Severyns Ravenholt Seminar: Bricks, Molotov Cocktails and Engaged Bystanders: Why Violence Becomes Sustained in Popular Protests

Brian Leung, PhD Student UW
Friday, October 30, 2020 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Zoom Invitation
Why do nonviolent protests turn violent and yet sustain themselves? While extant literature has explained why protest violence emerges, research is lacking on how violence becomes a sustained tactic after its emergence. This article argues that tactically-moderate protesters play a collaborative role by providing logistical assistance to a small number of violent instigators. We illustrate this mechanism through conducting a list experiment on participants of Hong Kong’s Anti-Extradition Bill Movement. Using a multiple sensitive item design, we distinguish the willingness to facilitate violence from the willingness to exercise it, and estimate the proportions of each group of actors. Statistical analysis further reveals that militant identity drives stronger willingness to facilitate and exercise protest violence, although the mechanisms through which identity impact the two behaviors differ. Our findings enrich the study of protest violence by advancing the measurement of sensitive protest behavior and highlighting a relational mechanism that sustains violent protests.

Please contact Kenya Amano via to access the Zoom link.