Getting Assaulted: Dealing with Physical Confrontation at Protests

Fashion companies who sell fur are happy to hurt animals to protect their profits. So it’s no surprise that these agents of violence can become physically aggressive against animal activists.

We have heard many accounts – and experienced some ourselves – of employees pushing, grabbing, striking, even kicking activists. And by no means have luxury retail’s elite commandos retired their traditional power move, the age-old megaphone grab.

Unfortunately, crimes like these are on the rise, the perpetrators ever more brazen. Between the stress of fashion school debt for sales staff, and the police brutality FOMO among the police academy dropouts in store security, trends are unlikely to reverse.

With sociopaths for opponents, this threat may be unavoidable. But fret not – it is highly manageable. Act with intention and prioritize best outcomes, and you can remain on top of almost any situation.

It is in this spirit that we offer these tips if you are assaulted.

Do not fight back!

A wage worker who physically attacks you for yelling – whether outright or after trying to move you – is not in their right mind. They want to provoke you. Do not give them the satisfaction.

Instead, de-escalation shows control of self and situation, and leads to superior outcomes. Keep your focus on the animals, not employees, and move away from any self-appointed enemy combatant. This does not even require lowering your volume or tone – though quietly skipping a couple chants does sometimes work to loosen an employee’s grip on your megaphone.

There is in fact a broad range of other responses to these high fashion hoodlums. CAFT campaigns are decentralized, and everyone is free to do as they wish under all circumstances. But we try to keep one bright line: Do not physically fight back.

CAFT concerns itself only with winning, continuously and sustainably. And in the circumstances of these campaigns, physical aggression is in the best interest of the abusers, not the animals:

It is likely to put other activists at risk, put you in jail, and put the movement on a diversion course to raise your bail. It is also likely to harm the campaign. You won’t be at protests on bail or probation, and similar consequences could befall your entire group. Plus on every return visit, expect police to be in peak snowflake mode.

Never talk to the police or file a police incident report about the assault.

We speak to everything here from personal experience, having witnessed how the miserable human beings at every level of this process turn it around against the activists.

The abusers: Companies take information from these police reports to find, surveil, and harass activists, and worse.

The fuzz: When a report is filed, cops immediately use it as an excuse to seize activists’ phones and cameras as evidence, giving not only law enforcement but target companies access to the contents.

The courts: If campaign activists find themselves in a courtroom, the assault will always be painted as a brawl or riot, with the activists at fault.

The assailant: The grille gangster who assaulted you will get high-fives from coworkers – and possibly the police too. What they will not get is criminal charges.

And, of course, not only in this case, but in all cases, never speak to law enforcement! Every protest should have a designated police liaison, to whom you should refer all questions to or from the cops. There are only four phrases police should ever hear from us: “Am I free to leave?” “I do not consent to a search.” “I am going to remain silent.” “I want my attorney.”

An escalation from the abusers should be matched by an escalation from us, and this may apply most to their acts of physical aggression.

But fighting back in the moment trades seconds of action for years of possible legal problems. Fighting back later can last months, and keeps the cops doing what they do best – nothing. If your assailant thinks they got away with it at the store, that smirk won’t last long when activists show up to protest outside their home. Show them that the pride of any campaign is its diversity of tactics.

And show them that physical aggression cannot intimidate us. This is most elegantly achieved by returning to the scene of the crime (safely) with surprise escalation, even just longer or more frequent visits. To go super tough guy on people and watch them just double down on you is disheartening even for the experts in personal failure, loss prevention professionals.

Legal escalation in the face of repression demoralizes the target company, ensures the campaign’s legal sustainability, and sends other employees a loud message to back up or expect problems.

Anything on social media will be used against you by law enforcement.

Cops have long been able to access your social media and other platforms, including WhatsApp, which is unfortunately treated as secure by many activists.

If video is best left private, you and others should not upload it to the cloud, keep it on your phone (or any unencrypted hard drive), or share it via social media, text message, or chat apps. As of this date, Signal is trusted if no one physically accessed the phone. (Don’t go crazy – you never know.)

Exculpatory video may be provided to an attorney for safe-keeping. If one possesses incriminating video, it is illegal to destroy, conceal, or alter this evidence of a crime. Note that this only applies if the destruction or concealment was willful and knowing, and often also requires some further condition – a contemporaneous investigation or court case, intent to impede or influence investigation, etc.

Get in touch with gratitude.

Though they can be unnerving, never let these sales floor soldiers get you down. There is no cause for concern.

We have inspired the paragons of luxury to attempt fistfights in their doorways. Their desperate acts heighten the sense of crisis we cultivate, while shoppers grimace and cross to the opposite sidewalk. The only ones they hurt are themselves.

And with each resulting victory, we are always sure to include that campaign’s assailants in our celebration toasts.


To our friends, the heroes of the Moncler and Stone Island loss prevention units.

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