September 14, 2009

How Many Cops

...does it take to protect a counter-protester from teabaggers?

More than they originally thought, apparently. I particularly like the bit toward the end in which the counter-protester is being a pain in the cops' ass. They'd obviously very much prefer that his protest be done as soon as possible to avoid conflict. That's just as obviously not his priority. More power to him. Literally.


Greg Laden said...

Those teabaggers are like animals.

Joshua said...

The video is amusing but it really doesn't seem like a big deal overall. Are the people going to the Tea Parties generally stupid and ignorant? Yes.

But far more violent altercations occur between protesters and counterprotesters on all sorts of issues with problems from both sides. Put together enough people with a strong opinion about anything and some of the people will be willing to be violent to people who disagree. This isn't substantially different.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Joshua, does violence happen at other protests? Yes. Is it like this? Not quite.

This guy started out with four cops surrounding him. Their purpose was not to have to break up fights and arrest people. Their purpose was to be a deterrent.

It didn't work that way. People kept trying to push past the cops to get to the guy who was walking along ignoring them. They kept on trying even after the number of cops doubled. This is not the same as a situation in which protesters and counter-protesters face off and taunt each other until some idiot reacts. Among other things, none of the protesters were holding each other back.

This was, as Greg suggests, the scenting of meat by a pack.

DuWayne Brayton said...

I really wonder about something. When I was fairly heavy into the rabble rousing scene, I attended several workshops about protesting. A great deal of time was spent on the importance of having several people meeting well beforehand and again the day of, who would be charged with helping maintain order. While much of the emphasis was on how to deal with the police, there was also a lot of discussion about counterprotesters and the critical importance of not engaging them and allowing the police to deal with any acts of violence - responding in force was always, always the very last resort and should only be engaged if it becomes obvious that there is no other way to keep everyone safe. This included accepting the possibility that closing the protest would be preferable to people getting hurt.

The thing is, these workshops were usually completely open to all comers, which on two occasions meant there were actually some very diverse groups involved. One of them included a number of fundamentalist Christians, who were intending to protest/witness at several festivals - I believe this included pride events. Another actually included a group that markedly didn't identify as religious, who were interested in counterdemonstrating anti-war protests (that one happened while I was in Portland and I was actually a speaker for the segment on civil disobedience).

What struck me then and now, is that everyone involved in these workshops were exceptionally passionate about their POV and in both of those workshops there were people who were in complete polar opposition to each other. Indeed the workshop in Portland was specifically organized at the request of anti-war protesters who intended on hitting the road. Yet everyone was quite reasonable and respected that there were a lot of strongly apposing views, but we were there to learn how to behave reasonably at protests. The anti-war and counter demonstrators in particular actually had an extremely productive discussion about dealing with each other.

I just have a hard time understanding why the fuck these morons can't do much the same thing. I mean there are definitely some righties out there who are - I met several of them. But whereas there are relatively few organized protests left of center, that don't include people who actually bothered to learn how to protest effectively, there seem to be very few on the right that have.

I guess I should be glad, because it makes them look like fucking morons, and thus makes their protests as much, if not more of a liability than a positive. But the rabble rouser in me just hates seeing protesting done badly...

Joshua said...

Stephanie. You may be right. It is possible that I'm overcompensating for my strong dislike of these protesters. You make a very good point about the lack of anyone trying to hold anyone back which I didn't notice the first time I saw the video. And it isn't the same small set of people trying to get through but quite a number of different protesters.

DuWayne's comment is most interesting: I've been to a few protests before and have never had the sort of organizing discussion he has other than an occasional "don't be jerks" sort of thing which generally seems to work for most sane people. Even when that hasn't happened I'd think that for most people basic common sense would let them know what is and is not acceptable and that they won't act otherwise barring extreme provocation. Apparently not?

DuWayne Brayton said...

Joshua -

That is generally a discussion that happens with a very few people who are mostly trying to maintain order. It would also be very dependent on the size - when it is just a few folk it isn't all that big a concern. When the numbers start getting past fifty and up, it starts becoming increasingly important to have folks around who can help maintain order. When you get to hundreds of people it can get really ugly very quickly. Oddly though, when you get up to thousands, it becomes easier (though I have never been involved in something that large).

And context is important. When you are talking about civil disobedience, the rules become critically important. The last thing anyone wants is to give the cops an excuse to get violent - though even without provocation it happens sometimes. Or when there is a pretty solid opposition that you know are going to show up, it is also important to be prepared. Even with sensible people, it can be hard to hold it together. You can't just have people reacting to them - shouting can and often does, turn to throwing things and the next thing you know, you have a riot on your hands.

Riots do not help your cause.

To give it some context, I have been involved in fairly large pride events in MI and OH, that were met with a lot of lunatic religionists. Figure you have maybe a dozen or so assholes screaming hellfire and god hates fags type bullshit at parades that have hundreds of those who are the object of the haters. Or about the same number outside of festivals that have a couple thousand moving through the gates.

Or you have a smoke-out the capital in MI. First year there were maybe forty - we were illreceived by the cops. But everyone was cooperative and reasonable and made the cops look like complete assholes. There were nearly thirty cops on hand to deal with our crowd who were there to light up joints - most of us having the foresight to get high beforehand. Second year there were too many for the cops to bust anybody. They were relegated to making sure that the tokers were staying in a particular area. Why? Because we made it into the paper the first time around and even people who are voraciously anti-drug were pissed at our treatment.

Depending on the context, crowd control is just essential.