PERF: Mass Demonstrations – The Never-Ending Struggle to Get It Right

Dear PERF members,


Last Saturday, I watched the new Aaron Sorkin movie, The Trial of the Chicago 7, on Netflix. It’s set in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention and the large anti-war demonstrations that took place.


After watching the movie, something struck me. Police agencies have been dealing with large, sometimes violent protests for decades. And over the years, we have learned a lot about how to manage demonstrations more effectively than the Chicago Police Department did back in 1968.


We’ve learned things like developing relationships with protest leaders ahead of time to facili­tate cooperation. Responding to a mass demonstration in gear and with equipment that are proportional to the mood of the crowd. Separating protesters and counter-protesters to prevent violent conflict, and avoiding mass arrests if at all possible. Also, clearly communicating to officers ahead of time what the expectations are, and using social media and other communications tools to keep the public informed.


These lessons are documented in three major reports on the police response to demonstrations that PERF published in 2006, and 2011, and 2018.


More here.

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