Author Archives: Will H. Moore

About Will H. Moore

I am a political science professor who also contributes to Political Violence @ a Glance and sometimes to Mobilizing Ideas . Twitter: @WilHMoo

The 99% or Marginalized Minority? Coercion and the Occupy Movement

By Christian Davenport and Will Moore

Repression like we have recently witnessed in response to the Occupy movement is not rare in democracy.  This fact tends to surprise people, so let us explain.  Government repression—the use of arbitrary arrest, physical force, and other forms of coercion—is the most common government response to publicly made challenges to existing policies: throughout the advanced industrial democracies popular protest tends to elicit repression.  To be sure, repressive behavior is neither automatic nor guaranteed: it is trivial to identify protests that are passively monitored by, and even some that are ignored by, police.  What, then, determines whether police will repress or monitor /ignore protesters? The simple answer is: perceived threat.  Threat can be usefully broken into three parts: stakes (the further from the status quo, the more threatening), the means by which the claims are advanced (e.g., lobbying and non-violent public action as opposed to violence), and the social status of the protesters (i.e., the extent to which they are marginal members of society).  Stakes play an important role, as do the means, but we focus here on the third category: marginalization.  Take, for example, the stakes of the Tea Party Movement /Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the public demonstrations those groups have produced, thereby setting stakes and means aside.  In such a circumstance, the government’s, and most explicitly the police’s, perception of the social status of the protesters will strongly influence the level of coercive policing the protesters will experience. Continue reading

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