A new study based on law enforcement responses to more than 13,000 demonstrations in the US has revealed police are three times more likely to use force against left-wing protesters.
The figures come from a database known as the US Crisis Monitor, created by researchers at Princeton University together with the nonprofit organisation Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), which monitors political violence around the world.
Taking into account police responses to protests that have taken place across the US since April 2020, the results found a clear disparity between more left-wing activism, such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, and those led by the right, for example with the recent storming of the US Capitol, organised by Donald Trump supporters.
The study found that police unleashed teargas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and beatings at a much higher percentage at BLM demonstrations than at pro-Trump or other right-wing protests, and that force was more likely to be used against left-wing protestors, regardless of whether the demonstrations were peaceful or not.
While the majority of the 13,000 protests studied were not met with any violent response, police relied upon teargas, rubber bullets, beatings with batons and other force against demonstrators at 511 left-wing protests, compared to only 33 right-wing protests.
Using this data, The Guardian compared the percentage of all demonstrations that resulted in the use of force by law enforcement. The use of force was present at about 4.7% of left-wing protests in comparison to about 1.4% of right-wing protests, meaning law enforcement was roughly three times more likely to use force in left-wing demonstrations.
In purely peaceful protests – in which demonstrators did not engage in any violence, vandalism or looting – police used force in 1.8% of left-wing demonstrations and only 0.5% of right-wing demonstrations, meaning they were 3.5 times more likely to use force against the left.
Speaking to The Guardian about the findings, Dr Roudabeh Kishi, ACLED’s director of research and innovation, said:
Police are not just engaging more because [left-wing protesters] are more violent. They’re engaging more even with peaceful protesters. That’s the clear trend.
As well as using force at protests, ACLED’s data further revealed that US law enforcement agencies were more likely to intervene in left-wing protests in general, and more likely to use force when they intervened.
Police interfered in 9% of the 10,863 left-wing protests that took place between April 2020 and January 8, in comparison to 4% of the 2,295 right-wing protests. When police intervened, they used violent force half the time at left-wing protests and only about a third of the time for right-wing protests.
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