More and Updated Lessons from the St Louis Rioting
We wrote an article, ‘Five Prepper Lessons from the St Louis Rioting and Looting‘ on Tuesday of this week, after the first two nights of unrest following the police killing of a youth in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis.
The first night of looting was relatively uncontained, while the second night saw a massive police presence that largely kept order throughout the area.
We thought/hoped that would be the end of the uncontrolled senseless violence part of the response and reaction to the police shooting.
Based on that first night of rioting and looting, we formulated five (or perhaps six) lessons. They are :
1. Don’t judge and anticipate other people’s actions based on your own views and values. Other people will act unexpectedly and irrationally, in ways that can potentially be enormously harmful to yourself, your family, and your possessions.
2. In an adverse scenario with normal social order disrupted, other people will feel justified in taking everything from you, including definitely your dignity and quite possibly your life, even though there is no possible logic to this. Do not expect a breakdown in society to bring out the best in everyone. It will bring out the worst in sufficient numbers of people as to pose major problems.
3. If you actively protect your property and yourselves, you’re likely to deter all but the most determined or desperate of looters during the early stages of any civil breakdown. Later on, when looters are no longer motivated only by greed, but instead by fear and the need for survival, the situation will become more extreme.
4. We never know when rioting might suddenly break out. The trigger events and the degree of response can be unexpected and disproportionate. But don’t underestimate the rioters. They include organized gangs of roving opportunists who are coordinating and communicating among themselves to plan their actions.
5. Rioting can spread through a region, and reach into unrelated communities, because the rioters aren’t only on foot. They have cars, too. When a metro area becomes infected by rioting somewhere, the entire metro area becomes at risk.
And, lastly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a bonus sixth point. When things go seriously wrong, you can not count on the police being there to protect you or your belongings. It truly will be every man for himself, and every small neighborhood watch group or strip mall business owners association for themselves.
Now that we have had four more nights of experiences, do these lessons need to be revised?
For sure, since that time, the rhetoric has escalated several notches, and what appears on the face of it to have been a totally justified police shooting is being painted as anything but. Let’s first look at what is currently known about the initial encounter.
Tragic Accident? Justified Shooting? ‘Suicide by Cop’? Or a ‘Racist Execution’?
As best we understand the circumstances, a single police officer stopped two youths who were walking down the middle of the highway and interfering with traffic.
The youths matched the description of two people who had just robbed a nearby convenience store, and one of the two youths may have had a box of (stolen) cigars in his hand. The officer decided to arrest them and take them back to the station. At least one of them resisted arrest, a struggle ensued with the youth trying to take the officer’s gun from him. Fearing quite appropriately for his life, the officer shot the youth.
Much has been made of the fact that the youth was shot apparently six times. But if you know anything about self-defense, you know that when you are struggling for the control of your weapon, when you’re outnumbered, and when the other person is coming on to you, you don’t just fire once, then stop and see what happens before carefully considering a second shot. You also know that pistol bullets are woefully inadequate and some people have continued in a fight after being hit a dozen times.
So, you fire as quickly as you can until ‘the threat has ceased’. Those six rounds were probably fired in little more than a second. This wasn’t a cold-blooded execution, it was a panicked act of self-defense against a gratuitous attack, by an officer who credibly was in fear of his life.
It is important to also appreciate that the assailant was 6’4″ and 300 lbs. Based on published photos, the officer appears to have been of average height and something under 200 lbs. It seems he had already suffered appreciable injuries from his struggle with Brown. He had no choice but to resort to his firearm in this scenario – but these facts are not interfering with the public outcry blaming the police officer.
Furthermore, the autopsy shows that four of the rounds hit the assailant in the arm. They would not have stopped him. The officer needed to continue firing.
None of this needed to happen, if the youth had simply cooperated with the police officer. The event was as much ‘suicide by cop’ as anything else. The youth brought the consequences completely on himself. Even the stupidest of gangbangers knows that if you resist arrest and attack an outnumbered police officer, and particularly if you try to take his gun from him, then you’re almost guaranteeing a lethal response on the part of the police officer. End of story.
However, our point is not about what to do when you are stopped and subsequently arrested by the police, because there’s no need to write that story. It is dead simple – you cooperate. By all means stand up for your rights, but don’t inflame a situation that is always tense for every police officer.
Even if the police are in the wrong, you cooperate during the interaction with the patrol officers and then you have a chance subsequently, through the legal system, to right any wrongs that occurred. If you don’t cooperate, you will definitely have some valid additional charges added to your charge sheet by the police, and your own reciprocal complaints will be tainted by your inappropriate actions, making you a less sympathetic victim.
Oh yes, and if you really misbehave, you have a good chance of being tasered, or possibly even shot.
Back to our five lessons.
We’d like to amplify two of the points we made before.
People Become Venal and Self Serving in a Stressed Situation
Our first lesson was to be aware that people around you may act unexpectedly and irrationally, and not in ways that mirror our own views and values.
When we stated that on Tuesday, our focus was on opportunist mobs who would gratuitously attack and destroy your property. But there’s another part to that risk which has become increasingly apparent as the week has continued.
Not only have the mobs continued their reprehensible looting, whenever they think it to be safe and they can get away with it, but their actions are being justified by other groups in society, and the initial event that started everything, rather than being a somewhat sad example of a stupid lawbreaking youth suffering the inevitable consequences of his actions in fighting with the police officer, the story is now being painted as a racist cop gratuitously ‘executing’ a harmless young lad. The local community is up in arms (almost literally) about this, they are defending the undefendable, and they are being encouraged and joined by all the usual professional agitators and disruptors.
What does that mean for us preppers? We’ve written before about how, in a level two or three situation, we need to fear not only gangs of lawless looters who might attack us and our retreats and try to take everything we have. We also need to fear the ‘law abiding’ people around us. They will also gang up, but perhaps not violently, but instead in a civilized way, and rather than attempting to attack us ‘just because’, they will send duly appointed officials to deprive us of everything we have, the same way a gang would, but under the color of law. Court officers, bailiffs, and any/all police and other law enforcement and emergency agencies may create, validate, and then enforce mandatory sharing of ‘vital resources’.
We write about the very real danger of this in a three-part series – Preppers Beware : Our Hoarding Can be Deemed Illegal.
Fortunately, it is possible to fight off the occasional ‘one off’ lawless band of looters who attack your retreat. But we’re not so sure how possible it will be to attack the FEMA/HSD/etc officials who come to effectively do the same thing.
If people can delude themselves into believing that the police officer was in the wrong in this recent event, how hard will it be, when they are starving, to delude themselves that you are in the wrong by seeking to protect yourself and your fellow retreat members, and demand you share your supplies with them.
Preppers often wonder what to expect when TSHTF. We can never know for certain, but we can look at analogous events and try to see possible parallels. The St Louis riots, and the way large portions of the population have rationalized things, ignoring the reality and instead bending the facts to fit their self-serving viewpoints (or ignoring the facts entirely) does not encourage us to support the idea of mankind’s inner nobility and higher values asserting themselves in a high stress situation.
In Extreme Situations, the Police Will Not Come to Your Aid
The sixth ‘bonus’ lesson we offered was that you can’t rely on the police (to come to your aid, that is).
Now, possibly, it could be said, in an attempt to excuse the lack of police presence on Sunday – the first night of rioting – that the police were unprepared and didn’t know what to do.
But how about later in the week, such as on Friday? What excuse applies then when you read about situations such as this, where store owners dialed 911 but couldn’t get any police resource of any sort to come to their aid, and where other store owners saw squad cars driving by looters who were actively in the progress of looting?
The lack of response wasn’t due to the police being overworked and with too many different emergencies all calling on them simultaneously. It seems the police made a political decision to do nothing and instead let the riot ‘burn out’ on its own, without adding new ‘provocations’ and inciting the rioters still further.
Don’t be surprised by this. A passive non-response, limited merely to efforts to contain the worst of the lawlessness, seems to be the standard approach adopted by police departments in most parts of the western world when rioting rages around them. Maybe it is even the right response.
We can simultaneously understand that position, while also being outraged by it. A passive non-response for all but the most egregious acts of violence may indeed allow for a de-escalation of tensions and a return to ‘normalcy’ (whatever that actually is).
But how do you think the individual store-owners feel about this, finding themselves being sacrificed for the hopefully greater good of the region as a whole? Did they agree to that? Are they not entitled to protection and for the impartial enforcement of the laws? And what message does that send to the rioters and looters? Doesn’t it affirm the validity of their actions, and encourage more lawlessness in the future?
Is this the new standard of law enforcement : ‘We’ll enforce the laws, but only as long as doing so doesn’t anger the criminals’?
And what does this mean? Do we give in to acts of domestic terrorism? Yes, you’ve not heard the riots described that way, have you, which is in itself a telling omission. If it were right wingers complaining about blacks, don’t you think they’d have been smeared with every racist epithet known to our left-wing press. But because it is predominantly blacks rioting against whites, we have to ‘cut them some slack’.
If you or I threw a brick through a shop window, and a policeman saw us, we’d be in the slammer faster than we could spit. But if 100 or more of these lawless rioters do the same thing, the police hold back.
Now ask yourself what will happen if a more lawless situation engulfs not just a couple of suburbs of St Louis, but instead, an entire county, state or region of the US, and if there is no obvious source of immediate help. Do you think the police will come to your aid if your home and business are attacked, or will they hold back? Especially if they know they do not have a nearly inexhaustible supply of reinforcements available at the other end of their radios.
So, we see three clear lessons from the extended St Louis situation.
- It only takes a small spark to start a large conflagration, to cause lawlessness to break out across the board.
- People will act in selfish self-serving manners without any rational constraint, and will readily justify to themselves everything they do, no matter how extreme it may be.
- The police will capitulate. They may concentrate on writing parking tickets in any remaining safe districts, while entirely abandoning lawless regions and leaving the people in them to save themselves. Or, if things turn really grave, they may well take off their uniforms and join in the looting.
If you are a prepper, you have decided to plan and prepare for possible adverse future scenarios, in a manner so as to ensure your own continued survival.
We all have different views about what these possible adverse scenarios may be, and how best to plan and prepare for them. We can’t know for sure how any specific circumstance may unfold. So the best thing to do is to learn from past events, and the more recent the past event, the more valuable.
We’ve set out the lessons we’ve drawn from the St Louis situation, here and in our earlier article. You might agree with us, or maybe not. But don’t ignore this entirely. Carefully consider what has happened, and what it means for possible future scenarios, then make sure that you modify your own preparations accordingly.
As for us, we’re going to double down on getting to know our neighbors, and very gently encouraging them to a point where if things become dire around us, they are more likely to stand beside us to enhance our shared best interests and mutual survival. On the other hand, the tree-hugging aging hippies on one side? Well, that’s a story for another day…..