Watching the coverage of the inauguration yesterday, the cable news networks seemed unable to resist cutting to scenes of the rioting in Washington every time there wasn’t an actual speech or swearing in taking place. When the first day’s law enforcement totals were tallied there had been an estimated 217 disgruntled special snowflakes arrested and six police officers injured. I suppose it could have been worse and we can expect more of the same in the days to come. Ed Morrissey somewhat glumly predicted that these temper tantrums may well last every day for the next four years. I tend to think the steam will largely drain out of that engine far sooner, though there will no doubt be some other big ticket protest shows to come this month.
One item to highlight this morning is the claim being made by some of the protesters regarding “inhumane” treatment from the Capital Police. Some organizers and participants in the riots are saying that the cops were firing rubber bullets into the crowd. (Associated Press)
Protesters and an Associated Press photographer say police fired rubber projectiles at them during demonstrations against President Donald Trump in downtown Washington.
An AP photographer says he was hit three times by projectiles — once on his left shin and twice on his right — while covering demonstrations Friday.
A photo of a spent canister appears to show the bottom part of a “rubber sponge.” The foam-nosed projectile is launched at high-speed by police as a form of less lethal force.
There are conflicts in terminology here which are rather important. I saw several people telling reporters on CNN that there were “rubber bullets” being fired, but the D.C. police spokesperson was quick to note that such crowd control ammunition was not in use. No comment was given as to whether or not they were using “rubber sponges” but that would be one of the far more likely options. A full report is expected from the police department later this weekend, but it sounds like relatively standard fare.
Actual rubber bullets have fallen out of favor in law enforcement for riot control activities and it’s far more likely that they were using either 40-mm foam batons or sponge rounds. You can read an explanation of how each of these work here. They both fall into the category commonly referred to as Less Lethal rounds. (As a side note, I’ve always found the phrase “less lethal” to sound an awful lot like saying somebody is “less pregnant,” but now we’re just arguing semantics.) Foam batons are just what they sound like, being discharged from a 40-mm canister. They are typically filled with small foam discs, shaped like hockey pucks. These are typically fired at the ground in front of rioters, where they spread out and bounce off the pavement striking multiple targets on their lower extremities. That would be in keeping with the description of the AP photographer who claimed to have been hit twice on one shin and once on the other.
The other possibility would be sponge rounds, but those would usually be fired directly at single targets. Also, they have more of a typical shell casing and the AP is reporting finding a “canister” on the ground, so I’m leaning toward the foam baton theory.
And if it’s true… what of it? You’re engaged in a riot, throwing bricks at the cops, smashing windows and setting cars on fire. That’s how the police deal with rioters and frankly, if the worst thing that happens to you is that you take a foam disc in the shin you’ve had a pretty easy day. I was also left wondering yesterday precisely what these rioters thought they were going to do if they actually made it up to the parade route as the presidential motorcade was going by. Most of this was taking place after the swearing in ceremony was finished. You can go to a campaign rally and hurl a brick around a candidate’s team and you might get off with a fine or probation on a relatively minor charge. Once you launch a physical attack on the President of the United States there are some folks from the Treasury Department who are probably going to want to chat with you and you might not be home in time to watch Maddow that night.
Hopefully most of these sore losers will get the message and go about their business soon, but in the early days there will likely be plenty going on to keep the media entertained. In closing I’ll just ask once again what sort of coverage we’d be seeing if conservatives were burning down the city after a hypothetical Hillary Clinton inauguration. I somehow doubt it would be all about the glory of free speech in that event.