A rough guide to police tactics
THE FOLLOWING ADVICE is not meant to be scary,
but to make people aware that there is more to the
police than the smiling postcard bobby giving
tourists directions. The point of the Fiesta is playfully
serious (or seriously playful) - the disruption
of the DSEi arms fair. To achieve this, we need to
be aware of the police and their actions.
a publication on some aspects of the Fiesta
They have five main aims when faced with a mass action:
- To break the crowd up into manageable portions,
which they will either keep moving then
disperse or, increasingly likely, contain then
- Provoke violence to justify their actions and
flush out "ringleaders" for the morning papers.
- To contain the crowd and stop the "trouble"
- To intimidate and break the spirit of the crowd.
- To gather evidence for later.
Clearly what we have to do is stop them achieving
their objectives. The aims of people faced by
police violence on a large mass action should be:
- Getting yourself and your mates away safely,
rather than fighting
- Taking effective action, rather than fighting,
- Helping others in trouble by administering first
aid and de-arresting, rather than fighting.
Always try to form an affinity group before setting
out, and at the very least have a buddy system in
place, whereby everyone has one person to look out
for them and to act with when a situation arises.
Affinity groups are just a handful of people who
work together as a unit, as and when circumstances
arise. They can meet beforehand to discuss
issues and possible reactions, practice or role
play scenarios. The more your group meets, the
quicker your reaction times will get and your
effectiveness will improve. Water, D-locks, paint, first
aid, food, banners and spare clothes is a lot for one
person to carry, but divided up between 5 people
Dozens of static and handheld still and video
cameras now focus on any large (and many small)
demonstrations. Given the demonisation of dissent
and the big brother implications of this surveillance
many people will choose to wear some
form of mask. Please respect people's desire not
to be filed and classified by the police. The cut off
sleeve of a long sleeved t-shirt makes a good mask,
and can be worn casually round the neck. Hooded
tops cover much of the face, and baseball caps and
sunglasses will give some protection.
The Wombles have received a large amount of
attention recently, but their use of padded body
protection, helmets and their own bodies to protect
the crowd from police attack is intended as a tactic
rather than the preserve of a particular group. It
needs careful forethought and a strong affinity
DEFENDING EACH OTHER
- Keep looking outwards. Be aware of the police
at all times
- Form cordons around anything or anyone the
police may want to attack or snatch. This
means simply linking arms or holding hands.
An effective way of doing this and leaving one
hand free is for everyone to place
one hand down the back of the
trousers of the person in front.
Get consent and make a new
friend. Snatch squads may be
seen being briefed on their target
by senior officers or evidence
- Sitting down can stop the
police from charging, but it
needs to be done in large
numbers by a confident
crowd. If the shout goes
out to sit down, do it - the more people down
straight away, the more people overall will do it.
Once down, if all looks good link arms with people
- The best defence is chaos!
A complicated hierarchy (ie the police) needs orders to act on;
it takes time for these orders to filter down to
the cops on the ground. They cannot cope with
constantly changing situations. Keep moving,
utilise mad props, change your appearance,
weave in and out of the crowd.
BASIC POLICE CHOREOGRAPHY
The police plan is to control, contain and disperse.
Their latest trick is "the Kettle", keeping people
contained in an area for several hours before letting
them go one by one. They try to search, photograph
and take the details of everyone as they let
them out. You do not have to give them your
details unless you are under arrest.
Avoiding the use of this tactic means constantly
keeping moving, not allowing police lines to encircle
the crowd. It is possible through weight of numbers
to push through police lines (people outside
the cordon can help by surrounding them or pushing
from the outside), but a better solution is to
avoid the lines forming in the first place.
They'll try to divide the crowd up into "actors"
and "viewers". Small groups of cops will move into
the crowd, encouraging those who'll listen to move
onto the pavement or similarly out of the way.
Once some people start doing this these groups of
cops will get bigger until they form a dividing line,
eventually penning two groups in.
To counter this, don't spectate. Move around.
Fill gaps that could be used by the police. Use
strong banners to block routes the police may use
to form lines. Keeping together increases everyone's
Sometimes police lines have to be moved back
to allow other exits to be opened up. This means
moving our lines into theirs, slowly, with linked
arms. Tough tarp banners or crowd control barriers
can be used to contain the police.
Our greatest "weapon" (irony fully intended) is
our creativity and humour. Remember, the police
are trained, equipped and psyched up for public
order situations. The best way to beat them is to
Let's face it, they're rarely the sharpest tools in
the box, so how hard can that be?