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Violent force used three times more often against leftwing protests by US police, new stats show

Gustaf Kilander
·3-min read
Seattle police have been found in contempt of court, over the response to Black Lives Matter protests  (AP)
Seattle police have been found in contempt of court, over the response to Black Lives Matter protests (AP)

US police are three times more likely to use force against left-leaning protesters than demonstrations coming from the right, new data shows.

The force used against Black Lives Matter protests in the last ten months, like tear gas, beatings, pepper spray and rubber bullets were used much less frequently against rightwing demonstrations, The Guardian writes.

The new statistics come as law enforcement’s tepid response to the Capitol riots is being questioned and compared to the sometimes violent police reactions to largely peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations this summer.

The data shows law enforcement were more likely to use violent force against leftist protesters regardless if the demonstrations remained peaceful or turned chaotic. The data comes from the database US Crisis Monitor created by researchers at Princeton University and the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project which has observed civil unrest around the world.

The data has been drawn from responses by law enforcement to more than 13,000 protests organized by people from the left and the right since April of last year. The vast majority organized by both sides were peaceful and not met with a violent response from law enforcement. Police has used violent force against protesters at 511 leftwing and 33 rightwing protests since April, according to The Guardian.

4.7 per cent of protests from the left were met with violence, compared to 1.4 per cent for those from the right. When comparing the protests where none of the demonstrators engaged in any violence or looting, police were 3.5 times more likely to respond to leftwing protests with violence. Around 1.8 per cent of peaceful leftwing protests were met with violence from law enforcement, compared to about 0.5 per cent for peaceful rightwing protests.

The director of research and innovation at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project, Dr Roudabeh Kishi, told The Guardian that police responding more violently to leftwing protests was a "clear trend".

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She said that police are not just engaging more with protesters from the left because they are more violent but "They’re engaging more even with peaceful protesters".

94 per cent of leftwing protests were peaceful, compared to 96 per cent of rightwing protests. When determining whether a protest was peaceful or not, whether any violence was a response to police actions were not taken into account.

Since April 1 2020, law enforcement made arrests or otherwise intervened in nine per cent of 10,863 Black Lives Matter and other leftwing demonstrations. The same was true for four per cent of the 2,295 rightwing protests during the same period. Half of the times that police or other law enforcement made interventions in leftwing protests it included the use of violent force, compared with a third of interventions in rightwing protests.

The Washington Post reported in October that over 96 per cent of last summer's Black Lives Matter events involved no property damage or injuries to police officers.

The majority of the leftwing protests documented by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project were Black Lives Matter events, but also included demonstrations in support of President-elect Joe Biden, and other groups such as Abolish Ice, the Democratic Socialists of America or The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Rightwing protests were in support of President Trump, in support of police such as Blue Lives Matter events, protests against Covid-regulations, demonstrations by believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory and Stop the Steal events by protesters who believed that the presidential election was stolen despite lack of evidence, The Guardian reports.

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