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Planning for the Next Generation of Protests – May Day and Beyond

Don’t be fooled; last year’s ‘Occupy’ was a peaceful protest movement. Under-planning for the coming protests based on the Occupy Movement would be naïve, but overcompensating and overspending would be similarly foolish. In short, KNOW THE THREAT. Your primary actions:

  • Be proactive;
  • Involve at least your security, legal, communications, human resources and training departments;
  • Understand why your company may be targeted;
  • Know the types of attack and how they can compromise operations and reputation; and
  • Implement a program that is resource conscious and balances resource restraint against well-funded response.

Proficient protestors learn faster than security personnel and law enforcement; they actively learn from every action, often publishing the results. Experienced protesters travel globally to lend their skills and experiences to whatever demonstration supports the cause de jour. Protesters with criminal intentions desiring to avoid attention and preemption use information security to maintain secrecy while more legitimate protesters leverage social media effectively.

That is why corporate leaders must be aware of the tactics, information, capabilities and equipment protesters use. Protesters strive to disrupt corporate operations through a wide-variety of tactics such as building occupations, sleeping dragons, lock-ons, sit-ins, non-compliant/non-violent traffic disruptions, flash mobs, noise and/or odorous assaults on/in buildings, “hacktivism,” and smear campaigns against board members and employees.

Successful management of protest incidents is a capability that requires all entities within your corporation to work together and understand the challenges being thrust upon them. A successful management program must be proactive, and involve the security, legal, communications, human resources, training and operations branches at a minimum. Protestors attack both brand and physical infrastructure. Company personnel must understand their rights and responsibilities to prevent the protestors being effective and creating subsequent lawsuits.

Corporate security leaders must be prepared to confront and deal with these threats before they occur and have robust response plans prepared. Once an attack has begun, it’s possible the authorities will be busy monitoring the protesters in the public areas, and they may not be able to provide a rapid response. Companies must know why they could be targeted by physical or cyber protests; the causes for protests against the company; and as a secondary target because of its dealings with others.

It’s important to be able to predict and distinguish between a normal protest event and one that is intended to cause property damage, employee intimidation, and business interruptions along with negative publicity and lawsuits for improper corporate response to the protesters.

This distinction is critical. Simply forecasting a scheduled demonstration is routine; a matter of internet search terms. The critical capability is the ability to understand protester tactics and predicting that a particular protest event will cause business disruptions and revenue losses and another that won’t. Having this answer saves corporations needless expenses and allows target hardening when the situation demands it for business continuity and resiliency.

Know your vulnerability. Be prepared. Be situation aware and understand the threat types.

Anthony Macisco blogs on security as it relates to supply chain issues, cross-border concerns, bank security and general issues affecting critical infrastructure and key resource (CIKR) sectors. Read More
  • M Kennedy

    The above article highlights the pressing need for those concerned in risk management and security to adapt to and understand the ever changing and persistently bolder face of protest.
    May 1st and the Occupy movements’ call for mass demonstrations and disobedience is being answered. Protestors and Trade Unionists are currently Marching in London and a number of commercial, consumer and banking premises have been targeted for incursion and criminal damage. As the sun rises in LA the day of direct actions targeting the financial district continues this side of the Atlantic and is being echoed in major cities across the United States.  Preemptive targeting as well as spontaneous actions by protest groups, raise grave concerns for the safety of a companies staff and its clients as well as the cost of damage to property, business and reputation. 
    As organizing groups call upon direct action to go on beyond todays events, reactive security to such events falls a long way short of meeting the duty of care responsibilities that companies have to staff, investors and patrons. Can we rely upon the often limited and sometimes outdated resources of the police? 
    The need for an understanding of protest, forward intelligence sharing, risk assessment and staff awareness has to be at the forefront of any adopted contingency planing and security protocols. The cost effectiveness of being prepared can not be to highly stated. Understanding a companies profile within protest is a major asset and intelligence led assessing of the propensity of a protest or likelihood of a direct action is invaluable in pre-event planning. Providing staff with the right training and protocols to deal with situations can protect them and the company from litigation. The tactics commonly referred to as the SHAC tactics are being adopted more and more by protest groups intent upon intimidation, incursion and damage to effect their goals.

    As the article rightly concludes, knowing your vulnerabilities, being prepared, being situation aware and understanding the threat types should be the mantra for any security personnel when facing the challenges of protest and direct action.