Responding to demonstrations
The recent labor dispute at Amazon garnered attention from the local media and questions from the public, such as how much is this costing taxpayers and why such a large police presence? Those are great questions and exactly why our role in any labor dispute, demonstration or assembly at a private business is specifically spelled out in our department’s policy.
For starters, the position of the Shakopee Police Department regarding demonstrations and assemblies must be one of impartiality. While on duty, our officers make no public statement regarding their preferences to issues concerning the demonstration or assembly. Our department respects and protects the rights to demonstrate, practice one’s freedom of speech and disseminate information in a lawful and peaceful manner. Our goal is to keep the event safe and prevent conflict from escalating into any type of violence. Violence and destruction or damage to property will not be tolerated.
In most cases, our staff meets with organizers from both sides of the issue before an event. We explain laws, like trespassing and not interfering with traffic flow. This generally goes very well and there are no issues. It also helps us plan for what type of crowd we can anticipate. In the case of the December Amazon demonstration, company officials expected a larger crowd and contracted with the city for extra police presence during the demonstration. Amazon paid the city for those services.
Sometimes things do not go as planned, and we must react accordingly. For example, during the Amazon event, demonstrators did not follow the prescribed plan and moved toward the building’s front door. Due to the size of the crowd, additional officers were requested. Officers from neighboring communities responded until protesters left the area. This was a proactive endeavor to ensure the demonstration did not pose any additional safety risks.
Our No. 1 goal is always public safety. We feel with our policy and open communication between businesses and demonstrators we can accomplish this.