Protest threats, detection, protection and (counter) moves

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This page lists theoretical defenses for selected groups of weapons used by police or military on civilians. This is just a thought experiment covering (theoretical) defenses against these attacks and not intended to spread fear, uncertainty or doubt about dictator and police states. The tables were initially filled with items from excited delirium (a protestor’s guide to “less-lethal” police weaponry) of 2008, then further investigated and added to.

The government just loves technology. They always assume that every problem —whether social, martial, economic, or ecological— is just waiting for some magic device or operation to solve it. This is another weakness of theirs. These tables are intended for educational purposes such as learning magic device threat modeling. And while the information is accurate to our knowledge (it was in 2008) we don't have any first hand experience with more than a handful of these weapons. Do your own research and don't ever assume you are invulnerable.

Ideally we discuss these attacks and counter moves without the police being privy to those discussion (as in, not on a public wiki), but that would make spreading possible counter moves too slow for the less-than-lethal development cycle (arms race) and effectively exclude non-activists from being able to defend themselves to some extent, so the next best solution in this context is to discuss everything in the open, rather than not discussing them at all.

Electrical weapons

Weapon More information Attacks/Impact Protection
Stun guns (tasers) Stun guns are less-lethal weapons that use electricity to hurt or incapacitate their victims. Both stinger and taser have two modes: 'projectile' and 'drive stun'. In projectile mode, both use Electro-Muscular Disruption (EMD) technology to cause Neuromuscular Incapacitation (NMI) in their targets. After a half-second, the pain is nearly unbearable and causes muscle contractions. After 2-3 seconds, the subject is dazed and dropped to the ground. More than 3 seconds completely disorients a person and causes them to stay on the ground, risking breathing impairment and heart damage.

In drive stun mode, the stun gun runs electricity between two points in the gun itself and becomes, essentially, a cattle prod. This can cause burning, intense pain, and scarring, but is a pain-compliance weapon (as compared to the projectile mode, which will take anyone down, regardless of their pain tolerance).

With the newer tasers, you can’t just allow the prongs to not penetrate into your skin because of their “shaped pulses” that somehow shock you through clothing. It’s been suggested that you can’t just complete the prongs circuit, because if the prongs are in you, you’ll get shocked and/or burned.

While we’ve found no information on DIY methods being tested, we did run across the commercial product announced early in 2008, only available to law enforcement, military, and manufacturers of products for those two categories. But their patent #7284280 ( is online and we can learn from that.

Stun shield Stinger Systems makes a device called "The Ice Shield", an electrically charged riot shield. They come both concave and convex, angled towards or away from the bearer.

They may have become less common since a malfunctioning one allegedly killed a prison guard.

It is unclear if they operate on a purely pain-compliance principle or if they will actually lock up the victims muscular system. Short contacts on shield.
Taser XRep These are basically wireless TASER darts that are fired out of a 12ga shotgun. It has the same NMI as a handheld taser. As soon as the shot leaves the shell, a ripcord activates it and it has 20 seconds of life. Its velocity is 260’ per second and it is intended to be used at ranges of up to 65’. It has 3 fins that deploy as fletching after firing and 4 prongs that stick into you on impact. After impact, part of the body of the thing falls away, still attached by a cord, and 6 more electric barbs spread the shock out further on your body. If you grab at the projectile while it’s in you, the "reflex engagement electrodes" will send the electricity through your hand and arm as well, making it all that much the worse for you. It even has a damn computer in it to make decisions about how to spread out the shock between all of its nasty points to make your life as crappy as possible. Same as for stun guns.

Chemical weapons

OC, CS, and CN - the three main chemicals of choice for law-enforcement use - are very different chemically, but affect people in similar ways

Prevention: The obvious thing is to protect your eyes and respiratory system against particulates and "organic vapors", and there are two basic ways to achieve this: A full-face respirator or gas mask, and a half-face respirator paired with goggles. See Protection From Riot Control Agents

Weapon More information Effect Treatment

2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile - C10H5ClN2

Odds are, if a canister starts spewing white gas, it’s CS gas. This is by far the most common "teargas" for controlling large crowds. CS gas is a solid (and not a gas), suspended in the air and eventually settling to white powder.

Banned in warfare by the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, although that is mostly to keep the other side from reacting with more deadly chemical weapons. (This didn’t keep Blackwater from deploying it in Iraq a few years ago, but that’s a different story, or is it?)

It reacts with water on the skin and within 20 seconds causes a burning sensation (particularly in the mucus membranes, like the eyes) as well as uncontrollable shutting of the eyes. It can make your throat burn and tears pour out of your ducts, it slows your heart and ups your blood pressure, slows your breathing, and it can cut off circulation to your outer body. In some people it causes dizziness. In some people it causes contact dermatitis, with blisters and crustiness that can last for months (though it usually doesn’t). Mostly, the ill effects go away pretty shortly after reaching fresh air, and you’re pretty much fine after 20 minutes.

Recent studies have shown CS gas to mutate chromosomes, cause miscarriages, and mess up your liver and heart

CS contamination can be removed by washing with soap and water, or an alkaline solution of water and 5% sodium bisulfite. Fill a bottle and take with you.

chloroacetophenone - C8H7ClO

More toxic but less potent than CS gas, this is the active ingredient in the older “mace” self-defense sprays. (Mace, a brand name, now usually uses pepper spray instead).

CN is used far less frequently than CS. This is the original "teargas," but has mostly fallen out of favor.

Like CS gas, this compound irritates the mucous membranes (oral, nasal, conjunctival and tracheobronchial). Sometimes it can give rise to more generalized reactions such as syncope, temporary loss of balance and orientation. More rarely, cutaneous irritating outbreaks have been observed and allergic contact permanent dermatitis. Pepper spray and teargas

dibenzoxazepine - C13H9NO

The nastiest teargas, CR gas is a lachrymatory agent 6-10 times stronger than CS. Normally a solid (melting point 73 ̊c), it is pale yellow and has a slight odor of pepper.

The US claims to not use it in protest situations. It saw quite a bit of use in South Africa in the 1980s and, having been developed by the British in the first place, was used on Irish dissidents in the 1970s.

In enclosed spaces, it can be lethal (from asphyxiation and swelling of the lungs). Causes temporary blindness and, occasionally, complete incapacitation. In addition to normal teargas crap, CR gas causes severe skin irritation, persists on surfaces for up to around 60 days, and is thought to be carcinogenic. Areas of skin affected by CR gas, even after thorough cleaning, can continue to hurt if exposed to air for 24 hours or longer.

Oleoresin Capsicum

Alias pepper spray. OC is a compound of capsaicin suspended in some kind of agent, usually propylene glycol. Capsaicin, the active ingredient, is derived from various chili peppers. This solution is then pressurized for use in aerosol sprays.

As a chemical weapon, it is banned in warfare. Cops love it, of course.

Pepper spray is an inflammatory and will generally fuck your shit up. If it gets in your eyes, it will burn like hell for 30-45 minutes (untreated) and continue to sting for hours. If it gets into your mouth or nose it will get into your lungs and make breathing painful and hard. If it gets on your skin, your skin will begin to hurt. While there’s no evidence of anyone dying directly from pepper spray, the “difficulty breathing” bit has aided in the death of dozens of arrestees who were further restrained in such a way as to keep them from breathing properly. Pepper spray and tear gas

OC Trials


Pelargonic acid vanillylamide (desmethyldihydrocapsaicin)

PAVA is a synthetic pepper spray also derived from capsicum.

The police in England apparently use it instead of OC, and the company PepperBall uses it in their pepperballs.

It’s supposedly even more badass and hot and whatnot than OC. Pepper spray and tear gas

White phosphorus

White phosphorus is a material made from a common allotrope of the chemical element phosphorus that is used in smoke, tracer, illumination and incendiary munitions.

More on

It has been reported used in Iraq (2004), the Israel–Lebanon conflict (2006), Gaza War (2008–2009), Afghanistan (2009), Yemen (2009), Libya (2011) and recently in the Ukraine (2014–2015)

White phosphorus can cause injuries and death in three ways: by burning deep into tissue, by being inhaled as a smoke, and by being ingested. Extensive exposure by burning and ingestion is fatal. White Phosphorus Exposure Treatment & Management

Impact weapons

Build armour protecting your head, collar and shoulder, and kidneys and knees. Motocross armor is pretty amazing stuff, light and fairly low-profile under other clothing. Reinforce a banner to double as lightweight shield.


Weapon More information
Riot guns The 37mm grenade launchers are most often smoothbore (not rifled: they don’t make their projectile spin, which means they are less accurate). The 40mm grenade launchers look the same, but most are rifled, making them more accurate and also illegal for civilian use. Often at protests you will see what look like gigantic revolvers: these are called “multi-launchers” and come in either 37 or 40mm. They can fire all five or six shots in about three seconds. These grenade launchers can fire chemical weapon canisters, baton rounds, muzzle-blasts, rubber balls, or even flares and, of course, grenades. See the "Projectiles" section for more information.

Then there are 12 gauge shotguns. The short (14”-20”) barrel shotguns that police carry are called riot shotguns and they differ from military shotguns mostly in name, barrel-length, and stated purpose. A large number of less-lethal rounds have been designed to fit into a 12ga, although most prevalent are rubber balls and bean bag rounds. Because these shotguns can also fire traditional ammunition, some police agencies have color-coded their shotguns in neon colors to distinguish that they are intended to be loaded with less-lethal ammunition. And finally (of the common varieties) are pepperball guns.

Sprays Chemical weapon sprays are used to spit out CS, CN, OC, and PAVA gasses at crowds. These come in all varieties, from the concealable "undercover" models to ones that look like small fire extinguishers, to converted flame-throwers with backpack fuel supplies.

More important than the actual sprayer is its spray pattern. There are five major spray patterns: stream (a thin stream aimed at individuals' eyes), foam (pepper spray encapsulated in a surfactant and turned into a foam), cone (a "fire extinguisher" spray that spits out in a widening cone and is used to soak entire lines of protestors, a portland police favorite), fog (the logical conclusion of this progression being a fog that gets pretty much everyone), and microspin (a rifled stream spreading out into an oval that is intended to envelop the face).


Weapon More information
Chemical weapon canisters There are three basic types of gas canisters: Regular old pyrotechnic gas canisters, which are gun-fired grenades that expel a gas (usually CS, but CN and OC are available as well) in the same manner as a smoke grenade. These are cylinders of sheet steel with emission holes at the top and bottom; Scattershot canisters that split into 3-5 separate canisters upon firing; and ferret rounds, which are unlikely to be encountered in protest situations as they can easily kill a person.
Muzzle blasts A muzzle-blast is a short-range blast of CS, CN, or OC gas directly from the barrel of riot gun (12ga, 37mm, or 40mm). They appear to have a maximum effective range of between 10 and 30 feet.
Rubber balls Rubber balls are packed into shells and canisters and then shot out in the way that buckshot is fired from a shotgun. These are fired from 12ga, 37mm, or 40mm, and come in multiple calibers (representing the size of the balls). They are not intended for single targets but instead for pain compliance on an entire crowd. They are supposed to be either skip-fired (fired at the ground and intended to bounce) or fired at a low trajectory.
Baton rounds Baton rounds are big thick discs or cylinders of wood, foam, rubber, or plastic and can cause fairly grievous bodily harm. They are often fired at joints to disable protestors. It doesn’t matter how tough you are, a point-blank wooden dowel fired at your knee is going to keep you from running. Usually, however, long-term effects are limited to severe bruising and pain.
Bean bags Used at short to medium range (20-30’) and fired directly, bean bags are nylon bags filled with silica sand. Occasional deaths have resulted when subjects are shot in the chest or neck.
Pepperballs Pepperballs are essentially paintballs filled with PAVA and fired from specialized launchers (see above). The live ammunition balls are red. Green balls are paintballs and are used for identification purposes. Solid white balls are intended to shatter (and shatter themselves upon impact with) glass, intended for use against suspects in cars.
Bolo These are 3 rubber balls connected by 12” of cord out of a 12ga shotgun. It has an effective range of 20-40 yards and is probably pretty rare. Used for capturing a running target.
Flash-bang Flash-bangs are distraction grenades that are either thrown or launched from a riot gun. They spit out a 175db bang (plenty loud enough to damage your hearing) and flash so brightly that your retinas don’t take in anything else for about 5 seconds.


Weapon More information
Batons Batons come in straight, solid batons made of wood, plastic, and metal and in collapsible straight batons (often called asps). Main targets are head, collarbones, hands, wrists, elbows, knees.
Close quarter weapons There are a few fist weapons that police occasionally carry. Back in the day they used yawara sticks, which were basically thick pieces of wood, plastic or metal, about the size and shape of a tagging marker. These protruded slightly from the fist. Nowadays a slightly thinner variety, the kubotan, is more common. Another model of a similar concept is the plastic Talon, which has a clip and is worn on the collar. All of these are used to deliver pain compliance holds on resisting subjects.
Orcutt police nunchaku Apparently, about 200 police departments in the USA (including the Corrections Dept. of Denver) use the OPN against unarmed, resistant subjects. It’s basically a nunchaku that is used for holds and control rather than for impact. All of the parts are made to have some give, and the handles actually bend a bit to avoid breaking bones.

Foray into a weapons future

Weapon More information
ADS (Pain ray) The ADS is a dish mounted to the top of a humvee that shoots out a focused, invisible ray of 95ghz millimeter waves (microwaves) that penetrates the first 1/64” of your skin and causes unbearable pain within two seconds by heating the surface of your skin to around 130 ̊F. The military claims that it takes about 250 seconds before it would actually burn the surface of your skin. The effective range is around 500 yards.
Water cannon The modern riot-control water cannon has about a 2000-gallon tank and delivers around 250 gallons of water a minute. Modern water cannon trucks are controlled from within the cab with a joystick so that the operator is not exposed. The force is enough to knock a person over and they have been known to cause internal injuries.

Water cannon have fallen out of vogue with police in the USA, primarily due to the negative media attention they received in the civil rights era. English and Indonesian police have, in the past, added dye to the water to identify protestors, but this isn’t common practice.

LRAD LRAD, can shoot loud, directed sound out to about 300 meters. Supposedly, they are intended for conveying messages and such, but ofcourse they are now anti-demonstrator devices. They emit a loud (120db in normal use, up to 151db to those nearby when safeties are overridden) high-pitched screech that disorients and upsets and hurts the listener. Anyone too close to one of these can certainly have their hearing permanently impaired. The beam goes out covering about a 30 degree angle. Can be counteracted, to a certain degree, with earplugs.

These were used by the NYPD during the 2004 RNC.

Dazzler The only laser guns in production are meant to blind people and they are banned by international law. Of course, the US uses them in Iraq. They operate by shooting lasers of specific or varying frequencies into the target’s face, blinding them.
Pulsed energy projectile The military is developing a flash-bang infrared laser: this thing plasmifies the first thing it touches, which in this case will be the top of your skin or perhaps your clothing, resulting in a loud bang and a shockwave that will knock you over. Lethal varieties have been crafted as well.
Vortex ring gun In 2006 they began to develop the vortex ring gun, the science of which seems to be above my head, but basically it shoots a ring of high-pressure air (a vortex ring) that can knock you over at, so far, 10 meters with a single shot. They are also experimenting with having it fire at specific rates so as to cause resonance in your body to fuck your shit up even more. It will be fired with an adaptor for a 40mm grenade launcher, most likely.
Malodorant Stink bombs have been used in warfare since at least WWII and the US government is currently researching their use for riot control, but I’ve found no evidence of their use. For the most part, they are banned in the way that most chemical weapons are banned.
Netgun There are netguns in the world that shoot nets. You get entangled in the net. They’ve been rumored to be in use by the cops but I have no proof of the matter. The one I could find the most information on was the NET-2000 Shooting Net Rod that looks a hell of a lot like a big old clanky flashlight. It shoots out a 52sq. ft. nylon net with compressed air, with an effective range of about 50’.

Electrical and sticky nets are under development for military and law enforcement use, but little information is available.

Modular crowd control munition What the world needed, the government realized, was a less-lethal version of the claymore mine. So they made this thing, which so far is only in military hands. Basically, it shoots out 600

rubber balls, 60 degrees of coverage with an effective range of 5-30 meters.

LED incapacitator Intelligent Optical Systems is designing these multi-color flashlights that work by flashing colors so fast that it makes your head spin. In fact, it makes you throw up. It’s been dubbed the “puke saber” by some and the “sick light” by others. They have a built-in rangefinder that detects the nearest set of eyeballs and determines frequency.

Covert operations

If an officer is preparing to go undercover in an activist group, there is nothing more convincing than news footage of the undercover officer throwing rocks at uniformed cops or cussing at them before getting arrested. Found that on a great article: How to Deal with Agent Provocateurs and Undercover Cops at Protests (valid for US at least) and (Europe).

Covert operation Purpose (Counter) move(s)
Surveillance Even though spying on peaceful protesters is a wasteful use of resources, it is common practice. When gathering intelligence, officers are attempting to determine exactly what the protest’s next move will be, who the leaders are, and whether or not the group or crowd has people prepared for violence. Don’t “burn” the officer. Don’t let the officer know you are aware that they are law enforcement. When nations discover foreign intelligence officers at work, they typically don’t arrest them. They begin to feed them incorrect information. Remember what the officer’s intent is. Intent is the key element in intelligence and counter-intelligence operations.

The officer’s intent is determining who the leaders are. Talk about a nonexistent person. Describe where he lives and give them all the information they need to find this person. The department will waste tons of resources trying to find out about a person that doesn’t exist. Make sure to include that he lives entirely “off the grid” or that he is “really paranoid.” When they can’t find out about the person, it confirms the intelligence they already gathered and they become certain they are on the right track. You have successfully exploited the department’s confirmation bias, and will wear down their intelligence apparatus as they track false leads.

If you are really committed, you could become “friends” with the officer after the protest and continue to feed the department bogus information about nonexistent protests or groups. Eventually the officer’s superiors will grow tired of the cop’s bad intel and pull him off of the assignment.

Incitement Officers will often incite the crowd in an attempt to justify arrest and justify their surveillance and anti-terrorism budgets. They will quietly encourage protesters to break the law and then be ready to testify once those protesters are arrested for the activity they encouraged.

Some law enforcement and intelligence agencies have made a habit of this. See for example the Anatomy of an FBI Terror Plot

One advice (for the US) has been: Don’t “burn” the officer (but maybe do warn a few people you trust to investigate together quietly, else you are doing their work for them in dividing the movement). Don’t let the officer know you are aware of their profession. The goal of these operations is to get an activist to commit a crime in the presence of law enforcement. They are allowed to do this as long as they don’t entice someone into doing something they wouldn’t do otherwise. If you believe an officer is doing this, photograph him and send it to the press immediately with an explanation. Then (where legal), record the officer secretly and allow him to encourage you to break windows, or whatever he is trying to encourage. Explain that you would never do that, if he continues to attempt to encourage you; walk away, distribute the video to friends for safe keeping, and then submit it to the FBI Civil Rights Division as well as the local press. You have proven attempted entrapment. The test here is whether the officer was inciting you to do something you wouldn’t have done without the officer’s encouragement.
Developing a cover If an officer is preparing to go undercover in an activist group, there is nothing more convincing than news footage of the undercover officer throwing rocks at uniformed cops or cussing at them before getting arrested. The officer is only at the protest to get arrested so that later when he shows up at an organization’s meetings, he has established credibility. There isn’t much that can be done to stop the operation, the key is to know how to spot it when it happens. Generally speaking, the wildest people at a protest are the youngest. If a person in their mid-twenties or older instigates violence with the police or is acting in a way that will overtly cause their arrest, they might be attempting to establish a cover. If the person “just moved to town,” the likelihood is even greater. If at later meetings the person that was out of control and got arrested reveals themselves to be relatively calm and very attentive to details, another warning flag should be raised. It is very rare for somebody in their mid-twenties or later that is just suddenly become wild and violent, if the person has no previous footage of them engaging in similar behavior or lacks an arrest record, the likelihood of it actually being an activist decreases immensely. Outspoken people are well known; use social media to see if the person is known within the movement. If the person is unknown within the movement and their only claim to legitimacy is an arrest at a protest, you are most likely dealing with an undercover officer sent to gather intelligence on peaceful protesters.