Planning and policing of public demonstrations: A case study

  • Luis Manuel André Elias
  • Sérgio Felgueiras
  • Lúcia G. Pais


One of the biggest political events that took place in Portugal since the Carnation Revolution in April 1974 occurred on 15 September 2012. It was a time when the consequences of the financial crisis hit the majority of the citizens, and the government announced a tax modification, along with several austerity measures. Accordingly, a group of citizens launched a national protest on the internet called ‘To hell with the Troika! We want our lives!’. A few days later, around 23 000 people had said ‘I’ll go’ on the Facebook page. Given these kinds of groups, the police had some difficulty to find credible representatives to speak with to adequately plan and execute the policing operation. This event, promoted by organisations outside the traditional political system, has constituted a challenge for the police regarding the constitutional rights of assembly, demonstration, and security and public peace maintenance. This demonstration constitutes the case study to be presented. The main goals are: to describe the police planning and implementation procedures; to analyse the dos and don’ts; and to get some lessons to be learned. Using a qualitative approach, police documents, and interviews with police officers and commanders involved in the policing operation were analysed through a content analysis procedure. Triangulation of data sources and timeline was made. Results are presented in a timeline, enabling the assessment of the whole operation, mainly the management of the information flows and the uncertainty of the goings-on on the field.

How to Cite
Elias, L. M. A., Felgueiras, S., & Pais, L. (2017). Planning and policing of public demonstrations: A case study. European Law Enforcement Research Bulletin, (16), 155-168. Retrieved from