Lucas Papademos, the Prime Minister of Greece, was the top Greek banker for 20-something years, from the 1990s until 2010. Late in 2011, an embattled interim government appointed him Prime Minister. As Prime Minister he has just rammed through austerity measures that will cut spending on the Greek people to dustbowl levels. In short, he was the top banker who orchestrated Greece’s depression, and then he was the politician who ordered the people to pay for it.
This has rightfully sparked the people of Greece to riot in the streets of Athens, burning more than 10 banks in the city. It’s matched outraged citizens against police, which we’ve documented here in photos and videos. Watching this sort of uprising inspires a person to imagine how we (in our respective countries) would fare in combat against the state enforcers of banking policy: the police.
Let’s do the numbers.
That’s close to an 11% increase over 11 years.
Population in the US from 2000 to 2010 grew by 9.7% (PDF warning.) So police numbers in the last decade grew pretty much with population increases.
Let’s look at that population.
The number of people in the US who are between 15 years old and 64 years old (roughly, “fighting age”) is is 106 million. That puts us at about 164 people to every 1 cop in the US. If the police moved against the population violently and the population responded en masse, that is the number of us vs. them.
But, that would be an outlandish revolution. To keep the discussion to the realm of possibility, let’s ask who would show up for run-of-the-mill riots? As we’ve seen in the past two years the country divides itself down ideological lines with 1/3 of the population on the right, 1/3 on the left, and 1/3 in the middle. That still doesn’t tell us much about who would show up if we held a riot. Would the well-armed Tea Party show up –angry about government spending? (Whatever nebulous concept encapsulates the Tea Party at this moment.) Would Occupiers, Anarchists, and left-wing radicals attend? How many Anarchists, Tea Partiers, or Occupiers exist in the US is hard to say as the groups shift around so much. Instead of postulating on our numbers, let’s use Greek numbers. News outlets have reported that 5,000 police reported for duty in Athens and demonstrators /rioters showed up at around the 10,000-person mark. That looks like 2 outraged demonstrators to every 1 cop. Let’s assume that American rioters, like our Greek counterparts, match police numbers 2 to 1. (That’s before the National Guard is mobilized and all of the political implications of that action.)
One thing that separates the United States from other countries when it comes to possible insurrections: guns. America is easily the most heavily armed nation in the world. In 2007 Reuters reported that there were 90 guns to every 100 Americans. And that number may have even shifted upward if gun sales per capita have increased since 2007. (Because of the way gun information is handled in the US, this isn’t exactly clear.) It’s also interesting to note that in the past 10 years, through federal government grants, local police have become highly militarized, functioning now as a standing army that coordinates nationally as was seen in the almost simultaneous crackdown on Occupy Wall Street protesters at the end of 2011.
With about 82% of the US population residing in cities, and considering the amount of guns in the US, it’s safe to say the police would have their hands full if everything were to go haywire. That some police forces have tanks and drone weaponry complicates the matter further and almost guarantees an escalation of violence.
There are far too many variables to answer the question of how we’d do against the police in a riot situation. One Bat recently opined that perhaps World War III won’t actually be a war between nations, but rather wars between government states and their citizens. With 2 armed rioters to every 1 militarized cop, plus tanks and drones, the United States is uniquely-positioned in that scenario.