The History Of Political Protest In Nevada


(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Tea party supporters gather at the "Showdown in Searchlight" tea party rally in Searchlight, Nev., Saturday, March 27, 2010.

Nevada had a pretty tumultuous Democratic convention in May. Some said chairs were thrown. Others said they were not. But people were yelling and many felt disenfranchised. Threats were made. People were visibly angry.

Many people still are angry. But as Bernie Sanders ushered in Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee in Philadelphia this week, some of that anger seems to have dissipated.

Many in Nevada acted like this was new to the state. Political uproar and anger and urgency, then a gradual calming.

But haven’t we experienced this before?

UNLV professor, writer and historian Michael Green gave us a little historical rundown:

On the socialist movement in Nevada:

In Nevada’s history, if you go back about a century there was a Socialist Movement in Nevada. And this was at the time of the Progressive Movement, when you have a lot of reform going on in local, state and federal governments.

World War I was coming and that hurt the socialist movement nationally and it had an impact in Nevada.

On Women’s Suffrage:

The women’s suffrage movement was going on in Nevada at about the same time as the socialist movement and what scholars have found is that women’s suffragists were very shrewd in saying, ‘All right… the bigger cities in Nevada aren’t going to go for us, we’re going to target the smaller towns. And they were successful, ultimately.

Support comes from

In 1869 the Legislature passed women’s suffrage. That would have made Nevada one of the first territories – actually it would have been the first state. There was a movement for it. And the composition of the Legislature changed. There were other issues that came to the floor and the needed second approval in the Legislature for a constitutional amendment didn’t happen.

It took until 1914 in Nevada, making Nevada one of the last states to have women’s suffrage.   

On the Equal Rights Amendment:

In the 70s, the Legislature voted on it. And it was very controversial. Leaders of the Mormon Church in particular were opposed to this. There were women who opposed it, of course.

It became a big political issue at the time. Nevadans in the 70s were going back and forth. You had Mike O’Callaghan a governor who could be incredibly liberal on social issues, but you also had at that time the rise of the Sagebrush Rebellion, which would be defined – I think – as a more radically conservative movement.

There’s a lot of churn going on at the time.

On the Tea Party movement, which got really rolling in Searchlight, Nevada next to Senator Harry Reid’s home in 2010:

They got rolling there. There were plenty of protests. I have the funny feeling they didn’t bother Reid that much. Sharron Angle represented a political high point for those in the Tea Party. In the sense that she gets the Republican Senate nomination over more traditional conservatives.

Well, Angle lost to Reid. And political pundits can, and will, debate would Sue Lowden or Danny Tarkanian, who were considered the more traditional candidates, would one of them had beaten Reid or would the wily old fox have come through.

On the Civil Rights Movement:

The Civil Rights Movement in Las Vegas enjoyed some great successes. You have as early as the Teens an NAACP. The NAACP was founded nationally 1909. And if you look at the arc of the national Civil Rights Movement it took a long time there.

But the population of Las Vegas and the African-American population weren’t really large enough to effect significant change until the growth in World War II and after, which you might say lead to a population of ‘working bees’ who could go out there and protest. And with the growth of the community, what the great African-American scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois called the “talented tenth,” the doctors, lawyers, business people who could lead a movement or help organize a movement.

And in the mid-50s with the arrival of more people like that, you start to see more organization in West Las Vegas. Not just the NAACP, but a community newspaper, a political action group and from I would say ’54 – ’55 when things began to ramp. It was 1960 that the Moulin Rouge agreement led to the desegregation of the casinos.

On Vietnam War protests:

There were certainly problems associated with the idea that this is a military area and at the same time it was not a big city. You knew your neighbor.

It is easier to protest a major figure or a major problem that is not right next door to you. It personalizes it and it makes it a little harder.

Student protest here wouldn’t have compared with what you saw say at Columbia University. Students took over buildings on the campus.

At UNLV, some students took over the social science building, where my office now is located. And one of the professors there in the late 60s was a distinguished anthropologist named Sheila Brooks… And Sheila once told me that she had come to campus and the students were protesting and they had blocked off the building. But she said, “I have to go in and get some research done” and they said “Oh! Okay!” And let her go on in.

It was a courteous protest.

On Donald Trump as a protest candidate:

He is a protest candidate in some ways in the sense that he says things you don’t expect from a traditional candidate. And that’s very appealing to some people.

But if you also look at what the Republican Party has been arguing, what its base believes, it isn’t so much that he’s different from them, it’s that he says it differently.

The other part of the protest is all of us get upset at the government at some point in our lives. And Nevadans have a tradition from the beginnings to the present – think of the Sagebrush Rebellion, think of Cliven Bundy – this anti-government inclination.


Michael Green, UNLV professor, writer and historian

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