Date: Thu, 23 Jun 94 13:41:03 PDT
Subject: Revolutionary Shoplifters
From: "Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed," Spring/Summer 1994
In late 1992 six people bored with consensus reality met in a
Carbondale [PA? IL? CO? --drt] safehouse to plan disruptive
acts. After some brainstorming our target became clear: the
bastion of consumer culture, the University Maul [probably IL--drt].
We designed T-shirts that read "I am a shoplifter" and
"RSA," the initials of of the Revolutionary Shoplifting Army, in bold
letters. We wore hats, dark glassses, gloves and carried shopping
bags filled with rubbish to confuse the mall security and other
interested parties. We wanted to unleash a playful subversion
upon the regular patterns of spectacular consumption and push things
as far as we could before we were thrown out.
When we arrived we were immediately disruptive simply
by our appearance. We began to play and sing and chant, at one
point marching in mock cadence to the rhythm of "five finger discount"
and "all the way with the RSA." We acted like we were dropping items
into our bags and ran about, encouraging people to steal. It was great
fun to cut loose in such a controlled environment. We called each
other code names like Lefty, Fingers, etc.
A highlight of our tour was Victoria's Secrets [sic] the lingerie
shop. A woman working there seemed eager to engage in some
interaction that was out of the ordinary and was real friendly.
Amazingly, with no security guards in sight, we made the rounds and
had a nice time in the Foot Locker. When one of our members was
explaining to a worker what we were doing, a comrade and I
approached and started doing jumping jacks. It was difficult to
keep a straight face during such lunacy. We soon moved on only to
encounter a female security guard who stopped us, and seeming
surprised and confused, inquired as to just what the hell we thought we
were doing. She called another guard on her walkie-talkie who, upon
arrival and after looking us over, said "This isn't funny!" We pointed
out that she was smiling and we all laughed together--even the
security guards. Our humorous tactics revealed the truth and at
that moment there was no hierarchically induced separation between
But the mood soured when some less then conciliatory remarks
[sic] and he was threatened with excommunication from the mall. We
patched things up and after telling us not to bother the shoppers they let
us go on our merry way.
After more fun, a few photographs and lots of funny looks
and smiles from shoppers and employees, we descended on Walgreen's
because it had lots of small items and many aisles in which to play. Uh-oh!
Here comes a security guard looking very displeased, a white male with
a confederate flag pinned to his uniform. He was very stern and requested
that we get together so he could talk to us. He said a shopper had
complained, and indeed, I found that there had been a rude remark directed
at a shopper by a comrade in response to some situation I know little of.
It was disappointing, and for me, less than desirable to create that kind of
interaction. But we had a lively discussion with the guard--the head of
mall security--and touched on topics like consumerism, capitalism,
the nature of malls, and of course, shoplifting. He seemed unable to
grasp the nature of our activity. At one point he asked if we were doing
a fraternity prank. I told him he could follow us around if he had nothing
to do and received a sharp negative response. Surprisingly, he
didn't escort us out but did warn us that he would call the Carbondale
police if there were any more problems. Having most of the wind
knocked out of our sails by these encounters, we left shortly thereafter
in a dramatic mad dash for the doors.
Hopefully some others were able to engage in "proletarian
shopping" while we created our diversion. Despite one or two negative
aspects it was an empowering and humorous experience. We plan on
returning to the mall and other select institutions either as the RSA,
mud people or streakers. We encourage the formation of other RSA
chapters around the world, and highly recommend the unleashing
of the insurgent imagination in all official temples of consumption. -Mary Mary
[The same page of Anarchy also has an useful article describing how
easy it is to climb a signal light pole, remove a few screws so the metal
grille swings free, and replace the WALK/DON'T WALK stencils with some
customized ones ("CONFORM/CONSUME," "SUBMIT/RESIST,"
"Yin/Yang," etc.). This reminds me of a friend of a friend in Los Angeles
who would spray-stencil the word "EVOLVE" on those blank yellow diamond
signs that they put at dead ends of streets; he was very successful and
had the police and the city up in arms. He would never have been caught
had he not been in the habit of wearing a leather jacket with a yellow
"EVOLVE" diamond painted on the back. -drt]
© 1994 Peter Langston