Cosaint is the Irish word for “protect” or “defend”. This site is to discuss the constantly evolving nature of protest activity and security best practices to keep protesters, and their targets, safe and to prevent dangerous criminal acts in the name of a cause.
I have been a security professional for thirty years, in government and out. I have spent the majority of my career planning and providing security around protest events and have worked to ensure that the rights of all were protected. Many times, I have seen groups whose sole purpose in the exercise of their free speech rights was to deny those rights to others. This is routinely seen around the national political conventions where the opposition’s goal is to “shut it down” and prevent the political speech of their fellow citizens. All the while crying out against any action by law enforcement, to protect the same rights of those engaged in that political speech, as oppression and the denial of their right to oppose.
This mindset is also seen in the environmental/anti-fossil fuel movement. The overwhelming majority of its participants are concerned citizens whose environmental, social, and economic concerns are shared by many. They attend town halls, express their concerns to elected officials, and protest. They do all of these things without ever engaging in criminal activity.
Unfortunately, there is a fringe element. They come to protest, often in communities other than their own, and they engage in criminal acts when they don’t get their way. In most cases, the acts, like trespassing and chaining themselves to construction equipment, are minor inconveniences and are handled quickly by local law enforcement. However, over the past year, the criminal actions have increasingly turned to arson and sabotage. Just last week, two women in Iowa issued a press release claiming multiple acts of arson against heavy construction equipment and oil pipeline valve sites – all in the name of “protecting” the planet and its people. Several months ago, a man in Florida used a high-powered rifle to shoot across an active roadway to damage a pipeline and construction equipment. Such dangerous criminal acts should never be supported and certainly not supported in the name of “free speech”.
I believe that managing protest activity so the rights of all are protected and criminal acts are prevented requires an approach that incorporates the three “R”s – Respect, Restraint, Resolute.
Respect the rights of all to protest, exercise Restraint in security responses, and be Resolute in preventing criminal acts in the name of opposition.