It's always interesting to hear how events are described, of course. After last year's attack by the police on Stokes Croft, and the way that the reporting of the student protests prior to that failed to match the first-hand accounts of the people I knew who were there, I've become more sensitive to the reporting of public order policing in particular. Perhaps because of this, I'm now aware of a problem increasingly faced by security forces around the world - that of being forced to fire rubber bullets into crowds of protesters. Now, don't get me wrong - it's not that they want to do it. It's not that they'd do it if there were any alternative. No, the protesters actively compel them to shoot them - or so the news agencies of the world seem to agree.
Just how can protesters force security personnel to shoot them, you ask? There are numerous methods, all equally irresistible in their effect. Sometimes it's by throwing stones:
- "Bandh supporters pelted stones at security forces at Mahadev Tilla and Harangajao. Policemen on duty were forced to fire rubber bullets to disperse the mob."
Sometimes by breaking things:
- “Police had to use rubber bullets to disperse the rowdy crowd which started to be violent and destroyed property.”
Sometimes by trying to go somewhere the security forces don't want them to go:
- "The traders claimed they were attacked without provocation, while the metro police said they had been forced to fire rubber bullets to contain traders trying to force their way into the market."
Sometimes being upset and angry is enough to oblige the helpless security forces to pull the trigger. After all, there's nothing like being hit by a rubber bullet to calm you down...
- "Mass demonstrations in Madrid turned to violence earlier this week, as police were forced to fire rubber bullets to calm the fury of the public."
- "South African police were forced to fire rubber bullets and stun grenades to break up a protest by hundreds of stadium staff unhappy at their wages."
It's clearly a widespread problem. What can be done about it?