When thousands of protests against racism and police brutality were triggered by the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 by Minneapolis police, President Donald Trump called the protesters thugs and some media outlets focused on looting.
An adverse hue was placed on Black Lives Matter, which organized or participated in many protests that grew to a worldwide movement. New research has shown that the more aggressive the rebellion or the more violent the uprising, the more likely there will be political change and a reduction in police killings.
Susan Olzak, a professor of sociology at Stanford University, does research on armed conflict, ethnic violence, collective action, and social movement organizations.
She studied protests in 170 of the largest U.S. cities between 2000 and 2019 and found that street protests were followed by declines in officer-involved fatalities of Black and Latino individuals, but not of whites. Olzak wrote about her research in Time magazine.
Her study, “Does Protest Against Police Violence Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities, 1990 through 2019,” was published on Nov. 29, 2021. She found that just one protest in a given city would reduce Black fatalities by 11 percent and Latino fatalities by 7 percent in the following year.
“What is clear is the effect of protests,” Olzak wrote. “Locally-oriented demonstrations significantly reduce the number of Black and Latino deaths by police. So might policy changes concerning new restraints on the use of force. Cities with higher median family income also saw a decline in fatalities across all groups, but more so for whites.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who led the George Floyd family legal team, tweeted, “A study found after local protests, officer-involved fatalities of Black and Latino individuals declined! This is PROOF that using our voice and taking to the streets WORKS. We’re making a difference and bringing about change.”
A Twitter responded. “We shouldn’t have to take it to the streets, but if a life is saved as a result, let’s keep protesting! #BLM,” tweeted @wdarinmoore.
Olzak’s study is not the only one to find that protests make change.
A study entitled “Black Lives Matter’s Effect on Police Lethal Use-of-Force” by Travis Campbell, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, also found that killings by police declined after the Black Lives Matter protests.
The study, published in May 2020, was the first of its kind to measure a possible correlation between BLM and police homicide numbers, Scientific American reported.
The study found that municipalities where BLM protests were held experienced as much as a 20 percent decrease in killings by police, resulting in an estimated 300 fewer deaths nationwide from 2014 to 2019.
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“It’s extraordinarily important to have concrete data of the numbers of incidents that involve police violence of all stripes, from killings to torture to being held incommunicado in police stations to people who died in custody,” said Aislinn Pulley, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago. BLM Chicago has compiled a list of everyone who died at the hands of the Chicago Police Department since 2011. “We didn’t have access to that data prior to the movement—and we still have only partial access,” Pulley said.
Photo: In this April 14, 2021, file photo, law enforcement officers clear an area of demonstrators during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)