Shut It Down
Stories from a Fierce, Loving Resistance
By Lisa Fithian
A veteran activist’s guide to direct action and strategic civil disobedience as the most radical and rapid means to social change
For decades, Lisa Fithian’s work as an advocate for civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action has put her on the frontlines of change. Described by Mother Jones as “the nation’s best-known protest consultant,” Fithian has supported countless movements including the Battle of Seattle in 1999, rebuilding and defending communities following Hurricane Katrina, Occupy Wall Street, and the uprisings at Standing Rock and in Ferguson. For anyone who wants to become more active in resistance or is just feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, Shut It Down offers strategies and actions you can take right now to promote justice and incite change in your own community.
In Shut It Down Fithian shares historic, behind-the-scenes stories from some of the most important people-powered movements of the past several decades. She shows how movements that embrace direct action have always been, and continue to be, the most radical and rapid means for transforming the ills of our society. Shut It Down is filled with instructions and inspiration for how movements can evolve as the struggle for social justice continues in the Trump era and beyond.
While recognizing that electoral politics, legislation, and policy are all important pathways to change, Shut It Down argues that civil disobedience is not just one of the only actions that remains when all else fails, but a spiritual pursuit that protects our deepest selves and allows us to reclaim our humanity. Change can come, but only if we’re open to creatively, lovingly, and strategically standing up, sometimes at great risk to ourselves, to protect what we love.
Reviews and Praise
"Fithian makes clear that just showing up is not enough; you have to be smart and organized to be effective. Consider this Jedi teaching for tomorrow’s activists.”—Booklist
“As the left gets serious about electoral organizing, it’s more important than ever that our movements also stay mobilized, disobedient, and in the streets. Lisa Fithian has helped drive some of the most creative, game-changing organizing of our time—and her wise and warm book will help us build real power.”—Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything
“Direct action must be strategic, precise, calculated, and intentional—words that also describe Lisa Fithian. She is a movement veteran, and we stand on shoulders of women like her. Lisa has taken a new generation of leaders under her wing at a critical time, and I am honored to be among them.”—Linda Sarsour, Palestinian-Muslim-American activist; cochair, Women’s March on Washington
“Lisa Fithian is a treasure to social justice movements in the United States and an inspiration to all who have been touched by her energy and commitment. From workers’ struggles to Occupy Wall Street, from the Battle of Seattle to the Katrina disaster, Lisa has been there—teaching, leading, following, and building a toolbox for direct action. In Shut It Down, Lisa brings the past four decades of activism alive with dynamic storytelling skills that allow the reader to relive those moments and know that they, too, can pick up the banner and run with it.”—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States and Loaded
“Lisa Fithian’s book shows both the craft and the heart essential for these times. Her wide organizing experience enables her to describe both the toolbox police use against activists and how grassroots movements rise again despite everything. Get this book if you like stories and you want to win.”—George Lakey, author of How We Win; columnist, Waging Nonviolence
“Ready to rise up and shut down injustice? You can find no better guide than this dynamic collection of stories and lessons from powerhouse organizer Lisa Fithian. This brilliant book, a vital addition to every resister’s library, will take you right to the frontlines of some of the boldest and most consequential protest campaigns of the last four decades, leaving you with everything from nuts-and-bolts tactical tips to frameworks for deep strategic thinking.”—L.A. Kauffman, author of Direct Action and How to Read a Protest
“Lisa Fithian is a legend. I hope this book becomes one, too.”—David Graeber, author of Debt and Bullshit Jobs
“In my own long life of activism, Lisa Fithian is the person who has taught me the most about strategy, organizing, and sheer, stubborn courage. She’s also gotten me into more trouble than any other single person! So—full disclosure—she’s a dear friend. I’m in the book, and she says nice things about me. But even if she didn’t, I would still have to honestly say that she’s done a brilliant job of weaving activist stories together with practical, how-to advice. The book reads like an adventure story, but at the end you will come away with solid information on how to organize and make transformative social change. In these challenging times, this book is a much-needed gift!”—Starhawk, activist; director, Earth Activist Training; author of The Fifth Sacred Thing and The Empowerment Manual
“Shut It Down is an annotated travelogue of a lifetime of resistance, full of the nitty-gritty of real movements: deep strategy and think-on-your-feet decisions, friendships and alliances, best practices, worst mistakes and key lessons, real life exhaustion, and the exhilarating, world-changing power of fighting back. It’s jam-packed with tips for a journey we all need to take, shared through detailed and richly personal stories that transform the ideas of struggle into usable muscle memory.”—Aurora Levins Morales, author of Medicine Stories
“Based on lessons of struggle over the past few decades, Shut It Down is one of the best guides to, and reflections on, social transformation that I have ever read. It is both deeply profound and educative, direct and unpretentious. Everyone, whether experienced or new to wanting to change the world, needs to read and share it.”—Marina Sitrin, author of Horizontalism and They Can’t Represent Us!
“Shut It Down traces the course of radical resistance in the United States through Lisa Fithian’s astounding experiences sowing the seeds of struggle. Rather than analyzing protest movements from afar, Fithian brings her readers into the streets in this essential chronicle of direct action from below.”—Mark Bray, historian, Dartmouth College; author of Antifa
“Lisa Fithian’s Shut It Down is an invaluable tool and a must-read for organizers and activists. She explains both why we need to shut it down and the nitty-gritty of how to shut it down. She has been a key strategist in organizing hundreds of thousands of workers in the Justice for Janitors campaign—from blocking bridges in order to shut down DC to enduring mass arrests in the face of police violence during the Houston janitors’ strike. Lisa’s book inspires us to confront the powerful and teaches us how to beat them.”—Stephen Lerner, fellow, Georgetown University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor; architect, Justice for Janitors campaign
“A firsthand account from the front lines of direct action over the past four decades. A story not simply of resistance, but of building something better. The young movements of our time will only benefit from Fithian’s experiences and insights.”—Shaun Chamberlin, editor of Surviving the Future and Lean Logic; Extinction Rebellion arrestee