Boston Police underestimated size of Women’s March protests by nearly 150 thousand

Law enforcement responses to inauguration protests largely remains shrouded in secrecy

Written by Curtis Waltman
Edited by JPat Brown

We’ve sent requests to police departments around the country for their incident reports, threat assessments, and any other records we can get surrounding the law enforcement response to the protests surging through American cities.

While most of our requests are still processing, some have been outright rejected. Virginia State Police decided to deny our request wholesale, arguing that releasing anything at all related to their response to the protests in Washington, DC would compromise “department tactical plans,” and “criminal investigative files.”

Denver PD on the other hand, gave us a full after action report of the protest and arrest reports from four different officers.

But it was Boston Police who gave us situational awareness reports which illustrate how remarkably unprepared they were for demonstrations of this scope.

While BPD exempted after action reports, using the same type of sweeping law enforcement exemptions as the VSP, the reports we did receive show that the day before the inauguration BPD estimated 36,000 people would show up for the Women’s March on January 21st, and little more than a thousand would show up for the protests on the 20th.

For the Women’s March, they were about 150,000 people off.

It’s also a good reminder that police are increasingly reliant on social media, and just how inaccurate that data can be.

In their response letter, BPD included a paragraph explaining how “the Courts approved the withholding of the location of a police surveillance post.” Further down, it also mentions that equipment and operational techniques of police surveillance are also exempted.

Ironically, this paragraph furthers the case that citizens need more information about how police conduct surveillance on protests, as Americans around the nation engage in massive demonstrations at a growing rate.

We will update you as we continue to gather records concerning law enforcement’s response to the recent protests. Read the full SA bulletin embedded below, or on the request page.


Image via WIkimedia Commons and is licensed under CC BY 4.0