Vermont leads US in protests per capita

Vermont has had the highest number of protests per capita in America since late May. Most of those were affiliated with Black Lives Matter, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

“ACLED” is a disaggregated data collection, analysis, and crisis mapping project for mapping “political violence and protest around the world.” They have some pretty amazing maps of conflict of areas including the Middle East and South America. They also have some nifty data points for Vermont and the United States, regarding protests and riots.

How does ACLED define a protest? “A public demonstration in which there are 3 more participants who do not engage in any violence, thought violence may be used against them.”

The most recent Vermont protest in the database occurred on September 5th when “people gathered in Battery Park in Burlington for the twelfth consecutive day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Vermont has the highest protests per capita in the entire US. Since May 29th, we’ve had 84 protests, which is 1 per 7433 Vermonters. This is nearly 4x the per capita rate in the entire US, which has had 1 protest per 27,124 Americans. The next closest state by per capita is Oregon, with 1 protest per 11,457 people. 67 of Vermont’s 84 protests have seen “a local Black Lives Matter group involved and/or when the main issue of the demonstration concerns police brutality against Black people.” That’s 80%, a rate which is above the national BLM related protest-rate of 70.5%.

61 of those 67 BLM protests were opposed by no counter group (greater than the national rate of 85%). A counter group showed up at 6 of the Vermont BLM protests, and none of these counter protests involved extremist groups opposing BLM, as was the case in 0.1% of the protests across the US.

Some protests across the US have turned into riots. The ACLED defines a riot as “demonstrations in which any demonstrators engage in violently disruptive or destructive acts (violence, looting, vandalism) as well as mob violence in which violent mobs target individuals, property or businesses.”

Thankfully, only 1 of the 84 protests in Vermont has turned into a riot. “On June 3, 2020, between 150 and 200 people blocked traffic and marched through Saint Johnsbury in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against police brutality. The police physically confronted protesters, and four people were arrested.” That one riot was enough to place Vermont squarely in the middle of the US for “riots per capita” at #25 nationwide, and fourth in New England, with fewer riots per capita than Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut but more than Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These figures don’t take into account the severity of the riot- the riot in Minnesota did far more damage than the small incident St. Johnsbury.

It is hard to make statistically significant comparisons for Vermont compared to other states – our small population size coupled with the sporadic nature of riots and protests sees to that. But on the whole, it seems Vermonters are much more willing to protest than citizens of others states. And given the number of protests, surprisingly few have turned into riots. So that’s something to be thankful for.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute


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