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Date: Wed, 02 Dec 1998 10:55:31 +0000
From: Cornerstone Resource Centre (
Subject: EF! Action Update no.54


Masking up - Why? When? How?

At the Newbury Reunion Rampage in 97, two people leant against the wreck of a dumper-truck, cheerfully watching a digger burn. One (whoíd clearly come prepared) was wearing an all-over stripy tiger suit. The other (who clearly hadnít) had removed her second layer of stockings and pulled them over her head. That is precisely the kind of scenario that springs to mind when you think of a good time to be masked up. It has obvious associations with criminal damage and large things being on fire. However, these associations mean that many people dismiss masking up as intimidating and counter-productive in other situations. Some feel it is never appropriate (except perhaps among consenting activists in their own homes while watching Land and Freedom!). Some feel that masking up is sometimes necessary but worry about the implications or are unsure about the issues surrounding it.

So is masking up a necessary and desirable tactic? Absolutely, and it is naÔve not to be aware of this. The surveillance directed against dissidents by the State is real. Masking up or otherwise disguising yourself is not about intimidation. It is about remaining safe while breaching bail restrictions. It is about not being trapped by warrants that you may be able to pay your way out of eventually but not before a particular action that you wish to be part of. It is about jail terms that youíre planning to serve only after youíve made arrangements for your kids. It is about avoiding civil injunctions that may make you liable to thousands of pounds in costs or several months in a cell. It is about the plain clothes copper by your side, the CCTV camera on your road and the footage being shot from the helicopter overhead. It is about getting away with it. Need any more convincing?

* Different methods of masking up will suit different occasions:

* On a large action wear lots of black, or at least clothes that donít stand out, in order to blend in with as many people as possible. A black hood, shades and a black T-shirt sleeve over your face is a popular and effective option.(the Hillgrove Cat Farm campaign has had people doing this in order to enable them to attend regular repeat actions with less follow-up risk) Masking up like this can be counter productive in the wrong situations. Donít do it on , for example, a fluffy student demo.

* In some situations you may be worried more about being instantly recognised than about avoiding video identification. Face paints (half black, half white is best), hoods, and frequently changed, distinctive clothes are useful to make yourself look different.

* Go for looking silly rather than scary if you expect to be interacting with real people, rather than coppers, such as in an office occupation. In that context the Superheroes against Genetix were funny but got away with wearing eye masks

* If someone (not a copper) seems truly intimidated by your being disguised, explain in calm and friendly tones your reasons for being so.

* Even if you plan to be the most well-behaved person ever, mask up to protect those who are currently running more risks than you in attending the same event. If everybody masks up then those intending to be Ďfull oní are not immediately identified as targets by the police.Masking up is not only about looking after yourself but about looking after each other.

* Be imaginative - balaclavas are old hat. Start instead with your basic hooded top, then add T-shirt sleeves or army headovers, or cardboard party masks, or green-and-black kerchiefs lovingly hand-crafted by indigenous Brighton activists on their mumsí sewing-machines

road protests 1998   |   road protests (current)   |   movement links