Strategic Incapacitation and the Policing of Protest Since the 11…
Strategic Incapacitation and the Policing of Protest Since the 11 September 2001 Terrorist Attacks
Central argument: Since the 9⁄11 attacks, strategic incapacitation has displaced escalated force and negotiated management and now prevails as a dominant strategy utilized by law enforcement to police large protest events that authorities believe are at risk of becoming disruptive.
Strategic Incapacitation: Characterized by the goals of ‘securitizing society’ and isolating or neutralizing the sources of potentially disruptive protest actions or events. These goals are accomplished by:
(2) the use of pre-emptive arrests and less-lethal weapons to selectively disrupt or incapacitate protesters that engage in disruptive protest tactics or might do so.
(3) the extensive control of space in order to isolate and contain disrup- tive protesters whether actual or potential.
(1) the use of surveillance and information sharing as a way to assess and monitor risks.
Strategy shifts over time:
1970's: Escalated force to Negotiated management
Late 1990's: Negotiated management to Strategic incapacitation
Case study: 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) protests in Seattle. Showcasing the reasons for failure in the negotiated management model:
Inability of Seattle police to properly prepare for contingencies and allocate resources necessary to control the unpredictable tactics employed by direct action protesters.
Police could find no one with whom to negotiate from groups using leaderless, affinity group organizational structures.
The organizing structure and tactics being employed by a new generation of activists
The police's lack of accurate intelligence on the specific plans of many groups.
Police could not predict the outcome of group decisions or disrupt communications between potentially unruly protest groups that utilized consensus and decentralized decision-making procedures.
Came as a result of:
Radical groups refusing to use ‘contained’ or familiar and undisruptive tactics and instead engaged in ‘transgressive’ or innovative and confrontational tactics, rejecting the former on both philosophical and tactical grounds
The culmination of a thirty-year-long process of political reinvention [among grass-roots organizations, and] the creation of an effective, decentralized, multivocal radicalism based on direct action
A rejection of negotiated management and the choreographed demonstrations that the permitting system produced. Activists complained that demonstrations orchestrated with police were overly accommodating and ineffectual for promoting their goals
Escalated force model: (1960's-mid 70's) Police sought to maintain law and order often trampling on protesters’ First Amendment rights, and frequently resorted to mass and unprovoked arrests and the overwhelming and indiscriminate use of force.
Negotiated management model: (Mid 1970's-late 90's) Encouraged active cooperation between police and protesters through the use of a standardized permitting system.The permitting system institutionalized the negotiated management strategy and made both the planning and enacting of protest events more predictable and routine. Requiring protesters to secure permits ensured that police and protesters would meet in advance to make mutual concessions that would facilitate less disruptive and less violent protest events.
Characteristics of strategic incapacitation
Negotiated management periods
The First Amendment
Escalated force period: 1st amendment rights were ignored
Negotiated management period:
1st amendment rights were the top priority
Tolerance for community disruption
Escalated force period:
disruptions were not tolerated unless they met a very strict criteria
Negotiated management period:
Allowed most disruptions as long as they went through the permitting process
Escalated force strategy:
Police refuse to talk to protesters, often leads to a misinterpretation of events and excessive use for force
Negotiated management strategy:
Open communication between protesters and Police, negotiate protest details and plan for unexpected events
Use of Force
Escalated force strategy:
Police use a strong show of force
Can target both violent and non-violent protesters
less- lethal force used (i.e.. rubber bullets and tear gas)
Police force is a last resort
Force only targets law breakers
Less-lethal force used
Categories of protestors:
Contained- referred to as good protestors,employ legal tactics
Transgressive- referred to as bad protestors, use illegal tactics
Goals of Police:
Neutralize Security threats
Extent and manner of arrests
Police arrest as a last resort
Arrests can be predetermined
target transgressive actors
Arrest people when police cannot predict their actions
Arrests can be done with out gathering evidence
Arrests wil the intention of dropping the charges after 24 hours or not filing charges
Police had to exert far more energy and effort since the refusal to negotiate , they had predetermine where the protesters would go, without any communication between police and protesters. Divided spaces into 4 sections
Adjacent to hard zones,soft zones suspended 1st amendment rights, here is where most of the clashes occurred with police officers and protesters. Mainly used arrest and force to incapacitate dissenters. Once in a soft zone, considered a transgressive protester.
Free Speech Zone
areas where protest was allowed to legally occur. When police create free-speech zones with constraining barriers and long approaches that raise the costs of protest by making it uncomfortable and exhausting, they actively deter citizens from democratic and legally sanctioned activities.
prevent activists from accessing and disrupting the target of their grievances. Hard zone borders
are frequently sites of contention and controlling them is a key
tactic in police efforts to exert spatial control over public protest
Free Press Zone
e locations preselected by the police into which they direct or forcefully relocate reporters away from the other zones. This constrains where the press can go to cover the protest, helps police actively control the public perception about the protest
Without negotiations between the protesters and police, police have no knowledge of what the protesters are going to do. This led the police to increase the surveillance tactics to know what the protesters were going to do
Increase use of real time surveillance technology such as CCTV, images, private security cameras, police videographers on rooftops, being sent to police, all surveying hard zones and free speech zones
Police routinely queried them for identification and sometimes frisked them or looked through their backpacks or bags or recorded conversations between activists .
Once intelligence data were compiled, analysed and evaluated the NYPD could prevent both protester and public access to it while easily sharing relevant material internally and with other law enforcement agencies
The Zuccotti camp was called den of criminal activity including sex crimes, drug use and gang-related activity as well as a dumping ground for the chronically homeless, mentally ill and unemployed ‘who just needed to get a job
Police framed the protesters in a way to make them seem a danger to American society and national security , referred to the OWS activists as outsiders and threats to police, grievances were also noted to be unrealistic and not helpful in any manner
Police referred to the OWS in the most negative light while they referred to themselves in the most positive light by using the free press zones to their advantage