Trends in Anti-Nuclear Protests in the United States, 1984-1987

by Elizabeth Heneghan Ondaatje


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This report, an update of previous RAND research on U.S. antinuclear protest groups, examines trends in antinuclear and related protests, and assesses the implications of these trends for possible terrorist violence. Recent trends in protest activity may signal greater militancy in the movement: (1) the number of protesters who are willing to face arrest, fines, and imprisonment has steadily increased since 1984; (2) some large, diverse groups of protesters have strained the ability of their own organizers to control events involving civil disobedience; and (3) radical environmentalist groups previously uninvolved in antinuclear activities have recently organized protests at uranium mines. However, there are several factors that temper these trends: (1) groups that engage in civil disobedience are usually screened, trained, and supervised in nonviolent protest by the protest organizers; (2) although the number of arrests has increased dramatically, the number of actual crimes involving destruction of property associated with nuclear facilities has remained constant since 1984; (3) there is little evidence that more violent radical environmentalists will join the antinuclear movement; and (4) the potentially disastrous consequences of nuclear sabotage may deter sabotage itself.

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