“Large numbers” of soldiers from the Parachute Regiment and a dedicated Public Order Battalion have reportedly been trained to form snatch squads ahead of the Olympic Games. The Eurosatory Land and Defence fair site reported that “The soldiers were trained to form targeted ‘snatch squads’, small groups ordered to enter a crowd and arrest ringleaders.”
The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this year that the training included teaching soldiers “how to use body-length riots shields, protect themselves from missiles and how to identify and arrest “ring leaders’ using specially trained ‘snatch squads’.” as well as “how to work as teams armed with body-length shields in driving back hostile crowds.” The exercise culminated in a simulation of a full scale riot.
An unnamed “senior source” said that soldiers, if deployed, would have the power of arrest and would “almost certainly” deploy baton rounds.
These tactics are routinely used by the British police in public order situations. The handing over of this crowd control role to the army would be unprecedented.
Of course, simply because this training has taken place doesn’t mean that troops will be deployed. The simple act of reporting it however, serves to create a climate of fear which the government may hope will deter any dissent.
This training exercise, and the threat of the use of troops, however, is part of a process of militarisation of civilian life which has been carrying on apace over the last year. The 2011 royal wedding, the Jubilee and now the Olympics are being used to justify ever more repressive policing and increased use of the military.
This militarisation includes the positioning of high velocity ground-to-air missiles in six locations in East London coupled with the stationing of the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean in the Thames. On Monday 9 July a hearing will take place in the High Court after residents of the Fred Wigg tower in Leytonstone took out injunction proceedings over the positioning of missiles on their roof.