Black and blue: exploring protests, African American attitudes, and law enforcement behavior
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Police behavior has been an enduring focus of the American public for generations. From the 1968 Democratic National Convention to the Los Angeles riots to the aftermath of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to the protests sparked by the deaths of Eric Garner and Freddie Gray, social, political, and media speculation has placed police conduct under heavy scrutiny. Questions abound regarding the fairness, appropriateness, legality, and legitimacy of their methods, as critics have accused policing agencies of adopting punitive and repressive measures that target communities of color. Conversely, police advocates defend against these critics, arguing that maintaining "law and order" is paramount. Despite this ongoing conflict between criminal justice reform and law enforcement partisans, the literature is limited on public opinion, protests, and police response within political science. Generally, studies have broadly examined public attitudes toward law enforcement or found implications for instances of police brutality (i.e. police shootings) on public opinion. Though I spend some time discussing these attitudes, the crux of this dissertation is less interested in broad public opinion of the police. It is being conducted to examine how attitudes, specifically those of black Americans, are shaped by distinct types of police behavior during protest situations. Furthermore, I will conclude that the intersection of black identity, gender identity, and age, as it relates to feelings about the police, influences how black Americans view police behavior, especially regarding how they respond to public protests.
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