Decade in review: Guns, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter drive protests

By Danielle Haynes
Decade in review: Guns, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter drive protests
Majory Stoneman Douglas high school student Emma Gonzalez observes moments of silence for the Parkland, Fla., shooting victims during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of thousands rallied in the nation's capital to demand action to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools. File Photo by David Tulis /UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The 2010s were largely a decade of protest: The election of President Donald Trump, the Black Lives Matter, #MeToo and anti-gun violence movements, gay rights, and the immigration crisis brought people into the streets and courtrooms across the United States.

Like many decades before it, the 2010s was a period of tragedy, protest and triumph -- one that had the nation crying for the deaths of children in their own schools.


Glenn Bracey II, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Villanova University, said that though the events and social movements of the past decade may seem like the reflection of shifts in American culture, they're not.

"These events are consistent with well-established patterns of domination and resistance," the expert on race and social movements told UPI.

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Bracey pointed to the 2016 presidential election the latest example of political backlash. He compared Trump's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies to those of former President Richard Nixon's so-called Southern strategy in the wake of President Lyndon B. Johnson's major civil rights legislation.


Here's a look back of some of the biggest stories that moved public demonstrations since 2010.

President Donald Trump

File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Donald Trump entered the White House in January 2017 as the first president to have never served in the military or previously be elected to office.

He defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8, 2016, to become the 45th U.S. president.

Trump's campaign roused a sleeping giant in American politics: working-class white people, a group that powered the Reagan revolution in the 1980s, but had failed to produce a popular majority in five of the last six elections. Trump's aggressive, unapologetic rhetoric about a nation suddenly devoid of its prior greatness offended millions, but served as a call to arms for millions more.

Trump's stunning win kicked off a number of congressional investigations -- as well as one by the Justice Department's special counsel, Robert Mueller -- into Russian meddling in the election.

Mueller -- along with most of the U.S. intelligence community -- agreed that Russia tried to interfere in the election, but didn't find evidence to suggest the Trump campaign colluded. He did detail, though, instances in which Trump attempted to obstruct his investigation.


Two and a half years into his presidency, obstruction became an issue again for Trump -- this time involving an investigation into a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He was accused of improperly asking a foreign power to interfere in the 2020 presidential election by requesting Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

As the decade came to a close, House Democrats voted to impeach Trump on grounds he abused power in his request to Ukraine and obstructed Congress in its investigation. He became the third U.S. president in history to be impeached, after Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.


File Photo by Ariana Drehsler/UPI

With Trump's election came a renewed focus on immigration to the United States. The issue was among the first the future president mentioned when announcing his presidential campaign in June 2015.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending the best ... they're sending people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting," Trump said during his announcement speech at Trump Tower in New York City.


During his first three years in office, Trump took steps to crack down on what his administration described as an immigration crisis. Indeed, despite declining border apprehension numbers -- dropping from an all-time high of 1.64 million in 2000 to 303,000 in 2017 -- the southwestern border saw an uptick in undocumented immigrants, finishing fiscal year 2019 with 850,000 apprehensions.

To limit the number of migrants from crossing the border, the Trump administration instituted a zero-tolerance policy in summer 2018 in which it separated children from parents who would be prosecuted for illegal entry. Thousands of migrant children were separated from their parents and placed in housing facilities, prompting outcry from pro-immigration activists.

The Trump administration relented, halting the separation policy, but continuing to propose and implement measures to cut down on border crossings.

Among those efforts is Trump's ongoing attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, introduced by President Barack Obama by executive order in 2012.

DACA provided a way for immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16 to be eligible for work permits. It offered a reprieve from deportation for an estimated 1.7 million people.


Black Lives Matter

File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

As has happened for hundreds of years in the United States, racial tensions flared among African-American communities in the 2010s -- with particular focus on police use of force, often against unarmed black men and women.

Outcry over the deaths of Florida teen Trayvon Martin (2012), Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., (2014), Eric Garner in New York City (2014), 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland (2014), Laguna McDonald in Chicago (2014), Freddie Gray in Baltimore (2015), Sandra Bland in Waller County, Texas, (2015), Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., (2016) and Botham Jean in Dallas (2018) -- among dozens of others -- led to nationwide protests and court cases.

They also gave birth to the Black Lives Matter movement, which began as a social media hashtag in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal for the death of Trayvon Martin.

Bracey said the movement "uniquely evince[s] emerging trends in American activism." He pointed to a lack of clear hierarchy in the organization, which "use[s] social media and diffuse leadership structures that allow movement to tailor messages and tactics to specific locations and campaigns."


He said these tactics allow for the use of social media to mobilize large groups and communicate with media, but with no authoritative voice, the movement is "open to confused messaging and competing goals."


File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

Bracey said that, likewise, the #MeToo movement relied on social media to fuel its cause. The hashtag began with a social media campaign by actor Alyssa Milano in October 2017.

She encouraged victims of sexual assault to break their silence and share their stories in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which multiple women accused him of misconduct and assault.

"If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet," she posted on Twitter.

The hashtag became the name of a movement of outrage against sexual misconduct, assault and harassment that began in Hollywood, but spread into all sectors of life. The movement later became associated with a parallel Hollywood-led effort -- #TimesUp -- which supports groups who are paid less and underrepresented in the workplace.

The activism led a number of studios and production companies to adopt inclusion riders to ensure gender and racial diversity on film and television projects.


#MeToo also spelled the end -- or at least a temporary pause -- for the careers of some well-known public figures, including Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., R. Kelly, Matt Lauer, Mario Batali, former Reps. John Conyers, Trent Franks and Blake Farenthold, former Sen. Al Franken, Bill Cosby, Danny Masterson, Roy Moore, Larry Nassar, Jeffrey Tambor and Charlie Rose.

Gun violence

File Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

Students against gun violence continued a long tradition of youth activism in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The shooting killed 17 people, including 14 students, and launched a movement.

Mass shootings weren't a new phenomenon in the 2010s -- some consider the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 the beginning of the modern era of gun violence in schools -- but the Florida massacre launched a vigorous student-led activism.

The students at MSD created the March for Our Lives organization, which held global marches under the same name less than six weeks after the Parkland shooting. Bracey compared the March for Our Lives movement to youth-led sit-ins, walk-outs and other protests in support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


"Recent youth activism continues this trend, which is encouraging because youth-led movements are often the most creative and successful," he said.

The students, supported by celebrities and survivors of other mass shootings, lobbied local and state leaders, the U.S. Congress and even the president for stricter gun control measures.

Parents and survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 -- which left 28 mostly young children dead -- made their own efforts earlier in the decade, but federal gun-control laws have been difficult to get passed. Some states, though, moved immediately to change laws.

One federal law did go into effect after a shooting at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas killed 58 innocent people in 2017.

The Justice Department banned the sale and use of bump stocks, devices that can convert a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic machine gun. The ban went into effect March 2019.

LGBTQ rights

File Photo by Pete Marovich/UPI

On LGBTQ rights, the past decade has seen some advances as well as setbacks.

In December 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law a repeal of the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which allowed gays and lesbians in the military so long as no one revealed their sexual orientation. The Department of Defense, under President Bill Clinton, implemented the law in 1994.


At the time, the Clinton administration saw the law as a way to prevent discrimination against gay, lesbian or bisexual service members. Officials also said same-sex relationships and acts would pose a risk to morale and good order. But the law faced criticism for being discriminatory.

Though the ban on only gay and lesbian service members was lifted in the early 2010s, another ban would threaten the LGBTQ communities toward the end of the decade.

In July 2017, Trump said the government wouldn't "accept or allow" transgender people to serve in the military. He tweeted that transgender troops "burdened" the government with "tremendous medical costs and disruption."

An analysis after his announcement, though, an analysis found that the military spends at least 10 times more money each year to treat erectile dysfunction ($84 million) than on transgender healthcare ($2.4 million to $8.4 million). Both are a tiny fraction of the Pentagon's annual budget.

The ban took effect in April 2019, but in July 2019, but it faces ongoing legal and legislative battles.

On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage became legalized, a move some viewed as the ultimate step in equal rights for the gay and lesbian communities.


Hundreds of people celebrated outside the Supreme Court as justices voted 5-4 voted in favor of Jim Obergefell, who sought to have his marriage to John Arthur formally recognized on the latter's death certificate. The couple married in Maryland, but Ohio, where they lived and where Arthur died, didn't allow such marriages.

"Today's ruling from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across this country already know to be true in our hearts: Our love is equal," Obergefell told the crowd gathered outside the high court. "That the four words etched onto the front of the Supreme Court -- 'Equal justice under law' -- apply to us too."

Bracey said that though many saw the Supreme Court ruling as the one of the biggest legal wins for LGBTQ communities and their supporters, others saw the access to marriage -- and freedom to serve openly in the military -- as more "conservative" goals.

"Early queer activists often rejected marriage as a reinstatement of conservative gender roles," he said. "Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell,' freed queer peoples to openly serve in the military, which is a conservative choice to serve in government rather than challenge norms.

"In many ways, the lesson of the past decade of LGBTQ activism is an old one -- conservative goals are easier to achieve than progressive ones. The nation should not assume LGBTQ victories are permanent."


UPI 2019 Pictures of the Year

Nancy Pelosi holds the hand of her granddaughter Bella Kaufmann Pelosi as she jumps in joy after the announcement of Pelosi's return as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on January 3. She is the first official to return to the position since Sam Rayburn in 1955. She became the nation's first female House speaker when she took the gavel in 2007. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

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