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Kenyans share tips on how to identify undercover police officers during protests

How to keep safe during a protest

An undercover police officer arrests an activist within the Nairobi's Central Business District (CBD) during a demonstration against the Financial Bill 2023. Photo by John Ochieng

In the wake of recent agitation due to the Finance Bill 2024, Kenyans have planned a protest outside Parliament on Tuesday.

Kenyans on social media have been sharing tip on the best practises for protests and how to keep safe.

However, the Nairobi Regional Commander Adamson Bungei has maintained that the scheduled protest does not have requisite permits.

Undercover police officers are often present at protests to gather intelligence, monitor activities, and ensure public safety.

Their presence raises legal and ethical questions, particularly regarding the balance between maintaining order and respecting civil liberties.

In previous protests, Kenyans have observed plainclothes officers who arrest those deemed to be breaking the law.

The presence of undercover police officers has become a significant concern for demonstrators.

Understanding how to identify these officers is crucial for maintaining the safety and integrity of protest movements.

This article explores the characteristics, behaviours, and tactics of undercover police.

Undercover police officers aim to blend in with the crowd, but certain physical traits and attire can set them apart from regular protesters.

Here are some common indicators to look out for:

While most protesters wear casual, comfortable, or themed attire related to the protest, undercover officers might wear clothing that is slightly out of place or try too hard to fit in.

Coats or jackets on a hot day can be a sign, as they attempt to conceal any weapons.

They also try to avoid their waists being exposed so you can tell when someone is trying too hard to protect their waist.

Noticeable bulges in their attire of person might indicate the presence of a concealed item, such as a communication device or weapon.

Behavioural cues can be a strong indicator of undercover police officers during a protest.

Undercover officers are often more observant than participatory. They may be seen continuously scanning the crowd, taking mental notes, or watching for specific behaviours.

They might keep a slight distance from the core activities, positioning themselves on the edges of the protest to monitor the situation more effectively.

Look for subtle signs of coordination with uniformed police or other individuals who don't fit in. This can include brief nods, hand signals, or short conversations.

Police often work in pairs or small groups for safety and coordination. Notice if certain individuals stick together or seem to be coordinating actions.

Undercover officers might exhibit behaviours that suggest they are receiving instructions or information, such as checking their phones frequently or making seemingly random movements that align with police actions.

By being attentive to these behavioural cues, protesters can better identify individuals who might be undercover officers.

It's important to remain vigilant and share any suspicions with trusted members of the protest to ensure collective awareness and safety.

Remember, these signs are not conclusive evidence but can help in making more informed observations.

In preparation for the upcoming 'Occupy Parliament' protest, organisers have released a detailed code of conduct to ensure the demonstration remains peaceful and effective.

The guidelines emphasise the importance of non-violence, cooperation, and vigilance.

Key Points of the Code of Conduct:

Peaceful Demeanor: Participants are encouraged to remain calm, especially when provoked. They are reminded that they represent a peaceful movement.

Organisers' Instructions: Attendees must follow the directions given by the march organisers. It is noted that no one has been paid to participate, emphasising the voluntary nature of the protest.

Prohibition of Alcohol and Violence: The consumption of alcohol and any form of violence, including the use of weapons and vandalism, is strictly forbidden. The march is intended to be a peaceful event.

Respectful Behavior: Threatening or abusive language towards others, especially those passing by, is prohibited.

Property Protection: Damaging property, either intentionally or accidentally, is not allowed.

Vigilance Against Provocateurs: Participants are warned to be cautious of potential agent provocateurs, who may be hired to incite violence or disrupt the peace. Suspicious behaviour should be reported to the police, who will be present at the march.

Response to Police Actions: In the event of police using tear gas or other threats, participants are advised not to run. Instead, they should stay together and leave the march collectively after delivering their message. If dispersed, they should regroup and continue the march.

Interaction with Police: Protesters should not interfere with police duties unless the officer violates their right to peaceful assembly, as stipulated in Article 37 of the Constitution.

Safety in Numbers: Participants are encouraged to bring a friend and not walk alone. They should document and share their location with friends and family for safety.

Emergency Procedures: An emergency hotline (0716 200 100) has been provided for participants. In case of arrest, they should notify the hotline with details of their arrest, including location and police station, for legal assistance.

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