The tactics and tools used in crowd control situations have not changed much over time. Here are three examples. On the left is a Roman Shield Wall augmented by the short stabbing sword issued to Roman soldiers. In the center is the “British Fighting Square.” This formation was used when an infantry unit was caught in the open and confronted with cavalry. The first rank kneeled with fixed bayonets the rifle butt set into the ground. The second rank also had fixed bayonets and loaded weapons. The third example is a modern police shield line. If you think about it, the modern line represents a step back as the police have non-lethal riot batons as their primary weapon.
I admit to being “old school” people who choose to fight with police ought to feel like they have been in a fight at the end of the day, otherwise, how will they benefit from the experience? But every thing is less lethal and non-lethal these days. This requires a rethinking of police tactics, equipment, and goals.
The press will always jump on the number of people drawing breath at a given location when estimating crowds. The police know different. People attend protests for a variety of reasons and protest is probably not near the top. They are curious; they want to be entertained, they are there because of promises of free music, good dope and protester chicks put out. Only ten percent of a faction is committed to the cause. The vast majority need two things to abandon the cause, a reason, and a route. At the first sign of an adverse action, most people will choose to leave, if they can.
Ball Feed – Adjustable from one ball every 1 second to every 6 seconds, Ball Speed – Up to 95 MPH, Elevation Control – Ball trajectory is electronically adjustable from groundstroke to lob, 300 ball capacity.
Go to any tennis club, training camp or school and you will find a variation of this machine. It shoots tennis balls so players can improve their game. Have a group protesters that refuse to disperse? How about 300 tennis balls down range in 300 seconds at up to 95 mph? How can this be a weapon?
There are several dimensions to consider:
Protesters: The police shot tennis balls at us. The tennis balls hurt. The protest line breaks and runs.
Eleven-year-old-girl: Coach set up the shotmaker and fired tennis balls at us. Sometimes I got hurt, and it stung a little.
ACLU: We object to the militarization of tennis ball machines, it’s an automatic weapon.
If this machine were deployed before police physical contact, crowd numbers would be reduced. The crowd dynamic may shift from support to ridicule of the protesters unable to stand up to a barrage of tennis balls. Aside from feminists running around with plastic vaginas on their head demanding to be taken seriously, it is tough to appear heroic running from a tennis ball.