The moment the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day, the entire world will celebrate a new chapter of resolutions with the commencement of the anticipated decade. Cities will be bustling with people packed on the streets as they watch the fireworks burst arrays of colors into the midnight sky.
But what awaits those who continue to persist for change, rather than neatly wrapping up the year? The year of 2019 has witnessed multiple events of strikes and movements, all organized by civilians who seeked change in their government, economy, or society. Here are some of the most recognized civilian protests that are ongoing across the globe:
One perusing the streets of Paris may notice crowds of neon yellow vests confronted by police equipped with tear gas and water cannons. These crowds have overturned cars, shattered windows along Champs-Élysées, and lit fires as they marched through the streets. The yellow-jacket (or ‘gilet jaunes’) movement has passed its one year anniversary and, while the number of protestors have decreased, the movement still lives on with its future unclear.
Protests began from grassroots civilian outrage against a national fuel tax, which harmed working class commuters, who come into Paris for work on a daily basis. While Macron attempted to dissolve anger through scrapping this fuel tax, his actions proved futile as the protests swelled. The gilet-jaunes are rooted in anti-establishment sentiment; they haven’t laid out an explicit political agenda or any leader. Instead, they rely on the visions of the lower to middle class population as motives for progress.
As protests prolonged, their numbers grew and their demands expanded. The Guardian reported on the peak of the movement as around 285,000 people across France on November 17th, 2018. While their numbers have shrunk from the hundreds of thousands to merely a few thousands, their demands have expanded and they still share a widespread support amongst French civilians within polls. They demand Macron to reform the tax system that they label as unjust towards the lower classes, as well as increases to the minimum wage.
However, these political demands can still vary from person to person; while some wish for these low-caliber economic demands, otherwise push for Macron’s resignation or the dissolution of the French Parliament. The protestors’ political ranges are between the far right conservative to Neo-leftist liberals.
It is becoming clear that this movement is not one of partisanship or fleeting political anger, but rather an enduring revolt against representative democracy whose demands for fiscal and social justice will persist for years to come.
Meanwhile in Santiago, the capital of Chile, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported in mid-November that up to 7,000 protestors were arrested and up to one million civilians participated in a rally at the capitol. Demonstrators could be seen bracing themselves behind wooden boards from police blasting water in their direction.
As France, outrage stemmed from increased prices, but for subway fares instead. Chileans claimed that their incomes fail to meet the escalating prices of healthcare, education, and housing. Streets have been the harbors of their outcries, expressed through vandalism and riots until President Sebastian Pinera got rid of the new subway fare, even issuing a state of emergency for six cities including Santiago.
The United Nations climate change summit that occurred in early December was originally scheduled to be hosted by Chile, but a decision to switch the venue to Madrid took place; it was the second time the summit was rescheduled after Brazil pulled out as host.
In merely two weeks, Iranians have witnessed a hiking inflation on oil prices, impacting the middle class who could barely afford the new costs. Gatherings were initially peaceful until government crackdowns triggered a movement against the Iranian government with a series of national outbreaks that started on November 15.
In order to repress the protests, the government utilized violent tactics of shooting protestors from helicopters and rooftops.
Now, the country holds over 300 deaths: 12 in which the United Nations believe were children. Detained journalists, civil rights activists, and students were subjected to torture, such as severe floggings and beatings, as well as mysterious disappearances.
As efforts to conceal the mistreatment of civilians, the government silenced victims’ families and emplaced a nationwide internet shutdown that lasted more than a week.
Perhaps the protest of most discussion, a series of strikes in Hong Kong started in June with the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Citizens were enraged that it could “undermine judicial independence,” a principle that the people of Hong Kong highly treasure given their history.
Hong Kong, an originally British-ruled territory was returned to China in 1997 under a joint declaration, China and Hong Kong’s relationship was stated to be a basis of “one country, two systems.” The region was promised its own administrative region and legal system––all which China guaranteed to recognize until 2047.
Since then, however, China has faced backlash for attempting to undermine the agreement of autonomy, the Fugitive Offenders bill seeming to have been the last straw. In what began as dissent of a legislation quickly escalated to the realization that the people were fighting for full democracy even with the retraction of the bill.
The common phrase of “five demands not one less” has been adopted by the pro-democracy protesters who, apart from the withdrawal of the bill demand an independent inquiry into police conduct, amnesty (official pardon) for arrested protesters, unnaming the protests as riots, and universal suffrage.
Civilians have continuously clashed with police as they have pushed for these rights, students barricading their campuses into forts and wearing gas masks to protect themselves from the gas tears. In early December, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) reported that Hong Kong police have arrested 6,000 protestors and have fired approximately 16,000 tear gas rounds within the last six months. The number of deaths have also increased as videos continue to surface online of police brutality and shootings resulting in civilian and student deaths.