Black Lives Matter Movement Gains Support From Diverse Demographic Swath of U.S.
FRIDAY, JUN 19, 2020
Protests of police treatment of people of color have migrated from urban, majority-minority cities to smaller, whiter communities over the last month, according to a Social Explorer analysis of data compiled by the New York Times.
The analysis of two waves of nationwide protests that began May 29 found the first wave occurred in 963 places where white people accounted for 46 percent of the cumulative population. A second wave, beginning on June 4 in another 1,000 U.S. communities, occurred in places where whites make up 58 percent of the cumulative population. All told, protests were reported in 1 of every 15 towns in the United States.
The protests began in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed 46-year-old Minneapolis resident who died after a policeman kneeled on his neck for almost 10 minutes, asphyxiating him. The data shows that although the police use of excessive force was initially a major concern in the black and Hispanic communities, a growing number of predominantly white American cities now harbor reservations about law enforcement abuses, as well.
Much like the grainy, black-and-white pictures of racists attacking unarmed demonstrators during the Civil Rights era, cell-phone videos of police tear-gassing and beating peaceful protesters have outraged a large number of Americans. Support for the protests already outpaces support for the Civil Rights Act, which was approved by 58 percent of voters in an October 1964 Gallup poll. A June poll by the Pew Research Center found 67 percent of U.S. adults now support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Almost 70 cities, towns, and villages where whites make up more than 95 percent of the population reported protests during the two-week period. Three small New England towns – Chester, Vermont; Bristol, N.H.; and Wiscasset, Maine – had protests, even though Census data indicate their populations include no people of color.
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White, non-Hispanic people make up slightly more than 61 percent of the nation’s population, according to the 2014-18 American Community Survey. They constituted a majority in 1,480 of the 1,932 protest locations (76.6 percent) identified by the Times. Black Americans, who make up about 12.3 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for 16.7 percent of the population in places where protests took place.
Among majority-minority places, protestors turned out in the nation’s cities with some of the most troubled racial histories, including Compton, Calif., one of the epicenters of widespread riots in the aftermath of a 1991 police beating of Rodney King, a black Los Angeles-area motorist; Tuskegee, Ala., where federal health officials conducted a 40-year study of the effects of untreated syphilis from 1932-72 without informing the black subjects of the investigation; and Pine Ridge, S.D., part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the site of an 1890 massacre that resulted in the murder of as many as 300 largely unarmed Lakota men, women, and children by U.S. troops and one of the nation’s poorest communities.
Geographically, a wide majority of protests occurred in densely populated places located east of the Mississippi River. The northernmost protest in the contiguous 48 states happened in Fort Kent, Maine, a city of roughly 2,300 people on the Canadian border. Protests also occurred in Key West, Fla., only 90 miles north of Cuba; Chula Vista, Calif., a Mexican border town; and Bellingham, Wash., about two dozen miles south of the border with British Columbia.
Protests also occurred in 10 Alaskan cities, including Kotzebue, a mostly Native enclave about 25 miles north of the Arctic Circle; and Hilo, the biggest city on Hawaii’s largest island.