MA IDS Thesis Projects

Date of Award


Document Type



College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences


International Development and Service

Degree Name

International Development and Service, MA


Civil order is an important aspect of a healthy democratic society, however the right to express dissatisfaction at the state of affairs is also important to a democracy. These two points come into conflict when protests escalate out of control or turn into riots. Utilizing a comparative case study methodology with a grounded theory framework, this study seeks to understand how different police actions in protests can escalate the event into a riot, what factors are present when this occurs, what are the situations which necessitate that police make turning point choices, and what tools or concepts can police apply to successfully navigate these situations in a community focused nonviolent or non-confrontational way. By analyzing the cases of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and the 2014 Ferguson protests, themes indicating what actions escalate protests were extracted. This research has suggested that police lack of preparedness, focus on order and control, and lack of suitable internal and external communication contribute to protest escalation and that implementation of a few training and preparation strategies may be effective in mitigating the potential for escalation at the critical moments.