Study: 97% of Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful in Michigan

By: - September 16, 2020 5:11 am

Black Lives Matter protest against police brutality in Lansing, June 29, 2020 | Laina G. Stebbins

The vast majority of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests have been peaceful, including those in Michigan, according to a new study by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).

The ACLED has been collecting data on demonstrations, political violence and other related developments since the newest phase of the BLM movement began in May, sparked by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

“Between 24 May and 22 August, ACLED records more than 10,600 demonstration events across the country. Over 10,100 of these — or nearly 95% — involve peaceful protesters,” the ACLED study reads. “Fewer than 570 — or approximately 5% — involve demonstrators engaging in violence.”

The study adds that more than 7,750 of the total demonstrations are connected to the BLM movement, spanning more than 2,440 locations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. More than 93% of those events have been peaceful protests.

In Michigan, there have been 382 demonstrations across the state documented between May 26 and Sept. 5. Of those, 79% have been associated with the BLM movement — and more than 96% of those have been peaceful.

The majority of protests have been focused in the Detroit and surrounding areas, followed by Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Marquette.

This data lies in stark contrast with many Americans’ perception of the BLM movement. According to a recent FiveThirtyEight poll, 42% of respondents believe “most protesters [associated with the BLM movement] are trying to incite violence or destroy property.”

Number and location of political violence, demonstrations, and strategic development events in Michigan, May 26-Sept. 5 | ACLED map

The ACLED argues that this misperception is brought about “political orientation and biased media framing,” a disparity that is backed up by recent research from the University of Washington.

Instances of BLM protests becoming violent without being prompted by escalation from police have been rare. But one such example was on May 29 in Detroit, when a number of out-of-towners came to the city and engaged in violent behavior.

Counter-protests and other opposing actions to the BLM movement have tended to be more violent than the protests themselves, with about 8% turning violent. There also has been a rise of non-violent hate incidents that are meant to target BLM protesters, including a mid-July instance in Saginaw when a couple found a noose and threatening note to protesters slipped through their car window.

Demonstrations associated with BLM by demonstration type, May 22-Aug. 22 | ACLED map

Michigan is one of the states with documented instances of police brutality against members of the media, as the Michigan Advance previously reported, albeit on the lower end of instances compared to states like New York, Oregon and California.

“These data reveal that the United States is in crisis. It faces a multitude of concurrent, overlapping risks — from police abuse and racial injustice, to pandemic-related unrest and beyond — all exacerbated by increasing polarization,” the report reads, adding that the intersecting risks are likely to intensify as the upcoming 2020 election grows near.

That combination of concurrent risks and polarization most recently led to debunked rumors of left-wing violence causing some residents of Oregon to refuse law enforcement orders to evacuate their homes, leaving them vulnerable to approaching swaths of forest fires blazing on the West Coast.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.