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How Black Lives Matter may be the largest movement in American history

Up to 26 million people in the United States have reportedly participated in protests over the death of George Floyd and police brutality.

Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images

America is currently experiencing textbook civil rights history in real-time. The Black Lives Matter movement, launched in 2013 as a result of the fatal arrest of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, is one of the largest movements in U.S. history, The New York Times reports.

When a video of 46-year-old George Floyd being killed as a Minnesota cop pressed his knee into his neck until expiration spread across social media in May, protest erupted not only in the heart of Minneapolis but across the globe, as well.

In America alone, the Black Lives Matter protests reportedly hit a milestone on June 6. The Times reports that nearly half a million people flooded the streets across the country in 550 different locations with protest signs decrying police brutality and demanding change.

Over a month later, the protests continue.

According to data science firm Civis Analytics, 15 million to 26 million people in the United States joined demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain, and the countless other Black lives lost at the hands of police.

Scholars suggest this is the largest movement in the country’s history.

For comparison, 2017’s highly-organized Women’s March brought out three million to five million people on a single day. Black Lives Matter protests, which are more organic via social media, have managed to surpass those numbers greatly.

“Really, it’s hard to overstate the scale of this movement,” New School associate professor Deva Woodly told The Times. “If we added up all those protests during [the Civil Rights protest], we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, but not millions.”

The Times analysis shows that there have been an estimated 4,700 demonstrations in America, which averages to about 140 per day. The profile of the protesters seem to be young (under 35) and wealthy.

As the pandemic confines most of the world in their homes, the pausing consequently caused many to actually sit and process the videos of police violence towards the Black community. As a result, there as more support for Black Lives Matter than in the past.

Additional support from celebrities such as Beyoncé and Trey Songz, as well as large organizations like NASCAR may have also helped. In a recent cover story for NME, Megan Thee Stallion said she believed this is “part two of the civil rights movement.”

“If you aren’t moved by the George Floyd video, you have nothing in you,” University of Pennsylvania professor Daniel Q. Gillion said in an interview with The Times. “And that catalyst can now be amplified by the fact that individuals probably have more time to engage in protest activity.”

Additionally, President Trump’s response to the Coronavirus, immigration, and his divisive rhetoric may also be playing a role. The Times reports that there have been more protests under Trump than under any other presidency since the Cold War.

So far, the protests have been enacting some change. Minneapolis City Council is working on dismantling its police department. New York slashed the NYPD’s budget and banned chokeholds. In Los Angeles, a movement to defund the police is underway. Not only that, but Confederate statues and emblems have also come tumbling down.

These numbers are just a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 isn’t just a footnote in history textbooks, but an entire chapter.

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