What is an affinity group?

The concept of affinity groups has a long history. They developed as an organising structure during the Spanish Civil war and have been used with amazing success over the last thirty years of feminist, anti-nuclear, environmental and social justice movements around the world. They were first used as a structure for a large scale nonviolent blockade during the 30,000 strong occupation of the Ruhr nuclear power station in Germany in 1969, and then in the United States occupations / blockades of the Seabrook nuclear power station in '71 when 10,000 were arrested, and again many times in the highly successful US anti-nuclear movement during the 1970's and 1980's. Their use in sustaining activists through high levels of police repression has been borne out time and again. More recently, they have been used constructively in the mass protest actions in Seattle and Washington.

We don't have to use the word 'affinity group' - blockade teams, action groups, cells, action collectives etc. have all been used to describe the same concept.

UpRoot affinity groups are formed whenever something needs to be done. Some last 24 hours, such as when we organized rapidly to protest the opening ceremony of Fort Collins' new Criminal Injustice Center or to protest the 911 "remembrance" ceremonies in September 2002. Others are organized somewhat more in advance of a particular event, such as the FTAA meetings in Quebec City. Finally, some affinity groups exist for an indefinite period of time, such as Food Not Bombs, which continues to feed people at political events, and the FairBucks group which is waging a long-term campaign to get the Starbucks in Old Town to go away.

Affinity groups establish their own goals, principles, structure, and group culture. They are not accountable to UpRoot or anyone who is not in the affinity group. Affinity groups may use the name UpRoot without seeking approval. (If there is a problem with the use of the name, the Spokescouncil will deal with if necessary.) Affinity groups often have sub-committees, such as logistics, media, teach-ins, and art groups.

The concept of affinity group when used in large actions, has a slightly different meaning. Affinity groups have some responsibilities to fellow activists which they are expected to uphold. Each affinity group must take responsibility for its members. This means: making sure that everyone who comes to an action is educated about the issues, making sure that everyone is prepared to act responsibly on some set of principles (although these vary widely), having a plan to effectively make a contribution to the larger action, and, finally, taking care of the group members' physical, emotional, and legal needs. In addition, the affinity group should always have a person assigned to media liaison, communications, and legal. It's good to rotate these roles so that everyone gets experience.