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Protests Following George Floyd Murder Largest in US History: NY Times


picture by Open Clip Art Vectors courtesy of

The New York Times published a story July 3 that covered four polls investigating the number of people who protested in the US following the George Floyd murder May 25.  The four polls estimated that between 6 and 10 percent of the adult American public came out to protest between June 4 and June 22.  The four polls were: Kaiser Family Foundation (polled 1296 people, estimated 10% participation between June 8-14), Civis Analytics (4446, 9%, June 12-22), NORC (1310, 7%, June 11-15), Pew (9654, 6%, June 4-10), which between them gave a range of 15 to 26 million people attending protests.

There have been more than 4,700 separate demonstrations since May 26, in about 2,500 cities and towns across the country– an average of 140 a day.  There have been many protest marches in cities around the world as well.   A poll by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation says that about 20% of Americans claimed that they have participated in a protest.  In reaction to the protests, there have been false rumors circulating on Facebook that anti-fa activists were planning to commit violent acts in small towns far removed from their actual locations.

For comparison, the Women’s March of January 21, 2017 (the day after the presidential inauguration) brought together between 3.5 and 5 million people in Washington and across the country on a single day for a highly organized demonstration prompted by the election of a man who bragged that he could “grab ’em by the pussy” and get away with it.  This was the largest single-day demonstration in US history.  It included between 1 and 1.6% of the US population.  Its primary goal was undefined but could perhaps be described as a rejection of the policies or personality of the president.  So far it has been unsuccessful.

The article cites an analysis by Erica Chenoweth, co-director of the Crowd Counting Consortium and a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, who avers that protests attempting to unseat government leadership or in favor of national independence are typically successful when they reach a peak of 3.5 percent of the population.  The analysis she cites uses data from 323 protest movements, both nonviolent and violent, between 1900 and 2006, gathered by the Crowd Counting Consortium and others.

Examples of successful uprisings include the Libyan Civil War, which included 3.2% of the population among its rebels; the Philippines People Power demonstrations, which included 3.4% of the people; and the Iranian revolution, which counted 5.3%.  Unsuccessful revolts included the East German uprising, which included 2.2% of the people, the Hungarian anti-communist uprising, which included 2%, and the Djibouti Arab Spring, which included 3.5% of the people.

The George Floyd demonstrations have been successful in some ways: for example, Mississippi has finally changed its state flag to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from its upper left quarter.  This flag was adopted in 1894, apparently in response to the failure of Reconstruction to remove white supremacists from power after the end of the Civil War.  Another example: the Minneapolis City Council has adopted a veto-proof resolution to disband the city’s police force.  In other jurisdictions, the use of the chokehold by police has been barred and in some places, declared illegal.

There have been numerous instances in which racist people or statements have been denounced.  A number of egregious deaths in police custody or during attempted arrests have led to firing of policemen and, in some cases, criminal charges.  The National Football League has reversed its stance and declared its support of football players who “take a knee” during playing of the National Anthem.  NASCAR (a national car racing body) has outlawed the use of the Confederate flag at races, although people outside the racing venues continue to buy and display flags.  A law that kept police disciplinary records secret was repealed in New York.

The final determination of whether the protests have been successful would be if the president is defeated for re-election in November, although that would be in part due to other factors.  The most important factor in his defeat will be  the pandemic which caused so many people to be completely fed up with the system that has systematically oppressed people of color and led to so many people having so much time on their hands and so little to lose by protesting.

A footnote: the president and others have falsely claimed that anti-fa (a nebulous group) was involved in, or was organizing the protests and the violence after George Floyd’s murder on May 25.  No-one who declares allegiance to anti-fa has been arrested for violence (that has been reported.)  The people arrested for shootings and vandalism have been mainly right-wing “boogaloo” (civil war) supporters or petty criminals.

In fact, it is unlikely that anti-fa had anything to do with the violence for two reasons: first, the looting and arson was mostly spontaneous, and second, anti-fa tends to get involved only in reaction to demonstrations by white supremacists and neo-Nazis– not to start protests of their own.  Besides, anti-fa is not any one group nor do its supporters have any single ideological cast other than being against fascism.


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