Highlander’s Mission: Social Justice

by Aldon Morris, Northwestern University

from Critical Mass, Volume 44, Issue 1

The historically important Highlander Research and Education Center was deliberately attacked. On March 29, 2019, an early morning fire destroyed its executive office building along with historic documents, speeches, artifacts and memorabilia stored there. Although an investigation of the arson continues, all indications point to a white supremacy group as the perpetrator.

Read More

How “More Cowbell, More Cowbell” Worked! Disruptive Tactics and the Outcome of the UIUC Labor Protest

by Amirhossein Teimouri, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

from Critical Mass, Volume 44, Issue 1

In late February 2018, I found myself joining fellow graduate students in a strike on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). The strike at the UIUC was a rare opportunity for a student-led labor movement to rise against the corporatization of the public education. Although this was a campus-wide movement without nation-wide repercussions, participants and activists integrated the movement to a broader nation-wide public education unrest.

Read More

Social Media in a Controversial Student Election: New Frontiers for Political Strife

by Anson Au, University of Toronto

from Critical Mass, Volume 44, Issue 1

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Carol (name changed to protect her identity) ran for student president at one of the largest universities in Canada. Her platform was dressed up in the usual rhetoric for campaigns in student elections: fighting for more resources for students, ensuring students’ voices were heard and represented, and so on. But Carol was also vocal in advocating for the freedom of an ethnic group in China, making the controversial claim that the territory should be politically autonomous and separated from China and that the cultural history of this ethnic group was so distinct that they deserved independence.

Read More

Students vs. Tuition Hikes

by Didem Türkoğlu, UNC Chapel Hill

from Critical Mass, Volume 44, Issue 1

Students protest tuitions. Perhaps more so than ever. The photos from the protests in Chile, Canada, and South Africa come to mind quickly. Then there are less globally covered student protests in Germany and Turkey. What makes these student protests so significant? In a forthcoming special issue in Current Sociology, scholars focus on case studies from the global north and the global south to provide answers to this question.

Read More

Student Activism Shaping the Preservation of Confederate Monuments at UNC-Chapel Hill

by Emily H.A. Yen, Trinity College

from Critical Mass, Volume 44, Issue 1

The violent death of Heather Heyer at the Unite the Right rally lead by torch-carrying White nationalists protesting the proposed removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia shifted the national discourse around White supremacy and the public display of Confederate monuments. Confederate monuments are particularly controversial since the vast majority of them were built after the Supreme Court upheld the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision (Southern Poverty Law Center 2019) and were a way for White southerners to venerate an alternative narrative of the origins of the Civil War and assert racial dominance in the Jim Crow South. The United Daughters of the Confederacy’s fundraising of the 8-foot bronze statue on University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC) campus and its dedication by Julian Carr, a UNC Trustee and Confederate veteran who supported the Ku Klux Klan, in 1913 reflects this larger movement (Farzan 2018). The statue known as “Silent Sam” has been a focal point of recent campus debates around racial justice, White supremacy, and free speech, but generations of UNC students have been protesting its presence on campus for over 50 years. The most recent wave of student activism led to the statue’s physical toppling in August 2018 and spurred an ongoing debate around the preservation of its symbolic legacy.

Read More

Hints of the Coming of the Women’s Marches

By Jo Reger, Oakland University

As someone who studies the contemporary U.S. feminist movement, I should not have been surprised by the global outpouring of protests on January 21, 2017. After all, you could feel the rumblings coming during the Clinton-Trump campaign. The outright misogyny of Donald Trump’s casual evaluation of women, in contrast to the empowered women rhetoric of Hillary Clinton. Emotions were running high, insults were being flung, and once agreeable neighbors began to argue with each other’s choice of yard signs.

But stepping back from the heat of those moments, there were seeds planted for the global spread of women’s marches long before Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton threw their hats in the electoral ring.  Drawing on the old adage “hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I offer a few examples that offered hints of the women’s marches to come:

Read More

Considering Contention in Trumptimes

By David S. Meyer, University of California, Irvine

For those of us who study protest movements, to paraphrase Dickens, the Trump presidency represents both the best of times and the worst of times. For scholars of political contention, Trump’s election immediately presents an upsurge of activism across many social movements that offer us massive amounts of empirical material and no shortage of analytical challenges. Like the paleontologist visiting Jurassic Park, those of us who write about movements can watch our preferred theories of contention being shredded—or not—in real time. Public attention to protest has also surged, and journalists, activists, and neighbors are more likely to express interest in the stuff that occupies our imagination most of the time. Regular people are paying attention!

The sense of urgency and possibility is exhilarating, but there is a downside: I have to live here. Donald Trump represents an urgent and unusual threat to democratic institutions in general, and in particular, a direct threat to the pursuit of science and the institutions which support it.

Read More

100 Days of #Resistance and Still Counting: Innovating How We Study Protest

By Dana R. Fisher, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland

Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the US, protests and demonstrations have become relatively commonplace around the United States:  hundreds of thousands marched in pussy hats on the day after the inauguration; thousands stood in airports to show support for an America that is open to immigrants; tens of thousands of people marched (some sporting brain hats) to support science; hundreds of thousands circled the White House to show concern for climate change and the ways the new Administration is quickly undoing all political progress the previous administration made; and the town hall meetings of members of Congress have been flooded with attendees who want their elected officials to represent their interests.  In other words, the election of Donald Trump has been a veritable shot in the arm to democracy in America.  People are no longer bowling alone, they are marching and yelling together.

Since the inauguration, I have fielded research teams to survey participants at the large-scale protest events taking place in Washington, DC.  So far, we have collected data at the Women’s March, the March for Science, and the People’s Climate March that coincided with Trump’s 100th day in office.  Like my previous work, which surveyed a random sample of participants at large-scale protest events around various issues over the past 17 years, the research team at these events has administered a short anonymous survey to learn who is participating, what motivates them to participate, how civically engaged they are, how connected they are to the respective march’s organizational coalitions, and what are their demographics.  Unlike my previous work, where we administered a two-sided one-page paper survey with clipboards and ballpoint pens, however, I recently decided to innovate the data collection process.

Read More

Message from the Chair: Protest, Elections, Media, and Inequality

By Kenneth (Andy) Andrews, CBSM Section Chair, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

We have arrived at a moment where protest and efforts to understand protest are everywhere. I am certain you are familiar with the broad contours of recent protest. The Crowd Counting Consortium documented 653 protests as part of the Women’s March on January 22nd and over four million participants. In subsequent weeks, there have been hundreds of protest events across an incredible array of issues and locales. Both established groups like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood and new ones like Indivisible have jumped into the fray. Trump provides a singular and unifying target for activism related to immigration, healthcare, gender, LGBT rights, abortion rights, racial justice, and on and on. Perhaps the best recent parallel is the way Obama provided a focal point for right wing activists and conservatives over the prior eight years.

Thinking about this moment, I recalled a conversation I had with Anthony (Tony) Oberschall several years ago. Tony described the politically and intellectually charged environment when he first started working on social movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s where seemingly every day was marked by events on college campuses, throughout the U.S., and across the globe that spoke to the emerging theoretical debates and perspectives being developed. Importantly, these debates were not contained by or within the boundaries of our subfield. We seem to be in the midst of a similar moment.

Read More