Demonstration events in the United States increased by approximately a quarter last week relative to the week prior. The increase is largely attributable to a surge in demonstrations associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement around the beginning of the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd (CBS News, 10 March 2021). Nevertheless, demonstrations related to the COVID-19 pandemic continued to account for a plurality of events last week. Supporters of former President Donald Trump were less active than the week prior, with the number of pro-Trump demonstrations significantly below the number recorded immediately following the 2020 election. Additionally, a number of demonstration events were reported in support of women’s rights on International Women’s Day. Compared to previous years, however, fewer demonstrations were reported, as the pandemic forced many events to be held virtually (USA Today, 8 March 2021). Finally, militia activity continued to slowly increase following a lull in the aftermath of the Capitol riot.
Demonstrations associated with the BLM movement more than doubled last week compared to the week prior amid the start of the Chauvin trial. Chauvin faces murder charges after he kneeled on Floyd’s neck, resulting in his death, in May 2020. The killing ushered in a new wave of demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, which spiked last summer, and have continued well into 2021. The beginning of Chauvin’s trial was the subject of many BLM-linked demonstrations last week (New York Post, 9 March 2021). A third of these demonstrations took place on 8 March during a dispute over jury selection in the trial (New York Times, 7 March 2021).
New COVID-19 cases continue to decrease — down by about 16% compared to the beginning of March (New York Times, 16 March 2021) — though the rate of decline appears to be flattening compared to January and February 2021. Demonstrations related to the pandemic continued to account for the largest share of weekly demonstrations across the country last week, at about a quarter of all demonstrations. Demonstrations related to the pandemic have accounted for the largest share of protests every week dating back to the end of January 2021. Pandemic-related demonstrations included mask-burning rallies in several cities in Idaho on 6 March (Guardian, 6 March 2021). Other demonstrations against masks and mask mandates were reported in Texas and Florida. Additionally, in San Francisco, California, three women assaulted a Nepalese Uber driver after he refused to start the ride unless they wore masks (CNN, 12 March 2021). The attack comes amid a spike in violence targeting Asian communities across the country (NBC News, 16 March 2021). Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, has warned that loosening COVID-19 restrictions prematurely, including mask mandates, is “risky business” (New York Times, 14 March 2021). As of 9 March 2021, 17 states had lifted or never instituted state-wide mask mandates (Newsweek, 9 March 2021) (for more on the pandemic’s impact on protest trends, see ACLED’s new report: A National Emergency: How COVID-19 Is Fueling Unrest in the US).
Various militia activity events — including firearms training, recruitment, and patrolling — were reported at a slightly increased rate last week compared to the week prior. The People’s Rights group, an anti-government organization established by Ammon Bundy (SPCL, 25 September 2020), held several recruitment events in Utah. The Oath Keepers held a recruitment event in Cottonwood, Arizona, during which Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers publicly announced her membership and endorsement of the group (Twitter, 6 March 2021). Ten members of the Oath Keepers are currently under indictment for actions at the Capitol on 6 January, with “potentially up to five, or six, or even a few more” Oath Keepers likely to face charges (CBS News, 16 March 2021). Meanwhile, the American Contingency continued their firearm training events in Salem, Connecticut. Additionally, the Mountain Man Militia and the III% Security Force held a training event in Oregon and Georgia, respectively. The Arizona Desert Guardians patrolled along the US-Mexico border near Marana in search of illegal immigrants attempting to cross the border. This comes amid continued criticism from former President Trump of the Biden administration’s handling of border protection (The Hill, 16 March 2021). Militia activity has continued an upward trend recorded in recent weeks after a sustained lull in activity immediately following the Capitol riot.
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