The First Amendment of the US Constitution grants all Americans several rights, among which are freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. Thus, all Americans have the right to peaceful protest. The practice of holding demonstrations for or against certain people or policies is a fact of life in both the United States and other democratic countries. There have been several demonstrations throughout US history in which hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people have participated. These protests are held in order to raise awareness of a number of issues, ranging from women’s rights to environmental protection. The following are the ten largest demonstrations in US history.
- George Floyd/Anti-Racism Protests
- Earth Day Protests
- 2017 Women’s March
- March For Our Lives
- 2018 Women’s March
- Telegramgate/Chatgate/RickyLeaks Protests
- The Great American Boycott
- March on Washington for LGBTQ Rights and Liberation
- Anti-Nuclear Weapons March
- Million Man March
1. George Floyd/Anti-Racism Protests
Protests across the United States were held in response to the death of an African American man named George Floyd. Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25, 2020. Many Americans believed that he was killed because he was black. At first, the demonstrations were confined to Minneapolis, where protesters set fire to the station that the police officers suspected in Floyd’s death worked at. Within a week, protests were being held throughout the country. The number of people taking part in the demonstrations was estimated to be as many as 26 million, making these protests the largest in US history.
2. Earth Day Protests
Earth Day and demonstrations associated with it began in 1970, when an activist named John McConnell proposed an annual day to promote peace and the protection of the planet. A month later, a US Senator suggested holding a nation-wide teach-in on April 22, 1970 to promote the protection of the environment. The event was promoted as “Earth Day” and drew more than 20 million people demonstrating across the country.
3. 2017 Women’s March
The 2017 Women’s March began took place on January 21st of that year, which was the day after the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. Many people accused Trump of repeatedly making comments that degraded women. The primary demonstration took place in Washington, DC, drawing a crowd of more than 470,000, but the total number of people who participated in the protests nationwide was between 3.3 and 5.6 million, making the Women’s March the largest one-day protest in US history.
4. March For Our Lives
On March 24, 2018, demonstrations were held to support gun control in the United States. These protests were held a month after a shooting at a high school in Florida left 17 people dead. It was the deadliest high school shooting in US history. The flagship protest took place in Washington DC, while more than 880 corresponding protests were held throughout the country. Up to 2 million people participated in the nationwide demonstrations. Gun control has long been an intensely-debated issue in the United States, as some believe that laws should be enacted to make it harder for people to purchase firearms, while others defend the right to bear arms as defined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.
5. 2018 Women’s March
The 2018 Women’s March took place on the first anniversary of the aforementioned 2017 Women’s March. As was the case with the first Women’s March, people throughout the United States participated in simultaneous demonstrations. About 1.5 million people in total participated in the protests. The 2018 Women’s March was held against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, named for a Twitter hashtag that referenced a growing campaign on social media to speak out against sexual abuse and harassment.
6. Telegramgate/Chatgate/RickyLeaks Protests
On July 17, 2019, an estimated 1.1 million people demonstrated against the alleged corruption of Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, and his cabinet. The protest took place in San Juan, the capital of the US Territory of Puerto Rico. Earlier in the month, comments that the governor and members of his cabinet made on a messaging app called Telegram were leaked to the public. Many of these comments were considered vulgar, racist, and homophobic. They also revealed that the governor and his cabinet were trying to figure out how to use the media against their opponents.
7. The Great American Boycott
Also called “A Day Without an Immigrant”, the Great American Boycott was a one-day boycott of schools and businesses in the United States by immigrants in the country. The protests associated with this boycott drew an estimated one million people throughout the country. The event was held in order to raise awareness of issues pertaining to immigration in the United States, particularly the plight of undocumented immigrants. The protests were held on May 1, 2006. This date was chosen because May 1, or May Day, is commemorated as a day of advocacy for workers’ rights around the world.
8. March on Washington for LGBTQ Rights and Liberation
On April 25, 1993, a large protest was held in Washington DC to advocate for the rights of people belonging to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning) community. Members of the LGBTQ community were the subject of ongoing discrimination in the United States based on their sexual orientation. Among the demands of the demonstrators were the repeal of sodomy laws, equality pertaining to family issues like marriage and divorce, and the general outlawing of discriminatory measures taken against members of the LGBTQ community. The demonstration drew between 800,000 and one million participants.
9. Anti-Nuclear Weapons March
A large demonstration of between 700,000 and one million people took place in New York City’s Central Park on June 12, 1982. The protest was held to raise awareness of the danger of nuclear weapons. It was meant to coincide with the United Nations Second Special Session on Disarmament. At the time, the Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union was still ongoing, and it was generally known that a potential nuclear war between the two countries and their allies would likely lead to the destruction of humankind.
10. Million Man March
The Million Man March was a mass demonstration held in Washington DC to raise awareness of racism and other problems plaguing the country’s African American citizens. The idea for the protest came from the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, though it was attended by other civil rights organizations, including local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National African American Leadership Summit. The protest was attended by up to 800,000 people.