Last week, demonstration levels remained elevated in the United States and increased moderately in Canada. Indigenous groups held demonstrations on Canada Day to call for reconciliation and to highlight the experiences of survivors of residential schools. In the United States, demonstrations calling for abortion rights in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade continued to make up the majority of events last week, spiking to their highest levels yet. Finally, reported far-right militia, militant social movement, and openly white supremacist activity significantly increased last week relative to the week prior, largely driven by their involvement in counter-demonstrations at LGBT+ events and ‘pro-choice’ demonstrations.
In Canada, demonstrations in solidarity with ‘pro-choice’ demonstrators in the United States made up the largest share of events last week. Meanwhile, on 1 July, Canada Day, Indigenous groups led demonstrations in at least 10 cities across the country to highlight ongoing reconciliation issues, including the recognition of several mass graves at residential schools (Global News, 1 July 2022). Additionally, environmental demonstrations as part of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Save Old Growth’ campaign also continued at a steady rate last week. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested at least five demonstrators during one such demonstration on 29 June for breaching an injunction and proceeded to dismantle a “protest camp” near Lake Cowichan, British Columbia (Lake Cowichan Gazette, 30 June 2022).
In the United States, demonstrations in support of abortion rights and against the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade constituted over two-thirds of all demonstration activity. Last week marked the highest number of demonstrations showing support for access to abortion in the United States since ACLED coverage began in 2020. Meanwhile, ‘pro-life’ demonstrations declined slightly last week, as they were outnumbered by ‘pro-choice’ demonstrations by a factor of more than five-to-one. Multiple demonstrations were met with police intervention and arrests, including at a ‘pro-choice’ demonstration in Washington, DC, which resulted in the detention of over 180 people, including California Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu (NBC News, 30 June 2022).
Last week also saw a spike in armed demonstrations — the highest since the week of 16 January 2021, following the Capitol riot. The majority of armed demonstrations were abortion-related. Firearms have been becoming increasingly common at abortion-related demonstrations: three times as many armed abortion-related demonstrations took place in 2021 relative to 2020, and nearly twice as many have already taken place in 2022 relative to 2021 (for more on trends around armed abortion-related demonstrations, see this recent ACLED report).
Notably, far-right groups were also active at abortion-related demonstrations last week. These groups have been taking an increasingly large role in anti-abortion activism: abortion-related demonstrations involving far-right militias and militant social movements increased by 150% in 2021 relative to 2020, and 2022 has already seen a 160% rise compared to 2021. While only 1% of demonstrations involving these groups were related to abortion in 2020, this rose to 3% in 2021, and is at more than 17% already so far this year (for more on trends around far-right engagement in abortion-related demonstrations, see this recent ACLED report). On 26 June, armed members of the AZ Patriots ‘patrolled’ near a ‘pro-choice’ demonstration in Phoenix, Arizona. The same day, members of the Campbell County Militia countered a ‘pro-choice’ demonstration in Lynchburg, Virginia. The Proud Boys also countered several ‘pro-choice’ demonstrations across several states. At the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, on 25 June, a dozen Proud Boys, at least one of whom was armed, demonstrated across from a ‘pro-choice’ demonstration. Similarly, on 28 June, a group of armed Proud Boys, along with at least one member of the Idaho Liberty Dogs, countered a ‘pro-choice’ rally in Boise, Idaho. In fact, last week marked the highest level of Proud Boys activity since the first week of the ‘Freedom Convoys’ in the contiguous United States in mid-February 2022.
Demonstrators at some ‘pro-choice’ rallies faced violent attacks last week. In Los Angeles, California, a man was stabbed in his shoulder while making his way home from a ‘pro-choice’ demonstration. The man claims he was followed by several people to the Highland Park Station, pursued, and then stabbed when he tried to run (Twitter @VPS_Reports, 27 June 2022). Elsewhere, at a demonstration in Appleton, Wisconsin, a driver rammed a group of ‘pro-choice’ demonstrators with a car, striking one person (Post Crescent, 1 July 2022). These incidents contributed to the 122% increase in political violence events in the United States over the past week relative to the weekly average for the past month that is flagged by ACLED’s Conflict Change Map.
Several acts of property destruction targeting ‘pro-life’ pregnancy centers, known to advocate against abortion, also occurred last week. Vandalism, in the form of ‘pro-choice’ messages, was reported at the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center in Lynchburg, Virginia (WDBJ7, 25 June 2022); Life Choices Pregnancy Center in Longmont, Colorado (KDVR, 25 June 2022); the grounds of a Catholic Church in Reston, Virginia (Washington Post, 27 June 2022); and ‘pro-life’ facilities in Portland, Oregon, and Nashville, Tennessee (New York Post, 26 June 2022; Fox News, 1 July 2022). The latter was also attacked by an unknown perpetrator who threw a Molotov cocktail through a window, which ultimately failed to ignite (Fox News, 1 July 2022).
Meanwhile, on 25 June, Proud Boys disrupted LGBT+ Pride events in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Groups of Proud Boys also demonstrated outside of several libraries holding LGBT+ events last week in Texas, Nevada, and Indiana. According to attendees at the LGBT+ event in Sparks, Nevada, the group of Proud Boys shouted homophobic slurs at them and their children, and a library employee reported being physically assaulted during a confrontation with the group on 26 June (MyNews4, 28 June 2022). In an incident in Indiana, Proud Boys entered the library and harassed patrons and organizers before eventually being escorted out of the library. On 30 June, Proud Boys members physically confronted patrons of a Pride event at Mojo’s Lounge and Bar in Woodland, California, during which police say patrons defended themselves with pepper spray. Police are investigating prior threats and the physical confrontation as possible hate crimes. Last week marks the highest number of anti-LGBT+ mobilization events since ACLED coverage began, largely driven by Proud Boys activity (for more on anti-LGBT+ mobilization in the United States, see this recent ACLED fact sheet).
Several acts of property destruction by unknown assailants targeting the LGBT+ community were also recorded last week. These include the burning of Pride flags in Lansing, Michigan; damage to a house displaying a Pride flag in Brockport, New York; and damage to an LGBT+ advocacy center in Fairview Park, Ohio (Fox News, 1 July 2022; WROC, 29 June 2022; WOIO, 2 July 2022).
Meanwhile, nearly 50 citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras were found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer near San Antonio, Texas, last week after having been abandoned (KSAT, 5 July 2022). More than a dozen others still alive in the tractor-trailer were taken to nearby hospitals for heat-related illnesses, some of whom later perished — marking what is believed to be the country’s deadliest smuggling episode (Texas Tribune, 2 July 2022). Several demonstrations were staged in response to the tragedy, including calling for the reversal of ‘Title 42,’ which allows for the immediate expulsion of migrants on ‘public health’ grounds, implemented by the Trump administration but still in effect (CNN, 4 July 2022). Migration on the southern border has been a salient driver of far-right activity, with militia groups increasingly engaging in ‘border patrols’ and detaining migrants. These incidents — despite being illegal (Brookings, 12 March 2021) — increased over 10 times from 2020 to 2021, with trends on track to escalate even further in 2022 (for more on far-right violence, including border vigilantism, see this recent ACLED report).
Meanwhile, eight police officers fatally shot a 25-year-old Black man in Akron, Ohio, on 27 June after they attempted to pull him over for a minor traffic violation. A foot chase ensued and police fired over 60 shots at the man, who was unarmed at the time (New York Times, 5 July 2022). The mayor of Akron issued a curfew on 3 July following multiple large demonstrations in response to the shooting.
Overall, reported far-right militia and militant social movement activity increased last week, driven by the rise in abortion-related demonstrations and anti-LGBT+ mobilization outlined above. Additionally, in Arizona, the Chino Valley Preparedness Team and the Verde Valley Preparedness Team held recruitment and public information sessions in Chino Valley and Cottonwood, respectively.
Openly white supremacist groups also remained active in the United States last week. Patriot Front members held sparring training sessions at undisclosed locations in northern Oklahoma and in eastern Pennsylvania. White Lives Matter (WLM) adherents, along with the Proud Boys, participated in an anti-LGBT+ demonstration against ‘grooming’ at an LGBT+ event at a children’s museum in Sacramento, California. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic flyers were found promoting the Goyim Defense League (GDL) in several cities in Florida.
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