Civil Unrest in US More Likely Than Ever?

The London Riots are causing reflection on the possibility of similar problems in the United States and other countries.   “London Riots 2011: Could Such Disturbances Happen in the U.S.?” talks to causes and similarities, but also talks to the moderating factors in the US:

A British blogger wrote of the factors behind the riots: “Cuts to everything, including welfare and education, have created an atmosphere where the poor and alienated feel that the basic means to the ends of success are no longer available. Moreover, at the same time that austerity is expected of the poor, who are simply meant to swallow their lack of opportunity, it is, of course, business as usual for the rich who continue to consume and the mass media which persists in selling everybody a consumer fantasy. “

This scenario could apply almost perfectly in the U.S.

Sean Snaith, an economics professor at the University of Central Florida, opines that the United States has “a large middle class and generally a standard of living that even for the lower class, is far superior to that of billions around the world.”

Snaith adds: “One thing America does offer is a chance to transcend the socioeconomic class into which you are born. I feel that in the U.S. anyone has the chance to work hard so that you, and maybe more importantly your children, can have a better life. This fact quells some of the discontent that inequalities in wealth in the U.S. might otherwise foment.”

“10 Signs That Economic Riots and Civil Unrest Inside the United States Are Now More Likely Than Ever” takes a more extreme view:

All over the United States we are already seeing some very troubling signs of the violence that is coming.  The following are 10 signs that economic riots and civil unrest inside United States are now more likely then ever….

#1 Going to the state fair used to be such a fun thing for American families to do.  But now no place is safe.  The following is how one local ABC News affiliate described the “flash mob” attacks that took place at the Wisconsin state fair recently….

Milwaukee police said that around 11:10 p.m., squads were sent to the area for reports of battery, fighting and property damage being caused by an unruly crowd of “hundreds” of people. One officer described it as a “mob beating.”

Police said the group of young people attacked fair goers who were leaving the fair grounds. Police said that some victims were attacked while walking. They said others were pulled out of cars and off of motorcycles before being beaten.

One eyewitness said that the flash mob attacks at the Wisconsin state fair absolutely overwhelmed the limited police presence that was there….

When I saw the amount of kids coming down the road, all I kept thinking was, ‘There’s not enough cops to handle this.’  There’s no way.  It would have taken the National Guard to control the number of kids that were coming off the road.  They were knocking people off their motorcycles.

#2 According to a new Rasmussen survey, 48% of Americans believe that reductions in government spending are “at least somewhat likely” to result in civil unrest inside the United States.  Unfortunately, perception often greatly influences reality.

#3 U.S. consumer confidence is now at its lowest level in 30 years.

#4 Joblessness among young Americans is at an epidemic level, and when rioting does break out it is usually young people that are leading the way.  That is why the following statistics from an article in The Atlantic are so troubling….

One in five Americans are between 15 and 29-years old. And one in five of those Americans are unemployed. For minorities and the under-educated, the picture is much worse. Black teenagers have an unemployment rate of 44 percent, twice the rate for white teens.

#5 We are starting to see mindless violence in a lot of areas that used to be considered safe.  In Kansas City on Saturday night, three young people were hit with bullets as they walked the streets of the Country Club Plaza.  Mayor Sly James was about 50 yards away when the gunfire erupted.  Authorities in Kansas City are considering a stricter curfew for that area.

#6 “Flash mobs” have become such a problem in Philadelphia that the mayor has imposed a strict curfew on young people.  Now all teens between the ages of 13 and 18 must be indoors by 9 o’clock at night.  The mayor also says that teens need to start pulling up their pants….

“Pull your pants up and buy a belt ’cause no one wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt.”

#7 All over the United States we are seeing that many struggling Americans will do just about anything for money.  For example, in Detroit recently three masked men crashed a vehicle through the entrance of a gas station and took off with an entire ATM machine.

#8 Desperate people do desperate things.  Many of America’s “forgotten poor” are trying to survive any way that they can.  For instance, a group of vagrants recently set up “a makeshift camp” near Prospect Park lake in Brooklyn.  According to the New York Post, many nearby residents have been disturbed by what these “drifters” are doing to survive….

The drifters have been illegally trapping and cooking up the critters that call the park home, including squirrels, ducks and swan-like cygnets.

They used crude tactics to hunt their prey, including barbed fishing hooks that ripped off the top half of one poor gosling’s beak. They then cooked the meat over illegal fires. Some of the animals were eaten raw.

#9According to CNN, sales of safes and vaults are absolutely soaring right now.  One store owner told CNN that she believes that she is selling a lot more safes now because people are scared that civil unrest could be coming….

“Folks are worried about the decreasing value of the dollar, burglaries on the rise in their neighborhoods … and even the possibility that the unrest we are seeing in other parts of the world slipping over to our country.”

#10 Over the past 100 years, the American population has moved steadily into our big cities and the surrounding suburbs.  This has created virtual “ghost towns” in our rural areas from coast to coast.  Back in 1910, 72 percent of Americans lived in rural areas.  Today, only 16 percent of Americans live in rural areas.  But when you crowd huge masses of people close together that makes riots and civil unrest much more likely.

Most Americans are already fed up, and the economy is not even that bad yet.  One recent survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe that the nation is “on the wrong track”.  Another recent poll found that only 17 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. government has the consent of the governed.


Civil Unrest in US a Possibility?

Pundits in the US are openly raising the spectre of civil unrest in the US:

James Carville “You know, look — this is a humanitarian — you know, you’re smart enough to see this . . . People, you know, if it continues, we’re going to start to see civil unrest in this country. I hate to say that, but I think it’s imminently possible.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski: Predicts US Social Uprising

News reports in 2010 reported that the Pentagon  was running wargames looking at a variety of possibilities and how to deal with them, including:

  • the implications of “large scale economic breakdown” inside of the United States
  • how to maintain “domestic order amid civil unrest”
  • and ways to deal with fragmented global power and drastically lower budgets

In early 2011 Canada, U.S. signed formal agreements to use each other’s troops in civil emergencies.

Unrest in the Workplace

Recent reports in the news are highlighting increasing aggression and unrest in the workplace.

There have also been reports of incidents against executives at firms with layoffs – ranging from physical assault to murder.  In France there have been two cases of hostage taking of managers by employees – at Sony and 3M.

US, Canada and European Governments Actively Preparing for Widescale Civil Unrest?

This blog entry noted european think tank forecasts of civil unrest in the US as a consequence of the economic crisis.

It was reported back in September 2008 that –

U.S. troops returning from duty in Iraq will be carrying out homeland patrols in America from October 1st in complete violation of Posse Comitatus for the purposes of helping with “civil unrest and crowd control” – which could include dealing with unruly Americans after a complete economic collapse.

In February 2009, news reports have highlighted that the US Army is purchasing a significant ($6M) amount of riot gear.

Another article published in February highlighted increased urban warfare training drills by the US Army in cities around the US.

Other news reports have highlighted past “behind the scenes” preparation by the US government relative to even a modest level of anticipated civil unrest, such as the advance preparation of massive prisoner holding pens which were put in place for expected mass arrests during the Denver Democratic National Convention in 2008.


Recently, a bill entitled the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (HR 645) was introduced in the US Congress in January. It calls for the establishment of six national emergency centers in major regions in the US to be located on existing military installations.  The stated purpose of  the “national emergency centers” is to provide “temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster.”   Some pundits say that this bill is in reality establishing domestic internment camps since HR 645 explicitly states that the camps can be used to “meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”

In Canada, the RCMP is actively recruiting for 2,000 new officers.

Also interesting is that in 2008, the Canadian and US Government signed an agreement to use each other’s troops in civil emergencies.

UK newspapers have reported that European leaders fear civil unrest over the worsening economy, and that:

Europe’s top politicians are so rattled by the prospect of growing protests that they have arranged an emergency leaders’ summit in March to deal with growing tensions.

Civil Unrest Coming to the United States?

A friend in California sent me an article today that was very disconcerting.   The article was reflecting on a recent report published in Europe relative to the impacts and consequences of the economic situation:

According to the European think tank, LEAP/Europe 2020, two factors make the US a likely candidate for civil violence: the absence of a strong social safety net and the presence of hundreds of millions of firearms.

The full article is here (it’s in French, so you’ll need to use Google Translation if you want to read it in English).

Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has publicly expressed his fears about impending civil unrest with MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough :

JOE SCARBOROUGH: You also talked about the possibility of class conflict.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I was worrying about it because we’re going to have millions and millions of unemployed, people really facing dire straits. And we’re going to be having that for some period of time before things hopefully improve. And at the same time there is public awareness of this extraordinary wealth that was transferred to a few individuals at levels without historical precedent in America….

And you sort of say to yourself: what’s going to happen in this society when these people are without jobs, when their families hurt, when they lose their homes, and so forth?

We have the government trying to repair: repair the banking system, to bail the housing out. But what about the rich guys?… Where is the monied class today? Why aren’t they doing something: the people who made billions, millions…. there’s going to be growing conflict between the classes and if people are unemployed and really hurting, hell, there could be even riots!

Perhaps this will drive up immigration from the US to Canada?   Entreprenuers, VC’s (only those with a large fund and money to invest mind you) and leaders of large multi-national companies (only those companies that are profitable with no past history of government teat suckling) can go straight to the front of the line….

And the unrest is not expected to be restricted to the US.  On Feb 23rd, London Police expressed public concern over  the possibility of a “summer of rage” in the UK  –

Police said on Monday they feared a “summer of rage” with mass protests over the economic crisis…

There is evidence that governments are already preparing for the possibility of civil unrest.

And on a lighter note, Colbert takes an extreme look at future possibilities.