Public Safety Announcement Regarding Marches, Assemblies, and Demonstrations

I don’t want to alarm anyone, and I’ve not found any reporting on this happening anywhere else, but one of our readers/commenters sent me the following. I’ve removed a lot of the personal references so as not to identify the reader/commenter unless he/she wishes to do so in the comments.

I’m curious if you have heard anything like the story I will relate below; this information was given to me by a close friend who is intelligent, observant, and not given to paranoia.

Dayton, OH protest in downtown area, Friday evening 2/3/17 – general theme was to protest the recent immigration EO issued by POTUS. About 1000 or so people attended the protest, and the group was marching – peaceably – along downtown streets, with appropriate police oversight and no major agitation or violence. My friend noticed two guys who hurried forward through the crowd toward the front and began to face the oncoming crowd while firing high-end cameras as fast as possible (flash enabled). He noticed that the two men had face masks similar to the ones seen on some of the violent participants in the DC protests on Inauguration Day; obviously, people on our side wonder just who those folks in DC were, so the resemblance struck a chord in his mind. Each of the men had large backpacks, which seemed out of character for the event, although certainly they may have contained photographic gear. My friend was near one of the men, so he approached the guy who was kneeling and taking pictures. He tapped the guy on the shoulder and calmly asked the guy if he was from the area, from a press group, etc. The man said nothing, but looked wary and simply shook his head slowly. My friend wanted to elicit some kind of spoken response from the man, so he asked if the man spoke English; more slow head-shaking in return. He asked the man if he (my friend) could take the other man’s picture, held up his phone to do so, only to have the guy get quite close to my friend and begin firing his flash-enabled camera as close to my friend’s face as he could get. Since it was dark, the constant flashing seemed intended to prevent my friend from seeing the man and taking a picture of him. The man began to back away, all the time shooting his camera at my friend, but facing him as he retreated. Eventually, the man melted into the crowd, and neither man was seen again (by my friend). My friend did get two photos of the guy, but the quality is poor and I’m not sure the pics would be useful anyway given the face mask (and stocking cap) the man wore.

This seems very strange behavior, even if the men were from some sort of press group (doubtful). My friend told this story to me in hopes I would tell him he’s crazy, but I was unable to reassure him. Have you heard of anything like this occurring at any gatherings around the country recently?

Other than this report emailed to me, I have not heard anything like this in regard to the recent marches and demonstrations and assemblies. However, there is a standard tactic of shaming and extortion that has been used by some groups over the years. Usually this involves trying to take pictures of the people entering and the license plates of the cars they are driving to women’s reproductive health clinics, adult entertainment emporiums – both strip clubs and video stores – in an attempt to determine who the people are and to then extort them by threatening to out them to their employers, colleagues, family, and/or friends. Or in some cases to just skip the extorting part and just out them.

Given how image identification programs, including Google’s, have made doing this type of sleuthing – using a picture to identify someone based on their or other’s social media posts – I think everyone needs to be aware that this happened. This is especially so given how certain right wing and alt-right provocateurs are known for doxing individuals or selectively editing footage in pursuit of their own objectives. I highly recommend that if you see this going on you immediately take your own photos (if possible without putting oneself in danger) of the individuals doing this – don’t ask for permission, just do it, make a note of their approximate height, build, eye and hair color (if exposed), and their clothing and the masks they are wearing, as well as the direction they move off in and immediately contact the police. Especially if they are repeatedly setting off their flashes in a strobe fashion to prevent people from photographing them. Given that this can trigger epileptic seizures, you may have a criminal complaint on one’s hands.

Stay alert, stay alive! And stay Frosty!

From the BBC: The Real Housewives of ISIS

The BBC, very wisely, decided that the best way to deal with ISIS’s attempts to recruit young Muslim-British women was to use satire and ridicule. While this has drawn some controversy, the BBC is absolutely correct to go this route. Some of the most effective anti-al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) Information Operations, which was ISIS’s original name, was rooted in contextually appropriate Iraqi humor. To make them look silly and stupid. So without further ado, and for your late evening viewing pleasure, here are the Real Housewives of ISIS*:

* Before anyone decides to freak out in the comments, I am fully aware, perhaps more so than anyone else here, exactly how bad things are for the women that have been forced to become wives, consorts, or are forced into prostitution on behalf of ISIL. The BBC is not trying to make light of their situation, rather it is trying to use satire and humor to dissuade and Muslim-British women from willingly submitting themselves to that hellish reality.

Peaceful Assembly & Personal Security: Threepeat

I know a number of you all are planning to join one of the marches that will begin taking place between now through, and then after, the inauguration. So I wanted to re-up the post – again – for anyone that missed it the first and second time.

Everyone be safe out there!

(Originally posted on 18 December 2016)

Congress shall make no law… abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. — Amendment 1, Bill of Rights, US Constitution

One of our readers/commenters emailed me about a week ago and asked if I would put up a post about personal security for those going to peaceably assemble to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. I put a list together and ran it past a select group of our Balloon Juice legal eagles (those I’ve corresponded with before/have corresponded with me, so if you didn’t get asked, don’t be insulted I didn’t want to just impose on you with a cold request) – thank you all for getting back to me. Here’s my list of what I think anyone going to peacefully assemble should do to enhance their personal security.

  1. Go with a buddy, that way you have at least one person looking out for you/watching your back and vice versa.
  2. Carry cash and make sure to carry a valid picture ID!
  3. Bring a pocket flashlight.
  4. Get and wear a go pro that is automatically updating to the cloud.
  5. Bring a pocket charger for your cell phone and go pro regardless of whether it is supposed to be a long day.
  6. Make sure your personal electronic devices all have sufficient password protection and encryption on them. And have them set to upload to the cloud at a regular interval.
  7. Turn off fingerprint access to unlock your phone and delete your finger prints from the memory. Some jurisdictions allow law enforcement to compel you to unlock your phone if it has finger print based access. Or get a disposable phone just for this occasion.
  8. Turn off your phone and other personal electronic devices option to connect to known wifi as it can be used as a way to fail your encryption.
  9. Bring a bandana or neck gaiter and water so you can make a make shift gas mask in case things get out of hand and tear gas or pepper spray is deployed.
  10. Bring a bottle of saline eye rinse in case you need to rinse your eyes out if tear gas or pepper spray is deployed.
  11. Bring plenty of water and some snacks to make sure you’re properly hydrated and you’ve got enough fuel in your system to get through the day.
  12. Dress in layers so you are prepared for the weather and make sure you have good shoes/boots and a change of socks in case they should get wet. A set of silk base layer undersocks is a good idea regardless of the weather. They’ll help keep your feet warm or cool as needed and they’ll provide some protection in case your shoes/boots and socks get wet. And something to keep the back of your neck and your ears warm if you’re going to be someplace cold.
  13. Bring/wear a hat to keep the sun off your head or to keep it warm depending on the weather.
  14. Bring/wear eye protection. Specifically sunglasses that are impact rated. (You should be able to pick up military surplus ones pretty cheap).
  15. Sunscreen, skin moisturizer, and lip balm. Even if its cold you’ll need these.
  16. If you need to take regular/routine prescription medication: bring it in its original container, with the prescription details on the label. If its a gel based application and comes in a packet, make sure you’ve got a hard copy of the prescription with you.
  17. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. You don’t have to be paranoid, but have a sufficient level of situational awareness. If something looks and/or feels hinky or the hair on the back of your neck stands up, head on home or go get a drink or go back to your hotel. Know who and what is around you, keep your valuables in front pockets or in secure/securable purses/bags, and keep those where they can’t be easily snatched or accessed.
  18. Have a contact plan for both linking up and communicating in case one gets separated from anyone you’re with.
  19. Have a contact plan to stay in touch with someone who isn’t at the march, but knows that you’re there and a regular set of contact times.
  20. Have a lawyer you can contact if necessary and that your outside contact could contact if you don’t check in. Make sure you have all of your contact’s phone numbers memorized in case your phone is damaged or taken by law enforcement should the worst happen and you’re arrested.
  21. Bring a sharpie to take down badge numbers if necessary. And if necessary write them on your hand.

Should the worst happen and you get caught up in a peaceable assembly that suddenly turns not so peaceable:

  1. Do not resist law enforcement. Just do what they say, let your arms go limp, and do what you can to avoid a reflex response to resist – that can get you charged with assault on a law enforcement officer.
  2. Be respectful and polite when dealing with the authorities – law enforcement, the National Park Service, whoever.
  3. If you are arrested, ask for a lawyer and then shut up. Do not say anything else or answer any other questions until your lawyer arrives. In fact let the lawyer do the talking.

One last item: some of you probably carry a pocket knife or multitool everywhere. Or everywhere that you’re normally allowed. I would recommend not carrying anything on your possession that could be construed as a concealed weapon or even an openly carried one. Even if you’re in a state/jurisdiction that allows for concealed or open carry of knives and/or other weapons – don’t. Being part of a march or peaceful assembly that turns ugly is not a good time to attempt firearms (or knife) normalization.

Stay Frosty!

Breaking News: We Are In Uncharted Territory

Yesterday I wrote this:

While I cannot prove it, it is logical to reason that this information was provided to the McClatchy reporters so that it would be reported before the inauguration on Friday. By getting the information out now, the purpose of the reporting is to make it much more difficult for the incoming Administration to shut this investigation down or to interfere in how it is conducted.

For good, bad, or otherwise this is not going away. And the President-elect and his team seem unwilling to even try to provide reasonable explanations to knock the suspicions back. The longer this drags out the worse it will be. For all of us.

The New York Times has now reported:

WASHINGTON — American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.


The counterintelligence investigation centers at least in part on the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia. Mr. Manafort has done business in Ukraine and Russia. Some of his contacts there were under surveillance by the National Security Agency for suspected links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, one of the officials said.

Mr. Manafort is among at least three Trump campaign advisers whose possible links to Russia are under scrutiny. Two others are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.

And (emphasis added by me):

The decision to open the investigations was not based on a dossier of salacious, uncorroborated allegations that were compiled by a former British spy working for a Washington research firm. The F.B.I. is also examining the allegations in that dossier, and a summary of its contents was provided to Mr. Trump earlier this month.

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.

As Ambassador (ret) McFaul stated:

The New York Times’ reporting now confirms not just yesterday’s reporting by McClatchy, but also some of Heat Street‘s reporting on this from last November.

As I’ve written several times: we are off the looking glass and through the map. We have never had a President sworn into office when he and his team are facing two investigations. One from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the other a counter-intelligence investigation conducted by the US Intelligence Community. It also gives credence to Congressman Elijah Cummings’, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, statements yesterday.


Wayne Barrett, July 11, 1945 – January 19, 2017: Rest in Peace

Wayne Barrett, the long time reporter for the Village Voice and one of the first biographers of the President-elect has died at the age of 71. Barrett had been in ill health throughout the 2016 election season, but continued reporting and providing analysis for as long as he was able to.

From his obituary at the NY Times:

Wayne Barrett, the muckraking Village Voice columnist who carved out a four-decade career taking on developers, landlords and politicians, among them Donald J. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71.

His wife, Fran Barrett, said the cause was complications of lung cancer and interstitial lung disease.

A 1992 book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” was, as Mr. Barrett acknowledged, a flop at first. Thanks to his subject’s improbable political ascent 25 years later, it was successfully republished and expanded in 2016 as “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.”

Mr. Barrett’s voluminous background files from the Trump biography, and his professional courtesy, made his Brooklyn home a mecca for investigative reporters during the recent presidential campaign.

“There may be no journalist in the nation who knows more about Trump than Barrett,” Jennifer Gonnerman wrote in The New Yorker just after the election.

“He took Trump seriously long before anyone else did,” Mr. O’Brien, who is now executive editor of Bloomberg View, said, “and most of the work that followed Wayne’s was built upon his insights.”

Here’s a link to his Twitter feed, which includes links to much of his election year analysis of the President-elect.

I Don’t Have to Outrun the Bull Alligator, I Just Have to Outrun You

This wee fellow was caught on video near Lakeland, FL yesterday.

That’s a big boy!

A Final Thought on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on MLK Day 2017

While a number of people, both here and other places, have written moving thoughts on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I wanted to highlight something we are aware of, but don’t think of enough: the anger that his actions generated. It was almost Newtonian – each action generated an equal and opposite reaction.

(Figure 1: Letter from J. Edgar Hoover, written anonymously, to MLK, Jr.)

(Figure 2: Hate mail sent to MLK, Jr.)

(Figure 3: Hate mail sent to MLK, Jr.)

These are just a sample. And it is important to remember the letter in Figure 1, believed to have been sent by J. Edgar Hoover, was an attempt to drive Dr. King to suicide. Dr. King’s movement, which eventually led to long overdue, long denied progress in the US wasn’t just opposed vehemently at the time, but led to immediate attempts to push it back. His efforts, and those that worked with him and supported him, and the progress they made is just one example of the fitful progress that is made in the US. Every time, from the first founding and the Articles of Confederation to the second founding and the Constitution and Bill of Rights to the post Civil War amendments to the New Deal to the Civil Rights era and the Great Society and to the achievements of the last 8 years, progress has been met with this same Newtonian response. Anger and obstruction while the progress is occurring and an immediate attempt, sometimes successful, sometimes not, to roll it back.

I know a lot of the readers and commenters here are on edge. Once again we are in unsettled times, this has begun to dawn on even a lot of people that voted for the President-elect as his inauguration approaches. And I know many are looking for or thinking about what to do. I can’t answer that, but I can say that whatever strategies arise, and there will likely be more than one, it is important to remember that they are often not what they seem. While Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence has been codified and commented on, it is important to remember that part of the reason he arrived at this strategy was concern. Concern for the African Americans that would have to survive the backlash and pushback that would be concurrent with his movement’s actions and push for progress on Civil Rights. Even as he was willing to risk his own life, part of his strategic focus and concern was for those who did not have the time, the money, the resources, and the wherewithal to engage in the active portion of his movement. He understood that no progress in the US came without a steep price and an immediate opposite reaction. As a result, his concern for their wellbeing, for what violence could be done to them in an attempt to pressure him to stop, went into his strategic calculus. The movement he led was unable to fully safeguard them, just as, at the end, it was unable to safeguard him.

As the clock ticks and MLK Day turns to the first day of a shortened work week that ends with a Presidential inauguration, remember that progress isn’t always made by the spectacular works of elites and notables, but by the slow, steady, and often routine work of everyone. And remember that whatever strategies you choose to follow as the US moves into new and uncharted territory should include Dr. King’s strategic calculus.