Although Active Resistance was my first experience working political event security, during four years in the military I did a variety of security-oriented tasks which I think prepare me to comment on what happened at AR.
Two easy areas to discuss are the relationship of the security effort to the event in general, and its internal conduct. There is a third area encompassing both which does not admit of simple conclusions.
The overall performance and effectiveness of security was fair. It did what it set out to do, and responded to a situation (imminent police raid) that caught it by surprise. Organization and training were for the most part adequate, but could be improved.
A security staff must provide certain services and have certain skills. The first aid training was a good start. Since much of our time was spent just answering questions, we should make it a point to study event programming and local geography. We also need a CopWatch-type knowledge of such things as search warrants, lawful stops, legal observer activity and so forth. Also we should know what counts as a "bona fide" security contractor, what our legal boundaries may be, etc. It has been suggested that the security staff have dedicated cars and bicycles, as well as communications gear.
This was an incident of several police committing an assault/battery and improper entry and search at a facility known as the Ballroom. Together with the disposition of other police forces, the raid prompted the AR staff to vacate a sleeping facility and move about sixty occupants to another location.
The raid itself was facilitated by a most classic security gaffe- failure to maintain a perimeter. Cooking and partying going on at the back approach to the building made that area seem safe when in fact it was not. As much as anyone else, I was complacent about it. In the future we should be more conscientious and consider the realities of having people outside a boundary that may have to be sealed suddenly.
Early on, there were all sorts of false stories to the cumulative effect that every facet of AR had been neutralized. There are always rumors and bogus information going around during a crisis, and nothing can really be done about that fact. But what we can do is designate the security staff as a preferred information source, ie Rumor Control. At the very least, they will be able to say that the facts are not yet in.
Once the first wave of the crisis had passed, all organizers and available security staff should have met to determine the status of facilities and people, sort out Rumor Control, and plan the next several hours if necessary. There was a lack of communication and organization which resulted in a group of several people being lost in the shuffle. A status meeting would have figured out what was wrong and what to do.
The relocation went smoothly, considering the lack of a contingency plan. Transportation and a new building were arranged on very short notice, late in the evening.
However. People wanted to party instead of keep their heads down. At the fallback location, alcohol mixed with a generally irresponsible attitude. Noise and flame displays(?!) risked drawing attention. I became instantly disgusted but didn't know what to do. Nothing in my experience covers it. The only explanation I have is that these were psychologically fragile people who had collapsed into denial and infantilism. I almost walked out, but before I quite realized it I had signed up for a guard shift. At the time I referred to it as Punk-Rock Daycare and I will never do it again.
The next day, the security staff escorted people into the previous building to recover their possessions. Some wanted to go to an off-limits floor because they had hidden items there. When asked why, they replied it was necessary because people were stealing in the usual areas of the building.
Clearly, there is a security need which has gone unrecognized and unaddressed. We seem to have focussed exclusively on external opponents and neglected the reality of internal antisocial conduct, both of the predatory and self-destructive types. There is a strand of anarchism which simply says that without state power, people self-organize harmoniously. This is wishful thinking, characteristic of 19th-century naturalist philosophy, and, like certain other anarchist hand-me-downs, must be dispensed with.
The role of the security heads was ambiguous. They seem to have considered themselves responsible for the Chicago area at large and did not have definite allegiances to one operation or another. This showed itself most clearly in a diversion of communications gear from AR security to clinic defense.
People doing shift work must know that there is a person, or chain of persons, responsible for keeping them informed and ensuring that they have what they need for their duties. This should be a designated person, not an at-large one. Part of an officer's job (that is what this amounts to) is to protect his or her unit's resources from extraneous demands.
Aside from organizational purposes, the effect of this on morale is invaluable. Trained people did not often sign up for shifts, and I think this can best be seen as a morale problem. Outsiders and insiders alike felt that security was run as an autocracy, with a few individuals that knew what they wanted to do and the rest being drones that did shift work.
A few simple measures would improve internal organization.
A number of people at the conference expressed concern that in our search for ways of providing security we not revert to or reinvent a hierarchy, especially not a paranoid hierarchy. We know that the defense of the common good, "reasons of state", and so on are often used as mere fig leaves. I do not know how to answer this concern decisively.
Think about what the security service is not. It is not and cannot be the "first line of defense" against antisocial conduct or external opponents, as police propaganda would have it. That's like saying the fire department is the first line of defense against fire. Organized force is one of the last lines of defense, the first line being individual awareness or conscience, the second being informal social control or peer coercion. We should look into lower levels of involvement, something along the lines of mass briefings on crime prevention or counter-terrorism, that will build individual awareness and watchfulness. Remember "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"? We should build at least some temporary vigilance. No one should ever have to do Punk-Rock Daycare. The security arrangements at Rainbow Gatherings might be worth some study. It has been suggested that a limit be placed on the number of hours that a given security staffer may work, the idea being this will compel people to either get involved or go without.
Conversely, I think people should consider it a responsibility to be involved with security in some way even if they lack personal desire for it. If the security service is made up of only certain personality types that are attracted to it, the service as a whole develops that personality. I know. I have been in a volunteer army. When security becomes a subculture, we are asking for trouble. Military historians have noticed that the integration of women tends to diminish the military establishment's social status, which is a promising development, and which should be of interest to us in social control of our own forces. I appeal to people's sense that if there is a need for a security service of some kind, there is also a need to keep it accountable to the people that produce its mandate. Part of the solution is to have the service be as much a cross-section of those same people as possible.
Handling of security matters should be a big reality check. Some people are satisfied with merely critiquing or discrediting authority. But security is not just an overgrown game of cops and robbers or Keep-Away, it is a form of authority involving real questions of power and control of power. How we answer is an acid test.