As I start writing this, I don't have a single alternative in my mind which would have prevented bloodshed, but I'm willing to bet that there were some very simple ones.
The concept sounds fairly simple: group of angry workers on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere.
Solution 1: Flash-bang grenades. Lots of them.They're debilitating, and cannot be ducked. Result: Miners disorientated, deafened and easy to arrest.
Solution 2: Drive into the middle of the crowd with a few armoured Caspers. Absolutely no risk to the police in them, unless one of the miners has an RPG hidden away. Result: Group dispersing as they escape getting run over and recognise that they're facing overwhelming force.
Solution 3: DON'T WALK UP THE HILL! Leave the protesters to mill around until they get tired, grab those that remain at night once they're tired.
Solution 4: Send the men's family members - wives, brothers, fathers - in to speak to them and defuse the situation. These family members were shown on TV as they hunted for their loved ones' names on signboards, so they could have been located.
Solution 5: Erect a food and drinks tent in the area, and invite the tired and thirsty protesters to come grab a snack, with only plainsclothes police officers in the tent. The protesters were people too, and staying angry for hours is difficult.
Solution 6: Bring the government ministers in to negotiate with the miners BEFORE the incident, not only after they're all dead.
Solution 7: Bring in a couple of armoured police helicopters to buzz the crowd of miners. Catch them in the backwash of the rotors, and shout at them over speakers. Drop pamphlets for added effect.
Solution 8: Lie to the miners. Tell them all their requests will be met, that they're getting as much money as they want. Do whatever is necessary - up to and including signing fake contracts - just to disperse them. Revoke everything when they're cooling down in prison.
Solution 9: Water-bomb the miners with crop-dusting or fire-fighting planes. Anger and repeated near-drowning experiences don't gel.
Solution 10: Put up big speakers and play gentle music to the miners. Peace songs, love songs, a bit of Bach. Psychological warfare works. Or just crank the volume right up and make the area uninhabitable for everybody without ear-protectors.
There you go, that's ten possible solutions, which I came up with in about fifteen minutes in total. If you disagree with a couple of them, fine, but is there really no way that any of them would have worked in combination which each other?
I KNOW police are meant to have disaster management plans for exactly this sort of thing, where long lists of points like those I've suggested are included.
My guess is that when push came to shove, the police didn't have any armoured vehicles, crop-dusting planes, large speakers or helicopters conveniently placed. So instead, they chose to walk up the hill, and presumably threaten the miners to disperse.
That was the stupidest option of the lot, even given severe restrictions. They could still have left the miners alone, as others here have already suggested, and things WOULD have turned out better.
Nobody is asking here, what COULD the police have done differently and how have they changed their ways going forward to avoid this scenario again? Let's start doing that instead, because it's better than the blame game.
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