Trump called protests vi­o­lent. We found ma­jor­ity are peace­ful

Res­i­dents in five Democrat- run cities also dis­pute claims of be­ing ‘ un­der siege’

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Grace Hauck, Trevor Hughes, Omar Ab­del- Baqui, Ri­cardo Tor­res and Hayes Gard­ner

CHICAGO – Hours after a 14- year- old boy was fa­tally shot, dozens of young peo­ple held a “love march” through the city’s South Side En­gle­wood neigh­bor­hood last Satur­day, hold­ing images of peo­ple lost to gun vi­o­lence and call­ing for in­vest­ments in gro­cery stores, schools and health ser­vices in their neigh­bor­hoods.

“I’ve lost 34 friends to gun vi­o­lence and po­lice bru­tal­ity, and it pushes me to keep go­ing and show love,” said Juanita Ten­nyson, 23, who has hosted three of these marches and a se­ries of food drives since Ge­orge Floyd’s death in po­lice cus­tody May 25 in Min­neapo­lis. “Peo­ple think protests are bad and vi­o­lent, and they’re not. They can be beau­ti­ful and peace­ful and calm.”

As Elec­tion Day nears, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his sup­port­ers con­tinue to warn vot­ers that big cities run by Democrats are “go­ing to hell” be­cause of vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with Black Lives Mat­ter protests that erupted na­tion­wide this sum­mer.

Roughly two- thirds of Amer­i­cans say they be­lieve pro­test­ers and coun­ter­protesters are over­whelm­ing Amer­i­can cities, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent USA TO­DAY/ Ip­sos poll.

But the peo­ple who live and work in those cities say Trump is ei­ther ter­ri­bly mis­in­formed or ly­ing. While mur­ders and shoot­ings have soared across the coun­try amid the coron­avirus pan­demic and its eco­nomic fall­out, the vast ma­jor­ity of demon­stra­tions as­so­ci­ated with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment have been non­vi­o­lent.

Pro­test­ers did not en­gage in vi­o­lent or de­struc­tive ac­tiv­ity in more than 93% of the 7,750- plus demon­stra­tions across all 50 states and Wash­ing­ton,

D. C., from May 26 to late Au­gust, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the U. S. Cri­sis Mon­i­tor, a joint effort in­clud­ing Prince­ton Univer­sity that col­lects and an­a­lyzes real- time data on demon­stra­tions and po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence in the U. S.

To be sure, demon­stra­tions were vi­o­lent or de­struc­tive in about 220 lo­ca­tions, in­sti­gated by pro­test­ers, coun­ter­protesters, po­lice and oth­ers, the re­port said. Peo­ple have been in­jured and killed, and build­ings, ve­hi­cles and more have been dam­aged.

Few of those charged in protest- re­lated ar­rests ap­pear to be affili­ated with highly or­ga­nized ex­trem­ist groups, and many are young sub­ur­ban adults from the very neigh­bor­hoods Trump vows to pro­tect from vi­o­lence, ac­cord­ing to a re­view of thou­sands of pages of court doc­u­ments by The As­so­ci­ated Press.

So what’s re­ally go­ing on? The USA TO­DAY Net­work looked into what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground in Port­land, Ore­gon; Detroit; Mil­wau­kee; Louisville, Ken­tucky; and Chicago.


Night after night, TV sta­tions broad­cast images of thou­sands of peo­ple de­scend­ing upon the fed­eral court­house, where a small num­ber of pro­test­ers brushed with po­lice in chaotic clashes.

But res­i­dent Greg Sut­liff, 34, said most peo­ple are now go­ing about their lives un­affected by the protests, which have largely been confined to ar­eas around the po­lice depart­ment, court­house and city hall.

Over­all, vi­o­lent crime is down, and the num­ber of homi­cides in the past 12 months re­mains the same com­pared with the pre­vi­ous pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to city data. Even the high­est daily spikes in vi­o­lent crime this sum­mer did not ex­ceed the record daily count from 2015 to 2019, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

There were 15 homi­cides in July – more than dou­ble the monthly av­er­age since mid- 2015, ac­cord­ing to city data. In Au­gust, a man was fa­tally shot after a pro- Trump car­a­van faced off with coun­ter­protesters. Since 2015, the city has rarely recorded more than four homi­cides in a month.

Sut­liff, who helps run a small non­profit, re­jected the idea Port­land is dan­ger­ous or vi­o­lent. “It’s ex­tremely frus­trat­ing that the pres­i­dent has been try­ing to di­vide the coun­try into hos­tile camps and paint­ing an en­tire city as a place that’s un­in­hab­it­able and vi­o­lent, when that’s not the case,” Sut­liff said.

Sarah Ian­narone, who is run­ning for mayor in Port­land’s non­par­ti­san elec­tion, said she wants part­ner­ship from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, not crit­i­cism.

She said Trump mas­ter­fully takes ac­cu­rate but iso­lated ex­am­ples of vi­o­lence, like a flag be­ing burned or a win­dow be­ing smashed, and then spins nar­ra­tive fitting his po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

Still, Ian­narone said, the high- profile protests have prompted elected officials across the coun­try to move more quickly to­ward po­lice re­form than they might have oth­er­wise. “You have to give the protests na­tion­wide credit for mov­ing pol­i­cy­mak­ers to move with ur­gency to ad­dress this sit­u­a­tion,” she said.

The Port­land Po­lice Bu­reau didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, and the mayor’s staff said he was un­avail­able for in­ter­views.


Detroi­ters have also protested since May, but, un­like in many other ma­jor U. S. cities, there was no loot­ing or wide­spread prop­erty dam­age. There were, how­ever, sev­eral in­stances of vi­o­lence be­tween po­lice and pro­test­ers in the early days of the protest move­ment.

Po­lice ar­rested hun­dreds of demon­stra­tors dur­ing the first week of protests that be­gan May 29. Pro­test­ers said po­lice slammed them to the ground, shot them with rub­ber bul­lets and ne­glected them when they needed med­i­cal care.

A fed­eral judge in Septem­ber tem­po­rar­ily banned Detroit po­lice from us­ing ba­tons, shields, gas, rub­ber bul­lets, choke­holds or sound can­nons against peace­ful pro­test­ers.

Po­lice Chief James Craig has been highly crit­i­cal of pro­test­ers he cat­e­go­rized as rad­i­cal. He has high­lighted pro­test­ers throw­ing rail­road spikes and rocks at po­lice officers and at­tempt­ing to over­take an in­ter­sec­tion.

Tris­tan Tay­lor, the leader of Detroit Will Breathe, the group or­ches­trat­ing protests, said he wasn’t sur­prised a ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans say they be­lieve pro­test­ers and coun­ter­protesters are over

whelm­ing cities. That’s the point, he said – phys­i­cally stop­ping so­ci­ety from run­ning busi­ness as usual is the power of protest.

Although protests con­tinue daily, they don’t con­sis­tently bring out hun­dreds like they did in May and June.

Since the first day of protests, vi­o­lent crime and homi­cides have risen sharply in Detroit. Vi­o­lent crimes peaked July 5, when the city recorded 72, and again on Aug. 15, with 67, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.

As of Septem­ber, homi­cides were up 23% from the same time last year and non­fa­tal shoot­ings were up 50%.

Craig at­trib­uted the spike in vi­o­lent crime to pan­demic- re­lated stress, the stay- at- home or­der and protests.

Mean­while, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­ployed dozens of fed­eral agents in Detroit over the course of the sum­mer as part of Op­er­a­tion Leg­end, a Trump- ad­min­is­tra­tion ini­tia­tive to bat­tle crime in ma­jor U. S. cities. Sixty- two peo­ple have been charged with firearms- re­lated of­fenses and three were charged with other vi­o­lent crimes un­der Op­er­a­tion Leg­end, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice said last week.


Five months after protests be­gan in Mil­wau­kee after Floyd’s death, there is lit­tle sign of a city “un­der siege.”

There have been nights of vi­o­lence, es­pe­cially early on, and more re­cently in Kenosha and sub­ur­ban Wauwatosa. But officials and res­i­dents say the protests have been marked more by de­ter­mi­na­tion than de­struc­tion.

In the first days, thou­sands of pro­test­ers criss­crossed Mil­wau­kee and sur­round­ing sub­urbs in long, daily marches. Un­rest broke out near two po­lice sta­tions late at night, and po­lice used tear gas and pep­per spray to break up crowds.

Since then, ded­i­cated pro­test­ers formed a group called the Peo­ples Revo­lu­tion, which has marched or gath­ered to strate­gize ev­ery day. The ac­tivists have de­voted much of their en­ergy to the cases of Alvin Cole, shot and killed in Fe­bru­ary by a Wauwatosa po­lice officer, and Joel Acevedo, who died after an off- duty Mil­wau­kee officer put him in a choke­hold dur­ing a fight at the officer’s house in April.

Mil­wau­kee Com­mon Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Cav­a­lier John­son said those march­ing reg­u­larly are com­mit­ted to see­ing real change car­ried out and are “fight­ing for the found­ing creed of this na­tion.” But a small num­ber of oth­ers who join late at night and who are un­or­ga­nized and de­struc­tive “turn the tide of the con­ver­sa­tion from one that’s pos­i­tive to one that’s neg­a­tive.”

In Au­gust, Joseph Men­sah, the officer who shot Cole, said he was as­saulted by pro­test­ers, and two men are fac­ing felony charges after a shot­gun was fired. In Oc­to­ber, officials co­or­di­nated a heavy po­lice re­sponse to protests when the Mil­wau­kee County district at­tor­ney did not charge Men­sah in Cole’s death.

Sarah Griffie, a mem­ber of ac­tivist group Tosa To­gether, lives in the area that saw the most ac­tiv­ity in Wauwatosa and now, more than a week after the in­tense protests, she says “things have mostly gone quiet.”

Ac­cord­ing to Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Depart­ment data, homi­cides this year are down more than 20% from the same time last year; other vi­o­lent crimes are also down by dou­ble- digit per­cent­ages.

But a count by the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel shows Mil­wau­kee is on pace for a record homi­cide year. There had been more than 155 homi­cides as of Oct. 18, ac­cord­ing to the count. The city had 99 homi­cides in all of 2019.

Mil­wau­kee saw its great­est num­ber of vi­o­lent crimes, 70, on June 21, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. But none of the peaks ex­ceeded the high­est num­ber of daily vi­o­lent crime in­ci­dents seen be­tween 2015 and 2019, when the city recorded 73.

Twenty- five peo­ple have been charged with firearms- re­lated offenses un­der Op­er­a­tion Leg­end, and four have been charged with other vi­o­lent crimes.

In Kenosha, after a po­lice officer shot Joseph Blake in the back at close range in Au­gust, that com­mu­nity be­came a na­tional fo­cal point. Build­ings were set on fire and, on a night after a call for armed men to pro­tect busi­nesses, two pro­test­ers were shot and killed. The most in­tense clashes lasted for three days. But pro­test­ers have kept march­ing and or­ga­niz­ing.


Louisville never stopped protest­ing. Protests be­gan in Ken­tucky’s largest city May 28, the day a fran­tic 911 call was made pub­lic from the night Bre­onna Tay­lor was killed and three days after Floyd’s death.

Tay­lor, an un­armed Black woman, was shot in her home March 13 by po­lice who were ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant.

Although protests are con­tin­u­ous, Louisville is not un­der siege. The main sign of on­go­ing protest is oc­ca­sional blocked traffic and an oc­cu­pied down­town park.

“Be­sides COVID, most parts of Metro Louisville are func­tion­ing as best as it can func­tion un­der the pan­demic,” said com­mu­nity ac­tivist Christo­pher 2X.

But over the course of more than 140 days, there has been some vi­o­lence. Dur­ing the first nights, there was gunfire down­town, and many busi­nesses were looted. Two peo­ple were killed in June.

Fol­low­ing the Jeffer­son County grand jury de­ci­sion Sept. 23 not to charge the officers in Tay­lor’s death, protests in­ten­sified. That even­ing, two po­lice officers were shot.

There have been 887 ar­rests tied to the protests as of Oct. 15, ac­cord­ing to Louisville po­lice, but they typ­i­cally stem from what or­ga­niz­ers call “good trou­ble.” Demon­stra­tors have blocked bridges to traffic, shut down a city block to host an im­promptu block party, and or­ga­nized a mas­sive sit- in on At­tor­ney Gen­eral Daniel Cameron’s front lawn.

Sep­a­rately, Louisville has ex­pe­ri­enced more homi­cides this year than any year prior. As of Oct. 11, there had been 130 crim­i­nal homi­cides, sur­pass­ing the record of 117 from 2016. Vi­o­lent crime as a whole is up, too. From Jan­uary to Au­gust, there were 4,378 re­ported in­stances, com­pared with an av­er­age of 3,093 over the past five years.

Mayor Greg Fis­cher said in Septem­ber that the city had to ad­dress the “hor­ri­fy­ing in­crease in homi­cides that we’re see­ing in our city, many of which are con­nected to the il­le­gal drug trade.”

Other lo­cal lead­ers have pointed to cir­cum­stances stem­ming from the coron­avirus pan­demic – like job­less­ness and no in- per­son school – as con­tri­bu­tions to in­creased vi­o­lent crime.


The large ma­jor­ity of demon­stra­tions in Chicago have been peace­ful: There have been dance par­ties ral­lies and there was a day­long en­camp­ment where ac­tivists reimag­ined what com­mu­nity safety would look like with­out po­lice and gave out food, art and men­tal health re­sources.

At the same time, there was a small per­cent­age of vi­o­lent and de­struc­tive in­ci­dents that gar­nered the bulk of me­dia at­ten­tion. One event, in July, turned vi­o­lent after dozens of peo­ple at­tempted to top­ple one of the city’s Christo­pher Colum­bus stat­ues. Twelve peo­ple were ar­rested, and 18 officers were in­jured.

Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent David Brown said in late Septem­ber that officers be­lieved there was a “co­or­di­nated effort over the sum­mer to em­bed ag­i­ta­tors in peace­ful protests.”

There was also vi­o­lence as­so­ci­ated with two rounds of loot­ing this sum­mer. There were nearly 200 in­ci­dents of vi­o­lent crime on May 31 – the most in a sin­gle day all sum­mer and more than any daily record from 2015 to 2019, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. And more than two months later, 100 peo­ple were ar­rested and 13 officers were in­jured, and a se­cu­rity guard and a civil­ian were shot.

Tess Porter, 54, owner of Tess’s Place Style Shop in En­gle­wood, had her front win­dows shat­tered in the first round of loot­ing, and her beauty prod­ucts and equip­ment were stolen. The loss was “heart­break­ing,” Porter said, but she didn’t blame pro­test­ers.

“I don’t be­lieve the protests had any­thing to do with the loot­ing. It was an evil thing peo­ple just took the op­por­tu­nity to do at the time,” Porter said.

To­tal crime rates are down this year, but mur­ders are up 53% from the same time last year, and shoot­ings are up 53%, ac­cord­ing to the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment.

Ahriel Fuller, 25, started run­ning a free sup­plies drive over the sum­mer. Fuller said it’s “ironic” that Trump char­ac­ter­izes protests in Chicago as vi­o­lent.

“Peo­ple want to say that pro­test­ers are vi­o­lent, but you have to look at the peo­ple who are in charge of vi­o­lent sys­tems,” she said. “Poverty is vi­o­lence, and we’re re­spond­ing di­rectly to poverty. This is a protest. It’s my protest.”


Mem­bers of the NBA’s Mil­wau­kee Bucks join a Ge­orge Floyd protest march in June in Mil­wau­kee.


A ma­jor­ity of this sum­mer’s racial jus­tice protests in Chicago were non­vi­o­lent, like this peace walk.


Moth­ers stand arm- in- arm out­side the Jus­tice Cen­ter in down­town Port­land, Ore., dur­ing a July protest. Res­i­dents say the city is peace­ful and re­ject the pres­i­dent’s claim it is over­run with vi­o­lence.


Sadiqa Reynolds, CEO of the Louisville Ur­ban League, leads chants dur­ing a march for Bre­onna Tay­lor on Oct. 10.

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