They’re likely to make more intelligent opposition than the average suburban guy with a rifle is anticipating. This is definitely 4GW in action, being utilized to disrupt the US state. Notice how the “peaceful protesters” are not only being used as a shield, but are actively attempting to protect the violent extremists and conceal their activities:
We call the battles of the second and third days at the Precinct a siege because the police were defeated by attrition. The pattern of the battle was characterized by steady intensification punctuated by qualitative leaps due to the violence of the police and the spread of the conflict into looting and attacks on corporate-owned buildings. The combination of the roles listed above helped to create a situation that was unpoliceable, yet which the police were stubbornly determined to contain. The repression required for every containment effort intensified the revolt and pushed it further out into the surrounding area. By Day Three, all of the corporate infrastructure surrounding the Third Precinct had been destroyed and the police had nothing but a “kingdom of ashes” to show for their efforts. Only their Precinct remained, a lonely target with depleted supplies. The rebels who showed up on Day Three found an enemy teetering on the brink. All it needed was a final push.
Day Two of the uprising began with a rally: attendees were on the streets, while the police were stationed on top of their building with an arsenal of crowd control weaponry. The pattern of struggle began during the rally, when the crowd tried to climb over the fences that protected the Precinct in order to vandalize it. The police fired rubber bullets in response as rally speakers called for calm. After some time passed and more speeches were made, people tried again. When the volley of rubber bullets came, the crowd responded with rocks and water bottles. This set off a dynamic of escalation that accelerated quickly once the rally ended. Some called for non-violence and sought to interfere with those who were throwing things, but most people didn’t bother arguing with them. They were largely ignored or else the reply was always the same: “That non-violence shit don’t work!” In fact, neither side of this argument was exactly correct: as the course of the battle was to demonstrate, both sides needed each other to accomplish the historic feat of reducing the Third Precinct to ashes.
It’s important to note that the dynamic we saw on Day Two did not involve using non-violence and waiting for repression to escalate the situation. Instead, a number of individuals stuck their necks out very far to invite police violence and escalation. Once the crowd and the police were locked into an escalating pattern of conflict, the objective of the police was to expand their territorial control radiating outward from the Precinct. When the police decided to advance, they began by throwing concussion grenades at the crowd as a whole and firing rubber bullets at those throwing projectiles, setting up barricades, and firing tear gas.
The intelligence of the crowd proved itself as participants quickly learned five lessons in the course of this struggle.
First, it is important to remain calm in the face of concussion grenades, as they are not physically harmful if you are more than five feet away from them. This lesson extends to a more general insight about crisis governance: don’t panic, as the police will always use panic against us. One must react quickly while staying as calm as possible.
Second, the practice of flushing tear-gassed eyes spread rapidly from street medics throughout the rest of the crowd. Employing stores of looted bottled water, many people in the crowd were able to learn and quickly execute eye-flushing. People throwing rocks one minute could be seen treating the eyes of others in the next. This basic medic knowledge helped to build the crowd’s confidence, allowing them to resist the temptation to panic and stampede, so that they could return to the space of engagement.
Third, perhaps the crowd’s most important tactical discovery was that when one is forced to retreat from tear gas, one must refill the space one has abandoned as quickly as possible. Each time the crowd at the Third Precinct returned, it came back angrier and more determined either to stop the police advance or to make them pay as dearly as possible for every step they took.
Fourth, borrowing from the language of Hong Kong, we saw the crowd practice the maxim “Be water.” Not only did the crowd quickly flow back into spaces from which they had to retreat, but when forced outward, the crowd didn’t behave the way that the cops did by fixating on territorial control. When they could, the crowd flowed back into the spaces from which they had been forced to retreat due to tear gas. But when necessary, the crowd flowed away from police advances like a torrential destructive force. Each police advance resulted in more businesses being smashed, looted, and burned. This meant that the police were losers regardless of whether they chose to remain besieged or push back the crowd.
Finally, the fall of the Third Precinct demonstrates the power of ungovernability as a strategic aim and means of crowd activity. The more that a crowd can do, the harder it will be to police. Crowds can maximize their agency by increasing the number of roles that people can play and by maximizing the complementary relationships between them.
Non-violence practitioners can use their legitimacy to temporarily conceal or shield ballistics squads. Ballistics squads can draw police fire away from those practicing non-violence. Looters can help feed and heal the crowd while simultaneously disorienting the police. In turn, those going head to head with the police can generate opportunities for looting. Light mages can provide ballistics crews with temporary opacity by blinding the police and disabling surveillance drones and cameras. Non-violence practitioners can buy time for barricaders, whose works can later alleviate the need for non-violence to secure the front line.
Here we see that an internally diverse and complex crowd is more powerful than a crowd that is homogenous. We use the term composition to name this phenomenon of maximizing complementary practical diversity. It is distinct from organization because the roles are elective, individuals can shift between them as needed or desired, and there are no leaders to assign or coordinate them. Crowds that form and fight through composition are more effective against the police not only because they tend to be more difficult to control, but also because the intelligence that animates them responds to and evolves alongside the really existing situation on the ground, rather than according to preexisting conceptions of what a battle “ought” to look like. Not only are “compositional” crowds more likely to engage the police in battles of attrition, but they are more likely to have the fluidity that is necessary to win.
Of course, the only reason they won is that the local and state authorities were on their side and preventing the police from taking the sort of actions that allowed the National Guard to easily control and disperse them.