Demonstrations in the United States more than doubled last week compared to the week prior. The annual Women’s March drove the spike in demonstration activity as thousands of demonstrators rallied in hundreds of locations across the country on 2 October (CBS News, 4 October 2021). Access to legal abortions was a central demand of this year’s Women’s March — demonstrations in favor of access to abortion made up more than half of all demonstration events last week. Meanwhile, demonstrations related to the COVID-19 pandemic noticeably declined last week. However, coronavirus-related demonstration events accounted for the second-largest share of all demonstrations. Conversely, demonstration events involving labor groups demanding improved benefits and higher wages increased last week, accounting for the third-largest share of demonstrations. Finally, militia groups carried out multiple patrols along the border with Mexico and militant social groups participated in several demonstration events.
The fifth annual Women’s March, held nationwide on 2 October, focused on access to abortion in response to Texas Senate Bill 8. Demonstrations against government restrictions on abortion access accounted for over 50% of all demonstration events last week, marking the highest number of such demonstrations since the beginning of ACLED coverage in January 2020. Demonstrations in favor of abortion access occurred in all 50 states and Washington, DC, with the largest number of demonstration events reported in Florida. The demonstrations come as state legislators in Florida draft legislation based on the Texas heartbeat bill (Washington Post, 2 October 2021).
Some women’s marches were met with counter-demonstrators rallying against abortion, leading to the highest number of counter-demonstrations since the week of the United States Capitol riot in January 2021. Despite the counter-demonstrations, demonstration events supporting abortion access outnumbered demonstration events against abortion by a significant factor last week, with nearly 22 times as many. Armed demonstrators attended at least one counter-demonstration in favor of restricting access to abortion, which occurred in Allentown, Pennsylvania on 2 October. LGBT+ groups participated in several women’s marches, leading to the highest weekly number of demonstration events involving LGBT+ groups since the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in mid-July 2021.
Demonstrations against sexual violence also increased last week compared to preceding weeks, accounting for the fourth-largest share of demonstration events. University and college students rallied against alleged sexual violence at campus fraternities, which has been a growing driver of demonstration activity since the resumption of in-person classes this term.
Finally, reported militia activity declined last week, though militias continued to hold training and patrol events. The American Contingency group’s training activity decreased last week, with the group reportedly organizing only a single ‘defensive training’ event in Utah. By contrast, the group Veterans on Patrol reportedly continued to carry out patrols along the border with Mexico in Arizona, detaining several migrants for the second consecutive week, including a pregnant Honduran woman. Veterans on Patrol released the detained migrants into the custody of Border Patrol, adhering to an alleged relationship between the two groups (Southern Poverty Law Center, 29 July 2021).
Militant social movements also participated in demonstrations against pandemic-related restrictions and vaccine mandates last week. At the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on 2 October, Groyper Army affiliates demonstrated against vaccine and mask mandates alongside supporters of former President Donald Trump and QAnon adherents. In Springfield, Missouri, members of the Patriot Front called for an end to foreign wars by hosting a banner drop demonstration. Meanwhile, in Sarasota, Florida, members of the Proud Boys participated in a demonstration against mask mandates in schools, which was held outside a public school board commissioner’s home on 4 October (for more, see ACLED’s Actor Profile on the Proud Boys).
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