Pro-Democracy – Hong Kong
The pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong started in June 2019 in response to the extraction bill introduced in April 2019 that permitted criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China (Feng, 2021). Even though the extraction bill was withdrawn in September 2019, demonstrations continued into 2021 as HongKongers demanded an inquiry into police brutality. This movement spread across the globe with protests taking place in Australia, France and Canada.
State Corruption – Lebanon
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in downtown Beirut in August 2020, to express their anger and frustration over incompetence and corruption of a government argued to have led to the August 4 Blast at Beirut’s port (Human Rights Watch, 2020). The state witnessed a number of anti-government demonstrations since October 2019 related to new taxes, and anger against the political establishment blamed for the current economic crisis and fiscal policy that threatens citizens’ access to food and healthcare which has increased the level of poverty.
State Repression, Anti-SARS – Nigeria
The hashtag EndSARS protests were triggered by a viral video that allegedly showed SARS officers killing a young man on the 8th of October 2020. The federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has long been accused of torture, extrajudicial killings and unlawful arrests which dates back to 2017. On the 20th of October 2020 young Nigerians mobilised on social media and staged large demonstrations calling for the end of police brutality from SARS. Throughout the demonstrations 56 protesters were killed by excessive use of force by the police and army leading to protests in several cities across the world (Aljazeera, 2020).
Elections – Belarus
On the 9th of August 2020 over 50 000 protesters marched through the streets of Belarus voicing their anger and demanding the removal of the country’s authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko – who won his sixth term in office in an election argued to be rigged (AP News, 2020). This protest was the largest in the country’s history, where protesters also demanded an end to police brutality and for political prisoners to be released.
Racial Justice, Black Lives Matter – USA
The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by former Officer Derek Chauvin on the 26th of May 2020 led to widespread protests in the USA and globally against police brutality, which has continued throughout 2020 and early 2021. The Black Lives Matter protests are argued to be the largest mass movement in America’s long history of struggle against racial justice and civil rights. Over 15 million Americans took to the streets in different towns and cities in support of the movement (Haworth, 2020). Floyd’s death at the hands of police caused a global outrage and inspired citizens in other countries to rise up against inequality, police brutality and racial violence.
Gender Justice, Say Her Name – USA
The killing of Breonna Taylor by the Louisville Metro Police officers on the 13th of March 2020 resulted in protests where demonstrators displayed their anger and frustration at the level of police brutality that resulted in Taylor’s death. The hashtag Say Her Name movement was coined in February 2015, a movement that seeks to raise awareness of police brutality against black women. Taylor’s death brought new life to the stories experienced by black women who died at the hands of police whose names are largely unknown and identities unacknowledged (Owens, 2021).
Climate Justice, Climate Strikes, Fridays For Future – Global
Millions of people across the world joined climate protests in 2020 that were held on the streets and moved to social media due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of climate protesters is to stress the threats to a liveable planet and ecosystems, and demand that world leaders take urgent action on climate change (Bir, 2020). Movements such as the Fridays for Future, 350.org and Greenpeace took part in the environmental demonstrations. As a result, strikes were announced in 3000 locations around the world.
LGBTQ Rights – USA
Pride month was celebrated in a slightly different way in 2020 as the LGBTQ community stood in solidarity with the black community following the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. LGBTQ protestors took to the streets to fight for their rights and to highlight systematic racism and racial injustice prevalent within the LGBTQ community (Hylton, 2020).
Agricultural Laws – India
Thousands of protesters, many of whom were farmers protested in New Delhi on the 29th of November 2020 after months of demonstrations in the outskirts of the city. The protesters were calling for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to revoke farming laws that would increase space for private investors while minimizing government’s role in agriculture. This would result in farmers losing state protection and regulatory support which they consider to be already insufficient (Damodaran, 2021). The protests highlighted the reality of inequality in the country.
Free Youth – Thailand
Dozens of young people took to the streets of Bangkok on the 18th of July 2020 on what is argued to be one of the biggest anti-government protests the capital has seen. Even though the movement was leaderless, it was driven by a group called Free Youth – their main demands included the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, ending harassment of dissidents and challenging the culture of unquestioned reverence for the monarchy and the kingdom’s constitutional order (Reed, 2020). This marked the first time in the history of Thailand where the Thai monarchy was publicly criticized amidst calls for reform.
Abortion – Poland
On the 22nd of October 2020, demonstrators in Warsaw and other Polish cities to opposed a stricter ban on abortion. There was no public parliamentary debate on this ruling which created anger and frustration amongst the protesters, as the Constitutional Tribunal appointed by the ruling party declared abortions for malformed foetuses to be unconstitutional (The Guardian, 2021). ‘My body, my choice’ and ‘the revolution has a uterus’ appeared on some of the banners carried by demonstrators.
About 10 000 German protesters marched in Berlin on the 21st of November 2020 to oppose government imposed social restrictions in fighting the spread of COVID-19. The protesters were against the imposed use of masks, denied and dismissed the dangers of the virus and argued against the vaccine. What was interesting about this group of demonstrators is that it consisted of a contradictory range of political groups, reflected by the LGBTQ rainbow flag, red Trump MAGA hats, and Hitler’s salute and anti-Semitic slogans (France24, 2020).
On the 15th of April 2020, dozens of Americans took to the streets honking car horns and blocking roads protesting against the coronavirus lockdown. The demonstrators argued that the lockdown restrictions were an overreaction from the government and was negatively impacting businesses, local economies and posed a detriment to citizens’ livelihoods and rights. Some demonstrators called for more testing to be conducted, redefining essential businesses and quarantining the vulnerable. Washington State saw the largest demonstrations with about 2500 protesters (BBC News, 2020).
Statues Must Fall – USA, UK
Over a thousand demonstrators gathered outside Oxford University on June 9th 2020 demanding the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue, a British colonialist of the 19th century. This wave of falling statues also took place in the United States as debates about monuments glorifying the imperialist past was acknowledged as offensive and racist in today’s multi-ethnic society (Makori and McKay, 2020).
Pandemic Leadership – Brazil
Demonstrators in Brazil embarked on several protests in different cities demanding the removal of President Jair Bolsonaro for the way in which his government had handled the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020 president Bolsonaro was argued to have downplayed the seriousness of the virus and resisted lockdown measures which claimed 216 000 lives (De Sousa and Savarese, 2021). The demonstrators were demanding the impeachment of Bolsonaro, with banners claiming ‘Impeachment Now’ and ‘Bolsonaro Out’.
Service Delivery – South Africa
Issues of service delivery in South Africa is one of the main driving forces of protest in the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified socio-economic challenges, and the lack of service delivery especially in townships and informal settlements – which has increased the number of protests that took place in 2020. There were 232 demonstrations recorded in July, with an average of eight demonstrations a day (Lancaster and Mulaudzim, 2020). According to the data produced by the Institute for Security Studies, the main issues that led to protest during lockdown from March to July 2020 were labour related grievances, and continued calls for access to service delivery.
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Owens, D. M. (2021). Breonna Taylor and hundreds of Black women have died at the hands of police. The movement to say their names is growing. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/investigations/2021/03/11/sayhername-movement-black-women-police-violence/6921197002/ [accessed date 12 May 2021]
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