What determines whether or not a public protest will remain peaceful or veer into violent confrontations? A new study underway at UC Berkeley suggests that police actions often make the difference.
To mange a public protest effectively, says Nick Adams, the principal investigator for the Deciding Force Project at the University of California at Berkeley, law enforcement should have open channels of communication with the demonstration leaders. And, he adds, the officers there should also have prior training to guide their own responses to what is almost inevitably a stressful situation for all involved.
A recurring challenge for all involved, says Adams, is the presence of disruptive elements who can abruptly change the tenor of a peaceful demonstration.
Even though protest organizers now routinely coordinate their plans in advance with local law enforcement, Moore says that remains unpopular with some factions.
But Moore notes that this sort of cooperation proved helpful at a big Andy Lopez demonstration last month, when more radical members of the Revolutionary Communist Party from the East Bay broke away from the main march and tried to blockade Highway 101.