Communities where Black Lives Matter protests have been held in recent years saw a subsequent drop in the number of police homicides, by as much as 15 to 20 percent, or roughly 300 fewer deaths at the hands of authorities, recent research from UMass Amherst shows.
The findings were first released in February and updated last month in “Black Lives Matter’s Effect on Police Lethal Use-of-Force” by Travis Campbell, a graduate student in UMass Amherst’s Economics Department.
Campbell said despite the national attention and discourse the protest movement has generated over the years, he was surprised to learn little research actually exists regarding its impact on law enforcement.
Also surprising was the result of his research, which is now being peer-reviewed, he said.
“Growing up, we’re always told that protests don’t do anything,” Campbell, 26, told Boston.com. “But there’s a pretty sizable literature showing that they actually do.”
The key findings
According to Campbell’s research, the decreases were recorded between 2014, when unarmed Black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, and 2019.
Campbell opted not to include 2020 in his data set due to the unusual set of circumstances the COVID-19 pandemic presented. (Protests and COVID-related shutdowns, he said, were likely more probable in Democratic-leaning cities. Lockdowns could have also resulted in fewer interactions between the public and police than in a typical year, he added.)
The result of protesting appears to be striking, his paper notes.
“The payoff for protesting is substantial; around every 5 of the 1,724 protests in the sample corresponds with approximately one less person killed by the police over the following years, depending on specification,” Campbell writes. “The police killed around one less person for every twelve hundred participants.”
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