While most protest leaders call for calm and “militant non-violence” in order to force social change in what they view as a “evil system” in Ferguson, Missouri, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is concerned that radicals are hoping to exploit the chaos of widespread protests to attack local law enforcement and federal agents.

They’re also concerned that some extremists might attempt attacks on the electrical grid and water treatment systems.

As the nation waits to hear whether a Missouri police officer will face charges for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country that the decision “will likely” lead some extremist protesters to threaten and even attack police officers or federal agents.

Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities.

“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision … will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI says in an intelligence bulletin issued in recent days. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”

The FBI bulletin expresses concern only over those who would exploit peaceful protests, not the masses of demonstrators who will want to legitimately, lawfully and collectively express their views on the grand jury’s decision.

The mainstream media has been playing to a racial divide in the protests, and while there is certainly a racial divide nationwide in opinion about the August shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, the protesters themselves are surprisingly diverse, with a recent Breitbart account having a protest leader acknowledging that there are “mostly white folks here.”

Many of the protesters are not from the St. Louis area, and have instead swarmed like locusts to Ferguson as they recognized a potential flashpoint that they would like to exploit for “social change” or various types. In addition to religious leaders and more traditional civil rights groups attempting to find a non-violent way to bridge perceived racial inequalities, there are anarchists, communists of various stripes, one world government conspiracy theorists, racial power and hate groups (black and white), and online hackers all pursuing their own agendas under the guise of caring about the death of Michael Brown.

The most obvious immediate threat to law and order are those agitators who will use large and mostly non-violent crowds as a screen to attack law enforcement, and criminals who will attempt to use the protesters as an excuse to loot and riot. These actions were seen in August as some officers were injured in attacks and many businesses were burned and looted.

The greater potential threat to the larger population is the threat of attacks on the electrical grid that could plunge the region into darkness, something that I noted in January of 2013 in a different context.

The government could perhaps assign a soldier or cop for every transformer, substation and switch, but they’d run out of men long before they ran out of things they need guarded. Not that the government could even guarantee to actually protect the transformers they were guarding; a residential transformer is a big, stationary target, and the substation transformers and switches and other equipment even bigger targets.  Residential transformers are easily “touched” by even a moderately competent deer hunter from hundreds of yards away, perhaps separated by roads, subdivisions, swamps or streams. Substations are a dense area target easily struck from a half-mile or more away.

Meanwhile, the lone wolves and small teams would simply shift to other targets of opportunity left unguarded by an overwhelmed and outmatched government force, of which there are many.

How many days with partial power or no power, how many nights in the dark, would it take before the local economy collapsed in the targeted area? Insurgents could cripple a city, region, or state, without ever firing a bullet at another human being.

Our electrical grid is incredibly fragile, and if domestic terrorists—there is no better descriptor—have the knowledge to hit certain key points of infrastructure during the current bitter cold snap that has struck much of the country, then the ability of society to function could be pushed past a breaking point.

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