National Presidential Convention Research Findings

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Preliminary findings from the research are that police have continued a national trend among law enforcement to innovate and adapt their tactics in an effort to reduce the disruptive capacity of large scale protests. Congress provided each city nearly $50 million for security expenses related to hosting the conventions. In Cleveland, local police supplemented their ranks by relying on many hundreds of officers from over 20 different states. Of particular interest were police use of squads of 20 or more bicycle officers to control space and interactions between different groups of protesters, and convention delegates. Bike police would use their bikes as portable barricades to “bubble” or surround groups of protesters into tight clusters and to move activists around a public square. The bicycle squads were aided by other groups of officers (often 40 or more) who stood in formation dividing activists further and filling up the square preventing movement and conversations across groups and bystanders. While police allowed activists to “assemble” the large number of officers surrounding smaller groups of activists often prevented protesters from being seen or heard by anyone outside of the police imposed bubbles. In Philadelphia, local police used more aggressive tactics with protest groups representing people of color, than they did with mainstream environmental and other advocacy groups. Philadelphia police controlled space by locating the convention at Wells Fargo Sports Center several miles south of the center city and poor neighborhoods further north, closing off a large area around the sports center, and limiting public transit access. In both cities police responded to potential disruption and actual disruption, with massive shows of force.

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