Our world is marred with protests that changed history, but none can compare, perhaps, to 2019, during which protests spanned every stretch of the world and saw the end or near-end of many regimes across the world. The year in question saw an upsurge of protests across the globe, the act aptly termed as the Global Protest Wave of 2019.
While civil resistance put an end to ruling leadership in Algeria, Bolivia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Sudan, leadership in countries like Egypt, Haiti, Peru, Chile, Poland, China, France, and India continue to be threatened by the force of protests.
Several reasons led to protests erupting on every street in every city of the world — ranging from a hike in the price of subway fare, to taxes imposed on the use of WhatsApp, to laws that defied human rights, and bills that discriminated citizens on the basis of religion.
2019 is perhaps, the only year in which even President Trump lost his lead in hatred-filled headlines and mockery, with people taking to the streets taking over his position.
Among the biggest protests that took the lead in the media, here are just a few that continued into 2020 -
> HONG KONG: In mid-2019, millions of protestors took to the roads in Hong Kong after the government proposed a plan that would allow residents to be extradited for trial in China. The world saw images of packed squares, police violence, and never-back-down attitude, and even the outbreak of covid-19 could not halt the movement for a long time.
> IRAN: The protests first began in November 2019 due to the sudden hike in fuel prices. With dire images circulating online, the government resorted to methods like nationwide internet shutdown, shooting protestors from rooftops, helicopters, and close proximity, as well as trucking away the bodies of dead protestors to coverup the real number of casualties. On the flip side, protestors destroyed over 700 government banks, burned down religious centres, attacked statues of Khomeini as well as military bases.
> CHILE: Millions of Chileans took to the roads to protest against the increased cost of living and rising inequality. The President soon declared a state of emergency, deploying the Chilean Army to bring about law and order. By the end of 2019, nearly 3,000 people had been arrested and another 2,500 injured due to police brutalities.
> INDIA: While the ruling party faced staunch opposition from other parties and citizens ever since they took office, protests erupted after the government revoked Artcile 370, stripping the disputed land of Kashmir of its special status. Things took a turn for the worse after the government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act in December 2019. The protests which first began in Assam, spread swiftly to the other parts of the country, with some regions witnessing communal riots and several deaths. Delhi, which has seen many historical protests over the course of history, once again showed strength in adversity through incidents at universities like JNU, Jamia Millia, and Shaheen Bagh. With the country going into a lockdown in March 2020, the anti-CAA movement, or what’s better known as the Azadi March, is only gathering storm on the horizon.
It isn’t just political resistance our next in kin are growing up to. Social issues, which have always been at the forefront of protests, have gained more steam with the youth looking at sustainability, climate change, equality, pride, peace, and even fake news more closely.
While most of the protests continued into 2020, our resistance has been put to test, and in every corner of the world, to a new form of attack — COVID-19. In an unprecedented scenario, most parts of the world have come to a grinding halt, with all public spaces shutting down completely, work life throwing a new challenge at us every day as we wade through the shift from real to virtual, economies crumbling like a deck of cards (the repercussions of which have hardly begun), health and living standards of humans deteorating like never before, and overall an uncertain future staring at us in the eye.
Never before has the world come together separately to develop a new line of defence to a common enemy. Despite this commonality and shift in focus, it’s difficult to say if COVID-19 has succeeded in putting an end to our “resistance”, or if this is simply a small break in a bigger war. From what it seems, some forms of resistance continue to burn in decay, quietly biding time, waiting to blow back in full force.