Stopping snatch squads and breaking kettles

Kettling of student protesters. They eventually broke out and ran through student areas to reform in Albert Park.
This article is about staying safe during demonstrations and making sure the police are unable to violently and illegally repress protest movements by targeting activists and corralling protests. It gives people lawful options for resisting unlawful state repression.

There has been some online discussion about police tactics on Friday's student protest. It is clear the Auckland police are adopting two tactics learnt from overseas - snatch squads and kettling.

Kettling was used as student protesters marched near the Business School. It is an extremely effective way of stopping protesters from exercising freedom of expression. There are serious legal questions that hang over the lawfulness of kettling peaceful protesters exercising fundamental human rights. Some police forces worldwide have banned the practice. Friday's kettle was lightly policed, overseas riot cops have shields and batons, and future kettles may not be so soft. The video below shows how to effectively and non-violently break out of a kettle.

Snatch squads were used repeatedly to pull out activists with megaphones throughout the demonstration on Friday. They are not a new tactic, last year we saw snatch squads target predominantly Maori student protesters. However they are increasingly being used by the police. In Glen Innes against activists like John Minto and in the universities. The main snatch squad people are focusing on is when some 10 to 15 police charged the kettled crowd to pull out Omar. A number of sergeants and senior sergeants had already led snatch squads that failed to apprehend target protesters on Friday. They were stopped because there was a tightness of organisation and enough people pulled arresting officers off the target. This is extremely successful and it worked at Occupy Auckland last year when a snatch squad pulled out a protester. A hundred youth gathered around the police and just physically removed them from the protester.

If a melee is not successful in stopping the snatch squad arresting a protester it can still succeed in winning a 'de-arrest'. In Wellington protesters successfully de-arrested an anti-war protester in 2005 by forming a human barrier between the police and the police car. This tactic was tried in Auckland last year at the Business School when cops illegally snatched an activist out of the crowd. It could have worked if protesters had blocked the car with more people. This is legal. Judges have repeatedly ruled that it is lawful to try and stop an unlawful arrest.

These tactics are options for people to study, practice and consider. They will not beat the police in and of themselves. The only thing that can beat the police repression is increased numbers of demonstrators. This requires attention to detail in learning how to mobilise and organise openly and successfully against the attacks on education. As Quebec's uprising against anti-protest laws show, police will not enforce repressive laws if it would require the arrests of tens of thousands of people. Our main task is to mobilise thousands of people and we have to remember we are primarily engaged in a political fight with the government, not a street fight with the police. Mobilise!

-Socialist Aotearoa

After sergeants and senior sergeants had failed to lead snatch squads against activists, a full blown Inspector commands the snatch squad which was ultimately succesful.


John said…
Useful tactical information which I agree with entirely.

However tactics are useless without strategy, clearly the police stratgegy involves provoking a response from the protesters which can be construed as a violent. I was impressed with the discipline shown by the students on friday. I would be cautious about more forcefully resisting police actions, there has been no accusation that the students were violent on friday which is remarkable, the media would have used any pretext to report the protesters as being responsible for the violent actions of the cops.

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