Thousands of Russians have joined hands to form a ring around Moscow city centre in protest against Vladimir Putin’s expected return as president in an election next week.
Protesters stood in a long line on Sunday, around the 16-km Moscow Garden Ring Road, wearing white ribbons that symbolise the biggest opposition protests since Putin rose to power 12 years ago.
Putin is all but certain to win the presidential election on March 4, but the growing protests have highlighted demands for greater democracy and openness from mainly urban voters fed up with widespread corruption and one-man rule.
Former Madison, WI police chief David Couper runs a blog about improving policing. A recent post covers how police can better handle crowds and large protests. Alex Pang sums it up the advise: “Milspec gear, tear gas- bad ideas unless you WANT a riot,” but those are Alex’s words, not Couper’s.
Couper cites some research in Britain on crowd control at football (soccer) games:
“’[L]arge-scale disorder tended to emerge and escalate because indiscriminate, heavy-handed policing generated a group mentality among large numbers of fans that was based on shared perceptions that the police action was illegitimate. This had the effect of drawing ordinary fans into conflict with the police’.
“The finding here is that when a crowd perceives the police as overreacting or being heavy-handed, crowd members have a tendency to stop observing and start taking action. To prevent this from happening, Stott advocates using what he calls a ‘softly, softly’ approach—a low-key approach in which officers mix with and relate to crowd members on the basis of their behavior, rather than their reputation. If police approach a crowd with the expectation that its members are going to make trouble, it often turns out that way. This will not be unfamiliar to Madison residents or their police.”
Couper offers various bits of practical advise for the police, including:
Be able to protect officers working with the crowd. If the situation warrants it, we have a tactical unit (with full protective equipment) on standby in a location near the demonstration but out of sight. They are available as an emergency response to protect or rescue officers in or others in danger of being harmed. Their mission is to protect people first and property second. Deploying the emergency response team is a last-ditch tactic and will indicate that we have not been effective in managing the crowd with softer methods.
*A promise. A simple goal/idea that nearly everyone can get behind. Adbusters did pretty good with “occupy wall street.” Why? Nearly everyone hates the pervasive corruption of banks and Wall Street. It’s an easy target.
*A plausible promise. Prove that the promise can work. They did. They actually occupied Wall Street and set up camp. They then got the message out.
*A big tent and an open invitation. It doesn’t matter what your reason for protesting is as long as you hate/dislike Wall Street. The big tent is already in place (notice the diversity of the signage). Saw something similar from the Tea Party before it was mainstreamed/diminished.
Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking’s defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns.
That’s because, unlike a political campaign designed to get some person in office and then close up shop (as in the election of Obama), this is not a movement with a traditional narrative arc. As the product of the decentralized networked-era culture, it is less about victory than sustainability. It is not about one-pointedness, but inclusion and groping toward consensus. It is not like a book; it is like the Internet.
There’s a lot being written right now about what the #Occupy movement must do. What it should be, where it all needs to go. Yet somehow, everything that looked like a mistake at first has unfurled into an advantage. All any single #Occupy cell needs to do is hold their ground for another night, and plan to make tomorrow bigger and better. It’s easy to write a sneering caricature of a Tea Party rally, but it’s interesting to note how many reporters wrote mocking hit pieces on the Wall Street crowd that all wound up being completely different. It’s hard to get a bead on where the consensus is — but the occupation itself is the whole message. Nobody on Wall Street is confused about what it means, at least.