In Trump's America, Who's Protesting and Why? Here's Our March Report
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.
Since tallying attendance at the Women’s Marches on Jan. 21, we have continued counting the size of political crowds. This is the third installment in a monthly Monkey Cage 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. (See here for February’s report. For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series.)
For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.
Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that occurred. This is particularly true of the “A Day Without a Woman” strikes on March 8. It’s virtually impossible to record an accurate tally of participants for strikes, in part because many people deliberately conceal their motivations for skipping out on work or school when they participate.
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 note that March 2017 saw fewer people protesting than February 2017, during which we observed 233,021 to 373,089 people participating in crowds.
Who demonstrated against and for what in March?
1) The opposition to President Trump
Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests. We estimate that 67 percent of the crowds we recorded were opposing Trump’s policies. Some of the main protests included:
- At least 77 demonstrations against the GOP health-care bill and in favor of retaining the Affordable Care Act. When Vice President Pence left his meeting with local leaders in Jeffersontown, Ky., he may not have seen the 600 protesters. As his motorcade departed, passing a quarter-mile of protesters lining the road, “two Jeffersontown firetrucks drove along, blocking the view of the vice president’s limousine.”
- Dozens of rallies and strikes on March 8 associated with “A Day Without a Woman,” accounting for just over 10 percent of the protests on our list, in places such as Anchorage; Cleveland; Lawrence, Kan., and Naples, Fla.
- A similar number of protests related to immigration, travel bans, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, detentions and the sanctuary movement.
2) The support for Trump
About 15 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies. This is a small increase from February, where about 12 percent of the crowds represented pro-Trump claims. Many took place during the March 4 Trump rallies held nationwide. For instance, hundreds gathered at Stumptown Park in Matthews, N.C.; Lake Oswego, Ore., and Des Moines.
March 25 saw a number of “Make America Great Again” marches, ranging from small rallies in Boston and Oklahoma City to thousands who came together in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Seaside Heights, N.J.
Overall, rallies for the president are less focused on one issue than anti-Trump demonstrations and focus instead on supporting the Trump administration as a whole.
Finally, February’s trend of corresponding protests and counterprotests continued into March. This was particularly true for the March 4 Trump rallies, which typically faced counterprotests along with the pro-Trump crowds.
3) Neither for nor against Trump
The greatest change came in the final 18 percent of the crowds that 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. That’s a big uptick from only 3 percent of crowds in February 2017.
For instance, in March, we saw about 500 people oppose the parking system at Reston Town Center; dueling protests at the University of Florida over whether the student body president should resign; and the 58th Annual Tibetan National Uprising Day in places like Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
Where did people protest?
The most common locations for protests were parks and plazas; state capitols or statehouses; and on college campuses. Other popular locations included district offices of members of Congress, city or town halls, schools and school district offices, and courthouses. Some places lost prominence this month compared with January or February, with only five protests at airports and about 10 at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Cape and Islands Stronger Together utilized a common feature of Massachusetts driving — rotaries — as a gathering place for demonstrations on the “Day Without a Woman” strike. Tens of protesters held signs at rotaries in Hyannis, Mashpee and Orleans.
What symbols appeared in the protests?
Pink hats continue to appear at anti-Trump rallies, as do red baseball caps at pro-Trump rallies. And the Antifa (antifascist) protesters who confront Trump supporters typically wear all black.
How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?
At more than 550 events (94 percent), no arrests were made. Moreover, March saw a lower number of arrests than February. The numbers dropped from 314 arrests in February to 201 in March, with about 120 of those arrests coming in a few cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. For instance, 12 people challenging the cleanup process at two Missouri landfills were arrested trying to block access.
However, the number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to property destruction or violence increased slightly from February, with one or more such arrests at 17 events — close to 3 percent of all events — in March. Several of these incidents occurred in cases where protesters and counterprotesters clashed, causing some injuries.
But not all standoffs between competing groups escalated in this way. The Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR) planned a “Trump is Your President” demonstration outside the Islamic Association of North Texas on Abrams Road in Richardson on March 18. Members of the mosque and its supporters were ready for a counterprotest when a third group, the Dallas Workers Front, showed up armed “with pipes or guns” and dressed in black. Members of the mosque asked the Dallas Workers Front to allow BAIR to continue their protest peacefully. In the end, the BAIR members and mosque members left the site to the Dallas Workers Front and met up at a Halal Guys restaurant to eat and talk.