May 082012
 

Justice is a fickle friend, and laws for safe sane times may not apply with equal sense in an extreme situation

(This is an enormous – and essential – topic, we’ll come back to it repeatedly in future articles.)

None of us really know what to expect after TEOTWAWKI.  It is prudent to imagine a range of ‘worst case’ scenarios and to prepare for them to varying degrees.

The whole concept of TEOTWAWKI involves vague perceptions of lawlessness, of the break-down of government and law and order; with post-apocalyptic images of roving bands of marauders looting and pillaging, and armed shoot-outs between preppers in their fortified retreats and attackers trying to invade their dwellings and steal their food.

Much of this may indeed occur, and we are right to be prepared for such breakdowns in our social fabric.  But even though government may be paralyzed and ineffective, the rule of law will remain in place unless formally repealed.  Murder remains murder.  Stealing remains stealing.  And that is just the start – it is not only such ‘prime directives’ as these that will continue to apply.  Alas, all the gazillion and one other rules and regulations that currently attempt to keep our orderly lives well maintained will also remain in force, even though they clearly would be dysfunctional and would interfere with all our desperate attempts at survival.

Think about it this way – at the present time, just because there is no policeman within ten miles or twenty minutes doesn’t mean all the applicable laws don’t apply to what you’re doing and where you are.  Just because you’ve not been audited on your taxes before doesn’t mean you don’t still have to fully and accurately disclose all your income.

And just because you ‘got away with’ something at the actual moment you did it, that doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you a day, week, month, year, or possibly decade or longer in the future.

This will be true during any type of crisis, too.  For example, if you need to get a building permit before commencing construction of a barn, and if you need to get a building inspector to then sign off on the building before it can be occupied; if you don’t do these things during a crisis, you may find your barn will be condemned and pulled down once the authorities resume their reign over us.

If you set up a local radio station for your community, you would be liable for FCC fines and possibly even imprisonment when they get back to enforcing such things.

Shoot a deer or a duck out of season and without a permit, or with a type of firearm not permitted for such purposes, and you’ve still committed a crime which in some states could see you subsequently get locked up.  There’s no exception to these laws for ‘except if starving or after the end of the world as we know it’.

And if you should discharge any firearms inside city limits, that could prove a problem, too.  If the discharging of a firearm resulted in the death or injury of another person, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself staring at an investigation that threatens you with a potential murder charge.

Understand one more thing.  Such investigations will likely be brought by the people who were and are resentful of your preparedness, and your ability to more comfortably survive through the tough times than they did.  They won’t say so in as many words, but they’ll be out to get their own back at you.  They’ll be starting to judge you from the standard that you should have shared everything you had with all the people who didn’t bother to prepare; they’ll consider you as little better than baby killers (indeed, it is a certainty that babies (and people of all other ages) will die during a major extended emergency, and they’ll be the first to say ‘So why didn’t you sacrifice all your food, all your fuel, all your shelter, and everything else you so selfishly hoarded, so these children of these poor illegal immigrants could survive’.

These people will truly believe that you should have risked your own future as a valid sacrifice towards the future of others who formerly sneered and laughed at you for your prepping.  They’ll say ‘Who are you to play God and to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t?’ – by which they mean, you have usurped their rights to control your life and the lives of everyone else their petty bureaucratic powers allow them to interfere in.

When they have legal authority over you in some form again, they’ll seek to punish you – ostensibly for violating a city ordinance like parking too long on a city street or who knows what else, but in reality for simply having been better prepared and not suffering as much as they did.

How to Protect Against Such Outcomes and Problems

There are two very important things you should do :  Select an area where the people start off with values as close to yours as possible; and actively make yourself part of the ‘solution’, not part of the ‘problem’.

You’d not want to go into full survivalist mode in downtown Los Angeles or Chicago or Washington DC or New York or Boston (or lots of other similar places too).  You’ll be breaking all sorts of laws with every breath you take, and when order is restored, the politicians, the policemen, and the potential members of any juries will all look askance at you and be prejudged towards punishing you for your good sense and prudence.

You may have heard police officers and other government officials boast that they can always find some law that everyone they ever meet has broken or is currently breaking.  ‘We can always find a reason to stop you and write you out a ticket’ sort of thing.

On the other hand, in smaller towns in rural midwestern and northwestern states, you’ll find many people still believe in individual initiative and personal responsibility, and would be less likely to think ill of you as a prepper.  Indeed, they’re probably semi-preppers themselves (maybe even full-on preppers), and in a small rural community, more likely to be able to ride out any breakdowns in society than would be the case in the large cities.

This is a much better place to site yourself to start with.  And when you do, don’t be a stranger to the community.  Integrate yourself into it.  Join some social groups, a local church, and so on.  Participate in local events.  Help in community fundraising.  See about becoming a part-time city police or country sheriff’s deputy.  Run for a seat on the local council.

Get yourself known and liked, and if you can influence local policy, so much the better.

You don’t want a group of uniformed strangers turning up on your doorstep to confiscate all your firearms or arrest you for some ridiculous charge; you want your friends to tell you they are running interference for you, or at the worst, to ask you to give them one or two guns just for show.

If things go really bad and you subsequently find yourself facing a judge and jury, you want them to be people as much like you as possible, and sympathetic to you personally and your values in general.  While the jury members will probably be selected only from people who don’t personally know and like you, you’ll want them to be friends of friends, and/or to know and respect people you can subsequently call as character witnesses in any trial.

Be a Prudent Prepper, Not an Extreme Survivalist

This is another area where proper prudent prepping is massively at variance with the ugly image of ‘extremist survivalists’.  Extremist survivalists try to create an alternate reality outside of the world they are unavoidably a part of.  This is never going to be possible, and we see the spectacular results of such failures at places like Waco in Texas.

Prudent preppers try to fit into society and co-exist amicably with ‘normal people’.  They realize there is no practical alternative.  Domestic enemies of our government have no rights and no recourse and no escape.  There’s no way you can run and no way you can hide from the awesome capabilities of our armed forces.

Occasional small bands of roaming marauders armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns – those you can probably fight off.  But hundreds or thousands of National Guardsmen and US Armed Forces?

And your ‘bullet proof’ retreat, guaranteed to protect you against .308 rounds?  Worst case scenario – the US Air Force has bunker buster bombs that will penetrate down through over 200 ft of earth or more than 100 ft of reinforced concrete.  How’s your retreat looking now?

Never mind the Air Force’s bunker busting bombs.  Just a single tank from the nearest National Guard post, and/or just regular troops with an M-72 LAW or an M-136/AT-4 can destroy just about any fortified retreat, and instead of firing semi-auto rounds, they’ll be using crew served heavier caliber weapons.

It truly is much better to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Summary

They say that after the end of the world, the one species that will for sure remain, survive and flourish are cockroaches.  Maybe so, maybe not.

Never mind the cockroaches.  Government bureaucracy will be the absolute last thing to disappear – and, regrettably, the first thing to return.

Your prepping needs to be based on the ability to conform to as many of the present and potential future ’emergency’ laws as may be possible and to avoid escalated conflict with the authorities, whatever and whoever they may be, during and after an emergency.

Apr 302012
 

Groups of rioters and looters can be difficult to anticipate and defend against

There’s nothing new about rioting and civil/social disruption.

Indeed, it is currently the 20th anniversary of what are known as the ‘Rodney King Riots’ in Los Angeles – a five-day period of mayhem that erupted with no notice, and which saw looting, destruction, arson and murder across substantial parts of South Central Los Angeles.

It is helpful to quickly review lessons from this before moving on to a look at future vulnerabilities.

The Rodney King/South Central Los Angeles Riots in April/May 1992

The jury decision acquitting  the police officers who were filmed beating Rodney King was announced at 3.15pm.  The first protest response was at around 3.45pm when a crowd of about 300 gathered outside the courthouse to protest the decision.  This was nothing too alarming.

Between 5pm and 6pm, a group of 24 police officers confronted a growing crowd of African-Americans – not at the courthouse, but a considerable distance away in South Central LA.  Out-numbered, the officers retreated, ceding command/control of the territory to the crowd.  By 6.45pm, this crowd, with no police presence to moderate or control them for almost an hour, started looting, attacking vehicles and people.

A television helicopter at 6.45pm, hovering over the crowd, filmed and broadcast live scenes of the crowd dragging a white man (Reginald Denny) out of his truck and viciously beating him up.  We suggest that this live coverage of the crowd gone wild and with no police presence may have encouraged and incited others to join in what was spiraling into major rioting.

It quickly became apparent that the police had withdrawn entirely from large sections of South Central Los Angeles, leaving lawless anarchy behind.  Opportunistic looting and destruction started taking place on a widespread basis, opposed only by Korean store owners who armed themselves and banded together to protect their stores.

Over the course of the five days, nearly 1600 buildings were destroyed or damaged as a result of 3600 different fires.  More than 2300 people were injured, and at least 53 people were known to have been killed in riot related violence (including 10 shot by either the police or armed forces).  22 of the 43+ non police shootings remain open and unsolved now, and in view of the passing of time, will probably never be solved.

The murders are significant because the rioting looters were not just unarmed people looking to steal a color television.  Many of them were armed, and were either randomly shooting at people for no reason at all, or were using their firearms to force their way past store owners so as to loot their stores.

The police were immediately overwhelmed and unable to maintain control, and it was only after not just the National Guard but also regular US Army soldiers and Marines too were deployed that the rioting ended, five days after it started.

Lessons from the LA Riots

From our perspective, we see several key lessons.  The first is that civil disruption can develop very quickly.  It is hard to say at what point ordinary citizens would have become alarmed at this rioting – remember the timeline above.  The court decision by itself didn’t mandate that rioting in this scale would follow, neither did the people protesting at the courthouse – if anything, that was safely away from South Central LA and a safety valve for upset citizens.

The two key events were the police retreating from the group of protesters sometime around 6pm, and then the evolution of the mob from angry upset people to a lawless group of rioters, and the broadcasting of the mob violence over live television, indicating to other disaffected people that they could riot with impunity.

From the flashpoint sometime after 6pm to the televised beating of Reginald Denny was less than 30 minutes, and rioting on a regional basis was underway within an hour after that.

The second lesson is that it took 4 – 5 days before the police – by then augmented with some 15,000 reinforcements in the form of other state police and federal officers, National Guardsmen, plus regular Army and Marines, to get the rioting under control.

We Are More Vulnerable Now to Similar Rioting

There was a lot of analysis into why such a large group of people chose to riot in 1992.  Much of this analysis took the form of liberal hand-wringing and blaming society and other factors/forces for the bad behavior of the rioters; you can choose to accept or reject that as you wish.

But one point is relevant – the point that the rioting came after some extended period of rising disconnection between the rioters and society in general.  This disconnection was economic and social in nature.

We make this point because it seems probable – whether validly justified or not – there is a similar disconnection across much of the country at present.  For further exemplification of the current disaffection of large groups of society with the society in which they live, look at the riots in England in August 2011.  This was a four day period of mayhem that infected not just many parts of London, but also other cities and towns across England too that ended up affecting 48,000 businesses with losses to a greater or lesser extent.

The last few years have been marked by a difficult economy and a growing disaffection at the dichotomy between ‘evil bankers’ at one end of society and their ‘economic victims’ at the other end of society (we’re not judging the merits of such disaffection here, merely reporting on what we observe).  The Occupy Wall Street movement has done a good job of exploiting this unrest, albeit largely peacefully.

We have also seen groups mobilizing against what they see as the evils of international trade, protesting at World Trade Organization meetings.

And in addition to these groups of people who are suffering real or imaginary grievances, there are the ever-present anti-social groups in the country who are keen to take part in violent mayhem any time they can just for the sheer devilry of it, and/or as a way to enrich themselves with the spoils of looting.

So our first point is that the underlying social tensions that could create violent rioting are as strong today as they have ever been.

Now for the second point, hinted at in our headline.

We have suggested the Rodney King riots grew from the televised coverage, beamed into everyone’s living rooms, showing people that they could riot with impunity, and in effect encouraging them to join in the party.  That factor remains ever-present today too, of course – maybe even more so.  Video isn’t just sourced and distributed from professional news gatherers in their helicopters, now everyone with a cell phone can shoot video and within minutes have it live on YouTube or elsewhere.

We now have a new factor – a factor that has contributed to successful revolutions in other countries (notably Egypt and other ‘Arab Spring’ countries) and believed to have been a key element of the rapid growth and spread of the rioting in England last August.  This is the use of social media by rioters to promote their actions and to call in more people to join with them.

By social media we mean primarily Twitter and texting because these are almost instantaneous ways of passing information, either from one person individually to other individuals, or from one person to groups of any size up to many thousands of people.  With such information being sent to people’s cell phones, there is little or no delay between a message being sent and it being received by tens, hundreds or even thousands and tens of thousands of people.

Twitter in particular has two very powerful features for social networking – the ability to ‘re-tweet’ and to forward on twitter messages to other people, and the ability to add ‘hashtags’ as a way of reaching other like-minded people who the sender doesn’t already know and hasn’t met before.  A twitter message can potentially ‘go viral’ and end up on hundreds of thousands of people’s screens in minutes.

We have already seen this in a slightly less threatening sense – the new phenomenon of sudden flash mobs, coalescing out of nowhere.  Until now, these flash mobs have been largely non-violent and haven’t got out of hand.

These tools can also be used by mobs as a way of passing ‘intelligence’ among themselves – letting mob members know the whereabouts of police, road blocks, etc that might impede their actions, and also letting them know where the best tempting targets are.

There is also an added dimension with social media has helped facilitate.  It is less regional and more national/international.  The Rodney King riots didn’t spread to the rest of the US.  The London riots last August were instantly emulated and copied in other cities and towns all across England.

Summary

We suggest there is at least as much underlying disconnection between large elements of the ‘under-classes’ (define that term any way you wish) and society in general now as there was in 1992.  Social media make any flashpoint more likely to spread, further and faster, than ever before.

Riots seem to take 4 – 5 days to bring under control (assuming they are controllable).

There is little reason to expect riots would spread out of the concentrated downtown areas of cities and into the outlying ‘leafy suburbs’ – there’s just not the density of population and tempting targets to sustain a riot in a residential suburb full of single family homes.  But if you live in a downtown area, you are vulnerable to the direct effects of rioting, and if you live in a suburb, you may be vulnerable to flow-on effects such as disruptions to food supplies and to utilities.

It is impossible to predict where riots may start or what the flashpoints may be that initiate them, and also impossible to predict where they may spread.

In a major riot situation, you should expect rioters to be armed and to be senselessly shooting at people, places and things for no reason other than because they can.

Seeking refuge inside a building in a riot affected area is only prudent if there is no risk of the building being set on fire.  In a riot situation, you have two choices – evacuate the area entirely as soon as there is evidence of growing rioting; or be prepared to defend your property from safe positions and with the possible need to use lethal force to do so.

If you choose to evacuate, you need to be careful with your choice of route – you don’t want to abandon the possible greater safety of your residence and then find your car ambushed by rioters, or to be trapped by destroyed cars blocking the road ahead.

If you choose to defend your property – perhaps because it is not safe to evacuate – you will need to have as many people as possible with you and willing to actively defend your property.  One or two people are unlikely to dissuade a rioting crowd of 20 – 50 (or more) rampaging towards you.  The Koreans were reasonably successful because they grouped together, and because the rioters recognized in the Koreans a determined adversary.

A less than lethal way of getting the attention of a crowd and persuading them to leave you well alone might be some exotic shotgun rounds – in particular, the Dragon’s Breath rounds that spit out a brief jet of flame approximately 50 ft or more, a ‘fire siren’ round that sends out a very loud whistle (send this first to get their attention) or a thunder flash round (very loud noise – implies very great power), and stinger type rounds that send out nylon balls that hurt but usually don’t seriously wound or kill.

In such a case, you’d want to test these rounds before an emergency to get a feeling for their range and effects, then you’d want to carefully understand where those range points are around the property you’ll be defending.  Note also that the Dragon’s Breath is massively more spectacular at night.  And you could only use this in places where there was no risk of starting fires as a result of your firing the round – you might end up causing more property damage to other people’s property than that you prevented to your own property.

Needless to say, you only have a short time to use such warning devices before needing to use something more serious.  Don’t still be warning a crowd when it engulfs and overwhelms you.