Less-Lethal Crowd Control and Budo
This was an eye-opening article about the proliferation of the largely unregulated crowd-control industry. Occupying the grey space between military munitions and police armaments, it turns out that many of these items are prohibited by the conventions of war against being used against enemy soldiers but are commonly used by nations against their own citizens.
Take the tear gas, which has been around since at least World War 1 and was prohibited by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. We take for granted the use of tear gas against civilians, even though the effects can be horrific (again, we can’t use it against enemy soldiers!). The process of testing and manufacturing tear gas seems to be pretty unregulated as well, which is concerning for the multibillion dollar industry of less-lethal munitions.
From a budo perspective, context is everything. A technique that is acceptable against someone trying to kill you is not acceptable against an annoying drunk guy. Conversely, a technique that is appropriate for dealing with the drunk guy is probably not going to work against someone trying to kill you, whether they’re a murderer or an enemy soldier. Police actions sit in a different legal space than military actions, which have their own legal framework. Civilians who encounter police in the context of protests or riots can find themselves in an extremely dangerous zone where violence can arise from any side, and the application of force by the police can be brutal. Tear gas in low concentrations can still have long-term effects on people with respiratory problems. Rubber bullets still have metal cores that can cause serious injuries or death.
Budo practitioners should understand the risks from crowd-control munitions. Whether you decide to attend a protest or you happen to be near a protest, a sudden shift to violence will more require a mindset closer to battlefield tactics, rather than street tactics, in order to stay safe.
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