Introducing IT: Indivisible Technology

Introducing a new effort: Indivisible Technology Austin, the IT group that can help you #resist.

If you hate the Trumpist agenda but love technology, we’d love to have your help. We’ll have regular working meetings for whoever can join – the first will be on Thursday, Oct. 5. We also plan to have a Challenge Team in the upcoming ATX Political Hackathon. There’s lots to do, and the more help we have, the more we can achieve. Sign up today!

We’ll be posting the occasional technology-related items here on the blog, and the first one, on the critical topic of information security, is below. You may have seen similar posts in this space before, and you’ll probably see more in the future – this stuff is important!

This is from a resource page provided by the national-level Indivisible site:

DIGITAL SECURITY CHECKLIST

  1. Identify a trusted security expert or advisor for your group if possible.
  2. Take an inventory of your main communications systems and assess what your top information security priorities and risks might be.
  3. Keep all your systems up to date; install legitimate security patches.
  4. Review the privacy settings on your social media accounts.
  5. Use strong passwords on all your important accounts.
  6. Enable 2-Factor Authentication whenever possible.
  7. No security system is perfect; assume anything you write or send online may become public.

Read all the details here about each of these points, share this information widely, and take steps today to keep your online activity safe. If you have questions or need help, let us know.

Training: Protest Safety and Verbal Self-Defense on Sept. 9, 2017

We’re  excited to host a session on protest safety and verbal assertiveness led by trainer Susan “George” Schorn.

Space is limited. Please RSVP on Action Network. 

We’ll cover:

  • Grounding and emotional self-regulation techniques for public speaking/civic conflict situations
  • De-escalation and other group safety skills
  • Tactical nonviolence planning essentials
  • How to take control of a conversation (being rude for the right reasons)

**Please wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to move around**

​***NOTE: Recording (video or audio) of this event is not permitted***

Space is limited. Please RSVP on Action Network. 

 

Our Commitment to Showing Up

Re-posted from TX21 Indivisible with minor edits and permission:

It hasn’t been a week since the Charlottesville terrorism, and it’s the only thing on some of our minds. Organizers in particular, many of whom have been recruiting people to show up to all the things for seven months running, are asking ourselves whether personal risk has been materially escalated or if it’s always been this high. In the end, every activist must choose for themselves how and when they will show up, and that has been true since forever. It just feels like the stakes are really high now.

With that in mind, and knowing that many of us are committed to showing up, please be sure to exercise caution and make safe choices. A few suggestions:

  • Read / re-read this protest safety document, authored by George Schorn.
  • If you can, take a protest safety course. Let us know when you see training opportunities!
  • If you’re worried about being publicly identified, google yourself preemptively and see what information is available about you on the internet. And then take steps to scrub whatever you wouldn’t want a rabid militia member to know about you.
  • Attend rallies and protests with a buddy. Stick together and keep each other calm, cool-headed, and safe.
  • Make sure that your phone battery is charged and, if possible, bring an extra battery so you can be connected at all times.
  • Let others who are not attending know where you’ll be, and when you should be home. Have a check-in plan for after the event.
  • If there’s an “alt-right” / white supremacist / hate protest and you opt out of the counter-protest, consider contributing to a fundraiser like this one, so you can protest with your dollars instead.
  • “Sheet-caking” as per Tina Fey’s recommendation has not been proven an effective activist technique, but you can decide for yourself.

With appreciation for everything you’ve done and continue to do to fight for progressive values for all,

TX21 Indivisible

 

Security Planning for Events: Tips and lessons from past actions

Cross-posted, with permission, from Susan Schorn’s blog

I’m fortunate to live in Austin, Texas, with a rich history of activism and ready access to elected officials. Since the election of November 2016, I’ve protested racists and Neo-NazisIslamophobiamisogynytax fraudracism, and climate change denial; I’ve helped with safety on marchesrallies, lobbying events, and townhalls; I’ve used tactical non-violence skills on campuses, at City Hall, the state Capitol, and the offices of Congressmen. I’ve learned a lot about crowd management, dealing with DPS troopers, and how to use a walkie-talkie. I’ve also learned a great deal about my own strengths and weaknesses in the high-energy, sometimes high-conflict setting of civic activism. I’ve learned that anyone can do this work, but it’s a lot easier if we pool our knowledge. So here, in no specific order, are some tips for others interested in, or already doing, work to keep civic protest as safe and free of violence as possible.

Planning:

If you agree to be the “security person” for an event, connect early and often with the lead organizers. Questions to ask:

  • Is this a march or rally or both? (a planned march may have to become a rally if march permits can’t be secured). You’ll need to plan a little differently for static versus moving phases of an event.
  • If it’s a march, what is the route? Will streets be blocked, and will there be a police escort?
  • Do we have approval from city or other authorities as needed? Verify that venue reservation and permitting processes are on track and will be complete well in advance of the event.
  • Is there any codified information about use of the venue? Ask especially for documents that say, “You cannot block these areas. Pedicabs can’t go here. Buses should avoid these streets. Pedestrians must stay out of these areas.” Etc. Maps of any areas with special restrictions are awesome. If the venue doesn’t provide one, you can sketch one out and ask their people if you have the restricted zones accurately marked.
  • Basically, any time anyone tells you, “You CANNOT . . .” or “You MUST . . . ,” try to get that statement in writing (email is fine).
  • If we are protesting without permits, how do we expect authorities to react?
  • Which agencies (law enforcement, venue, and other) will we be interacting with, and who is the contact person/info for each? For each contact person, know that person’s position in the chain of command for their agency. Know how agencies work together. At the Texas State Capitol, for example, many decisions are made by the State Preservation Board representative. They may ask DPS Troopers to remove people or stop behaviors they deem inappropriate, whereas direct requests from event organizers to DPS for such actions are usually ignored.
  • Do we have legal observers lined up (ACLU, Lawyers Guild, other)? Is there a number for people to call if they are arrested?
  • Have the expectations for non-violence been made plain to all participants? (MoveOn, for example, typically includes a statement about this on their event RSVP pages.)
  • How will event volunteers be identified (armbands, ribbons, hats, shirts)? I like to give the safety team their own armband or bandana in a special color so they can identify each other and so others can locate them when needed.
  • Who is the first aid team? Where will they be located?
  • Who is bringing water? Where will it be available?
  • Do we have a communications system for security? (If your group doesn’t have walkie-talkies, consider buying a set. They are relatively inexpensive on Amazon. Or, connect with other groups to co-purchase or share communications equipment)
  • If using walkie-talkies, have we clarified with other security personnel at the event which channels are clear to use?
  • Do we expect counter-protest or disruption? Who is tracking this? Who is communicating with law enforcement about it?
  • Is this a strictly local event, or is it connected to a national effort?
  • How is fundraising being handled, and what will funds be used for (most often, it’s for permits, renting port-a-potties, and first aid supplies/water)?
  • What is the “run of show”? Usually the list of speakers for an event will be sketchy until just beforehand, but organizers should have a schedule laid out indicating when the crowd will assemble, who will serve as MC, how long is anticipated for music, pledge/anthem, speakers, etc.
  • Amplification: what is the policy or law, who will enforce it?

Procuring and training safety volunteers:

I only handle event security if the lead organizers provide a list of volunteers who are committed to show up in advance for training and stay for the duration of the event. It’s fine if you can call in some people you already know and have worked with, but organizers should treat security as an integral part of their event, not something that can be outsourced. Every attendee at the event will ultimately be responsible for helping to keep the event safe.

Virtually anyone who is mature enough to act responsibly under pressure can be an effective peacekeeper at an action, but people should have some basic training in emotional grounding and other simple tactics. Diversity in your volunteer pool is a strength; adults of all ages, genders, sizes, strengths, and abilities can be effective peacekeepers and de-escalators.

The Protest Safety Training Handbook contains a complete short workshop plan for training volunteers.

I also provide a day-of handout for volunteers. I ask them to meet early at the event site, so we can explain the plan for the day and review skills. I provide the same handout to law enforcement, before and at the event, so they have some understanding of what our volunteers will be doing (I have been detained and lectured by law enforcement for de-escalating attendees at a rally who were yelling at a counter-protester–the officer interpreted our intervention as “interfering with his [the counter-protester’s] First Amendment rights”). Here’s a sample day-of handout.

At the event:

Have a plan for deploying your volunteers. You might want some volunteers in static positions (stationed at every intersection on a march route, for example) and some mingling with the crowd. In a large space, I’ll often set up zones and assign people to cover specific areas. You want volunteers to be present throughout your event space, but you also need them to be free to move to where the problems are. For a march, it often works well to have safety volunteers walk along the sides of the marching bloc, so they can intervene between marchers and bystanders should the bystanders prove hostile.

Handling disruptive counter-protesters will be covered in more detail in a subsequent post. Generally, however, friction develops at certain boundaries: near the edge of a stage area, or along the sides of a march as marchers draw the attention of people on the sidewalk.

I have my volunteers check in 30-60 minutes early, either at the main volunteer area or just with me, but I keep my own check-in list of names. This helps me introduce volunteers to one another. We have a brief orientation where we

  • Hand out walkie-talkies and bandanas
  • Assign people to their zones or areas
  • Go over the day of handout
  • Go through the “run of show”
  • Point out where first aid, water, and restrooms are
  • Go over any last-minute details on expected counter-protest, law enforcement communication, etc.
  • Review grounding and de-escalation skills
  • Establish a debriefing location where we will meet up after the event if there is any violence or other problems. Usually we do this in a nearby bar, and I buy everyone a beer. It allows us to talk over our experiences and also provides a safer way to disperse if there is any concern about being followed by hostile counter-protesters.

Finally, I encourage friendly, or at least respectful, interaction with law enforcement. Get to know specific LE officers and develop working relationships as is appropriate, but keep in mind LE often uses information gained informally to target innocent and vulnerable people. Don’t be too trusting. I’m also working on a more detailed post about interacting with law enforcement.

More resources:

There are tons of other good resources on protest organization out there; here are some I refer to often:

Know Your Rights: Free Speech, Protests & Demonstrations (ACLU)
Search and seizure (EFF)
How to use your smartphone in a protest
Tactical Nonviolence: philosophy & methods (Bruce Hartford)
Crowd psychology and safety
Activist’s Guide to Basic First Aid
Pepper Spray & Tear Gas: Avoiding, Protection, Remedies

As always, I welcome comments and feedback–please share your own tips and advice in the comments, or hit me up on Twitter (@SusanSchorn).

Training: Protest Safety & Verbal Self-Defense on May 3, 2017

On Wednesday, May 3, TX21 Indivisible is excited to host a session on protest safety and verbal assertiveness led by Susan Schorn. The workshop will take place from 6:45-8:45 p.m. at the Manchaca Road Branch library, 5500 Manchaca Rd., Austin TX 78745.
We’ll cover:
  • Grounding and emotional self-regulation techniques for public speaking/civic conflict situations
  • De-escalation and other group safety skills
  • Tactical nonviolence planning essentials
  • How to take control of a conversation (being rude for the right reasons)

Please wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to move around (all activities can also be done seated)!

This workshop is part of TX21’s monthly educational series and is free and non-partisan. All are welcome – tell your friends!

Susan “George” Schorn is a writer, martial artist, and self defense advocate. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two children, and trains and teaches at Sun Dragon Martial Arts and Self Defense.

 

Five Easy Ways to Increase Your Digital Safety & Security TODAY

In a previous blog post, I created a list of a dozen or so things anyone could do to increase their online/digital security.

It’s time to revisit this topic, but this time with a bit more focus. A dozen security tasks seems like a lot, doesn’t it? Well, don’t worry, you can massively increase your own digital security/safety by doing just a few things, so I figured I would just concentrate on five items.

Here are the five that top my list:

  1. Create and use strong passwords for all online accounts and identities. Stop using your birthday, anniversary, dog’s name, and favorite teacher’s last name in your passwords. And stop reusing the same password (or slight variations on the same theme) on all your online accounts (Facebook, online banks, commerce, etc). Instead, use a password manager like 1Password or LastPass – these apps can create and store random, impossible-to-guess passwords. If you want to login somewhere, just have the software feed the username and password to the site, and you’re in. My goal is to never know another password – except for the one that opens up my password manager. That one I keep memorized!
  2. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) or two-step verification (2SV) everywhere. When you log in to your bank or other important online accounts, you can opt to receive an alphanumeric code via text message. This simple expedient increases your security a lot – think about it: even if hackers do guess or steal your password, they won’t be able to get in without that second code. Getting a text confirmation is an example of 2SV, which is not the same as 2FA. 2FA is when you use your thumbprint, or a code from a secure token in your physical possession as the “second factor” in your login attempt (the “first factor” is your password). Either way, 2SV and 2FA makes it much harder for unauthorized people to get into your most important accounts.
  3. Protect all devices with passcodes, PINs, and passwords. Make sure that all smartphones, laptops, and other computing devices are protected by strong passwords, passcodes, and long PINs (at least 6 digits – and if your devices support alphanumeric PINs then by all means do that too!). That way, if your devices are lost, stolen, or subpoenaed, they won’t automatically be wide open to a stranger’s prying eyes/fingers.
  4. Keep your software and systems up to date. Hollywood movies would have us believe that hackers break into computers using really sophisticated software packages that bypass encryption and defeat firewalls. Not really. The majority of breaches occur because the bad guys detect a completely out-of-date version of an OS or software running on your phone or laptop. The out-of-date version has a well-known security problem, which they use to get into the system – and from there they start to take over that machine or device and then move on to other systems. Keeping your systems updated and patched can be a giant pain, but it’s an essential part of security hygiene.
  5. Be cautious about what you publish on social media. We’ve all gotten pretty used to sharing a lot about our lives: favorite books and movies, photos of family and friends, news about vacations and promotions, photos of social gatherings at favorite haunts. Unfortunately, every post of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other services helps to paint a portrait of your interests, routines, and social circle. Any and all of that can be used against you by someone who wants to gain your trust, or exploit your absence (think about all the homes broken into because people post vacation photos while they’re on vacation!). If you can’t lock your accounts or make them private, just be very aware that everything you post on social media is something you are telling the entire world.

Upcoming Protest Safety/Verbal Self Defense Training

On Saturday, March 18, we’re offering another session on protest safety and verbal assertiveness from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Northwest Family YMCA, 5807 McNeil Drive, Austin, TX 78729. Please RSVP here (note that this site only accommodates 25 people, so don’t wait to register). We’ll cover

  • Grounding and emotional self-regulation techniques for public speaking/civic conflict situations
  • De-escalation and other group safety skills
  • Tactical nonviolence planning essentials
  • How to take control of a conversation (being rude for the right reasons)

To help make this session as focused and practical as possible, you’ll be asked to answer a few questions after you register.

This meeting will be free and non-partisan. Tell your friends!

Increase Security Awareness: Honeypots

We live in interesting, complex times – and a lot of it is due to the internet. Its power and reach is immense. We use it to organize, to get our message out, and to build movements.

But there are plenty of bad actors out there who want to use the internet’s power against us. In pop culture, you always see the bad guys using really complex code to break into computer systems and databases. In reality, hackers and other bad guys use more straightforward attempts at trickery:

  • They’ll send phishing emails to trick you into changing your password on a site that looks exactly like your bank or email provider.
  • They’ll set up honeypots (i.e., decoys) to trick you into signing up for services that appear legitimate but are actually anything but.
  • There’s lots more besides – like seeding popular websites with malware (this is called a watering hole attack – think all the animals on the savannah going to a watering hole, not knowing a predator lurks nearby). If you visit popular porn sites, for example, beware! You’re likely getting hit with malware. So update your antivirus protection. And if you need information on this, tune in later.

Let’s take the second case here – honeypots. Far-right groups are now setting up websites and online petitions to trick antifa groups (that’s anti-fascist brigades, BTW) into divulging their personal information. This is part of a deliberate campaign being waged to help identify and unmask these people – mostly because antifa has been extremely effective at countering far-right activities.

 

At first glance, these fake online petitions and sites look totally legitimate, down to the URL, which might be something like antifascism.org cited above. Everything about the design, web copy, and stated goals is meant to trick antifa members. Once a member of antifa logs in and signs the petition (often by providing their name and email address) they’ve now set themselves up for doxxing by the groups running the petition.

What is doxxing? It’s the repugnant practice of publishing someone’s information on the internet with the stated goal of harassing them. In the past, doxxing victims have had vital information published: names, home/work addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers.

In this particular case, the far-right / neo-nazi groups want to doxx antifa to make them personally vulnerable and less effective in their actions.

Okay, so what’s the remedy here?

  1. As always, be aware. Use caution and think twice before committing to any online activity. There’s no need to be so paranoid you don’t log into the internet at all, just be aware of what you’re doing and what’s happening around you.
  2. Specifically, use caution when divulging your contact information anywhere on the internet. Do you know the people setting up the service or petition? If not, do you really want to divulge your personal information?
  3. Consider the creation of a secondary identity to fill in these kinds of forms. Never use your work email/identity, and think twice before using your primary personal one.
  4. Consider the use of Tor browser – it anonymizes your traffic and makes it much harder to identify sites you visit and the activities you engage in on the internet.
  5. Coincidentally, we’ve just published an article on the many Meetups that have recently cropped up claiming to be Indivisible. Just so you know, the Central Texas meetups have not been organized by us – so use caution.

#Resist Meetups and Other Groups

Update: We heard from Meetup.com: they set up all of these groups. Part of their statement:

“#Resist is an extension of the Meetup platform designed to help members
easily find and host Meetup events with a civic engagement focus.”

We weren’t alone in our concerns that 1,000 groups springing up overnight was a Honeypot attempt by people wishing to undermine the Indivisible movement. If you are thinking of organizing from the top down, please be 100% transparent about it. We will assess Meetup’s new toolset. 

Update #2: Here is a link to the Meetup to Resist site.


Today we noticed nearly 1,000 groups pop up on Meetup.com that look a *lot* like Indivisible. The Austin and Central Texas-area Meetup groups are not affiliated with Indivisible Austin or our local district groups.

We know that many groups are excited about using the Indivisible Guide to plan their actions, which is amazing. In the Austin area, our groups are working closely with the guide’s authors, and with the national group.

This movement is mostly decentralized and leaderless, so anyone can start a group if they wish. Still, we encourage you to exercise caution when signing up for a new group. Check this website for information about our affiliations and partnerships (we link to the known district-based groups from the district webpages). It also helps if you know a group’s organizers personally. Ask for a meeting or phone call!

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

Protest Safety/Verbal Self Defense Training: UPDATE

For those of you who expressed interest in this training: We’ve scheduled a session from 1-3 p.m. on Saturday, February 25th, at the Manchaca Road Branch library at 5500 Manchaca. The room is fairly large, but to facilitate planning, please RSVP here!

This meeting will be free, non-partisan, and open to the public, as required by Austin Libraries. Tell your friends!