How students used tech to beat protest police 'kettling' tactics

Summary:Police 'kettling' tactics are highly controversial and can leave legitimate protesters without basic amenities for hours. Fleeing riot police on foot? There's an app for that.

Fleeing riot police on foot? There's an app for that.

Two graduate students, angry in response to the police tactics used on students exhibiting their legitimate right to protest, have taken their fight to the mobile platform: a new smartphone application to avoid police cordens amid planned protests.

Sukey runs as a mobile web application designed for peaceful protesters to remain on the march. By submitting text messages of where police officers are collecting, trouble hotspots and areas which have been blocked off already, it allows a map to be generated on the phone browser to assist legitimate protesters in avoiding trouble.

It employs a range of crowdsourcing submissions, ranging from Twitter hashtags to geotagging photos on Flickr. It is a real-time citizen powered solution to a citizen brought problem.

On the other hand, though enabling legitimate protests is the primary goal, it can be used to outwit the police. Ethically, opinion seems to be mixed.

Since the violence on 10th November where the headquarters of the UK government's political party were raided and vandalised by students protesting the rise in tuition fees, kettling began to feature as a prominent and seemingly inevitable consequence of taking to the streets.

'Kettling' is where police force demonstrators into a contained area for undetermined lengths of time until the perceived risk of violence is no longer. The use of kettling was used on student protesters in December last year where protests turned violent, and also during the G20 conference in 2009 where a member of public was struck by a police officer and subsequently died.

Some argue that it is to prevent damage to buildings and people, whereas others say it perpetuates violences and antagonises protesters, repressing their legitimate right to protest.

Whether you agree or not with the fundamentals of the application or at very least the solution it attempts to rectify, it shows an increasingly determined effort to create and develop mobile applications based on user submissions. In this case, you can even find someone to take home with you after the kettle is lifted.

Topics: Mobility, Enterprise Software, Networking, Piracy, Security, Wi-Fi

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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