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by Peter Moskos

December 12, 2014

Policing protests

Just a few examples of effective policing with regards to protesters. From Kriston Capps at Citylab:
In essence, Nashville's police department made a decision to treat the protests like a parade, an event at which the law enforcement role is to provide security, not confront danger.
 Police even shut down a highway for the protesters when protesters were going to walk on it:
Anderson further noted that arresting protesters one by one would have taken hours; instead, after about 25 minutes, police reopened the highway, and protesters continued on their way.
 In Richarond, California:
Police chief Chris Magnus went further: He actually joined protesters this week. When about 100 demonstrators assembled downtown on Tuesday, Magnus stood with them, in full police gear, carrying a sign reading #BlackLivesMatter. "I spoke with my command staff, and we agreed it would be nice to convey our commitment to peaceful protest and that black and brown lives do matter," Magnus told the Contra Costa Times.

In both cities the protests ended with no violence and a great PR coup for police officers.

You know, somewhat to my surprise, I'm actually like the new protest tactic of shutting down roads. When you're protesting you want to make a scene. If you want to protest, standing in a barricaded corral doesn't cut it. The question is what kind of scene. And breaking windows and burning shit is good for nobody. So let's let protesters shut down a road for a bit. What's the big deal?

Keeping roads open is a strange line-in-the-sand for police departments to draw. Sure it sucks to be stuck in a traffic jam for an hours. But so what? Traffic jams cause you to be stuck in traffic. Traffic accidents shut down roads and freeways. So does the occasional marathon. So do, I should point out, police funerals.


collegecop said...

I fail to see how victimizing innocent people by shutting down a roadway helps anyone. If anything it turns people against the protestors.

There is a reason why the article I'm about to link is true.


Moskos said...

Because if you protest in the woods and nobody hears you...

It's about being heard. It's about saying we can't be ignored. And blocking traffic is a pretty good way of getting on the news.

Sure it turns some people against the protesters, but it get the word out and allows other protesters to seem moderate and "nice" by comparison.

And "parading without a permit" worked pretty well in the Civil Rights era (at least when police over-reacted).

On a more general level, I think protesters need extremists so that the average protester is considered moderate and "nice."

Is there any social movement that accomplished anything without extremists? (Maybe women's suffrage? I don't know.)

And in relation to your link, for the activists to "defy stereotypes" you first need negative stereotypes to defy. Otherwise you're just ringing on doorbells like Jehovah's Witnesses.

And people don't really mind shutting down a roadway. They only mind if it's for a cause they don't like.

Close roads for marathons? No problem.

Parades for soldiers? USA! USA!

World Series winners? If only!

Cop funerals? Who has got a problem with that?

Political revenge? Well, that is a bit of an issue in New Jersey.

I really don't think it's about the traffic. It's about the message and ceding control, even for a moment, to people you disagree with.