Home > News > Sometimes a handful of protesters can spark an enormous discussion. That certainly happened in September.
58 views 7 min 0 Comment

Sometimes a handful of protesters can spark an enormous discussion. That certainly happened in September.

- November 1, 2017

This is the ninth 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 September, we tallied 578 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 80,130 and 89,854 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more participants. 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 34.9 percent of the events we listed this month, we lacked an estimate of the size of the crowd.

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. In this case, we estimate that September saw a sizable decrease in people protesting compared with August, during which we observed between 175,625 and 205,178 people participating in crowds.

Who demonstrated against and for what in September?

1. The opposition to Trump

Resistance against the Trump administration continued to drive most protests. We estimate that 85.1 percent of the events we recorded were opposing President Trump’s policies. About 68.7 percent overall were explicitly anti-Trump while another 16.4 percent overall took stances on issues that contradict the president on issues like advocating for workersrights or protesting pipelines.

When Trump announced on Sept. 5 that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, protesters turned out across the United States as, for example, dozens gathered in Albany; about a hundred protested in Anchorage; the Athens Immigration Rights Coalition in Georgia brought tens more out at the Arch; and more than 50 demonstrated in Yakima, Wash. Within weeks there were 175 DACA protests in all.

When the protesters were National Football League players, a handful of protests drew enormous national attention. Last season, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the singing of the national anthem, in order to protest police shootings of African Americans and U.S. inequality. In September, Trump announced that he was against such protests — after which many more NFL players knelt or locked arms during the national anthem. The protests spread beyond the NFL, reaching professional baseball as well as nonprofessional sporting events (or here in Tulsa) and even a substitute teacher in Littleton, Mass.

Protests against specific police shootings continued as well. Thousands of people in the St. Louis area participated in days of protests denouncing the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011.

2. The support for Trump

About 6 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly. As a share of events, September’s total decreased significantly since August. The president held a large rally for Sen. Luther Strange with an estimated 9,000 people at Van Braun Arena in Huntsville, Ala.

On Sept. 1, nearly 200 protesters came out in Allentown, Pa., to press Rep. Charlie Dent (R) to be more supportive of Trump’s agenda. On Sept. 23, Tea Party Patriots gathered close to 400 people on Capitol Hill to demand that Republicans in Congress uphold campaign promises like repealing the Affordable Care Act.

3. Neither for nor against Trump

The final 8.8 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, consistent with the trends from previous months, including a rally for partial government funding for a new baseball stadium in Pawtucket, R.I., and a rally in Jonesborough, Tenn., seeking the arrest of the driver who killed Shirra Branum in a vehicular accident. The driver was allegedly drunk at the time.

We found a handful of events addressing the opioid crisis. Hundreds gathered in Fairborn, Ohio, for the third annual Fairborn Against Heroin Recovery Rally. Others demonstrated, and ran, in San Angelo, Tex., for the “Let It Go! Recovery Rally and Run.” In Shemanski Park, Oregonians piled up 1,000 shoes, each with a name written on it, to remember deceased loved ones.

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

At about 543 events (about 94 percent), no arrests were made. This was almost exactly the same percentage as the prior month. In terms of people arrested, the numbers increased from 251 arrests in August to 533 in September, with at least 262 (about 49 percent) of those September arrests coming in 26 cases of nonviolent civil disobedience. Just over half the arrests occurred in greater St. Louis around Stockley’s acquittal.

The number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to violence or property destruction declined from 31 events in August to 11 events in September. Likewise, we counted only 33 injuries in September, representing a significant decline from August, which saw 111 injuries and one death: of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville.

You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for October 2017 soon. In the meantime, we are still counting. Click here to be counted, 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.