Thursday, January 19, 2012

Crowd Control in a Small Maine Town

First I guess I need to toss in some personal perspective gained through personal experience.  I related this tale before, so for those of you who have suffered through it before, I will try to be brief, but will probably fail.

The year - Spring, 1969.  The setting - Library of Congress.  Actually it was what happened after the Library of Congress that this pertains to.  A group of students from my military school were visiting the Library in DC.  We were all done up in our military best as we had to present a positive image of the school.  So we go through the tour, some of us interested some of us not.  But everyone was interested in the 3 hours of free time we were to be given once we finished our obligation of being dutiful and studious students.



So we are let loose for some free range time in the federal triangle.  Some of us followed the suggestions orders to use our time wisely by visiting the cultural riches of the Smithsonian.  Some of us did not.  Some of us wanted to find trouble.  Some of us did.

It so happened that on this particular day one of the many Anti-war demonstrations was in full bloom on the steps of Congress.  Not a huge demonstration, maybe 10,000 people or so.  It appeared there were also several thousand police kickin around to keep a lid on things.

Curious, the crew of K-dets I was with decided to check out the demonstration.  We walked up to it from the south side near the lower steps.  We could hear the speechifying, the hollerin, and hootin, but some tree cover blocked our view of the podium set up on the steps.  We did not know it, but we had entered the Gay section of the demonstrating crowd.  All around us were guys carrying signs and holding hands.  Signs that read "Gay Pride" or "Gays Against the War".  I saw for the first time in my life a man kiss another man.  Awesome stuff I tell ya.

While we were rubbernecking and making quiet teenaged remarks about the Gays, the police apparently had decided that the demonstration had gone on long enough and right then was the time to break it up.  I turned around and saw  a line of police in riot gear elbow to elbow walking steadily towards us pushing everyone in their way towards the Capitol.  When they were about 100 feet away, their ranks broke as they formed smaller groups of three or four officers.  They then began to single out arbitrary people and pummeled them with their riot sticks.  They used words like "Faggot", "Homos", you know the drill.

This should have been our clue to leave.  For everyone but me it was.  The two fellows I was with beat feet.  Being brain dead and quick to anger, I headed towards the cops shouting at them to stop beating these defenseless people.  Big mistake.

One cop looked over at me and headed immediately in my direction.  We exchanged words.  Harsh words.  All I remember just before he began wailing on me with his stick, was him saying something like, "You should be ashamed of yourself.  You are a disgrace to the uniform."  The light went on and I understood.  The cop had mistaken me for a real soldier, not the pretend one I really was.  It took another cop to stop the beating.

We worked out a deal, or rather they told me they would not arrest me if I left the area immediately and they better not hear anything about what happened.  Having some sense finally pounded into me, I agreed and gimped back to the bus and hunkered down until everyone was back and we were on our way back to school.  Riot sticks create some really cool bruises.

So we finally get to my point.

It appears that the paranoia police have over handling large crowds has seeped into the mindset of the local police in Sanford, Maine - the town I have my bike shop in.   I am not sure why they feel the need to acquire weapons that are used to control crowds, but they obviously feel that crowd control is a weak link in their quiver of tools to keep the peace.  Either that or their performance on the gun range is so poor, they need non lethal weapons that they can use to hit the side of a barn without worrying too much about accuracy.

The Sanford PD is being trained in the use of the Taser Shotgun.    Its range of 100 feet ensures the officers do not have to be up close and personal when quelling the huge crowds of one or two irate spouses they run into on a bi-weekly basis.  And with it's multiple charge hit, anyone close is sure to go into convulsions as the 500volts surge through their body for 20 seconds.  Plenty of time to sneak up on them with the cuffs.

I'll admit it has to be a scary thing facing down an ugly crowd.  But if I was a Sanford resident, I might be asking them why my tax money was being spent to buy rounds of ammo that cost $99 each.  Hell, it would be a whole lot cheaper just to use some buck shot and take them out at the knees.  But then the question is, when was the last time a crowd larger than four or five people even formed in Sanford?  I'd say this was a solution looking for a problem.  And Sanford to my knowledge has not found this one yet.  But apparently they are looking forward to it.


Later ..............................................

9 comments:

squatlo said...

Great story, you rabble rouser you!
I'd never have linked you to a Gay Pride beatdown, but hey, not that there's anything wrong with that...

Watching local police departments collect arsenals that would enable small revolutions in some Latin American countries is an amazing thing. My own little hometown in east TN probably has an armored personnel carrier among their fleet of vehicles, and there have never been more than ten or twelve angry folks gathered in one spot there except at high school football games.

Glad I read this one. Reminded me of one of my two trips to DC when I was on a trip with our high school band ('69 and '72). They dumped us off on the Mall, gave us a couple of hours to look around, and we scattered like starlings. Four of us ended up watching activist Dick Gregory give a VERY funny and strident speech on the steps of the Capitol, then a crowd gathered around us and the police came in and told us to get back on the bus.

We went to the Smithsonian instead. Time well spent, every minute of it. No bruises to brag about though, dammit...

okjimm said...

Well.... there could be some 'double-coupon' riots at WalMart... they may need those weapons!

YELLOWDOG GRANNY said...

I think everyone should be able to buy a gun...but it should cost $3,872 per bullet.

Randal Graves said...

I'm wondering if this was one of those anti-terrorism cash gifts that The Man dispenses in order to militarize as much of the polyestered truncheons as possible.

BBC said...

Toys, it's about boys and their toys. And the cops don't have to pay for their toys, you do, so get your ass back to work.

The Blog Fodder said...

Ever notice that no matter what form of government a country has, the cops and military are always called out by the ruling class against the people.

Kulkuri said...

I'd say this was a solution looking for a problem.
More like a problem looking for a solution. They probably could get the money to buy the riot control stuff, but couldn't get money for the things they really need and didn't want to lose out on getting the money!! I've seen this first hand when I worked for the local Head Start program. They could get money to buy buildings or build buildings, but couldn't get the money to maintain them after they got the buildings. Most of the blame should go to the unit of government(Congress, state, whatever) that is doling out the money for the restrictions they put on how the money can be used, but the local unit needs to take their share of the blame for buying shit that will in all probability never get used except in training if then!!

Demeur said...

I can't help myself. I just keep getting these images of Barney Fife wondering where he left his only round of amo when when he mistakes a Shriners gathering for an Occupy protest.

(Please note my post today, very relevant)

Ol'Buzzard said...

Stacking firewood in the backyard during hunting season is scary enough - but the Franklin County Sheriff department with new weapons...
the Ol'Buzzard