anyone in your group who stayed

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and
commands of a government. It is a nonviolent resistance tactic that involves finding ways to achieve
our goals without harming people.
• If you choose to stay, breathe, sing, center, pray, meditate, remain calm
• Recall the police are largely in support of the protest goals and want to keep the charges minimal

• Respectfully let the officer know you do not want
to leave but will cooperate physically
• Stand & hold your hands together in front of you
• Do not react/resist/pull away in any way to
avoid escalated charges
• You may be given a citation on the spot and
released, or transported to a processing center &
given a citation ($150-500 fine & a court date)

• Respectfully refuse to leave
• Sit down or go limp
• This will likely result in arrest, and if
done completely nonviolently should
be a misdemeanor
• Do not react/resist/pull away in any
way to avoid escalated charges
• See “being arrested” below

• Recognize that remaining limp while being physically removed can be extremely challenging, can
be dangerous to you, and could possibly be considered resisting arrest, a greater charge.
• Don’t make sudden moves around the police or touch them—this could be construed as
assaulting an officer, a greater charge.
• Consequences could be different for non-US citizens, students, minors, people with outstanding
warrants or past criminal records. Get legal advice before deciding to risk arrest.
• The police may use zip ties to cuff your hands. Keep your hands, arms and shoulders as relaxed
as possible. Use very gentle shoulder rotations to keep the blood moving. If your hands are
behind your back and swelling, get them above your heart by going down on your knees and
bending your head forward, so your hands rest on your back.
• You can ask where you are being taken, but if you aren’t told, don’t worry.
• Once in police custody, cooperate fully as you are transported, fingerprinted and photographed.
If you resist, you must be jailed.
• Don’t lie to the police. Give them your real name and contact information. Not to do so is a crime.
• Provide information about medical conditions or medications. If it is important that you
continue medications while in custody, be sure to bring several days’ supply with you in the
original prescription bottle. Also have with you a doctor’s note specifying the importance of those
meds to your health. Without this, your treatment will likely be delayed—perhaps significantly.
• Don’t answer other questions. Say, “I want a lawyer. I will be silent until I get a lawyer.”
• The ACLU and lawyers hired by the unions will be tracking who is arrested and will do their best
to make sure everyone gets legal support, as long as they are simply in trouble for nonviolent civil
disobedience. Our understanding is that they will NOT give legal assistance to people who get
charged with assault on an officer, drug charges, etc.
• Legal support is being coordinated through the number below. During the day, a person will
answer. At night, a recorded message will provide the numbers for people on call that night.
• Write this number on your body. If arrested, you will not have your cell phone or notebook.
prepared + peaceful
training for being in and around the Capitol
updated March 11, 2011

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