logo for print

Brought to you by American Military University

Handling Protesters, Part 1

[From the Calibre Press Street Survival Newsline]

Do you have to be spit on by protesters--& other key questions
Part 1

Along with the latest murders and mayhem, the latest car crashes and the latest 5-alarm fires, our TV friends who prowl the streets for "Eyewitless News" like nothing better than the latest public protests and demonstrations.

And especially they love footage of cops behaving badly at these events--cops whacking sign-waving zealots with batons, drenching them with OC, twisting their arms and clamping their throats, bouncing them over curbs and gutters as they drag them off to squadrols. "A cop broke some guy's arm with nunchuks? Great! We'll lead with it!"

Sometimes officers get in trouble at civil demonstrations because they don't understand subtle physical control techniques that lack camera appeal, like the low-key but highly effective "Baton Rise" taught at our Street Survival Seminars.

But perhaps just as often, line officers and administrators alike, confronted possibly for the first time with a major public protest, fall short of professional perfection because they don't understand the key legal demands of this special challenge.

To help you and your bosses prepare for your next public demonstration, Calibre Press' Street Survival Newsline today offers a brief quiz on Legal Considerations in Managing Protests and Civil Disorder. In part 2, we'll provide the answers.

The content is derived from a panel presentation with the same title made under the auspices of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Panelists are: Mary Claire McNaught, public safety attorney for the Winston-Salem (NC) PD and Daniel Schofield, chief of the legal unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico (VA), with Chief Carl Ent of the Ann Arbor (MI) PD as moderator. (Ent describes the demonstration-prone university town he polices as "26 square miles surrounded by reality, ripe for protests of all kinds.")

If you score 100% on today's test, you have an exceptional grasp of the issues involved. If not, now's the time to close the gaps in your knowledge--not months, weeks, days or just hours from now when you may unexpectedly come face to face with these questions in the streets.


1. While recognizing that Americans have more protection for free expression than probably any other nationality, what 4 general limitations can government (police) still place on public demonstrations?

2. What 3 criteria must be met by any restrictions placed on demonstrating?

3. Give examples of specific restrictions that might legally be imposed under these criteria.

4. Can you deny a group the right to protest based on a threat of violence associated with their demonstration?

5. What legal tactic can be used in advance to impose control over groups with bad reputations for causing problems with their demonstrations?

6. What key player should be a part of the planning before a demonstration takes place?

7. As a line officer, do you have to endure insults and spitting from demonstrators?

8. Name at least 3 liability risks you may face in conjunction with public protests.

9. Name 2 ways you can legally use videotape to your advantage?

10. Are demonstrations inside shopping malls legal?

11. Does the media have special rights at demonstration sites?

12. Can you charge protesters for the cost of protecting them?

Bonus Question: An American police officer is driving down the road and sees a lawyer walking on 1 side and Saddam Hussein walking on the other. Who does the officer hit first?

Share these questions with your supervisors, administrators, policy-makers and legal advisors.

Next: Score yourself with the answers.

Stay safe!

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2018 PoliceOne.com. All rights reserved.