The Protest Year – 2020


The year 2020 was iconic in many respects. With the start of a new decade the world was greeted by coronavirus, which in no time became a global pandemic. Along with it came lockdowns and public restrictions accompanied by fear. Encompassing fear, it looked to be the flavor of the year. But the resilience of human kind was soon visible. The scare of coronavirus was not enough deterrent for people. According to the statistics from Carnegie’s Global Protest tracker, there were more monthly protests since March 2020 compared with the year 2019. It was reported that every four days, significant new anti-government protests arose. It may not be an exaggeration to say that protests spread like wildfire.

The year 2020 started with the ongoing protests of the year 2019 – Hong Kong protests, popularly known as the “Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement”. This protest had the uniqueness of being spearheaded by students. Another protest that spilled into the year 2020 was the Indian Shaheen Bagh protest, which had been triggered by the Citizen Amendment Act. This protest too had a unique feature, it had been started by Muslim women.

As the year progressed many more protests came up. The month of March saw Mexican women take the streets of the country to protest against gender-based violence. The protest followed the International Women’s day celebrations, when scores of women marched the streets of Mexico City and elsewhere in the country. On this day, March 9th, Mexican women stayed home from work and school. And this protest was aptly called, ‘A day without us’. Anti-government and pro-democracy protests in Thailand started in February-March and are still going strong. The protestors include largely students and young people, with no single leader.

The brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of police forces in Minneapolis, US, started the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. This movement soon gained momentum and its repercussions were felt in the US elections held in November, when pro white supremacist President Donald Trump was ousted by democratic candidate Joe Biden.

East European nation Belarus, witnessed the largest nationwide anti-government protest in its history. Government cracked down brutally on the protesters, many of them reported torture in custody. To dodge the Government, protestors changed tactics, now they were gathering in small groups. Slogans of “Long live Belarus” are still echoing in the streets of the country. Within Belarus these protests were given many different names, each with a significance; Slipper Revolution, Anti-Cockroach Revolution, Music Revolution to name some.

October, saw protests in Iraq to mark one year of anti-government protests. Anti-government slogans were being chanted and poster holding protestors marched towards Baghdad. Lebanon’s October Revolution which started in 2019 against nepotism and partisanship in government institutions, continued into 2020. It had its phases of peaceful protests and violence and government crackdowns. In August, massive blasts rocked Beirut but protests didn’t die down, they are continuing till date.

Many climate change demonstrations and protests also took place. “Africa is not a Dumpster” movement and Civil Disobedience Extinction Rebellion(XR) are some of them.

Towards the end of the year we have the Farmer Protests taking place in India right now. Farmers in India are protesting against three contentious farm bills passed by the central government. Farmer’s see these bills as pro-corporates and anti-farmer and are demanding their revocation. For more than a month, farmers with their tractors and trailers have blocked major highways leading up to the capital New Delhi. The farmer protest has been touted as the longest running peaceful protest yet.

As we usher in the new year, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the increasing pace of protests. Quoting, Nigerian writer Oluseyi Akinbami, “There is no end to protest until there is an end to oppression.” In today’s world oppression takes the form of corruption, police brutality, electoral bungling, lopsided policies and anti-people policies. According to the study published in Current Sociology Review in 2013, authored by psychologist Bert Klandermans and sociologist Jacquelien van Stekelenburg, both of Vrije Universiteit(VU) Amsterdam, focusing on social psychology sighted five reasons for occurrence of protests. These five reasons are – Grievances, Efficacy, Identity, Emotions and Social Embeddedness. All these five factors were visible in all of the protests. Thus, these protests were more similar than apart. Each protest had people pitied against forces. Each protest highlighted the breaches in the basic fabric of nations. Each was a ray of hope for many tear filled eyes. Each gave hope for a better world.

Livneet Shergill, Ph.D. in Economics. Works as an independent researcher, who chooses to be a free agent, for better or worse.




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