[Ed. – Yeah, they’re still “protesting” in St. Louis. One of the worst aspects of this whole thing is that the orchestrated mayhem produced by radical instigators prejudices the police, city authorities, and the rest of us against legitimate demonstrating. Good people sometimes have good reasons to go out and protest things, but the police are being conditioned to be worried and even cynical about all protests.]
The protests, which reportedly escalated when people started throwing rocks and bottles at officers, led the St. Louis Police Department to respond with a regrettably familiar show of military-style force, complete with armored vehicles, riot gear, tear gas, and smoke canisters.
One aspect of the police’s response was distinctly unfamiliar, though. According to local black newspaper the St. Louis American, around 8 p.m. a line of police officers began “moving towards the crowd and started beating their batons on the ground” in unison. The paper reported that as the officers “advanced down the street,” the synchronous taps “seemed to further enrage the individuals who had temporarily formed pockets on the side street.” According to the paper, demonstrators seemed to take “the batons hitting the ground as taunts.” …
None of the experts on crowd control I reached on Thursday could give me a name for what the maneuver is called. They did recognize it, however, and told me that it dates back as far as the 1960s, though it is not often used today, at least not in the United States. (I reached out to the St. Louis Police Department for comment but did not hear back. I will update this post if I get a response.)
“While this is somewhat common in Europe, it is pretty rare in [the] US,” wrote Alex Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College who has studied police tactics for crowd control.