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An Analysis of World Protests 2006–2020


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This section of the book “World Protests: A Study of Key Protest Issues in the 21st Century” analyzes in-depth 2809 protests that occurred between 2006 and 2020 in 101 countries covering over 93% of the world population. This section focuses on: (i) major grievances and demands driving world protests, such as the failure of political representation/systems, anti-austerity, and for civil rights and global justice; (ii) who was demonstrating; (iii) what protest methods they used; (iv) who the protestors opposed; (v) what was achieved; and (vi) violence and repression in terms of arrests, injuries, and deaths.
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An Analysis of World Protests 2006–2020
Abstract This section of the book “World Protests: A Study of Key
Protest Issues in the 21st Century” analyzes in-depth 2809 protests that
occurred between 2006 and 2020 in 101 countries covering over 93%
of the world population. This section focuses on: (i) major grievances
and demands driving world protests, such as the failure of political repre-
sentation/systems, anti-austerity, and for civil rights and global justice;
(ii) who was demonstrating; (iii) what protest methods they used; (iv)
who the protestors opposed; (v) what was achieved; and (vi) violence and
repression in terms of arrests, injuries, and deaths.
Keywords Protests ·Social movements ·Riots ·Democracy ·Austerity ·
Civil rights ·Social justice ·Human rights ·Repression
1The World Awakens:
Protests Increase 20062020
There are times in history when large numbers of people protest about
the way things are, demanding change. It happened in 1830–1848, in
1917–1924, in the 1960s, and it is happening again today (Schiffrin &
Kircher-Allen, 2012). Since 2010, the world has been shaken by protests.
Our analysis of 2809 events reflects an increasing number of protests
from 2006 to 2020. Protests occur in all world regions (Table 1)and
© The Author(s) 2022
I. Ortiz et al., World Protests, 3-030-88513-7_2
Table 1 Number of protests in 2006–2020
2006–2010 2011–2015 2016–2020 Total
East Asia and Pacific 98 144 136 378
Europe and Central Asia 119 319 368 806
Latin America and the Caribbean 92 164 171 427
Middle East and North Africa 53 85 70 208
North America 44 111 126 281
South Asia 26 37 38 101
Sub-Saharan Africa 76 138 155 369
Global Protests 68 83 88 239
Total 576 1081 1152 2809
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprotests.
across all country income levels1(Table 2). The study found a greater
prevalence of protests in middle-income countries (1327 events) and
high-income countries (1122 protests) than in low-income countries (121
events).2There are also a number of international and global protests3
that happened in multiple countries simultaneously, and their number also
keeps increasing steadily over the years (239 protests).
With regards to the regional distribution of protests (Tables 1and
3), Europe and Central Asia is the most active area (806 protests) in
the period 2006–2020, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean
(427 protests), East Asia/Pacific (378 protests), Sub-Saharan Africa (369
1Country income group and regional classifications are taken from World Bank data
sets, which use gross national income (GNI) per capita to classify every economy as
either low-income, middle-income (subdivided into lower middle and upper middle), or
2The lower numbers in low income countries may be due to lesser civic participation
because of hardship and more difficult living conditions or perhaps due to there being
fewer international reports of protests in low income countries, and the fact that local
sources are less accessible via the Internet the older they are (Klandermans & Staggenborn,
2002), as discussed in the methodology section.
3Since not all protests occur in a single country, income group, or region, the category
“Global” has been added to the analysis of protests by country-income and region to
reflect rising numbers of internationally-organized protests (239) which are due to both
the increased ease of organizing across borders, growing awareness of the impact of
undemocratic international organizations such as the G20 or the IMF, and the need for
coordinated global action to solve issues such as climate change.
Table 2 Number of protests by country income groups, 2006–2020
High-income Upper
Low income Global
Tot al
2006 15 26 20 1 11 73
2007 28 26 33 2 12 101
2008 29 38 32 6 14 119
2009 46 33 24 5 16 124
2010 56 48 35 5 15 159
2011 80 61 49 8 18 216
2012 95 69 50 9 20 243
2013 103 60 46 10 18 237
2014 89 44 35 10 14 192
2015 88 47 34 11 13 193
2016 86 54 39 10 13 202
2017 93 52 45 11 17 218
2018 101 60 46 12 19 238
2019 106 59 51 9 18 243
2020 107 60 51 12 21 251
Total 1122 737 590 121 239 2809
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprotests.
protests), North America (281 protests), the Middle East and North
Africa (208 protests) and South Asia (101 protests). Because this study
collected and organized information primarily by country, those regions
with more countries tend to have a greater number of protests, and those
regions with fewer countries (e.g., North America comprises only three
countries; South Asia, seven) show a slightly lesser number of protests,
although researchers tried to offset this by greater sensitivity to recording
more within-country protests in world-geographical regions with fewer
2Main Grievances/Demands
The 2809 protest events analyzed in this study can be classified into four
different main categories related to the grievances and demands raised,
and therefore to the issues that generated them: (i) failure of the political
system; (ii) economic justice and anti-austerity; (iii) civil rights; (iv) global
justice. These are summarized below and in Fig. 1, and are presented in
Table 3 Number of protests by region, 2006–2020
East Asia
Central Asia
America &
Middle East
& N. Africa
South Asia Sub-Saharan
Tot al
2006 11 11 13 6 6 5 10 11 73
2007 17 18 15 12 7 5 15 12 101
2008 21 21 19 12 7 4 21 14 119
2009 22 29 19 9 11 4 14 16 124
2010 27 40 26 14 13 8 16 15 159
2011 34 55 35 23 16 7 28 18 216
2012 31 68 37 23 23 9 32 20 243
2013 32 76 34 14 24 10 29 18 237
2014 24 62 27 14 22 5 24 14 192
2015 23 58 31 11 26 6 25 13 193
2016 27 64 32 12 20 7 27 13 202
2017 26 70 32 10 24 9 30 17 218
2018 26 79 36 15 26 6 31 19 238
2019 29 78 37 16 27 7 31 18 243
2020 28 77 34 17 29 9 36 21 251
Total 378 806 427 208 281 101 369 239 2809
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600
Global Commons
AnƟ-Free Trade
AnƟ-InternaƟonal Financial InsƟtuƟons
Environment/Climate JusƟce
Religious Rights
Prisoners' Rights
Personal Freedoms
Immigrant Rights
LGBT/Sexual Rights
Labor Rights
Women's/Girls' Rights
Deny Rights/Reject Equal Rights for a Group
Freedom of Assembly/Speech/Press
Rights to the commons
Ethnic/Indigenous/Racial JusƟce
Food Prices
Pension Reform
Fuel and Energy Prices
Agrarian/Land Reform
Low Living Standards
Tax/Fiscal JusƟce
Corporate Inuence/DeregulaƟon/PrivaƟzaƟon
Reform of Public Services
Jobs/Wages/Labor CondiƟons
AnƟ socialism/communism
CiƟzen Surveillance
AnƟ-War/Military-Industrial Complex
Deep Government/Oligarchy
Transparency and Accountability
Sovereignty/PatrioƟc Issues
Real Democracy
Fig. 1 Number of protests by grievance/demand topics, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
more detail in the following sections. Note that for most protests, more
than one grievance and more than one demand are involved. This means
the categories of grievances and demands are not mutually exclusive: each
protest event was “tagged” with the full set of grievances/demands found
to have contributed to it.
Failure of Political Representation and Political Systems: 1503
protests were on focused on a lack of real democracy; corruption; a
failure to receive justice from the legal system; sovereignty and patri-
otic issues; transparency and accountability; the perceived power of
a deep government or oligarchy; preventing war and restraining the
military industrial complex; the surveillance of citizens, as well as
anti-socialism and anti-communism.
Economic Justice and Anti-Austerity: 1484 protests were focused
on issues related to jobs, wages and/or labor conditions; reform of
public services; corporate influence, deregulation and privatization;
inequality; tax and fiscal justice; low living standards; agrarian/land
reform; high fuel and energy prices; pension reform; housing and
high food prices.
Civil Rights: 1360 protests were for ethnic/indigenous/racial rights;
a right to the commons (digital, land, cultural, atmospheric);
freedom of assembly, speech and press; women and girls’ rights;
labor rights; the LGBT rights; immigrant rights; personal freedoms;
prisonersrights and religious issues. This category also includes
protests that sought to deny rights or reject equal rights for a group
(e.g., against minorities).
Global Justice: 897 protests were for environmental and climate
justice; against the IMF, the World Bank, the European
Union/ECB, and other IFIs, against imperialism (United States,
China); against free trade; in defense of the global commons; and
against the G20.
How did these grievances evolve over time? Fig. 2presents the number
of protests by main grievance/demand. Beginning in 2006, there is a
steady rise in overall protests each year up to 2020. Though generalizing
is difficult, as the global financial crisis begins to unfold in 2007–2008,
we observe an initial jump in the number of protests. Protests intensi-
fied with the end of fiscal stimulus and the adoption of austerity cuts
Fig. 2 Number of protests by main grievance/demand from year 2006 to 2020
(Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
and cost-saving reforms worldwide after 2010, and they then peaked
in 2012–2013. Protestors were primarily demonstrating for economic
justice and anti-austerity reforms in the 2010–2014 period. Unresolved
grievances, few decent jobs, poor social protection and public services,
and failures of agrarian and tax justice, caused protests to become more
political, sparking a new wave of protests staring in 2016, catalyzed by fail-
ures of democracies. Since 2016, protests have escalated, often becoming
“omnibus protests” (protesting on multiple issues) against the political
and economic system. Decades of neoliberal policies have generated more
inequality, eroded incomes and welfare to both the lower and the middle
classes, fueling frustration and feelings of injustice, disappointment with
malfunctioning democracies and failures of economic and social devel-
opment, and a lack of trust in governments. In 2020, the coronavirus
pandemic has accentuated social unrest.
Protests linked to civil rights also show a sharp rise throughout the
covered period as well, mainly due to the presence of large demon-
strations for indigenous and racial rights, women’s rights, freedom of
press/speech, and the right to the commons. In recent years, a number
of radical right groups have also protested against minorities, for patriotic
matters, and for personal freedoms (e.g., refusing to stay home or to wear
masks during the COVID-19 pandemic). Global-justice related protests
increase in the period, but at a more moderate rate than the other cate-
gories, with a slowdown after the peak was reached in 2012–2013. The
following sections of the book present details on each of these main areas
of grievances/demands.
3Grievances/Demands on Failure of Political
Representation and Political Systems
Our study shows the most consistent reason for people around the world
to protest is the perceived failure of democracies. About 54% of all
protests considered between 2006 and 2020 (a total of 1503 protest
events overall) relate to a failure of political representation and of political
systems. This is the case not only in countries with autocratic govern-
ments, or in low-income countries, where 53% of protests were due to a
failure of government to provide needed services, justice, and account-
ability, but also in high-income countries, where more than 48% of
protests were related to a failure of political representation, as well as
in over 61% of the protests in upper-middle-income countries (Fig. 3).
0 200 400 600 800 1000
Real Democracy
Sovereignty/PatrioƟc Issues
Transparency and Accountability
Deep Government/Oligarchy
AnƟ-War/Military-Industrial Complex
CiƟzen Surveillance
AnƟ socialism/communism
High Income Upper Middle Income Lower Middle Income Low Income Global Protests
Fig. 3 Protests failures of political representation/political systems by income
group 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources
2006–2020, see:
Formal representative democracies are perceived around the world as
having served the elites instead of the people. A deep crisis in political
representation is felt and articulated even by average citizens (e.g., the
middle classes) who do not consider themselves social or political activists
(Puschra & Burke, 2013).
Table 4, Figs. 4and 5present key issues in the category of failure
of political representation and political systems.4According to our anal-
ysis, such protests were more prevalent in Europe and Central Asia, Latin
America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and North America.
The main reasons why people protest about a failure of political
representation and political systems are:
3.1 Real Democracy
This is the largest demand from around the world, present in nearly
28% of all protests counted and the single most prevalent protest issue
to emerge from the study, as it is an issue in 779 protests. This
kind of protest is understood to be based on the desire for a demo-
cratic society that responds to the needs of people, in which people
participate directly in the decisions affecting their lives, as counter-
posed to a formal, representative democracy, that is perceived as often
not respecting the “one person, one vote” rule, but instead to have
been distorted to serve the interests of the elites and the powerful
(Rancière, 2006). A typical example was the call for United States
democracy to respond to Main Street instead of Wall Street after the
2008 financial crisis. Protests for real democracy exist in all regions and
country-income groups. The regions with a higher prevalence of this cate-
gory of protest are Europe and Central Asia (e.g., Belarus, Bulgaria,
France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,
Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom),
Latin America and the Caribbean (e.g., Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile,
4Note that this table includes all instances of a demand or grievance. A protest may
have more than one grievance/demand, given that demonstrators often focus on several
issues (e.g., they may demonstrate against corruption and lack of transparency, while also
calling for real democracy) for this reason the number of demands and grievances is larger
than the total number of protests presented in earlier tables counting protest events.
Therefore when this study asserts, for example, that corruption is a causal factor in 20%
of all protest events, this does not mean that all other causes are to be found in the
remaining 80%.
Table 4 Protests against the failure of political representation/political systems by region, 2006–2020
Grievance/demand East
Asia &
Latin America
East &
Global Total
Real democracy 111 238 108 75 67 14 130 36 779
Corruption 118 161 62 45 60 15 58 39 558
Justice 55 115 57 10 108 3 20 42 410
Sovereignty/patriotic issues 23 95 35 19 21 11 49 11 264
Transparency and accountability 40 41 22 3 47 3 19 69 244
Deep government
11 76 48 11 21 1 32 8 208
19 8 20 21 8 3 18 84 181
Citizen surveillance 5 30 14 2 7 0 8 37 103
Anti-socialism/anti-communism 0 7 10 0 6 2 0 0 25
Total 382 771 376 186 345 52 334 326 1503
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Fig. 4 Map of protests on failure of political representation and political
systems, 2006–2020 (Source
Fig. 5 Grievances/demands arising from the failure of political representa-
tion/systems by year, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of world protests
in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru), East Asia and the
Pacific (e.g., Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines,
South Korea, and Thailand), North America (Canada, Mexico, and the
United States), and Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., the Democratic Republic
of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria,
Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe). This issue was
particularly relevant in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region
at the time of the Arab Spring (e.g., Egypt and Tunisia) and later (e.g.,
in Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco).
3.2 Corruption
Opposition to corruption is behind 20% of protests globally, with 558
events counted. Protests against corruption are often sparked by prior
complaints over poorly delivered public services in health, transporta-
tion, education, and security, as exemplified by the massive 2013 anti-
corruption protests in Brazil, which began as protests against rising bus
fares. Similar protests are to be found in many other countries (e.g.,
also Egypt, Haiti, Iran, Tunisia, Turkey, and Yemen). A large number of
protests are led by outraged citizens denouncing private-sector payouts
to politicians, tax fraud, manipulation of policies in the interests of the
privileged (e.g., Algeria, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Hungary, Iceland,
India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Madagascar,
Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Romania,
Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, United States, and
Zimbabwe). Contrary to public perceptions, corruption is not an issue of
lower-income countries alone. Corruption is behind 16% of protests in
high-income countries, 24% in middle-income countries and 18% in low-
income countries. More on protests against corruption can be found in
Section 3in Chapter 3.
3.3 Justice
Justice, or failure to receive justice from the legal system (not conceptual
kinds of justice, such as “environmental justice” or “economic justice”),
is a cause of 14% of all protests, with 410 protests counted overall. An
example can be found in the actions by “hacktivists” (digital activists) affil-
iated with Anonymous challenging unwilling state authorities to uphold
laws against rape, child pornography and police violence or face public
exposure of the perpetrators’ identities (e.g., in Canada and the United
States). Other examples are finance activists asking for reparations for
people who lost their savings due to banking crises (e.g., Italy and Spain)
and solidarity marches with victims wanting justice from the legal system
in case of house evictions, rape and others (e.g., Chad, Mexico, Nigeria,
and the United Kingdom).
3.4 Sovereignty and Patriotic Issues
Sovereignty and patriotic issues appear in 9% (264) of protests at both
extremes of the political spectrum. In recent years, patriotic matters have
been elevated by right-wing parties and groups (e.g., in Brazil, France,
Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, the United Kingdom, and the United
States); in Germany and Italy, for example, far-right nationalist groups
demonstrated against an “open door” policy for Muslim immigrants and
refugees. Sovereignty is also an ongoing issue for progressive protestors
demanding that big powers stop interfering in national policy-making in
developing countries (e.g., Ecuador, Ghana, Philippines, and Vietnam)
and in indigenous peoples’ matters (e.g., Brazil, Canada, Peru, and the
United States). Finally, sovereignty is a main claim of territories/areas
demanding independence (e.g., Catalonia, Hong Kong, Occupied Pales-
tinian Territory, Tibet, and Western Sahara). This is further developed in
Section 1in Chapter 3.
3.5 Transparency and Accountability
Transparency and accountability are demands that lie behind nearly
9% of protest events worldwide, in 244 protests. This demand often
focuses on policies perceived as not serving the majority of citizens
(e.g., Australia, Greece, Iceland, Israel, and Spain). There are also many
protests against failed transparency and accountability in developing coun-
tries when governments adopt regressive tax policies and public service
reforms (e.g., Brazil, Colombia, Kenya, Philippines, and Thailand). This
demand also appears in protests about election results perceived as fraud
(e.g., Bolivia, Indonesia, South Korea, and the United States). Protests
on transparency and accountability are frequently linked to corruption
3.6 A “Deep Government”/Oligarchy
A “deep government” or oligarchy that manipulates policy-making is a
cause of more than 7% of all protests (208 protests counted). Claims
of an oligarchy secretly dominating the government is common among
both left-wing and radical right-wing groups. Examples include progres-
sive protests against the policies of autocratic leaders (e.g., in Belarus,
Brazil, Italy, Lebanon, Russia, Turkey, and Uganda) as well as radical right
protests against a supposed “deep government” that impedes advance-
ment of the far right agenda (e.g. in Germany, Poland, and the United
3.7 Anti-war Protests/Anti Military-Industrial Complex
Anti-war protests and those against the military-industrial complex are
a factor in more than 6% of protests, with 181 episodes counted
overall. Protests by global networks working against war make most of
the demonstrations, with most protests focusing on the wars in Iraq,
Afghanistan. and Syria. Other protests focused on denouncing mili-
tary/police abuses (e.g., Democratic Republic of Congo, Mexico, Sudan,
and the United States), national military influence on governments (e.g.
Bolivia and Brazil), foreign powers’ military intervention (e.g., Mali
and Niger), and against United States military bases (e.g.,Ghana and
Japan). A number of nationally-coordinated anti-war/military protests
also occurred in the South Asia/Pacific region (e.g., Myanmar and
3.8 Citizen Surveillance
Surveillance of citizens by governments and of workers by corpora-
tions is a cause of 3% of all protests, with 103 episodes counted. Many
protests—especially since the Manning/Wikileaks 2011 leak of United
States diplomatic cables and intensifying with the 2013 case of surveil-
lance whistleblower Edward Snowden—have focused on the actions of the
United States. In other countries there have been protests against surveil-
lance by national governments (e.g., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China,
Germany, Morocco, Netherlands, Philippines, Spain, Turkey, the United
Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam) for spying on citizens and
restricting the Internet. Germany, for instance, has experienced giant
protests against regulation of social media and the Internet.
3.9 Anti-socialism and Anti-communism
This appears in less than 1% of protests (25) in the period 2006–2020.
In recent times, anti-socialism and anti-communism have been linked
to radical right protests in high-income countries (e.g., Germany and
the United States), to opposition movements against Latin American
left-leaning governments (e.g., in Bolivia and Ecuador) and to some
conservative Muslim protests (e.g., Bangladesh).
on Economic Justice/Anti-austerity
The cluster of issues related broadly to demands for economic justice,
including anti-austerity grievances, are the second most common reason
why people around the world protest. Overall, 1484 protests in the
period 2006–2020, or nearly 53% of total protests counted in the study,
reflect people’s outrage at economic and social public policy failures and
a perceived lack of broad-based development. Protestors have evinced
strong demands for jobs and better living and working conditions, quality
public services for all, tax and fiscal justice, equitable land and pension
reforms, as well as affordable food, fuel and other goods (Fig. 6). Protests
have accelerated because of the contraction of decent jobs as a result of
the global crisis and the extension of austerity measures worldwide since
2010, affecting nearly four billion people—half of the world population—
in 2017. Recently, the jobs crisis has been accentuated by the COVID-19
pandemic, resulting in more protests despite lockdowns. The majority of
global protests for economic justice and against austerity have manifested
people’s indignation at the gross inequalities between ordinary commu-
nities and rich individuals/corporations. The idea of the “1% versus the
99%,” which emerged a decade earlier during the United States protests
over the 2008 financial and economic crisis, have quickly spread around
the world, feeding earlier grievances against eliteswriting of the rules and
manipulating public policies in their favor, while the majority of citizens
continue to endure low living standards.
0 150 300 450 600
Jobs/Wages/Labor CondiƟons
Reform of Public Services
Corporate Inuence/DeregulaƟon/PrivaƟzaƟon
Tax/Fiscal JusƟce
Low Living Standards
Agrarian/Land Reform
Fuel and Energy Prices
Pension Reform
Food Prices
High Income Upper Middle Income Lower Middle Income Low Income Global Protests
Fig. 6 Protests for economic justice/against austerity by income group, 2006–
2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020,
Table 5, Figs. 7and 8present key issues in the category of protests
for economic justice and against austerity cuts.5In general, such protests
are more prevalent in Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the
Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and North America. Contrary to public
perceptions, austerity measures are not limited to Europe: since 2010,
many of the principal adjustment cuts/reforms have featured most promi-
nently in developing countries (Ortiz & Cummins, 2019) and this is well
reflected in our mapping of global protests.
The main reasons why people protest about economic justice,
including anti-austerity demands, are:
5Note that this table includes all instances of a demand or grievance. appears in a
protest. A protest may have more than one grievance/demand given that demonstrators
often focus on several issues (e.g., they may be demonstrating against the reform of public
services, denouncing corporate influence, and complaining about low incomes). For this
reason the number of demands and grievances is larger than the total number of protests
presented in earlier tables counting protests as separate events. Therefore when this study
asserts, for example, that reform of public services is a causal factor in 17% of all protest
events, this does not mean that all other causes are to be found in the remaining 83%.
Table 5 Protests for economic justice/against austerity by country region, 2006–2020
Grievance/demand East
Asia &
Latin America
East &
Global Total
61 120 73 67 43 16 114 23 517
Reform of public services 62 184 76 13 62 4 54 23 478
Corporate influence/
51 151 93 4 54 4 16 45 418
Inequality 31 154 34 30 32 4 26 36 347
Tax/fiscal justice 13 186 30 7 28 3 30 42 339
Low living standards 31 45 82 28 6 6 64 21 283
Agrarian/land reform 29 8 63 6 17 15 24 19 181
Fuel and energy prices 11 26 24 16 23 6 28 2 136
Pension reform 2 39 29 0 17 2 2 6 97
Housing 19 43 5 0 16 0 2 0 85
Food prices 1 10 13 5 6 3 31 4 73
Total 188 662 373 96 199 43 223 175 1484
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Fig. 7 Map of protests on economic justice and anti-austerity, 2006–2020
Fig. 8 Grievances/demands on economic justice/against austerity by year,
2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–
2020, see:
4.1 Jobs, Higher Wages and Labor Conditions
This is the most prevalent cause of economic and social-justice-related
protests, appearing in 517 protest events in all regions, or in 18.4% of the
total number of protests in the world, and reflecting the major jobs crisis
that occurred before, during, and after the world financial and economic
crisis of 2008, as well as the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Protests
demanding decent jobs occur virtually in all countries. Many national
protests also have a specific focus on wages and better working conditions,
as exemplified by the protests in Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh,
Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Egypt, Germany, Greece,
India, Ireland, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Portugal,
Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, the
United Kingdom, and the United States.
4.2 Reform of Public Services
Reform of public services is a causal factor in 17% of all protest events
counted—a total of 478 protests refer to reforms of education, health,
water, and public transport, among others. Citizens marched against full
and partial privatization, rationalization of services, budget cuts, cost-
recovery measures, and other reforms that were perceived as reducing
the quality and quantity of public services. Protests existed before the
2008 global financial crisis (e.g., in Australia, Chile, Egypt, Malaysia,
and South Africa) but spiraled after 2010 with the adoption of austerity
measures not only in Europe (e.g. France, Greece, Italy, Spain and
the United Kingdom) but in a majority of developing countries (e.g.,
Argentina Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Indonesia,
Iran, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Sudan, Thailand and
4.3 Corporate Influence/Deregulation/Privatization
Corporate influence, deregulation, and privatization are issues present
in 15% of protests worldwide (418 events) in the period 2006–2020.
Protestors opposed policies that put the private interests of corporations
and financial and other elites ahead of the rest of the population. In some
developing countries, decades-long pressure from IFIs like the IMF and
the World Bank has resulted in deregulation and privatization in coun-
tries that are not able to deliver adequate services for their own people.
For example, privatization was a key grievance in protests in Chile in the
decade 2010–2020, as well as in Brazil, France, Greece, and Iceland.
Protests against the privatization of electricity drew thousands into the
streets in Australia in 2008 and in Kyrgyzstan in 2010. In 2013 in Delhi,
India, 100,000 farmers and activists protested against land acquisition for
private profit. In recent years, protestors have demanded the regulation
of platform services (e.g., UBER, food delivery, etc.) in many countries,
such as Colombia, Spain and the United States.
4.4 Inequality
More than 12% of the world’s protests (347 protests) denounced inequal-
ities in income, wealth and influence on policy-making and questioned
democratic systems that were allowing rent-seeking by elites and corpora-
tions. The Occupy movement powerfully mobilized citizens with slogans
such as “we are the 99%” and middle classes around the world demon-
strated actively against government policy decisions that benefit the elites
instead of the majority. In the Arab Spring, as well as in the more recent
Latin American Spring, inequality ranked high amongst the grievances
of demonstrators. People protested against inequality in countries like
Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso,
Chile, China, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Italy, Jordan,
Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Philippines, Portugal, Russia,
South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, the United
Kingdom and the United States. More on inequality and protests can be
found in Section 2in Chapter 3.
4.5 Tax/Fiscal Justice
Tax/Fiscal justice claims are also found in 12% of events worldwide,
specifically in 339 protests. Protests’ typical issues were focused on inad-
equate national taxation as well as a lack of international tax cooperation,
both of which allow for limited wealth taxation and tax evasion that bene-
fits the wealthy instead of the majority of citizens. Protests demanded:
more income and wealth taxation (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, Kenya); that
governments fight tax evasion and illicit financial flows (e.g. Czech
Republic, Germany, Philippines, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the
United States); lower taxes/VAT on basic products that people consume
(e.g., Iran, Portugal, and Uganda); that governments stop transfers to
the financial and corporate sectors (e.g., Indonesia, Malaysia, Spain, the
United Kingdom, and the United States); improvement in inter-regional
transfers (e.g. Greece, Italy, and Mexico); and adequate taxation of extrac-
tive resources (e.g. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, and Tanzania).
The strength of the citizens’ movements calling for governments to audit
sovereign debts (e.g., Brazil, Ireland, Philippines, and Spain) and to
repudiate nationalized private-sector debts must also be noted.
4.6 Low Living Standards
The issue of low living standards is raised in 10% of world protests (286
protests), and this is often linked to: protests against inequalities (e.g.,
Philippines, Tunisia, and the United States); demands for decent wages
(e.g., Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines); demonstrations
against austerity cuts (e.g., Bulgaria, Israel, Spain, United Kingdom);
and protests against the rising prices of goods and services (e.g., Brazil,
Burkina Faso, Haiti, India, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian
Territory, and Romania). Low living standards are a grievance behind
nearly all protests for social protection reforms, pension reforms (e.g.,
Egypt and Nicaragua) and the protests to demand higher social benefits
during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., Bulgaria, Chile, Lebanon, South
Africa, and Spain).
4.7 Agrarian/Land Reform
Grievances/demands regarding agrarian or land reforms appear in 181
protest episodes (more than 6% of the world total) in the period
2006–2020. In most countries, protestors contested changes to land
laws and other reforms resulting in the loss of livelihoods to farmers
(e.g., Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Mozambique,
Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, and Sudan). Examples include: India,
where landless farmers staged a 600-km march for land rights; China,
where protesters demanded the end of land-grabbing and the protection
of grasslands; and Sudan, where there have been violent police backlashes
against protests that denounced land-grabbing—selling public land to
foreign investors. In Colombia and Mexico, small farmers are protesting
the withdrawal of agricultural subsidies and/or competition of agricul-
tural imports because of free-trade agreements or conditions set for loans
from the IFIs.
4.8 Fuel and Energy Prices
The removal or phasing out of fuel and energy subsidies—an element of
fiscal austerity—and the resulting unaffordable energy prices have sparked
5% of protests in 136 countries (e.g., Algeria, Cameroon, Chile, Ecuador,
India, Indonesia, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Peru, Sudan,
and Uganda). While the removal of fuel subsidies can have positive envi-
ronmental externalities when polluters are no longer subsidized,6a main
problem is the inadequate compensation to the population. Energy and
transport prices increase, resulting in higher prices for food and other
basic needs of the population, normally living on low incomes in devel-
oping countries (Ortiz & Cummins, 2019). Often the IFIs recommend a
small safety net targeted to the poorest—but this policy is insufficient, as
it leaves the majority of the population worse off. Consider the cases of
Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, and Ecuador. With the majority of Nigeria’s popu-
lation living on less than 2 dollars per day, cheap petrol is viewed by
many as the only tangible benefit they receive from the state, hence the
massive protests since 2012 when Minister of Finance Okonjo Iweala
removed a fuel subsidy that kept food and transportation costs low. In
Kyrgyzstan in 2010, the price of heating rose by 400% and electricity by
170%: subsequent demonstrations ended in violent riots and the resig-
nation of President Bakiyev. In Ecuador in 2019, after large riots, the
government flew from the capital and had to stop a loan with the IMF
that had proposed the cuts to energy subsidies and other reforms with
negative social impacts.
4.9 Pension Reforms
Opposition to pension reforms is behind 3.5% of protests globally, with
97 events counted in the period 2006–2020. The reform of social security
and pension systems for cost-saving purposes is a main austerity measure
6See for example Oosterhuis, F. and Umpfenbach, K. 2014. “Energy Subsidies”, in:
Oosterhuis and ten Brink (eds.): Paying The Polluter—Environmentally Harmful Subsidies
and their Reform. Cheltenham: Edwar Elgar.
(e.g., raising contribution rates, increasing eligibility periods, prolonging
the retirement age, and/or lowering benefits). These reforms have
increased since 2010 in many European countries due to austerity pres-
sures, resulting in widespread protests (e.g., France, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and the United Kingdom). A number
of these protests were successful—in Latvia, Portugal and Romania,
the national justice courts determined that the austerity adjustments
were unlawful and pensioners were given back their earlier pensions.
Developing countries have also experienced important protests against
pension reforms, as the IFIs have generally proposed reforms more radical
in nature, involving the privatization of pension systems despite the
lack of evidence that private pension systems work better than public
systems (e.g., Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Egypt,
Indonesia, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine); in fact, a majority of
countries have reversed pension privatization (ILO, 2017).
4.10 Housing
The right to an affordable decent home has been at the center of
85 protests around the world (in 3% of the protests studied), particu-
larly after the housing bubble and the subsequent eviction of families
unable to pay mortgages (e.g., Canada, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain,
the United Kingdom, and the United States). In Germany, protestors
complained about rising prices resulting from the gentrification of city
centers. Demands for public support for affordable housing have also
profiled high in protests in Brazil, Chile, China, Philippines, and South
4.11 Food Prices
Since 2007–2008, as international food prices have spiked to historic
highs, with local food prices at near record levels in many countries, food-
prices-related protests have represented more than 1% of world protests
(73 protests). Food protests have an inverse relation with income levels,
as they are virtually absent from high-income countries and frequent
in developing countries such as Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco,
Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Peru, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia,
and Uzbekistan. Many of these food protests have ended in riots and
5Grievances/Demands on Civil Rights
Civil rights are a central issue in protest movements. Protests asserting
peoples’ rights occur in 1360 protests or 48% of all protests in the
period 2006–2020, in issues such as ethnic and racial justice, rights to
the commons, freedom of assembly and speech, women’s rights, labor
rights, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered (LGBT) and sexual rights,
immigrants’ rights, personal freedoms, prisoners’ rights, and freedom of
religion (Fig. 9). A small number (7% of total protests) have sought to
deny rights or to reject the enjoyment of rights by specific groups of
people, for example immigrants or racial minorities; this is linked to the
rise of the radical right, as will be explained later in this study. Note that
people’s rights include also economic and social rights included in other
0 100 200 300 400 500
Ethnic/Indigenous/Racial JusƟce
Rights to the commons
Freedom of Assembly/Speech/Press
Deny Rights/Reject Equal Rights for a Group
Women's/Girls' Rights
Labor Rights
LGBT/Sexual Rights
Immigrant Rights
Personal Freedoms
Prisoners' Rights
Religious Rights
High Income Upper Middle Income Lower Middle Income Low Income Global Protests
Fig. 9 Protest for civil rights by country income group, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
sections (e.g., the right to education, the right to health, the rights to
social security, the right to housing etc.).
Table 6, Figs. 10 and 11 present key issues in this category of protests
civil rights.7Generally, these protests are more prevalent in Europe and
Central Asia, as well as in North America. While the rights agenda appears
more developed in higher-income countries, it is also evolving fast in Latin
America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and other world
The main reasons why people protest about civil rights are:
5.1 Ethnic/Indigenous/Racial Justice
The greatest number of protests in the category of rights (396 protests,
or 14% of the total) relate to issues of ethnic, indigenous, or racial
justice. Perhaps the most widespread protests are against racism and
demanding racial justice, like the #BlackLivesMatter movement started
in the United States and spread internationally (e.g., Australia, Canada,
Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Portugal, and the United Kingdom).
Protestors also demonstrate for indigenous rights and racial equality (e.g.,
Canada, China, Colombia, Ethiopia, India, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mauritania,
Mexico, Nepal, the United States, and Yemen). Sometimes indigenous
peoples stand up against infrastructure projects or extractive industries in
their native areas that would destroy their environment (e.g., Argentina,
Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, and Tanzania).
But indigenous peoples do not only demonstrate for specific issues
affecting their territories, they also stand up for macropolicies, such as for
the legitimate election results in Bolivia, for reforming the justice system
in Cameroon, for agrarian/land reform in Colombia, against a loan with
the IMF in Ecuador, for federalism in Nepal and, importantly, opposing
7Note that this table includes all instances in which a demand or grievance appears in
a protest. A protest may have more than one grievance/demand given that demonstrators
often focus on several issues (e.g., may be demonstrating for women’s rights or LGBT and
sexual rights). For this reason the number of demands and grievances is larger than the
total number of protests presented in earlier tables counting protests as separate events..
Therefore when this study asserts, for example, that women’s and girls’ rights constitute
a causal factor in 7% of all protest events, this does not mean that all other causes are to
be found in the remaining 93%.
Table 6 Protests for civil rights by region, 2006–2020
Grievance/demand East
Asia &
Latin America
East &
N. Africa
Global Total
26 56 64 38 103 14 53 42 396
Right to the commons 4 64 112 9 67 0 24 19 299
Deny rights to groups 14 120 9 7 36 8 2 15 211
Freedom of
47 66 25 22 25 1 11 14 211
Women’s/girls’ rights 29 33 19 58 14 6 11 37 207
Labor rights 50 43 20 7 41 1 9 28 199
LGBT/sexual rights 35 19 20 13 13 0 2 29 131
Immigrant rights 22 46 0 1 40 2 1 9 121
Personal freedoms 12 33 8 0 16 1 3 3 76
Prisoners’ rights 8 22 14 19 10 0 2 0 75
Religious rights 5 10 0 28 9 9 10 0 71
Total 212 336 218 157 235 20 73 139 1360
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Fig. 10 Map of protests on civil rights, 2006–2020 (Source https://worldprot
Fig. 11 Grievances/demands on civil rights by Year, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
genocide against indigenous populations resulting from the lack of health
support during the COVID-19 pandemic such as in Brazil. Sometimes
protests are for short/medium-term issues, but more often are part of
long-term struggles, such as in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or in
5.2 Right to the Commons
Assertion of rights to the commons8(digital, land/water, cultural, or
atmospheric) is behind 10% of surveyed protests (299 protests) (e.g.,
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Mexico,
Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United
States). Demonstrations for the commons—from Occupy Wall Street
in the United States to the “water wars” in Bolivia and Brazil—are
against private management of public goods and generally demand that
shared resources be managed at the local level. There are also protests
to preserve and access the global commons, which is the driver of 19%
of global protests, especially those regarding the Internet and protec-
tion of the climate and atmosphere. Examples include the Anonymous
(a global hacktivist collective/movement) actions against censorship and
anti-citizen surveillance.
5.3 Deny Rights to Groups
Linked to the rise of the radical right, a recent development is the increase
in demonstrations against the rights of women, minorities and ethnic
groups. Our study detected 211 such protests (7.5% of the total number
of protests). For instance, anti-immigrant white-supremacist protests in
Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States; against gays or same-
sex marriage in France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain; or against indigenous
peoplesrights in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, and El Salvador. In Bulgaria
and Hungary, people took to the streets against refugees and against the
Roma; in Mali, against women’s rights; in Singapore, against immigrants;
in Turkey, against Christians. In India, “cow vigilantes” and sympathizers
8According to Wikipedia (accessed January 2021), the commons are the cultural and
natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as
air, water, and a habitable earth; these resources are held in common, not owned privately.
As part of culture, many consider Internet/digital issues a common.
have been protesting the spread of Muslims and communists. This is
further developed in Section 1in Chapter 3.
5.4 Freedom of Assembly/Speech/Press
Freedom of assembly, speech, and the press is a concern in 7.5% of
protests (in 211 protests). Key examples are Belarus and China, where
the extension of these freedoms has been a main cause of demonstrations.
The right to assemble has also been central in countries like Uganda,
where demonstrations are not allowed, so people had to “walk to work”
and “walk to pray” as a proxy for an explicit demonstration. People have
also rallied for the freedom of expression, for instance in France after
the Charlie Hebdo attack. Freedom of speech and teaching has also been
an important concern in countries such as Hungary, India, Iran, Mada-
gascar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, and Zimbabwe. A notable case
involving freedom of speech/media has been the arrest of Julian Assange
in the United Kingdom. Given the large number of journalists killed
when reporting hot issues, there have been demonstrations for freedom
of press and against the harassment of reporters in Greece, Guatemala,
Italy, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, and the Philippines.
5.5 Women’s/Girls’ Rights
Women’s and girls’ rights were core to 207 protests or 7.4% of the world’s
protests. A key protest for women’s rights was the #MeToo movement
with multiple rallies and action days around the world, that included large
protests against femicide (homicide against women) and rape, from Chad
to the United States. In Latin America, the #NiUnaMenos equivalent
also rallied against machismo, against patriarchal societies, and against the
impunity of violence against women. Prior to #MeToo, there were also
large demonstrations for gender equality, such as in Chile, China, India,
Iraq, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia,
Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, and at World Social Forums
(WSF). The case of FEMEN must be noted: FEMEN is an international
women’s movement of topless female activists whose breasts are painted
with slogans to attract people’s attention. A number of protests were
for and against abortion, a heated topic (e.g., Argentina and Poland).
More on protests for women’s/girls’ rights can be found in Section 4in
Chapter 3.
5.6 Labor Rights
Beyond the protests regarding economic justice, protests on specific labor
rights were a concern in 7.1% of protests (199 protests). Protests for
labor rights had a higher occurrence in the East Asia Pacific region (e.g.,
China, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam) where economic growth in
recent years has not been synonymous with the extension of labor rights
or even the right to unionize/to free associate. Labor rights protests are
also prevalent in Europe and Central Asia and in North America; other
countries have also experienced protests for labor rights (e.g., Colombia,
Mexico, and Pakistan).
5.7 LGBT/Sexual Rights
Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered and sexual rights protests made
up 4.7% of the world’s protests in the period 2006–2020. These rallies
have been prevalent in most world regions, often to protest the discrim-
ination against and oppression of LGBT people in specific countries, as
well as having been a key component of global protests.
5.8 Immigrants’ Rights
Demonstrations supporting immigrants’ rights appear in 4.3% of the
surveyed episodes, in 121 protests mostly in the countries receiving
migrants in Europe, North America, and East Asia. Note that this study
does not discriminate between protests regarding internal migrants (e.g.,
China) or international migrants (e.g., Australia, Europe, and the United
5.9 Personal Freedoms
Protests on personal freedoms are a new, emerging category, mentioned
in 3% of protests (76 events). It has become especially prevalent in
rallies against the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic,
with demonstrators objecting to stay at home orders (lockdowns) or to
wearing masks, for example such as in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Spain,
the United Kingdom, and the United States. A rise in this type of protest
in recent years is linked to the rise of populism and the radical right.
In some cases, such as in Bolivia and the United States, demonstrators
linked alleged fraud in election results with a perceived attack on their
personal freedoms. However, in some other countries people protested
because of more direct attacks, for instance, when street food vendors in
Hong Kong were removed from the street by force, or when people in El
Salvador demonstrated against gang violence making their lives unlivable.
This is further developed in Section 1in Chapter 3.
5.10 Prisoners’ Rights
Protests and demonstrations regarding prisonersrights and the fair treat-
ment of prisoners represent just over nearly 3% of the world’s protests
(75 protests). Inhumane conditions have been denounced by prisoners in
countries such as Bolivia and Brazil. These protests are often disturbingly
graphic, as prisoners resort to extreme means such as hunger strikes
(e.g., Occupied Palestinian Territory) or sewing their own lips (e.g.,
Kyrgyzstan) in order to attract media attention and to publicize their
5.11 Religious Rights
Protests related to religion account for less than 3% of all protests
(71 events), but this issue has been a driver of protests in the Middle
East/North Africa region, reflecting the demands of the Arab Spring.
Multiple groups dedicated to this issue are found in countries with an
official religion (e.g., Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey). Religious rights
influenced protests that were also held in other countries (e.g., Demo-
cratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, France, India, Indonesia, Israel,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Turkey, and Vietnam).
6Grievances/Demands for Global Justice
Protests for global justice have demanded internationally concerted action
on issues such as climate change, globalization, and sustainable develop-
ment. Demonstrators have denounced the role of powerful countries and
international institutions (such as the IFIs and the G20) in setting global
norms and policies undemocratically, resulting in detrimental impacts on
people and on the planet. Demonstrators have also denounced how the
global economic system is unfair and keeps developing countries poor and
underdeveloped. Protestors have stood up against globalization and free
0 100 200 300 400
Environment/Climate JusƟce
AnƟ-InternaƟonal Financial InsƟtuƟons
AnƟ-Free Trade
Global Commons
High Income Upper Middle Income Lower Middle Income Low Income Global Protests
Fig. 12 Protest for global justice by country income group, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
trade, and against the World Bank, the IMF and other major institutions
that are perceived to put corporate interests ahead of developing nations,
leading to rampant inequality (Stiglitz, 2017). While most protests tend
to focus on domestic issues (Brancati, 2016), protests for global justice
often rely on a global network, for example like the Occupy demonstra-
tions held on 15 October 2011 in 950 cities in 82 countries under the
title “United for #GlobalChange.” Protestors have proposed new policy
agendas for a more fair global order.”A better world is possible” is the
motto of the annual WSF, an alternative to the meetings of powerful
CEOs and personalities at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.
More than 30% of all the protests considered in the study (897 events)
in the period 2006–2020 include the global justice component as one of
their main issues (Fig. 12).
Table 7and Figs. 13 and 14 present the key issues in the category of
protests on global justice and their occurrence in world regions.9This
9Note that this table includes all instances in which a demand or grievance appears in
a protest. A protest may have more than one grievance/demand given that demonstrators
often focus on several issues (e.g., they may be demonstrating against the IFIs and also
against imperialism). For this reason the number of demands and grievances is larger
than the total number of protests presented in earlier tables counting protests as separate
events. Therefore when this study asserts, for example, that anti-imperialism is a causal
Table 7 Protests for global justice by region, 2006–2020
Grievance/demand East
Asia &
Latin America
East &
N. Africa
Global Total
51 97 96 0 55 11 19 30 359
financial institutions
2 185 39 22 11 3 12 45 319
Anti-imperialism 50 28 20 25 8 2 37 93 263
Anti-free trade 8 26 23 0 6 1 0 32 96
Global commons 2 0 4 0 18 0 0 47 71
Anti-G20 0 21 0 0 6 0 0 10 37
Total 323 532 362 184 334 34 129 363 897
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Fig. 13 Map of protests on global justice, 2006–2020 (Source https://worldp
Fig. 14 Grievances/demands on global justice by year, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
category of protests is more prevalent in Europe and Central Asia, North
America, East Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and
of course in global protests.
The main reasons why people protest about global justice are:
6.1 Environment/Climate Justice
Environmental and climate justice, based on the historical responsibilities
for climate change and calling for urgent action to redress climate change
and protect the environment, is a cause of nearly 13% of all protests, with
359 protests counted overall. Demands for environmental justice come
often from indigenous communities and countries in the Global South
(e.g., Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Mexico,
Myanmar, Nigeria, South Africa, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania), as well as from
people living in Northern countries (e.g., France. Germany, Greece, Italy,
Japan, Poland, Romania, the United Kingdom, and the United States)
and at the global level (e.g., United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change or UNFCCC, the WSFs). The WSFs frequently empha-
size anti-nuclear protests, natural resource exploitation conflicts and the
environmental impacts of infrastructure projects. Key examples are the
protests organized by Extinction Rebellion, a decentralized, international
and politically nonpartisan movement using nonviolent direct action and
civil disobedience to persuade governments to act justly on the global
climate and ecological emergency, as well as the School Strike for Climate
movement led by youth activists such as Greta Thunberg.
6.2 Anti-international Financial Institutions
These are protests against the IMF, the World Bank, the European
Central Bank, and other IFIs such as the regional development banks,
representing 11.4% of all protests, with 319 events counted. These insti-
tutions are not democratic but take decisions behind closed doors that
affect the lives of all citizens in a country, for instance, cutting wages, jobs,
subsidies, and social benefits, or imposing labor and pension reforms with
detrimental impacts on people, often abolishing democratically negoti-
ated laws. As will be explained later in Section 11 (Who Do Protesters
factor in 9% of all protest events, this does not mean that all other causes are to be found
in the remaining 91%.
Oppose?), the large majority of protests are against the IMF, followed by
those against the European Central Bank—because of all of the European
anti-austerity protests—and the World Bank. Protestors have decried poli-
cies and programs by the IFIs at the national level, and at the global level
they demand the closure or reform of the IFIs.
6.3 Anti-imperialism
Anti-imperialism appears 263 times in the protests analyzed, representing
9.4% of total protests in the period 2006–2020. In this category are
included protests that denounce the negative/oppressive influence of
hegemonic states over less powerful countries and social groups. Most
common are protests against foreign and economic policies of the United
States of America (e.g., in Australia, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, South
Africa, and also in the United States), protests against the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO) in Eastern Europe (e.g., Ukraine), as well
as protests denouncing either Chinese (e.g., in Vietnam) or Israeli (e.g.,
in the Middle East) foreign policy.
6.4 Anti-free Trade
Opposition to free trade agreements is behind 3% of protests globally,
with 96 events counted. Free trade deals are feared to undermine democ-
racy and lower food safety, environmental, and labor standards. “People
over profits” has been a motto of protests against the Transatlantic Trade
and Investment Partnership (TTIP), against the Trans-Pacific Partner-
ship (TPP), and against African countries ‘economic partnerships with
the European Union. The effects of free trade agreements are at the core
of protests involving food issues in Latin America and Asia (e.g., Mexico,
Peru, and South Korea), as often local small businesses cannot compete
with large international corporations; for example, the protests in India
against the authorization given to Walmart and Tesco to conduct business
in that country, or the protests by farmers and indigenous communities in
Mexico and Peru because of the low prices paid for their corn and pota-
toes due to imported cheaper agrobusiness crops because of free trade
6.5 Global Commons
Protesting the lack of good governance of the global commons, global
public goods that exceed the bounds of national governments and
to which all countries and peoples have rights, is an emerging cause
of protest, representing 2.5% of all protests, with 71 events counted.
Demonstrations related to Internet governance occur at both the national
(e.g., Argentina, Germany, and Poland) and global levels, in which
movements such as Anonymous, the various national Pirate Parties and
organized opposition to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement have
a pivotal role in campaigning for an open Internet as part of the global
commons. Protests relating to governance of the climate and biodiversity
(e.g., the People’s Summit on Climate Change, the 2009 Klimaforum,
held during the UN Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen, and the
Cúpula dos Povos in the UN Rio+20 Conference of the various WSFs)
are also a significant factor in advocacy for the global commons.
6.6 Anti-G20
Although the G20 was created in 1999 as a forum for finance ministers
and central bankers, it was turned into a summit for heads of state with the
financial crisis in 2008, when President Bush called the first G20 summit
in Washington DC. From then on it has been a target of global protests
whenever its meetings take place. There have been 15 Summits since
2008. Anti-G20 protests represent 1.3% of the total protests, with 37
events counted. Demonstrators complain about the lack of transparency
and openness, limited disclosure of processes and policy documents, all
prepared behind closed doors, to be implemented later by countries with
little say when impacts are detrimental to their citizens.
7Who Protests?
7.1 Main Groups Leading Protests 2006–2020: From NGOs
and Trade Unions to Hackers
Traditionally, a number of activists have been the main agents for change.
These include political parties, workers’ unions, NGOs/CSOs, faith
groups, and social service agencies. These “traditional agents” remain key
organizers and participants in many campaigns, demonstrations, strikes,
occupations, marches, and rallies. They are the most well-prepared and
Table 8 Main groups leading protests 2006–2020
2006–2010 2011–2015 2016–2020 Total
Non-governmental organizations/civil
society organizations (NGOs/CSOs)
250 457 383 1090
Grassroots 132 331 497 960
Political parties/movements 159 289 388 836
Trade unions 145 259 273 677
Social movements 16 117 414 547
Students/youth 53 144 179 376
Indigenous groups 62 100 109 271
Unorganized workers 62 77 117 256
Religious groups 42 82 104 228
Ethnic/racial groups 9 43 123 175
Women/feminist groups 0 13 90 103
Hackers 11302364
Government officials 5 24 25 54
Employers organizations 4 4 26 34
Police/military/militia 1 8 23 32
Prisoners 1 3 5 9
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprotests.
organized; for example, trade unions are democratically elected, federated
at national and international levels, and are still the main force behind
some of the largest protests.
Table 8presents the main groups leading protests in the period
2006–2020. The increase of political parties appears to be a normal
result of the growing politicization of protests. However, it must be
noted that there has been a significant increase in the role of “grass-
roots” and social movements in protests over the years, as well as
that of students/youth, indigenous/racial groups, unorganized workers,
religious groups, women, hackers, prisoners and even policemen/military.
7.2 Greater Grassroots Participation
Figure 15 shows the distribution of the main groups leading protests
by region. Grassroots groups (in blue) appear in large numbers in
Europe and North America, even though these regions also have the best
organized (and best financed) NGOs/CSOs, political parties, and trade
0% 25% 50% 75% 100%
Europe and Central Asia
North America
LaƟn America and the Caribbean
East Asia and Pacic
Sub-Saharan Africa
Middle East and North Africa
South Asia
Grassroots PoliƟcal Party/Movement Non Governmental OrganizaƟon (NGO) Trade Unions
Social Movement Students Unorganized Workers Religious Group
Indigenous Ethnic/Racial Group Women/Girls/Feminist Government
Hackers Employers OrganizaƟon Police/Military/MiliƟaPrisoners
Fig. 15 Main groups leading protests by region, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’
analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprot
unions. The impact of grassroots groups is also large in East Asia and the
Pacific, Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The increasing involvement of unorganized citizens, grassroots,
middle-class people, young and old persons, and the relative decrease
in the role of political parties/movements, is meaningful. Citizens have
taken to the streets in the Arab Spring, in Europe (e.g. the Indig-
nados and “yellow vests”) or in Latin America’s Estallido Social (Social
Upraising). These citizens do not consider themselves activists and yet
they protest because they are disillusioned with official processes, polit-
ical parties, and the usual political actors associated with them. Recent
research shows the increasing participation of the middle classes in
protests, both in high-income and developing countries (Chen & Suen,
2017; della Porta, 2017).
Mass middle-class involvement in protests indicates a new dynamic: a
pre-existing solidarity of the middle classes with elites has been replaced
in countries around the world by a lack of trust and awareness that
neither the prevailing economic system nor the existing political system
is producing positive outcomes for them. Alongside trade unions, civil
society organizations and other activists, grassroots citizens have become
organizers and participants in many direct actions (e.g., the occupation of
public squares and streets, street “teach-ins,” and the blockades of roads
and bridges). The fact that 28% of all the protests covered in the study
include the demand for real democracy is due in no small measure to the
growing ranks of the middle classes in protests.
8Number of Demonstrators
8.1 Some of the Largest Protests in History
The protests included in this study have involved numbers ranging from
a few hundred protestors to millions of demonstrators. Note that crowd
estimates in relation to any protest are a controversial matter. Depending
on the news source, estimates frequently diverge by tens of thousands,
sometimes even by millions. Some protest event analysis relies upon
police reports when a key research variable is the number of protesters
(Klandermans & Staggenborn, 2002); however it is far beyond the scope
of this research to conduct a fuller analysis utilizing police records in
the many countries covered. Nevertheless, media sources report crowd
estimates in the majority of protests analyzed in this study, 53 of which
had one million or more protesters (Table 9).
During the period 2006–2020, the world has experienced some of the
largest protests in its history; the largest protest recorded is India’s 2020
strike against government labor and agriculture reforms, which is esti-
mated to have involved at least 250 million protestors. Table 9shows the
power of well-organized trade unions, as they have mobilized the majority
of these protests. The overwhelming majority of the large protests relate
to progressive issues/demands, such as: more and better jobs, wages and
pensions; investments in health, education and public services; protection
of farmers; action on climate change; racial justice; women and civil rights;
against austerity cuts, corruption and inequality. However, a number of
protests are led by radical right groups such as: QAnon protests in 2020
in the United States and globally; opposition to Muslims, migrants and
refugees in Germany (multiple years); demonstrators in France protesting
same-sex marriage in 2012; and the large protests against President Dilma
Rousseff, Lula and the Workers Party in Brazil in 2013 and 2015.
Table 9 Largest protests 2006–2020. Crowd estimates—more than 1 million
demonstrators (selected protests)
Country Start year Protest issue Estimated crowd count
India 2020 The largest coordinated
strike in history: 250
million people protest
against the government’s
plan to liberalize farming
and labor
India 2013 Indian workers strike
over rising prices, low
wages, poor
implementation of labor
laws and privatizations
Global 2017 Calls to regulate social
media, against citizens
United States 2013 Black Lives Matter,
multiple years/protests
Brazil 2019 Against President
Bolsonaro, education and
pension reforms, budget
Egypt 2012 Egyptians protest against
President Morsi
Egypt 2011 Arab Spring: Egyptians
rebel against President
Brazil 2015 Against corruption,
against President Dilma
Rousseff and Lula
Germany 2017 Opposition to Muslims,
migrants and refugees
(multiple protests/years)
Global 2006 Protesters worldwide
demand an end to the
war in Afghanistan
Spain 2018 Spanish demonstrators
protest femicides and
rape, support women’s
rights, #Meetoo
Table 9 (continued)
Country Start year Protest issue Estimated crowd count
Italy 2013 Italian anti-government
protesters demonstrate
against the European
Union and austerity
Portugal 2013 Portuguese workers strike
over austerity
United States 2017 Me Too movement,
women’s rights
France 2015 After deadly attack on
newspaper, march against
terrorist violence and for
freedom of expression
Global 2018 Youth activists protest
the inaction of
government on climate
Greece 2008 Greeks strike over
budget cuts and austerity
Portugal 2012 Portuguese protest
Portugal 2010 Portuguese workers strike
over budget cuts and
austerity policies
France 2006 French students and
citizens protest new labor
Turkey 2013 Turks demand civil rights 2,500,000
France 2010 French protestors strike
over pension reforms
France 2012 French demonstrators
protest legalization of
same-sex marriage
France 2009 French workers strike for
economic justice against
high cost of living, public
jobs cuts, anti-austerity,
in defense of
employment and wages
Table 9 (continued)
Country Start year Protest issue Estimated crowd count
Brazil 2013 Protestors call for free
transport and an end to
Workers Party rule
Global 2013 Activists protest
Monsanto and genetically
modified crops
Indonesia 2012 Indonesian workers
protest for better
conditions and benefits
Italy 2009 Italians hold “No
Berlusconi Day” in
protest against Premier
Spain 2010 Spaniards protest
cutbacks and austerity
Global Yearly 1st May Labor Day each
Global 2011 People around the world
protest economic and
social inequality
Kenya 2013 Kenyans demand justice
for gang rape victim
Spain 2017 Catalonians demand
independence from Spain
Italy 2007 Italians demonstrate
against same-sex marriage
Spain 2012 Catalonians demand
independence from Spain
Brazil 2011 Brazilians decry
corruption, poor public
services and lack of
investment in education
and health
Brazil 2005 Brazil’s Landless Workers
Movement demands
reforms and social justice
United States 2006 Americans demand
immigrant rights
Table 9 (continued)
Country Start year Protest issue Estimated crowd count
Portugal 2007 Portuguese workers strike
over government policies
China 2006 Hong Kong protests
central government
interference (multiple
United States, Global 2020 Q-Anon protests 1,280,000
Argentina 2012 Argentinians protest
President Fernández
Canada 2018 Canadians rally across
country to call for bolder
action on climate change
Chile 2016 Eliminate private
pensions and demand a
public pension system
Chile 2019 “Estallido social” Social
outbreak demand public
pensions, public services,
new constitution
Colombia 2008 Colombian workers strike
for better pay
France 2019 Protestors demonstrate
against pension reforms
Global 2013 Bolivian president
organizes People’s
summit to protest
imperialism and improve
people’s lives
Italy 2011 Italian women protest
against Berlusconi
Portugal 2012 Portuguese unions call
strikes against austerity
Turkey 2007 Turks demand secularism 1,000,000
Yemen 2011 Yemenis demand
democratic rule
Source Media sources 2006–2020, see:
8.2 Protests and Civic Space
Are the increasing number of protests and protestors caused by improved
civic conditions and political freedoms, or—to the contrary, do they have
a tendency to increase when there is repressed civic space? To answer
0 50 100 150 200 250
Protest per Country
Fig. 16 Number of protests and civic space (Legend: CIVICUS Rank is 1:
Open freer society; 2: Narrowed; 3: Obstructed; 4: Repressed; 5: Closed (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020 and CIVICUS
this, Fig. 16 presents the relationship between the number of protests
and civic space. The latter is based on the global citizens’ organization,
CIVICUS’s’ (2020a and 2020b) rank of countries’ civic space, based on
the obligation of states to protect civil society, freedom of association,
freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of expression, and classifying
countries into five categories, from open, free societies to closed societies.
While protestors demonstrate in countries in all CIVICUS categories (in
open freer societies, narrowed, obstructed, repressed, as well as in closed
societies), the trendline shows a tendency towards more protests when
civic conditions are freer. As expected, repression works: countries where
civic space is repressed or closed have fewer protests.
9Methods of Protest
Protestors used a wide range of methods to protest in the period 2006–
2020. This study has identified 250 methods of protest, presented in
Annex B, updating Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent action
(Sharp, 1973). Our research finds that marches and protest assemblies
(or rallies), blockades, occupations and other kinds of civil disobedi-
ence/direct action, as well as Internet activism, are the most common
methods of protest in the period 2006–2020, presented in Fig. 17.
0.0% 17.5% 35.0% 52.5% 70.0%
Protest Assemblies
Civil Disobedience/Direct AcƟon
Internet AcƟvism
Formal Statements
Vandalism, LooƟng
EducaƟonal AcƟons
PoliƟcal Stunts
Legal/Electoral Redress
Celebrity Endorsements
PeƟƟon Drives
Form New PoliƟcal Party/Movement
General Assemblies
Hunger Strikes
Street Theater/Music
TwiƩer storms
Mutual Aid
Religious Procession/Public Prayer
Self-Inicted Violence
Merchants' Strikes
Fig. 17 Methods of protests 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of world
protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
9.1 Marches and Protest Assemblies/Rallies
Demonstrations usually take the form of a public gathering of people in
a rally or walking in a march. Together, marches, protest assemblies, and
rallies are by far the most common methods of protest encountered in the
study. They occurred in 1056 protests, in almost every country covered.
9.2 Blockades, Occupations and Civil Disobedience/Direct Action
Blockades are another common method of protest, identified in 21% of
protests. Civil disobedience involving the occupation of a public square,
street, government building, or factory—a tactic made notorious by the
occupations of Tahrir Square in Egypt, Syntagma Square in Greece,
Puerta del Sol in Spain, Zuccotti Park in New York and Gezi Park
in Istanbul—is the next most common method of protest, present in
20.9% of the protests. Other kinds of civil disobedience and direct action
appear in 177 events. These two methods—to occupy and to commit civil
disobedience—while against the law in most instances, are nevertheless
becoming established as acceptable tactics to the middle classes acting in
new social movements in all regions, for instance, women in Saudi Arabia
who defy laws against their right to drive cars, or the “Walk to Work”
and “Walk to Pray” protests in Uganda, when the government declared
gatherings of more than two people to be illegal: these are examples of
civil disobedience.
9.3 Strikes and Walkouts
Strikes and walkouts have been traditional protest methods used by
trade unions to request better working conditions for workers at the
company level or—less often—at the national level (general strike). We
recorded more than 148 strikes of different types in the period 2006–
2020. Most common are strikes by sectoral groups of workers and
trade unions, including those by: Bangladeshi garment workers and
by Chinese manufacturing workers demanding better working condi-
tions and wages; miners in Colombia; truckers in the Ivory Coast; oil
workers in Kazakhstan and Libya; merchants in Iran; electricity workers
in Mexico; jeepney drivers in Philippines; metal workers in Turkey; and
health workers in Kenya and South Africa demanding adequate equip-
ment and support to fight COVID-19. For the purposes of analysis, we
have recorded even strikes by police and the military requesting better
working conditions in Ecuador and Somalia, as well as global strikes
like the ones organized by Amazon workers. National general strikes
were organized in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France,
Greece, India, Portugal, and Spain. Today, strikes are also used by protest
groups other than trade unions: there are examples of strikes to press
governments to fight corruption and to improve democracy, as in Angola,
Burkina Faso, and Nigeria; in Nepal, to end the rule of the king; in
Pakistan, to denounce land grabs; in Yemen, to demand secession of the
South of the country. People have also: struck for better pensions in Italy
and the United States; protested low incomes in Egypt and Indonesia; and
against privatization in Chile and Jamaica. Students and teachers also went
to strike in many countries against education budget cuts, tuition fees,
and curricula changes, for example in Canada, Chad, China, Denmark.
Hungary, Japan, and Peru.
9.4 Vandalism/Looting
Vandalism and looting were used in about 20% of the protests recorded
in this study. This is a method condemned by defenders of nonviolent
protests given the large arsenal of peaceful methods available for use in
people’s struggles (250 such methods are presented in Annex B). Of
the cases recorded in the period 2006–2020, some examples are: radical
right protests for a return to monarchy, against LGBT and corruption in
Brazil; “we are hungry” protests against the COVID-19 lockdown, lack
of jobs and social services in Chile and Senegal; against electoral fraud
in Bolivia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and the United
States; against austerity budget cuts imposed by the IMF in Ecuador and
Greece; Oromia protests in Ethiopia; “yellow vests” protests in France
and Ireland; anti G20 protests in Germany; violence by “cow vigilantes”
in India; radical right protests against immigrants in Germany and Israel;
and riots on rising fuel/food prices and low living standards in Haiti,
Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mexico, and Zimbabwe. More
on violent protests can be found in Section 12.
9.5 Internet Activism and Whistleblowing/Leaks
Online activism and digital campaigning have become main protest
methods employed by social movements, using electronic communica-
tion technologies such as social media, email, and podcasts for message
dissemination, organizing, and fundraising. For example, during the Arab
Spring in 2011, millions of Egyptians rebelled against President Mubarak;
for 18 days, Egyptians were able to broadcast videos and images of
their struggle for the whole world to see using Facebook, Twitter, and
YouTube, challenging the official government narrative issued by state
media. Examples abound, for instance Nigeria’s youth began spreading
tweets with the hashtag #EndSARS10 to call for an end to police brutality,
weeks later demonstrations took place in major cities and the hashtag
#EndSARS had by then become a movement for social justice. The period
covered by this study also captures the advent of a new era of civil disobe-
dience/direct action carried out by computer hackers and whistleblowers
who “leak” massive amounts of government and corporate data, from the
publishing of Wikileaks “Iraq and Afghan War Diaries,” a set of 391,000
classified United States State Department cables and reports made public
in October 2010 and linked by Amnesty International to the igniting of
protests in Tunisia at the beginning of the Arab Spring.
9.6 Pot-Banging/Noisemaking, Street Music, Educational Events
Noisemaking has been a traditional method of protest. In most of the
Latin countries, this takes the form of banging pots and casseroles
(“cacerolada”), signifying the protest of ordinar y women and men against
the powerful. Drums have been used by protestors in several countries,
including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Iraq, Israel, Romania, South
Korea, Spain, Thailand, and the United States. Street music, theater, and
educational events have been utilized in many peaceful protests. Protest
songs have been strongly associated with social change movements. For
instance, the Chilean anti-rapist song “A rapist in your path” has become a
feminist anthem performed by women at mass protests all over the world.
10 Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a notorious unit of the Nigerian Police.
9.7 Boycotts and Legal/Paralegal Methods
Boycotts are an old method of protest, consisting of abstaining from
using, buying, or dealing with a good, person, organization or country.
For example, Palestinians have boycotted products made in the settle-
ments, and Arabs have boycotted products from Israel. More than 20
boycotts were recorded in the period 2006–2020. Increasingly, activists
and ordinary citizens are pushing groundbreaking legal action to force
governments into action. Lawsuits are effective when a case is raised
through legal channels, for instance, as it was pursued in the #MeToo
movement in which many women went forward to sue male harassers; or
by black New Yorkers launching a class-action lawsuit in 2013 to tackle
discrimination by the police; or indigenous leaders in Brazil suing Pres-
ident Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity by targeting tribes and the
Amazon rainforest; or the M-15 (the Spanish Occupy) suing Rodrigo
Rato, former head of the IMF and of the Spanish private bank Bankia,
recruiting pro bono lawyers and identifying more than 50 plaintiffs—
people who lost their savings during the financial crisis because they had
been defrauded by Bankia. In the face of the slow politics of climate
change, activists and lawyers have also increased climate change litiga-
tion to advance progress. Another method is enacting People’s Popular
Tribunals, or People’s Courts: while these hold no official power of juris-
diction, they represent an attempt to achieve symbolic justice for crimes
against humanity. For example, there was a People’s Tribunal to judge free
trade, violence, impunity, and peoples’ rights in Mexico (2011–2014);
a People’s Tribunal Hearing took place in Brussels in 2014 to judge
austerity measures imposed by the European Commission, the Euro-
pean Central Bank and the IMF, designed to make governments adhere
to strict fiscal policies, to restructure labor markets and social policies,
resulting in violations of Human Rights and a rollback of democratic
9.8 Hunger Strikes and Self-Inflicted Violence
Hunger strikes were identified in 30 protests in the period 2006–2020.
Prisoners in Kyrgyzstan went on hunger strike to denounce demeaning
living conditions, demanding mattresses and better food; and prisoners
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory struck to end administrative deten-
tion. In Hong Kong, people went on hunger strike to protest against
an extradition law and police violence; in India, demonstrators went on
strike to save the Ganges from a hydroelectric project. Though more
rarely employed, desperate methods such as self-immolation or protesters
sewing their own lips together are also among the methods used, partic-
ularly for those in prison (e.g., Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, and Malaysia). There
are also those who do not see any method of protest other than suicide
(e.g., Bulgarian protests against Borisov in 2013) or those whose dignity
has been destroyed by deprivation and the brutality of the authori-
ties (e.g., in Hungary, India, and Tunisia). Finally, there is Mohamed
Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in 2010 because
of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation
inflicted on him by a municipal officials, which became the catalyst for
the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring.
For the list of 250 available non-violent methods of protest, see Annex
10 Who Do Protesters Oppose?
Just as key objectives of this research are to find out who is protesting
(and how and why), it is also important to identify the main targets, or
opponents, of the protests. Figure 18 reflects the main targets of world
protests in the period 2006–2020.
10.1 Governments
The most frequent target for protesters, by a wide margin, is their own
national government—as the legitimate policy-making institution respon-
sible to citizens. Nearly 80% of all protests demand that governments
take responsibility for economic, social, and environmental policies so that
they benefit all, instead of the few. This is further developed in Section 2
in Chapter 3 (“Protests and the Perception that Governments Serve a
10.2 Political/Economic System
The next most frequent target for protesters is the inadequate political
and economic system, which comprises 30.5% of all protests, reflecting
significant discontent with the working of current democracies. Exam-
ples include: Australians protesting against the APEC trade agreement
0.0% 20.0% 40.0% 60.0% 80.0% 100.0%
Government (NaƟonal)
PoliƟcal/Economic System
PoliƟcal ParƟes/Groups
European Union (EU)
Government (Provincial/Local)
InternaƟonal Monetary Fund (IMF)
Financial Sector
United States
European Central Bank (ECB)
Social groups
Free Trade
Religious AuthoriƟes
Group of 20 (G20)
World Bank
Fig. 18 Main targets of world protests, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis
of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
in 2012: Brazilians protesting corruption during the Rousseff, Temer
and Bolsonaro presidencies (2015–2019); Canadian, French and German
“yellow vests” protests; Chileans protesting during the Estallido Social
in 2018; Congolese protesting corruption in 2012; and Egyptians and
Tunisians uprisings during the Arab Spring.
10.3 Corporations/Employers
Together, corporations and employers are the third most common adver-
sary of protests, appearing in 23.7% of total protests, relating to: (i)
opposition to corporate vested interests influencing policy-making (e.g.,
Australia, Egypt, Germany, Greece, India, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia,
Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and
the United States), (ii) labor disputes and requests to employers for better
wages and working conditions (e.g., Bangladesh, Chile, China, Colombia,
Egypt, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, South
Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam),
(iii) confronting private interests in natural resource extraction (e.g.,
Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Greece, Madagascar, Myanmar, Romania, and
Vietnam), (iv) construction of infrastructure by corporations with nega-
tive environmental and social impacts (e.g., Argentina, Brazil, China,
India, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru, South Africa, and the United States), and
(v) local businesses’ inability to compete with large foreign corporations
(e.g., Colombia, India, Mexico, Spain, and the United Kingdom).
10.4 Elites
Protests against the privilege of elites drive nearly 15% of total protests.
For example, the global and United States Occupy movement against
the richest 1%; the protest in El Salvador against the elite’s power abuse,
including the killing of Father Romero; Germany’s Blockupy and Greek
protests against bankers; protests against abusive landowners in India;
demonstrations against the Mafia in Italy; protests against the new oil
elites in Kazakhstan and Nigeria; protests against the drug cartels in
Mexico; protests against feudal landlords in Pakistan; and against corrupt
elites in Peru and the Philippines.
10.5 Political Parties
About 14.7% of protests target specific political parties or groups (e.g.,
Canada, Egypt, Italy, Libya, Philippines, Russia, Tunisia, Turkey, and in
the United States). More than 4% of protests target local governments.
10.6 Military/Police
Taken together, these armed forces are the target of 14.3% of the world’s
protests. Protests against police brutality have been increasing over the
years in all continents; an example can be found in the recent protests
first in the United States and then globally against police brutality and
for #BlackLivesMatter. Military intervention is another focus of protests,
denouncing military abuses (e.g., Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo,
and Sudan), and military presence (e.g., Mali, Niger, Japan, and the
10.7 The European Union and European Central Bank (ECB)
The European Union is a target in 10.5% of all protests, mostly against
the imposition of measures not decided on democratically by citizens of
a country, such as the imposition of austerity cuts and reforms in Euro-
pean countries. Closely linked are protests against the European Central
Bank (5.9% of all protests) for its role in inflicting adjustment policies
in the region. Demonstrations focused upon the European Union have
also occurred in countries where governments are entering into free-trade
agreements with the European Union (e.g., Colombia, Mali, Senegal,
South Africa, South Korea, and Vietnam).
10.8 The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank
The IMF is a target of 10.1% of total protests, which are generally associ-
ated with policy conditions with negative social impacts linked to austerity
cuts, such as the removal of subsidies, pension and labor reforms, wage
bill cuts/caps, the rationalization of safety nets, privatizations, raising
VAT rates, and others. By comparison, the World Bank is the target
of only 1.5% of worldwide protests. Protests against the IMF at global
level include virtually all of the 1st of May Labor Day events and all
WSFs—the latter sometimes also at the time of the Annual Meetings
of the IMF and World Bank, and of the World Economic Forum; at
national level, protests generally occur when the government and the
IMF sign a program loan, as this typically contains cuts in social services,
for example, in Argentina, Bangladesh, Greece, Haiti, Iceland, Ireland,
Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Mozambique, Nicaragua,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Sudan,
and Tunisia. In 2019 in Ecuador, riots against budget cuts and reforms
agreed between the Moreno Administration and the IMF lasted for days
until the government fled from the capital and postponed the IMF
program loan.
10.9 Financial Sector
Protests against the financial sector represent more than 9.2% of protests.
For example, in countries where pensions were privatized or there are
discussions about possible privatization that would benefit the financial
sector and insurance companies (e.g., Brazil, Chile, and France). Protests
against the financial sector were prevalent during the global financial crisis
(e.g., Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and
the United States); for example, the Occupy Wall Street occupation of
Zuccotti Park in the middle of the financial district in New York.
10.10 The United States of America
Protests against the United States represent 6.6% of all protests, and relate
to anti-imperialism protests alleging the abuse of economic, political, and
military power. These are particularly prevalent at the global level and in
Latin America as well as in the Middle East and North Africa. They have
often been linked to protests against military intervention or the presence
of United States military bases (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Philippines,
and Ukraine). In Asia anti-imperialist protests frequently target China.
11 What Do Protests Achieve?
In this study, “achievements” are understood as the set of direct and
indirect responses from opponents or by society to a protest episode,
responding in some measure to the grievances and demands raised by
protestors. In this sense, our research shows that 42% of protests resulted
in some kind of demonstrable achievement (Fig. 19). For example, in
the period 2006–2020 there were many protests against GMOs and
Monsanto. In 2013, one of the biggest global protests had a clear
demand: stop GMOs Eventually, the objective of this protest movement
Fig. 19 Number of protests and achievements by year, 2006–2020 (Source
Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://
was achieved in Mexico, although not in other countries. In this study,
that partial success is counted as an achievement, even though it was
not fully accomplished. It must also be noted that success is rarely the
result of one protest event alone, but rather of what we designate as
a protest episode—this is, many years of protests insisting on the same
Looking at the differences in achievement between the regions exam-
ined in this study, our analysis shows that in South Asia 61% of protest
episodes (protests on the same topic over many years) achieved some
demonstrable success, whereas global protest episodes have only had
a 21% success rate. The rate of success is 50% for East and Asia and
the Pacific, 48% for the Middle East and North Africa, 46% for North
America, 45% for Sub-Saharan Africa, 39% for Europe and Central Asia,
and 38% for Latin America and the Caribbean. In terms of country-
income groups, it is in the lower-middle income countries where 50%
of protest episodes have resulted in some kind of achievement, compared
to 43% in upper-middle income countries, 42% in low-income countries,
and 40% in high-income countries.
Focusing on the demands/grievances, the data shows that all the main
areas have a similar rate of achievement. The achievement rate of the
category “failure of political representation and political systems” is 42%;
achievements include, for example, the adoption of a new constitution
(e.g., in Chile, Iceland, and Morocco), changes to laws, the resigna-
tion of presidents/ministers (e.g., in Algeria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Burkina
Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Guatemala,
Haiti, Iceland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Mali,
Niger, Peru, Romania, South Korea, Sudan, Tunisia, Jordan, Ukraine,
Yemen, and Zimbabwe), the exposure of government secrets (e.g.,
Manning/Wikileaks in the United States), or the holding of a dialogue
on politically difficult issues (e.g., in China, Colombia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan,
and Poland).
Economic justice and anti-austerity protests also have an achieve-
ment rate of 42%. Achievements include labor victories (e.g., wage rises
in Bangladesh, Chad or the United Arab Emirates in 2007–2008, the
banning of UBER in Colombia in 2020); demands related to subsidies
(e.g., Bolivia in 2010, Ecuador in 2019, and Nigeria in 2010, all these
countries had subsidies reinstated after protests); land reforms (e.g., In
Brazil in 2020 and India in 2012); taxes (e.g., Burkina Faso, Cameroon,
and Ivory Coast lowered taxes on basic goods after protests in 2008; a
tax on the Internet was cancelled in Hungary in 2014; a new tax bill was
cancelled in Japan in 2018); pension reforms (e.g., attempts to reform
pensions without adequate social dialogue were stopped in France in
2010, Nicaragua in 2013, Portugal in 2010, and Russia in 2018); reforms
of public services (e.g., protesters in Ireland rebelled against austerity-
induced water charges in 2016; in South Africa, students achieved
the cancellation of fee increases in 2016); mining (e.g., El Salvador,
Indonesia, and Peru); or labor market reforms (e.g., in France in 2006),
among many others. There are also many protestor achievements linked
to stopping or stalling urban development and infrastructure projects
(e.g., after multiple protests, construction was stopped in Bulgaria, Chile,
China, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Peru, and Poland; Germany
agreed to close all its nuclear power plants by 2022).
Civil rights also have an achievement rate of 42%; for example, after
years of activism, in 2019 in Iran a law was passed stipulating hard penal-
ties for acid attacks; in Saudi Arabia women were officially allowed to
vote in 2015 and to drive in 2018; in Senegal, women could vote in
the 2015 elections; in Pakistan in a 2006 law, protestors achieved the
removal of zina (fornication crime) and the end of rape victims being
prosecuted for adultery; in India education quotas for lower castes were
preserved in 2006; in Indonesia freedom of religion was enforced in 2017
after protests against and for the Governor of Jakarta who was accused of
committing blasphemy of the Quran; in Mauritania in 2020 the arrest of
slave owners was an achievements against modern slavery.
The global justice achievement rate is 41%, defined as some success,
for example, after years of Africans protesting Economic Partnership
Agreements with Europe, in 2020 seven countries (Botswana, Namibia,
Cameroun, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, and Swaziland) have still not
ratified the agreements.
Numbers may appear pessimistic in terms of the rate of success of
protestors. However, these outcomes are not necessarily negative, since
many of the protests are engaged with long-term structural issues that
may yield results over a long period of time; incremental or short-term
achievements may prove to be precursors to more comprehensive change.
The analysis of achievements leads us to differentiate between two
types of protests. First, there are protests that could be identified as having
“concrete” demands. This is the case for protests demanding a rise in
wages (Bangladesh 2007), a reinstatement of subsidies (Bolivia 2010), or
the halt of the construction of a dam (India 2010). Such demands can be
more achievable due to their concreteness and the fact that they usually
do not challenge the status quo. A second category includes protests that
are designed to achieve structural change, a complete change of power
relations, in order to replace them with other systems based on different
views of social justice (Izquierdo-Brichs & Etherington, 2017). Success
in these types of protests is more complicated to achieve, as it would
require a regime change. However, a number of cases can be identified in
2006–2020, such as the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt (2011), Iceland
during the 2008 financial crisis, or the October Revolution in Lebanon.
Although in such cases the system was not deeply transformed (some
interpret changes as “concessions” by the political elites), these events
can have a lasting impact that should not be underestimated.
This point is illustrated in Fig. 20. The more structural and distant
the opponents are, the more difficult they are to fight, as we can see
in the case of groups like the G20, the financial sector in a country,
the IMF, or the ECB. When it comes to structural issues like free-trade,
inequality, imperialism, distant elites, and the military, all protests against
0% 18% 35% 53% 70%
Group of 20 (G20)
Free Trade
United States
Financial Sector
World Bank
InternaƟonal Monetary Fund (IMF)
European Union (EU)
European Central Bank (ECB)
Social groups
PoliƟcal ParƟes/Groups
Government (NaƟonal)
Government (Provincial/Local)
Religious AuthoriƟes
Fig. 20 Achievements by targeted opponent, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’
analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprot
them have relatively low achievement rates. Protests against governments
(both national and local), religious authorities, employers and corpora-
tions, have higher rates of success. Interestingly, a majority of protests
against the Chinese government, normally on concrete issues, have a
greater chance of achieving some result (65%), than those against the
United States, which have only a 23% chance of success.
In terms of the methods of protest, the most successful—although not
the most frequent—are merchant’s strikes, with a 75% achievement rate
(e.g., Iran’s merchants achieving a reduction in the gold tax) followed
by whistleblowing and leaks (71%), hacking (64%), and boycotts (63%).
On the other hand, the less successful methods are general assemblies
(23%), street theater (30%), noise making/pot banging (31%), educa-
tional actions (34%) and Twitter storms (36%). Vandalism/looting and
violence only show a 43% success rate; note that self-inflicted violence is
in a separate category, with a 50% success rate.
Regarding which groups of protesters have more success with
their demands, those with the highest achievement rates unsurpris-
ingly are employersorganizations (80% achievement rate), followed by
the military/police (50%). The least successful are women (33%), then
ethnic/racial groups (31%) and finally prisoners (25%).
It is also important to highlight that several of the achievements iden-
tified in the research relate to changes in public debates. This is an
intangible success that however can have a significant impact in reframing
debates and bringing issues into the global political agenda. This type
of achievement should not be overlooked. Three examples illustrate this.
The first one is Occupy Wall Street (2011), in which citizens protested
against Wall Street bailouts, denounced inequality and the privileges of the
financial sector in shaping the political agenda. The famous motto “We
are the 99%” became a slogan heard in many parts of the world, pushing
the inequality agenda to center stage. The second one is the UK Uncut
(2011) movement, which also emerged during the 2008 financial crisis,
denouncing austerity cuts and unfair tax practices of multinational corpo-
rations. This movement gave a push to the tax justice agenda. Lastly the
#MeToo and #NiUnaMenos movements linked to women’s rights have
set the agenda on gender justice and have encouraged girls and women
all over the world to stand up for their rights.
12 Violence, Repression, and Surveillance
This chapter will address the issue of violence, both by protestors and
against protestors. These two are highly asymmetrical. As presented, the
levels of repression of protestors in terms of injuries and deaths are
completely unjustified. Protests and other diverse forms of public partic-
ipation are an essential part of democratic societies. A State’s prerogative
to use force with a view to maintaining law and order is guided under the
norms established in international law. Universal and regional Human
Rights agreements protect the right to protest, recognizing the rights to
freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and opinion, and freedom of
association, including trade union rights (United Nations, 2012,2013;
INCLO, 2013).
12.1 Limited but Increasing Protestors’ Violence
We first examine violence by protestors. Despite the large movements
committed to non-violent protest, violence has occurred.11 Figure 21
shows protests with violence by the crowd, vandalism, and looting. On
average, about 20% of protests included some crowd violence, vandalism,
or looting. The trend shows a minor but steady increase in violent
The spike in 2008 is caused by the large number of so-called “food
riots.” Most food- and fuel-price protests were directly related to the
removal of subsidies and the implementation of regressive taxes, often
advised by the IMF and other IFIs. Many of these subsistence protests—
which have spiked to historic levels since 2008—were labelled “riots”
in the press coverage. Beginning in January 2007, “tortilla riots” were
reported in Mexico, as farmers protested price rises upon implementa-
tion of the final stages of the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA). In the ensuing months commodity prices continued to climb,
setting off miners’ strikes and food price protests in Peru (Schneider,
2008: 41–47). In July, as commodity prices reached a worldwide peak,
11 Note that protests taking place in countries experiencing armed conflict with external
forces, civil war, or both (e.g., Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria) make counting protests by our
research method impractical, in part because international news reports do not cover civil
protests, and archives containing local sources in conflict zones are particularly difficult to
food riots were reported in India (in August), Morocco and Uzbek-
istan (in September), China, Mauritania, and Senegal (in November).
By the end of 2008, more riots and violent protests to demand afford-
able food had been reported in at least 22 countries. In the run-up to
the 2020–2011 Arab Spring, food protests were the dominant way to
demand government accountability, especially in commodity-dependent
developing countries. Food “riots” were not as violent as portrayed, and
the violence often came not from protesters but from the police crack-
down. Reports with rabid headlines then appeared, and governments
took note of them, frequently implementing modest rollbacks and other
concessions in the ensuing weeks or months. A good example is when
Al Jazeera reported in September 2007 “Morocco rolls back bread price
hike: violent protests force government to withdraw 30 per cent hike in
bread prices.” The headline failed to accurately characterize the protest,
which had been organized by the Moroccan Association for Human
Rights as a peaceful sit-in. Nevertheless, the specter of violence gave the
government the necessary cover to retract an unpopular policy.
Violence by crowds has also occurred in large “omnibus” demon-
strations protesting hardship and many compounded issues, unten-
able systems, and lack of change (e.g., Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil,
Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon,
Montenegro, Nepal, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Spain, Sudan, Syria,
and the global protests against the G20), also when there is popular anger
on a specific issue (e.g., the Dominican Republic’s suspension of elections,
the killing of an ethnic singer in Ethiopia, election irregularities in Mali,
the killing of 43 students in Mexico, and Israel’s intifada). It must be
noted that far right or radical right protests tend to be more violent (e.g.,
in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, India, Indonesia, Poland, Serbia, the United
Kingdom, and the United States).
Vandalism/looting usually involves violence against property and/or
symbolic places, for example, when French farmers vandalized the office
of Macron’s party lawmaker protesting the European Union-Canada trade
deal, or when they dumped several tons of manure and rotten vegetables
in protest at falling food prices. Vandalism/looting has been an increasing
method of protest, reported in countries such as Bangladesh, Bolivia,
Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Ecuador,
20.7% 20.3%
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Fig. 21 Riots and violent protests, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis of
world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
Ethiopia, Germany, Greece, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel,
Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Philip-
pines, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Zambia, and
12.2 Increasing Repression and Surveillance of Protestors: Arrests,
Injuries, and Deaths
Repression of some kind—resulting in arrests, surveillance, injuries and
deaths due to state-organized violence—is documented in 62% of the
protests analyzed in this study. This is a soft figure, as reliable data on
repression can be difficult to secure from news sources alone, and—as
with the determination of protest size—it is beyond the scope of this
research to conduct a special analysis of repression based on an examina-
tion of police reports and other such materials. However, an examination
of repression as documented in journalistic sources suggests that more
research needs to be done on what appears to be a wide disparity between
the Global North and South in terms of the repression of protest by
authorities and the coverage of protests in the news media. Many protests
in countries of the Global South have a secondary presence in the inter-
national news media, often even when the number of protesters killed,
injured, or arrested is very large and is therefore only reflected in local
and alternative media sources.
Table 10 presents the evolution of reported repression of protestors
since 2006. With the number of protests increasing, in the period 2006–
2020 there was a rapid increase of protestors’ repression, visualized in
Fig. 22. The most common methods of repression are arrests, police
violence, injuries, and deaths. Arrests occur in 45% of protests in 2006–
2020 and close to half of all protests in more recent years (2016–2020).
Police violence appears in about 27% of protests. While injuries and deaths
have been decreasing slightly, they are very high, recorded in 19 and 17%
of all protests respectively. It must be noted that arrests are directly linked
to repression, but a number of the injuries and deaths may be a result of
widespread violent clashes between opposing protest groups rather than
between protesters and the authorities.
Other reported methods of repression in the period 2006–2020
include teargas, retaliatory laws, harassment, lawsuits, missing people,
displaced people, gunshots, torture, Internet restrictions, expulsion, and
deportation. Our research has also documented rising concern with some
modes of repression which do not involve the use of physical violence.
Table 10 Reported repression of protests, 2006–2020
2006–2010 (%) 2011–2015 (%) 2016–2020 (%) Overall
Arrests 41.1 45.1 47.7 45.4
Violence (Police) 27.8 26.5 27.3 27.1
Injuries 23.8 18.5 18.6 19.6
Deaths 18.9 17.9 17.0 17.7
Violence (crowd) 3.5 5.7 10.4 7.2
Teargas 3.3 4.5 10.2 6.6
Retaliatory laws 4.2 5.4 7.1 5.8
Harassment 4.7 3.5 5.5 4.6
Lawsuits 1.9 3.1 4.5 3.4
Missing people 4.9 2.4 1.9 2.7
Displaced people 2.8 2.2 2.5 2.5
Gunshots 1.4 1.6 2.1 1.7
Torture 1.4 0.7 1.7 1.3
Internet restrictions 0.0 0.5 1.6 0.9
Expulsion 0.0 0.1 1.6 0.7
Deportation 1.2 0.6 0.3 0.6
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprotests.
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Arrests V iolence (Police) Injuries Deaths
Violence (Crowd) T eargas Retaliatory Laws Ha rassment
Lawsuits Missing People Displaced People Gunshots
Torture Internet Restrictions Expulsion D eportation
Fig. 22 Reported repression of protests, 2006–2020 (Source Authors’ analysis
of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see:
These new forms of control are enabled by new laws and arrangements
between governments, private companies, and national security agencies,
and are reported in a number of countries such as Australia, Canada,
China, India, Iran, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates,
the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.
According to media reports, the protests that generated the most
arrests in the period 2006–2020 were—in order of largest number
of people affected—in Hong Kong, Egypt, France, Iran, the United
Kingdom, Russia, Sudan, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, the United States,
Canada, and Cameroon, with 10,000–1000 arrests per protest (Table 11).
The protests that resulted in the largest numbers of reported injuries were
in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, followed by Egypt, Chile, Thai-
land, Ecuador, Lebanon, Algeria, Hungary, and Indonesia. In terms of
deaths, the worst outcomes were Kyrgyzstan, Egypt, the Occupied Pales-
tinian Territory, Kenya and Iran; these countries reported thousands of
casualties among protestors.
Table 11 Protests with high numbers of reported arrests, injuries and deaths
Country Year Protest grievance/demand Estimated No.
Reported arrests
Hong Kong 2019–2020 Protesting extradition law
and subsequent police
Egypt 2020 Protest demanding
resignation of President Al
Sisi and release of political
France 2018–2020 Yellow vests anti-system
Iran 2009–2010 Iran election protests 4000
United Kingdom 2011 London ++ riots after a man
was killed by the police in
the context of recession and
Russia 2011 Electoral fraud, against
President Putin
Russia 2019 Rejection of independent
candidate in the Moscow
Duma election
Sudan 2011–2019 Sudanese protest leading to
ousting of president Omal Al
Chile 2011 Student movement against
proposed education reforms
Malaysia 2011 Against the privatization of
water management
Mexico 2017 Mexicans against hike in
energy prices
United States of
2006 1st May Labor Day
demonstrations demanding
better jobs, justice for
Canada 2010 Anti G20 demonstrations 1118
Cameroon 2008 Food and fuel price riots,
low living standards
United Kingdom 2018–2020 Extinction Rebellion 1000
Reported injured
Table 11 (continued)
Country Year Protest grievance/demand Estimated No.
Occupied Territory of
2018–2019 The Israeli blockade of Gaza 9000
Egypt 2011 End of the 31-year-old state
of emergency, departure of
president Mubarak, lack of
Chile 2019–2020 “Estallido social” social
outbreak demand public
social services, public
pensions, new constitution
Thailand 2010 Prime Minister Abhisit to
stand down as he did not
come to power legitimately,
call for elections
Ecuador 2019–2020 Against austerity cuts,
reforms agreed with the
IMF, and President Moreno
Lebanon 2019–2020 October Revolution against
corruption, lack of jobs, and
calling for more public
Algeria 2010–2011 Democracy, state of
emergency state, high food
and oil prices
Hungary 2006 Protests in Hungar y
demanding the Prime
Minister’s resignation after he
was recorded admitting lies
about the economic situation
during the electoral campaign
Indonesia 2019 Presidential challenger
Subianto claimed cheating on
elections and refused to
accept defeat
Reported deaths
Kyrgyzstan 2010 Against President Bakiyev’s
government corruption, high
heating costs and living
expenses, ethnic violence
Table 11 (continued)
Country Year Protest grievance/demand Estimated No.
Egypt 2013 Military coup of July 3, 2013 2000
Occupied Territory of
2013–2014 Protesting Israel’s imperialism
and conflict
Kenya 2007–2008 Outrage at election results
declaring President Kibabi
winner, other grievances
Iran 2019–2020 Sparked by Increase in fuel
prices, then expanded to
include corruption and
regime change reinforced in
January 2020 by the
shooting down of a
Ukrainian airliner by Iran
Egypt 2011 End of the 31-year-old state
of emergency, departure of
President Mubarak, lack of
Ethiopia 2015–2018 Human rights abuses,
distribution of wealth,
political marginalization
Sudan 2011–2019 Sudanese protest leading to
ousting of president Omal Al
Source Authors’ analysis of world protests in media sources 2006–2020, see: https://worldprotests.
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Recent years have seen a new development in the growth and spread of popular protest: protests that began as local, homogeneous events-such as Occupy Wall Street or the protests of the Arab Spring-quickly left their original locations and local specificity behind and became global. This book looks at the development of this wave of protests, with an eye on protests against austerity and neoliberal economic policies, and offers a global view, covering events in Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and other locations.
We propose a regime change model in which people are uncertain about both the quality of a specific regime and governance in general. The poor perceive the current regime as bad, rationally infer that all govern- ments are bad, and therefore believe mass movements are futile. The mid- dle class are more sanguine about the prospect of good government, and believe that collective action is effective because they expect many fellow citizens to share the same view. This coordination game with incomplete information does not admit monotone equilibrium but exhibits multiple interval equilibria, where middle class people are more likely to attack the regime.
Civicus monitor. CIVICUS
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People power under attack. A 2020 report based on the civicus monitor
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CIVICUS. (2020a). People power under attack. A 2020 report based on the civicus monitor. CIVICUS. Available at ets/file/GlobalReport2020.pdf. Last accessed 24 May 2021.
Globalization and its discontents revisited: Anti-globalization in the era of Trump
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Stiglitz, J. E. (2017). Globalization and its discontents revisited: Anti-globalization in the era of Trump. W.W. Norton.
Available at https://monitor. Last accessed 24
  • Civicus
CIVICUS. (2020b). Civicus monitor. CIVICUS. Available at https://monitor. Last accessed 24 May 2021.