Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Riots: Provocateurs!

Last night in Baltimore, the action followed a pattern that's familiar to anyone who's been following grassroots politics for a few decades.  First came the protest march, organized by local Black churches, that plodded down the street waving signs and shouting slogans and doing nothing more disruptive than blocking traffic.  Then, all of a sudden -- according to witnesses and marchers who had Twitter accounts and were carrying their phone with them -- a group of about 50 men, dressed like stereotypical Boyz In De Hood, started smashing and looting shop windows, throwing firecrackers, and attacking bystanders.  A hapless driver who turned his car onto the street was promptly surrounded, and the hoodie-boys started slamming their fists on the car windows.  They got as far as pulling the car doors open and starting to drag the occupants -- the driver, his wife and two children -- out into the street, and then, seeing that nobody in the rest of the march was joining them, suddenly stopped the attack and melted away into the crowd.  Of course the police moved in, grabbing the protesters and arresting a couple hundred of them.

The city government declared a curfew today, and the protest organizers insisted that they'd still march -- up to the beginning of the curfew.  That they did, and by the beginning of the curfew the only people on the street were just over 100 men, again wearing stereotypical Gangsta costumes.  These same guys threw rocks, bricks, bottles, firecrackers, and a molotov cocktail or two.  Again, the police moved in, but with only their riot-shields, tear gas and smoke grenades -- whereupon the gangsta boys faded quickly into the background.  The media, who were out in force this time, noted the difference between police tactics here and in Ferguson, Missouri.  The original protesters were in their churches at the time.

Now doesn't that sound a little too planned?  Yes, "violent" protests get media attention when nothing else does, but in this case the difference between the protesters and the rioters is a little too clear.

For anyone who has seen provocateurs in action before, it was pretty obvious what was going on here.  Starting with the Chicago Haymarket riot of over a century ago, the usual purpose of the provocateurs is
 to give the police an excuse to charge into the crowd of protesters, beating and possibly crippling or killing as many as possible, and arresting all the "leaders" for later jailing or execution.  Their secondary purpose is to make the protesters, and their purpose, look bad.  Their tertiary purpose, if they can pull it off, is to take the lead of the protest and stampede it into running itself over a political cliff.  A quick look through history can show you examples of all three of these in action.  Note the aforementioned Haymarket Riot, the discrediting of the Black Panthers, and the ruining of the National Organization of Women after it was seduced into following Andrea Dworkin.

But people do eventually learn.  The Baltimore protesters, after the first night, made a point of observing the curfew and getting off the streets -- and into their churches.  The police also had better sense than to charge at the crowd and bop-bop enthusiastically -- or maybe their commander recognized the provocateurs and realized that nobody else was out there.  It didn't hurt that some genius in city hall actually went and negotiated a peace treaty with the local street-gangs before the march started.

The ultimate solution is for the protest group to realize when it's being -- or likely to be -- provocateered, and have counter-tactics ready.  The easiest tactic is to step away from the provocateurs, point to them, and loudly yell: "Imposter!"  Another, requiring more warning and planning, is to surround the provos, close in on them, grab and silence them -- as in the classic movie, "The Grapes of Wrath".  Better still is to identify and isolate the provocateurs, send them off to some "action" where none of the rest of the protesters will be, and leave them to face the cops alone -- as was neatly done in Baltimore.  Well done, folks.  Well done.

--Leslie <;)))><    



Ori Pomerantz said...

I think more people need to learn about the Saisson. It wasn't particularly nice, but it worked.

Paradoctor said...

Maybe it was provocateurs, but it sure got the nation's attention.

The peaceful marches weren't enough, the riots were self-destructive, but they are both good signs, of respectively principle and energy. The trick is to combine the two. Order + Force = Power.

I recommend direct action. Specifically, sit-ins to blockade the police stations. Occupy BPD! No cops in, no cops out, until demands are met. Meanwhile have citizen patrols keep order in the neighborhoods. Make it expensive to the cops and the cops alone.

Of course they should bring camera-phones as insurance and for publicity; but the main thing is to shut the police down, as an exercise of people's power.

Of course this is a high-risk move, but the rioters are in the right mood for high-risk action. And of course this'll require organization and discipline, but the marchers have those chops. So I think Occupy BPD is doable.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Ori. The "saisson" indeed! Those Irgun idiots should have allied with Britain to get Hitler (the far greater danger) first, and get the British in their debt, so as to have some serious leverage after the war. Ah, well...

Hi, Nat. It's an interesting tactic, but it would be dangerous. They'd have to have transmitting cameras, and plenty of press folk salted among their ranks. In any case, the protesters have got to police their own ranks and watch carefully for provocateurs.

BTW, did you notice that the next day, as the media mentioned in passing, all 100 or so of the "protesters" arrested for curfew violations were released because of a "technicality"? Rrrrrright. The devil takes care of his own, as they say.

Ori Pomerantz said...

During WWII the Irgun did ally with the British, and their commanding officer died in Iraq on a British mission. It was only the tiny Stern Gang that went the other way.

However, fighting for the UK didn't provide much negotiating leverage once the Jewish Brigade was no longer needed. OTOH, it provided military training which turned out really useful a few short years later.

Leslie Fish said...

Heheheheh. Oh yes, that's the pitfall of getting your underlings to fight for you, and then reneging on your promises to them; they'll still have the training you gave them, and often the weapons too. You'd think that the British, who made a point of studying history, would have known better. Maybe they just had a blind spot about Jews.

Ori Pomerantz said...

Not such a problem in this case. The British were pulling up stakes anyway, being too exhausted to maintain their empire. The military training was mostly used against Arabs in the 1947-1949 war.

Lynne said...


"provocateered"? Is that a word?

....Um. Sorry. I don't particularly disagree with anything you're saying here, but I'm also crashing a conversation to which I have no useful on-topic contribution, and I apologise, because that's very rude. But I couldn't see how else to get in touch...and, I have a question about music?

If there is a better venue in which to ask, please point me in that direction. But I have a "Leslie Fish" filk question, and I thought, well, if anyone would know, it would be Leslie Fish.

Plus, I wanted to say "Hi." I can hope that you don't remember me, but you were very nice to me when I was a clueless and annoying teenager*.

*I make no claims that I am not still clueless and annoying. The best thing that I can say is that I am not still a teenager.

Leslie Fish said...

Heheheheh. Hi, Lynne. First off, yes, "provocateered" is a word -- a new one, invented to define something more specific than the general term, "provoked".

And yes, sure, you can get hold of me here. You can also reach me on Facebook -- on my own page, or in the "Filker" group. Anyway, what's the question?

Lynne said...

.......Well good lord, I never even thought of looking for you on Facebook. O_o Got to fix that.

Anyway, yes -- I had it in the back of my mind that you had written a filk to the tune of "Star of County Down" (which also appears to be the tune of an Irish worker's ballad, "Crooked Jack") -- but several scans through your best known songs and I couldn't pick it out. Am I misremembering, or just looking in the wrong place?

Thank you for your helpfulness, then AND now.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Lynne. Offhand, I can't remember much of the tune to "Star of the County Down", just the last line of the chorus, and I can think of a few songs which have melodic lines similar to that. Can you remember any of the words?

Lynne said...

Alas, I can't remember the words to the filk at all; otherwise, I bet Google would have helped me out.

It just came about because we started "Crooked Jack" in a guitar class, and the tune started tripping memory triggers. Unfortunately just not good enough memory triggers. :¬/