Last week in the United States, demonstrations decreased by half compared to the week prior. Demonstrations have declined overall in the weeks since the election. With President Donald Trump officially authorizing the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden as legal efforts to overturn the election results repeatedly failed in court (Reuters, 23 November 2020; New York Times, 25 November 2020), the total number of election-related demonstrations significantly decreased. Demonstrations for and against President Trump and President-elect Biden fell from a recent high of over 300 during the week of the election to less than a tenth of that number over the past week. Protests related to the pandemic now account for the majority of demonstrations around the country, though coronavirus-related events remain below levels seen earlier in the year (for more on pandemic-related demonstrations in the US, see this recent spotlight report from ACLED’s COVID-19 Disorder Tracker). Protests associated with movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and ‘Stop the Steal’ continued throughout the week, albeit at diminished levels.
Just over half of all demonstrations reported in the US last week were related to the coronavirus pandemic. While COVID-19 cases continued to rapidly increase — with an average of over 100,000 new cases and over 1,500 deaths reported daily (Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, 2 December 2020) — more than half of these pandemic-related demonstrations were against government regulations designed to curb the spread of the virus. Most of these demonstrations focused on reversing restrictions for businesses deemed non-essential, such as restaurants, bars, and gyms. Notably, historically liberal states — such as California, New York, and Washington — have seen the greatest number of demonstrations against government public health restrictions. Some demonstrations also called for schools to hold in-person classes after the Thanksgiving break. Conversely, demonstrations supporting government measures to curb the coronavirus — i.e. those for maintaining, increasing, or altering, but not removing, such measures — were also reported. In Pennsylvania and Nebraska, demonstrators advocated for the release of non-violent and aging prisoners at risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Demonstrations in several states — including in New York, New Hampshire, and Delaware — focused on economic relief and increased protective measures for workers. Demonstrations in support of government measures accounted for 40% of all coronavirus-related demonstration events.
Last week, the majority of election-related demonstrations consisted of pro-Trump ‘Stop the Steal’ marches, including in the battleground states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin (CNBC, 25 November 2020). The movement seems to have lost momentum, however, as just over a dozen demonstration events were recorded. This represents a significant decrease from the week immediately following the election, in which nearly 100 ‘Stop the Steal’ demonstrations were held around the country. Among the continuing pro-Trump demonstrations, militia groups like the Proud Boys and III%ers are increasingly visible (Forward, 1 December 2020). For example, the III%ers participated in a ‘Stop the Steal’ rally in Georgia, while the Proud Boys organized similar rallies in Illinois, California, and Oregon. ACLED data indicate that militia groups were present in more than a quarter of all reported ‘Stop the Steal’ demonstrations last week.
Almost two dozen demonstrations associated with the BLM movement were recorded during the week. This represents a significant decrease in overall numbers, but a consistent percentage of total demonstrations in the US relative to recent weeks. The most prominent demonstrations associated with the movement were protests in Los Angeles, California held over multiple days against the announcement that Mayor Eric Garcetti was being considered for a cabinet position in President-elect Biden’s transition team (Los Angeles Times, 30 November 2020). Protesters took to the streets in front of Garcetti’s house, calling him “the worst mayor in the nation,” citing his poor record of handling Los Angeles’ homelessness issue (Los Angeles Daily News, 29 November 2020). Meanwhile, Garcetti has claimed to have no interest in such a position (NBC Los Angeles, 29 November 2020).
Other protests associated with BLM across the country were predominantly focused on local issues. For instance, in Omaha, Nebraska, protesters continued a series of multi-day demonstrations focused on the death of Kenneth Jones, a Black man, shot by two Omaha police officers during a traffic stop the week prior (Daily Record, 27 November 2020). Likewise, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, protesters called for justice in the case of Stavian Rodriguez, a 15-year-old Latino teen killed by police after a failed armed robbery. Video of the incident appears to show Rodriguez with his hands up and his weapon on the ground when several shots were fired at him (KOCO, 25 November 2020). In Louisiana, groups gathered in Baldwin and Baton Rouge to continue their calls for justice in the case of Quawan Charles, a 15-year-old Black teen, who was found dead in a sugarcane field on 3 November four days after going missing (KTBS, 29 November 2020). While multiple autopsy reports have indicated that Charles drowned and that there was no sign of trauma, his family believes Charles’ death could have been racially motivated and that local police did not do enough to find him immediately after he was reported missing (WTVD-TV, 21 November 2020; Cut, 24 November 2020). In Albuquerque, New Mexico, protesters called for a thorough investigation into the case of Rodney Applewhite, an unarmed Black man killed by police during a traffic stop while driving through rural New Mexico to his mother’s house in Arizona for Thanksgiving. Police allege that Applewhite attempted to reach for the gun of an officer, though no further details have been provided (Santa Fe New Mexican, 30 November 2020).
In Kansas City, Missouri, 12 windows of a Presbyterian Church were destroyed by unknown individuals after the church reinstalled a BLM banner. Unknown individuals had also destroyed a BLM banner earlier that month (KCTV5, 26 November 2020). In Louisville, Kentucky, a local leader of the BLM movement was killed during a suspected car-jacking attempt. Police have not provided details about the case publicly and no suspects have been identified (USA Today, 23 November 2020).
Militia activity continued throughout the week in multiple states. The American Contingency conducted training sessions in Arizona, California, and Texas, and the 19th Tennessee Infantry militia conducted a recruitment drive in Knoxville, Tennessee. Other armed militia groups — such as the New York Watchmen, Patriot Prayer, Proud Boys, and III%ers — were present at various demonstrations across the country.
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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