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Are peaceful protests more effective than violent ones?

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Demonstrators protest the death of George Floyd as they gather Wednesday, June 3, 2020, on the East side of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

As unrest erupts across the world after the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer, even some peaceful protests have descended into chaos, calling into question the efficacy of violence when it comes to spurring social change.

“There’s certainly more evidence that peaceful protests are more successful because they build a wider coalition,” says Gordana Rabrenovic, associate professor of sociology and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict.

Who’s responsible for inciting this violence—the protesters or the police—is another debate entirely. But, Rabrenovic says, one thing is clear: in order for a movement to gain support and inspire lasting change, peace and consensus are essential.

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