Managing Defiance: The Policing of the Occupy Wall Street Movement

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Managing Defiance:
The
Policing of the Occupy Wall Street Movement


Alex S. Vitale


July

2012



The Occupy Wall Street movement has presented a series of challenges to local law
enforcement agencies,
some

of which have not faced large defiant protests since the early
1970’s. In response, many of them have relied on a variety of aggressive tactics, which in some
cases have shocked public opinion, putting the issue of protest policing on the national agenda.

Images of police pepper spraying passive demonstrators, using tear gas and other “less lethal”
projectiles on non
-
violent crowds, and forcefully evicting protest encampments has generated a
great deal of commentary about the nature of police power, approp
riate use of force, and the
motivations behind police actions.

Three
popular
narratives

have been added to the two main academic

expla
n
ations for

the
aggressive police tactics seen in many cities across the US. The first is that there has been a
broad “mil
itarization” of the police brought on by the Federal War on Drugs and anti
-
terrorism
spending. The second is that there has been a coordinated effort to repress the OWS movement
because of the threat it poses to existing political and economic arrangements
. Proponents of this
perspective point to the role of the US Conference of Mayors in facilitating communication
among local mayors and the efforts of the US Department of Homeland Security along with the
non
-
governmental Police Executive Research Forum to
disseminate best practices among local
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mayors and police chiefs. The third narrative is that local police have been forced to act because
OWS encampments have been a source of permit violations, sanitations problems, and secondary
criminality including dru
g dealing, sexual assaults, and even shootings.

The first academic
explanations is that the police are merely responding in kind to the level of threat posed by OWS
to public order and public safety. The second is that protest policing is driven by certain

philosophies of policing and that these “styles” of policing have become more aggressive in
some cities.

Each of these explanations holds important truths, but they all fail to capture the
underlying nature of the conflict between the defiant non
-
violent

tactics used by OWS and the
strategic emphasis on order maintenance that predominates in American policing. This paper is
based on reviews of police and protestor interactions in 10 major American cities. Video tapes,
journalist accounts
,

statements by de
monstrators, and official police documents were used to
reconstruct both the tactics of the demonstrators and the tactics of the police.


Previous Explanations



Images of mass arrests, riot gear clad police, pepper spraying of demonstrators, and the
use
of tear gas and concussion grenades became commonplace in the United States in the fall of
2011. These scenes were unfamiliar to many Americans, at least in relationship to domestic
protest activity. There are several explanations that have been offered in

a variety of contexts to
explain the high levels of force used by police in many cities against the Occupy movement.
Journalists, Occupy activists, government officials, and academics have all offered sometimes
3


competing and sometimes overlapping analysis

of this increase in police use of force, which are
organized into broad themes below.


Militarization of Policing


One of the most common explanations for the high level of aggressive police tactics
against OWS is that there has been a broad militarizati
on of civilian policing across the US
.
Kraska (2011
) has documented this process well in advance of the Occupy movement.
Militarization can be defined as the use of military tactics, equipment and a military ethos.
Civilian police were created in the 19
th

Century in large part as an alternative to the use of local
militias to handle outbreaks of civil disorder and rioting. Militias or even regular military units
were frequently used in putting down revolts through the use of deadly force. They generally
lac
ked the ability to moderate the use of force and had very little or no legitimacy in the local
setting. The result was frequent escalations of conflict and political fallout for local officials.
Civilian police were designed to reduce the likelihood of mas
s casualties and to increase the
legitimacy of crowd control actions amongst the public. “Policing by consent” became the
touchstone for modern policing and was seen as a way of reducing urban violence and crime.

This civilianization of policing began to
be reversed in response to the civil disorders of
the 1960’s in which urban rioting and large contentious protest called into question the ability of
local po
l
ice to handle large scale civil disorder. The Federal Government responded by making
an increasin
g array of riot control weaponry and special training available to local police through
the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, created in 1968. This effort was greatly
expanded in the 1980’s with the acceleration of the War on Drugs. Federal asset
forfeiture laws
4


provided local police with both an incentive to expand aggressive anti
-
drug enforcement and a
new revenue stream, which was put to use in establishing Special Weapons and Tactics units
(SWAT) armed with military hardware and trained in mili
tary tactics and esprit de corps. In the
1990’s the prevalence and scope of the
se

units expanded dramatically. By the mid 1990’s 90% of
small and medium police forces, and 65% of small jurisdictions had SWAT teams. In 1980
Departments reported 3,000 deploy
ments of these teams, by 1995 the number had risen to 30,000
(Kraska 2011: 142). In addition much of the training of these units is performed by current and
former military special forces personnel, inculcating military style small unit combat orientation
in distinction to the more individualistic craft thinking that characterizes police patrol work
(Kraska and Kappeler 1997).

The reaction to the September 11
th

terrorist attacks provided another powerful impetus
for expanding both the use of military equip
ment and the development of martial tactics and
mindsets. Direct transfers of military equipment began in the 1980’s but after 9/11 the emphasis
switched to Homeland Security gra
nt funding, creating a new $34 b
illion market for arms
manufacturers. Both hig
h and low risk areas have received massive infusions of cash to buy
military hardware. Fargo, North Dakota recently received $8 million to buy armored personnel
carriers, Kevlar battle helmets, and bomb detection robots (Becker 2011). Bulletproof shields,
armored cars, and assault rifles have become standard equipment in small and medium police
departments across the country.

In addition, Departments have greatly expanded their supply of riot control equipment.
Militarized units and tactics have certainly
been in evidence at Occupy protests. Full body armor,
Kevlar helmets, and a variety of “less lethal” weaponry have been seen in Oakland, Denver,
Portland, and other US cities in conjunction with OWS protests. But is this the norm? Are
5


images of heavily arm
ored police representative of the policing of OWS or are they the
photogenic exceptions?


Federal Coordination


Another explanation for the aggressive policing of OWS
,

and in particular the waves of
evictions

is that there w
as a coordinated strategy led by

the federal government
. Feminist author
Naomi Wolf, following the eviction of OWS encampments in New York and several other cities,
argued:


What happened this week is the first battle in a civil war; a civil war in which, for
now, only one side is
choosing violence. It is a battle in which members of
Congress, with the collusion of the American president, sent violent, organized
suppression against the people they are supposed to represent

(Wolf 2011)
.


According to this viewpoint there was direct f
ederal involvement in coordinating local policing
actions against the Occupy movement by heads of Congressional oversight committees and the
Department of Homeland Security.

Others have argued that
the US Conference of Mayors (COM)

played a central role i
n
coordinating local police action through a series of conference calls (Levine 2011) and surveys
(Cherkis 2012) involving local mayors and police executives in cities with Occupy
encampments.

These
efforts

allegedly focused on strategies for dealing with

the protests
including advice on best policing practices as well as ways of generating political cover for
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evictions.

There are also allegations of FBI and

Department of Homeland Security
involvement
(Ellis 2012).

In addition
, there were two calls in whic
h the Police E
xecutive Research Forum
(PERF)
provided expert advice on best policing practices to police executives in at least 40
different cities

(Democracy Now 2011), prompting claims that they played a central role on
coordinating the crackdowns (Aigea
nta 2011)
.
Is this evidence of communication sufficient to
indicate a coordinated strategy of repression against OWS?


Health and Safety


Many of the cities that have initiated evictions of OWS occupations have relied on a
narrative of concerns about heal
th and safety. Local officials have cited a variety of sanitation
and health issues including accumulations of trash and human waste, unsafe food handling and
spreading of disease.
In most cases these health and safety concerns were raised primarily as a
j
ustification for evicting occupy encampments. New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg,
summed up this sentiment in a statement to the press following the eviction of OWS from
Zuccotti Park:


From the beginning I said that the City had two principle goals: g
uaranteeing
public health and safety and guaranteeing the protestors First Amendment rights.
But when these two goals clash, the health and safety of the public and our first
responders must be the priority.

(Bloomberg 2011)


Boston mayor Thomas Menino mad
e similar comments:

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The conditions at Dewey Square have deteriorated significantly and pose very
real health and safety risks. The city strongly encourages the Occupy movement
to abide by the Rose Kennedy Greenway regulations and remove their tents and
ref
rain from camping in that area. We applaud the judge for clearly recognizing
the City’s authority to protect all of our residents, including those currently at
Dewey Square. Our first priority has always been and will always be to ensure the
public’s healt
h and safety. (Sweet, Wedge, and McConville 2011)

Like Bloomberg, Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings made it clear that public safety concerns trump
first amendment rights:

They need to be safe. There are kids in that camp; that's not safe. When police get
hurt, t
hat's not safe. When citizens potentially get hurt, that's not safe. So, safety
first; freedom of speech second. (Lopez 2011)

Similar concerns were raised by city officials in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C.,
San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle.

Both Dallas mayor Rawlings and New York mayor
Bloomberg raised the issue of the safety of first responders (see quotes above). Neither provided
examples of what exactly they meant, but presumably they were suggesting injuries to police or
EMS personnel ta
sked with policing and providing services to the Occupy encampments in those
cities.


Crime w
as also highlighted as a concern

in several cities in the study
. In some cases
OWS members have been pointed to as the victim of crimes and in others as the perpe
trators.
Crime was a particular concern in Oakland, where the city posted notices to vacate citing an
8


“increasing frequency of violence, assaults, threats and intimidation” (City of Oakland 2011).
The conservative
Washington Times

editorial board described

an “Occupy D.C. crime wave” that
was drawing police resources away from other parts of the city (Washington Times 2012).
Crime was also pointed to as a problem by officials in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los
Angeles. How serious were the health a
nd safety problems associated with the Occupy
movement and could it explain aggressive police action?


Threat Hypothesis


Another possible explanation has to do with the relationship between protest mobilization
and police repression. While most studies
on the repression
-
mobilization relationship have
focused on the impact of the former on the latter, recent work has shown that characteristics of
protests can influence the likelihood and types of repression they face (
Ayoub 2010
;
Earl
, Soule
and McCarthy

2003
).
The “blue centered” approach (Earl and Soule 2006) emphasizes rational
police procedures that determine the level of
repressive coverage police will undertake
. The

common finding in this literature is

that police make assessments about
situational
risk based on
factors closely tied to the past behavior of groups and the likelihood
that their protest will

cause
significant disorder.
A
ccording to this view, a
ssessments about the level of threat protestors
impose are critical determinants of police rep
ression strategies. Tactics, especially, are a salient
aspect of protest events that significantly influence the level of situational threat attributed to the
event. Past studies have found that p
rotest tactics are a source of threat for police especially
when protestors use disruptive, confrontational, multiple, and noninstitutional tactical forms
(McAdam 1982
;

Earl
, Soule and McCarthy

2003
;

Earl and Soule 2006
;

Martin, McCarthy and
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McPhail 2009
;

Ayoub 2010).
In addition the target and political message p
ut forward by groups
has been shown to be predictive of police response in some settings (Chang and Vitale
forthcoming)

There is abundant evidence that the Occupy movement has been defiant in its political
message and tactics. Occupation of public spaces,
bank lobbies and public streets have all been
common place at Occupy demonstrations. In addition, there have been many cases of people
refusing police orders to disperse, resisting arrest, and even some violent attacks on police.
While the Occupy movement
has avowed a variety of political positions in its striving for greater
economic equality, there have been demands for fundamental changes in the economic and
political organization of society that go beyond traditional interest group politics and that may

therefore be deemed more threatening by the police and local political authorities. Similarly the
targeting of major financial institutions both public and private may be predictive of higher
levels of police repression. Did police merely respond proporti
onately to the threat posed by
OWS’s defiant style of protest?

Styles of Policing

Protest policing

can also said to cohere
around strategic philosophies of how to manage
protest activity. Rather than
reacting to individual situational factors, the police m
ay

rely

on a
framework of beliefs and practices that organize and orient
their

behavior. McCarthy and
McPhail (1998) and McPhail et al. (1998) argue that there has been an important transition in the
style of protest policing from the 1960s to the 1980s. I
n the 1960s and early 1970s, the police
operated under a philosophy of ‘‘escalated force’’ in which the militancy of protestors was met
by increased militancy by the police. Any show of force or violence by the protestors was met
with overwhelming force in

return (McPhail et al., 1998). In response to the growing violence at
10


demonstrations during this period, a new doctrine of ‘‘negotiated management’’ emerged based
on greater cooperation between police and demonstrators and an effort to avoid violence. The

new approach called for the protection of free speech rights, toleration of community disruption,
ongoing communication between police and demonstrators, avoidance of arrests, and limiting the
use of force to situations where violence is occurring (Schwei
ngruber, 2000).


The police in New York City, and some other jurisdictions have rejected the
negotiated
management

style in favor of a new approach based on the strict micro
-
manage
ment of
demonstrations called
command and control

to emphasize the extent t
o which the police attempt
to micro
-
manage all important aspects of demonstrations in an attempt to eliminate any
disorderly or illegal activity during the demonstration (Vitale 2005, 2007). This approach is
distinguished from negotiated management because

it sets clear and strict guidelines on
acceptable behavior with very little negotiation with demonstration organizers. It is also
inflexible to changing circumstance during the course of
the
demonstration, and will frequently
rely on high levels of confro
ntation and force in relation to even minor violations of the rules
established for the demonstration. This does not represent a return to escalated force because it
attempts to avoid the use of force through planning and careful management of the protest.

When
this fails, however, force is used, but only in the service of re
-
establishing control over the
demonstration. This is a highly managed system and therefore is not characterized by
uncoordinated uses of force or police riots as seen in many cities in

the 1960s, in which police
supervisors were seen chasing after their officers to try to keep them from beating protestors in
the streets, but instead relies on the micro
-
management of crowd movements and mass arrests
planning and careful management of the

protest.

11


T
he
Miami model
.

This later approach emerged nationally in response to the disruptive
protests at the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999 and is named for the Miami
Police Department’s handling of protests at the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings in

2003 (Getzen 2004; Scahill 2004). This style is characterized by the creation of no protest zones,
heavy use of less lethal weaponry, surveillance of protest organizations, negative advanced
publicity by city officials of protest groups, preemptive arrest
s, preventative detentions and
extensive restrictions on protest timing and locations (Vitale 2007).

This set of tactics is reserved for groups that the police believe cannot be controlled
through micro management. This is especially true for groups that
do not apply for permits,
threaten direct action, or civil disobedience not coordinated with the police. Such groups are
subjected to aggressive
and preemptive
control measures such as being arrested while lawfully
gathering, being held in detention for lo
ng periods of time awaiting arraignment

often in poor
conditions. They are also likely to be the subjects o
f extensive police surveillance, infiltration,
and negative advanced publicity in the form of both official statements from the police and
unnamed po
lice sources accusing the groups of planning violence and other illegal activity.
Finally, they are often met with high levels of force in the form of “less lethal” weaponry such as
pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets.

Both
command and control

and
t
he
Miami model

are consistent with Noakes and
Gillham’s
new penology

framework

(Noakes and Gillham 2006) and Gillham’s
strategic
incapacitation

(Gillham 2011)
. They each attempt to prevent the possibility of disruptive protest
activity through the isolati
on and control of potentially disorderly groups and individuals. While
command and control

accomplishes this with a minimal amount of direct coercion, the
Miami
model

is available for the police to use against those groups and individuals who are deemed to

12


be uncontrollable by
command and control

tactics. In either approach there is a rejection of the
negotiated management

style. There is little tolerance for disruption, limited communication,
inflexibility, and a willingness to use high levels of force to
control even minor illegal behavior.
Nor is this a return to
escalated force
. The use of force here is strategic rather than punitive. It is
designed to control suspect populations and establish a zero tolerance framework for the control
of disorder, rathe
r than to punish groups based on their politics or tactics. For the most part,
police control is exerted through preemptive intelligence
-
led actions and on the ground micro
control rather than the use of violence. The effect is to deny the full right to a
ssemble without
the appearance of police brutality on the nightly news.
Can the policing of OWS be explained by
the adherence of local police to these broad strategic orientations?


Methodology


In order to test these
possible explanations

I examined the p
ractices of both
demonstrators and police in 10 major US cities. Working from a list of the cities in the 15 largest
statistical metropolitan areas (SMAs), I chose those ten with the highest level of interactions
between the police and OWS, excluding citie
s like Houston, Texas, with only limited OWS
activity. The 10 cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington,
DC., Dallas, San Francisco, Oakland, and Seattle.

For each city I reviewed dozens of videos of police protestor inte
raction as well as
numerous photographs and written accounts by news sources. I then coded the interactions in
terms of protestor behaviors such as pushing the police, resisting arrest, sit
-
ins, marching without
a permit, and refusal to disperse. The polic
e behaviors I coded included mass arrests,
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containment tactics, display and use of specialized weaponry, use of body armor, and flexibility
among others detailed below. I also gathered press reports on a variety and health and safety
measures associated wi
th OWS encampments.


Findings


Militarization


While militarization involves a strategic orientations as well as a combination of special
weapons and tactics I was only able to focus on the latter as a test of the presence of
militarization as an
explanation for police aggression towards OWS. Those who support this
hypothesis have similarly relied on primarily observable aspects of policing rather than internal
documents, interviews, or other evidence related to the strategic orientation of paramil
itary units
or protest policing more generally. Such interview and documentary evidence is rarely available
in the US due to a combination of concerns by local police about security and fear of litigation.
My measure of the presence of militarized policin
g involved the visible presence of four aspects
of such policing, which are 1) the use of body armor, 2) the display of special “less lethal”
weapons such as tear gas, flash bang grenades and a variety of “less lethal


projectiles, including
bean bags and
rubber bullets, 3) the actual use of such weapons,
and
4) the presence of armored
or riot control vehicles such as armored personnel carriers, armored, jeeps, and water cannons.

Table 1 shows that no city had all four of these elements and that only one (O
akland) had
3 of them. In several of the cities officers on occasion wore riot helmets, in Dallas and New York
City shields were deployed during evictions of OWS encampments, in San Francisco long riot
14


batons are standard issue for demonstrations and were

in evidence during some interactions, but
not all. In Philadelphia and Seattle and at time Dallas, most of the police tasked with policing
OWS were bicycle units and wore athletic uniforms with bicycle helmets. The body armor and
extensive display and use

of special weapons was by far the exception in these cities indicating
little support for the militarization hypothesis.


Table

1


Body Armor

SW displayed

SW used

Riot vehicles

NYC

No

No

No

No

LA

Yes

Yes

No

No

Chicago

No

No

No

No

Philly

No

No

No

No

Boston

No

No

No

No

Dallas

Yes

No

No

No

D.C.

No

No

No

No

Seattle

No

Yes

Yes

No

SF

No

Yes

No

No

Oak.

Yes

Yes

Yes

No



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Coordination of Federal Authorities


A
t least two conference calls were held that involved information sharing between
local
mayors
coordinated by the US Conference of mayors (Gold 2011). Participants in the call,
however, have consistently stated that this was for the purposes of information sharing and did
not involve any kind of coordination of activities. In addition, there was no
evidence of a
substantive involvement of any federal authorities. Claims by Wolf (2011) that Congressional
committee heads, through their budget and oversight functions exerted pressure on local
authorities or coordinated a federal response are also lackin
g in any evidence.


In the US
,

policing is strongly decentralized. Unlike much of the rest of the world, local
police commanders are answerable exclusively to local officials. There is no federal control over
the police and federal interference tends to be strongly resisted. Federal ov
ersight of local police
is
also
extremely limited. In rare circumstances the Federal government requires a
n outside

monitor of a local department that the
Justice Department has

found to engage in systematic
misconduct or corruption. Federal influence is f
elt indirectly through funding of special
programs and equipment. Much of this funding, however, goes towards modernization more
broadly and lacks specific strategic objectives. Two exceptions have been the push to involve
local police in the War on Drugs
and terrorism prevention through direct grants and mandates of
local
-
federal cooperation, such as Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

Several commentators have poin
ted to the role of PERF in the repression of OWS
(Democracy Now 2011, Aigeanta 2011)
. PERF is a non
-
governmental organization of police
16


executive
s

from larger police departments.

The policing of contentious demonstrations is not a
new issues for PERF, which

has

issued
two

major report
s

on the subject (Police Executive
Research Forum 2006
, 2011a
).

It is

seen as more sophisticated than
the
Association of Chiefs of
Police, which includes thousands of small and very small departments that skew it’s orientation
towards small town and rural concerns. While PERF receives research funding from the federal
gover
nment
,

this mostly goes towards the production of best practices documents designed to
improve police effectiveness. The organization has a high degree of transparency and most of
their activities and reports are publicly available.
PERF did host two conference calls for local
police officials to “compare notes about their experiences with ‘Occupy’ protests,” but they
strongly deny any role in coordinating police actions. In addition they point out that their best
practices in relatio
n to protests call for a soft approach to policing that is more in line with
negotiated management
. (
Poli
ce Executive Research Forum 2011b).


Health and Safety


In almost all of the cities
in this study
concerns about health and safety were raised

by
local

officials

in relationship to OWS encampments.
Health

concerns took many different forms
including the presence of trash and human waste, damage to park property, outbreak of disease,
and
improper food handling. Safety issues focused on the role of crime.
In some cases OWS
members were portrayed as the victims of crime in need of protection. In others they were
portrayed as crime committers. Finally
,

in some jurisdictions the issue of the safety of first
responders was raised
. To measure the presence of
san
itation

as an actual problem I looked for
evidence of excessive trash,
human waste,
and
food co
ntamination. For
health problems

I looked
17


for the presence of

injuries sustained by occupiers related to the act of occupying (as opposed to
protesting at anothe
r location),

infectious or food born

sickness among occupiers,
and
fire
s in the
encampment.
Crime
was judged to be present if there were documented
crimes committed
against or by occupiers other than those directly rela
ted to protesting either in the encam
pment or
nearby.

For
officer safety
, I looked for

injuries sustained by police related to the act of
encamping

(as opposed to protesting at another location).

Table 2 shows that while there was a basis for concerns about sanitation and crime, there
was lit
tle evidence of concrete health problems arising from OWS encampments. In some cases
the raising of sanitation concerns was somewhat disingenuous given that local officials actively
interfered in improving sanitation through restrictions on portable toilet
s

in Dallas (Cherkis
2011)
, more organized food preparation

in New York and Philadelphia,
and even
inadequate
trash pick
-
up.


Table 2



Sanitation

Health Problems


Crime


Officer Safety


NYC

No

No


Yes

No


LA

Yes

No


Yes

No


Chicago

No

No


No

No


Philly

Yes

No


Yes

No


Boston

Yes

No


Yes

No

18



Dallas

Yes

No


Yes

No


D.C.

Yes

No


No

No


Seattle

Yes

No


No

No


SF

Yes

No


No

No


Oak.

No

No


Yes

No


Threat Hypothesis


In order to test the threat hypothesis, I used five variables to code the level of threat posed
by demonstrators.
Blockade

measures the presence of
demonstrators li
nking arms or otherwise
actively preventi
ng access to a building or use o
f a

roadway or sidewalk. This is a

highly
disruptive

form of
protest

and
often results in

arrest
s
.
Resisting arrest

wa
s present when people
either linked arms to prevent arrests, pushed police, or attempted to evade arrest.
Pushing

involves active resistance

to police
dispersal efforts

or an effo
rt to cross police lines. It

is a
highly contentious activity but does not usually rise to the level of causing injuries.
Refusal to
disperse

wa
s present when demonstrators ignore
d

police orders to leave a place, whet
her or not
the order
was

lawful. The refusal must

have

be
en

more than just transitory. Finally,
violence

measures the use of force against police in the form of thrown objects, fistfights or use of
weapons. Injuries to police are often but not always invol
ved. I did not isolate target or
ideological variables because these were consistent in all cases.
OWS encampments in all ten
19


cities targeted local private and public financial institutions and called for systematic changes in
the relationship between fina
ncial elites and government.

Table 3 shows the distribution of these variables. Overall the presence of these variables

is quite high across the board
. only Chicago has fewer than three variables present, while
Oakland and San Francisco each have all five
. Despite the presence of some violence in three
cases, these were generally isolated incidents and not characteristic of the actions in those cities
more broadly. As a whole the OWS movement has remained remarkably non
-
violent. The fact
that there is some

variation, however, allows for a testing of correlation with police actions.


Table 3




Blockade


Resist Arrest


Pushing


Ref.
to Disperse


Violence


NYC


Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes


LA


Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No


Chicago


Yes

No

No

Yes

No


Philly


Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No


Boston


Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No


Dallas


Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No


D.C.


Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No


Seattle


Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No


SF


Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes


Oak.


Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes


20


I use four variables to measure the intensity of the police tactics used.
Mass arrests

was
indicated by

the arrests of at least 25 demonstrators in a single incident, and does not include
staged mass civil disobedience actions.
Force
was present when

polic
e
used
violence that either
did or could r
easonably have been expected to
result in injury.

Incidental pushing and shoving or
forcible arrest without injuries was not sufficient to indicate the presence of this variable.

It
also
required the occurrence of
more than one incident to be present. Similarly, a positive rating for
use of special weapons

requires more than one instance. As mentioned before special weapons
include

tear gas, flash bangs, or a variety of "les
s lethal" projectiles.
Containment
, a
lso k
nown as
"kettling" was present when
police surrounding a demonstration or large group of demonstrators
for the purposes of either arresting th
em in mass or detaining them for

over an hour in hopes of
forcing them to disperse in small groups as released.

T
here was much more variation with this measurement. Tab
le 4 shows that at one
extreme P
hiladelphia scored negative on all variables, while Oakland scored positive for all.
Graph 1 shows that there is far from perfect correlation between the level of threat

and the
intensity of police response. While there is a general tendency for higher threat to produce more
intense policing, it is far from consistent. While the small number of cases doesn't allow for
statistical testing, it is clear that the threat respo
nse is not consistent. The th
ree cases with a 5
threat level

each had different level
s

of police response. And the lowest threat case had a higher
level response that several lighter threat cases. This suggests that threat is not irrelevant, but that
it ca
nnot fully explain the degree of difference in intensity of police actions.


Table 4

21




Mass Arrests

Force

SW used

Containment


NYC

Yes

Yes

No

Yes


LA

Yes

No

No

Yes


Chicago

Yes

Yes

No

No


Philly

No

No

No

No


Boston

Yes

No

No

No


Dallas

Yes

Yes

No

No


D.C.

Yes

No

No

No


Seattle

Yes

Yes

Yes

No


SF

Yes

Yes

No

No


Oak.

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes







22


Figure

1





Style of Policing


I identified several variable
s

associated with the three different s
tyles of protest policing.
For
negotiated management

I looked for flexibility, meaning the tolerance by police of minor
legal violations; a soft
-
hat approach, meaning the absence in general of body armor and "less
lethal" weapons; and the presence of good communication between

police and demonstrators.
For
command and control
, I looked for the extent of use of steel barricades and other access
restrictions, difficulty in receiving permits and their strict enforcement, and zero tolerance
approach to le
gal enforcement. For the
Miami model
, I looked for use of
body armor and special
weapons, preemptive arrests and use of the media, undercover police and other methods to
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
0
1
2
3
4
5
Protestor Threat

Police Response

Threat Hypothesis

Oaklan
d


Philadelphia

N.Y.C.


LA

Chicago

Boston

Dallas

D.C., Seattle

S.F.

23


intimidate and discredit protestors. I gave each variable a rating of 1
-
5, with 5 being heavy
presence. I further subdivided the results into tw
o time periods, one before eviction and one after.

Table 5 shows that

there were clear patterns of police practices consistent with the
different styles. New York was strongly tied to the
command and control

approach, while the
rest of the cases showed at

least an initial orientation towards
negotiated management
. In the
cases of Los Angeles, and Oakland, however, there was a clear shift in tactics away from
Negotiated Management and towards the
Miami model
, beginning with the evictions of their
respective

encampments. In addition, even in those cases where
negotiated management

continued to predominate, it w
as at a lower intensity, with s
ome small shift towards the
Miami
model
. This suggests that as the OWS protests continued and the political decision was

made to
evict their encampments, police tactics became more aggressive and less tolerant, though not
across the board.


Table 5


Negotiated Management

Command and Control


Miami Model

NYC

2

1

4

5

2

2

LA

4

3

2

2

2

4

Chicago

4

4

2

2

1

1

Philly

4

4

1

1

1

1

24


Boston

4

3

1

1

1

2

Dallas

4

3

1

2

1

2

D.C.

4

4

1

1

1

2

Seattle

4

4

1

1

2

2

SF

4

4

1

1

1

2

Oak.

3

1

2

3

2

4



Conclusion



In reviewing these ten cases I found mixed support for the five hypotheses under
consideration. While there has been
an important trend towards the militarization of policing
broadly in the US, I did not find this to be the case in the policing of OWS in these major cities.
There were some cases of militarized policing in Oakland but this was still at a lower level than
is normative at contentious demonstrations in Europe
an

and East Asian democracies.

Similarly
,

I found little support for the Federal
coordination

hypothesis. While some
coordination of ideas occurred in some documented conference calls, this appears to ha
ve been a
mostly horizontal form of communication in which ideas of how to manage encampments was
25


shared and some best practices discussed, but this does not rise to the level of direct
control by
Federal authorities. The involvement of PERF, while limited
, would if anything suggests a softer
approach to policing rather than an intensification of repression.

One area where there
may

have been some coordi
nation of ideas was in the use o
f health
and safety concerns to justify the eviction of OWS encampments.
However, while these concerns
were raised
broadly
, this is not the same as saying that these concerns were based on real
problems. I did not find measurable health problems in any city studied. While sanitation
problems did occur in some cases, this was of
ten at least in part the result of state action in their
failure to make adequate sanitation resources available. Crime was a legitimate problem in
several encampments, but this also may have been at least in part the result of state action. In
several ci
ties there was an under policing of encampments that allowed some criminal elements
to mix in. In part, however, this was a somewhat unavoidable aspect of having a movement
based on open encampments, with only limited organizational infrastructure. Finally
, I found no
support for the ill
-
defined concern for officer safety. Overall I found some limited support for the
claims of local administrations that evictions were necessary to protect health and safety, though
this was far from sufficient to explain the

broadly
conflictual and aggressive nature of policing
applied to OWS.

There is no question that the OWS movement can be characterized as highly defiant in its
use of tactics and choice of targets. All the OWS groups examined used militant tactics that go
far beyond permitted marches or even staged civil disobedience actions. According to the
threat
hypothesis
, this should engender a high degree of police repression. A cursory viewing of media
coverage of OWS leaves one with this broad impression. A closer
and systematic examination of
police tactics, however, shows that police responses were not at all uniform across the ten major
26


cities in this study, even in those cases where OWS had the same level of contentiousness. In
fact, the police response in many
of these cities, even those with high levels of contentious
protest, was quite low in its intensity. In many cities police did not use riot equipment, did not
act preemptively, and showed a high degree of flexibility, especially in the periods prior to
evi
cting OWS encampments. What can explain this discrepancy?

The remaining explanation is that the police were not guided in their actions by reacting
to immediate circumstances, but instead were following a broader game plan. Dan Linsky, the
Superintendent i
n Chief of the Boston Police Department said that his goal was to avoid
confrontations and the use of force through good communication and flexibility on the part of
police:

It’s better to start in as a lamb
.
If you start as a lion, you ha
ve no way to go back
from that.
We’re pretty liberal when it

comes to protests,
and Occupy Boston did
a de
cent job of policing their own (Rapport Center 2012)



Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy made similar points stating that his
main conce
rn was to maintain police legitimacy in the eyes of the public and the demonstrators
(Wildeboer 2012). Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey also stated that his primary goal
was that things go smoothly and to that end emphasized communication and toler
ance and
ordered that the First Amendment be read at police roll calls and over the police radio (Madrak
2011, Talk of the Nation 2011). This suggests that these departments were guided by a strong
orientation towards the
negotiated management

style of policing regardless of the more defiant
quality of OWS demonstrations. Seattle, Dallas, Washington, DC, and San Francisco also
showed a great deal of restraint. New York continued to heavily micro manage the OWS
27


demonstrations; backing that up wi
th occasional arrests and violence when demonstrators
challenged their control mechanisms consistent with
command and control

policing. Oakland
and Los Angeles each started off with more of a
negotiated management

approach, but as the
demonstrations became

more contentious following the evictions of OWS encampments in each
city, both departments became more militant and even militarized in their posture, sporting and
in the case of Oakland using a variety of riot control weaponry.

Styles of policing matter

in understanding how and why police departments respond the
way they do to protest activity. The advent of new more contentious forms of protest in the case
of OWS did not engender a radical break with past practices in most of the cities studied. While
t
here were well documented instances of misconduct documented in Seattle (Lindblom and
Thompson 2011), Dallas (Gubbins 2011), Oakland (McKinley 2011), and New York
(Parascandola, Burke, and Kennedy 2011) as well as evidence of more systemic problems in
New
York (Knuckey, Glenn, and MacLean 2012) and Oakland (Artz 2012), most of the cities in
this study responded with a great deal of flexibility, tolerance, and proportionality to most OWS
demonstrations. It was only after political leaders decided to close do
wn OWS encampments,
that more aggressive policing could be seen in some additional cities. This suggests that styles of
policing can come under pressure when confronted by a changing political landscape. The higher
level of individual level misconduct case
s, suggests that there is room for improvement in many
of these cities in the training, supervision, and accountability of police at protest events, even
when more flexible and tolerant approaches to protest policing are in place.

28


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