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Dispatch 53: Washington, D.C.: A few hints on combat safety in America

14 December 2020
Washington, D.C.

Yon-Genre, unedited mind dump:

This is intended for journalists — the few still on the field — and peaceful people.

I spent all day Saturday, 12 December 2020, with various protest groups in Washington, D.C. I believed the probability for violence was 90 percent. And it happened. Numerous stabbings, beatings, large fireworks, pepper spray, arrests, etc.

Long time readers know that I spent years in serious wars, and more years in serious conflicts short of war but that were often as violent as war. And yet more time in lower-level conflict. This stuff is second nature to me.

Recall during my livestreams last year in Hong Kong that I often said to always wear boots. Wear boots anywhere you might get into stampede situation. (I will often wear boots on flights, but not always.)

How many times last year in Hong Kong did I point the camera down at the ground and show all the abandoned shoes, iPhones, glasses, backpacks, and more? Blood. Shredded feet.

I was present at one double-stabbing Saturday night. BLAMTIFA guy with a knife came into a group of Proud Boys. Fight followed. You may have seen videos and even me. Two Proud Boys stabbed. BLAMTIFA guy beaten.

The swarm of Proud Boys resulted in at least one losing a shoe. There was some eyewear on the ground. I made this photo. (My camera had an exposure problem due to a dial being bumped. Sorry!)

In big human swarms/compressions/stampedes, you might see hundreds of shoes on the ground, many glasses, tons of phones, wallets, cameras, masks. Name it.

If something will fall off of you, it will. Including backpacks with items like laptops. You will lose your entire backpack in a New York second. I bet you think you won’t. If you think that, you are wrong. Do NOT bring anything you cannot afford to lose. This is why Soldiers use dummy-cords for weapons. Soldiers lose entire rifles in the middle of firefights.

No matter if you are going to the most peaceful protest ever, remember that ANTIFA in particular will attack. It’s right there in their handbook. (Read the ANTIFA handbook. I did.)

1) Always wear boots. Period.

2) Wear ballistic eyewear. Rocket-type fireworks shot again Saturday in crowds of people. You will have zero time to react. I don’t care if you are Bruce Lee. You ain’t that fast.

3) Do NOT bring anything you cannot afford to lose. This includes cameras with memory cards of family photos, off-record interviews, etc. Always format your stuff before taking in, and remember that formatting does NOT erase the data. If you have sensitive information that was on the memory card, either completely wipe it first, or use a new card. We are entering into a war situation. Loose chips sink ships.

The later you get into the day, the more likely something will happen. That said, in some situations, attacks will happen just at the beginning of the day before anything really gets started. In other words, if a peaceful rally is scheduled for 10 AM, people often will start to assemble earlier. Attacks often happen before main group arrives.

Attackers may nibble at the edges.

General rule: as the day unfolds, each passing hour increases risk. Late afternoon on hot days, people start dehydrating and emotional. Dehydration = increased emotions. And hungry to hangry.

Drugs, alcohol, violent music, and symbols.

Bottom line: emotions increase the longer you march away from the last time you slept, and with fatigue. And a lot of people go specifically for the rumble.

And then we got that crowd-thing: we humans do crazy stuff in big crowds. Never discount crowd-crazy.

Wearing masks.

With their groups.

Drugs. Alcohol.


Anonymity from masks, herd, and nightfall.

What could go wrong?

Werewolves come out after 10PM.

Remember the old people who say never stay in a bar after 10PM? Trust me…your, chances of seeing death and destruction at “protests” goes exponential after about 10PM. It’s like a magic hour.

You will also see “shift changes” as some people only come out after dark. They might be completely fresh. You will see experienced photographers who will skip the entire daytime part, sleep in, coming out only after dark when they know the craziness is more likely to explode.

Abrupt weather changes often leads to drama. I have seen no scientific study on this. Just something I notice around the world. Say, it’s a gloomy day, and suddenly the sun comes out, or the inverse. Something about that change seems to trigger some folks. Sun comes out and they go nuts. Or sun disappears. They go nuts. Wind picks up. They go nuts. Wind goes still. Nuts.

I gotta run. Doing interview with Gordon Chang and John Batchelor at 1915hrs regarding Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong. Got a dinner meeting, and calls waiting, and so please excuse this unedited Yon-Genre mind dump.

Please also support my work on Patreon, or many other methods here. I greatly need your support. I’ve got a huge amount of experience in conflict — and it’s always expensive. Support methods here. Monthly support is by far best because I can budget:

Thank you!

Michael Yon

Michael Yon is America's most experienced combat correspondent. He has traveled or worked in 82 countries, including various wars and conflicts.

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