Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation
nettime's_occupational_therapist on Sun, 1 Jan 2012 23:57:28 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Portland Occupation's tactical innovation


Occupy Portland Outsmarts Police, Creating Blueprint for Other Occupations

   December 15, 2011

   Photo by Paul

   by Lester Macgurdy

   The Portland Occupation stumbled upon a tactical innovation regarding
   occupying public spaces. This evolution in tactics was spontaneous, and
   went unreported in the media. On December 3rd, we took a park and were
   driven out of it by riot police; that much made the news. What the
   media didn't report is that we re-took the park later that same
   evening, and the police realized that it would be senseless to attempt
   to clear it again, so they packed up their military weaponry and left.
   Occupy Portland has developed a tactic to keep a park when the police
   decide to enforce an eviction.

   The tactical evolution that evolved relies on two military tactics that
   are thousands of years old- the tactical superiority of light infantry
   over heavy infantry, and the tactical superiority of the retreat over
   the advance.

   Heavy infantry is a group of soldiers marching in a column or a phalanx
   that are armed with weaponry for hand to hand, close quarters combat.
   Heavy infantry function as a unit, not individual soldiers. Their
   operational strength is dependent upon maintaining the integrity of
   that unit. Riot police are heavy infantry. They will always form a line
   and advance as a unit.

   Light infantry are armed with ranged weapons for assault from a
   distance. Light infantry operate as individuals that are free to roam
   at a distance and fire upon the opposition with ranged weapons. Cops
   firing tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, bean bag rounds, etc.
   are light infantry. They remain to the rear of the phalanx of riot cops
   (heavy infantry) and depend upon the riot cops maintaining a secure
   front and flanks to provide them a secure area of operations.

   Protesters function fluidly as either light or heavy infantry. Their
   mass, because it is lacking in organization, functions as a phalanx,
   having no flanks or rear. Lack of organization gives that mass the
   option of moving in whichever direction it feels like, at any given
   time. If protesters all move to the right, the entire group and
   supporting officers has to shift to that flank. While the protesters
   can retreat quickly, the police can only advance as fast as their light
   infantry, supporting staff can follow and maintain a secure rear (if
   the mass of protesters were to run to the next block over and quickly
   loop around to the rear of the riot cops, the organization of the cops
   would be reduced to chaos). If that police cannot assemble with a front
   to oppose protesters, they are useless. The integrity of that tactic is
   compromised, and unable to maintain internal organization, the cops
   revert to individuals engaging in acts of brutality, which eventually
   winds up on the evening news and they lose the battle regardless of
   whether they clear the park or not.

   Because of the lack of organization in a crowd of protesters, light
   infantry cops firing tear gas, etc. has little effect because it just
   serves to disorganize a group that relies upon disorganization in the
   first place. All it really does is disorganize the riot cops, who then
   resort to brutality.

   The lack of weaponry on the part of the protesters grants them the
   luxury of opposing riot cops at close quarters, or remaining at long
   range in a refusal to engage the heavy infantry riot police at all.
   They have the advantage of the retreat, they can quickly move away, or
   in any direction, and the heavy infantry riot cops lack the swiftness
   to respond.

   So far, all the occupations have, in a grave tactical error, agreed to
   engage the riot cops when they march in to clear parks. This has been a
   show of bravado that has the tactical benefits of providing media
   coverage of the brutal methods of police and the benefit of draining
   the resources of the oppressor by forcing them to incur the expense of
   arresting and prosecuting people for trivial offenses.

   Photo by Lauriel

   Now, to move on to the actual application of these tactical principles
   (that evolved by accident rather than conscious thought), we can take
   the example of Shemanski park on the 3rd. We occupied the park and set
   up a few tents and facilities to serve food and coffee. The police soon
   declared an emergency closure of the park and came out in force, with
   full riot gear and all the weaponry. The line of riot cops soon forced
   us out of the park, so someone decided that we ought to march to City
   Hall. It was about 9 pm on a Saturday night, so City Hall was closed,
   but we marched there anyway, 800 of us blocking traffic the whole way.
   Once there, the riot cops once again lined up to disperse the crowd.
   However, since City Hall was closed and there was no point in staying
   there anyway, someone had the idea to march down to the area of town
   where all the clubs were, so we took off marching again. The riot cops
   were trailing behind us, as was the truck with the giant speakers on
   the top repeatedly announcing "This street is open to traffic,
   individuals blocking traffic will be subject to arrest." Announcing
   this repeatedly was useless. One principle of non-violent resistance is
   this: one person has to walk on the sidewalk, 500 people can walk
   wherever they please. The riots cops had no place to form a line, so
   they were crippled.

   Since we had no clear destination, the police were unable to get ahead
   of us and set up roadblocks. They were helpless to do anything but
   trail along as an escort to the march. The only other response they
   could have had was for the riot cops to charge into the marching crowd
   and attempt to disperse it by brutality, which would have been mayhem
   that could have only resulted in a PR loss by the police department as
   the images of beatings and brutality hit the airwaves the next day.

   The march, having no clear destination, marched wherever it willed
   through the downtown area, blocking traffic and light rail at will and
   growing larger as onlookers joined in. One of the participants of the
   march had a three-wheeled bike with a loud amplifier hooked up to
   batteries with which to hook up an iPod and blast party music the whole
   time. This kept the atmosphere enthusiastic and energized and served to
   motivate onlookers to join.

   The ability of music to raise morale can't be understated. Slayer,
   Metallica, etc. wouldn't be good music for this because it would induce
   aggression. Rhythmic music that's usually danced to or played in clubs
   works best. If a DJ would play it as the ball drops on New Year 's Eve,
   then it's perfect.

   After marching for 3-4 hours, we eventually found ourselves a block
   away from the park that we'd been forced out of, so we took it again.
   The riot police lined up and prepared to take the park again, but the
   attempt was called off and the police just left. They realized that
   they would have to go through the standard military procedure of
   clearing the park inch by inch, only to have us go back out into the
   streets and march again while they, one more time, trailed along
   helplessly- their entourage functioning as a part of the march,
   creating an even larger disruption to traffic (the marchers covered a
   city block, the trailing police took up another city block, effectively
   doubling the size of the obstruction to traffic).

   In summary: when the cops come to clear the park, don't resist. As they
   are preparing for their military maneuver and use of force that the
   Occupiers cannot reasonably be expected to resist, the occupiers should
   be packing up their tents and baggage and loading them into wagons,
   bicycles, backpacks, etc.

   Force the cops to clear the park inch by inch, but try to avoid arrest
   in so doing. Once they have cleared the park, rouse the crowd through
   loud amplification announcing that you intend to march (any destination
   will do). Get the music blaring and then march aimlessly, blocking
   traffic the whole way, for hours. The crowd will be energized and
   willing to march for a long time, being spurred on by energetic music
   and chants.

   The police will eventually trim down their entourage because they
   realize that they are helpless. Eventually, work your way back to the
   park. Or, if the police have fenced off the park, head to another park.
   If the police force you out, march again and they will be forced to
   follow. Eventually, they will inevitably come to the conclusion that
   they would rather have you in a park than disrupting traffic.

   The police have no response to this tactic, other than resorting to
   brutality. And if they do that, we win whether they clear the park or

   Copyright © 2012 Portland Occupier. All Rights Reserved.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: http://mx.kein.org/mailman/listinfo/nettime-l
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} kein.org