Protest movements involving limited violence can sometimes be effective: Evidence from the 2020 BlackLivesMatter protests

Eric Shuman*, Siwar Hasan-Aslih, Martijn Van Zomeren, Tamar Saguy, Eran Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The murder of George Floyd ignited one of the largest mass mobilizations in US history, including both nonviolent and violent BlackLives Matter (BLM) protests in the summer of 2020. Many have since asked: Did the violence within the largely nonviolent movement help or hurt its goals? To answer this question, we used data [R. Kishi, et al., (Report, Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, 2021)] about the location of all BLM protests during the summer of 2020 to identify US counties that featured no protests, only nonviolent protests, or both nonviolent and violent protests.We then combined these data with survey data (n = 494; study 1), data from the Congressional Cooperative Election Study (n = 43,924; study 2A), and data from Project Implicit (n = 180,480; study 2B), in order to examine how exposure to (i.e., living in a county with) different types of protest affected both support for the key policy goals of the movement and prejudice toward Black Americans. We found that the 2020 BLM protests were not associated with reduced prejudice among either liberals or conservatives. However, when containing a mix of nonviolence and violence, these protests predicted greater support for BLM's key policy goals among conservatives living in relatively liberal areas. As such, this research suggests that violent, disruptive actions within a broader nonviolent movement may affect those likely to be resistant to the movement.We connect these findings to the notion of disruptive action, which explains why these effects do not materialize in reducing prejudice, but in generating support for important policy goals of the movement.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2118990119
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - 5 Apr 2022

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  • collective action
  • nonviolent protest
  • prejudice
  • violent protest


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