Chris Blattman

These weak states of America (Waco edition)

A new series, to remind us that the developed world is not as distant from the rest as we’d like to think. From yesterday’s New York Times:

The gunfire erupted about 12:15 p.m. outside a Twin Peaks Restaurant, where members of the motorcycle clubs had gathered. The fight spilled into the parking lot, initially involving just fists and feet, but escalating quickly to chains, knives, clubs and firearms. Waco police officers were already at the scene when the confrontation unfolded because they had anticipated problems as hundreds of bikers from at least five groups gathered at the shopping plaza.

My take on how the New York Times would have written this up, had it been a poorer country:

Rival militias exchanged deadly fire in Waco, a remote area of Texas, the former stronghold of the militarized spirit group known as the Branch Davidians. The hostilities initially involved just fists and feet, but escalated quickly to chains, knives, clubs and firearms. Police officers were present at the scene when the confrontation unfolded, and opened fire on the combatants. No foreign nationals were injured at the scene.

6 Responses

  1. Can this new series include U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings (STEP Notifications) adapted for US cities and states?

    My attempt at adapting a Kenya travel warning to California:

    The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to California, and the heightened risks of travel to the region surrounding San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose (known by locals as the “Bay Area”). U.S. citizens in California, and those considering travel to California, should be aware of continuing and recently heightened threats from social and political unrest and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. This replaces the Travel Warning of April 1, 2015, to update information about the current security situation.

    Although thousands of U.S. citizens visit California each year without incident, caution and keen awareness of one’s personal security situation is vitally important. The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S. and Western interests in California, including within the Bay Area, along the coast, and within the northern region of the state where production of illegal drugs is rampant. The state and federal policing organizations do not have the capacity or resources to shut down drug production and quickly escalating conflicts can lead to civilian casualties.

    Clashes occur in various parts of California, primarily in the urban areas of the state. These clashes are often fueled by disagreements over land or territory. While this violence is not directed at U.S. citizens from other states, gang clashes and protests are unpredictable and may affect tourists and other non-local residents. U.S. citizens are advised to check conditions and monitor local media reports before traveling to these areas.

    Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings, home invasions, shootings, and burglaries, can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Oakland and San Jose. U.S. citizens have been victims of such crimes within the past year.

    As a result of these events and threats, the U.S. Embassy has restricted travel for U.S. government personnel to the San Francisco neighborhood of the Tenderloin, to all neighborhoods in Oakland and San Jose, and to northern California, including Mendocino National Forest. Travel to these restricted areas by any U.S. Embassy personnel must be pre-approved by appropriate Embassy offices. The Embassy continues to consider carefully all U.S. government-sponsored regional conferences and trainings in the Bay Area and the number of temporary duty personnel coming to the state for official purposes.

    Although these restrictions do not apply to travelers not associated with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens in California should take these restrictions into account when planning travel. The Embassy regularly reviews the security of these areas for possible modification. Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following local press, radio, and television reports prior to their visits. Visitors should also consult their hosts, including California business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers.

    U.S. citizens in California should be extremely vigilant with regard to their personal security, particularly in crowded public places such as clubs, hotels, resorts, shopping centers, restaurants, bus stations, and places of worship, and in deserted public places such as bus stations, subway stations, train stations, streets, and alleys. U.S. citizens should also remain alert in residential areas, at schools, and at outdoor recreational events. U.S. citizens should use commonsense precautions at all times, to include the following practices: avoid crowded transportation venues; visit only legitimate businesses and tourist areas only during daylight hours; use well-marked taxis and be sure to lock vehicle doors and keep windows up; lock all lodging doors and windows; carry minimal amounts of cash and credit cards; do not wear jewelry which attracts undue attention; know emergency phone numbers; do not resist or antagonize armed criminals; and always be aware of your surroundings. These measures can help prevent a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario in the event of an attack as well as ensuring that your travel to California is safe and enjoyable.

  2. You forgot to add: there are fears that the violent could spread across the state and beyond. The UN is monitoring the situation and is considering revising the travel advice to the USA.

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