Last week, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the largest driver of demonstration activity in both the United States and Canada, amid a surge of demonstrations in solidarity with Ukraine. In the United States, the overall number of demonstration events significantly increased last week. In Canada, demonstration events in support of Ukraine almost doubled compared to the week prior. Meanwhile, in the United States, alongside Ukraine solidarity demonstrations, the rise in demonstrations more largely was driven by an increase in those supporting ‘Freedom Convoys’ that oppose COVID-19 government restrictions, including vaccine mandates. Concurrently, militia and militant social movement activity in the United States significantly decreased last week, following a spike in activity the week prior related to Goyim Defense League (GDL) flyer distributions and several far-right groups participating in ‘Freedom Convoys.’ In Canada, demonstration events remained stable compared to the week prior, though demonstration events against coronavirus restrictions, including ‘Freedom Convoys’ against vaccine requirements, significantly decreased, occurring four times less frequently than the week prior.
Demonstrations in solidarity with Ukraine were held across the United States and Canada last week. In the United States, nearly half of all demonstration events last week were in support of Ukraine following the Russian invasion on 24 February. Demonstration events in support of Ukraine last week were nearly three times more frequent than the week prior. Demonstrations supporting Ukraine were held in at least 43 states and Washington, DC, indicating significant geographical spread of support for Ukraine as compared to demonstration locations the week prior. No demonstrations in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have yet been reported, despite online far-right US-based chatter supporting President Putin and Russia (New York Times, 25 February 2022). In Canada, more than two-thirds of all demonstration events last week were held in support of Ukraine. These were held in all 10 provinces and one territory. Canada is home to the second largest Ukrainian diaspora community in the world, behind only Russia (Guardian, 3 March 2022).
In the United States, demonstration events against coronavirus restrictions, including vaccine mandates, nearly doubled last week compared to the week prior. Last week marked the highest number of demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions since the week of 28 August 2021, when Dr. Anthony Fauci backed COVID-19 vaccine mandates for school children (Reuters, 29 August 2021). More specifically, demonstration events opposing vaccines were nearly two times more frequent than the week prior. This marks the highest number of demonstration events against vaccines in a single week since ACLED began coverage in January 2020. Demonstration events related to ‘Freedom Convoys’ more than doubled last week as compared to the week prior, marking a steady increase in ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstrations in the United States over the past three weeks.
Armed demonstrations continued at the same levels last week as the week prior with three demonstrations involving demonstrators carrying firearms. All armed demonstrations reported were in support of passing ‘Freedom Convoys’ and either involved demonstrators rallying against President Joe Biden or in support of former President Donald Trump. Armed demonstrations are six and a half times more likely to turn violent or destructive than those that are unarmed, putting ‘Freedom Convoys’ in the United States at heightened risk of turning violent or destructive, although there have been no reports of one turning violent yet.
Militia and militant social movement activity significantly decreased last week compared to the week prior. Two weeks ago, ACLED recorded the highest levels of militia and militant social movement activity since coverage began in 2020. Reports of militia members and militant social movement adherents at ‘Freedom Convoys’ significantly decreased last week compared to the week prior. Despite this, Proud Boys rallied in Boise, Idaho on 2 March in support of ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers rallying against coronavirus restrictions and vaccine mandates. On the same day, QAnon adherents rallied for the same cause in Monrovia, Indiana. Additionally, on 3 March, armed members of the New Mexico Civil Guard rallied on an I-10 overpass near Mesquite, New Mexico in support of a passing ‘Freedom Convoy’ (Las Cruces Sun-News, 4 March 2022).
On 27 February, a Proud Boy carrying a firearm physically attacked a Black woman in Akron, Ohio while calling her racist and sexist slurs. The Proud Boy punched the woman before dragging her onto the street, causing a concussion. Later in the evening, the same Proud Boy physically attacked another woman (Newsweek, 28 February 2022; The Root, 28 February 2022).
Veterans on Patrol (VOP) conducted patrols along the US-Mexico border near Sasabe, Arizona on 26 February and 2 March. During the patrols, VOP claims to have detained 39 Guatemalan children and handed all of them over to US Border Patrol. Despite US Border Patrol officials denying support or endorsement of groups like VOP, VOP regularly claims to have turned migrants over to US Border Patrol officials during their patrols (SPLC, 6 July 2021). This is despite the fact that the impersonation of US law enforcement officials, such as detaining migrants at the border, is illegal (Brookings, 12 March 2021).
Meanwhile, the Yavapai County Preparedness Team (YCPT) held one recorded recruitment last week in Chino Valley, Arizona. Since YCPT officially split from the Oath Keepers on 24 April 2021, they have held the vast majority of their recruitment events in Chino Valley.
Notably, no reported white supremacist activity was reported last week, following two weeks ago, when events involving white supremacist groups spiked due to a high number of GDL antisemitic flyer drops. Meanwhile, demonstrators in Danville, California staged a ‘March Against Hate’ on 26 February that opposed GDL’s distribution of antisemitic flyers in Danville and California in preceding weeks.
In Canada, ‘Freedom Convoys’ tapered off with the last reported demonstration events in support of ‘Freedom Convoy’ demonstrators occurring on 26 February. Notably, the tapering off of demonstrations related to ‘Freedom Convoys’ coincided with the first invocation of the Emergencies Act, which gave Canadian officials temporary power to “restore order” between 14 February and 23 February (CBC, 14 February 2022; Reuters, 23 February 2022). This also led to the dispersal of the three-week encampment in Ottawa, Ontario. On 26 February, demonstrators attempting to block a ‘Freedom Convoy’ in London, Ontario claimed that police were “too forceful in removing them” from the road where they stood, despite the end of Emergencies Act powers (CBC, 28 February 2022).
© 2022 Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). All rights reserved.