Herron Pens Op-Ed on Civil Protest Preparations
Following a two-day seminar prepared for the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, CHHS Senior Policy Analyst Vernon Herron wrote an op-ed for the Capital Gazette explaining why officials nationwide need to prepare now for civil unrest that has rocked major cities from New York to Baltimore. The seminar “Lessons Learned from Civil Protest” was a proactive measure taken by Annapolis, MD, officials and first responders to examine protests as a whole community.
The new paradigm of civil protest today reflects a dynamic police are rarely prepared for — enormous crowds of protesters who sometimes outnumber the police 20 to 1. Adding to the challenge is the fact that some of the participants are in fact involved in the protest only in order to destroy property, loot or set fires. After the riots in Baltimore, the police commissioner publicly acknowledged that he had not given a high enough priority to violent protest response training for officers.
The police may be the face of government during a protest, but the entire government needs to be prepared for the worst. When protests become violent, the fire chief has to be available to extinguish fires, emergency medical services have to be available to treat the injured, and emergency managers, who often are more accustomed to fighting natural disasters, must coordinate first responders. Additionally, elected officials must understand and monitor the situation to make high-level decisions.
The City of Annapolis recently took measures to elevate its preparedness level. Although the events involving the death of Freddie Gray did not originate in Annapolis, a peaceful protest took place there in December that developed after the events in Ferguson. Protests have also been held nearby and in other cities throughout the country. The mayor, director of emergency management, police chief and fire chief decided not to wait until another protest before they took critical steps to prepare Annapolis for future events.
… As a result of the seminars, sponsored by the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, participants were supplied with “tools for their civil protest toolboxes” and were able to identify strengths and weaknesses in their current operational plans for civil protest.
Like the City of Annapolis, every city in America should prepare in this way to protect citizens, protesters, business owners and the whole community.