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Trump’s attacks on #TakeaKnee and DACA spurred hundreds of protests in October

- December 1, 2017

This is the 10th 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 October, we tallied 548 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 59,876 and 68,570 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely there were far more participants. Because mainstream media often neglects 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. Importantly, the number of protests remains fairly stable month to month — and October is no exception — but the size of the crowds has declined. In fact, according to our estimates, October probably featured the fewest demonstrators of any month since Trump’s inauguration.

1. The opposition to Trump

The number of protests against the Trump administration declined in October. Whereas such events represented roughly 85 percent of crowds in September, we estimate that 70.4 percent of the events we recorded were opposing President Trump’s policies. About 29.2 percent overall were explicitly anti-Trump while an additional 41.2 percent overall took stances on issues contradictory to the president’s, such as resisting homophobia or protesting police brutality. 

Most commonly, the protest were associated with the #TakeAKnee campaign, which generated more than 50 new events in October. Last season, then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the singing of the national anthem to protest police shootings of African Americans and racial inequality. As we highlighted last month, such protests have become common within the NFL — and beyond. For instance, on Oct. 13, marching band members at Ames High School in Iowa knelt during the national anthem before a football game. And on Oct. 15, several Ann Arbor, Mich., city council members knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Another major reason for protest was Trump’s ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Sept. 5. Throughout October, 28 protests against this change occurred, in places from Raleigh, N.C., to Pueblo, Colo.

And two of the largest crowds of the month — in New York City and in Lindenhurst, N.Y. – gathered to demand action regarding climate change. 

2. The support for Trump

About 10 percent of the events we recorded were rallies supporting the president and his policies, either directly or indirectly. As a share of events, October’s total increased slightly from September. The president held a large rally for Gov. Henry McMaster (R) with an estimated 2,000 people in Greenville, S.C.

On Oct. 15, about 70 members of the Patriot Prayer group held a white supremacist rally in Salem, Ore. And on Oct. 1, several hundred protesters held a Stand Up for America rally in Carmel, N.Y., while protesters burned NFL jerseys in a sports bar in Campbell County, Ky., in opposition to the #TakeAKnee campaign. 

3. Neither for nor against Trump

The final 19.7 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 march against world hunger in Eugene, Ore.; a protest over a school’s response to a hazing incident in Dearborn, Mich.; and protests to improve pipeline safety in Harrisburg, Pa.

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

At about 519 events, of 94.7 percent of the total, no arrests were made. This was almost the same percentage as in the previous month. The number of people arrested dropped from 533 arrests in September to 318 in October, with at least 219 (about 69 percent) of those October arrests coming in 17 cases of nonviolent civil disobedience; 143 of those arrests (about 45 percent) occurred in St. Louis after protesters blocked Interstate 64 to protest police officer Jason Stockley’s acquittal in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man.

The number of events with arrests that appeared to be connected to violence or property destruction declined from 11 events in September to nine events in October. Likewise, we counted only seven reported injuries in October, representing a significant decline from September, which saw 33 injuries.

You can download the data here. We’ll release the data for November 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.