A revealing frame from the video of the police agents provocateurs who attempted to incite violence.
|Agents provocateurs are undercover agents intended to incite others to commit violent and/or illegal acts.|
An agent provocateur (French for "inciting agent") is a person who commits or who acts to entice another person to commit an illegal or rash act or falsely implicate them in partaking in an illegal act, so as to ruin the reputation or entice legal action against the target or a group they belong to. An agent provocateur may be a member of a law enforcement agency acting out of their own sense of duty or under orders, or other entity. They may target any group, such as a peaceful protest or demonstration, a union, a political party or a company.
History and etymology
While the practice is worldwide anciently, modern undercover operation was scaled up in France by Eugène François Vidocq in the early 19th century, and already included use of unlawful tactics against opponents. Later in the same century the police targets included union activists who came to fear plainclothed policemen (agent de police in French). Hence, the French agent provocateur spread, just as is, to English and German. In accordance with French grammar, the plural form of the term is agents provocateurs.
An agent provocateur may be a police officer or a secret agent of police who encourages suspects to carry out a crime under conditions where evidence can be obtained; or who suggests the commission of a crime to another, in hopes they will go along with the suggestion and be convicted of the crime.
A political organization or government may use agents provocateurs against political opponents. The provocateurs try to incite the opponent to do counter-productive or ineffective acts to foster public disdain or provide a pretext for aggression against the opponent.
Historically, labor spies, hired to infiltrate, monitor, disrupt, or subvert union activities, have used agent provocateur tactics.
2007 Qebec demonstration
In 2007, Dave Coles, president of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union was attending a peaceful protest. He detected three suspicious 'protesters' wearing bandanas, one of whom was carrying a rock. He charged them with being agent provocateurs, and a highly compelling video of this event was posted to YouTube. The video showed that the men were wearing the same boots as the regular police officers. After initially denying the charges, the police eventually admitted that those charged were in fact undercover Quebec police officers.
- Stratfor (2004)
- Belyaeva et al. (2007), § 7–8, 156–162
- Bryan, Dominic "The Anthropology of Ritual: Monitoring and Stewarding Demonstrations in Northern Ireland", Anthropology in Action, Volume 13, Numbers 1–2, January 2006, pp. 22–31 (10).