A how-to guide to the sport and science of SUV tipping
The Flatcats have struck again.
Somewhere in the East Bay Hills, in a very quiet, wealthy neighborhood, very early in the morning when all is still and cold and dark, a pair of hands work silently. Suddenly there is a slight hiss, and the front tire of a four-ton SUV with leather interior, tinted glass, 8 miles to the gallon, cell fax machine, goes flat. With 20 minutes, 14 SUVs have matching flat tires. Flyers denouncing fossil fuel use, driving, poor urban planning and corporate domination that make SUVs possible are carefully placed under windshield wipers. Another mission accomplished.
Cars, driving, too many roads, expanding suburbs, green house gas emissions: these things are destroying the earth and ruining life for its human inhabitants.
While the “above ground”, legal movement for less driving, more public transit, better urban design, more biking and other crucial social change is expanding, an equally important underground movement of sabotage and urban insurrection is quietly underway. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Flatcats, which struck most recently on Bike to Work Day (May 16) and claimed responsibility for deflating tires on 20 SUVs, is taking up the challenge. The destruction of the atmospheric balance on the planet is at stake as hundreds of millions of vehicles world-wide emit ever more green-house gases, changing the earth’s climate and threatening the largest species extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.
It is indisputable that the private automobile is the largest contributor to global climate change. For many 21st century humans, distant emissions targets negotiated by the largest auto producing nations which hope to reduce emissions to 1990 levels, which were already frightfully high, are not good enough. “Above ground” activists use public education and lobbying to bring incremental change. A few more dollars for buses and bikes, a few less for freeway construction. And these tiny changes are fiercely fought by powerful corporations with millions to corrupt public officials and buy the minds of the populace. Even if all the changes proposed by advocates were all implemented immediately, cars would still rule. More desperate measure are in order.
The art, science and sport of “SUV tipping” is expanding rapidly in many urban areas to combat auto domination, although to date these clandestine actions have been completely suppressed by mainstream media outlets fearful of encouraging greater numbers of participants in this do-it-yourself sport. SUVs are a convenient and symbolic target, since they are permitted to emit 5.5 times as much smog-causing pollution per mile as cars under federal law. But the real goal is drastically reducing everyday dependence on all types of cars, not just SUVs. And car-culture must be fought not just to prevent global climate change, but because car dependence destroys urban areas, crushes opportunities for community, and impoverishes the spirit.
Flatcats deflate SUV tires without destroying the tire or tube, aiming, or now, at annoyance rather than property destruction. Their website notes that “we are however sorry to target individuals in this manner”. But the auto culture is so entrenched, where to start? The authors of auto domination are many, powerful and disbursed: corporations of all kinds (auto, oil, road building, developers), the governments they dominate.
Following are some tips for becoming a flatcat in your neighborhood:
- Go to an auto parts store and buy a valve core remover. These are often fastened to valve caps found in most auto parts stores.
- Attach it to a ¼ inch dowel (found at hobby stores) or, for faster action, a cordless screwdriver. Out in the field, you remove the valve cap, put the core remover on and turn. You don’t need to completely remove the core to let all the air out.
- Acting in a tiny group is best, but only with trusted friends and as few as possible for security. One or two lookouts, plus a person on the valve is best. For added security, a person at home in case of trouble. The person at home doesn’t need to know what is planned.
- If the lookouts spot someone, pick an innocent signal, like yelling a common name. Don’t yell “cops!”
- NEVER talk or brag about actions, or discuss them on the phone, inside a building or near strangers. Folks bragging may be cops.
- Wear gloves. Any tools should be free of fingerprints.
- Make a flyer explaining what is going on. When making the flyer, don’t use unusual fonts (use Helvetica). Consider printing the flyers out at a copy store to make it harder to trace computer printer models. Never retain originals or computer copies of lfyers.
- Dress like you belong where you’re doing the action and have a normal activity you’re engaged in: walking the dog, jogging, etc.
- When finished, don’t head towards your home. Go in the opposite direction and then turn back after a while.
- Use a bike for transport. There is no license plate to trace.
- If caught, don’t admit anything, don’t talk, don’t argue or sloganize, try to get away before cops arrive. If caught by cops, say nothing and wait for your lawyer.
- Create beauty, have fun, don’t get caught.