‘The Best Hope We Have.’ The Promise of Protest Movements Going Global

‘The Best Hope We Have.’ The Promise of Protest Movements Going Global
People gather in Trafalgar Square during a Black Lives Matter rally in London, June 12, 2020 (AP photo by Alberto Pezzali).

In the past month, the mass protests for racial justice that were prompted by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25 have spread rapidly around the world. From the United Kingdom to Senegal to Japan, millions of people have taken to the streets to demand that the U.S. finally address its racial inequalities and the violent behavior of its police—and to decry local manifestations of injustice closer to home.

By now, this pattern looks familiar. Protests in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011, prompted by the self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, set off a wave of anti-authoritarian uprisings across the Arab world. And the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York in 2011 were quickly emulated in thousands of cities across the world. They also inspired subsequent protest movements in other countries that sought to “occupy” public spaces, from central Hong Kong to Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine. Other demonstrations, like the school strikes led by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, have been slower to build but just as far-reaching. Last September’s climate strikes drew 6 million participants globally.

Civil resistance is on the rise. According to Erica Chenoweth, a political scientist at Harvard University and a leading scholar on nonviolence, the number of mass protests has increased every year since the end of World War II. Last year’s demonstrations—in Hong Kong, Sudan, Algeria, Bolivia, Chile, Lebanon and Iraq, to name just a few—may have constituted “the largest wave of nonviolent mass movements in world history,” Chenoweth wrote in The Washington Post last November.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review