Riots are certainly possible even over something as seemingly minor. We saw what happened when a glitch in the EBT system caused a run on Wal-Mart in two towns in Louisiana. In a short time, the looters with an alibi I’ll call them, had cleaned out the food section of the store leaving nothing for anyone else to eat. The Washington times reported:
“It was definitely worse than Black Friday. It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town. There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Wal-Mart was totally decimated,” said Springhill Police Chief Will Lyn.
All of this talk of riots got me to thinking about large protests and the eventual destruction we have seen for a long time played out in large cities and foreign countries. Get enough angry people together, the riot-police will come out and then things will get broken and people will get hurt. We have not heard a lot of riots in the news recently; perhaps the global outrage has cooled off with the onset of fall. The Arab Spring is now the quiet of Autumn or maybe the news simply stopped reporting it. Riots are social protest taken to another level and they can be dangerous places to be.
Obviously, riots can get out of hand and even our armed forces train to control riots. Army publication FM 3-19-15 even lists as potential causes of a riot, events that seem eerily similar to the food riots predicted above.
Community unrest results in urban conflicts that arise from highly emotional social and economic issues. Economically deprived inner city residents may feel that they are treated unjustly or ignored by people in power and authority. Tensions can build quickly in a community over a variety of issues, such as hunger, poor employment opportunities, inadequate community services, poor housing, and labor issues. Tension in these areas creates the potential for violence. When tensions are high, it takes a small (seemingly minor) incident, rumor, or act of injustice to ignite groups within a crowd to riot and act violently.
I came across a manual when I went looking for more information about Riots and Riot control tactics. I wanted to see if I could understand the perspective of the police and military Riot control units and learn what they are trained to do when they are called out to put down these mini rebellions. One manual I found is called the “Warrior Crowd Control and Riot Manual” which you can purchase for $5. I don’t know who wrote it and I haven’t been in a riot so I can’t vouch for the information but it is an interesting read. If you search for it, you might be able to find a free version to download. Everything in it points to a source advocating for rioting and this book seems to be a guide for how to carry out a riot, not how to manage one.
The manual is broken into two sections. The first deals with Crowd Control and this is written from the perspective of the police or military CCU (riot squad) team most of the time. I think the manual flows back and forth between the Crowd Control being directed at you and others. The second section is called Riot training and goes into some pretty interesting details about how protestors should conduct a riot. Maybe, more accurately the section deals with how to stage a riot without getting hurt or captured. I think this information is valuable if you are faced with a WROL scenario and find yourself dealing with a large and hostile group who may be trying to riot outside your home or neighborhood. It could also be useful if you find your self caught up in the middle of a riot in your city.
Before I continue, I would recommend that you DO NOT get into any of these situations. Avoid riots at all costs unless your own values tell you that there is no other option. This manual and others dealing with the rioter side of the confrontation usually advocate violence in some fashion. In all of the cases I have seen at least in the US, that violence is taken out on businesses by the agitators listed in this guide. You don’t want to be the loser busting in the window of a department store and stealing clothes if you are mad at a politician.
The flip side is that if you are in a WROL situation, these tactics might quickly go out the window. If I am defending my home from a mob who is intent on taking our lives, I won’t be as concerned with showing restraint if you understand what I mean.
Crowd control is a generic term for getting a large group of people to do what you want them to do. In a riot, this is usually to stop what they are doing or to move away. The people responsible for crowd control have to make decisions based upon what the crowd is doing, the energy of the crowd and what direction the crowd is heading. If the crowd is heading for your home, the objective would be to stop them before they get there and send them off where they came from without any violence.
Crowd control weapons – There are a lot of weapons and equipment to consider if you are part of the riot squad in charge of dispersing the crowd. Primary to any offensive weapons would be defensive in the form of protection. Helmets are vital to protect your head from flying objects like rocks or bottles and be anything from Military Kevlar to skateboarding helmets. You can easily pick up a surplus Kevlar helmet at your local army navy store or on EBay. Shop around because prices are all over the place.
Once your head is protected, you move down to shin and forearm guards, heavily padded gloves, face shields and a striking weapon. Usually the weapon is a large baton which can be made from any good solid piece of wood. You can get inch and a half poles at your local hardware store or the old standby – a baseball bat. Pepper spray is also a good close quarters deterrent if people are coming towards your line. Lastly you would round out your personal protection with a firearm in most cases.
Crowd behavior and Psychology – Crowds are living breathing animals and their moods change based upon a lot of factors like how long they have been protesting, the injustice they are railing against, weather, frustration. Most of the riots we see on TV are comprised of a lot of people watching, even more taking photos and a small percentage acting up. It is the agitators that you have to be mindful of and that is who the CCU’s will try to take out of the equation.
The agitators are the ones who will instigate the crowd to action and these are the de facto leaders. If you remove the agitator, in many cases, the crowd will lose its steam. Riots by their definition are large and unorganized. A well-organized riot control team can manage a much higher number of protestors. I will point out that this concept correlates directly with the reason the crowd is rioting in the first place. If there is a piece of legislation that the crowd wants passed, the violence is likely to be low. Kill a few people or take away freedom and liberty and then you have a different dynamic. At a certain point, when people have nothing else to lose, all bets are off and the crowd could easily go on a rampage destroying everything in its path.
Communications during a riot – It is vital that you are able to maintain communications with the rest of the riot squad or your group during the course of the event. Radio communications might not work so hand signals should be your fall back. Having hand signals for how to line up and constrain the crowd will make communicating even in a highly noisy environment possible.
Lethal Over watch – Controlling the high ground offers time tested advantages over almost any opponent. Governments will always have snipers on the roof tops to monitor the situation of any riots. That is great news if they are protecting you, bad news if they aren’t. The lethal part of this element is the ability for the sniper to take out anyone who poses a threat to life or safety of the Riot Squad. Snipers are also able to help watch over the crowd from a better advantage point and see actions that the people on the ground aren’t able to. If you find yourself in a riot, take a look around and see how many places you are being watched. With drones now, there is virtually no way to keep yourself out of the eyes of someone.
Containment vs. Dispersal – The person responsible for running the CCU will make the call in a riot as to what the goal is of the riot squad. Usually, the intended result is to either disperse the crowd or contain them for arrest. There are various methods of containing crowds but in most cases, the CCU wants the riot to disperse. For this reason they will leave an escape route and start driving people out away from the primary zone.
If you are in a riot and find yourself getting backed into a dead end, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a whooping.
Snatch Squads – Snatch squads are 4-6 man teams designed to run out from the line of riot squad or come from behind, grab protestors, usually leaders or agitators and remove them from the protest. This is a highly psychological move meant to intimidate and disorganize the protestors. Snatch squads are usually in the back of the line and they don’t have shields or weapons.
Constructing Barricades – The last line of defense is usually a barricade and are used by smaller forces to funnel the action of a larger crowd. Barricades are best placed at choke points to block passage of the riot and can be constructed from all manner of items. Barbed wire or concertina wire is a great deterrent for a barricade as is cars, downed trees, or fences. You can also use virtually any other large item like wood, stairs, doors, refrigerators, etc.
The goal of any type of riot control should be to disperse the crowd peacefully, but violent and even lethal force is allowed in the right circumstances. Don’t find yourself on the wrong side of a riot and keep an eye out Friday for what may happen. I think I’ll hit the grocery store tonight just in case.