Protests of 2019

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Protests of 2019
LocationSee section
ParticipantsPeople of France, Hong Kong, India, Kazakhstan, Italy, Montenegro, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, Indonesia, Chile, Bolivia, Georgia, Haiti, Spain (Catalonia), Malta, Russia, Syria and Sudan

The Protests of 2019–20, also known as the Global Protest Wave of 2019, is a term used to describe the abnormally large number of high profile protests that happened during 2019 and have continued into 2020; protests classified in the "wave" included those in the Arab world, Hong Kong, France, Catalonia and Latin America. The mainstream media has described them as having many causes in common,[8][9][10][11] as influencing each other[8][12][13] and as having many differences in specific causes.[8][9][10]

According to Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post, these protests made the year 2019 into "the year of the street protester"[14] and were defined by other journalists and academics in similar terms. Julie Norman of University College London described 2019 as historically notable because of "the degree of mobilization,"[11] Michael Safi of The Guardian described the protests in late October 2019 as "protests raging today and in the past months on the streets of cities around the world [that] have varying triggers [and] fuel [that] is similar",[9] Le Monde defined the 2019 protests as "a wave of popular protest [shaking] the world"[15] and Elise Lambert of France Télévisions defined the 2019 protests as "a burst of uprisings [that] has engulfed the planet over the past several months."[16] Historian Mathilde Larrère [fr] of University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée claimed that "all the [2019] protests refer to each other" and that, as of October 2019, the protests had created an "insurrectionary mood" (French: climat insurrectionnel).[16] Larrère described the 2019 protests as having historical precedents including the 1820, 1848 and 1989 revolutionary waves, the protests of 1968, and the 2011 wave of the Arab Spring.[16] Larrère claimed that the differences in triggers for the various protests were misleading for understanding the nature of the protests, favouring rebellion against economic austerity programs and calls for more democracy as underlying causes.[16]

A sizable number of these protests are partaken by protesters from across the political spectrum, notably the Yellow Vests in France were originally a far-right movement protesting against the Migration Crisis and a rise in domestic fuel tax[17], whereas the protests in India were also originally by Assamese protesters fighting against liberal immigration policies.[18] The Guardian has also explained that the protests have deeply affected the traditional political establishment; the protests in Catalonia have been viewed as being predominantly by middle class and upper class people, which has allowed for the rise of far-right parties in both Catalonia and the rest of Spain focusing on economic stability, with far-right leaders courting the votes of lower class Catalonians by speaking about the economic consequences of independence.[19]


Common causes[edit]

The protesters are often concerned about economic issues, such as corruption, economic inequality and poverty alleviation. One of the measures undertaken by the Government of Hong Kong in response to the city's protests was to increase the amount of social security and labor rights available to its citizens[20], though protesters themselves do not agree that the measures are enough to placate their demands.[21] A major plank of the Gillet Jaunes in France is to oppose an Eco tax, a rise in the fuel duty and the liberal policies of Macron[22]. BBC News and The Washington Post listed economic inequality, corruption, the desire for political freedom from governmental political repression and climate change as motivating factors in common to the protests from around the world.[8] The Guardian described the "fuel" for the protests as "stagnating middle classes, stifled democracy and the bone-deep conviction that things can be different".[9] Business Insider described the protests as "stemming from vastly different issues" but having "common threads: citizens [wanting] to express their discontent with [their] governments".[23]

Immigration has also played a major role during the various protests, such as the immigration of Mainland Chinese into Hong Kong[24], the Migration Crisis in France[25],or the migration from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan into India[26]. The United Kingdom's vote to leave the European Union (Brexit) was also achieved in part by voters protesting against the EU's freedom-of-movement and the collective European response to the Migration Crisis.[27]

A few of the protests have democracy as a major theme. Moscow protesters claimed that the opposition had been unfairly discriminated from the 2019 elections.[28] In Hong Kong, the protesters wished to provide full suffrage to the people of Hong Kong.[29] The Malta protests were sparked by the death of a journalist undertaking an investigation into corruption among the government.[30] The protests in the UK, Catalonia and Hong Kong all share traits of being independence movements.[31] Le Monde described the changes as a "planetary demand [to] reconquer democracy" (French: une exigence planétaire : reconquérir la démocratie), with the common thread that protestors around the world called for their governments to quit power (French: « Dégagez ! »), within contexts that varied significantly from country to country.[15] Le Monde said that common characteristics of the 2019 protests included slogans, methods, and anger against elite control of political power and wealth.[15] The Sardines movement in Italy shared "the grass-roots frustration" of the other 2019 global protests, but differed from the other in that it opposed a political party, that of Matteo Salvini, that was at the time out of power but was expected to come to power in Emilia-Romagna in January 2020.[32] Thierry de Montbrial of Ifri saw the protests as a challenge to the "traditional system of enforcing power from top to bottom" and a social revolution in favour of participatory democracy.[9]

John Chalcraft of the London School of Economics and Political Science argued that while there were specific and varying triggers for the protests around the world, the existence of "a much wider lack of trust in the political elite, a feeling of crisis of authority, and a wide variety of grievances and feelings of discontent" in Chile, Lebanon and Hong Kong amplified the initial protests into "sustained protest movements, continuing even after their initial grievance has been met."[11]

Divergent causes[edit]

A conventional view of international waves of protest is that these are causally related (a "diffusion" model) by an encouragement effect and by international activists. Dawn Brancati and Adrian Lucardi dispute the diffusion model, arguing that they have statistical evidence on protests during 1989–2011 that fail to support the diffusion model across neighbouring countries.[33]

In the protests of 2019, academics and journalists disagree on common factors but tend to agree that the triggers for individual national protests and the specific demands vary considerably. Jackson Diehl described the 2019 year of protests as "exceptional for the sheer breadth and diversity of the unrest."[14] Le Monde considered the contexts of the per-country protests to differ.[15]

Historian Mathilde Larrère [fr] of University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée criticised focussing on triggers for the individual protests. She viewed a more fundamental common cause as a decade of financial austerity following the financial crisis of 2007–2008 that "weighed heavily" on the middle class and working class (French: classes populaires). She described the coordination between the elites of the middle class with the working class as creating an explosive situation, documented in research into the yellow vest movement.[16]

Structure and methods[edit]

Many of the protests were frequently characterised as being organised in a leaderless way,[15] including those in Algeria,[34] Hong Kong,[35] Lebanon[9] and Iraq.[9] In Hong Kong, the use of fluid, rapidly changing tactics organised in a decentralised way was described in terms of Bruce Lee's words "Be water, my friend."[35] Close communication took place between Hong Kong protest participants and Catalan protest participants regarding these "Be water" tactics.[11] Sanjoy Chakravorty, a global studies researcher at Temple University, argued that the leaderlessness was an advantage to protestors in that it made the protest movements difficult to repress, but a disadvantage in that the lack of leadership structures would lead to the protests not being sustained and not inducing long-term political change.[9] CNN saw the protests as "highly organized, persistent movements".[11]

Mathilde Larrère described the common symbols of the 2019 protests as including symbols, including masks, that worked in one place and were imitated in others, accelerated by the Internet, and a weak role of traditionally organised workers' and anarchist movements.[16]

Jackson Diehl of The Washington Post argued that two factors were in common to all the 2019 protests, in "Hong Kong and Egypt, Chile and Lebanon": online social media and "a rising generation of discontented youth who are masters of it. The combination of the two has changed the balance of power between government and society in both democratic and authoritarian states."[14] Le Monde agreed with the role of online social media as a common factor.[15] Michael Safi, writing in the The Guardian, disagreed with the significance of the role of online social media factor, stating "the explosion of access to information" via the Internet was "not a determining factor ... [although] clearly important [in] reordering hierarchies of knowledge and communication".[9]


The Start dates in this timeline refer to the start of each wave of major street protests. See the individual articles for long-term background sociopolitical contexts and factors that may have triggered the protests. Heads of government/state removed only includes the effective political leaders of the country (or region): in some the head of state holds the main executive power, in other the head of government holds that power.


Start Locality Protest-based event Heads of government/state removed Cessation
17 November France Yellow vests movement None Ongoing
19 December[36] Sudan Sudanese Revolution Omar al-Bashir (11 April 2019)[2] Ongoing


Start Locality Protest-based event Heads of government/state removed Cessation
(Timeline) Latin America (regional overview) (Morales; see below) Ongoing
(Timeline) United Kingdom Brexit David Cameron, Theresa May Ongoing
February Kazakhstan 2019–20 Kazakh protests None Ongoing
16 February[37] Algeria Hirak Abdelaziz Bouteflika (2 Apr)[1] Ongoing
15 March Hong Kong 2019–20 Hong Kong protests Wang Zhimin Ongoing
July Moscow, Russia 2019 Moscow protests None August 2019
July Puerto Rico Telegramgate (Chatgate) Ricardo Roselló (2 Aug)[38][39] August 2019
20 September Egypt 2019 Egyptian protests None 27 Sep 2019
1 October Iraq 2019 Iraqi protests Adil Abdul-Mahdi (1 Dec)[5] Ongoing
21 October[40] Bolivia 2019 Bolivian protests Evo Morales (10 Nov)[4] Ongoing
14 October Spain Catalonia independence protests None Ongoing
14 October Chile 2019 Chilean protests None Ongoing
17 October[41] Lebanon 2019 Lebanese protests Saad Hariri (29 Oct)[3] Ongoing
14 November[42] Italy Sardines movement None Ongoing
15 November Iran 2019 Iranian protests None Ongoing
20 November Malta Caruana Galizia assassination protests Joseph Muscat (13 Jan 2020)[6][7] Ongoing
4 December India Citizenship amendment act protests None Ongoing

Geographical distribution[edit]

Arab world[edit]

Tesbih Habbal and Muzna Hasnawi, Syrian editors writing in The Nation, argued that the Sudanese Revolution, the 2019 Algerian protests, the 2019 Egyptian protests, the 2019 Iraqi protests, and October 2019 street protests against de facto governmental authorities in Syria constituted a second wave of the process that started with the 2010–2011 Arab Spring. Habbal and Hansawi referred to protestors' signs stating, "Syria—Egypt—Iraq: You've revived the spirit of the Arab people, from the [Atlantic] Ocean to the [Persian] Gulf!" and described the process as having "profoundly changed the political consciousness of the region", overcoming fear of political activity and "setting a crucial precedent for challenging the persistence of authoritarianism". Habbal and Hansawi argued that the October protests in Syria "[proved] that even ruthless repression and tyranny cannot deter the resistance."[43]


Hong Kong[edit]

In early 2018, Chan Tong-kai, a citizen of Hong Kong, was suspected of killing his girlfriend whilst in Taiwan and then returning to Hong Kong, thereby avoiding law enforcement in Taiwan. He was unable to be extradited back to Taiwan due to a lack of any extradition treaties between the polities of Greater China. This caused a political controversy after the Government of Hong Kong attempted to establish extradition treaties remedying the situation, leading to widespread protests in early 2019. The 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill was seen as a threat to Hong Kong's autonomy from the People's Republic of China. These protests follow the 2011 Occupy Hong Kong protests and the 2014 umbrella movement, in which protesters were mainly fighting against social and economic inequality.[44]

The protests led to the formal withdrawal of the bill on 23 October 2019. The protestors continued to demand an inquiry into police overreach and a more democratic electoral system.[45] In a direct link with other protests, on 24 October 2019, 1000 Hong Kong protestors held a rally to express solidarity with the Catalan protests. The Hong Kongese waved the Catalan independence flag, the Estelada, and shouted, "Stand with Catalonia, stand with Hong Kong". Organiser Ernie Chow, described the main aims as "opposition to police violence and unfair jail terms for Catalan protest leaders." The solidarity rally was supported by well-known activists including Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Tommy Cheung, Brian Leung Kai-ping, Benny Tai and Andy Chan Ho-tin. A hundred Barcelona activists held a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Barcelona on the same day, with banners stated "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and singing Glory to Hong Kong in Catalan.[46]

The protests had severe domestic consequences, including incidents of police brutality and the arrest of over 7000 people[47]. The economy was forecast to contract by 1.3% and tourist arrivals by over 56%, leading to job losses and store closures, and a large number of events and conferences were relocated to other locations such as Singapore.[48] A protest held in the mainland Chinese city of Wenlou was linked to the Hong Kong protests by South China Morning Post.[49] On 4 January 2020, the State Council of China dismissed Wang Zhimin, the head of the Hong Kong Liaison Office that represents China's interests in Hong Kong, an office widely seen as being a puppeteer of the Hong Kong government.[50]


Jamia Milia Islamia students and locals of Delhi take part in the Citizenship Amendment Act protests.
Protests in Hyderabad

The Citizenship Amendment Act protests in India started in December 2019 against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, which was passed by the parliament on 11 December.[51][52][53] The protests are also against the proposed enactment of the National Register of Citizens.[54] The protests were initiated by the effects of the legislation and related policies on social issues, such as religious discrimination, the cultural impact of illegal immigration into North-East India and later proceeded to include issues of police brutality on protesters and rising authoritarianism.[55][56][57]

The ruling right-wing party, the BJP, has implemented a decades-old electoral pledge allowing Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Jain and Parsi refugees from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to gain citizenship in India on the grounds of religious persecution of these minorities in the three Muslim nations.[58] The act alongside the proposal for the National Citizenship Register was seen as an attempt at revoking the citizenship of millions of Indian Muslims.[59] The successful passage of the citizenship act in 2019, led to protests throughout India[60]; the protesters of North-East India oppose all forms of illegal immigration from the said Muslim-majority countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan)[61], whereas protesters throughout the rest of India are concerned about discrimination against Muslims[62]; furthermore, protesters have been concerned about police entering university campuses in relation to the protests by North-East Indians and Muslims.[56][63]

The protests have been supported by various political parties, human rights groups, civil society groups and students organisations, with the protests spread throughout India.[64][65] The protests have seen clashes on university campuses[66], counter-protests held by opposing student groups and political parties[67] and numerous spontaneous protests.[68][69] There were additional protests over incidents of police brutality and misconduct on the campuses of Jawaharlal Nehru University on 5 January,[70] Jamia Millia Islamia on 15 December[71] and in various parts in the state of Uttar Pradesh.[72] Some have also opposed to the exclusion of immigrants from Non-Muslim countries, such as Bhutan, Nepal (see Lhotshampas)[73] and Sri Lanka (see Tamils). Tibetans from China have also been excluded from the bill.[74]


The 2019 Indonesian protests and riots broke out in response to various controversial bill revisions and proposals, particularly surrounding the partial dissolution of power on the country's Corruption Eradication Commission in RUU KPK [75], and the criminalization of extramarital sex and abortions[76] via RUU RKUHP [77]. Both bills – along with the few groups demanding better mining and labour operations – incited major protests across the country, primarily in Jakarta and Yogyakarta on the island of Java. The protests were largely orchestrated by university students and high schoolers; upon the protests' initiation, several universities across the archipelago began cancelling classes in favour of demonstrating against the new law revisions, with lecturers joining the protests. [78] [79] [80]. In several incidents, clashes between police forces and protestors resulted in deaths; one such notorious case was that of Kendari, where two protestors had died from reported police brutality [81].


Protests in Kazakhstan broke out initially due to a fire in the capital city Nur-Sultan which killed five children in February 2019. The government's handling of the incident sparked outrage on social media and protests that led to President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev dismissing the government led by Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev.[82] Nazarbayev resigned in March and was replaced as President by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Tokayev called a snap presidential election which saw him elected with over 70% of the vote. The results met with protests in both Nur-Sultan and Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan.[83] Protests continued to be reported as late as 16 December 2019, when the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan organized simultaneous protests in Nur-Sultan and Almaty to mark Kazakhstan Independence Day.[84]


In parallel, in the Papua and West Papua provinces in the eastern part of Indonesia, the 2019 Papua protests marked the region's most serious unrest in decades, after several years of calamity and development. The region has had multiple isolated incidents prior to the protests (e.g: the Nduga massacre; an onslaught on construction workers, supposedly conducted by a militia), which can now be interpreted as a precursor to the riots, as it made the province grow politically tense. The catalyst, however, was when a group of Papuan university students living in a Surabaya dorm housing, allegedly disrespected the Indonesian flag and had possession of the illegal Morning Star flag, the unofficial flag of West Papua. The incident – which would then be treated as a racist incident – ensued violence on the country's cities Jayapura, Manokwari and Merauke, where various municipal buildings were burned down, along with Jayapura's central port.



The French yellow vests movement started in October 2018 and has been ongoing as of 2020. Initially a far-right movement in response to the Migration Crisis and domestic fuel taxes, the movement is now pan-spectoral and is primarily fighting against the polices of the centrist-liberal Macron government.[85] The protesters have the sympathy of the majority of France, and few of the protesters had voted for Macron in the previous presidential elections, with many of them coming from districts that supported Marine Le Pen.[86]

A number of participants of the movement have complained that mainstream media does not discuss the protests.[87]


The 2019 Catalan protests started on 14 October 2019 in Barcelona, on the day that Catalan independence leaders were convicted of sedition. The protests started with the use of the Telegram secure instant messaging service by Democratic Tsunami to call people[13] to a protest at Barcelona Airport, which BBC News considered to be one of the tactics used in the Hong Kong protests.[8] One of the Democratic Tsunami messages was given the hashtag "#BeWater".[13] On the way to the airport, people intending to participate shouted,

We're going to do a Hong Kong ... Now people must be in the streets, all revolts start there, look at Hong Kong.

— Barcelona protestors, BBC News[8]

Catalan protestors distributed diagrams from the Hong Kong protests detailing methods of dealing with water cannon and tear gas.[8] The Straits Times quoted several Catalan activists as being inspired by the Hong Kong protests. The Assemblea Nacional Catalana that advocates Catalonian independence encouraged its members to use instant messaging for communication in "non-violent struggle" using the Hong Kong protests as an example.[13]


Sardines' demonstration in Bologna

The Sardines movement (Italian: movimento delle sardine)[88] is a grassroots political movement, which began in Italy in November 2019.[42][89][90] The movement organized an ongoing series of peaceful demonstrations to protest against the right-wing surge in the country and, more specifically, against the political rhetoric of right-wing leader Matteo Salvini.[91] The name "Sardines" came from the idea of organizing their rallies with high numbers of participants, packed together like sardines in a shoal.[42][92]


The 2019 Maltese protests started on 20 November 2019, demanding the resignation of Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, in the wake of revelations linking big business and alleged state involvement in the assassination of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Muscat resigned on 13 January 2020.[7]


Starting from July 2019 numerous approved and unapproved rallies in Moscow (also known as part of the political crisis[93][94]) began, caused by the situation with the 2019 Moscow City Duma elections. Widespread public protests were triggered by numerous authorities' violations, claimed by the independent opposition candidates, during the registration procedure.[95][96] Rallies on Sakharov Avenue on 20 July and 10 August 2019 became the largest political rallies in Russia after the 2011–2013 protests. 27 July rally established a record on number of detainees: 1373 people were detained.[97]

United Kingdom[edit]

The European Union has been at the centre of much debate and protests over the previous decade. After a series of protests and the rise of far-right nationalist parties, a referendum on leaving the EU was called in 2016, producing a 'leave' result that surprised much of the political establishment at the time, pushing the prime minister of the country, David Cameron, to resign. The causes behind the protests have been viewed as being complex, including factors such as job scarcity and economic insecurity, with immigration also playing a major role;[98] notably the high profile migration crisis in Europe (and consequent Islamophobia) played a major role in the political campaign of the Brexit referendum and is thought to have played a role in the victory for Leave.[99]

The consequences of the electorates' decision to leave the EU have been far-reaching, with controversy of the final plan taking the country out of the EU forcing the following prime minister, Theresa May, to resign from her position in 2019[100], being replaced by the current prime minister Boris Johnson[101]. The controversy has also raised the prospect of independence movements in the various nations that compose the UK, with the SNP calling for a second independence referendum in Scotland[102]. There has also been increased tensions over on the island of Ireland, with both republican parties and unionist parties complaining about the final agreement established by the countrywide Westminister parliament, with increasing worries about sectarian violence as well.[103]

Latin America[edit]

Michael Reid saw the 2019 Latin American protests as being inspired by the French yellow vests movement, the Catalan protests and the Hong Kong protests. Reid described the 2019 Latin American protests as the third intense social upheaval in his four decades of journalist coverage of the region, after a 1980s "savage austerity" period and during the 1998–2002 Argentine great depression.[12]

Venezuela was considered a major topic in Latin America during 2019. The NYT described its "collapse" as being the worst outside a warzone[104] which produced a significant number of asylum seekers that sought refuge in the other countries of Latin America and also the United States.[105]


Major governmental system change[edit]

Nine months of sustained street protests in the Sudanese Revolution that started on 19 December 2018[36] led to the 11 April 2019 Sudanese coup d'état that deposed President Omar al-Bashir after thirty years in power, his replacement by the Transitional Military Council (TMC), the July and August 2019 signing of a Political Agreement and a Draft Constitutional Declaration between the TMC and the Forces of Freedom and Change alliance (FFC) legally defining a planned 39-month phase of transitional state institutions and procedures to return Sudan to a civilian democracy,[106][107][108] the August 2019 transfer of executive power to a mixed military–civilian collective head of state, the Sovereignty Council of Sudan and to a civilian prime minister (Abdalla Hamdok) and a mostly civilian cabinet, and the October 2019 transfer of judicial power to Nemat Abdullah Khair, Sudan's first female Chief Justice.[109]

Heads of state/government replaced[edit]

In other countries in 2019, as of 21 November 2019, major institutional change had not occurred in response to the protests. Changes in individuals in key positions of power occurred in many countries in response to the protest, including several heads of state and heads of government who resigned or were forced out of power as a direct or indirect result of the protests. In the Arab world, apart from power transfers in the Sudanese Revolution, these included Abdelaziz Bouteflika who accepted to drop his candidacy for re-election as president and on 2 April 2019 resigned from the presidency,[1] prior to 11 April removal of al-Bashir from power. Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on 29 October 2019 in response to the Lebanese protests, after his second, non-consecutive term in power.[110] Bolivian president Evo Morales resigned on 10 November 2019 in response to the Bolivian protests, after 13 years (three presidential terms) in power.[4] Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi resigned in response to the Iraqi protests after just over a year in power; his resignation was accepted by the Iraqi parliament on 1 December 2019.[5]

Other governmental concessions[edit]

More modest political changes resulted from other protests, with 23 October 2019 withdrawal by the Hong Kong legislature of the 2019 Hong Kong extradition bill, which was seen by protestors as a threat to Hong Kong's autonomy from the People's Republic of China.[45]

Government repression[edit]

Amnesty International (AI) documented major human rights violations by governments as repressive responses to the protests in many parts of the world. In October 2019, AI listed human rights abuses and violations in Bolivia, Lebanon, Chile, Spain, Iraq, Guinea, Hong Kong, the UK, Ecuador, Cameroon and Egypt.[111]


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