I was recently apprised of a web site/blog, Barracadasblog1, that seems sincerely hard left, sincerely enough that I am confident that it is hard left, rather than an agent provocateur site. It also has a few interesting things to tell us about the enemy. One such, in particular, caught my eye as being the Black Bloc version of my series, from several columns ago to the week before last, giving advice to a riot control force for dealing with riots in general and Black Bloc in particular. No, of course it’s neither as good nor as thorough, but let’s work with what we have, shall we? Besides, they’re amateurs and so perhaps entitled to a little leeway and some degree and kind of sympathy.
I’ll put theirs in italics and block the paragraphs while I will not use blocking for my commentary.
While his observation that Black Bloc’s problems are tactical could be argued with – in fact they’re much deeper problems than just that – he is certainly spot on that most of the people involved have no spine. Nor will many of them show spine until Black Bloc is able to develop the kind of social cohesion that one finds in a good Army or Marine combat arms unit. Since that requires living together, eating together, working and training together, and, by no means least, suffering together, all under a chain of command backed up with the power of tradition, regulation, and law, it strikes me as preposterously unlikely that the typical BBer ever will or ever could develop much in the way of a spine. To do so would require abandoning core precepts and philosophy. Short version: Ain’t a gonna happen short of a shooting war and, if the Marxist POUM Militia of the Spanish Civil War is any indicator, probably not then, either.
You need protection from blows, gasses, and impacts. (Maalox is a efficient tear gas antidote.) You need to keep together to avoid encirclement, and arrest, you need create a barrier zone by pelting the pigs so they keep a good distance and can’t deploy in front of you, and you need barricades to slow them down, and stop traffic in the area. This makes for fear and confusion among pig ranks.
Funny how he neglects to mention protection from bullets. Never mind that, though; even though everyone wearing a mask at a riot should be shot on sight, the odds are good, given the decadent days in which we live, that few or none will be. Also, I am less than sure that Maalox, poured into the eyes, doesn’t do for the eyes worse than what CS would do anyway. I think he’s talking about skin irritation there, but that is far from the worst aspect of it. Indeed, it’s basically irrelevant unless one is coated with CS from head to foot, as I once saw happen to a lieutenant in Panama.3
It’s also funny – see story below at footnote 3 – that the writer’s never really studied what the Army or Marines will look like and be equipped with when they get called to put down a riot. “Barricades?” asked the driver of the armored vehicle. “What’s a barricade?”
I’m not sure where the number seven comes from. For an alley you might need one or two, while for Pennsylvania Avenue, just northeast of the White House, forty – or one hundred and forty – would probably not be enough. As for the line on projectiles, he is – pun intended – projecting. The projectiles used by the RC force will tend to come in three broad categories, lethal projectiles, less than lethal projectiles, as launched from a rifle, shotgun, 40mm grenade launcher, or some similar device, or CS grenades which may be of the burning sort, for which shields aren’t much use, or scatterables, oft called “skitterballs,” which explode in a cloud of CS. The first should be used regularly, but won’t be. The middle one won’t be used much, if at all, without a good chance of hitting flesh and bone. The last will be thrown or launched into the crowd over the reach of a handheld shield. What I suspect is that he’s seen shields used by foreign rioters, such as in Kiev in 20144, but missed that those shields were primarily for the purpose of close combat, not deflecting projectiles. Cue the writer’s comment on most of Black Bloc having no spine; they’re not going to get involved in close combat with people who really do want to split their heads open to feed the ants.
I’d like to test that one out, actually. I can see it working for some very limited purposes. The chief of those is that carrying a banner at least gets anarchists to do what they are traditionally rather bad at, doing something – anything – together, in line. But as for any use as a shield…well…color me skeptical.
Next Week; Part II
1 Hat tip: Grayman
2 This and all the following excerpts can be found here: https://barricadasblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/05/on-black-bloc/
3 That’s too good a story not to share. The lieutenant’s name was Mike Smith and he was, to my mind, the best lieutenant I have ever seen. Retired as a colonel and, last I heard, was working for State. We (I was a buck sergeant back then) were then playing rioters for an exercise for 4th of the 20th infantry (Mechanized). They had M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers for the riot control exercise, as well as for riots, a factor that really made 4/20 the premier RC force of the brigade. In any event, this one APC had a CS projector mounted where the .50 caliber machine gun normally would have been. We’d built a smallish bonfire at this gap the vehicles would have to pass through and stood there, waving protest signs and chanting things like “Gringos Go Home!” and “Ring a ding-ding-ding-dang; blow it out your ass!” The crew of the 113 began donning protective masks (that means “gas masks” to you non-cognoscenti) which was our signal to run. Smith, facing the direction we were running in, shouted, “Come back! Come back! It’s only smo…” At that point he turned around and was, though quite black, painted pure white from head to foot with CS powder. He simply collapsed on the spot. CS, at that concentration, takes off skin. We pulled him out of the way of the 113, which drove through our bonfire like it wasn’t there.
Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.
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