Activist Rights

Police tactics at protests

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Police have a great deal of discretion in the way they deal with protests. Police do not mechanically enforce the law and will often ignore minor breaches of the law.

Enforcing the law actually makes up a small proportion of police action at protests. Police are also aware of civil disobedience and its use as a political tactic and will sometimes not arrest to undermine the political meaning generated by arrest and subsequent court and legal processes.

Police often play a careful and strategic role at protests, which is most often designed to maintain control (Alderson 1998; Della Porta and Reiter 1998). Having said that, police often make mistakes, misinterpret the situation and choose highly ineffective tactics.

There are four very common police approaches to controlling protest actions:

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