Last week in the United States, the overall number of demonstrations decreased compared to the week prior. Demonstrations associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement decreased nationwide. However, in New York, demonstrations increased following the release of body-camera footage depicting the detention of Daniel Prude, a Black man, by officers of the Rochester Police Department last March, which ultimately resulted in his death (Washington Post, 4 September 2020). Demonstrations also continued in California after Dijon Kizzee, a Black man, was fatally shot in the back by sheriff’s deputies while they attempted to stop him for a traffic violation (Washington Post, 4 September). Confrontations between pro-Trump and BLM supporters were reported in multiple states, including Texas and California. Militias continued to be present at demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, although their presence did not escalate into any violent confrontations last week. Meanwhile, pro-Trump demonstrations increased slightly compared to the week prior, while several coronavirus-related demonstrations were reported around the country, including in Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida.
Nearly half of all demonstrations last week were associated with the BLM movement. Demonstrations in New York spiked following the release of body-camera footage from March 2020 showing Rochester police officers putting a “spit-hood” over Daniel Prude’s head, restraining him and pinning him to the ground, while trying to take him into protective custody following a mental health call by Prude’s brother (Washington Post, 4 September 2020). Prude stopped breathing and was unresponsive when taken to a hospital. He died a week later. A medical examiner concluded Prude’s death was caused by “complications of asphyxia in the setting of physical restraint” (Democrat and Chronicle, 2 September 2020). Rochester’s mayor suspended seven police officers with pay, pending the completion of an investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, the head of the officers’ union stated that the police were following their training when putting the hood over Prude’s head (CBS News, 4 September 2020). Following release of the footage, demonstrations surged in New York, and daily demonstrations were reported in Rochester. Rochester police resorted to tear gas and firing pepper pellets while some demonstrators hurled rocks at the officers. On 4 September, after demonstrators surrounded a car at an intersection, the person driving the car sprayed a yellow substance at the crowd and drove into one of the demonstrators. Demonstrations in New York City also turned violent when demonstrators smashed windows and vandalized storefronts. In another demonstration, hundreds of protesters associated with the BLM movement gathered in New York City’s Times Square to protest Prude’s death. A car accelerated into the crowd of protesters, hitting people on bicycles and on foot, though there were no reports of serious injuries (CBS News, 4 September 2020).
In California, demonstrations were reported after sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Dijon Kizzee, a Black man. The deputies attempted to stop Kizzee, who was riding a bicycle, over an unspecified traffic violation. Videos of the incident showed Kizzee running away from the deputies. When the deputies caught up with Kizzee, they allege that Kizzee punched one of them in the face, causing Kizzee to drop the items in his hand that allegedly contained a handgun (Washington Post, 4 September). Eyewitnesses account that Kizzee was unarmed, and at least one witness claimed that Kizzee raised his hands in the air (Vice News, 2 September 2020). According to a security video, Kizzee appears to turn away from the officers as they opened fire on him, with the deputies allegedly continuing to shoot him once he was on the ground (Vice News, 2 September 2020). The family attorney claims that Kizzee was shot 15 times in the back (Washington Post, 4 September).
In Tallahassee, Florida, 15 protesters were arrested, and three were treated for injuries, after police intervened during a march to the capitol building. The march was held after a Leon County Grand Jury’s decision around three officer-involved shootings, resulting in the deaths of Tony McDade, Mychael Johnson, and Wilbon Woodard. The Grand Jury determined that the use of force by the police officers had been justified in all three incidents (WTXL, 4 September 2020).
While demonstrations associated with the BLM movement in other parts of the country remained largely peaceful, violent demonstrations were recorded in several states, including in Oregon. In Portland, demonstrators threw water bottles and rocks at police officers and police vehicles while police used smoke devices and stun grenades. Demonstrators set off fireworks, set fire to park benches and dumpsters, and threw a bundle of burning newspapers into a storefront on the ground floor of a residential building (Oregonian, 4 September 2020). Demonstrators reportedly clashed with police, leading to 19 arrests. The demonstration came as progressive organizations from across Portland called for the resignation of Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell over the lack of police intervention during a demonstration on 29 August. During that demonstration, a car caravan in support of President Donald Trump had taken place, before a shooting that led to the death of Aaron Danielson, a member of the right-wing group Patriot Prayer. Police intervention in the demonstration had been limited, in contrast to continuous police engagement in recent weeks in response to pro-BLM and anti-police protests (Oregonian, 30 August 2020). On 3 September, police shot and killed Michael Reinoehl, the suspect wanted for killing Danielson. Authorities initially claimed that Reinoehl was armed, but a new witness statement alleges that he “wasn’t obviously armed” and was shot without warning (Washington Post, 10 September 2020).
Confrontations between pro-Trump and BLM supporters were reported last week in several states. In Texas and California, confrontations led to violence. In San Francisco, California, pro-Trump supporters held a “Walk Away” march to invite Democrats to join the Republican Party. Counter-demonstrators held a demonstration in support of the BLM movement, and engaged in physical clashes with the pro-Trump demonstrators. Similarly, in a “Walk Away” rally held by pro-Trump supporters in Dallas, Texas, physical altercations broke out between counter-demonstrators and members of the pro-Trump group.
Armed militias continued to be present at demonstrations associated with the BLM movement last week, although confrontations did not result in violence. In Louisville, Kentucky, armed contingents gathered and marched from two locations in the city on Kentucky Derby day on 5 September. One of the gatherings was led by the Not Fucking Around Coalition (NFAC), an all-Black armed movement, in support of the BLM movement (Courier Journal, 4 September 2020). The other gathering featured an amalgamation of several right-wing militia groups led by Dylan “Angry Viking” Stevens, including the National Patriotic Defense Team and several members of the Three Percenter movements, in support of law enforcement. Heated exchanges occurred when several right-wing militia groups confronted a small number of counter-demonstrators associated with the BLM movement in front of Louisville’s Metro Hall. Police personnel eventually separated the groups. Elsewhere in the US, members of right-wing and conservative groups — including the Louisiana Cajun Militia, the Southern Defense Force, and Three Percenter movements — showed up at protests associated with the BLM movement calling for the removal of Confederate monuments (Sun Herald, 3 September 2020). In Utah, the Black Fist Coalition and Insurgence USA showed up to protest in support of demonstrators associated with the BLM movement.
Meanwhile, pro-Trump demonstrations increased slightly last week, compared to the week prior. Multiple flotilla rallies and boat parades were held in Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Louisiana. In Austin, Texas, five boats participating in one of the rallies sank on Lake Travis due to choppy water conditions stemming from the wake of numerous other boats also in the water (Austin American-Statesman, 4 September).
Finally, several coronavirus-related demonstrations took place in Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida. Flight attendants in Atlanta, Georgia gathered for a protest to push for an extension of payroll support. The payroll support is part of federal aid agreed to in April to help pay airline workers through September (11 Alive, 14 April 2020). Atlanta is home to the world’s busiest airport (Simple Flying, 20 April 2020). Meanwhile, renters protested outside of two senators’ offices in Little Rock, Arkansas to call for the passage of legislation for rental assistance and unemployment support during the pandemic (KARK, 3 September 2020). Healthcare workers across Florida protested dangerous working conditions amid the pandemic, specifically following the lifting of restrictions on nursing home visitations this past week, with many calling for more personal protective equipment (PPE), higher wages, and hazard pay (News 6, 2 September 2020). Despite the ongoing pandemic and reports of mass outbreaks in schools (Washington Post, 9 September 2020), protests demanding in-person education and the resumption of high-school athletics were held in several states, including in Washington, Idaho, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and New York.
Data on political violence and demonstrations in America are made available through the US Crisis Monitor, a special project launched by ACLED and the Bridging Divides Initiative at Princeton University. For more information about the project, click here.
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