Thursday, August 31, 2023

What the Movement Has Begotten

My, those were such heady days! On July 3, 2020, The New York Times noted

Four recent polls — including one released this week by Civis Analytics, a data science firm that works with businesses and Democratic campaigns — suggest that about 15 million to 26 million people in the United States have participated in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and others in recent weeks.

These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.

These figures would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history, according to interviews with scholars and crowd-counting experts.

“I’ve never seen self-reports of protest participation that high for a specific issue over such a short period,” said Neal Caren, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies social movements in the United States.

While it’s possible that more people said they protested than actually did, even if only half told the truth, the surveys suggest more than seven million people participated in recent demonstrations....

“Really, it’s hard to overstate the scale of this movement,” said Deva Woodly, an associate professor of politics at the New School.

Professor Woodly said that the civil rights marches in the 1960s were considerably smaller in number. “If we added up all those protests during that period, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, but not millions,” she said.

Even protests to unseat government leadership or for independence typically succeed when they involve 3.5 percent of the population at their peak, according to a review of international protests by Erica Chenoweth, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School who co-directs the Crowd Counting Consortium, which collects data on crowd sizes of political protests....

“The geographic spread of protest is a really important characteristic and helps signal the depth and breadth of a movement’s support,” said Kenneth Andrews, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill....

“It looks, for all the world, like these protests are achieving what very few do: setting in motion a period of significant, sustained, and widespread social, political change,” Professor McAdam said. “We appear to be experiencing a social change tipping point — that is as rare in society as it is potentially consequential.”

The prediction of "a period of significant, sustained, and widespread social, political change" proved as prescient as of that "red wave" which was to prevail in November of 2020, or as would have been a prediction of a Chicago Bears appearance in the last Super Bowl.

As an observation- only- this tweet is not far off, presently:

Last October, a North Carolina television station reported

It's been more than two years since activists joined in the street to protest the murder of George Floyd.

The summer of often-violent demonstrations across the country in 2020 also spurred calls for cities to cut police budgets, an idea that's grown to be known as the "Defund Movement."

However, a national investigation by the ABC Owned Televisions Stations found those calls have not transformed into action.

An analysis of budgets for more than 100 law enforcement agencies across the country uncovered the opposite. Ninety percent of cities and counties increased spending for police between the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2021-22. None of the North Carolina cities the team analyzed reported an increase in law enforcement budgets.

Of the 10% of agencies who did decrease funding, the cuts were small with only eight agencies slashing the budget by more than 2%; a percentage many local government budget experts deem irrelevant.

As the associate professor of politics stated, the "scale of this movement" was enormous. It proved, however, to be a mile wide and an inch deep.  In October

Pew found that 51% of Americans say they strongly or somewhat support the Black Lives Matter movement. That’s down from nearly 70% of Americans who expressed support for the movement in the aftermath of the 2020 killing of George Floyd and 56% last year, the center said.

The plunge in support was virtually inevitable. Most media coverage at the time of the George Floyd protests consisted of coverage of the massive, largely peaceful demonstrations and politicians and pundits pledging support for the movement and, less often, the organization BLM. Months and years later, video of isolated violence at the protests dominated the news and was exploited by conservative politicians and pundits.

This was reinforced by false premises of the movement: police are America's heroes but periodically racist; and police misbehavior occurs all across the nation irrespective of state or municipal boundaries.

Even now, the left and center typically criticize local and state law enforcement as if it is one entity, at odds with the black community or perpetual guardians of populace's safety and security. However, not only is law enforcement likely different in, say, Arkansas than in Massachusetts, it probably differs between Little Rock and Heber Springs, Arkansas. More analysts than ever acknowledge an urban-rural split in the USA, yet avoid applying the understanding to police practice.

This reality largely blinds  the left, center, and the center-left from pivoting when red flags arise, such as we witnessed recently:



The admiring police escort, before Trump was taken into custody, in Atlanta was bad enough. The escort in New Jersey, from his property in Bedminster, was even worse because he wasn't even being taken to jail.


This unmerited use of public resources and paean to the greatness of Donald Trump did not occur because he is white. But the implications of such an outpouring of support from publicly funded police organizations for Donald J. Trump was both unnecessary and pregnant with implications if the subject of this reverence is able to regain the presidency.

Nonetheless, the interest groups which most fervently backed the black lives movement a mere three years ago are largely silent. Even when there is police overreach in plain sight, organizations often cannot find their voice, and usually cannot when there is no obvious racial component.

Whether or not generally beneficial, in the last few years there always has been more money- witness "cop city"- for the police establishment whether it fails or succeeds or crime rates rise or fall.  Professor McAdam was correct that in the summer of 2020, we did experience "a social change tipping point,"  rare and "potentially consequential." In the backlash to the black lives matter movement, the social change has been toward greater support for the police and less for the public it is sworn to serve and protect.'  We are witnessing a movement that has not only failed, but backfired.


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