January's Women's March Brought Out More Than a Million People - and Many More Also Protested During the Month
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 13th 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. Find all the previous posts in the series here. For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series.
For January 2018, we tallied 1,040 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 2,441,891 and 3,384,073 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were 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 took place. For 21 percent of the events we listed this month, we lacked an estimate of the size of the crowd.
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. Driven by the Women’s March, protesters turned out en masse in January.
1. The Women’s March was much larger than expected
Protests associated with the Women’s March — often organized by local groups loosely affiliated with the Women’s March Inc., March On, Indivisible or others — made up the largest number of events and the most participants. As we noted elsewhere, in the United States, we estimated between 1.8 million and 2.6 million participants, marching in at least 407 locations. Few people — including the march organizers nationally and locally — seemed to have expected such participation. We’ll be writing a separate post on the political implications of this surprisingly persistent mass mobilization.
2. January saw several other mass marches and protests
In addition to the massive Women’s March, there were several other marches in January where even the lowest count suggested 10,000 or more participants. On Jan. 15, an estimated 300,000 people marched in San Antonio’s 50th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. march, with many participants demanding racial equality and decrying Trump administration policies. That same day in Sacramento, approximately 20,000 came out to march and sing for equality and freedom. On Jan. 20, multiple groups held a March for Democracy in Sarasota, Fla., with over 12,000 in attendance.
January is a major protest moment for the antiabortion movement. On Jan. 19, hundreds of thousands rallied at the annual March for Life in D.C., roughly coinciding with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wadedecision. On Jan. 20, an antiabortion march in Los Angeles drew about 35,000; one week later, tens of thousands more protested abortion in San Francisco. In total, we counted over 75 antiabortion rallies.
3. Protests for and against Trump
The share of protests against the Trump administration dropped slightly in December 2017. Whereas such events represented roughly 88.5 percent of crowds in December 2017, we estimate that 84.1 percent of the events we recorded in December were opposing President Trump’s policies. About 70.7 percent overall were explicitly anti-Trump while another 13.5 percent overall opposed the president’s position on various issues.
About 11.2 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly. As a share of events, January’s total increased from December, where only 3.6 percent of the events supported the president and his policies.
The final 4.7 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.
How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?
We counted only one reported injury in January. At about 1,028 events (98.8 percent), no arrests were made. This was a slightly higher percentage of arrest-free protests than in December. In terms of people arrested, the numbers decreased from 371 arrests in December to 165 in January, with at least 123 (about 75 percent) of those January arrests coming in five cases of nonviolent civil disobedience.
As in December, many of those arrests took place at a single protest at the U.S. Capitol. The 100 arrests at the Jan. 17 event included a number of rabbis and others calling for the passage of a clean DREAM act. The charge was for “demonstrating in a non-permitted area.”
January saw massive protest mobilization, following on the previous year’s patterns of persistent protest. In other words, the energy we observed at the first Women’s March back in January 2017 has not dissipated.