A banner drop can enable you to get a simple message out in dramatic style. Drop-banners take significantly more time to prepare, but significantly less to deploy, than graffiti of comparable size, and are less illegal. They can be most effective in crowded environments during special events, or to accentuate and clarify an action taking place nearby.
You can make a really huge banner by sewing together smaller pieces of cloth; be sure they won’t come undone, though! Double- or triple-stitching with exceptionally tough thread is probably necessary. When deciding on the size, keep in mind the way it will be transported to the place of use, the dimensions of the area where it will be deployed, and the distance from which it will be seen.
To decorate your banner, you need not be an accomplished artist; simply draw a scale model of the image or statement you would like to paint, separate that image into equal sections, mark off matching sections proportionately on the banner, and use these as guides. You can trace the lines first with chalk. You will probably need an open space outside the surveillance of the authorities to work in, since when your banner appears you won’t want it—or yourself—to look familiar to any agents of law enforcement. The paint will almost certainly soak through the material and onto whatever is beneath it, so be prepared for this as well, in terms of security as well as tidiness. Be careful above all not to spell any words wrong (!) or bunch up your lines of text near the end, and make sure your colors are striking and high-contrast and your images similarly easy to discern. Don’t use spraypaint to paint your banner unless you are especially talented with it.
Fold the edges of both sides of the banner over equal lengths of rope or chain, and sew the fabric around it. Run the thread through the rope or chain and the banner, so the banner won’t just slip off when it is vertical, and make sure to leave plenty of rope or chain at the top. Chain is heavier and thus provides more stabilizing weight for the banner than rope does, but is also much harder to transport and use quickly (and more expensive, unless you’re hunting/gathering it); it is much more difficult for police to break, but they will probably pull the banner up before cutting it off, anyway, so unless you can somehow anchor the bottom of it as well as the top, using chain will probably not add to your banner’s time in the limelight. If your banner is exceptionally long, it’s probably wise to sew a length of rope or chain along a segment in the center of the top side, too, leaving some of it on each side, so the banner can be hung from four points rather than two.
At the bottom of the ropes or chains, attach your water bottles, full of water. Attach them very firmly, so they won’t drop off, as that could cause problems. These are weights to hold the banner in place (the first banner we dropped, off the balcony of a restaurant at which we had bought a root beer as a pretext, simply tangled up in the wind and was useless). For further protection against the wind, make U-shaped cuts in the fabric—the wind should blow through these without troubling the rest of the banner (see illustration). Roll your banner up bottom first, with the water bottles inside and the text facing the inside of the roll; practice being sure which way your banner unrolls before you are in the moment of truth, so you don’t lose time panicking or, worse, get it wrong. Be careful not to roll your banner too tightly, especially as the paint, even dry, can make it stiff and a little sticky: it may not unroll all the way when you drop it, forcing you to pull it up and unroll it yourself in perhaps less-than-optimal circumstances.
For deployment, a team of two is usually best. Pick a time and location where the visibility balances out the risk. You’ll have to get the banner there, somehow: if it’s a freeway overpass, you could pull over and hop out, or just run up the ramp with it if you don’t want to risk a license plate number being taken; if it’s at the top of a busy corporate office building patrolled by guards during a terrorism scare, you’re probably better off not carrying a huge, suspicious parcel up in the elevator—are there stairs in the back? If you find an abandoned building that you can get in and out of easily enough and that isn’t frequently checked upon, and you don’t have anywhere else to work, you could theoretically smuggle in the materials and go through some or all of the banner-making process inside before dropping the banner(s) off the roof—and securing the hatch behind you with your own padlock for extra longevity. The hard part is always going to be getting out of the place after you’ve dropped: generally speaking, the more conspicuous the location is, the more people know immediately that you’re there, and the longer it will take you to get down and out—and the less likely you are to have any kind of crowd cover as you do so. Dress as nondescriptly as possible (or as maintenance employees!), and practice moving quickly up and down stairwells without getting suspiciously out of breath. Check the area out ahead of time; if you’re going to be on security cameras at any point, bring a change of clothes, glasses, a hat, a reversible jacket, or other accessories to disguise your identity.
Transport your banner in such a way that you know exactly how to orient it when the moment comes. Unless you think you’ll have time to tie knots at a leisurely pace, consider using padlocks or carabineers: have a loop pre-tied at the end of the rope so you can simply loop it around the bar or pipe or whatever you’re securing it to and snap the lock or clip onto the loop and the rope on the other side. If there’s nowhere to attach a rope or chain, you can use heavy weights—plastic jugs filled with sand, for example—to anchor the banner. Make sure the ropes or chains suspending your banner are stretched tight apart at the top, so it won’t bunch up—check in advance to make sure this is possible, and that your anchor can handle the weight you’re suspending from it. Then walk or run like hell and keep your cool.
There are a variety of other approaches to bannering. If you can toss a weight with a string attached from one rooftop to another across a street, and your friend on the other side ties a rope to the string for you to reel back and secure, you could then pull a banner across the rope to hang in the middle of the street on carabineers or shower curtain loops; some hardware stores stock a little dart-gun device that electricians use for getting wires across cramped spaces, which might be useful for such situations. There is a banner-dropping technique in which people are suspended in the air with the banner, as a form of civil disobedience to ensure the banner will remain up for as long as the individuals are willing to hang there; this has been applied, among other places, in Seattle just before the W.T.O. meeting in November 1999. Such a technique is dangerous enough that it should only be taught in person.