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A woman sits with a chain around her waist, padlocked to heavy earthmoving equipment.
A protestor locks on to heavy earthmoving equipment.

A lock-on is a technique used by peaceful protesters to make it difficult to remove them from their place of protest. It often involves improvised or specially designed and constructed hardware, although a basic lock-on is the human chain which relies simply on hand grip.[1]

In the United States lock-ons are often referred to as lockdowns.[citation needed]


In American protest movements dating from the 1960s and 70s, the term lockdown applies to a person's attaching themself to a building, object, fence or other immobile object.

The safe removal of the protesters necessitates the involvement of skilled technicians, and is often time-consuming.

The lock-on chosen by the protester may be the difference between being arrested or not, or may vary the kind or number of charges brought against them by the police. If a protester can remove themselves when asked to by the police, they may stand a better chance of not being arrested. However, if they can remove themselves and they chose not to, they may receive a charge for refusing to remove themselves from the lock-on. If the protester cannot remove themselves, it is likely that potential charges are not as important to them as what they are protesting about.[citation needed]

Locking on is a very successful means of slowing down operations which are perceived by the protesters to be illegal or immoral; it is also often used to allow time for journalists to arrive and record the scene and take statements from the group spokespeople.


Mother and son use a V arm tube to lock on to a gate as part of a protest blockade.
Mother and son enjoy a lock-on together with a V arm tube.

This was originally done with chains and handcuffs, but other devices have been introduced, including tripods and tubes or pipes with handholds built in to link a person to an object or to create chains of people.Other common hardware includes padlocks, U-locks and other bicycle locks, lockboxes and tripods and platforms and other rigging in tree sitting.[1]

More complicated lock-ons involve protesters putting their limbs through pipes containing concrete, or a mixture of steel and concrete and is only limited by the imagination and ingenuity of those making the lock-on. The protester can choose between a type that will allow them to willingly remove themselves or a type that requires machinery to remove them. Devices can be buried as an additional barrier to removal. A car dragon is a car concreted into place after removing the wheels, protestors can then lock-on to a further device fixed to the car.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Young, Patrick (2007-03-18). "The Next Page: Hot trends in protest technology". Post-Gazette.com. PG Publishing Co., Inc. Retrieved 2011-02-06. 
  2. ^ Dalzell, Stephanie (11 March 2015). "Anti-protester laws: West Australian activists using locks to attach themselves to objects face tough new laws". ABC New online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 12 March 2015. 

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