New Orleans My ears perked up as I was listening to a radio broadcaster in Austin relate a story about a novel and dangerous police crowd control tactic used to break up a demonstration. In his telling, a mobile squad of police bicycle cops swooped down on the protestors at breakneck speed, sending protestors fleeing in all directions and disbursing the crowd. My perceived threat alert response went into high gear. Were bicycles the “new” horses for crowd control? Was this one-off or increasingly common practice?
On the chat, another listener posted a link to something even scarier that discussed the “tiger mountain tactical” program. These folks were moonlighting police making the case that they were hell-on-wheels crowd control specialists with experience in major demos dating back to 1999 and the World Trade Organization showdown in Seattle. Many of their references were with local cop shops in the Washington State area, but they also included Orlando, Tampa, New York City, St. Louis and other US cities along with trainings in Dubai, France, and Switzerland. That’s pretty scary stuff in my book, because it is all premised-on protestors being faced with the likely probability of being hurt.
Kettling is another tactic in the handbook of police peril. I’ll never forget ACORN Canada organizers describing to me their experience of going to a similar trade demo in Toronto a decade ago and suddenly finding themselves kettled there, feeling physically trapped, and fortunate to escape without injury. Kettling involves police encircling demonstrators, which they sometimes call “trap and detain.” Supposedly it was first used to contain 800 anti-nuke demonstrators for several hours near Hamburg, Germany. Actually, reports indicate it was a favored tactic of the German military in World War II, which hardly recommends it! This is evil stuff, my friends.
One of the most outrageous phenomena that we have seen during the pandemic and the protests over everything from Black Lives Matter to masks back to the outrages in Charlottesville, Virginia over the removal of statutes, has been the conversion of personal vehicles into weapons of mass destruction used to ram and kill protestors. Through the first six months of the year there were more than fifty such incidents in protests around the United States. Talking to LaGanzie Kale of KLEK in Jonesboro, Arkansas, who was live broadcasting a BLM march in his city as a black SUV tried to ram protestors, it was a relief and seemed a miracle that no one was hurt, but that may be the exception, not the rule. Surprisingly, another link was shared during the discussion where the police in Louisville used a SWAT vehicle to ram a jeep trying to leave a car-caravan protest of 200 vehicles, first claiming the SWAT vehicle was rammed by the civilian, rather than the other way around.
Let’s be honest. These police tactics are not about crowd control. They are aggressive, antagonistic, and militaristic. They are about pitting police against people, which fuels the fire, rather than dampening it. When police see themselves at war against the community and implement tactics in line with that vision, we, and our society, are all in deadly danger.