The data from a recent study titled “Demonstrations & Political Violence In America” by the ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data) Project and Princeton University reveal that “the United States is in crisis.”
The United States is at heightened risk of political violence and instability going into the 2020 general election. Mass shootings hit a record high last year(BBC, 29 December 2019), violent hate crimes are on the rise (Al Jazeera, 13 November 2019), and police killings continue unabated, at 2.5 times the rate for Black men as for white men (FiveThirtyEight, 1 June 2020;Nature, 19 June2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has killed well over 180,000 (New York Times, 3 September2020) and disrupted the economy, while George Floyd’s death in police custody has sparked a massive wave of protest across the country.
The US Crisis Monitor— a joint project between ACLED and the Bridging Divides Initiative (BDI) at Princeton University— collects real-time data on these trends in order to provide timely analysis and resources to support civil society efforts to track, prevent, and mitigate the risk of political violence in America.With supplemental data collection extending coverage back to the week of Floyd’s killing in May, the dataset now encompasses the latest phase of the Black Lives Matter movement, growing unrest related to the health crisis, and politically motivated violence ahead of the November general election.
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. This report maps these trends with a view toward the upcoming election, when these intersecting risks are likely to intensify.
The longstanding crisis of police violence and structural racism in America hit a new flashpoint this year. On 25 May 2020, Minneapolis police officers arrested George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill. One officer pinned Floyd to the ground and kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 15 seconds, killing him. Other officers looked on (BBC, 16 July 2020). Floyd’s death prompted a surge of demonstrations associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM)1movement that quickly spread from Minneapolis throughout the country. Between 26 May, the day after Floyd’s death, and 22 August, ACLED records over 7,750 demonstrations linked to the BLM movement across more than 2,440 locations in all 50 states and Washington, DC.
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