Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Keena Lipsitz

Subject Categories

American Politics | Other Political Science


BLM, Protests, Arrests, Time Series


The summer of 2020 marked a boiling point of protest and frustration at long-criticized police behavior in the United States. The events that summer revealed the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement as something that could not be ignored and was capable of drawing national support and attention across many dividing lines (Mitchell 2020). Today, it seems evident that the BLM movement has had a substantial impact on modern political discourse—yet its impact on police behavior and reform, the primary target of the movement, is murky. Police departments across the nation are pushing back against calls to defund and reform their departments (Levin 2021a; Perkins 2020; Scheiber, Stockman, and Goodman 2020). These trends suggest BLM might have failed to change police behavior, undermining the movement’s success. To determine if this is the case, I examine a key activity of police officers: the number of arrests they make. Specifically, I examine whether periods of protest in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles are followed by a reduction in the arrests of people of color, especially Black Americans. I find that protests in New York City and Chicago are followed by a reduction in arrests for all racial groups. In New York City, this reduction is largest for Black arrests, followed by Hispanic, and smallest for White arrests. In Chicago the reduction does not clearly favor any group. This effect lasts for approximately one month. The effect of local protests in Los Angeles are less clear, but an exploratory analysis indicates that protests in New York City were followed by a reduction in arrests in Los Angeles. These results demonstrate that protests can be effective at achieving their goals and making the police responsive to public demands.