The following text has been reproduced from the Wombles
website, so thanks to our furry friends for allowing us to use it:
Here are some tips on preparing yourself for a "white overalls"
or other similar civil disobedience action. The idea is to help individuals
defend themselves from assault by the agents of the state.
Even if you do not wish to wear a white overall and have no intention
of getting into any sort of confrontation, it is still advisable to wear
some sort of light padding; even if it's just a few layers of extra clothing
or some cotton wool.
The use of padding on demonstrations first started with the Suffragettes,
who got sick of getting broken ribs from police truncheons, and began
to make their own padding out of cotton wool and cardboard.
Remember: the cops are trained to hurt people. Whenever you hear that
two hundred people have been injured on a demonstration, you can safely
assume they were not hurt by tripping up and grazing their knees.
This may all sound quite scary, but it is better to be prepared for the
depredations of the constabulary than to run around with head wounds.
Think: if we are not intimidated and if we are not injured, attacks will
We will be able to go home knowing that we have done the right thing:
Buddies: People are most vulnerable to assault and
arrest when they are on their own: having at least one friend with you
will mean they can watch your back while you watch their's - a "Buddies"
We strongly recommend that people coming to a mass action are not on their
own: find a friend who will come with you AND THEN NEVER LET THEM OUT
OF YOUR SIGHT!
Groups of "buddies" - consisting of 16 to 30 people - come together
to form Affinity Groups. Collections of these groups can then combine
to form a much larger bloc. Movement communications between and within
affinity groups is vital; if there are agreed movement signals, make sure
everyone knows what to look out for.
To make each affinity group self-sufficient it is a good idea for AT LEAST
one person to have some simple first aid training (preparations for large
actions often include practical first aid advice sessions, plus see Medical
section). Anyone with existing health problems should seriously consider
letting other members of the affinity group know of any special considerations
in treatment that might apply.
Regardless of the weather conditions, being a Womble is
a very hot business, so you must bring as much water as you can carry.
Do not rely on helpful shopkeepers remaining open. You will need AT LEAST
TWO LITRES. Drink plenty of fresh water before the action begins.
People with medical training should make themselves known to the wider
group at the earliest opportunity. Possible injuries include injuries
from baton strikes to the head, face and upper body, crush injuries from
police vans running over people, or from horse charges.
Gas is unlikely to be used though some cops may have pepper spray or very
small amounts of CS gas. See the Medical
section for more health tips >>>
At secret training bases cops are instructed in how to
cause maximum damage to an individual: smashing them repeatedly about
the head and upper body with a two-foot long steel bar. This - not surprisingly
- can be a somewhat painful experience.
The only rational response to such tactics is to wear some form of protective
headgear. The best option is a motorcycle crash helmet from £10),
but these can restrict your field of vision. On the positive side, they
offer all-round protection for your head and face. On the down side, they
are almost impossible to smoke in!
Builder's helmets (£4-£8 each, from DIY stores) are
effective for direct head strikes but offer little protection to the side
of the head, the face or your neck. Also, this type of helmet has no chin
strap so they can be easy to dislodge or lose. But, while not perfect,
they are better than nothing.
If you use one, remove the plastic frame inside it and replace it with
some bubble wrap (2-3cm thick). You can then wrap tape around the top
and around under your chin to make a chin strap. Don't make it too tight
otherwise you won't be able to get it off again.
Bicycle helmets cost from £10 each, and offer better protection
than builder's helmets and have the added advantage of having a strap
to hold it on. Again, little face or neck protection but they are a good
As all good Wombles should already know, the idea is to
make good use of the things that everyday people leave behind. This includes
old sofas, mattresses, bubble wrap and cardboard.
For the body: take one sofa cushion and remove any external covering.
Use a knife or scissors to cut the cushion in half down the centre of
the thin end, so that you have two pieces to form a front and back. Then
cut a semi-circle out of the top of each piece to create a space for your
head to go through.
Use strong electrical tape to bind the two pieces together with as much
overlap as possible to create double-thickness sections for your shoulders.
The body piece can then be worn either within the white overall or over
the top. If you wear it over the top you will need some rope or string
to tie it around your body securely.
People have been injured by being kicked or batoned across
the shins. You could use cricket pads for your legs, or football shin
pads, both available from sports shops. Hockey or American football gear
works just as well, but is expensive. Skateboard protection (especially
elbow, knee and wrist pieces) have been proven useful too. Knee pads can
also be bought from DIY shops.
Arm pieces can be made from bubble wrap, cushion foam and cardboard. Fold
the card over a couple of times to make triple-ply sheet (about 50cm long
x 20cm wide). Take a piece of cushion foam (about 20cm wide x 50cm long
x 5cm deep) and tape the card sheet to it. Make sure that the cardboard
is on the outside so that it will disperse the pressure from a blow.
Wind the bubble wrap around your arm and the cushion/card to create sleeve;
wrap tape around a few times to make it secure - not too tight as you
will need to get it off at some point. The same approach can be used for
making padding for your legs.
Plastic or light aluminium dustbin lids are really good
if you can find them, though you may need to do some work to make a comfortable
strap to attach it to your arm.
If you can afford it / find it, perspex sheeting is among the best for
making both medium and tall "tower" shields. It is tough, lightweight
and transparent so you can see what is going on in front of you (or you
could paint it / attach posters or banners to the front). Shields can
also be made from alternating sheets of thick cardboard and plywood, glued,
bolted or taped tightly to create a lightweight barrier.
In all cases, securing it to your arm is the most important issue. You
normally need at least one strap to hold the shield in place (just below
the elbow), with another located as a hand grip so that you can control
its movement. You mant to pack extra padding between the straps and the
shield for added protection.
The attachment of the handles/straps has to be completely secure: its
a good idea to test the designs as you proceed to make sure the shield
does it job. The positioning of the straps will depend on whether you
wear the shield on your left or right arm.
Alternatively, think inflatable: rubber dinghies have been used by Ya
Basta before (use loads of clingfilm to bind six or seven of them lengthways
so that you have a wide group shield).
(See Milan photo below)
Inner tubes: ask local garages / car workshops if they have any spare
car wheel inner tubes. They usually cost (as second-hand) only 50p at
most, and so a few of these taped to a bit of stiff board (or layered
cardboard) can make an effective lightweight shield. Lorry inner tubes
make good, large defensive barriers, but can cost up to £20 each
new (maybe try scrap metal merchants or car-breakers' yards for supplies).