Grant Park Analysis Addendum
My wildly popular recent Grant Park analysis earned a lot of positive attention and praise, which is gratifying to see. The only real substantive critique I received was the suggestion that I should have expanded a bit more on possible options for the law enforcement response, which is a valid point. This is something I’ve done previously, most notably my August 2020 Center for Security Policy piece recounting my experience going undercover in Portland black bloc which included fairly detailed suggestions for local law enforcement.
I didn’t include that in my initial Grant Park work though, for three reasons: (1) I was already bumping against substack’s email character limit; (2) any legitimate tactical suggestions require a detailed analysis and weighing of the broader political and strategic factors involved, which rightfully deserved to be broken out into a separate piece for discussion; and (3) the outcome was essentially decided before the forces took the field, and the only variable in play was how effectively and reliably the black bloc and supporters executed their battle plan.
If you haven’t read my Grant Park piece, please go back and read it now before continuing.
Bottom Line Up Front:
Winning the Grant Park engagement would have probably required more cops, with more equipment, and using more aggressive tactics. The problem is the ongoing civil unrest had already likely depleted department resources, was the Columbus statue really critical enough to devote sufficient standby assets to counter worst-case what might happen (and ended up actually happening) that day? Did the local political and civil climate make aggressive riot control tactics untenable for those specific circumstances?
I don’t have that information and it’s a value judgement that ultimately was made by department leadership, so I can’t say with any specificity.
Ultimately my Grant Park and Portland analyses are going to differ in form and content because the latter is shaped by first hand observation and local knowledge, while the former is largely driven by detailed surveillance footage with multiple perspectives filtered through previous on-the-ground experiences. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, so trying to relate usable information and relevant insight means using fundamentally different approaches.
Strategies for Winning, And Other Considerations
Strategy is a series of methods of planning, organization and execution of various tactical operations to achieve a concrete objective…
…Tactics are each of the movements that are carried out within a strategic framework to achieve positions of intermediate advantage that bring us closer to a partial or final strategic objective. -Lusbert, Strategy and Tactics for a Revolutionary Anarchism
An objective is our preferred end state; where we wish to arrive at some point in the future . Our strategy is our methodology of intent; a list of discrete steps to arrive at our objective, decided upon after discerning our capabilities and resources. Tactics are the specific actions we use to successfully complete each listed step in a way that leave us better positioned to advance to the next one.
Tactics are subordinate to strategy, strategy is subordinate to objectives, and all are subordinate to externalities -such as (but not limited to) political and civil considerations. One notable flaw I often see in this area is the inability of many to fully understand this fact, to the point that they ofter suggest or use tactics that seem optimal at solving the immediate problem at hand, but are wildly counterproductive towards accomplishing strategic goals and advancing towards the ultimate objective.
My podcast episode comparing the Battle of Athens with the Battle of Blair Mountain is a good illustration of what tactics in sync with strategy and objectives looks like when properly applied, and what it looks like when it is not.
Another example of this is the suggestion I hear occasionally is that we should adopt domestically the signature Israeli riot control tactic of shooting rioters in the extremities with .22LR rifles. However this isn’t Israel, rioters aren’t Palestinians, riots predominantly happen in woke Democratic cities, and we’re the most heavily armed nation on Earth, so how anyone could think technical lethal force under those conditions is a viable strategy that wouldn’t fuel the flames and spiral us even further into disaster is a question that leaves me struggling, even at my most cynical.
These sorts of suggestions remind me of the parable of the man that loses his glasses in a dark alley, yet looks for them under a street lamp 50 feet away -because the visibility there is better so it’s easier to search, you see.
Unless you’re Scipio Africanus you’re probably not going to be able to win them all, and “Dilemma Actions” -as discussed in the aforementioned August 2020 CSP piece- fundamentally depend on a universal human reluctance to eat a tactical turd sandwich to the point that one sacrifices political capital and strategic position to avoid it. Sometimes a clean loss actually advances you further than an ugly win, and discerning the difference -and having the moral courage to accept it- is critical.
My critique of the Portland Police Bureau’s tactics in fact, was predominantly focused on my belief they had lost sight of the bigger picture; my recommendations that followed from that were about acknowledging the complications endemic in the local civil, political, and strategic terrain, how their tactics aggravated those factors, and making specific adjustments to stop losing ground in those areas.
Let’s illustrate it thusly: the quickest and most decisive method for Chicago Police to ‘win’ the Grant Park confrontation at the tactical level would be to draw their sidearms and begin shooting the black bloc members; they may even have had articulable justification for doing so, giving the injuries sustained by frozen drink cans and sharpened sticks that day. They would have beaten back the assault easily by doing this, but we also know what would have likely happened afterwards: a city razed by rioters, dozens of police officers criminally charged or in prison, tens of millions of dollars in civil awards, and a broken and defunded police department operating under a federal consent decree with outside monitoring. Obviously this is no win for anyone, even the anarchists -although they would arguably be the only party emerging with a strategic victory, even if at tremendous cost.
Granted that is a hyperbolic scenario, but I used it to illustrate a point about proportionality and context. The statue itself was not critical infrastructure, and July 2020 would have been a period when city manpower and resources were stressed by Chicago’s ration of the nationwide civil unrest. There is no GTA Cop Infinite Spawn Portal in real life, and the incident commanders would have to balance presumed intent and capability of the marchers that day against what was at risk, as well as numerous other competing demands on top of the political terrain that made use of force against BLM-branded actions professionally perilous. In this case, their allocation of forces proved insufficient -but would a sufficient deployment here have left critical vulnerabilities elsewhere?
Maybe they could have flash banged the crowd, or flooded the park with riot cops and Bearcats, or possibly even blocked Columbus avenue so that the march couldn’t approach more closely. Those are all contextual decisions that don’t happen in isolation and require a knowledge of force posture and expected personnel demands and allocation that I lack, so I cannot say for certain. I suspect those were not feasible, given the initially peaceful nature of the march.
One interesting clue about the city’s decision process is how quickly the statue came down following the attack. Although the attack ultimately failed in its objective to tear down the statue, it did succeed in shifting the political calculus to the point retaining the statue in place became simply untenable. This is because Grant Park doesn't exist in a vacuum, but instead is just one small part of a large city that inflicts a myriad list of variable demands upon limited police resources.
Ultimately you win not only by directly shaping reality around you, but by raising the costs of your target’s opposing actions to such a degree that they choose to comply with your desires on their own; Grant Park illustrates this principle in action.
In my opinion this is not a problem the Chicago Police could effectively solve, and the genesis of the day’s events are elsewhere. The problem lies less with law enforcement training or equipment than with a citizenry that produces a civil culture where such attacks are seen as legitimate, and elects politicians that are unwilling/unable to make the necessary policy decisions to prevent this degree of unrest. This is ultimately a situation the voters created, and the solution is concerned people finally learning to organize and building local power to counteract these undesirable elements. My work is ultimately about helping you find those tools and build the skills to do this.
Note: Tomorrow I have a separate piece coming out about a recently revealed informant in Portland antifa, and how that will likely affect things there moving forward.
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