” … highly readable guide to activist tactics and principles … “

Neil Ungerleider, Fast Company Magazine

Practitioners

Brief write-ups of some of the people and groups that inspire us to be better changemakers.

ACT-UP

Founded in 1987, AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) is an international non-partisan group dedicated to ending the AIDS crisis. ACT-UP utilizes direct action and devotes itself to political agitation around legislation and policy changes that can make a difference in the lives of AIDS-affected individuals. During its peak years, ACT-UP spent   …Continue Reading


Adbusters

Kalle Lasn was in a supermarket, about to pay a quarter for use of a shopping cart, when the idea of Adbusters came to him. Soon after, in 1989, Adbusters magazine was released in Vancouver as a local quarterly, chock-full of “culture jamming” design: the alteration and parody of advertisements   …Continue Reading


April 6 Youth Movement (Egypt)

The April 6 Youth Movement played a key role in ending Hosni Mubarak’s twenty-nine-year stint as Egypt’s president. It began as a Facebook group expressing solidarity with protesting industrial workers in al-Mahalla al-Kubra. The protests escalated to calls for a national strike, and on April 6, 2008, thousands of Egyptians   …Continue Reading


Art and Revolution Collective

The Art and Revolution Collective was a San Francisco group that worked in the carnivalesque puppet-and-mask performance style made famous by Bread and Puppet Theater. Their first major action was at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1996 and involved a twenty-foot-tall puppet called the “Corporate Tower of Power.”   …Continue Reading


Artist Network of Refuse and Resist!

The Artist Network (AN) of Refuse & Resist! (R&R!) used art to create a colorful culture and community of resistance. R&R! was a non-partisan, national activist organization, founded in New York in 1987 by lawyers, artists, activists, students and other youth who saw a trend in the U.S. toward greater   …Continue Reading


Bread and Puppet Theater

The Bread and Puppet Theater, founded by German immigrant Peter Schumann, wrote in their 1984 Cheap Art Manifesto: “ART IS FOOD. You can’t EAT it BUT it FEEDS you.” Their name refers to the practice of giving out free bread after each of their performances. Although their early work focused   …Continue Reading


Center for Tactical Magic

The Center for Tactical Magic (CTM) is a Bay Area collective that creates installations and exhibits that subvert the role of illegitimate power in society. Notable for the historical and technological components of their actions, CTM often re-purposes established symbols of oppressive power in unexpected, anti-oppressive ways. One such action   …Continue Reading


Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a community-based farmworker organization headquartered in Immokalee, Florida, with over 4,000 members. The CIW seeks modern working conditions and fair treatment for farmworkers, and empowers individual members and Florida farmworkers as a whole through continual reflection, analysis and education. In 2001 the CIW   …Continue Reading


Conal, Robbie

Robbie Conal is an LA-based guerrilla poster artist known for his grotesque portraits of political figures. Conal studied art at Stanford in the ’70s, but his politics led him outside the traditional art establishment and toward guerrilla art. The filmmaker Clay Walker made a documentary about him in 1992 (“Post   …Continue Reading


Deconstructionist Institute for Surreal Topology

The Deconstructionist Institute for Surreal Topology (DIST), a loose-knit group based in Canada and the UK, specializes in “Revolutionary Studies and the advancement of Applied Autonomy.” At the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Québec City in 2001, their Permanent Revolution pamphlet inspired the formation of a Medieval   …Continue Reading


Design Studio for Social Intervention

Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) describes itself as a research-and-development unit of the nonprofit sector. Founded in 2005 by Kenneth Bailey, then a fellow at MIT’s Department of Urban Design, DS4SI tries to create methods for changing the way people experience cities and public spaces. Their actions frequently use   …Continue Reading


Diggers (new)

Named for a group of seventeenth-century English agrarian communists, the Diggers were a San Francisco-based anarchist guerrilla action group active in the mid to late 1960s. Opposed to private property and market exchanges, the Diggers promoted a Free City through artistic direct actions and street theater, as well as by   …Continue Reading


Dominguez, Ricardo

Ricardo Dominguez is a theorist and practitioner of electronic civil disobedience, the co-founder of Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), and the co-director of thing.net, an ISP for artists and activists. EDT created the FloodNet System, a participatory network for conducting “virtual sit-ins” — denial-of-service attacks in which large numbers of activists   …Continue Reading


Earth First!

Earth First! is a worldwide movement of small, bioregionally-based groups of radical environmentalists. Formed in 1979, Earth First! claims to have no members, only “believers” — self-proclaimed deep ecologists who equally value and protect all life by acting locally. Their actions range from public education, grassroots organizing and involvement in   …Continue Reading


El Teatro Campesino

El Teatro Campesino — “The Peasants’ Theater” — is a California-based company whose performances focus on the social and political experience of Latinos in the U.S. They staged their first productions on flatbed trucks as part of César Chávez’s Delano Grape Strike in 1965, and collaborated with Peter Brook to   …Continue Reading


Enmedio Collective

The Enmedio Collective is a group of image professionals (designers, filmmakers, artists) that, unsatisfied by the lack of connections between art and politics action, decided to abandon their usual fields and work to situate themselves in-between, in no specific place at all and in all places simultaneously. From there they explore the power of   …Continue Reading


Ensler, Eve

Eve Ensler is a Tony Award-winning author, playwright and anti-violence feminist activist. She wrote The Vagina Monologues, a play inspired by conversations with friends and based on interviews with over 200 women about their experiences of sexuality. The play has been translated into over forty-eight languages and performed in 140   …Continue Reading


Escola de Ativismo

Escola de Ativismo is an independent, non-partisan collective based in São Paulo and active in different regions of Brazil. The school provides training in grassroots and campaign strategies to organizations, collectives, movements and individuals working for greater democracy.


Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre)

The Free Fare Movement (Movimento Passe Livre) is an independent and nonpartisan social movement in Brazil that fights to change the current private transportation system to a free public transportation system available to everyone. The movement started in the 2000s, with several important campaigns in various cities that led up   …Continue Reading


Fusco, Coco

Coco Fusco is a New York-based, Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist and writer, and the director of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design. Her videos, multimedia installations and public performances address issues of race and international relations. For example, she issued replicas of passbooks, once required of black South   …Continue Reading


Gómez-Peña, Guillermo, & La Pocha Nostra

Guillermo Gómez-Peña is a Mexico City-born performance artist, activist and writer who came to the United States in 1978. A MacArthur Fellow and American Book Award recipient, his mixed-genre work ranges from short videos and public and interactive performances to newspaper and radio commentaries. He explores cross-cultural issues, including borders,   …Continue Reading


Gran Fury

Gran Fury formed after members of ACT-UP came together in 1987 to create the art installation “Let the Record Show….” In the New Museum’s window on Broadway they displayed a neon sign reading “SILENCE=DEATH” underneath a pink triangle. This is today perhaps the emblem most associated with ACT-UP and AIDS   …Continue Reading


Greenpeace

Greenpeace is the largest environmental NGO in the world, and the most publicly visible. Today it’s based in Amsterdam and works in forty-five countries, but it started with Vancouver activists sailing to Amchitka Island in 1971 to protest nuclear testing. Greenpeace’s hallmark is a combination of disruptive action and “bearing   …Continue Reading


Guerrilla Girls

The Guerrilla Girls, a group of anonymous women who take the names of deceased female artists as pseudonyms, describe themselves as the “conscience of the art world.” Wearing gorilla masks, they use humor, facts and “outrageous visuals” to expose sexism, racism and corruption and “show that feminists can be funny.”   …Continue Reading


Hoffman, Abbie

Abbie Hoffman (1936–1989) was an activist, writer and founder of the Youth International Party (Yippies). Hoffman’s creative pranks and protests, which combined civil disobedience with the whimsical spirit of the counter-culture, made him a national symbol of the 1960s rebellions. In 1967 Hoffman and a group of collaborators showered the   …Continue Reading


I Dream Your Dream

“I Dream Your Dream” is an interactive ritual designed to be performed on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, each August 28. Participants write down their own dreams for a better world on a colored ribbon, then exchange these dreams with a stranger.   …Continue Reading


Improv Everywhere

Improv Everywhere (IE) is a New York group that stages choreographed but spontaneous-looking performances in public spaces, often with assistance from their huge army of loyal volunteers. IE was founded in 2001 by Charlie Todd, who met many of his “Senior Agents” while performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade. Their   …Continue Reading


Iraq Veterans Against the War

Founded in 2004, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is an advocacy group comprising around 1,800 active-duty military personnel and veterans from all branches of the military who have served since 9/11, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group calls for withdrawal of all occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan,   …Continue Reading


Kaprow, Allan

Allan Kaprow (1927–2006) was an American performance artist and teacher whose “Happenings” helped shape the New York performance art scene in the 1950s and ’60s, and were hugely influential on later artists. Happenings are characterized by lack of formal structure and defiance of the traditional performer/audience relationship; everyone is an   …Continue Reading


Krassner, Paul

Paul Krassner is a satirist and journalist who played a major role in the evolution of late twentieth-century American political humor. He’s best known as founder and editor of The Realist, the taboo-exploding satirical magazine that ran for forty years. Though he was a stylistically versatile writer, he’d worked at Mad   …Continue Reading


Lacy, Suzanne

California-based feminist activist, teacher, and leading figure in the public art movement, Suzanne Lacy creates socially oriented artworks that engage with community and audience members on multiple levels. Her projects include and combine exhibits, live performances, narratives, video and audio, workshops, public speak-outs, symposia and demonstrations. Lacy largely creates her   …Continue Reading


Ladies Against Women

Ladies Against Women (LAW) was a street performance group that used satire to ridicule the anti-feminist backlash of 1980s Reagan-era America. In ruffled dresses, white gloves and pillbox hats, the Ladies would hand out consciousness-lowering manifestos that included such action items as “Restore virginity as a high-school graduation requirement” and   …Continue Reading


Lesbian Avengers

The direct action group Lesbian Avengers was founded in 1992 by longtime New York lesbian activists Ana Simo, Sarah Schulman, Maxine Wolfe, Anne-christine D’Adesky, Marie Honan and Anne Maguire, who focused on issues of lesbian survival and visibility in public life. Their goal: avoid “stale tactics” and create daring and   …Continue Reading


Living Theater

A major player in the establishment of an experimental and politically engaged Off-Broadway culture, the Living Theater was founded in 1947 by Judith Malina and Julian Beck. Their early work was legendary in New York for its willingness to push boundaries: everyone who saw “Paradise Now” in 1968 remembers the   …Continue Reading


Los Angeles Poverty Department

The Los Angeles Poverty Department, a community theater company, was founded in 1985 by director/performer John Malpede. The first performance group in the nation made up principally of homeless people, the group is committed to creating high-quality, challenging performances and multi-disciplinary artworks that tell the first-hand narrative of Skid Row’s   …Continue Reading


Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a group of Argentine human rights activists formed in response to the campaign of disappearances, torture and murder carried out during the military junta’s 1976–1983 “dirty war.” The junta “disappeared” over 30,000 people while denying any knowledge of their whereabouts. Day after day,   …Continue Reading


Operation SalAMI

Operation SalAMI was a Montréal-based direct action group conceived as a campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). The MAI was a global investment treaty being privately worked out between member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the International Chamber of Commerce. The name SalAMI   …Continue Reading


Orange Alternative

The Orange Alternative was a 1980s-era underground protest movement in Poland. It used street happenings and absurdist provocations to ridicule the Communist regime and promote independent thinking. Their actions, enormously popular with students who often found Solidarity marches stiff and boring, included graffiti, distributing toilet paper (a consumer product in   …Continue Reading


Otpor

Otpor — “resistance” in Serbian — was a civic youth movement started by a small group of student activists at Belgrade University that was active from 1998 until 2003. Otpor played a key role in overthrowing Slobodan Miloševic’s government and in Serbia’s transition to democracy. In just two years of   …Continue Reading


Overpass Light Brigade & the Light Brigade Network

The Overpass Light Brigade was forged in the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011, and at first focused upon the campaign to recall right-wing governor Scott Walker. Out of that regional action the international Light Brigade Network was formed, and is behind the national coordination of messages such as the WALKOUT ON   …Continue Reading


Preemptive Media

Founded in 2002, Preemptive Media (PM) is a group of artists, activists and technologists that produces projects drawing attention to the ubiquity and invisibility of consumer data. PM’s goal is to make their audiences more aware of the information they unknowingly divulge to governments and corporations and the ways in   …Continue Reading


Provos

The Provos, active in the mid-1960s, were a Dutch counterculture movement heavily influenced by anarchism. The Provos undermined the legitimacy of the authorities with nonviolent pranks and happenings designed to provoke violent police responses. A royal wedding in 1965 was the occasion for the most audacious prank. Before the wedding,   …Continue Reading


Reverend Billy and the Church of the Earthalujah

Reverend Billy is part performance art, part guerrilla theater and part political activism. Devised by Billy Talen in 1997 as a one-man performance piece, the Reverend Billy character first appeared in Times Square preaching that “Mickey Mouse is the Antichrist!” Styled after conservative televangelists in his white dinner jacket over   …Continue Reading


Sheehan, Cindy Lee Miller

Cindy Lee Miller Sheehan, or the “Peace Mom,” is best known for her peaceful anti-war vigil “Camp Casey.” After her 24-year-old son, U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, was killed in the Iraq war in April 2004, President Bush met in Fort Lewis with Cindy and other grieving parents to pay   …Continue Reading


Situationist International

Situationist International (SI) was either one of the twentieth century’s most important and successful cadres of anti-capitalist revolutionaries, or a bunch of petty, self-marginalized megalomaniacs waging an inconsequential decades-long war of words — depending on your perspective. SI began as a group of avant-garde artists but rapidly evolved into a   …Continue Reading


Skaggs, Joey

Joey Skaggs (born 1945) is an American artist notable for his prolific hoaxes and media pranks. In one (in)famous hoax, Skaggs put an ad in the Village Voice advertising a dog brothel. After receiving a blizzard of interested phone calls, he hired actors (dogs and people) and invited reporters to   …Continue Reading


Snyder, Mitch

Mitch Snyder (1946–1990) was an American advocate for the rights of homeless folks. His career as an organizer began while he was serving time in prison following a 1970 arrest for auto theft. Snyder, along with Phillip and Daniel Berrigan, participated in hunger strikes to protest the treatment of prisoners   …Continue Reading


UK Uncut

UK Uncut is a tax justice movement that emerged in late 2010 in response to proposals by the British government to sharply reduce social spending. UK Uncut highlights the disparity between the government’s aggressive austerity measures and the preferential tax treatment enjoyed by big businesses by targeting retail stores and   …Continue Reading


Voina

Voina (“war”) is a Russian performance art collective that uses guerrilla street theater as a vehicle for political protest. The group has projected a skull and crossbones onto the national government building, painted a 65-meter erect penis on a drawbridge facing the state security agency’s headquarters, overturned police cars, and   …Continue Reading


Washington Action Group (WAG)

Since 1998, Washington Action Group (WAG) has creatively harnessed the energy of cultural work to nonviolently build people and community power with street theater, stilt walking, graphic visuals, banners, giant props/puppets, pageantry and civil resistance actions and trainings. WAG formed the core of the organizing, training and art teams for   …Continue Reading


Women in Black

Women in Black (WiB) began in 1988 in Israel as a response to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and to the Palestinian Intifada, but spread rapidly to countries all around the world. WiB’s website states: “Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to   …Continue Reading


Ya Basta Association

The Ya Basta Association was an organization of Italian anti-capitalists. The group is famous primarily for originating the tute bianche tactic. In 1994, the mayor of Milan ordered the eviction of protesters from the Leoncavallo social center, declaring, “From now on, squatters will be nothing more than ghosts wandering about   …Continue Reading


Yes Men

The Yes Men, called “the Jonathan Swift of the Jackass Generation” by author Naomi Klein, are best known for infiltrating the world of big business and doing incredibly stupid things to expose the world’s biggest corporate criminals. Although fronted by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno, their membership includes hundreds or perhaps   …Continue Reading


Zapatistas

Although the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) began as, and in many ways remains, an armed uprising against the Mexican state, the EZLN frames its goals and actions in political, rather than military, terms. The movement’s anti-leader Subcomandante Marcos has written: “In a war, the decisive thing is not   …Continue Reading