“This Is Not a Riot”: Activists’ Responses to Accusations of Violence in the Ferguson Unrest

Carmit Wolberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the last decade has gained widespread support for protests against police brutality targeting African Americans. However, some people during these protests have resorted to violence, mostly against property, creating an opening for opponents to shift the debate from protesters’ grievances to the nature of the protests by labeling them as “riots” and depicting protesters as criminals. In recent years, activists have turned to social media networks such as Twitter to counter these claims. The following study draws upon Stanley Cohen’s work on official accounts of denial to analyze how activists during the Ferguson unrest of August 2014 responded to attempts to delegitimize their protests. Based on a qualitative analysis of 4201 tweets by three leading activists who participated in these protests, it shows how they used interpretive and implicatory denial as well as positive representations of events to create a counternarrative that allowed them to garner public support as well as focus attention on protesters’ grievances. Through its examination of these discursive strategies, this study offers a theoretical and methodological framework of analysis that can be applied to different struggles and contentious repertoires.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1024-1033
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2023


  • Accounts
  • Civil unrest
  • Denial
  • Ferguson
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of '“This Is Not a Riot”: Activists’ Responses to Accusations of Violence in the Ferguson Unrest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this