Last week, the overall number of demonstrations in the United States decreased by more than half compared to the previous week — during the general election — when more than 550 demonstration events were reported. Demonstrations last week were largely motivated by the election results and were held either for or against current President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden. As President Trump continued to voice grievances on Twitter and call on his supporters to take action to ‘Stop the Steal,’ pro-Trump demonstrators increased their activity relative to supporters of President-elect Biden (VOA, 13 November 2020). On 14 November, thousands of Trump supporters gathered in Washington, DC for a ‘Make America Great Again’ rally, where they clashed with counter-demonstrators (Washington Post, 14 November 2020). As new coronavirus cases skyrocketed last week in the US, demonstrations related to the pandemic increased by 72% compared to the week prior. Meanwhile, demonstrations associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement accounted for 17% of all demonstrations last week, a decrease of more than half compared to the previous week. Militia groups continue to be active around the country: while levels of militia activity decreased slightly compared to the week of the election, they remained higher than levels recorded in recent months leading up to the vote.
As President Trump continues to claim electoral victory, demonstrations last week focused largely on the vote and the candidates. Approximately 45% of all demonstrations were held either for or against President Trump and President-elect Biden. Of pro-Trump demonstrations, nearly 90% were ‘Stop the Steal’ rallies. These rallies, which support President Trump’s unfounded allegations of mass election fraud, accounted for nearly two and a half times more events than the number of pro-Biden and anti-Trump demonstrations (Time, 13 November 2020). Contradicting the president’s claims, US election officials issued a joint statement on 12 November announcing that the 2020 presidential election “was the most secure in American history” and that there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised” (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, 12 November 2020). President Trump has since fired the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, one of the primary contributors to that joint statement (NBC News, 17 November 2020).
The most high-profile pro-Trump demonstrations were the ‘Million MAGA Marches’ that took place across the country last Saturday — precisely one week after most major news organizations called the election for Biden. Large cities and state capitals — such as San Diego, Phoenix, Richmond, Orlando, Columbus, and Lansing — hosted sizable marches ranging from hundreds to thousands of people, while small and mid-size cities hosted smaller marches.
In Washington, DC, various far-right militias and white nationalist groups participated in the ‘Million MAGA March’ demonstrations, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Bois, and III%ers, as well as supporters of QAnon conspiracy theories. Members of Refuse Fascism and Antifa counter-demonstrated (BBC, 15 November 2020). Prior to the beginning of the march, physical altercations were reported between pro-Trump supporters and counter-demonstrators. During the day, the march itself remained largely peaceful despite several tense standoffs. Reports indicate that at some point in the day a specific subset of Proud Boys repeatedly punched a media photographer (FranceNews24, 15 November 2020; Bellingcat, 18 November 2020). Following the initial march, participants including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and III%ers, began rioting and fighting with counter-demonstrators. The two opposing groups engaged in fist fights, with some people using clubs, projectiles, and chemical irritants. Multiple stabbings were reported, including that of an independent journalist (VICE, 14 November 2020). At least one person was stabbed during a fight with Proud Boys, while four police officers were injured (WUSA9, 14 November 2020). Police personnel attempted to disperse demonstrators with pepper spray, arresting at least 21 people (Washington Post, 16 November 2020).
Demonstrations associated with the BLM movement maintained a wide geographic presence last week, with events recorded in 18 states as well as in Washington, DC. Less than 10% of these demonstrations were associated with rallies in support of President-elect Biden, indicating that the movement remains primarily focused on policing and local issues. For example, demonstrations were held last week in Georgia seeking justice for Vincent Truitt, a Black 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in July (11 Alive, 14 November 2020). The demonstrations also called for no bond to be posted ahead of the bond hearing for three men charged with killing Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man shot dead while he was jogging in February (WJXT, 11 November 2020).
As the number of new coronavirus cases in the US soared last week, there was an upsurge in pandemic-related demonstrations. As many school districts consider resuming in-person classes, teachers and students staged demonstrations against school reopening plans, including in Oklahoma, California, and Tennessee. In contrast, people demanding in-person classes and outdoor sports also held demonstrations in several states, including in Hawaii and Kansas. Workers, including nurses and healthcare professionals, also held demonstrations calling on the government to provide appropriate safety measures.
Militias and right-wing groups remain active throughout the US. The American Contingency group conducted several training exercises covering marksmanship, carbine and handgun training, and survival training in South Carolina, Arizona, and Texas, often to sold-out audiences. 14First, a white nationalist and neo-Nazi organization, distributed leaflets with swastikas and anti-Black propaganda in San Antonio, Texas. The Proud Boys provided armed security to ‘Stop the Steal’ protests in California, and were active at demonstrations in Florida, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, and Washington, DC. Likewise, members of the Oath Keepers were present at the ‘Million MAGA March’ in Washington, DC, as well as in Virginia on their way to the rally. III%ers also participated in the ‘Million MAGA March’ in Washington, DC, while associated groups, like the III% Security Force, engaged in ‘Stop the Steal’ demonstrations in Georgia. Other organizations, including the Boogaloo Bois, the Michigan Liberty Militia, the Virginia Militia, and multiple unnamed groups, also engaged in demonstrations. Though violent incidents have remained sporadic, continued training programs and other militia activities indicate that the threat of post-election violence persists in large parts of the country, particularly as President Trump and his allies continue to dispute the results (for more on right-wing militias and armed groups in the US, including the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and the III%ers, see this recent joint report by ACLED and MilitiaWatch).
Finally, a number of cases of property destruction targeting specific ethnic, religious, and political groups were recorded over the past week. In Alabama, unidentified assailants perpetrated an arson attack against a business owned by the leader of the local BLM chapter (WBRC, 12 November 2020), though there were no reports of anyone hurt in the incident. In Texas, the mailbox of a pro-Biden couple was spray-painted with swastikas weeks after all of their Biden-Harris signs were destroyed (KLTV, 16 November 2020). Likewise, a swastika painted on a newspaper was left outside the office of a left-leaning news outlet in Kentucky. Furthermore, the Jewish Center at the University of Kentucky was vandalized after the Rabbi claimed to have received death threats. Earlier this week, the FBI reported that hate crimes in the US rose to their highest levels in over a decade last year (AP, 16 November 2020).
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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