Although yesterday’s march went relatively smoothly, the potential for violent clashes between police and protesters still exists, since splinter groups have planned a day of civil disobedience for Tuesday. Hoping to avoid the panic and property damage of previous showdowns in Geneva and Seattle, the NYPD, along with 66 local, state, and federal agencies, has spent months preparing for the worst, assembling cutting-edge tools for every imaginable scenario. Here’s what the protesters and the police will be carrying as they face off this week.
Pipes, chains, and locks: Linked together with hard-to-remove PVC pipes, protesters can disrupt traffic. Steel chains and Kryp-tonite locks can be used to attach activists to buildings or shutter the doors of businesses.
Clothing: Battle-seasoned radicals are too sophisticated to show up in black jumpsuits; instead, they try to blend in with the crowd. RNCNotWelcome.org discourages long hair and nose rings, and urges activists to don “business-casual” attire.
Masks: A rarely enforced local law forbids citizens from concealing their faces, so it’s unlikely the NYPD will allow gas masks. But many activists will carry them in their backpacks to protect from tear gas and other chemicals. Rags or bandannas soaked in vinegar also counter the unpleasant effects of the gas.
Fingernail clippers: Nail clippers or scissors can snip off the plastic handcuffs that police will use to detain protesters. Activists call this process “de-arresting.” Police call it a “felony.”
Marbles: Activists deny claims that some groups are planning to trip up police horses by hurling marbles on the street, or using slingshots to antagonize the animals.
Gunpowder and Ammonium Nitrate: Other news accounts suggest radicals could try to disrupt the convention by planting gunpowder or ammonium nitrate—which is used to make bombs—in subways. Such decoys could result in mass evacuations and exhaust the dogs on bomb-sniffing duty.
Ropes and Climbing Equipment: Like the activists at the Plaza Hotel, protesters are using climbing gear to scale skyscrapers and deliver their messages from on high.
Cell Phones and Walkie-Talkies: Group text messaging allows activists to better coordinate activities, elude police and plan escape routes. Rumors circulated that the police were using cell-phone jammers to shut down cell mobile communication around MSG, leading protesters to form teams of “bike scouts” to circulate information.
Cameras: Video cameras can be the ultimate weapon. A group called I-Witness has been training videographers on how to collect evidence of police abuse.
Helmets: Reinforced helmets with visors offer protection against bottles, rocks and other projectiles. Some are also equipped with wireless video cameras, allowing bunkered police commanders to see what’s happening on the front lines.
Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD): These two brand-new $35,000 additions to the NYPD arsenal broadcast at 150 decibels and allow officers to deliver instructions to noisy crowds. The LRADs can also emit a painful screech that induces nausea and fainting. This feature has been used by the military against Iraqi insurgents, but the NYPD says it plans to use the “Larry” solely for communications.
Dogs: Many bomb-sniffing dogs will be outfitted with bulletproof vests, including 17 that work for the MTA’s K-9 Unit, which received the vests this week thanks to a donation from a Manhattan psychotherapist.
The Bear Cat: The NYPD plans to deploy an armored vehicle, “the Bear Cat,” to the most violent protests. The month-old vehicle has bulletproof windows and can transport up to eight officers into battle zones too dangerous for the rank and file.
Bell 412EP Helicopter: The recent addition to the NYPD fleet is a $9.8 million helicopter with advanced surveillance tools, including a thermal imaging camera that can monitor activity in pitch dark.
Mobile Laboratories: EPA agents will randomly measure levels of radiation and test for airborne chemicals. They’ll also have a 64-foot boat in the area to conduct more extensive tests. The NYPD’s biohazard detector, a plastic dish the size of a contact-lens case, can detect in less than two minutes if nerve agents have been released in the vicinity.
Personal Protection: NYPD officers have been issued “tactical response hoods” to protect them in a chemical or biological attack. A few were also given airtight Tychem bodysuits for chemical protection.
Scooters: To help officers speed to emergencies in dense traffic, the NYPD purchased 300 sporty new Piaggio scooters, at $2,800 apiece.
Plastic handcuffs: The single set of metal handcuffs officers usually carry will be replaced by plastic ones, which police can carry by the dozens on their belts.
Cameras: The Daily News reported that the NYPD took Polaroids of detained activists on Friday to head off claims they had roughed them up, suggesting that for police and protesters, as well as politicians, the most powerful weapon is spin.