Practicing the Art of Dissent: Toward a Typology of Protest Activity in the United States

Ratliff, Thomas N.; Hall, Lori L.
August 2014
Humanity & Society;Aug2014, Vol. 38 Issue 3, p268
Academic Journal
Protest events present portraits of social problems—people, through collective action, send a message to society through their performance of opposition. The purpose of this study is to examine the distribution and diversity of specific activities taking place at protest events in the United States from 2006 to 2009. We empirically examine these activities by drawing on preliminary data from a sample of nearly 2,500 protest events reported in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times. To more clearly understand our contentious repertoire, we build upon coding protocol developed by the Dynamics of Collective Action Project and examine over 60 specific activities utilized by activists. What we show—in addition to the fact that protester actions, while sometimes confrontational, are overwhelmingly nonviolent—is that the majority of all protester activity at protest events during the period under study involves literally symbolic, aesthetic, and sensory qualities. In this article, we present a typology of six broad activity categories and propose directions for future research.


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