Principles for Racial Justice Activists: Resisting State Repression

Dear Catalyst Community,

Catalyst Project is proud to release our new pamphlet, “A Troublemakers’ Guide: Principles for Racial Justice Activists in the Face of State Repression.”

From the Occupy Movement to the Movement for Black Lives, one doesn’t have to think hard to imagine how the state responds to social movements that challenge the racial and economic status quo.

We created this document to contribute to important conversations about how and why the state uses violence and coercion to suppress social movements—and how to resist it in ways that are aligned with our racial justice values. These are lessons we’ve learned over years from mentors, current and past movements led by people of color, and our own organizing experience. We hope writing down these learnings will contribute to building unity about the need to resist state repression by every means possible – from campaign work to the culture and practices of our organizations.

We have seen tear gas, batons, sound cannons, rubber bullets, and water hoses in below-freezing temperatures used from Ferguson to Standing Rock. Yet, some of the state’s methods are more insidious: spreading false information; creating or intentionally widening divisions and conflict within movements; and using violence and the criminal legal system to harass, harm and intimidate activists and scare off supporters.

We know that people who don’t understand the role and methods of the state are more vulnerable to its manipulation, and can make our movements more vulnerable to its violence.  It’s very important that white activists and organizations are not a “weak link” in security practices.

With this in mind, we offer 10 principles for racial justice activists to effectively resist state repression of our movements.

In struggle,
Isaac Lev, Donna, and Clare
on behalf of Catalyst Project

P.S If you’re a part of an organization and you’d like to order paper copies of the pamphlet at cost ($2 + S/H), and/or have Catalyst lead a workshop or conversation on the principles, please contact

P.P.S. If you’re in the Bay Area, please join us on August 8th for the launch event for this pamphlet, featuring: Cat Brooks, Anti Police-Terror Project; Isaac Ontiveros, Center for Political Education; Lara Kiswani, Arab Resource and Organizing Center; Maisha Quint, Eastside Arts Alliance; and Donna Willmott, Catalyst Project.

“Without political unity and a plan, members of a targeted organization may keep law enforcement contact to themselves or comply with the police, putting organizations and movements at risk. Intimidation is a core policing tactic, and many people crack under the pressure if they don’t have strong political foundations and support.   It’s crucial that we understand that attacks on individuals are attacks on our organizations and movements, and act accordingly.”
“Most people don’t know their rights with a beat cop, let alone with the FBI, the NSA, or with a grand jury summons. The state relies on this lack of knowledge to harass, coerce, arrest, and imprison people. Many of us who are white and/or class privileged were taught to believe “if we aren’t doing anything illegal, we don’t have anything to hide or fear.” We never know how the police will use information they get from us, but we can be sure it will be used to harm our movement or other people.”