The 31st March - 13th April has been called as a fortnight
of anti-war office occupations, aimed at bringing further
pressure to bear on pro-war MPs to reverse their current
The basic idea is for folk to get together, use the internet
to find out who their local pro- war MP is, go to their
MPs office with a simple demand (eg. that the MP call for
an immediate end to the war or that the MP call for strict
adherence to international humanitarian law and join Oxfam
in rejecting any military attack on Iraq's electricity system
as a breach of the Geneva Convention), and refuse to leave
until they are either physically removed or the demand is
met (see '5. How Long to Stay' below for more on this last
If you organise an anti-war occupation please let us
know about it!
DIY GUIDE TO OCCUPYING
YOUR PRO-WAR MP'S OFFICE
MARCH 31 - APRIL 13
1. THE OCCUPATION
First ascertain when the MP's office is open, and what time
you want to occupy it - you might want to go along in the
early morning, or wait until later in the day when more
people might be able to come along. You might want to turn
up at a time when the MP will be there, or you might decide
that's not a priority as the office staff should be able
to contact him or her. Have a planning meeting beforehand,
in order to decide how long you want to stay there, what
your demands will be, what media work you want to do, and
also to talk about the practicalities of getting in, and
staying in, without causing any alarm to any of the people
working in the office. You should also set ground rules
for the occupation - for instance that there will be no
shouting, no aggression towards office staff and no damage
to anything in the office.
2. GETTING IN
Getting in shouldn't be a problem - MP's offices are open
to the public - unless they've heard about your plans and
are expecting you. It's usually best to all turn up at once,
as the door may well be locked once your intentions become
clear, in order to prevent latecomers joining the protest.
Walk in calmly, each person holding the door for the one
behind, and immediately tell the staff why you're there,
what you're going to be doing, and that the protest is going
to be peaceful.
3. WHILE YOU'RE THERE
Find a place to sit down - if you're expecting media coverage,
try and sit down in a spot where you're visible from outside,
for instance by the front window. If you can, display a
banner or placards where they can be seen from outside.
One person should be designated to liaise with office staff,
explaining why you're there, what you're asking of the MP,
and that you'll leave when your demands are met. You should
have decided beforehand whether or not you plan to obstruct
people coming into the office, and you should ensure that
everyone understands the decision.
4. WHAT TO ASK OF THE MP
You should have discussed beforehand what you're asking
of the MP - this may depend on the position they've taken
on the war. You might want to ask them to call for an immediate
ceasefire, or to call for international humanitarian law
to be upheld and for civilian infrastructure such as electricity
plants to be spared from attack.. To find out the MP's position
on the war, go to www.reselect.org.uk/mps.html - this will
tell you how they 've voted on the issue, and how they can
be deselected. If you need to find out who your local MP
is, go to www.locata.co.uk/commons/. If you don't have internet
access call the voices office on 0845 458 2564 (local rate
call) and we'll try and ascertain this info. for you.
5. HOW LONG TO STAY
Your strongest position is to state that you're going to
stay in the office until the MP agrees to what you're asking.
However, given that this scenario may be somewhat unlikely,
you should discuss beforehand whether you want to sit it
out indefinitely, or at least until you're physically removed.
In some cases, the police may decide that it's not worth
the hassle of chucking you out, since sooner or later you're
bound to leave of your own accord. Bear in mind that if
you stay too long, you may find that people start drifting
off and you lose the momentum and solidarity you had to
start with. If the police don't remove you by force, you
should ideally all leave together at a time agreed by everyone.
Bear in mind that if the police are present, they may search
people as they leave, to make sure nobody's pocketed anything,
so don't take anything with you that could be construed
to be a weapon (eg a penknife) or contains information you
don't want the police to have (eg your diary).
6. LEGAL ISSUES
The occupiers of the property - or the police, acting as
their 'agents' - have the right to use 'reasonable force'
to remove you if you refuse to leave when asked, but generally
speaking there's not a lot you can be arrested for in an
office occupation. Trespass is a civil, not a criminal offence
(the exception to this is aggravated trespass, but that
only applies when you're in the open air, not indoors).
However, anyone taking part should be aware that arrest
is a possibility. You could conceivably be arrested for
breach of the peace (which should only be used if there
is violence or a threat of violence, but the police notoriously
use it to arrest anyone doing anything they don't like).
Burglary is also a possibility, albeit remote - burglary
doesn't necessarily mean stealing something, but is defined
as 'entering as a trespasser with the intent to commit an
unlawful act'. The 'unlawful act' could be almost anything
the police think you might intend to do, for instance harassing
the staff or stealing the paperclips. In order to minimise
any chances of arrest, it's strongly recommended that you
don't use any of their office equipment (phones, photocopiers
etc), don't eat their biscuits or drink their tea, don't
touch any of their papers, but make it clear that you're
simply going to sit quietly until you get what you want.
Anyone thinking of risking arrest at your action should
understand the arrest process and the sort of offence(s)
s/he could be charged with. Excellent briefings are available
on-line at . Ideally you
should aim to provide legal support for those arrested.
For information about what this involves see the Activists'
Legal Project Briefing 'How to set up a legal support group'
If you plan to stay for more than a token length of time,
you'd be strongly advised not to drink too much before you
go in - the staff are unlikely to let you use their toilet
facilities! If you're planning on staying a while, bring
food and water to share. You might want to think about what
you can do to pass the time as it could get a bit boring
after a while - you could have some inspiring readings,
discussions, perhaps thrash out some answers to awkward
Good presswork can make your action 10 times more effective.
This needn't be a big deal: simply ring the press when the
occupation starts, then fax or email out a press release
afterwards. It's best to have a designated press person
for the day, so that there is no confusion over what has
and hasn't been done. Obviously you need to be a bit circumspect
about informing the media in advance, as they may decide
to spill the beans. Unless you know and trust your local
media, it's probably best for the press person (who shouldn't
be taking part in the occupation) to contact the press as
soon as you've got into the office. The press person should
then stay outside to talk to the media and give interviews.
Once the occupation is over, you should send out a press
release with details of what happened, quotes from occupiers,
and of course contact details for your group. George Monbiot
has written an excellent pamphlet on presswork for activists
(including how to write a press release). You can access
this on-line at or obtain copies for 1.50 from ARROW (5 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9DX). It's worth taking a camera inside as the
press probably won't be allowed in, so you can then pass
photos of the actual occupation on to them later. There
is a slim chance your film could be confiscated if you're
arrested, so make sure there aren't any compromising photos
Not everyone has to be willingto take part and risk arrest
- in fact, there are several vital roles which don't involve
such a risk. People are needed to hold vigil - possibly
with banners and placards - nearby; to leaflet passsersby;
to talk to the police; to talk to the press; to be legal
observers if there are arrests, and to form a legal support
team. See (3) below for more on legal support/observers.
10. AFTER THE OCCUPATION
Try to arrange to go to a nearby cafe afterwards to discuss
how the action went, to share thoughts and feelings, and
to organise further actions and meetings (including support
for anyone arrested). For many people this will be the first
time they've taken part in this type of nonviolent action,
so this is a chance to talk about how they felt about it,
what was good, what could have been done better, and so
AND FINALLY ...
ARROW would like to know about all the occupations taking
place, so please let us know, either beforehand or after
the event, and we can use this information to do national
presswork. Please contact us if you have questions about
any of the above: 0845 458 2564 (local rate call) or email@example.com