We Are Living Through a Golden Age of Protest

Source: The Guardian

We are seeing a level of organizing with little precedent – but it’s time for stronger forms of demonstration, such as sit-ins and street blockades

We are in an extraordinary era of protest. Over the course of the first 15 months of the 45th presidency, more people have joined demonstrations than at any other time in American history. Take a minute and digest that: never before have as many Americans taken to the streets for political causes as are marching and rallying now.

Protest numbers are always difficult to pin down, but thanks to researchers from the Crowd Counting Consortium and CountLove, we have very solid data on demonstrations since Donald Trump took office, and the numbers are huge.

The overall turnout for marches, rallies, vigils and other protests since the 2017 presidential inauguration falls somewhere between 10 and 15 million. (Not all of these events have been anti-Trump, but almost 90% have.) That is certainly more people in absolute terms than have ever protested before in the US. Even when you adjust for population growth, it’s probably a higher percentage than took to the streets during the height of the Vietnam anti-war movement in 1969 and 1970, the previous high-water mark for dissent in America, though the data for that era is much less comprehensive.

What’s even more significant than the scale of these contemporary protests is their ubiquity. A few individual demonstrations under Trump have been very large, rivaling the biggest protests in American history, but the overall numbers are so high because protests have been happening everywhere: in all fifty states, and in many places where marches and rallies have rarely been seen before.

The pattern was set on 21 January 2017, when women and their allies marched in more than 650 communities around the United States. Last month, during the March for Our Lives, gun control advocates organized protests and rallies in even more locations: more than 750. By contrast, past days of coordinated protest in America have generally involved something closer to 200 cities and towns, as when 2 million people took part in nationwide anti-war activities during the Vietnam Moratorium actions in October 1969, or when a million Americans protested George Bush’s rush to war with Iraq on 15 February 2003.

Protests are of course just one index of resistance activity; a lot of key organizing, like voter registration and door-to-door canvassing, is much less visible and harder to quantify. But the evidence is strong that this kind of less showy work to counter the Trump agenda is as widespread as the marches and rallies that have defined this era. Six thousand local resistance groups have affiliated with Indivisible, the advocacy group founded by two former congressional staffers, and even if not all of them are consistently active, that represents a breadth and depth of organizing with little, if any, precedent in American history. Many of these groups are digging into grassroots electoral work in their areas, hoping to translate the wave of street actions into a decisive blue wave in the November 2018 midterm elections.

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