Almost four years ago, my book about the Republic of New Africa (RNA) came out entitled "How Social Movements Die: Repression and Demobilization of the Republic of New Africa. In the book, I attempted to strike a balance between theory and social science versus simply telling the story of the RNA. Unfortunately, I had to leave a lot of information out of the book and some of the details that were otherwise fascinating were eliminated. In this series, I revisit the archive and present the material 50 years later. Apologies for not being able to continue this piece for a while but life interfered. Enjoy. I will try to work my way backwards from this event as well as forwards.
Following the New Bethel Incident
Exploring this topic two years ago, Christopher Sullivan and myself finished an article (entitled "The Rebel Alliance Strikes Back: Understanding the Politics of Backlash Mobilization") where we employed data obtained from the shooting, mass arrest and interrogation of the Republic of New Africa by Detroit Police Department. I discussed this event in earlier blog posts (here as well as here) and of course my book How Social Movements Die.
In this piece, we discovered that existing research had potentially been missing something because of its generally high level of aggregation to the nation-state as well as across groups. By focusing on individual and group-specific dynamics, we identify that there were two distinct impacts of state repression on movement behavior (e.g., meetings and protests) as well as participation (i.e., showing up at meetings and RNA activities).
At the group level, mobilization increased. Committing the raid, arrest and interrogation is estimated to have increased RNA events by 6 events in the week following after NBI took place. The long-term effects of New Bethel are estimated to have increased contentious activity by 8 events.
At the individual level, mobilization was increased as well as decreased. Regarding the former, those in the RNA who were attending the meeting and shot at/arrested/interrogated not only stayed but ramped up their attendance as well as participation. Regarding the latter, those in the RNA who were not in attendance at New Bethel stopped showing up to events and meetings. In addition to this, there was a third group (i.e., those who were not in the RNA before the New Bethel Incident but who joined afterward). This number grows for a bit after New Bethel.
So the mixed findings going back three decades might have actually been accurate. The key to understanding which way mobilization will go involves getting into the target group and following specifically who is in the group. This is the way to go.