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Riot Control: Who’s to Blame when Hooligans Set Buildings Alight?

Updated on April 25, 2013
Credit to
Credit to

A couple of articles about the recent riots in London made me remember a few disastrous riots in my country during which not only buildings had been set alight, but also people. Though this hub is not about those shocking incidents; I merely, once again, became aware of the police and the unpleasant duties they have to perform during riots.

I know the actions of the police are not always indisputably correct; their policies regarding riot control constantly have to be revised in accordance with the development of civilization. Therefore criticizing them whenever necessary is important and even essential. However, empathizing with them in their position as protectors of people and their property, cynicism sometimes overwhelms me.

Accusing the police of ‘losing control’ subsequently to riots is as common as accusing referees after sport matches of favoritism. Apparently blame for happenings that is too overwhelming for instant acceptance must always be pinned to somebody or something and the reason for this could only be to break reality down to a digestible size. Events in societies are proverbial storms – some are merely whirlwinds, while others are hurricanes.

Riots in China
Riots in China | Source
Credit to Sura Nualpradid @
Credit to Sura Nualpradid @

The Rioting Crowd

When we analyze a public act of violence by a group of frustrated and angry people, we accept their bad behavior as ‘normal’. We know they are supposed to demonstrate their grievances in a legal way, for in a democratic system all people have the right to demonstrate resentment, bitter feelings and their total fed-upness with certain conditions that prevent them from being happy and contented.

To do this, people merely have to follow the legal procedures; they’ve got to get permission from the appropriate authority and abide by the rules set for public protests. These rules determine inter alia that no dangerous weapons may be carried by the participators of the riot, and that marshals have to be appointed. These marshals, who are not members of the police force, but of the rioting group, are the link between the police and the crowd. Their responsibility is to limit the actions of the participators in accordance with the rules, and to dismiss participators who overstep the rules. So when a riot gets out of control, these marshals should be the first to be blamed.

We know the majority members of the crowd don’t have a clue what the riot is all about; they are either victims of intimidation or victims of their own human need for adventure and/or revenge. We know that the intelligence quotient of the crowd equals that of the person with the lowest IQ in the crowd. Those who do have the power to change the primary cause of protest are normally not part of the crowd.

Somehow, we always expect chaos and anarchy during riots. We expect the worse: Extensive damages to properties, commotions and accidents, including severe and even fatal injuries to people. And instead of blaming the marshals of the crowd, the instigators or the participators, we will blame the police.

We fear the yielding of the crowd’s opponent, for we know money is always involved in the demands of the crowd, and the money of any institution will sooner or later, in one way or another, be collected from us.

The price of the institution’s services/products will evidently rise and staff – perhaps some of our own relatives and friends - may be retrenched and those who are not, will be burdened with more tasks and responsibilities.

Observing a riot, we see two opponents: An angry crowd (a bull), and a strong institution (a toreador). The police, not as a refugee, but as protector of people and property – are simply a shield between us and the bull versus toreador.

And woe that shield when the bull destroy a property or kill a person.

Credit to Tom Curtis @
Credit to Tom Curtis @

The Riot Unit

A very close and dear relative of mine is a member of a riot control unit. Watching him being a living shield, a living fence between a raving crowd and the rest of the population, gives me a total different perception of riots. Among other things he is, when leaving home to perform his duties, weighted with a bullet-proof vest of 33 pounds. He has to wear a helmet and face-cover to protect him from hurled objects such as bottles and bricks. His gun is in a special holster, to prevent the snatching of it by an arrogant rioter. This evidently increases the time he needs to draw his gun in a life-threatening situation.

Many of the non-lethal weapons that were used in the past, such as rubber bullets, are no longer used by the police during riot controls. In fact all weapons that may cause severe physical injuries were disposed of. From behind their riot shields police officers merely intimidate the crowd, using the minimum force to control it. They identify reckless bellwethers and give the marshals the opportunity to prevent crimes that could be committed. When some hooligans set property alight, they will be arrested by officers from another unit and the fire will be fight by the fire brigade. The attention of the riot unit stays on the crowd. Once the crowd is diffused, the members of the riot unit may render assistance in the tracing and arresting of rioters and spectators who had committed crimes like theft, arson, assault and murder. Arrests during riots are normally restrained as it incite more violence.

As onlookers who don’t know the measures used by police and other security forces to control rioting crowds, we may get the idea that the police are doing ‘nothing’ and therefore they are to blame for all the wrong and evil and injurious.

We may even say the police handle rioters with kid gloves, but when we see the crowd as a bull wounded by a toreador, we will certainly evaluate the situation in a different way.


In Conclusion

The responsibility of the police is –

  • To prevent, combat and investigate crime;
  • To maintain public order;
  • To protect and secure the inhabitants of their country and their property;
  • To uphold and enforce the law;
  • To create a safe and secure environment for ALL people;
  • To prevent and investigate anything that may threaten the safety or security of ANY community;
  • To ensure criminals are brought to justice and to participate in efforts to address the causes of crime.

Whoever ‘calculate’ that they will not be arrested and punished after they had commit a crime during a riot, is in for a big surprise. The long arm of the law will, for sure, get hold of them, and they will be punished in accordance with their offence. Thanks to modern technology it doesn't take the police very long to find and arrest people who had committed crimes during riots. Theft, arson, assault, name-the-crime, never lose their illegal status.

Police officers working in the zone between good and bad citizens, remind me of an insufficient barrier between good and evil, for the latter will always find a way to get over it. The least the good can do, is to support it.

© Martie Coetser (September 2011)

This hub is a tribute to all police officers serving their countries in Riot Control Units.



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    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      3 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you, gepeTooRs :)

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Excellent activity, cheers

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      thelyricwriter - I believe the origin of human behavior lies in parenthood. But then parents were once children of parents - so somewhere along the line the 'norm' of throwing tantrums (and in adulthood through riots and aggressive parades) have to be discontinued by the individual. Thanks for your visit and comment. Much appreciated. Take care!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      8 years ago from West Virginia

      up, useful, and interesting. Martie, you are an absolute talent when writing. Very well informed and written article. I want to lean more to parenting, but who teaches their children to do stuff like this? Either way, this all starts in the house at an early age. This shows the importance of a stable home and stable environment. I really do feel for these officers such as your neighbor. You go to work in the darkest of situations. These riots do have all walks a life, but I bet my bottom dollar they are cryers and these types, "I want more" or "this isn't fair". It you are protesting, it needs to be very more controlled and civil. Criminals do acts like these. Grow up:) Well done Martie. This was a great and debatable article. Take care.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      justmyopiniontoo – It is really sad that criminals have more rights nowadays than law-abiding citizens. After too many police officers had died in our country during collisions with brutal armed criminals, they now have permission to shoot without warning anyone with a deadly weapon in his hand. I suppose the circumstances will determine the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ of this.

      Thanks a lot for your profound opinion, justmyopiniontoo. I think your username is original and amusing and peppered with Irish humor. Take care.

    • justmyopiniontoo profile image


      8 years ago

      I'd like to say that after living through 'the troubles' in Northern Ireland, its very hard to see people treating police officers as the enemy. These same people have no hesitation in ringing the police asking for help if they where burgled or God-forbid had some of their property damaged in a riot. Recently there is so much 'red tape' in a police officer raising a baton or discharging a firearm that they are basically going out with both hands tied behind their backs. Really its the justice systems fault for once again looking after the criminals better than the victims. For every 10 rioters caught and charged there is probably 90 let go with cautions or no charge so with about a 90% chance of getting something for nothing they see looting and rioting as a good way to get things they normally couldn't afford or wouldn't think of doing. I was brought up with the biblical saying 'Do unto others as you would have done unto you'(probably not word perfect, but you get my gist). In other words if you wouldn't like someone to do it to your or your property, why do you feel justified in doing it to someone else's personal property. Just to finish, just because everyone else is doing it , doesn't make it right.

      Great hub

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks, Epi, it is so nice to be your friend. I enjoy your epigrams, your comments, and all that is you. Your are really special to many of us. I hope you look after yourself just as well as you look after your precious pets. Oh, and I'm still 'feeling' that poem of yours. It was so real and vivid... I must go back to that one and share it with all my friends. I'm sending you two kisses - one for each cheek :))))

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago always serve up this most profound food for thought with your writing Miss M - and your infinite intelligence, dignity and concern for your fellow man/woman is very impressive indeed and is always reflected in every word you write ......hubbravo to you and always being so honest and truthful.

      lake erie time ontario canada 3:19pm

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Your welcome.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      molometer – The toy-toying and singing protesting crowds in SA are quite mind-boggling. Singing and dancing their way into a war are, after all, African tradition for ages. We can philosophize over this uniqueness for hours. I must admit, if it was the tradition of my clan, I would have been in the front line to protest about many-many wrongs committed by authorities. Sometimes, oh, many times, governments and authorities incite rebellies with their arrogant, headstrong and autocratic attitudes. One can but only sympathize with the police whose job it is to maintain peace and order. Thanks for your comment, and take care :)

    • molometer profile image

      Micheal is 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Wow this is not a blog it's a book. I think that all the contributors have raised valid points. I have experienced riots in the UK ( I happened to be driving through ) and I can tell you it is unpleasant. I have also seen the toy toying in cape town which always seemed quite joyful. I was also there when the townships blew up a couple of years ago and that was a horrific sight. The police do get a lot of flak but where would we be without them. The person who thinks the rioters are not the problem should be on the receiving end some day and he will be the first one asking where were the police. Great article Martie. well done.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Eiddwen, thanks for reading and commenting. I'm on my way to see what's cooking in your corner :))

    • Eiddwen profile image


      8 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting indeed and thanks for a great read.

      I vote up useful/interesting.

      Take care


    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      BobbiRant, the Law is actually an ass. If we don't force it in the direction we want it, it will die in its own shadow. Thanks for making me smile - so true, there are a loser and a winner at the end of every law. So whose law is it?

    • BobbiRant profile image


      8 years ago from New York

      Some people riot because it's sometimes the only way to get a huge impersonal group's attention. Some just for the sheer fun of creating chaos. But protests most always brings out the evil in those enforcing what They call 'the law' Whose law? Great hub.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      *** – I tend to agree with you. Vandals (rioters) are most of the time people who have little or nothing to lose, therefore not able to attach value to property and people. Thanks for the visit.

      *** felicitylovespari – Government (and actually all employers) tend to make promises they can’t keep in practice. The masses tend to hold on to those promises, like drowning men to straws. Just imagine their urge to survive: wild and frenetic. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • felicitylovespari profile image


      8 years ago

      I would say the rioters themselves are of course to blame for the destruction. One could of course say that the government ultimately failed one way or the other for their people to be revolting so poorly.

    • profile image 

      8 years ago from upstate, NY

      MartieCoetser- Finally its great to her some clear thinking about these riots! These are not primarily acts of an oppressed people, these are acts of lawlessness. The people have lost their respect for the law probably because they've been rewarding criminals to long in Briton. They've also had generations of the welfare state, where people feel entitled to government handouts. When the money inevitably runs out, people behave like spoiled children having a tantrum.-WBA

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Erin LeFey – Hi, and thank you so much for your informative comment. If you read my comment to marcoujar, you will notice that it is actually the same here as there by you. Riots are not planned, they are spontaneous explosion during ‘peaceful’ demonstration’ organized by unions. These demos may include a march of about 4-5 blocks to the headquarters of the involved institution.

      But consider gatherings of any kind, including sport matches (which also demand the presence of the riot squads) – when people gather, they incite each other. One-two-three and the entire crowd is one raving, angry storming bull. Sport matches – particularly soccer – keeps the members of riot squads pretty busy and ‘fit for duty’.

      Thanks again for your comment, Erin.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      marcoujor – Thanks for reading and commenting, mar. As I’ve said, I have a dearest relative earning his daily bread in a riot unit, obligated to work round the clock when problems arise, or be away from home for many straight days to control (also potential) riots elsewhere in the province.

      Every single funeral could turn in SOME areas in a matter of minutes into an illegal ‘demonstration’, as they call it. In America they sue authorities/companies or people in powerful positions all the time; here they organize and exercise ‘demonstrations’.

      It seems to me our municipal workers, inter alia responsible for the removal of refuse, are striking every third month. Just figure the bags and bags of rubbish, waiting in vain to be collected, and those that were put out the night before on the pavements by people who had, for some reason, missed the notification of a coming strike, would be torn by dogs and scattered all over the place. This kind of situation could last 4-5 days. And picture the chaos when all staff of nursing homes, state hospitals and schools ‘demonstrate’, even peacefully at home for a day or three, not to talk of protest marches and any kind of mass gatherings.

      Fortunately good always prevail. Thanks for the visit, marcoujar. Take care!

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      prasetio30 – I’m fine, thank you for asking. I’m always too busy, but fortunately doing enjoyable things, like, for example, doing HubPages. I think violence is absolutely repelling – to face it, one has to be extremely courageous OR completely stupid. But then, anger makes us stupid. Peaceful negotiations, co-operation, compassion, insight and empathy, and much more can bring an end to violence on this planet, and authorities should pay more attention to the outcries of their human resources.

      Thanks for coming over for the read. I do have a visit to your corner on my agenda – I just can’t seem to stay up to date with reading the hubs of my friends, but I’m trying my best all the time.

      Take care!

    • Erin LeFey profile image

      Erin LeFey 

      8 years ago from Maryland

      Martie, this was such an interesting article, I learned so much! We have more protesters than rioters, I would venture to say...and law enforcement would certainly not give the "OK" for any group to go ahead and riot. Now peaceful protests that do not infringe on the rights of others are a different story. You can get permits for those. We've had riots, but I think most of them are spontaneous rather than planned - I could be wrong though. I'm not a riot expert. Just my opinion from my exposure to law enforcement operations.

      Excellent hub and you sure know your stuff. I'm so impressed with your depth of knowledge and the great way you presented it. Voted Up, Useful, awesome. :)

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 

      8 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


      While this is not the most savory subject to think about, you have addressed this issue in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. I am in great admiration of your range and always learn something from you.

      Voted UP & UI-- have a peaceful day, mar.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      8 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Hi, Martie. How are you? I hope you always fine. Wow.. I haven't seen like this before. The people in the picture looks so angry and very scary to be in a situation like that. I am so sad to know where the people hurt others. It looks out of control. I hope there's a good regulation to manage hooligans. Interesting topic and you have done a great job here. Thumbs up for you, Martie.

      Love and peace, Prasetio

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      thougtforce – It was actually quite a surprise for us to see people of Sweden raving and breaking the law like that. For some reason we tend to believe that you guys up there are more ‘civilized’ than some of us down here :))) I’m smiling, because I know people are people, the difference lies in their circumstances. Personally I blame the authorities/employers. Why must it be necessary for their staff to demonstrate discontent about anything? Why are they not able to negotiate and settle issues before anger flames up?

      So you’ve got a point, Tina. The right to strike and demonstrate could easily be merely an opportunity to get rid of collective anger because the system(s) just don’t allow us to have ‘it all’. I don’t think anyone of us ever gets everything we need and want; we merely accept our circumstances and whatever we have. (I and many others each need/want a Mercedes Benz. Perhaps we must organize a riot. At the end of the day the Government will surely give each of us a Toyotas.) Pure politics.... the games people play. Thanks for your comment, Tina. Take care.

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      always exploring – Two weeks ago our municipal workers demonstrated their grievances regarding insufficient salaries. They’ve littered rubbish all over town – even rubbish imported from elsewhere. Now that, in my view, is so silly. After the strike, they had to clean it UP again – what a waste of precious energy and time? We have serious ‘challenges to meet’ when teachers and the staff of our state hospitals go on strike. Even they are capable of violence during mass-marches. Thank you for popping in, Ruby. I always look forward to your comments.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      8 years ago from Sweden

      Great hub Martie! Sadly it is the same here now and then. Demonstrates with hoods and covered faces attacking buildings, shops and public areas seemingly without any purpose and totally headless. And afterwards the police are being criticized because they used to unnecessary violence. I don't think people who participate in a riot are there to demonstrate, they just need to get the anger out of their system. There is no need to start a riot in a democracy; there are other better ways to get your voice heard. I don´t agree to police violence but their actions must be compared to the circumstances. The people who started or participated in a riot are hardly criticized at all.

      I am grateful to the men and women who want to work as police officers because it is a very difficult work. I wouldn't want to live in a society without them.

      Thanks for this well written hub and for the support to the police officers!

      Voted up!


    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      8 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I for one, can't imagine not having police protection during a riot, however, i do support people's right to protest, but when those rioters loot, i draw a line. Your Hub is informative and well written Martie. Thank you...

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Mr. Happy – I’ve read the article and must admit that that kind of arrogant and manipulative behavior of the police was at a time in the history of our country the order of the day, and it was one of many reasons of several massive riots. You have all the right in the world to criticize those ridiculous arrests. Spending one night in a police cell – or any kind of detention environment - with one or more true criminals, can change a person’s life (self-esteem, perceptions, etc.) radically.

      Re the poor screaming their mouths off in a stadium while the wealthy or those who are "happy" with the system go about their business as usual ... No, it is not at all nice, as those who are happy are not able to go about their business as usual. Those screaming poor people, who are definitely not all unemployed and very much needed as employees as well as customers of business, even by buying one bread each, paralyze the entire country. They have power far beyond their comprehension and will cause an economical crisis in a very short time.

      Burning cars and buildings is really no longer necessary in this modern age we are living in. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Golda Meir had proved the effectiveness of non-violent protest actions. Strikes or stay-away actions, meaning people just don’t go to work, but plant themselves in the street in front of their ‘opponent’ and singing and dancing without end, is by now popular demonstration of resentment down here. But the riot unit is always present, ready to prevent violence.

      Mr. Happy, I wish you guys up there all of the best. I have a relative by marriage up there. Incidentally he is in charge of some law enforcement unit. He was a detective while he lived in SA, so he will be able to point out the differences between our systems. If you are in the position to make a difference, you may, perhaps, find his ideas useful. Just ask via email, and I’ll give you his number.

      Thank you very much for this interesting conversation. Take care and beware of those bicycles :))))

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      drbj – If it was not for the police, who enforce law in our relative peaceful regions most of the time by their mere existence, I am pretty sure I would have been in the nether regions by now, for I don’t think I would have been such a model of a law-abiding citizen if I didn’t have the opportunity to call them whenever I find myself in an unsafe situation. My list of crimes not committed thanks to the police, is quite long. As always, drbj, you’ve put a fresh heart into me with your comment :))

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      50 Caliber – Thanks for leaving such a valuable comment. Violence is indeed contagious. Human behavior in general is contagious. When shouts go up after riots, accusing the police of injuring innocent bystanders, I always wonder what the bystanders were doing in the region of the riot. If curiosity forces me to watch beekeepers harvesting honey, who is to blame when I get stang by bees?

      I experience that contagious response you are referring to in particularly when I attend a party. Since I’ve outgrown my teenager shoes, I never look forward to a social gathering, but once there, I change instantly from a hermit into the soul of the party. If I don’t control myself, I will dance on the tables and many will follow me promptly. Thanks, Dusty, your comment is highly appreciated.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Mrs. Coetser, I appreciate your comment. It is quite obvious that our experiences are and have been quite different - we are after-all on different continents so I suppose things cannot be exactly the same.

      It seems as if on your end police officers have some rules to abide by - that isn't so much the case here.

      The following is a link from a prominent newspaper which talked about the riot arrests that took place here last summer: “To us, it’s abhorrent that we would be arresting more than 900 people to find maybe 50 or 100 … vandals. This makes no sense. It’s a fundamental breach of Canadian law to have done that".

      People are arrested here and not charged with anything - they get released after being treated like cattle and expected to shut-up and go home. That is what I find rather unfair to say the least.

      About people missing work due to demonstrations ... well, what can I say ... let the poor scream their mouths off in a stadium while the wealthy or those who are "happy" with the system go about their business as usual ... nice. If the System is making people unhappy than, the unhappy people will make the system unhappy - it's only fair. There has to be some give-n-take, no? For one day people do not go to work, would that end the world? It would be like a general strike: sending a message: people are unhappy and want change ... that's how I see it anyway. I can totally be wrong (but I think I'm not alone).

      "at least our rules and regulations are in place" - it does seem that the rules where you live are not so one-sided.

      I thank you for explaining the "Marshal" issue - there is no such thing here and I had never heard about it before. I am happy to learn new things.

      About the using of bicycles as weapons: they do not throw them but lift them up, side-ways and thrust with them forward ... not fun if you're on the receiving end. I am not making this up, I have seen it countless times. And it is not a loss of temper - this is a commonly used police tactic here.

      "Perhaps the riot units of your country are following a different set of rules" - it totally seems so, in my opinion now that I have learned more about how things work where you live.

      "Our police protect journalists and news reporters during riots" - if you're a journalist here you can catch a beating from the police or the rioters - there is no safety for those reporting, only your camera acts as a deterrent. That is why I always clicked-away with the thought that before I get hit by a rubber bullet or a baton, at least I got your photograph ...

      Many-many thanks for the conversation. Now, I understand "where you come from" so to speak. Things do seem to be quite different where you live from where I live.

      All the very best and I wish we could get along with less violence and more co-operation. Cheers!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      This is an excellence analysis of mob violence and behavior and the difficulties police encounter when trying to manage out-of-control crowds.

      I, too, salute our law enforcement officers. Where would we be without them?

      Rated up.

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      Martie, violence is often, in my personal experience, contagious. If one police officer dispatched fires his weapon oft times so do 5 others, not just once but until empty. I have heard law enforcement beg out of 47 rounds being fired at one individual as "contagious response".

      On the other side all have bricks, one smashes a window or sets a fire it just multiplies out of control.

      A big reason we see shields and sticks on the front lines of riot control. I could go on but I think that covers my thought and training enough, thanks. Dusty

    • MartieCoetser profile imageAUTHOR

      Martie Coetser 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Mr. Happy! I actually need a hub for my reply, but let’s see how short (and sweet) I can be. I really want to explain riot-controlling in SA, as we have gained a lot of knowledge and wisdom in this specific field during our almost 50 years of Apartheid-regime. (1948-1994).

      Ruber bullets, bullets, tear-gas and water cannons will surely (again) be utilized in a situation that demands maximum force, but we prefer to remember the many unfortunate incidents in our past due to the applying of these weapons.

      In our country rules had been set for group-marches and gatherings regarding demonstrations of protest. Violating these rules will compel the police to block the march there and then. We have a choice down here: we either protest in accordance with the rules, or we don’t protest at all in public.

      Organized protest actions confined to stadions go very far in our country. Almost every citizen feels the punch of a peaceful protest. Business of all kinds, including the government, lose their income for the day(s), the absence of important staff paralyze companies and their clients, people’s routines are overturned, etcetera, etcetera.

      90% of our group-marches turn into chaos. So the police always expect the worse and do the necessary preparations. Conflict situations are legio, but members of the riot unit may not react on any of the humiliating actions of the hooligans. If an officer loses his temper or ability to stay a human barrier while being mopped with urine, sputum, snot and even human shit and bicycles, he will promptly be sent to the back or side rows where he can chill.

      Arresting people during riots happens only when absolutely essential. The police will never enrage a group of angry protestors; their task is to protect the innocent and to break up the mob as soon as possible by applying minimum force, which includes giving the mob the opportunity to through their tantrum until they are tired and done.

      Blocking of traffic can cause chaos – innocent people come late for work, and even miss their flights. But if the road block had been approved, citizens will be warned in time and all defense forces and community services will try to minimize the crisis to the best of their ability. If not approved, the offenders will be arrested. When groups spontaneously form at a scene of some accident, you will see the riot unit arrive in the background before you get the idea that the group may be dangerous. It seems to be the way of the law or the highway to the nearest jail where you will follow the rest of the expensive route to freedom or confinement.

      Yes, an individual may set himself alight, or do a kamikaze, or hang himself upside down on the steps of the High Court to display his grudges on behalf of himself or a group, but this is not an offence classified as a riot or a group protest action.

      Mr. Happy, and I’m not trying to make excuses for any wrongs done by the police. They’ve done many down here, and they still do. But at least our rules and regulations are in place and our police are doing the best they can. Considering the crime rate in our country, which is, because of many reasons, of the highest in the world if not the highest, an objective citizen tend to acknowledge the great achievements of our police force instead of battering them because they’ve lost their patience and self-control while they were performing their duties.

      The participators of protest actions in our country have great respect for their marshals; they will not easily ignore any request or instruction coming from a marshal. Marshals, on the other hand, know how to manipulate the crowd... and so we can forever discuss the inside politics of a crowd.

      A police officer using his bicycle as a weapon.... Lol! What a jerk he must be? As I’ve stressed, our riot control units are barriers not allowed to act like humans. Aggressive protesters throwing bicycles will be arrested, but only when the police are not successful in applying other methods of control. Sorry, Mr. Happy, I need all the facts of this hilarious bicycle-incident before I can give you my opinion. It is shocking to know that an officer loses the control he is supposed to wield.

      Perhaps the riot units of your country are following a different set of rules?

      Our police protect journalists and news reporters during riots, as they are, after all, the eyes and ears seeing and hearing everything the police need to know in order to perform and improve performance of their duties in accordance with their vows. Currently we are facing a crisis in this regard. The ANC-government is trying to diminish the democratic right of reporters to report news, and also the right of all citizens to know about all happenings in all sectors of society, including in our government. So the protection of reporters could be at stake.

      By the way, if you are a professional photographer, why don’t you work in co-operation with the police? Why do they see you as one of the protestors who need to be pointed at with a gun?

      Thanks for an interesting and pleasant discussion, Mr. Happy. Enjoy the rest of your day.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 

      8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      "rules set for public protests" - Hmm ... I disagree. There are no rules for protest. I can protest by lighting myself on fire. You can protest by making a sign and patrolling in the front of the Parliament building for example. Others may chose to protest by blocking off traffic somewhere.

      In the last little while, police have tried to do just that: allow protesters a designated area to protest in. If I were cattle I would agree. The point in protesting is to draw attention. If people are put in a stadium to protest and a minute long clip is shown at the six o'clock news, protesting wouldn't get far - it'd be like going out for a coffee.

      There is no one person responsible for putting together a protest. I have covered protests for many, many years. I have been from city to city and nobody invited me - I acted alone: picked-up my camera, got in the car and went where I knew protests would take place. If I decided to get violent and stupid, I don't think anyone could be blamed but myself. Everyone's responsible for their own actions, I would say.

      "dismiss participators who overstep the rules" - I am not sure to how many protests you have been to but this in my opinion is just wishful thinking and not very realistic. I have indeed flipped-out several times at kids damaging private property but each time I realized that I was putting myself in danger by doing so. One cannot tell violent people to just go home because they're being nutty. I do not think that works ...

      "Somehow, we always expect chaos and anarchy during riots." - I disagree here too. I have been to many peaceful protests, especially here in Toronto and I never go to protests thinking about anarchy and chaos.

      "Watching him being a living shield" - they have way more protection than I do and I point my camera while they point their guns at me - I can send you countless photos if you wish.

      "Many of the non-lethal weapons that were used in the past, such as rubber bullets, are no longer used by the police during riot controls." - I am not sure how it is in Great Britain but in North America they have rubber bullets, batons, water-cannons - they even use their bicycles as weapons.

      "From behind their riot shields police officers merely intimidate the crowd, using the minimum force to control it." - I wish that was the case.

      I have also worked in law enforcement and I have seen abuse of power countless times. Here's a short little blog about last summer here in Toronto:

      And if you care to comment on my opinion regarding riots and chaos, I would more than welcome your comment:

      I appreciate the discussion - always! All the best.


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