Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán spoke to AP News about the long-term impact of protests. Studies estimate that over 15 million Americans have taken part in demonstrations decrying racial injustice following the death of George Floyd. While it’s too early to gauge the impact of current protests, a look at the history of U.S. activist movements — including calls for women’s suffrage and civil rights — highlights the victories that have been achieved through protesting. Zepeda-Millán weighed in on a 2006 bill seeking to classify undocumented immigrants as felons and penalizing anyone who assisted them. The bill was shut down in the Senate after millions turned out to protest against it. Zepeda-Millán credits the protests for both stopping the bill and encouraging voter registration among Latinos. However, he said the protests also intensified congressional polarization, dimming prospects for any immigration overhaul and citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a New York Times article about the role that Latinos have taken on in the Black Lives Matter movement. Both Black and Latino communities have been affected by police violence and systemic racism, even though the national focus of ongoing protests has chiefly been about the impact on Black Americans and the ways white Americans are responding to it. A recent poll by the New York Times and Siena College found that 21% of Hispanic voters said they had participated in Black Lives Matter protests, nearly identical to the 22% of Black voters who said they had done so. “Many Latino youth, they are making the connection, they are pressing their families to have difficult conversations,” Zepeda-Millán explained. For many liberal Latino activists, the Black Lives Matter movement and current wave of protests serve as a model and an inspiration.
Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan was cited in an 808 Opinions blog post about the exacerbation of gun violence during times of crisis. The post argued that economic hardship and social unrest as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have incited fear and panic. It also pointed to a rise in shootings, online ammunition sales and processed background checks for firearm purchases. The author cited a presentation by Kaplan that tied gun violence to racial and socioeconomic inequality in America. “You hear all about poverty, but inequality is another measure of economic well-being,” Kaplan said. “There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality.”
Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst was featured in Christian Science Monitor and LAist articles about the changing role of police officers in schools. Nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd have prompted a rethinking of policing in schools as authorities debate how best to keep students safe and treat them fairly. “We are devoting a lot of resources to police in schools, and there can be protective benefits to that, potentially,” Weisburst explained. “But there are also really big potential costs that I think we need to be concerned about.” Weisburst’s research on the relationship between grants to fund police in schools and educational outcomes for students at those schools found statistically significant drops in the graduation rate and college enrollment rate for students at those schools. “When students are disciplined, their attachment to school decreases,” she said. “That can translate in the longer term to a lower likelihood of graduation.”
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to NBC News about accusations that police have targeted minorities more than white protesters for social distancing violations. For example, demonstrators outside the Otay Mesa Detention Facility on April 11, who were protesting conditions faced by detained immigrants, received citations for violating stay-at-home orders and “unlawful use of horn.” However, no citations or arrests were reported at predominantly white beach protests a week later in Encinitas and San Diego. Authorities in San Diego and Los Angeles have enforced stay-at-home orders by issuing a few citations to protest organizers after the agencies were criticized for allegedly unequal enforcement, the report said. According to Leap, the LAPD has shown restraint in its enforcement of social distancing regulations. “The community itself is enforcing stay-at-home,” she said. “The LAPD, thankfully, they have been working with communities, especially communities of color.”
Gary Orfield, distinguished research professor of urban planning, told the ThinkProgress news site that President Donald Trump’s attempt to honor Martin Luther King Jr. was ironic because he “was elected in a racist campaign.” Trump posted a tweet praising the civil rights leader and made a quick trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. “Trump often tries to spin reality, but his tweet suggesting he affirms the ideals of Martin Luther King is truly incredible,” said Orfield, who co-directs the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. “[Trump’s] administration has attacked civil rights in appointments, in regulation changes, in attacking affirmative action, in creating unspeakable conditions for refugee families, and turning the Supreme Court to the hard right.” Orfield concluded, “Those who believe in Dr. King’s vision of the ‘beloved community’ should be marching now because this administration is the most hostile we’ve experienced in a century.”
“Latino Mass Mobilization: Immigration, Racialization, and Activism,” recently published by new UCLA Luskin Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán, was awarded the Ralph J. Bunche Award at the 2018 American Political Science Association’s (APSA) annual meeting and exhibition held Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Boston. The award, accompanied by a $1,000 prize, is presented annually for the best scholarly work in political science that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism. The book, a study of the 2006 wave of immigrant rights protests, also garnered the Washington, D.C.-based organization’s 2018 Race, Ethnicity, and Politics award for “Best Book on Race and Immigration.” “This groundbreaking book stood out to the entire committee for the depth of original data collection, its ability to simultaneously bridge and make original contributions to the fields of racial politics, immigration and social movements, and its nuanced conceptualization of various types of threats and the racialization of Latino identities,” according to the APSA award announcement. “Zepeda-Millán provides strong evidence that despite the fact that Latinos are often characterized as a ‘sleeping giant,’ they are actually extremely politically active and often work together to resist anti-Latino and -immigrant policies using both electoral politics and political activism.” The book also received two awards from the American Sociological Association: the 2018 Charles Tilly Book Award from the association’s Collective Behavior and Social Movement section; and an honorable mention for the 2018 Oliver Cromwell Book Award from the Sociology of Racial and Ethnic Minorities section.
My friends in the Luskin community,
For the kind of work that we do here at Luskin, the tragic and horrific events in Charlottesville last weekend cut very close to home. The forces of division are strong and, for the first time in a generation, they are being legitimized, and endorsed by the highest powers in the country. Our nation is in mourning, as adherents of the abhorrent ideology of white supremacy murdered a woman (and injured dozens) in broad daylight in a university town. Heather Heyer is among the most recent and visible casualties of racism, but she is not the first and I am sadly certain she will not be the last.
That racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy kill is hardly news. Their effects are everywhere, if only you are willing to look. Racial disparities in political representation, educational opportunity, net wealth, access to affordable health care, home ownership, and contact with the carceral state are manifest and written into institutional arrangements that preserve social inequalities rather than disrupt them.
Women face wage and health care discrimination, mosques burned as Muslims are banned, Jews denounced by white men wearing swastikas, gays and lesbians beaten and murdered, transsexual persons demonized and legislated against, and undocumented immigrants who do some of the hardest jobs in the society described as rapists and drug mules by the President of the United States and deported at an accelerating pace.
All of these things were true on the day before the Charlottesville marches and murder last weekend. These affronts to human dignity and well-being are what makes our work so important. At Luskin we train scholars, policymakers and community leaders who work hard—together—every day to alleviate and transform these social injustices. We must continue to produce state of the art research in the service of all of our communities. In Los Angeles, we know that our diversity is not a weakness; in fact, it is our strength.
It is my fervent hope that these tragic events become a tipping point. We should be more motivated than we have ever been. We should be more fully mobilized than we have ever been. And we should work even harder to bring the tools of our professions, our training as applied social scientists, our insights, our skills at distilling fact from propaganda to this struggle.
In a spirit of hope and action, we remain deeply committed to engaging in the kind of work that creates a better future for all communities. And we must fight like hell to achieve that goal.
Best wishes to you all,
By Stan Paul
The massive Arab Spring protests that began in late December 2010 and spread from North Africa to the Middle East generated huge crowds and had quick and profound effects — including the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had held a firm grip on the country for decades.
Was this the work of people at the core of networks trying for years to create such a movement? Not according to research by Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, assistant professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.
In a paper published in “American Political Science Review,” Steinert-Threlkeld argues that individuals not central to a social network may be more responsible for generating collective action and driving protest than those at the center. Steinert-Threlkeld calls his theory of the periphery’s ability to mobilize “spontaneous collective action.”
“Protests occur as a result of decentralized coordination of individuals, and this coordination helps explain fluctuating levels of protest,” Steinert-Threlkeld wrote in the study, “Spontaneous Collective Action: Peripheral Mobilization During the Arab Spring.” Although not intended to explain the Arab Spring, Steinert-Threlkeld’s paper presents the first large-scale, systematic evidence of how individuals behaved in each country.
Unlike simple models such as disease contagion or transmission of news, which need only one exposure to infect or inform the next individual, the spreading of protests is more complex, making it less certain, said Steinert-Threlkeld, who teaches courses on these topics at the undergraduate and graduate levels at UCLA Luskin.
“Having someone tell you, ‘Hey, I’m going to protest tomorrow’ is much less impactful than having multiple people tell you they are protesting tomorrow,” he said. Large groups of people, as opposed to a few central individuals, are able to discuss “where to go, how to get there, when to go,” as well as what is going on once there, Steinert-Threlkeld added. In addition, individuals debating whether or not to protest must receive a credible signal that large numbers of people are protesting.
“Protests are a complex contagion phenomenon because increasing participation makes others more likely to join,” Steinert-Threlkeld said, pointing out that because more individuals are on the periphery than in the core of a network, protest is more likely to occur where the larger group is located. “The decision to participate in a protest appears to be driven by normal people taking cues from each other, not from elites.”
In testing his theory, Steinert-Threlkeld took advantage of the Integrated Conflict Early Warning System, a dataset of daily protests across 16 countries in the Middle East and North Africa during 14 months in 2010 and 2011. He then combined the dataset with geocoded, individual-level communications (nearly 14 million tweets from the same period), to measure the numbers of connections of each person.
“These 13,754,988 tweets show what was being said, when it was being said, where and how many connections each tweet author had,” he reported in the study. “Combining these datasets and using a wide range of models and operationalizations, mass mobilization is shown to occur through peripheral individuals.”
Said Steinert-Threlkeld: “Egypt’s January 25th protests surprised everyone — activists, bystanders and state authorities — with its large mobilization and brief occupation of Tahrir Square.”
He added that many Muslim Brotherhood leaders were summarily jailed — even though they did not sanction protests — because the Mubarak regime assumed only they could have mobilized such a crowd.
“This paper demonstrates the contributions big data can make to understanding processes of social influence in social networks,” he said.