Editors’ note: This is the 15th 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. For our counting methods, please see our first post in the series. You can find the rest of the posts here.
For March, we tallied 6,056 protests, demonstrations, strikes, marches, sit-ins, rallies and walkouts in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that between 2,587,786 and 3,944,175 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were more participants. As a monthly count, this number of participants was only surpassed during the first month we started counting, January 2017. The boost came from the overwhelming attendance at the March for Our Lives, which we reported on here earlier, and the associated national student walkouts for school safety from gun violence.
Before we give the details, though, here’s our biggest finding since we began this project of counting crowds. Since President Trump’s inauguration, the United States has seen four enormous protests — each with well over 1 million participants — objecting to the administration and its policies: the 2017 Women’s March, the 2018 Women’s March, the national student walkout on March 14 and the March for Our Lives on March 24.
1. The national student walkouts for school safety
On March 14, the student walkout in favor of gun regulation and school safety involved walkouts or related activities at approximately 4,470 schools, from kindergartens to universities. To count these, we started with data gathered by the event’s sponsor, Youth Empower, a division of the Women’s March; we supplemented that data with our own tallies. We found that 1,121,860 to 1,675,115 students walked out that day.
The geographic breadth of those walkouts was unprecedented. This is the largest number of recorded locations involved in a single-day protest in U.S. history. To see the scope of these protests, check out our visualization here.
The vast majority of the events included a walkout. In some cases, schools held an indoor assembly or prayer service instead. Some events didn’t take a specific stance on guns; rather, they focused on encouraging students to write letters to politicians, to behave with more kindness or to remember those killed in Parkland, Fla. We do not have enough information to know how often the event’s focus was chosen by students or by school administrators. But we do know that in more than 1,675 cases, teachers and staff were reported to have walked out alongside students — even as a few districts tried to prevent walkouts or other student protests.
While most of these walkouts were from high schools, we counted seven cases in which home-schoolers protested at home, with or without their parents. In some places — particularly much of Texas — schools were on vacation that week, so there were few walkouts.
In combination with the March for Our Lives on March 24, an event at which we estimated 1,380,746 to 2,181,966 participants, this month saw a massive mobilization about school safety from gun violence. As a result, more than 92 percent of the events we counted in March 2018 were implicitly or explicitly anti-Trump.
2. Black Lives Matter
On March 18, two Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year old African American man, in his grandparents’ back yard. We counted at least 19 protests organized by Clark’s family, the Black Lives Matter chapter in Sacramento and others to denounce the unjustness of the killing. In Sacramento, they protested at city hall, at the capitol, outside an NBA game, on a highway and near the site of the killing. They were joined in protest in places such as Portland, Ore., Tampa and New York.
Clark’s death came after years of demonstrations against police violence against African Americans. Every month, we record several demonstrations against police violence. Mainstream media outlets have featured the movement less prominently. Media attention often declines as movements mature, protest cycles elongate and newer movements get more attention.
3. Teachers and school funding
A rolling wave of teacher protests, demanding higher pay and higher school funding in general, cut across many states in March. We counted at least 10,653 protesters in several states, including Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia. In the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Trump prevailed in these four red states. Now the educators’ red T-shirts gave a new twist to the meaning of red states. On March 6, the West Virginia state government acceded to the teachers’ demands.
4. How many people were arrested and/or injured in political crowds?
We counted nine reported injuries in March. No one was arrested at about 6,031 events, or 99.6 percent of the total. This was a slightly higher percentage of arrest-free protests than in February, when we found that to be true at 98.7 percent of the events we counted.
However, the number of people arrested increased from 121 arrests in February to 331 in March, with at least 286, or 86 percent, of those March arrests coming during 12 nonviolent civil disobedience incidents. As in January and February, many of those arrests took place at protests in and around the U.S. Capitol. On March 5, 87 people were arrested, with another 116 arrested the next day. All were calling for the passage of a new Dream Act, which would grant legal residency status to immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors.
Please note that because mainstream news organizations often neglect to report nonviolent actions — especially small ones — we probably did not record every event that took place. 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.
You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for April 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.
Jenna Arnold is co-founder of ORGANIZE and former director of data and analytics and national organizer of the Women’s March.
Kanisha Bond is an assistant professor of government and politics and a research associate at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland at College Park.
Jeremy Pressman (@djpressman) is an associate professor of political science and director of Middle East Studies at the University of Connecticut.