Conventional accounts of protest cycles posit a demonstration effect-successful protests incite other constituencies to activism. I offer an alternative theory that builds on population ecology models of organizational behavior. I argue that the expansion of social movement organizations, or organizational density, is also an essential component of protest cycles. Multivariate analyses of the effects of civil rights protest and organizational growth on feminist protest and organizational foundings between 1955 and 1985 demonstrate that organizational density promotes the diffusion of protest. Protest also engenders activism by others, but only under favorable political conditions. This implies that an enduring organizational niche and political allies in power are necessary for protest to spread beyond single movements and create protest opportunities for other challengers.
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