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In December, thousands of Americans protested against the tax plan, for DACA and about all the other usual suspects

- January 25, 2018

This is the 12th installment in a monthly series reporting on political crowds in the United States. Each month, the Crowd Counting Consortium will post updates about trends and patterns from the previous month as recorded by our volunteers. Find all the previous posts in the series here. For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series.

For December 2017, we tallied 796 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District of Columbia. Our conservative guess is that between 58,986 and 81,091 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more. Because mainstream media often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — it is probable that we did not record every event that took place. For 28 percent of the events we listed this month, we lacked an estimate of crowd size.

Nevertheless, we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month. The number of protests remains fairly stable month to month, and December 2017 is no exception, although the crowds at 2017’s end were somewhat smaller than they were earlier in 2017.

1) The opposition to Trump

A larger share of December’s protests were against the Trump administration than in November. Whereas such events represented roughly 77.8 percent of crowds in November 2017, we estimate 88.5 percent of the events we recorded in December were opposing President Trump’s policies. About 62.4 percent overall were explicitly anti-Trump while another 26.1 percent overall took stances on issues that contradict the president. 

The most common protests were against the Republican tax plan that was signed into law on Dec. 22. We counted at least 188 such protests, including one in Glens Falls, N.Y., where some protesters wore costumes outside congressional offices. On Dec. 9 alone, we listed protests in Columbus, Ohio; Los AngelesMadison, Wis.; MilwaukeeMontclair, N.J.; New OrleansOklahoma CityRockland, Maine; Salt Lake CityStaunton, Va.; and Waterloo, Iowa.

At least 65 protests focused on DACA. In La Palma, Calif., protesters demanded a clean Dreamers Act; others staged a die-in. Almost 50 protests focused on net neutrality, many taking  place outside Verizon stores in places like Bennington, Vt.; Boise, Idaho; and Boston.

We also saw a number of protests against many of the same issues that have already been in the spotlight: decrying police shootings and racism, ending homelessness and fighting gun violence on the fifth anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Meanwhile, NFL players continued to protest during the national anthem.

2) The support for Trump

About 3.6 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly. As a share of events, December’s total decreased from November, when 6.6 percent of the events supported the president and his policies.

For example, on Dec. 5, before the Supreme Court, supporters rallied around a baker who had refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. On Dec. 9, protesters spoke out in Austin against sanctuary cities. Antiabortion leaders rallied in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 15. And we counted several Roy Moore campaign rallies.

3) Neither for nor against Trump

The final 7.8 percent of the crowds were involved in actions directed at other politicians or about issues that were neither pro- nor anti-Trump. We found a broad range of such topics, as we have in previous months. In one protest against the Line 5 pipeline in Lansing, Mich., a horse even joined the protest inside the State Capitol building. We regularly see protests against a proposed school closing. This month, for example, protesters were opposed to closing the Pioneer School in Portland, Ore., and P.S. 92 in the Bronx.

4) U.S. protests about international issues

This month, we saw protests about international issues other than migration. Protests objected to slavery in Libya, human rights violations in the Philippines, and U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. Almost 30 protests rejected Trump’s new Jerusalem policy, with protests in places like Bridgeport, Conn.; DetroitKansas City, Kan.; Norman, Okla.; and Sarasota, Fla.

How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?

At about 777 events, or 97.6 percent of the total, police made no arrests. This was a slightly higher percentage of arrest-free protests than in the past few months. The numbers of protesters arrested increased from 128 in November to 371 in December, with at least 360 (more than 97 percent) of those coming in 14 cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. For example, 84 people were arrested at the U.S. Capitol while protesting the Republican tax plan.

About four of these arrests appeared to be connected to violence or the destruction of property — the same number we counted in November.

You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for January 2018 soon. In the meantime, we are still counting. Click here to submit information about a protest, and click here to volunteer to help us count. 

Jeremy Pressman is an associate professor of political science and director of Middle East Studies at the University of Connecticut. Find him on Twitter @djpressman.