Last week, demonstration events increased for the second straight week in the United States, rising by about a fifth relative to the week prior. Following mass shootings on 16 March in the metropolitan Atlanta, Georgia area that targeted Asian women working in spas (New York Times, 17 March 2021), demonstrations against surging anti-Asian hate crimes were held across the country. Meanwhile, demonstrations related to the COVID-19 pandemic increased by about 40% last week. Additionally, demonstrations associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement remained relatively static in the lead up to the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing on 13 March 2020 (New York Times, 13 March 2021). Finally, militia activity slightly decreased last week following incremental increases in activity for the past several weeks.
Last week, demonstrations calling for an end to hate crimes against Asian Americans erupted in the wake of mass shootings by a lone gunman at spas staffed predominantly by Asian women in the Atlanta area (CNBC, 21 March 2021). On 16 March, the shooter opened fire at three spas, killing eight people in total, including six Asian women (Washington Post, 20 March 2021). Police initially announced that the locations were targeted after the perpetrator called them “a [sexual] temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate” (Washington Post, 17 March 2021). A report by Stop AAPI Hate documented nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in 2020 amid racially charged explanations for the coronavirus pandemic from government officials, including former President Donald Trump (New York Times, 17 March 2021). Approximately 80% of all demonstrations against hate crimes targeting Asian Americans last week were reported between 17 and 19 March, in the immediate aftermath of the Atlanta shootings. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden condemned the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (White House, 19 March 2021; CNN, 20 March 2021).
New COVID-19 cases continued to decrease — down by about 7% compared to early March (New York Times, 23 March 2021) — though at a slower rate than in January. Demonstrations related to the pandemic increased last week by about 41% compared to the week prior. As several state governments recently began lifting COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates (US News, 16 March 2021), anti-restriction demonstrations increased by about a quarter. These events were concentrated in states that have maintained pandemic-related restrictions. Demonstrations against mask mandates specifically were reported last week in multiple states, including: Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Washington, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. In Arizona and New York, demonstrators burned their masks in protest of the state restrictions, following mask burnings throughout Idaho earlier in the month (CBS 5, 19 March 2021; WSKG, 15 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).
Demonstrations associated with the BLM movement dropped as a proportion of all events last week, though remained static in total numbers. Last week’s demonstrations were largely driven by the one-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing by police on 13 March 2020, with approximately 80% of all BLM-linked demonstrations occurring on 13 March (USA Today, 13 March 2021). After the Atlanta mass shooting, demonstrators with BLM apparel and flags also participated in rallies in solidarity with Asian Americans and against systemic racism (NBC News, 18 March 2021; NBC San Diego, 19 March 2021).
Reported militia activity slightly decreased last week following incremental increases in recent weeks. Militia training events were reported in several states, including Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington. The American Contingency continued their firearm training events in Las Vegas, Nevada and Laurens, South Carolina, respectively, and held a concealed carry training course in Heber City, Utah. Additionally, the Mountain Man Militia held a training event at an unidentified location in Washington last week. Several groups participated in demonstration events, including the Proud Boys at a Recall Newsom demonstration in Los Angeles, California, which turned violent and resulted in three arrests (ABC7, 16 March 2021). California Governor Gavin Newsom later blamed QAnon and the Proud Boys for the recall effort while on the talk show The View (Newsweek, 16 March 2021).
*Please note that this week’s Regional Overview only covers the period of 13-19 March 2021. Events that take place after 19 March, including the mass shooting on 22 March in Boulder, Colorado, will be covered in next week’s Regional Overview for 20-26 March 2021.
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