Leading up to this year’s Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, many worried that protests would be large, unruly and violent. […] But chaos hasn’t arrived. In fact, the protests at this year’s RNC are considerably smaller than we’ve seen at recent conventions.
The answer is not a newfound love of Donald Trump among social activists. The story is about organization — or rather, the lack of it.
The groups interested in protest failed to forge a broad, unifying coalition that could bring together protesters in coordinated opposition. My survey research of activists on the ground at the convention (conducted with the assistance of students at the University of Michigan and Kent State University) shows that they were fragmented in a series of smaller coalitions that staged modestly sized events.
A Black Power coalition led a small protest on Saturday, which notably did not include most of the #BLM activists in town for the week. A locally planned Keep the Promise March on Sunday was canceled in favor of an indoor event. Shut Down Trump and the RNC, which draws principally on out-of-town leadership and participants, rallied on Sunday and Monday behind causes such as immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter and peace. The End Poverty NOW! March for Economic Justice on Monday drew heavily upon Cleveland locals, but marched separately from Shut Down Trump. […]
By contrast, in 2004 and 2008, seasoned antiwar organizers brought together various elements of the left and staged impressive rallies outside the Republican conventions. As Fabio Rojas and I explain in our recent book, “Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party after 9/11,” the antiwar movement was able to identify themes that unified various faction of the left, both locally and nationally.