Friday, November 13, 2009

What to do during a revolt/riot

This post comes as thoughts and conclusions of the post So You Think You Want a Revolution...

where a person hits the streets during the incidents of the 2001 economic collapse in Buenos Aires.
So what did our friend do wrong and what can we learn from his experience, so as to not make the same mistakes if we find ourselves in a similar situation?

1)Don’t go out when there’s chaos.

This is the most obvious mistake. I know what the writer says about being a historic moment and wanting to be part of it, be a witness. I felt the same way. Yet I knew well there’s a risk. Even for the first “cacerolazo” there’s always the chance of coming across trouble. These days more than ever, with the official thugs, lead by Mr. Kirchner himself, “winning” Plaza de Mayo by beating up people (his own words). For them it’s a war.
Trouble? Stay put. That’s always the smartest thing to do and it should be obvious enough.

2) Have the appropriate gear.
There’s a minimum amount of gear you should carry with you at all times.
The writer mentions tear gas, smoke, etc. A face mask wont do anything at all to protect your eyes, but at least you can breathe a bit bitter when there’s a lot of smoke. Make sure to get a good quality collapsible face mask with valve. That’s the one I have in my kit at all times. Takes up no space at all and can be invaluable.

3M 9211 Series Respirator (collapsable)(link)

3) Water

Remember the part where he mention’s gathering around a broken water pipe, along with 20 others to wash his eyes after the tear gas? I remember in 9/11, there was a cop flushing his caked face, covered in dust and debris, using a small water bottle. How priceless can water be when you need it the most! Not just for drinking.

5) Map of the area
The writer mentions getting lost and not knowing where he was after getting disoriented, even though he made the entire trip on foot!! (there’s a lesson there, how easy you can get lost when nervous/scared/etc) A small map or guide of your area is essential.

6) Other things not mentioned but that I would like to have in such a situation: A weapon to defend myself, a flashlight and at least a small FM radio to know the basic news. A police scanner would be even better to know the latest events as they develop.
Finally, as always, how important it is to be in proper shape. Running, fighting if needed, having good lung capacity, you’ll need all that and more.
Just some thoughts, comments and other things I’m surely missing, all welcomed.



Anonymous said...

I think that person's fundamental mistake was going out to experience the "historic moment". A riot is not the type of "historic moment" you necessarily want to be a part of. Reginald Denny, who was the white truck driver beaten by a black mob at the start of the Los Angeles riots in 1992 certainly was part of history, but he now lives on government disability benefits, unable to work due to injuries sustained in the beating. If you're in a riot, and the cops use live ammo, you could bleed to death in the street. You might be a martyr, but the problem with martyrdom is that the martyr is not alive to enjoy it.

That writer noted that there were a handful of noncombatants who were trapped, but the streets had mostly emptied and there were just looters and cops. If you're on the streets during a riot, you're fair game as far as the cops are concerned. If one is trapped, it would be best to get indoors as quickly as possible. If one is in a car, one needs to leave the scene ASAP. It is far easier to defend yourself if you are indoors than out on the streets. I personally have no wish to experience tear gas. The writer noted that he was glad to be back at his hotel after his brush with "history". It's just not worth it.

Anonymous said...

Can we just go back to the 90s and whoop it up again for a few more years?

Jono in Arizona said...

Hey Fernando-

Just wondering if you can pop up a link to the type of face / gas mask you own. I'd like to pick up a couple but have found them to be expensive or bulky.


Don Williams said...

1) The first thing to realize is that your can either be a political activist or you can be a terrorist. You can't be both.

2) So if you think that some day in the future you might be derailing trains, setting fire to factories, or blowing up electrical substations in order to keep Skynet from exterminating the human race, then you probably don't want to get involved with political activists running demonstrations.

3) Even here in the USA, such are riddled with police informants and spies collecting names and info for the databases. Plus the crowd is videotaped during the demonstration.

Even Insurgents using rigorous security measures , the cell structure, and compartmentation of info are rolled up.

Open political movements obviously have no chance if the security forces are let loose on them. You can not publicly recruit supporters and at the same time keep out infiltrators.

And those spies have an incentive program to mousetrap you into some criminal illegality that lets them threatened you with jail in order to turn you into a police agent.

4) Note that a demonstration may be advertised as peaceful but both the security forces and political extremists have incentive to turn it into a bloody brawl using agent provocateurs.

The police --to discredit the protestors as violent in order to justify a crackdown. The extremists -- to provoke the police into a crackdown that will alienate the public and create more recruits for the extremists.

5) But since even uninvolved businessmen can get caught in these things, it can help to know some defensives measures:
a) LAW and MOFIBA street medicine treatments for tear gas and pepper spray
b) Improvised gas masks (e.g, bandana soaked in vingar) and eye protection (e.g, Swimming goggles)
c) Note that wearing contacts can badly damage your eyes if you are exposed to tear gas or pepper spray
Essential that you get them out immediately if gas appears imminent.
d) You need to protect your throat , eyes, and temple from rubber bullets. E.g, using a garbage can lid as shield.

See http://medic.wikia.com/wiki/For_pepper_spray_on_the_skin


6) I think only a fool gets in a fight with a policeman. In an emergency situation,however, if you are being attacked by a horseman, you might look at the reins. If they are leather --not steel chain -- then cutting one of them with a pocketknife will give the policeman a lot more to worry about than you. (The effect is similar to having the steering wheel come off in your hands while driving a car).

7) Re facemasks, a R95 mask (designed to protect against solvent fumes ) might provide better protection for a short while than a N95 mask that just screens out particles. The R95 has a thin layer of activated charcoal, the same as gas masks. However, it does not have the chemical layers to neutralize gases so my guess is that its protection would be for only a short time (4-5 minutes?) Maybe enough time to get away. I haven't tested any so I'm definitely guessing here.

See http://www.natlallergy.com/prod/1168/3m-8656es-and-8247-r95-filtration-masks.html

Don Williams said...

1) Clarification: In the above post, when I talked about dealing with an attack by a mounted policeman, I was thinking of a case where a businessman is in a foreign country with a repressive regime , which has suddenly decided to crack some heads -- including innocent heads -- and the businessman is merely trying to escape.

2) In countries where the rule of law is respected by the police, the crowd is first ordered to disperse by the police ,using megaphones, and the crowd is given time to do so before the cavalry moves in. In such cases, you obviously should obey the order and leave.

FerFAL said...

Jono, just added a pic and link. Expensive but nice, it adapts better o all types of face, folds flat, with valve, nice.


Don Williams said...

I checked some medical sites re treatment of tear gas and pepper spray.

THEY just flush copiously with water and do NOT use the milk of magnesia (LAW) or mineral oil/alcohol treatments
advised in the medic wiki and protester sites.

I think the advice of the doctors is probably better than the street medics.

See http://www.emedicinehealth.com/chemical_eye_burns/page6_em.htm



Anonymous said...

I have experience with tear gas and soft contacts from testing my gas masks in the army. On seven occasions tear gas did not bother my eyes when everyone else in the building were in pain. I wore the contacts the rest of the day on every occasion and suffered no pain or damage. The contacts protected my eyes and made it easier to exit the buildings. Removing your contacts in a riot will surly make you get lost. If you can not see where the police are you can not move away but are reduced to a animal in the heard.

Anonymous said...

Don -

"if you are being attacked by a horseman, you might look at the reins. If they are leather --not steel chain -- then cutting one of them with a pocketknife will give the policeman a lot more to worry about than you."

Usually your advice is good; not sure about this. Are you going to saw at the thing for two minutes with your Swiss Army while you take a clubbing about the head and neck? Or are you going to give it one fell swipe with a machete...i.e., swing a giant metal cleaver at a cop during a riot? That's the kind of thing the rifle team is there for, and if they don't get you, you're sure going to get roughed up for your trouble. Assuming a brutal regime hell-bent on cracking heads, probably better to just pepper spray the horse and run like hell you think?

Anonymous said...

If SHTF, a reason to always be clean shaven, so your mask fits and seals.

For those moments when you're caught in the middle and didn't plan on it, would mud or petroleum jelly smeared on your skin protect you from the burning sensation from tear gas?

Choosing to go out into the moment is perhaps a bad choice, but it seems like this kind of thing may "find" people who didn't plan on being in such, as I'll bet the truck driver in the 1992 Los Angeles riots didn't plan to be in a riot.

Don Williams said...

RE Anon at 11:16:

1) Leather reins used to control a horse are not very thick -- it would only take a second to cut one with a reasonably sharp pocket knife.

2) Some English style riders use double reins -- which would obviously take longer to cut.

3) Police are sensitive to rioters grabbing the reins -- some of them train the horse to spin to the side to prevent it. IN which case you would have to be quick.

4) Pepper spray might not work if you missed the nose -- see riot gear horses are fitted with:


5) One US mounted police manual I saw said to always leave the crowd a way out --and push them toward it. In such cases, a person is asking for trouble if they do not leave. Although I don't think the police cavalry in any country use sabers anymore. :)

Jono in AZ said...

Thanks for the face mask link! So cool that you actively answer the questions of your blog readers!
Rock on!

BulgarWheat said...

Nothing wrong with watching historic moments on T.V. A whole lot more comfortable too.

I was in Athens, Greece working a few years ago. This was when Israel and Lebanon were fighting. A building had been bombed in Lebanon and collapsed on a number of people.

This was Sunday, and I had gone off to take a lot of pictures at the Parthanon and a number of other ruins the previous day. I figured I'd just hike up the street and find an electronics store where I could buy and SD Card reader. Heck, that's what we do in America. Things don't work that way in Greece.

I was greeted by some hostile middle eastern youths near the American embassy and was happy to get away from that mess with everything intact.

I had no intention of witnessing history, just wanted to send some pictures home to the family.