Occupy the Square!

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You and an intrepid band of activists have occupied the main square of the capital city of a corrupt dictatorship. You intend to bring about a peaceful shift to democracy through non-violent acts of civil disobedience. To win, you must convince groups like the media and business leaders to support you. You must also find a way to keep the army and the police from arresting your supporters. Most importantly, you must continue to occupy the square.

Massive Demonstrations Force the Regime’s Hand

This game is designed to simulate a protest movement that topples a dictatorship. Most of the time, these movements hold massive demonstrations in the center of a capital city. Concentrating protesters in one location is a pretty good strategy if you are trying to get rid of a dictator for a few reasons:

1) Hundreds of thousands of people camping out in one place attracts A LOT of media attention. The eyes of the world are on the protesters, and the protesters suddenly have a way to get their message out. Even in countries with strict censorship laws, it is difficult to keep out news reports from the BBC or CNN. Suddenly, everyone in the country is within 1-2 degrees of separation with a protester. Their message gets out.

2) A large gathering shows average citizens of the dictatorship that there is real and massive opposition to the current regime. It is hard for regime propagandists to argue that a crowd of hundreds of thousands represents a small minority.

3) Orderly, peaceful protests give citizens reassurance that the protesters do not want a violent revolution. It is very difficult for a regime to respond with violence to common sense demands from peaceful protesters.

4) Security forces effectively lose control of a small chunk of the country. Taking back an area the size of Tahrir square that is occupied by hundreds of thousands of people is typically beyond the capabilities of the police. It is also almost certain that a few protesters will die in the process. To regain control of the situation, the regime typically has to ask for help from the Army. This puts the army in a really difficult spot. Soldiers are going to have to decide to kill the people they have sworn to defend or defy the orders of a corrupt dictator. Often times, dictatorships end when the army chooses the latter. Simply refusing to leave the barracks becomes a revolutionary act.

Holding The Square is Just The Start

Much of this game focuses on keeping the army from driving the protesters from The Square. If you lose The Square, you lose the game. However, you also have to build a vision of a post dictatorship order that appeals to broad swaths of society. Offering a vision of a constitutional democracy with strong protections for individual, civil and property rights is key. Unfortunately, this also means getting the Deep State on board. People who have cooperated with the dictatorship need reassurances that they will not be prosecuted. This is especially true for the police and the army. Often times, police and army officers are the biggest proponents of reform. They are typically first hand witnesses to the weakening effects that corruption and cronyism can have on a nation. They have seen organized criminals bribe corrupt, regime appointed judges. They have watched bloated military contracts for defective weapons go to friends of the regime. With a promise of amnesty, they can become your most effective backers. You don’t get ahead by getting even. Don’t be afraid to make a deal.

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