Stage 3: Dictator Response

Dictator response and expectations

When dealing with a dictator response, remember there is strength in numbers. You become weaker if you allow the opposition to divide and conquer your group or others around you. Keep protests civil; do not let them turn violent.

The government will try everything in its power to turn protesters into violent thugs. If this happens, they will naturally defend themselves. If you remain peaceful, even if today is a rough day, tomorrow might be better.

During a protest, government forces themselves may have second thoughts. Even if a true level of violence erupts, some forces will be going through their own thought processes on how they should react. Freedom fighters must give them every reason to come over to their side.

Dictatorships have used ambulances to attack unsuspecting people, or to seize and arrest wounded protesters. At the same time, they have stopped real ambulances and doctors from getting through to the wounded. They have raided hospitals and arrested those going through operations, along with the doctors who treat them.

If someone has light or superficial wounds, they are better off finding treatment at a secret hospital the government does not know about. Those with heavier wounds, taken to real hospitals, must leave as soon as they are able, or even sooner than that. No one is safe in a hospital when government thugs burst through the doors.


Police response determines the movements direction. Initially protesters must assume a passive role. Fighting with the police in the first stage of protesting is not a good idea. The goal is to get them to switch sides. They are not going to do this if violence turns against them.

If you are with the police, military, or other government official, ask yourself, “Is this what I signed up for?” If you decide to defect from a tyrannical government, see Defecting.

Getting arrested

When getting arrested violence is a bad idea. At the same time, you do not have to accept arrest if being assaulted. Do not act meekly and make it easy on those who arrest you. Lie down, hold one another, try to escape, or anything else to slow them down, tire them out, or force them to get extra help.

Forcing police to chase, drag, or carry non-violent and passive protesters is not only strenuous work, but it causes some of them to question their orders. The more time and people it takes to arrest you the fewer people around will be getting arrested. As long as others continue in your place there is a chance that those making arrests will lose their nerve, join your side, retreat, or give up.

When being assaulted, protesters have every right to try to escape or defend themselves. If you witness someone being beaten, do not let it go unnoticed. If your group is large enough help them if you can. Government thugs cannot arrest everyone at the same time.

Be aware that the government is going to try to turn the crowd violent. This is what they want so they can justify their own violence. Do not give them what they want.

Tear gas

If you think you will run into tear gas, wear normal glasses instead of contacts. If you are wearing contacts around tear gas, remove them immediately. Tear gas quickly gets under contacts making it much worse. Tight fitting goggles will be of great use but the odds of having goggles at this time is slim. In some repressive countries owning goggles is illegal.

Dress in layers. A layer of clothes exposed to tear gas continues to emit fumes, for extended periods. Tight fitting, waterproof clothes, sealed with rubber bands around the wrists and ankles as a top layer is best. Barring those luxuries, an extra layer of clothing can be discarded if needed. Extra clothes are also useful when encountering paint guns. Even heavy-duty garbage bags are useful against tear gas, paint guns, and water cannons.

If you think you might encounter tear gas, soak a cloth or paper towel in lemon juice, cider vinegar, or even soda pop, and store it in a plastic bag. Acid helps neutralize tear gas. When needed wrap the wet cloth tightly around your face while getting upwind. Tear gas lingers in lower places so find higher ground. You can breathe the air inside your shirt, or some other cloth, for a limited time until the fabric becomes saturated.

Though bleach might be best, the use of any acid can neutralize tear gas. However, acid and bleach CANNOT BE USED for cleaning eyes. Water and baking soda may do some good here.

Fumes of chopped-up onions underneath the nose may help. Carry some in a separate plastic bag and use as needed.

Be aware that tear gas canisters when fired may sound like gunshots. After they are fired the containers are hot. Don’t touch them without wearing thick heavy gloves. You can kick the canister away, or cover it with a bucket or garbage can. Do not panic! Hyperventilation causes you to breathe faster and inhale more gas.

See more information on tear gas at Tear Gas Exposure or Black Cross Health Collective (opens in new window)

Water cannon

A raincoat or waterproof clothing is best. Heavy-duty garbage bags will be of some use.

Paint guns

Paint guns mark people for arrest later. An extra change of clothing could help in this situation. Tight fitting waterproof or rain clothes, as a top layer is best. Even heavy-duty garbage bags can offer some protection. These tips also come in handy when encountering tear gas.


If real bullets are heard being fired, find shelter away from the shooting immediately. After you are safe, try to take pictures to decide who is shooting. Be aware that firing Tear gas canisters may sound like gunfire.

Horses and camels

Dictator Response Battle of the Camels

Dictator Response
Battle of the Camels

While horses and camels are not something most people worry about, their use to attack protesters in Tahrir Square, Egypt, left nearly a dozen people dead. “The Battle of the Camels,” as it is now known, became one of the most notorious incidents of the anti-Mubarak uprising. Since their use in Egypt, it becomes prudent to add a note on neutralizing them.

Horses and camels do not like noise or sudden movements. Screaming and shouting while waving your arms helps if you are up against untrained animals. Trained animals are another story but fortunately, war-horses and war-camels are very rare these days.

Horses and camels will do everything they can to avoid pointed things, like metal rods pointed straight at them. They have a brain so they are not going to willingly impale themselves, or ride over groups of people. They are also averse to running into barriers.

Any ridden animal is top heavy. Once the animal has slowed down it is easier, albeit dangerous, to knock it over and grab the rider.


Slow down motorcycles by blowing their tires with spikes in the road. Other ways are barriers, or stretched rope in their path. Once the motorcycle has slowed, knock the rider over.

Other ways of knocking a rider over is simply throwing something at them. However, when the motorcycle is down, avoid the spinning rear wheel.

Speeding cars

Like motorcycle, spikes in their path may slow them down. Unfortunately, there is no knocking them over. Just as unfortunate automotive wheels are harder to disable, while four wheels makes it even harder.

Throw rocks, pieces of bricks, or other heavy objects at the windows. Use metal rods, or stout sticks to beat against them. The object is to massively crack the front and rear windows, but not to break them away. A shattered windshield is hard to see through, but once the window is gone completely, visibility improves.

Break side windows away completely. They are not as strong as the front and rear windshields and they do not affect forward visibility. Once the side windows break, aim towards the driver.

Any driver who knowingly plows a machine or rampaging animal through a crowd deserve what they get. They must be stopped by any and all means possible.

Written by Scott M. Eaton
Created on … May 20, 2011

2 comments on “Stage 3: Dictator Response
  1. Louisa says:

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