How the White Overalls Beat the Cops with Tactics of Radical Defense.

Gentleman Bandit
Protest Correspondent
6 min readJul 23, 2020

Gothenberg, 2001

Here’s a little history lesson.

You might have heard about The Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) protesting hard in France for the past few years. There was a comparable movement in the late 90s and early 2000s, which focused on radical group tactics of defense in order to successfully stand up to riot police and other forms of crowd control. That is to say that, unlike the Yellow Vests who actively seek out fistfights and other physical battles with the cops; these folks dreamed up an innovative and highly effective set of tactics to protect themselves from harm so that they could go where they wanted (such as smashing through the outer fence at the G8 Summit in Genoa) and stay there.

In most of Europe, this movement was called by its original Italian name, Tute Bianche. In England it was known as WOMBLES or The White Overalls. These grew from a movement in the Spanish-speaking world known as Ya Basta, which was in turn inspired by the uprising of the EZLN in Chiapas, Mexico. Recent uprisings in Hong Kong and the United States have reminded me a great deal of the White Overalls in their courage and resolve. Ours is a rich history of working class people standing up to the System.

I first became aware of this phenomenon via demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, when Europeans and South Americans would show up in groups with their tactics sorted out. The phenomenon never really took off in America, but to anyone who’s spent time at the Multnomah County Justice Center (headquarters of the Portland Police Department) since May 29th it should look relatable.

The Front Line was generally built out of inner tubes, of the kind one uses to be dragged behind a speedboat. These have handles built right onto them, and they’re lightweight, and quite strong. They were reinforced with packing tape, cardboard, puncture-proof plastic wrap, and other materials.

Cancun, 2001

Some common enhancements to the front line of inner tubes included attaching a skirt of tarps to protect the legs, and backing the tubes up with a layer of drywall or thick…

Gentleman Bandit
Protest Correspondent

Writing about politics, world events, and entertainment from my home on the endless road.