A mass arrest occurs when the police apprehend large numbers of suspects at once. This sometimes occurs at illegal protests. The 2010 G-20 Toronto summit was witness to the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Some mass arrests are also used in an effort combat gang activity.[1] This is sometimes controversial, and lawsuits sometimes result.[2] In police science, it is deemed to be good practice to plan for the identification of those arrested during mass arrests, since it is unlikely that the officers will remember everyone they arrested.[3] A famous mass arrest occurred on September 27, 2002, in Washington, DC in which several hundred anti-World Bank/International Monetary Fund protestors, journalists and bystanders were systematically arrested by police[4][5] and charged with failure to obey a police order.[6] A class action lawsuit against the government ensued.[7] Judges have sometimes frowned upon arrests in which no distinction was made between participants and non-participants in illegal activity.[8] Pre-emptive mass arrests have also sometimes been criticized.[9] In December 1964, the University of California, Berkeley was disrupted by a mass student sit-in in the administration building and by mass arrests of 700 students.[10]

The Japan Farmers' Union and other Japanese labor-farmer groups were hit by mass arrests in the 1920s. On April 16, 1929, several thousand members of the farmers' movement were arrested.[11] Following World War II, mass arrests (over 120,000) of actual and suspected Quislings occurred in the Netherlands.[12] Totalitarian regimes have sometimes conducted mass arrests as a prelude to a purge of perceived political enemies, sometimes through executions.

Former American President Jimmy Carter said in regards to the racial conflicts of the time, "I would be opposed to mass arrest, and I would be opposed to preventive detention. But I think that the abuses in the past have in many cases exasperated the disharmonies that brought about demonstrations, and I think that arrest or large numbers of people without warrants ... is a contrary to our best systems of justice."[13]


  1. Lee, Trymaine (June 24, 2007), Mass Arrest of Brooklyn Youths Spotlights Tactics, New York Times, 
  2. Fenton, Justin (June 23, 2010), City poised to approve 'mass arrest' settlement with NAACP, ACLU, The Baltimore Sun,,0,1815500.story 
  3. Richard L. Holcomb (Dec., 1964), The Police Role in Racial Conflicts by Juby E. Towler, 55, The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, pp. 540, 
  4. Rachel Coen (November/December 2002), Another Day, Another Mass Arrest, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, 
  5. Activists Decry Police Intimidation in Anti-Globalization Protests, Agence France Presse, October 1, 2002, 
  6. Final Report Relative to Complaints of Alleged Misconduct Made at the October 24, 2002, Hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary of the Council of the District of Columbia Concerning the IMF/World Bank Protest, 
  8. Rice, Harvey (July 29, 2005), Judge rips Kmart raid's mass arrests, Houston Chronicle, 
  9. Leading article: Mass arrests have no place in a democratic country, The Independent, 14 April 2009, 
  10. Nathan Glazer (Mar. 25, 1967), 2, Economic and Political Weekly, pp. 601-605, 
  11. Seiyei Wakukawa (Feb. 13, 1946), Japanese Tenant Movements, 15, Far Eastern Survey, pp. 40-44, 
  12. Amry Vandenbosch (Nov., 1952), The Purge of Dutch Quislings; Emergency Justice in the Netherlands. by Henry L. Mason, 14, The Journal of Politics, pp. 751-752, 
  13. Jet magazine, Mar 24, 1977

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