The antiglobalization movement is a nonhierarchical global social network that stands opposed to economic neoliberalism policies or corporate globalization, which has guided international development and trade since the late 20th century. The movement consists of a variety of communities organizing against the consequences of neoliberal policies, and although very diverse, all such communities connect their actions to the broader goal of limiting corporate globalization. These groups charge that corporate globalization policies have exacerbated global poverty and increased inequality. Their protests target organizations that enable corporations to pursue a largely unregulated, free market, privatized form of globalization, such as the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, The World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the Group of Eight (G8) heavily industrialized nations. Because of the movement’s anticapitalist bent and unconventional tactics, police agencies have used hardline policing strategies as security measures to subdue antiglobalist protests and to ensure public safety. This entry briefly reviews the rise and decline of the antiglobalization movement and discusses the various security strategies employed by the police in response to antiglobalization protestors.


The movement had peaceful origins in the 1980s but adopted more confrontational tactics in the 1990s, beginning with the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas followed by the 1999 Battle of Seattle, when an initially nonviolent protest at the World Trade Organization headquarters turned violent. About 40,000 protestors marched, chanted, and occasionally rioted against the World Trade Organization, smashing windows at Starbucks and McDonald’s and looting Niketown. The authorities pushed back by declaring a state of emergency, calling in the National Guard, and arming the police with tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. Hundreds of protesters were arrested. This response was the beginning of a larger, more orchestrated and militarized strategy to contain the movement’s use of direct action and social disruption. In April 2000, 5 months after Seattle, many of the same demonstrators took to the streets of Washington, D.C., to protest a meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, with 1,300 arrests being made. The first death of an antiglobalization protester occurred in July 2001, during protests against a meeting of the G8 in Genoa, Italy. As several thousand people marched in the streets of Genoa, 16,000 police officers were deployed.

Strategies for Security

In 2003, a meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was held in Miami, Florida, to negotiate the elimination of trade barriers on nearly all goods and services provided anywhere in North, Central, and South America. Thousands of protesters traveled to Miami to express opposition to the proposed accord, arguing that such an agreement would result in the privatization of vital public services and would undermine environmental and labor laws. In response, the Miami-Dade Police Department debuted the “Miami Model,” whereby the police department collaborated with local, state, and national law enforcement agencies to meet the protesters with decisive force. Before the protest, the police patrolled the streets with armored, military-style personnel carriers while helicopters hovered above downtown. As the demonstrations began, the city was packed with thousands of cops dressed in full body armor and gas masks. The police occupied the streets while shouting at the demonstrators and randomly firing rubber bullets into crowds of unarmed protesters, spraying tear gas at thousands of others, and using Tasers to subdue a selected few.

In addition, specific parts of a permit application may be denied, which works to the advantage of the police. The permit may specify, for example, that marches end at particular locations that are strategically beneficial to the police but may be detrimental to the activists. Fernandez relates how during the 2002 World Economic Forum protest in New York, the police issued a permit for a march that ended four city blocks away from the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where World Economic Forum members were gathering. The police prepared for the large crowds that they knew would end up in that location and successfully cordoned them off. This action placed the protesters far from the forum delegates, out of view of the media, and isolated in a location that the police could easily control. These types of specifications outlined or negotiated in the permit are ones protestors may follow, as was the case at the World Economic Forum protest, or may not, which could create divisions within the movement and also allow organizations that do not follow the rules to be labeled by the authorities as “deviant,” operating outside the limits agreed to for the protest activity.

Another legal strategy that the authorities may use for security is the enacting of laws on short notice. In the run-up to the 2003 FTAA protests, a hastily enacted Streets and Sidewalks Ordinance temporarily expanded the authority of the police, allowing them to conduct searches and seizures of antiglobalization activists with the excuse of looking for outlawed materials. Because any hard object was outlawed, the police had broad latitude. By criminalizing everyday objects such as bottles and batteries, the net of possible violations was expanded. Of the 200 individuals arrested in Miami, no one was charged with violating the Streets and Sidewalks Ordinance. When arresting the activists, the police fell back on traditional charges, such as blocking a thoroughfare or disobeying officers. A few days after the protests, the ordinance expired, thus preempting legal challenges to its constitutionality.

Scouting activists—advance personnel sent to preplan protest events in various cities—faced legal zoning laws that were selectively applied, arguably as a form of harassment. Interviews conducted by Fernandez revealed that advance teams are tasked with trying to secure the needed resources before protests, which often have insufficient cash resources. Consequently, spaces secured for meetings and sleeping are often in the poorer parts of the city, which are vulnerable to being inspected for fire code and building violations, insurance issues, or food-handling problems. For example, zoning laws played a role in the 2000 International Monetary Fund/World Bank protests in Washington, D.C. The Metropolitan Police Department raided the convergence center, which served as the protest headquarters in the days before the event. Supposedly investigating a fire code violation, the police entered the building and confiscated all puppets, banners, and medical supplies stored there.

Decline of the Movement

Some circumstances converged leading to the decline of the antiglobalization movement after 2003. The hard policing of the Miami Model had chilling effects on protesters. Then free trade organizations scheduled meetings outside the United States, and some host cities closed off public lands to activists, making it more expensive and challenging to send advance teams or to house confederates before or during the planned disruptions. More recently, the movement faced a dilution of its ranks as participants bailed to engage progressive movements opposed to the policies of Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. As a result, there were fewer antiglobalization dissidents to police, and softer policing methods were sufficient, for the most part, to contain the demonstrators.

Stan Weeber

See also Anarchism ; Global Justice ; Globalization ; Political Dissidents ; Riot Control

Further Readings

Cunningham, Steve. “Trump: The Anti-Globalization Movement Protesters Forgot.” American Thinker (February 5, 2017). (Accessed August 2017).

Dwyer, Mimi. “Where Did the Anti-Globalization Movement Go?” The New Republic (October 25, 2013). (Accessed August 2017).

Engler, Mark. “Defining the Anti-Globalization Movement.” Democracy Uprising (Apri, 2007). (Accessed August 2017).

Fernandez, Luis. Policing Dissent. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Juris, Jeffrey. Networking Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

Korten, David. When Corporations Rule the World. Oxford, England: Greenleaf, 2015.

Warner, Adam. “A Brief History of the Anti-Globalization Movement.” University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review, v.12/2 (2006).