Suggestion for rules of engagement during protests

Categories: Discussion, Open Mic

This is just an idea for establishing some protocols so militants, pacifists, live streamers, and others can all function together more effectively during police conflicts. These rules would be described and agreed upon by all participants before each event, although organizers would be free to alter them depending on the nature of the event. The purpose would be to allow us to decide as a group how to respond to OPD actions during protests when there is no time for discussion or formal voting.

  • If, during a confrontation with police, anyone feels circumstances warrant it, they can call for a “temperature check”. Participants should then relay the call via human mic and hold up one of three hand signals:
    1. Open hand: Let’s hold for now; do not engage with police.
    2. Closed fist: I give consent to those who wish to engage the police directly.
    3. Peace sign: Don’t engage; I volunteer to nonviolently shield the protest with my body.
  • If fists are in the clear majority, everyone is free to act on their own discretion (after giving those who need it time to move away from the front of the conflict.) Live streamers should begin focusing their footage on the police rather than other protesters.
  • If fists are not in the majority, those who volunteered to do so should advance to join the shield line.
  • Until the majority of protesters consent to direct engagement, everyone should refrain from throwing things and should avoid physical altercations with the police if possible. Live streamers should film all aspects of the protest, to verify that any police violence was unprovoked.
  • If the police physically charge the protest and breach our shield lines, everyone should respond as if explicit consent to engage had been given.

Does this sound like something we could all agree to?


3 Responses to “Suggestion for rules of engagement during protests”

  1. AbouBenAdhem

    @Americans4secessioN — militants are perfectly capable of acting as, and respecting the wishes of, a larger group: the black bloc-only FTP marches have been among the more disciplined OO-related marches (at least within their own self-imposed constraints). They just say that facing the police with their hands tied beforehand will embolden the OPD to commit more abuses (and after seeing OPD’s treatment of the peaceful vigil I can’t disagree).

    And yes, OO’s direct-democracy experiment has its flaws — but the solution is to work to improve it, not to scrap it. When America’s first experiment with representative democracy failed, we didn’t go back to monarchy — we corrected the flaws in the Articles of Confederation to create the Constitution. That took over a decade — Occupy hasn’t even been around six months.

  2. Americans4secessioN

    When people have different agendas, the downside of operating by consensus is that the only way to get everybody to agree is to agree on something that is so ethereal and abstract it becomes meaningless. That
    works in an election where you are mobilizing people to vote (see Obama 2008 and “Change We Can Believe in”), but not to generate change from the outside in. History has important lessons here. The great movements of the 1960s in civil rights, women’s rights, and opposition to the Vietnam War were narrowly focused, well organized, strategically brilliant, and, while attracting large numbers of people, managed by people who took on authority roles and made essential decisions.

    It is relatively easy to get disempowered, angry, frustrated people
    together to rail against a wide range of enemies and scapegoats. It is
    quite another to effect change.

  3. Americans4secessioN

    no it doesnt sound like something the militants would agree to not at all i think theyd go tell you to go **** yourself then what ? everyone will just continue to do exactly what theyre doing now doing their own thing no rules at all and no common focus The inclusive, and consensus-driven norms that have guided
    OWS up to this point will not get it to the next level — that is, if
    there is real interest in changing the current reality rather than just
    complaining about it and speaking out against it.everyone’s grievance is equal to everyone else’s grievance.
    Anti-capitalism, the environment , lack of health care for the uninsured, tuition hikes at
    public universities, and many other complaints share the stage. The
    message is muddied. Clarifying the message and focusing on specific
    targets are necessary next steps , this will inevitably leave some of the
    grievances on the cutting room floor.
    Their nonhierarchical consensus-driven process will soon reach
    the end of its utility and If OWS is to lead
    change rather than just call for change, some individuals will have to
    step up and take on authority roles. The presence of authority is
    essential in order to move this work forward.
    Someone, or some ones, will have to provide some of the functions of authority — direction,
    protection and order — so that the movement can begin to make hard
    choices, create priorities, allocate human and financial resources, and
    keep the anarchistic outliers from undermining the potential outcomes.