Producing and disseminating knowledge on nonviolent action
The Nonviolent Action Lab studies how people can create transformative social and political change using creative, disruptive, people power. In so doing, we produce public goods for activists, citizens, scholars, and students who want to know where nonviolent collective action occurs, and to analyze or learn about global trends in its forms, dynamics, and impacts.
Across the country, people are protesting the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and demanding action against police violence and systemic racism. National media focuses on the big demonstrations and protest policing in major cities, but they have not picked up on a different phenomenon that may have major long-term consequences for politics. Protests over racism and #BlackLivesMatter are spreading across the country — including in small towns with deeply conservative politics.
In the last few weeks, protests against state lockdowns and social distancing measures have seized national headlines. The wall-to-wall coverage might give the impression that what we’re seeing is a powerful grassroots movement in the making. But research we just conducted on protest attendance and media coverage shows something different: This massive media coverage has in fact been out of proportion.
A comprehensive look at the social distancing protests reveals that they have been small in terms of both the number of participants and locations. As one official in the administration of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted about a protest in Annapolis on April 20, “There were more media inquiries about this than there were participants.”
Research shows that demonstrations are just one of many tools that civil resistance movements can use to effect change. Such movements are effective when they do three things: attract widespread and diverse participation; develop a strategy that allows them to maneuver around repression; and provoke defections, loyalty shifts, or disobedience among regime elites and/or security forces.”
- Erica Chenoweth