Working together for safer spaces
Grease Rag Facilitators (the people who greet you at open shop, lead rides, and are familiar with our safer spaces policies) and Organizers (the people who are doing Facebook moderation, admin, fundraising and collectively make decisions) had a meeting to discuss safety and security.
Grease Rag cannot guarantee complete safety. We can only work together to provide safer spaces for each other, so we can all feel free to live our truths.
This meeting was called because we need to be ready to defend our safe spaces. Over the years, there have been a few safety concerns, and the list of people (abusers) banned from our spaces keeps growing. A recent incident motivated Julia to organize this meeting and share her de-escalation skills with us. Julia works with kids with aggressive behaviors and has many de-escalation skills that transfer to Grease Rag’s safer spaces.
This is just a general guide, because each situation is unique, each person is different, and we all have our own style of confrontation. Listed below are some of the specific skills that we talked about and practiced at our meeting.
- Your safety and the safety of the participants comes first!
- Do not approach the acting out person alone. Take the other facilitator with you.
- Move the conversation with the acting out person away from the participants or space.
- Do NOT approach the person too closely or put hands on them, in any way, ever.
- Use your best judgement about when to call the police or not. Keep in mind that there are can be huge – sometimes FATAL – ramifications for calling the police to intervene. *More in the section below
- Try to be aware of what triggers your flight, fight, freeze. Is it safe for you to be confronting someone right now, in this way?
- Don’t try to confront someone if you have been drinking.
If there is a confrontation or incident happening
- Alert the designated security, and otherwise get backup
- If there are children in the space, get them safe
- If you can’t remove the problem, clear out the group to make the space safer
- Don’t surround the person being confronted. Give them a free path to the door.
Escalated people can’t be talked down. When you are escalated your brain can be shorting out and it is hard to process what’s happening. (It’s similar to when you are really hungry or tired and you can’t make decisions!)
- Use as few words as possible.
- Speak clearly
- Use a neutral tone
- Don’t shout- Shouting matches can escalate into physical violence
- Don’t argue with them
- State the facts: “This is a Grease Rag Event and you are not allowed to be here.”
- Set simple, clear expectations: “You need to leave.”
- Time to process: Allow 10 – 15 seconds
- Repeat until followed
Some language you might want to use
This is a Grease Rag space.
You need to leave.
What do you want?
What do you need?
- Feet apart
- Hands at your sides or folded loosely in front of your body
- 3 – 4’ away
- Body at 45° angle away
Direct but not aggressive eye contact
- Do not approach an acting out person alone
- Someone needs to take the lead. You can tag in or out as the lead, but one person should be leading.
- When you ask for backup, set expectations. “Come out and observe, don’t touch them or yell at them. I’m the only one speaking. If you want to be tagged in, touch my shoulder gently and I’ll let you know if I’m ready to switch out.”
- Only one facilitator should speak at a time.
- Do not repeat what one person has just said – give the acting out person time to process.
- Follow the other person’s lead.
- If someone has taken the lead on addressing the situation, follow their directions and support them appropriately.
After A Confrontation
- Let’s check in with each other
- Make sure no one is left alone or goes back to a dangerous situation
- Having safe people and safe spaces that you have access to at any hour. Let people know that you’re available to be their safe space- give them a key, let them call you at 3am, etc.
- Letting people talk it out, but not making people tell the story a bunch of times which can be retraumatizing
- Let the group know about the incident
What are some things we should consider to make Grease Rag events and spaces safer?
- Consider security and safety at all events and spaces
- Develop a security plan for each open shop location
- Perhaps designate a security person for each event and space
- Create a checklist that includes security information for leaders who aren’t at this meeting
- Don’t give out anyone’s information without their consent: Last names, when they are on vacation, contact info, etc.
- Don’t publish end location for group rides, especially if it is ending at someone’s house
- Make sure everyone gets off to home okay. No one leaves alone.
- A tight space can be dangerous. Try not to have confrontations where you don’t have room to move.
Question and Discussion
Q: When would you call/not call the cops?
We might call the cops when…
someone is harming themselves or others.
there is a weapon present.
there is an order of protection in place already.
We wouldn’t call the cops when…
there is only property damage.
in a mental health crisis situation. (Need resources here)
there is a chance that the cops will escalate the situation. (LIKELY)
Q: Should you use your phone in a security incident?
Pros: It can document things in a more objective manner, it might shame someone into better behavior if they think someone is watching
Cons: It can escalate the person
Q: What does Grease Rag already have in place?
A ban list that Grease Rag members have added abusers to. Abusers are all notified. (There is no discussion outside of notification.) Sometimes relevant shops are notified. All Grease Rag organizers are notified. The only way someone can get off the list is if the person who initially added them asks for that to be revisited.
A safer spaces policy
Community partner agreements for open shop partner locations
Q: Who will act as security at Grease Rag events?
WE. US. Grease Rag!
Everyone who was at this meeting has some tools to de-escalate a security situation. We can be designated as security leads at different events and spaces.
We will train others.
This winter, we will take self-defense training. We will continue to work on our de-escalation skills.
We will have each other’s backs.
There are so many things happening in the world, to refugees, to immigrants, to trans folks, that make us unsafe. Targeted. We have to work and commit to making Grease Rag a safer space for us, in spite of this reality.
I feel so supported, and I feel so grateful for the time and energy of everyone at this Grease Rag meeting. All of your skills, all of our experiences, have taught us everything we need to handle situations that come up. Together, we’ve got this!