Strategic Incapacitation of Indigenous Dissent

Strategic Incapacitation of Indigenous Dissent: Crowd Theories, Risk Management, and Settler Colonial Policing


Miles Howe, Jeffrey Monaghan


Abstract. Engaging scholarship from sociologies of security to protest policing, this article explores how risk management and actuarial tools have been operationalized in Canadian policing of Indigenous protests. We detail RCMP actuarial tools used to assess individual and group risk by tracing how these techniques are representative of much older trends in the criminal justice system surrounding the management of risk, but also have been advanced by contemporary databanking and surveillance capacities. Contesting public claims of police impartiality and objectivity, we highlight how the construction of riskiness produces an antagonism towards “successful” Indigenous protests. Though the RCMP regularly claim to “protect and facilitate the right to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent,” we show how these practices of strategic incapacitation exhibit highly antagonistic forms of policing that are grounded in a rationality that seeks to demobilize and delegitimize Indigenous social movements.


Protest policing practices are increasingly driven by strategies of preemptive control. With a decline in the “negotiated management” strategies of the 80s and 90s, which sought dialogue and a high degree of liaising between police and protest groups, police agencies abroad and in Canada have developed new practices that aim to control and manage groups deemed as unruly. Scholars have coined the term “strategic incapacitation” to explain the range of adversarial and social control techniques at use against contemporary protests movements (Gillham and Noakes 2007; Noakes, Edwards, Gillham 2013; Gillham 2011; Wood 2014).





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