Demonstration school – Nonprofit teaches art of protest

The Ruckus Society is a sort of graduate school for the protest movement — an organization devoted to teaching the fine art of demonstration tactics, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Berkeley, Calif., group teaches protesters how to use high-tech gear and high-visibility tactics to get their message out.

Ruckus, for example, helped Woody Harrelson dangle himself from the Golden Gate Bridge to protest the destruction of old-growth forests.

The group has three paid staff members and a $370,000 budget from foundation grants and private and public donations.

This year, Ruckus hopes to raise $600,000 to open a training center in Oakland.

The center would include a climbing wall to demonstrate how to scale buildings, welding equipment to show pupils how to chain themselves together and workshop space to make giant banners and other props.

Ruckus also holds an annual Alternative Spring Break Camp where 150 activists attend workshops on protest tactics and interacting with the media and with police.

Outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia has offered to post bail for any Ruckus-trained employee who is arrested in nonviolent action.

“They are just a great organization,” company spokeswoman Lu Setnicka told the Chronicle. “It’s a very personal choice whether or not you’re going to participate in an action. We want to make sure that our employees have all the tools at hand, so they are safe.”

Ruckus plans to have a presence at the Washington, D.C., protests planned for April 16 and 17.  Director John Sellers believes that the experience of the D.C. police with protests will make things safer for the protesters.  It will also make it more difficult for protesters to take radical action, however.

“We’ll have to upgrade our tactics,” Sellers said to the Chronicle.

“We have to really be radically nonviolent and radically confrontational at the same time.  It’s going to be a chess match out on the streets.”

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