Climbing, ropes, and rigging can be used to draw attention to an issue, communicate a message, and/or directly interfere or stop an activity from happening — events often referred to as actions. All climb actions will fall under one or more of the following categories.
Photo-ops: Used to boldly articulate a demand, to rebrand a target, or to provide a message frame or larger-than-life caption for an action. Photo ops are reliant on third party media to carry and spread a message/image.
Direct communications: Speak directly to the target. They take place at the location of a target audience (CEO, shareholders, etc.) and are not reliant on media.
Occupations: Used to hold space, to pressure a target, to reclaim property, or to defend against development. Occupations at height can take a myriad of forms and are often used to heighten a message or to stop something directly.
Blockades: Used to physically shut down something, to protect something, or to make a symbolic statement. Aerial blockades can be used as a form of direct action or as a means to support another activity.
Tools and Tactics
Knowing the category/objective behind an action is essential when thinking thru tools and tactics. They range from the very specialized to the multi-purpose and there’s a lot to be considered. Below are some examples of tools and tactics used by radicals in the vertical world – keep an eye out for future articles exploring these and others further.
Removing, covering, or changing something as a form of resistance, expression, and/or direct action. Flag poles can present strong opportunities for this.
Most often made of ripstop or similar materials — net banners are also used in cases where wind is of high concern. Banners are used to boldy articulate a demand or message. They can be extremely large requiring multiple people or small enough to be handheld by a single climber.
Painting, like banners, can boldy articulate a demand or message. It can be used to tag/rebrand a target and has some staying power after things are cleared out.
A platform is a strong sturdy frame, usually wood, designed to be suspended from height. They’re very rigid and can be fairly comfortable for extended periods of time. Platforms are commonly noted for their use in tree sits and can range from the very simple to complex.
A portaledge is a packable and deployable fabric-covered platform surrounded by a metal frame that hangs from a single point and has adjustable suspension straps. A separate cover, called a stormfly, covers the entire system in the event of bad weather — think hanging tent. Their portability make them great for urban, industrial, or even marine based actions.
Nets are a packable and deployable alternative to a portaledge that must be stretched and anchored between multiple rigging points. The result is a greater footprint with the capacity to take up a larger amount of space and hold more people.
Tripods, bipods, monopods
Made of wood or metal a tripod is a three legged structure that is occupied by a person on top — safely out of reach. They can vary in height and are great for blocking vehicle traffic, entrances, or intersections. They can also be used to display a banner and/or occupy space. Bipods (two legs) and monopods (single leg) serve a similar purpose but are more difficult for authorities to take down — they’re also more difficult to set-up. Train and take caution!
A combination of methods used to occupy space suspended from or in the path of a target or something of interest. Highlines and/or traverse lines are often used as a means of transit within encampments and can be rigged to make them more difficult to remove.
Suspended Body Blockades
Placing or suspending a climber in a position that physically shuts down something, blocks something, or protects something — this may include other climbers.
A pod is a hard shell enclosed capsule designed to keep a small team of activists warm and dry in the face of extreme weather and violent opposition like water cannons and projectiles during an action. Sleeping accommodations, communications equipment, food supplies and water can all fit into a pod — making it possible for activists to stay in place for weeks at a time. The use of pods in the vertical environment is most associated with Greenpeace who have regularly used them in marine environments when taking residence on ships and oil rigs.
Have something to add to the vertical toolbox? Send a photo and caption with proper credit, location, and date to firstname.lastname@example.org.