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Magdalena Weber, University College Maastricht

It is a sunny, warm July evening when around 12.000 people gathered on Hamburg’s Fish market to protest the G20 summit. The protest is often called the Welcome to Hell demonstration – a name derived from the large banner held by the Black Bloc at the march. The Black Bloc is a common occurrence at left-leaning, anti-capitalist demonstrations. Members dress in all black and gather together, often masked, to march. Often, they are violent, anti-police, and far-left. So, too, at the Welcome to Hell protests on the sixth of July, 2017. The organizers had even announced that the biggest Black Bloc of all time, with 8000 members, will attend (Schlink, 2018). Around the Black Bloc, a diverse group of protesters was present. Some masked with black scarfs, sunglasses, or other face-concealing fabric, some not. Some old, some young. It is one of the first big protests this weekend, and will soon become the most controversial. Two Black Blocs – with 1500 members – headed the march. Black hoods and sunglasses dominated the scene. Smaller sub-groups within the Black Bloc differentiated themselves from the rest through symbols and clothing. More than ten thousand other demonstrators followed behind the Black Bloc. Several open-top vehicles served as demo vehicles on which demonstration leaders shouted instructions and slogans. The demonstration marched from the Fish Market eastward to the Hafenstraße. This is a wide, four-lane road that led to the Landungsbrücken. Left of the street is a row of buildings, right of it, a two-meter-high wall. On the other side of the wall is the Elbpromenade. After two hundred meters, a six-meter wide pedestrian bridge spanned the Hafenstraße with hundreds of onlookers standing on it.

To the surprise of the protesters, the police stopped the march after two hundred meters. Several hundred policemen blocked the road and therefore enclosed the march. A space of thirty to forty meters between the protesters and the police was carved out. The demonstration was encircled: in front, by the police in heavy-duty clothing, on the sides by the wall and the buildings, and from behind, by the demonstrators streaming in. Shortly after the demonstration stopped, four water cannons with their blue lights switched on came up behind the police officers’ blockade. Through loudspeaker announcements, the Black Bloc was asked to take off their disguises with reference to the ban on masks at public protests. Some of the autonomists complied with the request, others remained masked. The demonstration remained calm. Apart from a few bottles thrown and anti-police cries, nothing happened. Several times protestors were asked to take off their disguise, while non-masked demonstrators were requested to distance themselves spatially from the masked demonstrators. After forty-five minutes of standstill, the police began to isolate the Black Bloc from the rest of the demonstrators. Pepper spray was used. The police attempted to separate the Black Bloc from the rest of the protestors and into subgroups. People on the pedestrian bridge and the Elbpromenade started to throw bottles at the police – the cue for the use of water cannons (ibid.).

Water cannons are one way in which police control crowds There are various methods of crowd control, from Einkesseln (kettling) – a method the police used to separate the two Black Blocs – to using tear gas or, in this case, water cannons. Crowd control can be violent, as it can, and sometimes is intended to, create discomfort or pain. From some crowd control techniques, serious consequences can arise. The use of water cannons, for example, can, depending on the water pressure and the directness of the jet, result in broken bones, concussions, or loss of sight. More often, however, it is used to make crowds of protesters uncomfortable by making them wet, or by pushing them in a certain direction through the water pressure. It is also used to create barriers between protesters and police, and to be able to reach further into areas that are otherwise unreachable or dangerous to enter. The presence of water cannons alone can serve as intimidation and threat. It can also be used to block off roads or serve as a shield for police to hide behind when attacked. Additionally, there are various ways of spraying water on protesters. Three common classifications are water rain, water bell, and water jet. These, however, are not specific installments, but rather broader categories to classify how high the water pressure is, how much water is used, and how fanned out the water is sprayed. Each of those has different purposes and is used in different contexts. To examine the way water cannons are used, a case study is analyzed: The Welcome to Hell demonstration in Hamburg on the 6th of July, 2017. First, however, the artifacts used to police protests are examined.

Artifacts

Water cannons

Picture 1: (Autobild, n.d.)

Germany currently possesses two kinds of water cannons: model 9000 and model 10.000. Both are named after the maximum capacity of their water tanks. The trucks are as big as long-distance busses, grey at the bottom and cobalt blue on the top white line diagonally separating the colors. The outside of the truck consists of aluminum to prevent rust. Additionally, it is coated in a polycarbonate-protection (Rüffner, 2009). They drive on six wheels (Autobild, n.d.). The WaWe10 is 9,9 meters long, 2,55 meters wide, and 3,7 meters high (Rüffner, 2009). It can spray water at a maximum water pressure of 20 bar, weighs 31 tons, and has 408 HP. The roof is lopsided to prevent Molotov Cocktails and people from remaining on top of the truck (Erb, 2017). There are multiple headlights: two strong ones on top at the front (encircled in green), and six smaller lights just above the driver’s cabin (encircled in yellow). Blue light is available in the front, both on the roof and on top of the driver’s cabin (encircled in blue). The truck has three swiveling nozzles out: two nozzles on the front of the roof and one at the back (encircled in red). The windows and the outside armor protect against various projectiles. Above the windows is a built-in spray function to clear the view in case the windows get sprayed with paint (Rüffner, 2009). Integrated speakers make it possible to make the police’s announcements heard. Water cannons have a water tank that can be heated so the water does not freeze in winter. Integrated water fittings regulate the water pressure and the water flow rate. This way, the WaWe10 can also produce water bells – soaking a small group of protesters in a short amount of time without much pressure. The motor for the pump is separate from the motor for the truck to ensure maximum flexibility and enable driving and pumping water (Autobild, n.d.). There is also a foaming agent vessel, multiple video cameras, and one audio recorder. The nozzles include cameras to make it possible for the police to aim properly (encircled in orange). Water can be sprayed up to a distance of 65 meters in the front, and up to 50 meters in the back (Rüffner, 2009). There is also the possibility to mix CN or CS gas into the water (Erb, 2017). The material necessary to do so is stored in the side cabins (marked in purple). The WaWe 10 carries six gas containers à 20 liters (Rüffner, 2009). In the back cabin, the truck includes a pump and hose reel to be used to extinguish fires (Autobild, n.d.)

Five people are necessary to operate one truck. They are situated like a dice five: two in front, one in the middle, two in the back of the driver’s cabin (Rüffner, 2009). The driver drives, while the agent in front takes care of the video and audio recording. The commander sits in the middle. Behind him, two agents operate the camera and water cannons via joystick (Stillich, 2009). The command bridge is located behind the driver. It includes multiple monitors showing images from eight cameras that record the situation. These cameras even have windshield wipers. While water cannons are classified on the same level as handcuffs or police dogs, it can have far more drastic effects (Erb, 2017).

Other artifacts used in crowd control techniques are different kinds of gases. They can either be used on their own, as tear gas, or mixed in with the water of the water cannons. There are two common types of gases used: CS-gas and CN-gas. CS-Gas is 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, which is more commonly known as tear gas. It is a colorless, crystalline substance with a pepper-like smell. It is not, however, pepper spray. CS-gas hardly dissolves in water. Mixing it will result in a toxic and heavily irritating mixture. The use of CS-gas is prohibited in war zones by the Chemical Weapons Convention, but is allowed as police crowd control technique, and in some countries, as a private self-defense weapon. The effects of CS-gas are the irritation of eyes, the respiratory system, and the skin. It directly affects the neuronal pain center. Usually it leads to disorientation, immediate shutting of the eyes, and in some cases to vomiting. The effects mostly wear off after one hours, but some long-term effects can last for months. Larger amounts of CS-gas can lead to pulmonary edema, lung-damage, damage to the heart and liver and in some cases, death. The other commonly used gas is CN-gas. CN-gas is chloroacetophenone and is more toxic than CS gas. It also irritates the mucous membranes (oral, nasal, conjunctival, tracheobronchial) and is also a crystalline material. In Germany, CN-gas can be mixed into the water of the water cannons. A minimum of 150mg and a maximum of 300g of CN is mixed in for every liter of water. The specific amount is dependent on the temperatures. At colder temperatures, more CN is mixed in (PDV 122 (Dokumentation), n.d.).

While water cannons are the focus of this entry, they are never employed alone. Usually, police troops in riot gear accompany the water cannons and are the primary actors during protests. These troops are called Bereitschaftspolizei. They are composed of Federal Police units and State Police units. While they are trained to assist in case of disasters and other crises, they are mainly deployed at protests. All BePo units have standardized structures, equipment, and training. Their hierarchy is as follows: the Bereitschaftspolizeiabteilung (the BePo department), the Bereitschaftspolizeihundertschaft (a set of hundred BePo police agents), a Zug (formation), a Gruppe (group), and lastly, the Trupp (troop). However, there might be deviations or additions depending on the State in which the BePo is located (Winter, 1988). Certain devices belong to the uniform of a BePo officer. Handcuffs, for example, are used for restraint. Irritant sprayers, such as pepper spray are also used. The Reizstoff-Sprühgeräte used by police at protests can spray between 2,5-7 meters far, usually has a 0,3% irritant solution, and contains up to 400ml per bottle (Kunz, Grove & Monticelli, 2014; Technische Richtlinie, 2008). One of the most used devices is the baton. Specifically, the multifunctional baton (Mehrzweckeinsatzstock), also called a Tonfa. This baton is around 50cm long and cylindrical with an additional cross handle. It is used to hit people or objects. The Tonfa consists of hard rubber covering a wooden core (deacademic.com, n.d.). The cross handle facilitates a greater range of use and a swirl blow that does not require as much power while still achieving drastic effects. Furthermore, it is the preferred baton as one can use it in a crowd without it being noticeable (CILIP, 2011).

Picture 2: BePo in Hamburg in riot gear. Especially visible are the white helmets (Abendblatt-TV, 2017b, 2:15).
Picture 3: (Abendblatt-TV, 2017ab, 6:26).

Apart from the objects used to actively achieve something, the riot police also have objects to passively protect them. For example, most riot police wear protective vests. These can vary significantly, depending on the material used. The riot police usually wear impact and stab protection vests rather than ballistic protection vests depending on the kind of equipment carried and the protests they are present at. Additionally, riot shields are often used (marked blue in picture 3). These protect the police against thrown objects and light projectiles. The BePo’s riot shields are see-through and made of plexiglass. On the inside, batons can be placed. All riot police wear helmets, as can be seen in picture 2 and 3. These mostly have puncture-resistant neck protection and a shield out of polycarbonate and are either white or black. Additionally, most riot police wear arm and leg protectors, non-flammable underwear, and padded, cut- and puncture-resistant gloves (Buntrock & Hasselmann, 2014). Some riot police agents – usually more experienced police agents or those of higher-rank – carry a megaphone with them, to be able to clearly communicate with the protesters. This, however, varies depending on the protest situation.

Operational Planning

A substantial aspect of protest policing is the internal police deployment planning – the way the police plans its actions and strategies. Who gives orders? Who plans the strategy? How is this communicated to the police agents in the field?

For researchers, it is difficult to access the command protocols as operation orders are never made public, not even in court files. Similarly, tactical plans are kept secret, too. The intention behind this is to not let outsiders see the police’s patterns and tactics. There are different patterns in which commands are given, which mainly vary in the degree of freedom of choice or action the recipient has. The more detailed the command, the less freedom and possibility of initiative is left for the recipient (Winter, 1998). Operation orders are some of the most important commands. They consist of an accumulation of orders and are usually written down. Operation orders include not only the orders of the police chief to the deployed officers, but also the important aspects of the general strategic-tactical concept.

A specific scheme of eight points should be followed: Firstly, the overview of the situation is addressed. Point two lists the deployed and neighboring forces. Point three explains the mission, the intention, and the decision of the police leader. Point four deals with the forces, command, and operational means to be provided. Point five assigns the individual orders to the operational sections. Point six specifies other measures to be taken and, for example, points out special conditions at the scene of the operation and legal peculiarities. The seventh point addresses the communication and information channels used during the operation. Finally, point eight explains the location of the command post of the police chief and his command staff (ibid.).

The core factor of these operation orders are the guidelines of the operation. These outline the level of force (to be) used, including the number of officers deployed, and the intervention threshold, which determines which actions of the protesters will be tolerated, and which will prompt an intervention (ibid.). The police’s concept of measures is based on the forecast of violence. This prognosis is used to determine the guidelines for the operation, i.e. whether an offensive or defensive, a hard or soft strategy is chosen. Usually, this prognosis is made based on previous experiences, organizational routines and knowledge of the protesters. At the Welcome to Hell protest, for example, journalists and protesters recalled that the threshold for intervention was very low. A low-threshold is typical for Hamburg’s police and a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy was announced before the summit. Additionally, the Welcome to Hell march was categorized as a key event and as likely violent (G20 Protestinstitut, 2018). The masking of a few hundred members of the Black Bloc already prompted the police to stop the march and intervene with water cannons and multiple hundreds of riot police. Generally, the police chief is not on-site, although this could happen at smaller protests. The larger the protests, the larger the operation and hence, the larger the space needed to accommodate the command staff and the technical infrastructure. These situation centers are the information point of the operation and the control center of the command staff. For protests of this scale, usually a special organizational structure called Besondere Aufbauorganisation (BOA) is set up due to the increased need for staff and necessary uniform management (Praetor Intermedia, n.d.). For the G20 summit, a special unit ‘BOA Michel’ was set up under the leadership of the police chief Hartmut Dudde in April 2016 (G20 Protestinstitut, 2018).

The use of water cannons

Principally, there is a process to be followed when deploying water cannons. This process is described in police manuals, specifically the Polizeidienstvorschrift 122 and 100 which are classified documents. However, certain provisions have been revealed. Theoretically, the commander on board the water cannon must unambiguously and clearly threaten with the water cannons and indicate a direction in which the crowd should disperse or move. Then, the protesters must be given time to follow the orders. The water cannons should follow the retreating protesters and keep the gained space free. If irritants are mixed into the water, the chief must instruct the police agents to put on protective clothing. This order should be given via the speakers on the truck to warn the protesters and psychologically nudge them to follow the orders as well. Usually, multiple water cannons are used in an operation (PDV 122 (Dokumentation), n.d.).

There are multiple kinds of uses of water cannons, but two most common ones: water rain and the water jet. These will now be described in detail with help of a case study and contrasted with each other. However, these are only the later stages of the use of water cannons. Solely the presence of the water cannons trucks is used to intimidate and show force. Furthermore, there are multiple steps taken before water is sprayed, such as tuning on the headlights, positioning the water cannons, and the threat of using them via loudspeaker. There are multiple factors to consider when deploying the water cannons: how much water pressure to use, where to aim (on the ground, at specific groups or individuals, horizontally above groups, vertically up), how much fanning out is needed (little fanning out for specific goals, more fanning out for larger groups or less direct impact) and the goal of the operation (making protesters uncomfortable, preventing them from certain actions, directing them in a specific direction).

Water rain

The so-called water rain is used for situations in which the front lines of the crowd are hindered from moving or evading the water cannons. It aims at the crowd in the back of an assembly (ibid.). It is also used in cases where there are vulnerable people in the crowd, such as children, or to begin with a softer technique and not start with more drastic techniques. To produce this water rain, the water jets are usually aimed horizontally above a crowd. The water pressure is rather low to allow the water to disperse more freely. Depending on how far away the target group is, the water is fanned out greatly or only minimally.

Picture 4: (WELT, 2017b, 56:49)

At the Welcome to Hell march, for example, the police employed a strong water rain. The intention was to push protesters and onlookers away from the railings on the wall to prevent them from throwing objects at the police underneath them. The three trucks aimed at different targets. The water cannon in the forefront uses less water pressure than the one seen behind it. From the videos, it seems like the first water jet aimed at people standing close to the water cannon, and hence used less pressure and more fanning to prevent drastic injuries. The second water jet seems to aim at people further away, to the left. Hence, it needed to use more water pressure to ensure the water rain reached these, too. Nevertheless, it is difficult to analyze, as the situation is ever-changing.

Picture 5: (RT UK, 2017, 1:52)

In picture 5, a soft form of water rain can be seen. The water stream is fanned out generously to cover a large amount of space. The water pressure is low to achieve the desired rain effect. As a result, the people standing within reach of the water rain get soaked and hence, uncomfortable.

Water bell

Similar to the water rain technique, the water bell technique also has soft and harder forms. To produce water bells, large amounts of water are dispersed at once with little water pressure onto a small space or a small group. As a result, the protestors are soaked quickly, and staying within this bell becomes uncomfortable. Often, this water bell is used for sit-in protests, as can be seen in the following photos (Knoche, 2009).

Picture 6: (leftvision, 2017, 3:23)

Five or six protesters sit on the street to prevent the water cannons to move further. The water cannon directs its two frontal streams directly onto the protesters’ backs. Some protesters have rain jackets or backpacks to mitigate the impact. However, the water pressure seems quite high. It is not high enough to blast the protesters away, and the streams are fanned out as well, but there certainly is a constant and strong pressure. As one can see, the water nearly forms a bell – due to the hard form of a water bell, the bell form itself is not clearly given.

Picture 7: (Abendblatt-TV, 2017a, 6:45)
Picture 8: (WELT, 2017b, 1:43:55)

In picture 8, a softer form of a water bell can be seen. The water pressure is lower than that of the water bell previously shown. The water stream is similarly fanned out (red) and directed at a specific group of people. One can see that large amounts of water are used, as the bell is dense.

Water stream / Water jet

The harshest technique water cannons can employ is the water jet. When a water stream is directly used, it is usually aimed at specific individuals that attack the police or move in a direction that the police want to prevent (PDV 122 (Dokumentation), n.d.). The water jet is usually not or only minimally fanned out, uses high water pressure, and is often used in a stop-and-go sequence, as opposed to a consistent stream of water used with water bell or rain.

Picture 9: (Abendblatt-TV, 2017b, 12:45)

In picture 9, one can see the use of a water jet clearly from above. The jet is aimed at a specific group of people and the water pressure high enough to reach the distance. Usually, a water jet with high water pressure is aimed at the floor or lower body of the people targeted. However, it can happen that it hits people directly, which can lead to severe injuries.  

Picture 10: (WELT, 2017a, 2:22:00)

Similarly, picture 10 shows a water jet being used from the side. Generally, there is a very unclear overview of the dynamic. The stream seems to be used for specific groups that might either throw objects at the police or are moving in a direction the police disagrees with (Welt, 2017a, 2:22:00).

Picture 11: (WELT, 2017b, 1:46:55)

Water jets are often employed to keep distance between protesters and police, as can be seen here in picture 11. Enough water pressure is employed to reach as far as possible, but the jet is not aimed at specific people or groups. Rather, it is used to make movement in the police’s direction uncomfortable or impossible. This is often used to secure space (blue) that has already been conquered from being reclaimed by protesters on the ‘other’ side (direction of green arrows).

Picture 12: (RT UK, 2017, 0:21)

At a different location in Hamburg, near the Elbphilharmonie, water jets were employed more harshly. The water pressure is very high, especially considering the rather small distance to the protesters. The jets are aimed directly at individuals within the group. The water pressure is high enough to physically push some individuals away.

At the same location, another protester is targeted with a jet. Here, one can clearly see that the jet aims at the feet and lower body of the person, not at the upper body. This is done to minimize the risk of severe injuries, such as blinding or loss of hearing.

Picture 13 (RT UK, 2017, 0:41)
Picture 14: (RT UK, 2017, 0:46)

When a water jet is aimed directly at an individual and employed with high water pressure, it is strong enough to physically push people further. On the way to the Elbphilharmonie, one woman places herself in the way of the water cannons (picture 14). Three water jets are aimed at her with enough water pressure to actually push her in such a way that she loses balance while sitting. Clearly, more water pressure and less fanning out are used at this sit-in, than at the one presented previously. While usually water bells are used for sit-ins due to the small distance, water jets can also be employed. It is unclear why there is such a difference in the technique between those sit-ins (RT UK, 2017, 0:45).

Picture 15: (RT UK, 2017, 1:53)

Picture 15 shows the progression the police uses when softer techniques do not have the desired effect. The crowd in front of the water cannon have previously been nudged to leave with water rain, and are now targeted with direct water jets. The water pressure is very high and the fanning out minimal to target individuals. The jets again aim at the lower bodies of the people.

Special situations

Picture 16: (RT UK, 2017, 1:19)

Water cannons also have the function to release water on the floor in front of them – usually used to extinguish fires. However, in some cases, such as the one in picture 16, it can also be used to target people who avoid the range of the water jets located on the roof. Here, the water is released just in front of the truck in hopes that it would target the woman standing in front of it. However, the effect is marginal as the water barely reaches her lower legs. As water cannons are normally employed with multiples, the other trucks drive further to be able to target the out-of-reach person. As one can see from the G20 protests, the nuzzles on the back of the truck rarely are used.

Water wall

The water cannon 10.000 can also produce a water wall. Here, the water jet is aimed at the floor in front of a crowd to prevent them from moving closer and to gain space between them and the police (PDV 122 (Dokumentation), n.d.). It is used to protect police forces that can assembly behind the water wall.

Intimidation

As previously mentioned, the presence of water cannons themselves already affects the crowd. The use of sirens and headlights as well as the advance of the truck can serve as intimidation and threat.

Picture 17: (Abendblatt-TV, 2017a, 4:00)

When the Welcome to Hell march was stopped, water cannons drove quickly towards the crowd to support the police forces on the ground. The speakers clearly prompted the protesters to take off their masks and asks the uninvolved to spatially separate themselves from the Black Bloc. The water cannons regularly used their siren and turned the blue headlights on. The police, who previously stood close to the protesters, walked backwards next to the water cannons to free the view and way for these to come forward even more. Considering the locked-in position in which the protesters were held, the forward advance of the water cannons certainly served as intimidation. The threats announced by the speaker to use the water cannons further served to intimidate.

Discussion

Anne Nassauer’s empirical analysis of effective crowd policing can be used as a guide for the analysis of the dynamics at place (2014). Nassauer sees five factors as crucial for a peaceful protest: respect for territorial boundary (assigned territories, no loss of control of territorial boundary, both sides stay in their territory), good police management (good planning and leadership, logistics, satisfaction of basic needs of police, strategy and overview, possibility to communicate between units), absence of escalation signs (no signs of preparation for breaking the law/attacking/ arresting), working police-protester communication (not interrupted, transmitted clearly), and the absence of property damage.

In the Welcome to Hell protests, the first factor (respect of territorial boundary) is not fulfilled. The stop of the march after a few hundred meters without clear communication as to why and the resulting encirclement of the march with no direction to move into is a clear loss of control over the territorial boundary. Furthermore, the location at which the police blocked off the march was difficult to oversee due to the multiple locations for protesters and onlookers to get involved. Some onlookers were located on the pedestrian bridge spanning the street on which the police and protesters were facing each other. Some were standing on the Elbpromenade – a few meters above the police and hard to control due to its separation by the wall. Hence, stopping the march at this particular location made it difficult to identify assigned territories. While this surely tactically was thought out to be a location easily controllable as the protesters had nowhere to go, it resulted in an unstructured confrontation and an unfavorable view of the police afterwards. Hence, the police management was rather questionable. Nevertheless, the strategy of the Hamburg police was clear from the start: to have a low threshold, a high number of forces and to show strength. This has been implemented – although incomprehensible to journalists and protesters alike (WELT; 2017, 8:00). In regards to escalation signs, the masking of the Black Bloc can be interpreted as such. However, masking is to be expected with any Black Bloc. The water cannons joining the hundreds of riot police clearly can be identified as escalating factor, as can the use of the full riot gear by the police – especially helmets which often announce a conflict (G20 Protestinstitut, 2018). Additionally, the kettling and pro-active entering of the territory of the Black Bloc by the police escalated the situation in the first instance. The ‘Welcome to Hell’ somewhat became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it was previously already classified as a violent demonstration with potential for danger for police forces. Any action taken hence was interpreted with this classification in mind and seen as confrontative. For the protesters, it was similar, as many already had an anti-police attitude and the belief that the police would prevent demonstrations to continue. Seeing this confirmed through – in their eyes – undifferentiated, unjustified, and tough measures, led to an escalation (G20 Protestinstitut, 2018). As one can see, the protestor-police communication was rather dire. While clear announcements were made through loudspeakers on the water cannons, multiple reports show that the communication was lacking. Communication with protesters was not a priority of Hamburg’s police. Those agents who were trained communication specialists were used for the media communication units instead of at the protests for de-escalation purposes. The police further prioritized pre-evaluating protests in dangerous/non-dangerous categories and focused on the potential of violence rather than on the communication with the protest organizers. Even though organizer-police conversations are a procedural obligation, there were barely any meetings (ibid.). Hence, no clear communication was given and the resulting misunderstandings and mistrust contributed to the escalation of the situation. The factor of property damage did not play a significant role in the Welcome to Hell situation. Consequently, one can see that the lack of overview in this situation, the lack of clear communication, and the invasion of protester’s territory by the police in addition to the escalation signs contributed to the escalation of the protest.

Limitations

One limiting factor for this research is the reliance on videos. The videos and screenshots used never show a complete situation. While it was attempted through data triangulation to understand the context and complexity of each situation, this cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, all observations are based on estimations. The water pressure and distance, for example, are all estimated, rather than specific data derived from reliable sources. Additionally, access to sources has been a limitation. Since both the PDV 100 and PDV 122 are classified documents, they were not accessible for this research. Therefore, secondary sources were used. For some parts, old versions of the PDV were described and hence, used as the basis. To attempt more factualness, members of the police have been personally contacted to comment on the aspects described in this research. They have not objected to the research.

Further research

Further research could focus on other crowd control or protest policing techniques, such as kittling, the use of tear gas, or the use of animals such as horses and dogs. Police violence in different settings could be explored, as well as the framing of police violence by media, which could contribute to the violence itself. Similarly, one could use historical and cultural backgrounds as basis for a comparative study between countries. Suitable comparisons could be drawn with France, especially with their gilet jaunes protests, or with the Netherlands, considering their use of water cannons at the anti-Corona riots in January 2021.

Magdalena Weber studies liberal arts and sciences (BA) at University College Maastricht, focusing on international relations. She wrote her entry during an Applied Research Internship at the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (March 2021).

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