In the protests defending democracy, as well as in other cases, demonstrators sometimes block main roads, and when they do, the police often disperse them. Recently police have begun resorting to drastic means of riot control, including water cannons, according to some reports also “sound cannons” (LRADs: Long Range Acoustic Devices), mounted police, stun grenades, and beating demonstrators with clubs. These measures can cause significant physical harm, and indeed, several protestors have been severely injured in the past few days. Consequently, on July 13th 2023, the Attorney General notified the police that “clear instructions regarding the use of water cannons to disperse protests must be issued, to safeguard public health.”
While the means for riot control are not new, the police’s current practices are exceptional in that they are being used in non-violent demonstrations and against protestors who are not resisting arrest.
In this position paper we examine the legality of this policy, namely using measures for riot control on non-violent protestors.