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Traditionally, an agent provocateur (plural: agents provocateurs, French for "inciting agent(s)") is a person employed by the police or other entity to act undercover to entice or provoke another person to commit an illegal act. More generally, the term may refer to a person or group that seeks to discredit or harm another by provoking them to commit a wrong or rash action.
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 disdainâ€”or provide a pretext for aggression against the opponent (see Red-baiting).
Historically, labor spies, hired to infiltrate, monitor, disrupt, or subvert union activities, have used agent provocateur tactics.
In the United States, the COINTELPRO program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had FBI agents pose as political radicals to disrupt the activities of radical political groups in the U.S., such as the Black Panthers, Ku Klux Klan, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
New York City police officers were accused of acting as agents provocateurs during protests against the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.
Denver police officers were also found to have used undercover detectives to instigate violence against police during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. This ultimately resulted in the accidental use of chemical agents against their own men.
At the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa, police and security services infiltrated black blocs with agents provocateurs. Allegations first surfaced after video footage in which "men in black were seen getting out of police vans near protest marches" 
He should do what I did when I was Minister of the Interior. [...] infiltrate the movement with agents provocateurs inclined to do anything [...] And after that, with the strength of the gained population consent, [...] beat them for blood and beat for blood also those teachers that incite them. Especially the teachers. Not the elderly, of course, but the girl teachers yes.
On August 20, 2007, three protesters in Montebello, Canada during meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America were accused of being police provocateurs by Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. The three masked protesters, one of whom was armed with a large rock, were asked to leave by protest organizers. After the three protesters breached the police line, they were brought to the ground, handcuffed, and taken away. The only evidence that the arrested men were police provocateurs was that the arrested men were wearing similiar shoes to the police.
Although after the protest, the police force admitted that three of their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators, they denied provoking the crowd and instigate violence. The police released a news release in french where they stated "At no time did the police of the SĂ»retĂ© du QuĂ©bec act as instigators or commit criminal acts," "It is not in the police force's policies, nor in its strategies, to act in that manner." "At all times, they responded within their mandate to keep order and security." 
Another common tactic is to infiltrate legitimate demonstrations in the attempt to stir widespread violence and rioting, seen most recently in a spring anti-Iraq war gathering in Vancouver, Canada. This has become so commonplace that sources within activist organizations have told STRATFOR they police their own demonstrations to prevent infiltration by fringe groups.
"Maroni dovrebbe fare quel che feci io quand'ero ministro dell'Interno. In primo luogo, lasciare perdere gli studenti dei licei, perchĂ© pensi a cosa succederebbe se un ragazzino di dodici anni rimanesse ucciso o gravemente ferito. Gli universitari invece lasciarli fare. Ritirare le forze di polizia dalle strade e dalle universitĂ , infiltrare il movimento con agenti provocatori pronti a tutto, e lasciare che per una decina di giorni i manifestanti devastino i negozi, diano fuoco alle macchine e mettano a ferro e fuoco le cittĂ . Dopo di che, forti del consenso popolare, il suono delle sirene delle ambulanze dovrĂ sovrastare quello delle auto di polizia e carabinieri. Nel senso che le forze dell'ordine dovrebbero massacrare i manifestanti senza pietĂ e mandarli tutti in ospedale. Non arrestarli, che tanto poi i magistrati li rimetterebbero subito in libertĂ , ma picchiarli a sangue e picchiare a sangue anche quei docenti che li fomentano. Soprattutto i docenti. Non quelli anziani, certo, ma le maestre ragazzine sĂ¬."
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