“Bystander Disruption Toward Pro-Democracy Protests: The Role of Authoritarian Repertoire in Myanmar” by Van Tran
May 19, 2021 @ 9:00 am – 10:00 am JST
Authors: Van Tran (Cornell University)
Abstract: Despite having popular demands and employing non-violent methods, many contemporary pro-democracy protests still fail to gain public trust and encounter various forms of bystander disruption. For instance, bystanders might block protest marches, directly attack protest participants, or even collaborate with the authorities to capture these protesters. Such disruption contributes significantly to the demise of public dissent, especially under dictatorships, and hence, merits further studies into its causes. In this paper, I focus on examining the role of state repertoire in shaping bystander response toward pro-democracy activism, with case studies from Myanmar. By analyzing original interview data and written testimonials by more than 100 protesters and bystanders during the Four-eight Uprising (1988) and Saffron Revolution (2007) with rigorous process tracing, I find that the state’s various strategies to frame the protests as an imminent security threat toward local neighborhoods were likely to make bystanders become hostile toward most protesters and provoke disruption. This study contributes directly to the literature on contentious mobilization by presenting an important source of non-state violence toward contentious actors.