The Harms Done by Policing Social and Political Movements (by Ralph Guzman)


1.) History-Social Science Content Standard (11th Grade):

11.10 Students analyze the development of federal civil rights and voting rights.

2.) Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12

Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.


Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


The overall goal of this lesson is to bring awareness to what is often times, a hidden truth among U.S. History for high school students. They will be presented with academic historical sources that challenge the methods of which police and government authority uses when dealing with political and social movements. They thus will develop critical analysis skills as the nature of the topic in itself revolves around the notion of critique.

Most students coming from predominantly low-income communities have been affected by such political and social movements whether they’re aware of it or not. So this will allow them to reflect on their own lives and make connections to their current surroundings as well as their own history. Because this further pushes their minds to think critically about the systematic structures that our current government holds, it will inspire students to think about how it all relates to them.

Essential Understanding

Students will learn about the disruption of political and social movements done by the police force and how the U.S. government’s involvement in such movements is counterproductive.


  1. How does the police force intervene and disrupt political and social movements led by black and brown people?
  2. What are the methods in which the police force uses when organizing against people protesting?
  3. What is the social contract in which most of society agrees upon with regard to the police force?
  4. How are the police viewed from the perspective of protesters?


  1. Social Contract an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection.
  2. Social & Political Movements – They are large, at times informal, groupings of individuals or organizations which focus on specific political or social issues.
  3. Police Force – an organized body of police officers responsible for a country, district, or town.
  4. Marginalized – of a person, group, or concept) treated as insignificant or peripheral.


Throughout the 20th century, there has been numerous social and political movements ranging from the Black Freedom Struggle to the Chicano movement. Each movement was led and participated by thousands if not millions of people across the country and even across the world. These movements are a part of the foundation of the current political and social structure we navigate and experience today.

With that said, there is an uncommon narrative and perspective that these movements hold within their history. This narrative is the ways in which the police force have had an influence on such historical political and social movements. Their influences on movements usually pertain to interventions that inflict or suggest violence through police brutality, mass incarceration, and even murder. As movements became widespread through the word of mouth and through the media, the police force constantly followed these sources. Often times, the police force would threaten leaders of the organizations or movements to weaken their mobility and strength in society. And while doing that, the police force would also always be present at protests and political gatherings that these movements or organizations would hold.

The fascinating part about this concept is that these movements were attempting to create better livelihood for those who were and are still considered marginalized. Things like voting rights, equal access to public education, access to clean water, and etc. were the reasons for such movements. So with that in mind, it seems as though whoever would be trying to stop these movements would also be trying to stop these people from living healthy lives.

These movements are crucial to understanding how we got to where we are now when thinking about the current political and social climate of the United States. It is also critical to make connections between these movements and how they affect our personal lives. This can stem between whether it was a part of our own ancestral history or if it has shaped our ways of navigating our own communities. Finally, critiquing and challenging the purpose of the police force with regard to political and social movements is crucial due to the police force’s large influence on the movements themselves. Keep an open mind and be willing to challenge or further invest in your own thoughts or feelings towards history and the police force.


1.) Introduction Video (YouTube: “Why Do Young People Get Involved in Social Movements? | National Geographic”)

2.) Main Video (YouTube: “Policing and Democracy | John Noakes, Ph.D. | TEDxWestChester”)

3.) Primary Document (PDF page: 10 & 11 “Corky en Santa Barbara”)


First have the students read the Primary Source Document on their own. Then have them write down their thoughts (things that stood out to them, questions about it, what they learned, or general comments about it, etc.) about the document. Then after several minutes, have the class come together and have a class discussion about it. Next, watch the two videos (the introduction video first then the main video second). After both videos have played, bring the class together and have a class discussion about the videos and how it relates to the document. Ask them how it connects to their own lives and/or their past. The discussion should flow pretty naturally from there. But if not, some questions to consider are the questions listed earlier.

Additional Sources

  1. NAACP,
  2. “Proactive Police Reform.” NAACP,
  3. Misner, Gordon E. “The Response of Police Agencies.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 382, no. 1, 1969, pp. 109–119., doi:10.1177/000271626938200112.
  4. “Figure 3—Source Data 1. Source Data for Plots in Panels 3a, 3b, 3d, 3e, 3f.”doi:10.7554/elife.26414.009.
  5. Harmon, Rachel. “Limited Leverage: Federal Remedies and Policing Reform.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2012, doi:10.2139/ssrn.2292135.