2019 saw a rise in political resistance and demonstrations as people demanded their rights back. Across the world, people staged several protests for their regional issues and concerns.
There are, however, a few common underlying themes that can be observed globally. People find solidarity in standing up for the causes that matter to them. Let's take a look at some of the biggest and most influential protests of the year.
Yellow Vests Movement (Gilets Jaunes): France, November 2018- Present
The Yellow Vests/Jackets Movement is a political movement protesting for economic justice amongst rising fuel prices and unpopular tax reforms that impacted the lower and middle classes the most. The yellow high-visibility vests required for all drivers to possess became a unifying symbol and call-to-arms. They represented working-class industries and were convenient and striking.
Several blockades and protests turned into massive and violent riots. International bodies have criticised police intervention for using excessive force, resulting in major injuries and deaths. Ever since then, there have been a few concessions by the government such as slashing various taxes on the working class and increases in the social minima for employees. However, the protests continue as the population remains unsatisfied by the disproportionate standards of living and income, further fuelled by various tax reforms.
The Sudanese Revolution: Sudan, December 2018- September 2019
Before the revolution, Sudan had a totalitarian dictatorship that grew amok with political repression, corruption and human rights abuse. Paired with economic mismanagement and severe inflation, the people weren't happy with the state of the government.
The Sudanese Revolution was a fight for democracy, human rights, and free elections. To achieve these, protests demanded the resignation of Omar Al-Bashir. The military removed him from the position in a coup d'état, after which people protested for a civilian-led government. Negotiations came to a brutal stop, however, due to the Khartoum massacre carried out by the Transitional Military Council and Rapid Support Forces.
The government has since come to an agreement to use a mixed civilian-military composition until elections are held in 2022. Hence, Sudan is in the midst of a 39-month transition to democracy for the country.
2019 Hong Kong Protests: Hong Kong, March 2019-Present
One of the most significant protests for democracy in the past year, the Hong Kong protests have caught the eye of the entire world. The protests started in reaction to the introduction of the Fugitive Offenders amendment Bill. The bill would allow the extradition of criminal fugitives wanted by China and Taiwan. This means that Hong Kong could hence be subjected to laws of mainland China. That would erode the "one country, two systems" they follow.
The bill, however, passed, leading to an increase in agitation and protests. The protestors hence created a list of 5 key demands to preserve the democratic nature of Hong Kong. Therefore, "five demands, not one less" has become a rallying call for the protests.
The demands include a complete withdrawal of the bill, investigations into the police brutality and misconduct at protests, the release of arrested protestors, retraction of the term "riots" in official references to the protests, and the resignation of current Chief Executive Carrie Lam. The latter is to be followed by universal elections for the Legislative Council and Chief Executive.
The government hence withdrew the bill as of October 23rd. Furthermore, police retracted the characterisation of riots for protests before 12 June, except in reference to 5 individuals.
2019 Moscow Protests: Russia, July- September 2019
The Moscow City Duma Elections began the rallies and protests in Russia. (The State Duma is the lower house in Russia.) Several independent candidates claimed authorities' violations in their registration process, hence obstructing their participation in the elections.
Large protests ensued, while a record number of 1373 protesters were detained on July 27th's rallies. Massive administrative arrests of the unregistered independent candidates were also carried out. Two criminal cases accompanied these, with charges of obstructing the election commissions, plus the riots. However, several media organisations and authorities found no evidence of mass riots.
As a result, the ruling party, United Russia, suffered heavy losses, with oppositions Yabloko and CPRF gaining factions. One independent candidate, Sergey Mitrokhin, was allowed to contest. He subsequently won in his constituency.
Earth Strike: Global, 20-27 September 2019
Earth Strike is the brainchild of the r/Chomsky subreddit, where a user posted, calling for a "General Strike To Save The Planet." As the post gained attention (and hopefully karma, thank you for the gold kind stranger,) r/EarthStrike formed to plan the strike. Soon, they decided to hold a general, worldwide strike for a week's time from 20th to 27th September. Greta Thunberg quickly became one of the largest faces for the strikes, a young symbol passionate about change.
Millions of people participated in global protests and demonstrations, including large strikes in several Indian cities that you've probably heard of and even participated in.
Anti-CAA Protests: India, 4 December 2019-Ongoing
Hardly anyone needs an introduction to these, with country-wide protests having sustained for weeks as of today. The protests began in Assam upon the introduction of the bill and quickly spread across the country.
Most north-east states fear a dilution and erasure of their indigenous demographics and cultures. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is concerned about the non-secular and unconstitutional nature of the CAA when paired with the NRC, propelled by statements by the union government about the implementation of these. The steps have gained international criticism by various authorities and organisations as well.
Police's use of force against students and allegedly peaceful protestors added fuel to the fire- thousands of arrests and 24 deaths recorded as of 26th. Section 144, Curfews, and Internet Shutdowns have been primarily used to try to curb the protests. However, they failed to achieve the same in several instances. Several countries have issued travel advisories for those planning to visit India.