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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

Radical Left-Libertarian Street Protests in Sweden 1997-2016: Analysing the Dynamics of Escalation/de-Escalation and the Impact of Shifting Opportunities

Political Violence
Social Movements
Magnus Wennerhag
Södertörn University
Magnus Wennerhag
Södertörn University
Måns Lundstedt
Scuola Normale Superiore

Radical left-libertarian movements (RLLMs) - e.g. anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, autonomists and libertarian socialists - have often been associated with violent and disruptive street protests. During the summit protests of the Global Justice Movement, RLLM groups often took part in confrontations with the police, and ever since the 1980s, RLLM groups in many countries have recurrently engaged in violent clashes with radical right-wing groups. While some researchers have focused on the protest dynamics of RLLM groups during specific events, there has been little empirical work taking an overall perspective on how such dynamics have evolved over time, relating processes of escalation and de-escalation to larger changes in the movement's relationship to external actors. Our paper explores the long-term development of the use of violence and the occurrence of confrontations during street protests through a protest event data set covering virtually all (approx. 4000) RLLM protest events in Sweden 1997-2016. The analysis proceeds from three perspectives. The initial analysis provides descriptive data on the pattern of confrontational protest events involving the Swedish RLLM, relating the occurrence of violence to waves of protest and the ritualization of particular events (e.g. commemorative dates). Second, long-term processes of escalation and de-escalation are analysed against developments in protest policing and in the activities of radical right-wing groups. Third, we conduct a time-series analysis in order to investigate the impact of cyclically recurring political opportunities (e.g. the colour of government, election periods, changes in party opinion) as well as more episodic forms of interaction (e.g. the effect of prior confrontations and repressive measures).
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