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Protest Preparedness – Defeating Demonstration Devices

Protest Preparedness – Defeating Demonstration Devices

With today’s political climate continuously escalating from matters both domestic and foreign, incidents of protest (demonstrations) and civil unrest (riots) are becoming more prevalent in both rural and suburban geographical areas of the United States.

These occurrences pose a significant risk of depleting our resources as First Responders and it is imperative that we continue to educate ourselves from the past experiences of others to better prepare our Officers and Firefighters for future responses.

Recently in Middlesex County Connecticut, a fire department responded to a demonstration that took place on the roadway concourse leading to the entrance of a well-established American aerospace manufacturer with global service operations. As a company, they produce and distribute state of the art aircraft engines that are extensively used in both civil aviation and military aviation.

Around 0537 hours on the morning of Monday 4.15.2024, approximately fifty (50) members from the Pro-Palestinian A15 Action group began a protest across the roadway which utilized a common maneuver referred to as a “sleeping dragon” that impedes access and egress of vehicle traffic and personnel to and from the desired location in an attempt to disrupt production, profit, etc.

Within this short training article, I will outline the events that unfolded on the morning of April 15, 2024 and how the on-scene personnel mitigated the situation at hand in a timely manner while ensuring that the safety and well-being of all participating protesters remained paramount.

The protesters obstructed incoming employees and first responders from accessing the area. A total of eight (8) utilized chains and tubes to form a “human barricade at the intersection of the roadway that connected access to a major highway and side streets for commuting traffic.

At one (1) end of the human barricade was a female A15 Action Group member who was seated in a wheelchair and secured to the last protester via a chain and padlock.

A sleeping dragon is a common practice used by protesters to stifle their removal from protest sites.

The basic make-up of a sleeping dragon is when a series of protesters are handcuffed together through PVC pipe, which prevents law enforcement from being able to access and cut the handcuffs through traditional means such as with bolt cutters.

By doing so, it allows for the protesters to remain disruptive for a longer duration of time.

Device Used – Sleeve Components

4” x 3’ White Polyvinyl Chloride Pipe

Tin Stove Pipe Sleeve

Chicken Wire Fencing

Roof Cement (Tar)

Industrial Tape

Black 10 Mil Plastic Sheeting

The more layers and components in the device, the longer it takes for firefighters operating on scene to circumvent the pipe and locking mechanism.

Forearms and Wrists were wrapped and protected with cloth hand towels and secured in place with industrial tape.


Each wrist was secured with small diameter utility chain and connected via a spring snap hook. The utility chain around the wrist extended with an additional spring snap hook.

Once the forearm was inserted into the pipe, the additional spring snap hook was connected to a threaded bolt that was fed through the center of the pipe.

Once the forearm was inserted into the pipe, the additional spring snap hook was connected to a threaded bolt that was fed through the center of the pipe.

Prior to the process of sleeve removal, each protester was given the opportunity to remove their arms and/or advise crews of the mechanism holding their extremities in place.

Hearing protection was provided for all members and shielding measures were put in place to prevent their exposure to potential sparks prior the implementation of tools and equipment


Tools/Equipment Implemented

Utility Knife (Razor Blade)

Milwaukee Cordless Rotary Tool

Milwaukee Cordless Oscillating Tool

Bolt Cutters (various sizes)

Large Flathead Screwdriver

2 lbs. Brass Sledge Hammer


Removal of the Sleeves

A utility knife (razor blade) was utilized to begin the process of removing a section of the soft exterior layers:

            - Paper

            - Industrial Tape

            - Black 10 mil Plastic Sheeting


Prior to cutting further into the device, a thermal imaging camera (TIC) was used to view where their extremities were positioned within the device.


An inspection h*** was then created by removing the remaining layers with a Milwaukee Oscillating Tool. 

The pieces of the white polyvinyl chloride pipe that were cut using the oscillating tool were removed by placing a flathead screwdriver to the cut and knocking the piece free by striking the handle of the flathead with a 2 lbs. brass sledge hammer.

With the inspection h*** created, the connection point for the spring snap hook was presented.

The center connection point for each sleeve/device was a threaded bolt with each bolt varying in diameter.

A few methods were implemented for extremity removal once the center connection points were exposed:

  1. Spring snap hooks were cut with a Milwaukee rotary tool.
  2. Bolts were displaced by removing the nuts with a pair of pliers.

Working in conjunction with on-scene law enforcement, as each extremity was cut free and removed from the sleeve/device, the arm was restrained and handcuffs were secured in place while each protesting member was detained.

Successful Outcome

  • At NO point during the evolution of extremity removal were any A15 Action Group members or First Responders injured.
  • In total, ten (10) protesters were taken into police custody and removed from the scene via transportation provided by local law enforcement.
  • A wheelchair accessible ambulance responded to the scene and was utilized to transport the member in the wheelchair.

Future Incident Considerations

  • Secure and fortify the firehouse prior to departure should the activation of your response be part of a larger scale incident and distraction.
  • ALL on-scene fire apparatus should be positioned in a manner that provides the greatest level of cover and protection for those operating should there be a secondary action planned on part by the protesting group or organization.
  • ALL on-scene fire apparatus should be secured with windows shut and doors locked to prevent roving protesters and bystanders from taking further action to create a delay in mitigating the situation.
  • Coordinate response activities:

           - Develop an Incident Action Plan (IAP)

            - Activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in advance should the incident develop and the resource                is needed.

            - Establish a Unified Command with ALL resources on-scene.

  • Develop and establish work zones to prevent outside involvement from media, bystanders and additional group/organization members who might be present but NOT identified.

            - HOT ZONE: Law Enforcement support is required for force protection.

            - WARM ZONE: Law Enforcement support is recommended and transporting EMS can be staged.

            - COLD ZONE: NO risk of violence, recommended for media and bystanders to gather.

Maintenance of Situational Awareness

            - Ensure current information is communicated with those operating on-scene.

            - Leverage ALL possible sources of response and regional intelligence for other potential locations                                developing for the use of protest.

            - Monitor local media reports (social media included).

The information discussed in this brief training can be used as a foundation to begin the process of preparing your respective department for an upcoming event. It is only a matter of time that your respective department responds to an incident involving these types of demonstrations.

AB Turenne is a 25-year veteran of the fire service and is currently the Captain of Training and Safety with a career department in Middlesex County Connecticut. As a Certified Level III Fire Service Instructor, AB's training curriculum has proven to be conducive with the operational needs of those he teaches and in turn has improved the human capital knowledge of many. A graduate from the Master of Public Administration program at Anna Maria College, AB has continued his efforts in training and education by contributing to the Fire Engineering Training Community.

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