Some of the critiques (and I use that word loosely) go as follows:
They are burning down their own city!
It’s just a bunch of thugs and looters!
“Insert some random Martin Luther King J.R. speech” even though he used protest as a tool and often got jailed and beaten for it.
The right to peacefully assemble and express views through protest is guaranteed to everyone through the First Amendment. Much like the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, many people took to the streets during the summer of 2020 to protest the murder of George Floyd and police brutality. We all had to limit what we could do in a social sense during the pandemic, so there was no distraction from what was going on. America couldn’t bury itself in a Netflix rerun or turn a blind eye to these protests that were happening in virtually every major city.
Now, we have tangible evidence that those protests led to a decrease in police killings from a study by Emerita Professor of Sociology at Stanford University Susan Olzak.
The results were clear—at least where the issue was local. My study of America’s 170 largest cities between 2000 and 2019 found that street protests were followed by declines in officer-involved fatalities of Black and Latino individuals (though not for whites). In fact, the empirical analysis indicates 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.
Olzak also goes on to add in the same study that body cameras might also have an effect:
Does anything else work? My preliminary evidence showed that body cameras seem to have an effect. Black and Latino fatalities by police appear to be down significantly in cities where officers were required to wear body cams, but because this data is often compiled at the state level the link is not as tidy.
So, go let your voice be heard on an issue you feel passionate about. It works, and it’s a right that many people before you died to preserve. No wonder eight states passed anti-protests laws last year or people like Gov. Ron Desantis of Florida calls them “mob activity.” The results of this very study show how powerful protests can be.