Occupy Wall Street is not just a protest. It’s an intelligence tool for protest organizers the world over.
The Occupy protests may be considered a protester training ground for next year’s G20 and NATO Summits in Chicago, and more importantly, the RNC and DNC in Tampa and Charlotte respectively. Experienced protesters and anarchists travel the world to lend their skills and experiences to whatever demonstration may be or will be occurring to gain attention to their cause and to support the anti-corporate or anti-government cause of the day. Protest organizers, supporters, and the protesters themselves are making profuse use of social media in real-time to get their message out. Despite coverage to the contrary, experienced protestors with criminal intent or who wish to avoid authorities anticipating their movements are already using counter-measures to prevent the anticipation of their actions against government and corporate targets. They are using this technology to study, review and plan new and improved tactics to be used in future protests and demonstrations to disrupt corporate operations and impede societal functions to ensure they gain attention to their cause.
Protesters inspired by the growing Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City are spreading throughout the United States and the world to challenge the current business and governmental paradigm. On October 15, tens of thousands of peaceful protesters turned out to demonstrate in Rome, the demonstration soon turned violent when it was “infiltrated” by Anarchist/Extreme Left Wing (A/ELW) groups. Riot police fought militant protesters, who had joined the crowds, taking part in the global protest in Rome. Militants threw stones and petrol bombs at police who used baton charges to control the crowd. Protesting youths, using Black Bloc tactics, set fire to several vehicles and the Defense Ministry’s office, and then attacked banking facilities and other businesses throughout Rome. Police responded by using tear gas and water cannon, numerous arrests were made and several officers were injured. The damage to businesses and other facilities caused by rioters is estimated to be in excess of 1 million Euros. If militant demonstrators can easily “infiltrate” a peaceful protest in Rome, they may implement the same tactic here in the United States and provoke violence without thinking twice about their actions.
That is why corporate leaders and their security teams must be aware of the tactics, information, capabilities and equipment protesters are using. Corporations must not underestimate the resolve of the protesters and their efforts to bring a negative view to the corporate brand name. Protesters will strive to disrupt corporate operations through a wide-variety of tactics, including: building occupations; sleeping dragons; lock-onns; sit-ins, non-compliant/non-violent traffic disruptions; flash mobs; noise and/or odorous assaults on/in buildings; “hacktivism” and smear campaigns against board members and employees. These are just a few of the tactics that have been used in the past.
Organizations must be able to respond effectively to these threats and the threats that they simply can’t predict. Some threats affect reputation, some affect finances, and some affect the organization’s infrastructure and operations. Business continuity and resiliency must focus on ensuring that regardless of what happens to the organization, it is able to continue to meet its goals: employee safety, customer satisfaction and a quality brand name. All of these add up to a healthy bottom line and continued operations.
Successful corporate managing of these incidents is an expertise that requires all lines of business within your corporation to work together and understand the challenges being thrust upon them by angry protesters. Among other questions corporate leaders must ask themselves:
- If our buildings were occupied by protesters, are we prepared?
- Do we know how to recognize a protest group or imminent protest action?
- Does our security staff understand legislation regarding trespassing laws and use of force to protect our facilities?
- Does our staff know how to effectively cope with the various occupation tactics used, both passive and offensive in nature, especially when protesters are trying to compromise our company’s legal standing and create lawsuits against us?
Experienced protestors understand corporate security policies and design their tactics to use those security policies in their own favor. For instance, when a security guard is normally touched by a member of the public, the last thing they should do is violently push the protestor away. In an organized protest situation, this may be the correct response, because this can be the first stage in a particular lock-on effort that will disable the security officer. Do your security personnel know and understand the difference?
Corporate leaders must be prepared to confront and deal with these threats before they occur. They cannot wait until they are the subject of protest action, because then it will be too late. The police and the authorities will be busy monitoring the protesters in the public areas, and they may not be able to provide a rapid response to your corporate facilities to help you protect your environment. For example, we just need to look at the recent G20 Summit in Toronto, past RNCs and DNCs in Minneapolis/St. Paul and New York City, the WFO in Seattle, the protests and riots in Greece, Rome, London and Spain. Every recent NSSE (National Significant Security Event) in the United States has had significant protests and destruction of both corporate and public properties.
Finally, corporate leaders must be able to make the distinction between a “normal” protest event and a protest event that has the potential to cause property damage, employee intimidation, and business interruptions, along with negative publicity and lawsuits for improper corporate response to the protesters.
This distinction is the sixty-four thousand dollar question that corporate executives must embrace. Just about anyone can see and report that there will be a demonstration taking place at a specific location at a specific time, the ’Occupy’ protests are the current example. The million dollar answer is the ability to understand protester tactics and predicting that a particular protest event will cause business disruptions and revenue losses. Having this answer will save corporations needless expenses and allow target hardening when the situation demands it for business continuity and resiliency.