So what do you do when a high-profile event with the potential to grow into a social conflagration happens in your small town? We’re seeing Jerusalem becoming a burdensome stone in cities all over the world. Though the current crisis du jour is Israel, in 2020 it was a drug addict, and in 2024 it’s likely to be WWIII and the election. Industrial-grade civil unrest can come to you.
Thousand Oaks, California, is on the far western fringe of the urban sprawl that makes up the Los Angeles Metro area. I grew up in that city and helped police it. It is as white-bread boring as it gets, the epitome of middle class. The only major criminal events of note were the Borderline shooting in 2018 and actress Amanda Bynes’ schizophrenic freak out.
That was until this weekend when a Jewish man somehow fell and struck his head on the pavement—it’s unclear if he was struck, pushed, or fell exactly, but it’s being called a homicide. The background is a pro-Palestinian protest was happening on the corner of Westlake and Thousand Oaks Boulevards. The Jewish victim came into contact with the Palestinian protestors and the events resulting in his death a day later ensued. Now my hometown and agency is national news.
The victim, quite frankly, fucked around and found out. That doesn't mean he should have been assaulted and die as a result, but basic personal security common sense dictates you don't get involved with opposing protesters. Doubly so if you are a Jew and they are protesting against Israel. Protesting was a risky thing and the victim never should have gone near the others.
The victim, Paul Kessler, I'm guessing assumed that he would be perfectly fine. Ventura County, after all, is a pretty chill place. He likely went in with a normalcy bias where he thought the worst that could happen was probably some yelling. I'm sure the suspect didn't intend to kill anyone either, but here we are. Doing stupid things in stupid places is a recipe for disaster, even if you've lived for decades in literally one of the safest cities in the country.
As for the exact events, those don’t matter for my readers. In times of turmoil, that an Archduke got assassinated does not matter when the troops begin to march. The odds of this event spiraling out of control until Thousand Oaks and the West Valley are in flames are not great. What is a possibility is that a pro-Israel rally or victim’s memorial is targeted by violent agitators and this leads to a violent confrontation. We saw how “peaceful protests” were coopted and spread beyond the initial goals of counter-protest or disrupting the original event.
Where the reader needs to be concerned is if something like this were to happen in their area. Not every reader lives in a tiny town miles from anything. What are the local catalysts that could lead to something like this in your backyard? For instance, the western San Fernando Valley and its outlying areas, like Thousand Oaks, have a relatively high population of Jews. International immigration in the LA area has also brought in many groups from the Middle East.
An area study would tell you things like the above. Perhaps in your case it might be radical activity on the commuter campus of the local state university in your county seat. What if militant environmentalists get wind of the big pipeline or other megaproject being built in your neck of the woods? “Stop Cop City” in Georgia or the Keystone XL pipeline are other examples. Again, what the spark happens to be is less important than the after effects.
For instance, let’s say that there is a pro-Israel protest at the Government Center in the county seat of Ventura. Deputies and the city police are called to mediate. However, counter-protestors show up and small confrontations, like as happened on Sunday, begin. Police mediate and keep things in control. Unfortunately, agitators show up and begin engaging the police, before harassing the crowd and vandalizing nearby property. It could end here with a skirmish or the police response could generate further controversy among the Far Left, creating an anti-police insurrection in a SoCal suburb.
That’s what you need to be prepared for. While it’s impossible to predict flashpoints (who woulda thought an old man falling down—grossly oversimplified, I know—would move the Arab-Israeli conflict to Thousand Oaks and put the city in the national news), the follow-on effects have to be planned for. The second order effect here is potentially disruptive protests. Again, we have ample examples of where that could go. While probably nothing will happen on that front locally here because of that, it bears watching.
“It” can happen to you in your small town. Now whether it is a Biblical feud, a drug addict becoming a cause célèbre, or a economic collapse leading to rioting, you need to be prepared. Living in a peaceful suburb or in a place where “nothing happens” is no guarantee. Remember, we prepare for contingencies, not certainties.
Now plenty of readers will take a dump on this because it happened in “Commiefornia” and in the suburbs of LA, but that doesn’t mean anything of substance. Even red and purple states have had high profile incidents that kicked off. But hey, Texas is trending purple. What I’m saying is this can happen anywhere and it has.
As always, since this event has the potential to blow up, I do not speak for VCSO, nor am I taking sides in the matter.
Note: this an adaptation from my non-fiction book Suburban Warfare: A cop's guide to surviving a civil war, SHTF, or modern urban combat, available on Amazon.