Last week in the United States and Canada, demonstration activity increased slightly in the United States and decreased slightly in Canada. In both countries, labor protests calling for better pay and working conditions made up the largest share of demonstration events. Meanwhile, ‘pro-choice’ demonstrations advocating for access to abortion made up the second-largest share of demonstration events, even as they continued to trend downwards for the fifth consecutive week. Finally, reported far-right militia, militant social movement, and openly white supremacist activity declined significantly last week compared to the week prior.
In Canada, labor-led demonstrations made up around half of all events last week. Beginning on 2 August, outreach workers led a series of demonstrations, including a hunger strike, in front of city hall in London, Ontario, to call for the city to reform its homelessness policies following the deaths of dozens of unhoused people since the beginning of the year (CBC, 2 August 2022).
On 31 July, a Unifor-led strike in front of a casino in Toronto, Ontario, was targeted with violence when a delivery driver deliberately struck a worker striking on the picket line. The worker was hospitalized with a broken ankle (Unifor, 1 August 2022).
In the United States, labor-related demonstrations continued to make up the largest share of demonstration events for the third consecutive week. Pro-union demonstrations led by Starbucks workers accounted for a fifth of all labor-related demonstrations last week. The demonstrations come amid allegations of retaliatory ‘union-busting’ efforts by the company in response to the unionization of more than 200 Starbucks locations since December 2021 (CNBC, 5 August 2022; Los Angeles Times, 8 August 2022).
Demonstrations related to abortion also continued last week, making up the second-largest share of events, despite declining compared to the week prior. Last week, the Indiana statehouse passed legislation to restrict most access to abortion, and Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed the Republican-sponsored bill into law on 5 August. This makes Indiana the first state to pass new legislation to effectively ban most abortions since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on 24 June (CNN, 6 August 2022). Several other states, however, had already instituted similar bans through ‘trigger laws,’ which went into effect immediately after Roe was overturned. Conversely, Kansas voters rejected an attempt to institute a similar statewide ban on abortion in a ballot referendum. The ‘Value Them Both’ constitutional amendment, which would have removed language from the state constitution guaranteeing access to abortion, was defeated by a margin of 59% to 41% amid high turnout on 2 August (NBC News, 7 August 2022).
Incidents of violence and property destruction related to the abortion debate continued to take place last week. On 30 July, a man set fire to a Planned Parenthood in Kalamazoo, Michigan, using a ‘fire starter’ log, causing minimal damage to the building. The man was later arrested, and police stated that he had uploaded videos in which he referred to abortion as “genocide” prior to the arson (ABC News, 5 August 2022). Meanwhile, in Leawood, Kansas, a volunteer with the ‘pro-life’ Students for Life Action was repeatedly struck in the head by a woman while doing door-to-door outreach on 31 July. The perpetrator was arrested on misdemeanor charges, as the volunteer was not reported to have suffered any serious injuries (FOX, 2 August 2022).
Multiple hate crimes were also reported last week. In Sandy, Utah, a group of teenagers assaulted a teenage gay couple, yelling homophobic slurs. One of the victims sustained a concussion as a result of the attack. One juvenile was arrested in relation to the assault, and police say they are treating the incident as a hate crime (Associated Press, 3 August 2022). Meanwhile, on 2 August, four white men entered a newly opened Black-owned restaurant in Daufuskie Island, in South Carolina, asked the owner if it was a “colored-owned restaurant,” and used anti-Black slurs, before smashing the cash register, throwing food around, and causing damage to the door. No arrests have yet been made in relation to the incident (WCBD NBC2, 6 August 2022).
Reported far-right militia and militant social movement activity decreased significantly last week compared to the week prior. On 31 July, the Lions of Liberty, an Oath Keepers offshoot, held a recruitment and public information session in Prescott, Arizona. Meanwhile, in Port Arthur, Texas, about five Proud Boys demonstrated outside of a 31 July town hall event hosted by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Openly white supremacist organizations were also active last week. Around 31 July, members of the neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club dropped banners with white supremacist messaging on two overpasses in Portsmouth and Dover, New Hampshire, and again in Providence, Rhode Island. Similarly, members of Patriot Front dropped banners at an overpass in Westborough, Massachusetts, around 31 July. The group also held sparring trainings in central Texas around 30 July and again around 3 August, as well as in central Massachusetts around 30 July. Patriot Front activity, especially engagement in training exercises, increased by approximately five times from 2020 to 2021; their activity this year is already on track to outpace last year’s rate. Finally, in Nashville, Tennessee, at least 47 anti-Semitic and homophobic flyers promoting the Goyim Defense League were found in residential areas on 3 August (WKRN, 4 August 2022).
Note: This dashboard automatically updates to cover the latest four weeks of data released by ACLED. Use the date filters to view data for the one-week period covered by this Regional Overview.