Saturday, January 13, 2007

Swarming or pulse tactics

Swarm warfare is where one side has the ability to bring their forces to one point conduct an offensive act and then disperse before the enemy can muster its strength. It is a useful tactic for activists to use because it allows activists to beat state forces which may be far strongest but which are likely to be dispersed over a wide area.

In swarm warfare a lightly armed highly mobile force such as you average activist is at a major advantage over a moderately armed police force. The factors needed for successful swarm warfare include:

A high level of mobility
Good knowledge of the terrain
Ability to hit the enemy from a distance
Ability for fast decision making
Knowing when to disengage and disperse

A real life example of swarm tactics would be the infamous McDonalds storm in that occurred after the 2004 may day march. Those involved in the storm in were widely dispersed and largely invisible to the police officers that fanned out after the march to try and work out where we were going. At a prearranged time the activists converged almost simultaneously on the McDonalds and began a rowdy occupation – so far so good. Inside the restaurant protesters chanted made noise and had a good time.

After approximately 10 or more minutes the police had sufficient numbers to begin to attempt to retake the McDonalds. Bringing substantial police numbers and paddy wagons. The police responded to the occupation in a typical anti swarm fashion they formed lines at either end of the block of queen st and marched down corralling everyone into one place – this is used to prevent the activists from dispersing. They then surrounded the front of the restaurant and began to enter the restaurant arresting as they went.

If swarm tactics were being used the activists would have kept an eye on the police numbers and would have left the restaurant as soon as police were observed to be amassing. They could have then moved on to do other protests around Auckland as the group decided. This ability to disengage far before the battle turns against the activists frustrates the police and lowers arrests dramatically, it relies on discipline by the activists not to fight for the hell of it and having lookouts or pre determined times to disengage.

Working in our favour is widespread electronic communications this allow activists to share information about police numbers and whereabouts and allows the activists to swarm and regroup to swarm again quickly and easily. Due to the hierarchical nature of the police decision making it is thought that activists may be able to make decisions and carry out actions before the police are even able to decide how to respond let alone get enough police to arrest the activists involved.

Another this time highly successful use of swarm tactics was the G20 protests in Australia where a relatively small number of activists moved from ANZ bank to ANZ bank carrying out protests and effectively shutting down every ANZ branch in the Melbourne city center. By moving quickly they were able to stay one step ahead of the police and prevent large scale arrests.

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