Riots do happen in the UK, and like the rest of the world tend to be racial. More common is lower level disorder such as localised looting. In summer 2020 we saw anti-family anti-police Marxist black supremacists and Antifa terrorists rioting in British cities. Although there were allegedly rare instances in the USA of home invasions it was mostly commercial vandalism and looting, but also roadblocks and beatings. The bigger risk, however, may be police response or totalitarian oppression, so as well as armouring up against beatings and stabbings, you need to mask up against riot control agents and potentially armour up against state guns and to a lesser extent criminal civilian guns.
- Look out for riot predictors such as crowds massing towards a target, chanting, signalling, barricades, weapons, ringleaders from out of town and sending children home.
- In the USA BLM riots, white Antifa were seen delivering pallets of bricks and handing out Soros cash to hire rioters.
- Density is to be avoided if it provides anonymity for the enemy and delays escape, although even dense crowds who know each other remain safer for longer.
- What you do not want to mess with is a tasked, organised, noisy, armed mob torching wheelie bins.
Your questions should be:
- What is my objective in going near a riot?
- Who will be there: Cops? Looters? Vandals? Protestors? Enemy factions?
- What do they want?
- When will they be there?
- Where are they heading?
- What will they target?
- Can I get a recce of infrastructure, layout and locals, eg dead ends, escape routes, obstacles, checkpoints, rendezous points, hideouts, resources to grab?
- What are their cultural norms, training, doctrine or rules of engagement?
- Have I got the manpower for it in light of my intel on opposing forces size, capabilities and motivation? Are the opposition usually all talk and no action?
- What are the risks?
- What gear do I need?
- How will I communicate, eg radios, hand on shoulder, call out codename?
- What facilities will you need? Consider the Great British Toilet Map.
- If you want to survive an encounter unscathed then usual military principles apply: you need either more people or better gear.
- An oppressive regime will already have teams, comms, training and equipment, so however likeminded the population and well prepared your MAG, you cannot organise everyone and will struggle to outnumber, outmanoeuvre or outwit the regime’s forces.
- So it will mainly come down to your gear, such as PPE, self defence weapons, first aid and radios, and your practice with it, to raise your chances of escape and deterrence, rather than beating the enemy.
- Ideally you want a three man rooftop observation team with binoculars, radio and gun, and a three man rooftop security team of marksman, observer and security.
- Avoid dressing up like a riot leader or you will be targeted by snatch squads.
- Go grey by either all wearing the same, or at least wearing a greyman layer underneath PPE, the latter potentially being ripped off if chased or soiled to reveal your new identity.
- Consider whether the risk justifies the weight, heat and visibility of of a stab vest.
- Choose covert impact & kevlar gloves (about £60) for protection against heat, slashing or impact depending what you expect, and maybe carry a pair of acid resistant gloves.
- You can clip gloves on your belt for quick release but they may be too likely to be nicked in a random crowd.
Try to secrete impact pads on knees and shins (about £55) and elbows and forearms (and maybe to UK pubic order standard with shoulders and upper arms (about £100), and cricket box and thighs (about £100)). Ultimately not many clothes would hide these shapes and once you don a helmet all pretence is over.
Check out companies like MC Products UK.
- Wear at least a bump cap under a hoodie or maybe even something stronger like a cycle helmet. Whilst you can pick up a riot helmet for around £100, you do not want to be mistaken for a cop. Some are aimed at 999 services but most are available plain and in black.
- Consider whether a reversible jacket is worthwhile. For example, Flying Cross and Spiewak do jackets for about £200 which are hi-vis one minute and black the next. Some reversible jackets come in rainproof versions.
- Go for leather patrol boots (if under trousers you can discretely have higher ankles on them) that will stay on when the going gets rough so you can run, wade or kick your way out of trouble. Ideally upgrade to public order boots, such as the Magnum Elite Shield CT (£125) for an anti penetration sole, steel toe caps and fire resistance. To upgrade to fire boots will set you back some £300.
- Thick cargo trousers, ideally with knee pads, can take a lot of abuse. A reversible top could help lose pursuers.
- If you expect petrol bombs then consider nomex balaclava (about £35-60), cargo trousers (about £200), shirt (about £150), jacket (about £200) and maybe even overalls if discretion is not essential (about £250). Some nomex jackets can also come in rainproof versions. You would also carry a fire extinguisher, and cover your back with the crook of your arm and stamp out petrol etc burning on your soles as you walk through flames.
- If you expect taser then consider lining clothes with carbon tape or look into sourcing something like NoChoice anti-EMF balaclava, hoodie and joggers, or Thorshield gloves, overalls and/or their Guardian range of ready made stun, flame & cut resistant clothes.
- A selection of ‘security’ etc hi-vis vests could help with compliance if you need to ward off attention or blag through roadblocks.
- UK tactical PPE suppliers include Niton999, UKTactical, Beachwood, PoliceSupplies, CopShop, GMK.
- Riots warrant an enhanced EDC/GHB kit, basically a contested ground kit to get you through a few hours locally.
- Vital gear- like handcuff key, flexicuff cutter, money, mask, balaclava, bandana, water (for rinsing off gas or drinking if kettled), snacks and first aid (eg tourniquet, Israeli & compressed gauze) – goes in pockets and pouches (consider something like the Unity Tactical Clutch (£155)) that would not be ripped off in a fight. You may also need to use high power lasers to dissuade armed thugs.
- Nice-to-have gear, like food and she-wee for kettling, drybag for contaminated clothes, prybar, whistle, map, satnav, powerpack, fireworks, glowstick, monocular, torch and hearing amplifier, goes in a some kind of backpack, ideally lined with a stab panel, or a messenger bag or sling bag for faster access. Some thugs may also need a zombie axe to focus their minds.
- A riot in civil war will not be like the genteel staged kettlings and charges of peacetime, people will fall over and be pounced on by mobs, barriers will become weapons, an armed or even military confrontation could ensue.
- However, due to budget cuts there are not as many police dogs and horses nowadays.
- The army could come in with guns and water cannon.
- Regardless of rules, and whether or not they are on a graduated response matrix, if let loose, the army:
- may begin with helicopter buzzes, dotting, marauding formations, but
- will eventually default to making examples of armed civilians with:
- snipers and munitions such as smoke and mortars, or
- non lethals for 5-50m range, vehicle-based stingball/flashbang launchers to extend up to 100m range, or
- .32 calibre munition ground emplacement rubber bullet grenades.
- Other riot tech available that might be adopted in future includes the sticky foam gun, Dazer laser, VLAD sound ray, VMADS heat ray, malodorants, dye cannon and pepper spray drone.
- Police could turn up with ANPR, floodlights like Nightsun, loudhailers, water cannon (in Northern Ireland), plastic bullets, guns, helicopters, snatch squads, batons, taser, dogs, horses, forward intel teams (‘FITs’, spies, in at least pairs), bicycles and armoured vehicles, and maybe dawn raids to snatch protestors before they leave the house, or hijacking your vehicle.
- General police tactics for serious crime may be deployed, and include delicensing, hacking or stalking you, confiscating assets or passport.
- However, when it goes down all that matters is whether they can overpower you and can you evade them. Opposing forces coming behind enemy lines expect to be neutralised to stop them getting information out.
Countermeasures will become increasingly likely as protests move towards civil war
- In civil war helicopters might be grounded by sabotage of NPAS in Laburnam Rd Wakefield Yorkshire WF1 3BS, and DFMC, or lack of fuel, or brought down with munitions or degraded with lasers. Other vulnerabilities include lightly armoured vehicles being still be escorted on foot and heavily armoured vehicles giving hand signals.
- To dissuade armed police, citizens should allow police to withdraw their injured and should lay off medics, but should also threaten armed police with overrun and missiles to try to trigger withdrawal under rules of engagement.
- Snatch squads should be starved of intelligence, and initially may be hampered by lack of cell space until new facilities come on stream.
- If you see a ‘riot officer’ with a side handle baton they are probably running short of men and gear as they should only be straight polycarbonate.
- ‘Mediators’ will conduct psyops amongst the crowd and those they suspect are on their way, so do not trust anyone you do not know, and even then remember that community leaders may be seconded to police.
- One way to end kettling is to out-stamina police so they have to disperse in response to officer fatigue, bearing in mind public order police are supposed to be rotated after 12 hours. Wearing layers of kevlar and nomex all day in summer is no fun.
- If an enemy force advances you can either engage them on their terms or loop back around to their rear, engaging 360 degrees on the way if you have the numbers.
- When the front line parts it is to let through specialists, either a snatch squad, dogs or horses. That is your cue to neutralise that threat before it even starts by accepting the invitation to enter, eg with your own dogs, or to part for safety.
- Snatch squads rely on compliant crowds and are defeated by supporters encircling targets or the snatch squad, ideally linking arms and in multiple layers. The ideal formation is a spinning circle, opening only to allow an envelopment force to exit and seal off the snatch squad, who will try to the ‘scratch the edges’ and rely on catching targets unawares and will not want to stay for a losing battle. It might be safe to release the rogue officers after relieving them of their batons and shields.
- Mutual aid will last while the first conflagrations are localised.
- In civil war mutual aid might be hampered by sabotaging NPoCC (national, their Strategic Intelligence & Briefing team also run low level public order intel on who should only be aggravated activists with NCTPHQ) on 2nd floor 10 Victoria St London SW1H 0NN and its Mercury mutual aid online network, and RICC (regional) coordination centres.
- But the Met have sabotaged themselves by refusing help on the basis other forces are not trained by them and forces.
- Forces are only supposed to send at least level 2 public order officers (about 16% of police are level 2, who are trained for buildings, petrol bombs and victim recovery).
- So – normally at least – forces would not just chuck every bobby on a bus, as they are only trained for protest cordons.
- Some forces would have to raid their force support units to cobble together a level 1 public order unit (who are trained in MoE and WMDs and other tactics as required, such as marine, medics and search) or may even have to beg other forces for help.
- Mutual aid procedures for coordinating can be sketchy or untested.
- With a population of 23,000 riot police, even if all leave was cancelled, duties changed, shifts brought forward and extended to 12 hours, training and funded and ringfenced duties and abstractions suspended and restricted duties waived, there would only be 14,000 on duty at once even if not many pulled sickies, so police would rely on a compliant population to avoid facing a cop: rioter ratio of 1 to 5,000.
- Even wheeling in all mutual aid soldiers who could be on duty at once at best only improves the ratio to 1 against 2,500, and that is before fatigue and defections. To put that into context, there would be one state security officer per average of 17 streets.
- Even if every cop and armed services member in the UK (about 300,000) came on duty to get stuck in, there would only be one per 223 citizens, covering five streets per four operators. They would be irrelevant for a nationwide uprising, which would be resolved by the faction of citizens with the majority view or best organisation.
- Whilst state forces could cut off communications to delay word getting out that they are concentrating force, perhaps one street at a time, neighbours will hear the commotion and the supply of vehicles, arms, ammunition and fuel will soon be cut off by angry residents before the stormtroopers are lynched.
- Unprotected police vans usually contain beat duty units with less experience and equipment, whereas if you see a convoy of three protected vans they tend to carry 22 riot trained officers including a public order commander.
- Remember the bigger the shield, the less likely the officer will attack and the more degraded and less mobile they will become.
- In peacetime police will use up to 9,000 former NDEDIU spycops to coordinate against ringleaders.
- Civilians may instinctively respond with barriers, missiles (eg slingshots and molotovs) and flanking. If they bother to plan they might bring their own dogs, or put overwatchers on roofs.
- The front line are the least threat. In civil war those behind would be the priority to neutralise as they are command, armed or snatch squads.
Riot squad roles
- In peacetime, riot squads tactics mean long shields are for blocking (although most forces use shorter shields), albeit with snatch squads and gas officers hidden in the rows behind them, whilst smaller round shields are for baton charges.
- Beware any shield could be used for chopping at you.
- You can find out your local force’s marking for evidence gatherers (eg orange epaulette, always in at least pairs for safety, without cameras suspect they are forward intelligence teams (‘FITs’) who stalk ringleaders and supply updates on mood and movement, but they have been known to together anyway) so you know where to take cameras from.
- In the Met, for example, riot PCs wear navy baseball caps, sergeants wear white, inspectors wear red and chief inspectors upwards wear yellow.
- Medics (eg green epaulette, always in at least pairs for safety) you might try to deem off limits, but there are videos of them throwing punches to restrained MoPs.
- Police liaison teams (‘PLTs’) of at least two and usually at least four officers in blue tabards are not supposed to do intelligence gathering, but cannot be trusted especially as they are allowed to work in plain clothes.
- Assume anyone in plain clothes could be police and that there may be agent provocateurs.
- To break through a line if trapped your group should be practiced in v-ing up; you form a single or double thickness arrow which pierces through the line.
- To fight your way out of being surrounded you should be practiced in circling up; you form a circle to force adversaries to only attack from one side.
- In the chaos of war, you may, for example, need to burst through a front line to snatch gas officers.
Riot control agents
- Tear gas or pepper spray is actually a liquid or solid particle or powder so you need a fine dust filter mask and goggles, ideally a full face respirator to stop your mask affecting the seal of your goggles.
- Beware most goggles have ventilation holes so are useless – you would need something more like swimming goggles.
- For gas masks, look at suppliers like 3M, Avon and Mira.
- If hit with the ‘gas’ unprotected you should:
- remove as many clothes as you dare, ideally while spread-eagling in the wind to help blow off the crystals and with an assistant, using gloves or an inside out bag to touch clothes, cutting off anything that needs to go over your head,
- store contaminated clothes in a sealed bag,
- then have a wash with soap and water,
- remove any contact lenses,
- rinse eyes for at least 10 minutes,
- wash accessories like jewellery and glasses, and
- be ready to use an asthma inhaler for breathing difficulty and bandage any burns.
- As soon as you can, move to higher ground and/or get upwind of the launchers, bearing in mind that obvious routes present a trampling risk.