The RNC Welcoming Committee, which describes itself as an anarchist / anti-authoritarian organizing body preparing for the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, announced the purchase of tasers to equip rioters – excuse me, ‘members and friends’, – during the upcoming Convention.

This raises two equally worrying possibilities.  The first is that the organization has absolutely no intention of deploying tasers and published the linked article as a pointed piece of literature poking fun at their adversaries, the Minneapolis PD.  This is worrying because they have provocatively provided the Minneapolis PD with completely reasonable justification to use pre-emptive tactics to suppress that weapon system.  This should not happen until a threat is clearly identified, but no one, particularly not police officers who have been tasered as part of their training, relishes the idea of being tasered on duty. Minneapolis PD will not only have to brief the threat, but also create appropriate tactics to deal with the system.

The second possibility is that they actually intend to deploy tasers.  This is a little more futile than it sounds, given that tasering an officer with a PLASTIC shield, plastic riot systems and body armour requires significant skill in striking an officer somewhere where it is effective, but the use of tasers against police officers is likely to bring greater displeasure from the authorities than simple public nuisance charges.

What is most worrying about the RNCWC is its unwillingness to be part of the political process.  The management of an event like the Republican Convention requires working with all interested parties, including those who wish to protest, in order to create an effective platform for all.  The clear intention is to be offensively disruptive. Not making use of the right to protest but instead preparing to fight and riot is a perversion of the right of free speech – the kind of activity that is driven by sheer self-interest on the part of the coordinators.

My advice to any PD and security elements is to work with the local community, to gain common ground and provide the opportunity for all to meet their goals.  For those who will not participate in such negotiations, the security forces must be prepared to deal with any eventuality in a professional and appropriate manner; create the conditions to allow peaceful protest while being able to deal with the more violent elements.  There are a wide variety of techniques to achieve this; the Minneapolis and Denver PDs must be prepared to use them all.