Intelligence Gathering at Protests

September 8, 2020

Over the last few weeks, as protests and riots have continued, I decided to stop blindly accepting the media’s reporting and to get out and see what was actually going on at the rampant protests.

Let me start by saying that I don’t advocate everyone doing this…I’m a trained professional with over 20 years of investigations experience. I do want to share the interesting findings and make a few recommendations to everyone, though.

The narrative being presented was that these protests were not centrally organized and that they were grass-roots protests just springing up in response to social issues. My time inside the protests verified that this just isn’t true; they are very organized and are being planned by someone.

I began by gathering a list of local protests and making a schedule, attending the ones closest to home, to assess my local level of risk, and then branching out to other areas, and eventually even attending a very large one in Lansing, at the state Capitol. According to the event organizers, these were all protests by different groups….that’s important, later. Sources for finding local protests include Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Remember though, as Sam Culper at Forward Observerteaches, we should always farm social media for data, and never plant any data. Guard your information online.

ANTIFA “SECURITY”

The first one I attended was on the University of Michigan campus. The protest was rather large, about 1,500 people. What I found interesting was that the first speaker pointed out that “allies from RevCom/ANTIFA” were present, just to provide “logistical support” including medical and security teams. The local RevCom leader got up and explained how to find the medics (Large red or green crosses) and explained that security was “circulating among the crowd” for safety. That was an ominous statement, as I’ll point out later.

I began moving through the crowd and quickly spotted several security team members, obviously watching the crowd for anyone who wasn’t clapping or cheering along. It’s important to note that these protests require 100% ideological agreement or they will approach you and become confrontational, so I made sure I was chanting along. I noticed almost immediately that despite the man who said he was the RevCom leader, a young man named Ethan, that I would later have many interactions with, was actually in charge. He is a security team leader within the ANTIFA organization.

The biggest observation from the first protest was that despite the claims that they aren’t organized, they are highly organized by a central organization. Ethan and his security/medical team have beenat every protest I’ve attended in Michigan, including one at the Capitol an hour away. They use the ubiquitous BaoFeng Handi-talkie radios to communicate.

Ethan himself most frequently wears Interceptor Body Armor and a Guy Fawkes mask, while dressing in black and red. When he is not personally actually leading the march, he wears the full face Guy Fawkes mask to try and prevent being identified.

Next, I attended a smaller protest that was scheduled in Canton Township, Michigan, a small Detroit suburb. I arrived an hour early, and lo & behold, Ethan and his crew were already in place. The protest met in a local grocery store lot and Ethan’s team was patrolling the lot, checking cars for people who appeared to be watching the protest.

OVERT COUNTER-SURVEILLANCE

Counter-Surveillance is a huge piece of the ANTIFA/RevCom program. They recorded license plate numbers of vehicles they deemed “suspicious”. At one point, when Ethan saw a man (not me) outside the protest taking photos, he tried to get the police to make the man leave. Imagine, protesting against the police, yet asking them to help you. The police told Ethan that Ethan and his group had no legal standing to ask anyone to leave, since they didn’t own the parking lot and were technically trespassing.

A few days later, I was attending a BLM protest in downtown Detroit. This one was different. The organizers, while they accepted the RevCom/ANTIFA medical assistance, refused the offer to assist with security and had their own provided by the local Masons club. Ethan was not to be stumped…despite their claims to refuse outside assistance to prevent “agitators”, I quickly found Ethan and his entire security team hidden among the crowd, still using radios, and conducting serious counter-surveillance, including snapping a few photos of me. Now, what they got were photos of a man wearing a ball cap, sunglasses, a face mask pulled up under my sunglasses, and a hoodie. I’m sure they were thrilled when they reviewed the photos and noticed that my middle finger was discreetly displayed in every photo they took. I quickly went around a corner and applied gray man tactics, switching my hoodie, ball cap, and face mask, and taking off the sunglasses. I tested it and they appeared to have no clue that I was the same person.

At all of these protests, I conducted map tracking using my BattleBoard Scout, a great tool. It’s essentially a notebook that also has a clear window that you can write on using dry-erase or wet-erase markers. I prefer wet-erase, so that the tracking isn’t accidentally taken off. I use it to document where incidents occur and where protest activity took place in order to have a more solid picture of the situation on the ground.

The next few protests were more of the same, with Ethan and his team following and intimidating anyone who didn’t appear to belong. They followed people to their vehicles and recorded license plate numbers. It’s important to note that they were very obvious about recording the numbers, in an attempt to intimidate anyone who might oppose their viewpoint.

THEY’RE STEPPING UP TO INTIMIDATION

At the Capitol protest, the game changed significantly. Ethan and his team met up with other RevCom/ANTIFA and BLM security teams from around the state and all were openly carrying arms, including long guns. Many of the ANTIFA people who showed up all in black were wearing helmets and soft armor, so they were ready for violence. They actively harassed and intimidated anyone they deemed as “Militia”. My point in mentioning that is that if you show up to track one of these protests dressed in your “tacti-cool” gear, they’ll make you and drive you off long before you get there. Blend in, go gray.

Another point about social media is to never broadcast live from inside a protest. They have people monitoring. Video podcaster and commentator Steven Crowder sent a team into CHAZ or CHOP for a live stream and they were quickly chased out.

Intelligence gathering is best done in secret and should remain secret.

I WAS TARGETED

I fell victim to their counter-surveillance again because the Militia folks had heightened their awareness with several attempts to enter the Capitol grounds, and apparently one of them observed me take a photo. They immediately began following me, including off the Capitol grounds to try and get my license plate, maybe even confront me, but since I had done a thorough map study and recon (again using my trusty BattleBoard Scout as a guide), I was able to lead them on a longer chase than they wanted to go on and they gave up. I was able to successfully change profile and re-enter the crowd.

It’s important to note that they had no authority to drive people off the Capitol grounds, but the State Police allowed them too, and never intervened when the BLM/ANTIFA crowd forced someone out.

When returning to my vehicle after each of these protests, I was very careful to conduct a Surveillance Detection Route (or SDR). This outwardly looks like a random walking pattern, allowing you to check and make sure that you aren’t being followed and to effectively shake or identify any followers.

SOME LESSONS LEARNED

So what are the lessons for patriots?

  1. The protests are organized by a central organization.

  2. They have trained and professional security teams.

  3. They actively conduct counter-surveillance.

  4. Park sufficiently far enough distance away to discourage anyone following, and walk in.

  5. They are completely willing to use arms and force.

  6. The presence of body armor indicates a willingness to use violence.

  7. Blending in is far better than direct confrontation.

  8. Have a fully stocked and ready first aid kit, such as a BearFAK.

Do I believe there will be a time when confrontation is needed? Absolutely.

However, let’s be smart and gather intelligence slowly and carefully first.

CONTRIVED ESCALATION

As a follow-up, after I observed one protest in Detroit, my friend Ethan came out of the shadows and made a Twitter post that the Detroit Police had tried to run him over, complete with video.   I was there. They surrounded the police cars and began beating on them, trying to force the police to use deadly force or hit them with the cars. The entire situation was a set-up designed to produce a new incident to create more tension and protests.

Be prepared for many more of these protests as the election nears.

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