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Positive group culture

The more activist groups and communities actively build a culture of providing legal information, support and solidarity the better prepared individual activists and groups or collective will be to undertake direct actions with may involve civil disobedience or breaking the law.

For example, if it becomes the norm that people know their legal rights, and know not to talk to the police or pass on information which might endanger themselves or other to the police, if groups or collective adopt strong ‘security culture’ protocols, if it becomes standard to write a legal phone number in permanent marker on their arm prior to a protest or if people attending a protest would be prepared to act as a legal observer the strong support and solidarity can be.

Case study:

In 2010 ‘Switch off Hazelwood, Switch on Renewables’ organised a day of protest outside the Hazelwood coal-fired power station in Victoria’s la Trobe Valley, A Legal Support Team co-ordinated various pre-protest events including direct action trainings and legal briefing and organising a form on new laws targeting ‘critical public infrastructure’ increasing penalties for protests at coal fired power stations and attending police liaison meetings. On the day of the protests the Legal Support Team set up a stall, handed out legal information, made public announcements about legal information and were available to answer peoples’ questions. In the end there were no arrests nor any police violence at the protest, and no ongoing need for legal support. However, many activists who attended stressed how glad they were that a legal support team was there and available because it made it feel more possible to take protest action, even though there was no tangible or immediate need for legal support. Having a legal support team present worked towards building a culture of distributing legal information, educating people about their rights and recognition of the need for legal support and for solidarity in activist movements.