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Managing Protests on Public Land

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 69 Issue: 9 Dated: September 2000 Pages: 10-13
Thomas R. King
Date Published
September 2000
4 pages
This article suggests strategies for law enforcement agencies to use in managing protests by environmental activists on public land.
The persistence and commitment of environmental activists who engage in protests against policies regarding the use of public lands often leads them to behave in ways that go beyond legal protests to the performance of illegal acts designed to stop the officially sanctioned activity on public lands. These acts range from locking themselves to gates to deny access to a timber sale area to sophisticated lockdowns, blockades, and obstructions. Removing activists from the demonstration site is one step in handling illegal environmental protests; however, law enforcement agencies must also use strategies to quell protests before they turn volatile. To do so, law enforcement officials must remain calm and professional while working behind the scenes to garner support from the community, the media, prosecuting attorneys, and the courts. Officers must be trained to prevent altercations and confrontations; this involves training in confrontation management and self-control. Law enforcement agencies must be careful not to condemn the protesters' cause, but rather their illegal tactics and behavior. A good working relationship with the media can ensure that the agency receives fair and favorable news coverage.