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These Mirrored Protest Signs Were Designed To Help Dakota Pipeline Activists Confront The Police

Protestors make the police face themselves.

According to legend, the mathematician Archimedes defended his hometown from Roman siege by aiming a giant mirror at attacking ships and setting them on fire. It probably didn’t happen. But the story inspired a designer to create a new tool for activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline: mirrored protest signs.

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The signs aren’t designed to set fires, but to reflect an image of police and to distract them with flashing light.

“There is a two-fold effect of having police be reflected into the mirrors,” says designer Nikolas Bentel. “First, the mirrors will be a way for the police to see who they have become. Second, the police will be placed in the context of the words on the mirror. Whatever has been written onto the mirrors will be directly associate with what is being reflected, almost like a cartoon thought bubble.”

Mirrors were used in similar ways by protestors facing riot police in the Ukraine. After Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, some demonstrators around the country also used mirrors.

Bentel’s version is lightweight, using acrylic and paint instead of a traditional mirror, and cheap to make and customize with a message.

“If people would like to make their own mirrors, it’s simple,” he says. “All you need is a piece of acrylic, spray paint, and chalk marker. You apply the mirrored spray paint to one side of the plexiglass and the chalk marker with your statement on the other side.”

On the plains, he envisions that the mirrored signs can also be used to send messages over a distance, flashing light like morse code. Bentel plans to make and send out signs as protestors request them, and has already shipped the first series.

He hopes that the myth that originally inspired him will also inspire activists. “The stories show us that someone somewhere has fought a similar fight and was, in fact, victorious against insurmountable odds,” he says. “Archimedes faced similar odds. The large Roman fleet would have quickly ruined his small town, but with a bit of ingenuity and faith he was able to hold the attackers back. I hope by equating the anti-DAPL fight with the fight of Archimedes, the protestors will find hope in his victory.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.

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