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August
2017
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Here's Who Rallied in July and Why

Summary

Erica Chenoweth is a professor and associate dean for research in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She has taught at the University of Denver since 2012. Chenoweth's areas of research includes political violence, terrorism, counterterrorism and homeland security, repression, civil resistance, nonviolent action, protest, and international security.

This is the seventh installment in a monthly series reporting on political crowds in the United States. Each month the Crowd Counting Consortium will post updates about trends and patterns from the previous month as recorded by our volunteers. (For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series.)

For July, we tallied 744 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in each state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 85,837 and 108,344 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more participants. Because mainstream media often neglects to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that took place. Sometimes no one reports the size of the crowd, which adds to the undercounting of participants.

Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month. In this case, we estimate that July saw a major decrease in people protesting compared with June, during which we observed 954,298 to 1,173,771 people participating in crowds.

1. Opposition to President Trump

Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests. We estimate that just over 73 percent of the events we recorded were opposing President Trump’s policies, a higher percentage of events than in June. About 59 percent overall were explicitly anti-Trump while another 14 percent overall took stances on issues that contradict the president. Some of the main protests included:

  • About 200 events on health care supporting the Affordable Care Act or opposing ACA repeal and other GOP proposals. Many events were held on July 5 such as in Reno, Nev., and Wyoming, Mich., but health-care gatherings occurred throughout the month. On July 15, people in Klamath Falls, Ore., rallied and marched against the GOP health plan. On July 18, opponents of repealing the ACA held a “die-in” in front of the office of Sen. Steve Daines in Missoula, Mont.; another die-in took place in Springfield, Ill. On July 24, people marched for Medicare in places like Corpus Christi, Tex., and Fort Wayne, Ind. AARP Alaska led a protest outside district offices of senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan in Wasilla.
  • Demonstrations opposing federal budget cuts in other areas, such as protests against cutting programs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • At least 55 rallies for Trump’s impeachment, many of which took place on July 2 in Davenport, Iowa; Langley, Wash.; San Diego; and other places.
  • There were 39 pro-immigrant and/or anti-ICE demonstrations. Dozens came together in Albuquerque to support DACA. Sometimes immigration protests focused on imminent deportations of specific people, as on July 10 when 30 people gathered outside the Whipple Federal Building in St. Paul, Minn., to oppose the deportation of Ariel Vences-Lopez, or on July 18 when hundreds did the same for Lourdes Salazar Bautista in Ann Arbor, Mich. In North Charleston, S.C., protesters demanded an end to local law enforcement cooperation with ICE. Los Angeles, too, had an anti-ICE protest.
  • People pushed back against hate, including nonviolent actions by community members who protested the vandalism of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and racist fliers in Idaho Falls. Khizr Khan spoke at a “Call for Unity” rally in Towson, Md.

As with the response to the first travel bans, protesters reacted quickly. When Trump tweeted that transgender personnel were not welcome in the U.S. military, protests quickly popped up in places like Cincinnati, New York City, and Portland, Ore.

2. Support for Trump

Almost 7 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies. As a share of events, this month’s total is about the same as June. However, Trump’s appearance at Beckley, W.Va., in front of the Boy Scouts accounts for a large chunk of July’s overall participants, with 30,000 to 40,000 at the event. Another 6,800 supporters filled the Covelli Center to capacity in Youngstown, Ohio, for another Trump rally.

The event in Beckley is challenging to categorize since the National Jamboree is a non-partisan event. The Boy Scout Jamboree was not organized to support the president and his policies, and we imagine most attendees did not anticipate the direction the event actually took. Because the president largely used the event as a political rally, we count the event as a pro-Trump event.

The Boy Scouts, in a recent statement reported by the Hill, said the organization is “wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy. The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies.”

The months-long trend of corresponding protests and counterprotests continued through July. On July 8, setting the stage for the dramatic events in August, 30 to 60 Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan showed up in Charlottesville to support the statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee; they were met by 1,000 counterprotesters, and 23 people were arrested. Statues are serving as flash points elsewhere as well, as with dueling protests in Hattiesburg, Miss., on July 16.

3. Neither for nor against Trump

The final 20 percent of the crowds were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump. We found a broad range of such topics, consistent with the trends from previous months, including demands for retaining several pedestrian signals in Omaha.

Notably, we saw recurring protests about animal rights. Sometimes demonstrators denounced the use of animals for entertainment, as with horse racing in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the circus in Norfolk, Va. In other cases, the protests were against the eating of animals, such as at a food processing plant in Augusta, Ga.; at a new restaurant serving chicken in Largo, Fla.; and at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island

How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?

At about 705 events (94.8 percent), no arrests were made. In terms of people arrested, the numbers climbed significantly from 221 arrests in June to 585 in July, with at least 514 (88 percent) of those July arrests coming in 25 cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. The arrests were driven by the health-care debate, with many arrests taking place during civil disobedience on Capitol Hill and near senators’ district offices. The largest day of arrests was 155, when hundreds of activists staged sit-ins and nonviolent occupations in Senate office buildings on July 19.

The number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to violence or property destruction was minimal. There were only nine such reported incidents and 23 arrests in July — 1.2 percent of all events.

Once again, the most striking and consistent aspect of protest in the United States is a fact often disregarded or misrepresented by politicians and news media alike: For each month this year, 97 to 99 percent of contentious crowds have been purely nonviolent affairs. July was no exception.

You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for August soon. In the meantime, we are still counting. Click here to be counted, and click here to volunteer to help us count.

For this project, Chenoweth collaborated with Jeremy Pressman, associate professor of political science and director of Middle East studies at the University of Connecticut; Emily Kalah Gade, research scientist and a Moore/Sloan & WRF Innovation in Data Science postdoctoral fellow at the eScience Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle.

This article first published in The Washington Post on August 21, 2017.

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