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Non-participants’ support for protest violence: the role of the perceived political context

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posted on 2023-06-09, 20:36 authored by Patricio Saavedra Morales
Psychological research on collective action has suggested that protesters may change their ideas about the legitimacy of protest violence when police actions are perceived as illegitimate and indiscriminate. However, no research has explored yet whether a similar process can be experienced by those who do not take an active part in protests, i.e., nonparticipants. In this thesis, I argue that non-participants may support protesters’ violence against the police as a function of people’s perceptions of the political context where protests take place: the restrictions imposed by authorities (the government and the police) and the legitimacy public opinion gives to protests. Combining sociological and psychological theory and research, Chapter 2 describes the development and validation of a scale of measurement of people’s perceptions of their political context (Subjective Political Openness, SPO-R). Then, in Chapter 3, employing SPO-R, I suggest that non-participants may support protesters’ violence against the police following a rationale centred on the perceived restrictions imposed on the right to protest, and public opinion’s legitimisation of protests. In Chapter 4, I argue that the rationale stated above is based on a dilemma non-protesters face when supporting or opposing protest violence: advocating peaceful protest versus defending the right to protest against authorities’ restrictions. The dilemma implies that non-participants may hold contradictory ideas about protest violence, and that its use can be legitimised as self-defence when protesters have to confront authorities who restrict the right to protest. Finally, Chapter 5 covers the idea that non-participants’ support for self-defence actions may be considered as an act of political solidarity with those who hit the streets triggered by authorities’ restrictions, public opinion’s legitimisation of protests, and own opinions about the right to protest.


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