Tuesday, January 25, 2005

In Protest

From WashPost. The D.C. Police department has settled a wrongful arrest lawsuit relating to the World Bank/IMF protests in 2002. The vulnerability in the District’s defense seems to have been that a crowd of protesters was not ordered to disperse before the police began arresting individuals. For 24 hours of inconvenience, each plaintiff will be paid approx $50,000. Fine, whatever. The bad part is that the District has agreed, as part of the settlement, that protesting without a permit is no longer grounds for arrest. Clearly this is one of the only law-enforcement tools available to cities living through the assault and disruption of major protests. Conceding this point strikes me as a serious error.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think it is a tactical error by the PD. The permit process allows the police department and other city agencies the chance to meet with the protesters and plan for the event. The importance of the planning process is evident in the results of the demonstrations which are usually deemed successful by both sides. Even in events where the demonstrators wish to be arrested, the coordination of the arrest process is usually orchestrated through the planning process. Additionally, vital communication links between the authorities and the leaders of the demonstrators are developed in the planning stages, which is initiated through the permit process. Commanders that know of demonstrations are able to staff up and assemble resources before hand. Pre-planned events also have a calming effect on the line personnel who would much rather deal with events that seem to follow a pre-determined sequence rather than the chaos of spontaneous events. The media also benefits from this process. Eliminating the need for permits may have unfortunate unintended consequences for everyone on down the road and it sets bad precedent for other cities as well.