What local resources should be utilized when planning for a demonstration or general strike?
In preparing for a major demonstration, labor strike, or potential riot, local city administrators and police work together to prepare for a number of potential contingencies. Even demonstrations that start out with peaceful intentions can take a turn for the worse if certain elements in either party – demonstrators or police – deliberately provoke a violent reaction from the other side. Additionally, civil disobedience often poses the potential to disrupt legitimate commercial activities unrelated to the cause of the demonstration, including adversely affecting the ability of small businesses in the area to function as normal and for transportation systems like buses, taxis and trains to operate on their normal schedule.
Once city administrators and law enforcement become aware of the imminent conduct of a demonstration or labor strike, they immediately begin planning to ensure the requisite manpower levels can be met in terms of police officers on the scene, the availability of reinforcements should conditions deteriorate, and the readiness of emergency medical response units in the event of injuries, including from natural occurrences like heat stroke. Hopefully, law enforcement officers have all been adequately trained in crowd control including responding to such events without appearing to be overreacting in a manner that risks inciting the crowd.
A peaceful demonstration protesting government policies need not require any particularly high level of preparation, although the potential for disruptions always exists. Labor disputes, however, can turn violent if management is successful in hiring replacement workers who choose to “cross the picket line.” In such instances, the possibility of violence is very real, and police have to be ready to respond with the minimal level of force needed to quell any such violence.
Failure to adequately prepare for a demonstration, especially with regard to manpower levels, can result in financially costly destruction to infrastructure and private property, and be politically costly to a city’s image. This means ensuring that police are adequately equipped and deployed in sufficient numbers so as to provide a deterrent against violence. It also means working with the designated leaders of the demonstration in an effort at avoiding unnecessary provocations that could lead to violence. It is always a challenge for law enforcement to prepare for major demonstrations. It is financially burdensome in terms of the requirement to have extra officers on duty, and in terms of the costs of deploying expensive crowd control equipment, including mobile communications and detention vehicles. These are the minimal requirements needed, however, to prepare.