Sociologist Dana Fisher moved to Washington for the protests. She'd been studying environmental activism for more than a decade at Columbia University, and when she was offered a job as director of the Program for Society and the Environment at the University of Maryland six years ago, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to get close to the action.
But little action came. In Fisher's first five years in the Washington area, she didn't see a single large-scale progressive protest - meaning 50,000 people or more - on the Mall. She wound up traveling back to New York City for the 2014 Peoples Climate March.
"It was just funny to me that I got here, and it was just not happening," Fisher said Monday. "Now look at how the world has changed."
Since President Trump's inauguration, major demonstrations on the Mall have become almost a weekly occurrence. Few of Fisher's past students had ever participated in a protest, but these days "everybody has to get out of class to go downtown because they're chaining themselves to something or they're marching," she said.
Fisher has deployed so many teams of researchers to survey march participants she's running out of energy - and funding. She looked ahead at the calendar for May, which is momentarily mostly protest-free, and said with relief, "I will be excited to take a few weeks off."
"There's an exhaustion about studying protests when it's happening so frequently. . . . But I can't miss out on collecting data."
Fisher's research is focused on why people wind up at a protest. How did they find out about it? What issue motivated them to join? Are they involved in other civic groups, or is this their first time being part of something so big and public?
"I always have been interested in why and how people participate in democracy," she said. "What gets people off their butts and into the street?"
Here's what Fisher has learned from the many events that have rallied big crowds this year.
- In some ways, the marchers are more or less who you'd expect.
The crowds have been overwhelmingly people who voted for Hillary Clinton (82 percent to 90 percent). More than 90 percent of participants surveyed at the Women's March in January said their political views ranged from "slightly" to "very" left. The vast majority of Women's March participants were women. At the March for Science and Peoples Climate March last month, women made up 57 percent and 54 percent of demonstrators respectively.
The Women's and Peoples Climate marches were somewhat more diverse than most liberal protests Fisher has studied. The crowd at the 21 January event was 77 percent white, 4 percent Hispanic/Latino, 6.5 percent black, 0.2 percent Native American, 4 percent Asian and 8 percent multiracial or other. The numbers were similar at the Peoples Climate March, although last Saturday's event included significantly more Native American participants and fewer black and multiracial demonstrators. The March for Science had more white and Asian participants.
- The marchers are really well educated.
More than three-quarters of participants at each march had at least a bachelor's degree (for the overall US population, it's just one out of three, according to the Census). Interestingly, the Women's March, not the March for Science, was the most highly educated - a stunning 53 percent of survey respondents had a graduate or professional degree at the January event.
- Protesters are mobilising in new ways - many of them for the first time.
The Women's March, the March for Science and the Peoples Climate March all brought out large numbers of first-time demonstrators. About a third of the people at the first two events had never been to a protest before, and a quarter of those at Saturday's march said it was their first protest.
And the people joining the movements aren't being recruited in traditional ways. Usually, people will attend a protest because a friend or family member recommends it, or because they are part of an organisation that is participating. But in recent months, Facebook was cited more often than any other source when Fisher asked people how they heard about a march. Many of those surveyed were not members of any of the hundreds of partner groups that helped orchestrate the events.
"Across the board, the marches are bringing out not just new people but people who are not members of those coalitions," Fisher said. "People who are really new to participating in anything. This is a really interesting time where democracy has gotten a shot in the arm, and I suppose we have President Trump to thank for that."
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days: in cartoons
Donald Trump's first 100 days in office were marred by a string of scandals, many of which caught the eye of the Independent's cartoonists
Trump's first 100 days have seen him aggressively ramp up tensions with his nuclear rivals in North Korea
Mr Trump has warned of a "major, major conflict" with the pariah nation lead by Kim Jong Un
Mr Trump dropped the "mother of all bombs" on alleged ISIS-linked militants in Afghanistan, amid an escalation of US military intervention around the globe
Mr Trump has been accused of falling short of the standards set by his predecessors in the Oval Office, including Franklin D Roosevelt
The tycoon's ascension to the White House came at a time when the balance of power is shifting away from Western nations like those in the G7 group
Western politicians, including the British Conservative party, have been accused of falling in line behind Mr Trump's proposals
Brexit is seen to have weakened Britain, reducing still further any political will to resist American leadership
Mr Trump's leadership has been marked by sudden and unexpected shifts in global policy
Trump's controversial missile strike on Syria, which killed several citizens, was seen by some analysts as an attempt to distract from his policy elsewhere
The President has also spent a large majority of his weekends golfing, rather than attending to matters of state
Though free of gaffes, a visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping spotlighted trade tensions between the two states
One major and unexpected setback came when Mr Trump's Healthcare Bill was struck down by members of his own party
Mr Trump has been a figure of fun in the media, with his approval at record lows
A string of revelations about Mr Trump's financial indiscretions did not mar his surge to the White House
Outgoing President Barack Obama was accused of wiretapping Trump Tower by his successor in America's highest office
The alleged involvement of Russian intelligence operatives in securing Mr Trump the presidency prompted harsh criticism
The explosive resignation of Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who lied about his links to the Russian ambassador, was just one scandal to hit the President
Many scandals, such as the accusation Barack Obama was implicated in phone-hacking, first broke on Mr Trump's Twitter feed
Donald Trump's election provoked mass protests in the UK, with millions signing a petition to ban him from the country
Donald Trump cited a non-existent terror attack in Sweden during a campaign rally
Donald Trump stands accused of stoking regional tensions in Eastern Asia
North Korea has launched a number of failed nuclear tests since Mr Trump took power
Theresa May formally rejected the petition calling for Mr Trump to be banned from the UK
When Mr Trump's initial so-called Muslim ban was struck down by a federal justice, the President mocked the 69-year-old as a "ridiculous", "so-called judge"
A week after his inauguration, Theresa May met with Mr Trump at the White House
Donald Trump's first days in office were marked by a hasty attempt to follow through on many of his campaign promises, including the so-called Muslim ban
Donald Trump's decision to ban citizens of many majority-Muslim countries from the US sparked mass protests
Revelations about Donald Trump's sexual improprieties were not enough to keep him from being elected President
British PM Theresa May was criticised by many in the press for cosying up to the new President
One of Mr Trump's top aides, Kelly Anne Conway, was mocked for describing mistruths as "alternative facts"
British PM Theresa May was quick to demonstrate that her political aims did not hugely differ from Mr Trump's
Donald Trump's inauguration, on 20 January 2017, sparked protests both at home and abroad
- These marches wouldn't be happening without Trump.
Organisers of the March for Science insisted repeatedly that the demonstration wasn't just about opposing the White House. But participants told a different story. More than half said that Trump and what he stands for were a main motivation for marching; the only other motivation cited by more than 50 per cent of protesters was the environment. At the climate march, 55 per cent of participants said the same.
A whopping 98 per cent of the people who attended the science march said the outcome of the 2016 election was important to their decision to participate. At the climate march, that number was 97 per cent.
- But people's reasons for marching are becoming more diverse.
Fisher noted that protesters' motivations at recent marches were unlike anything she'd seen before. Whenever she surveys demonstrators, she allows them to check off their reasons for protesting from a list of causes: "Women's rights," "Environment," "Racial justice," "Equality," "Peace," "Labor," "Religion." Typically, protesters will tend to pick the same, single motivation: the environment at a climate march, LGBTQ rights at a pride parade.
But at recent marches, "I asked about the issues that mobilised them, and they were just like, 'All of them. Across the board, I'm here because of all of them,' " Fisher said.
At the Women's March, 60 per cent of participants said they were protesting for women's rights. But 36 per cent also cited the environment, and 35 per cent cited racial justice. At the science and climate marches, 90 per cent of participants were motivated by concern about the environment. But still, a third were marching for women's rights, a third for LGBTQ issues, a third for racial justice, a third for reproductive rights. Fisher met a grandmother at the climate march who said she was protesting for a healthy planet, as well as for a more tolerant society. Her grandchild is transgender, she told Fisher, and she wanted to make sure the child has equal rights as well as clean air.
"Since the inauguration . . . the resistance has become the umbrella for a suite of issues that used to have their own individual movements," Fisher said. "They are not just coming out for the one issue that is their big issue. They have a much more intersectional sense of an identity as an activist."
- The protesters aren't tired yet.
Despite concern about eventual "protest fatigue" (and Fisher's own fatigue from covering so many protests), "the resistance" seems to be building momentum rather than losing it, she said. Close to half of attendees at the March for Science had been to the Women's March in January. At the Peoples Climate March, 70 per cent of participants were return protesters from the Women's March, and 34 per cent had also been to the March for Science, even though it was held only the weekend before.
"What I think this is showing is that there are people who are getting involved and staying involved and coming out even if it's every weekend," Fisher said. "There's only so many weekends in a row you want to march, but we have not hit that exhaustion yet."
Does this signal a shift in how Americans participate in democracy? "The only answer I can give you is, I hope so," Fisher replied.
Most people used to be content to vote every four years and then disengage from politics, she said, "but many Americans no longer feel like their concerns are being heard just by voting."
Fisher will keep surveying protesters to figure out whether the momentum can be sustained. "Are they really civically engaged, are they going to do something before the midterm election, or are they going to go back to watch TV?" she said. But she said she's optimistic: "The data we have collected so far suggest they are not going back to watching TV."
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