Community Protest, Violence, and Business Support for a Social Activist Cause: Evidence from the Black Lives Matter Movement
September 29 @ 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm
We examine how companies respond to reported violence in protests in their local communities. Building on the community embeddedness literature, we propose that business leaders can interpret protest violence as evidence of social disorder or a valid grievance, and that this interpretation is influenced by the history of the community context in which the violence occurs and where their companies are headquartered. In particular, we examine the history of grievance-validating events and the history of protest violence in local communities, and posit that these factors shape whether companies offer their support for the cause of a protest in which violence is reported. Using a hand-collected dataset on corporate diversity actions following the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, we find that violence in protests was more likely to elicit supportive corporate diversity actions that align with the movement’s goals when the protests occurred in communities with a history of severe police shootings. We also find that violence in protests was less likely to elicit those actions when the protests occurred in communities with histories of persistent protest violence. We discuss several implications for research on social movements, community embeddedness, stakeholder strategy, and corporate activism.