Public Protests Around The World

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  • by Anup Shah
  • This Page Last Updated Monday, November 07, 2011

Mass protests, throughout history have come at a time when enough of the population has been affected by policies of the rulers and elite. They have often been met with brutal, efficient crackdown by the guardians of the elite, be they local police, militias, national militaries, or even another nation’s military forces.

This page was originally created back in 2000, and updated a few times until the end of 2003. At that time, the context was the global protests at the current form of globalization marginalizing so many people around the world. Those protests were often against key institutions of globalization, such as the G8, World Bank, IMF and the World Trade Organization.

At the time, as large as some of the protests may have been, they were typically met with hostility from the intellectual establishment and mainstream media, typically from the West which was generally benefiting from the corporate-oriented globalization it was controlling and shaping.

Although these protests received some media attention (albeit negative), many protests had begun decades ago in the developing world with barely a mention.

This page has now been updated to include an overview of the protests on the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, as there is a lot of parallel.

Protests due to the global financial crisis, 2008

In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis (a Western crisis that became global), Western nations have suffered greatly. Resulting attempts to address the economic problems include austerity measures that feel much like the disastrous Structural Adjustment Policies that these Western nations imposed or strongly pressed developing nations to pursue in the 1970s and 80s, with devastating consequences.

Protests in 2011 have been global, 15October.net

Many governments of industrialized nations are giving themselves austerity measures, similar to the structural adjustments they devastated the developing world with. (In both cases, the elite, or the “1%” as they are being referred to today, are not as affected; and those who caused the problem normally come from that “1%”.)

As economic growth in industrialized nations continue to suffer while unemployment rises politicians (perhaps ideologically) attempt to cut back government (and various social safety nets just when they seem to be most needed) mass protests have predictably erupted around the world. There is growing anger at the level of inequality (the so-called 1% who control much of the wealth, for example), corporate greed, lack of jobs, etc.

Over 1,000 people convened at Victoria Square to take part in the peaceful democratic expression

Occupy Montreal on Saturday, October 15, 2011 a Global Day of Action for the Occupy Together movement. Source

It is generally seen that those who typically caused the crisis have not been affected that much; some in fact have been quite enriched and some make no apologies about it. Side Note The previous link was to a video interview with Alessio Rastani, the infamous investor who said investors do not care about social impacts on what they do; it was not their job and that governments don’t rule the world; “Goldman Sachs” does (i.e. the investment world). Proponents of a neoliberal form of capitalism have always argued for smaller states because the markets will supposedly take care of social needs by identifying opportunities. Making money from opportunities will encourage efficient and most effective players. This is a romantic notion and quite attractive to those who benefit from it. But, can you really have it both ways? Let markets magically provide all social needs and if they don’t, well it’s not the fault of some major market players? Proponents of neoliberalism often say “you can’t have your cake and eat it” but it sure looks like the bankers, investors and such like want just that (including governments bailouts, or socialism for themselves and market justice for the rest)!

Instead, the poorer and more working class in those societies have typically felt the brunt. Side NoteAlthough it was a massive market failure, the response has typically been austerity measures and reductions in government spending because expected revenues (in particular corporate taxes) have dropped significantly and very suddenly without time to adapt. (Of course some political parties have come into power accusing those they replace of spending too much unsustainably in the first place — this is sometimes true, but other times it is just to get political points; it is easier to attack other political parties that are visible and tangible than a more obscure market system that was actually what failed.) Little has been done to address such root problems.

The protest movements, inspired by the so-called Arab Spring and the initial protests in Spain earlier in 2011, have spread globally. Many have been nicknamed as “Occupy” movements such as Occupy Wall Street, in reference to how Egyptians occupied the famous Tahrir Square during their uprising.

Protesters in Oakland hold placards with the “we are the 99%” theme

Protestors in Oakland holding “we are the 99%” themed signs. Source

Similar to the Arab Spring protests, these ones are seem largely organized and carried out by the young, who are often amongst the jobless or those struggling, while also representing the views/concerns of all ages. Elderly and middle age protesters are no doubt there, too.

In some countries there are fears that it is getting close to violent as public anger boils, such as in Greece. In others, protests have been peaceful in general but police crackdown has created further tensions.

Interestingly, the issues brought up by these protesters are similar to those written about around a decade earlier.

Being a global and somewhat spontaneous movement, some lament that there isn’t a convenient set of aims, goals, manifesto, leadership that mainstream media, establishment and outside observers might like to try and understand this and perhaps even attempt to put a face to it.

However, as a statement from one of the many web sites says, “This movement is not guided, it is clearly born as a reaction to injustice and corruption around the world, and therefore it is destined to change the underlying values of the system, not only the rules of it. It is a global movement for true democracy and better human conditions, … reflects a collective idea, a movement without borders or leaders.”

But others argue that in order to at least appeal to the wider audience, they may need representatives who appear as leaders while trying to ensuring and retaining peaceful, democratic ways.

The response from the media, police, politicians and other parts of the establishment will be interesting to follow; will it be as it was a decade ago (which is discussed further below)? It seems too soon to see how effective these protests will be.

News coverage from Inter Press Service

There is no way this web site will be able to keep up with the global protests, so here are stories from Inter Press Service carried by this web site:

Recession and Repression Fuel Anger

Friday, February 21, 2014

KIEV, Feb 21 (IPS) - As Ukraine's capital experiences the worst violence in its post-Soviet history, some protestors are warning that the festering discontent with the regime which led to the current crisis is unlikely to disappear overnight even if a solution to the current impasse is found.

Europe's Leaders Visit Athens to Celebrate Their Failure

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

ATHENS, Jan 08 (IPS) - The start of Greece's six-month presidency of the EU was marked by a ceremony Wednesday in the Greek capital attended by the EU commissioners. But protests were banned and there was no talk about the raging controversy over the bloc's handling of the Greek debt crisis and the renewed concerns about the vitality of the Eurozone.

Robin Hood Activists Take Aim at Wall Street

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NEW YORK, Sep 21 (IPS) - Five years after the 2008 world financial crisis and two years after the Occupy movement it triggered, U.S. critics of the financial sector are coalescing around the idea of a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions.

Nationwide Protests Rage against Colombia’s Economic Policies

Friday, August 30, 2013

BOGOTA, Aug 30 (IPS) - A strike declared nearly two weeks ago in Colombia by farmers and joined later by truck drivers, health workers, miners and students spread to include protests in the cities before mushrooming into a general strike Thursday, demanding changes in the government's economic policies.

Protests in Portugal Going Grey

Friday, August 16, 2013

LISBON, Aug 16 (IPS) - The elderly have taken to the streets in Portugal to protest drastic public sector pension cuts announced this week by the government of conservative Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.

Pray Again to St. Precarious

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

MILAN, Jul 10 (IPS) - It didn't take the financial crisis for hundreds of thousands of workers across Europe to protest the new plague of the labour market – precarity. But the financial crisis has only made it worse.

Cancelling Fare Hike Fails to Quell Brazil Protests

Thursday, June 20, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 20 (IPS) - Children of a generation that fought for basic rights like having enough to eat, learning to read and being treated in safer hospitals, the over 300,000 students protesting on the streets of Brazil want more from a democratic and economic system that no longer represents them and is beginning to show its limitations.

Portugal’s Carnation Revolution under the Shadow of the Troika

Thursday, April 25, 2013

LISBON, Apr 25 (IPS) - The anniversary of the peaceful Carnation Revolution that overthrew Portugal's 1926-1974 dictatorship has gone from being a popular celebration to a day of mass protests against the draconian austerity policies of the government of Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho.

U.S.: Occupy Affiliate Aims at Abolishing Consumer Debt

Sunday, April 14, 2013

ATLANTA, Georgia, Apr 14 (IPS) - Strike Debt, an affiliate of the Occupy movement, has devised a legal and what some consider ingenious way to abolish millions of dollars in consumer debt.

Switzerland Sets Example for Income Equality

Monday, March 11, 2013

ROME, Mar 11 (IPS) - For those who think that Occupy Wall Street, the Indignados in Spain, the World Social Forum and the numerous manifestations of protest worldwide are expressions without concrete outcomes, the result of the Swiss referendum on Mar. 3 on capping the salaries and bonuses of banks executives should make them think twice.

Protests in Portugal Get Creative

Friday, March 01, 2013

LISBON, Mar 01 (IPS) - Indignation in Portugal over rampant joblessness and cuts in wages, pensions and unemployment benefits, together with a growing tax burden, has given rise to innovative forms of protest capable of drawing large crowds.

Winter of Discontent Progresses to Bulgaria

Sunday, February 24, 2013

WARSAW, Feb 24 (IPS) - Bulgarian prime minister Boiko Borisov of the ruling centre-right Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), announced his resignation Wednesday, following two weeks of sustained protests across the country which were sparked by rising electricity and heating costs.

Q&A: 'Neoliberalism Negates Human Rights'

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

LISBON, Feb 19 (IPS) - Thousands of people marched through the streets of cities across Portugal "against exploitation and impoverishment" caused by the government's austerity cuts, in a protest organised by the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP), the country's largest trade union.

Davos Puts Protests Behind

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

DAVOS, Feb 05 (IPS) - Barbed wire and safety fences are dismantled, the police and army are withdrawn and freedom of movement is restored. The 43rd annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) ended last month with negligible protests against the 'global leaders'.

Salvaging Waste Food for the Hungry in Spain

Friday, December 21, 2012

MÁLAGA, Spain, Dic 21 (IPS) - A recurring question in crisis-stricken Spain is how to ensure that surplus agricultural products reach those most in need. One response is citizen initiatives to protest the waste of food and to advocate efficient management along the full length of the food chain.

Faces of the Crisis in a Protesting Europe*

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

MÁLAGA, Spain, Nov 13 (IPS) - Out-of-work engineers, family businesses that are falling apart, people working in precarious conditions in an ailing labour market – it's a description of Spain, but it could just as easily be Portugal, Greece or Italy…

Creditors' Stalemate Brings Greece to Knife Edge

Friday, November 09, 2012

ATHENS, Nov 09 (IPS) - Ignoring the thousands of protestors gathered outside the Greek parliament on Wednesday, the government voted in public spending cuts amounting to 17 billion dollars in an economy already on its knees from a lacerated budget.

Defying Foreclosures in Spain

Thursday, October 25, 2012

MÁLAGA, Spain, Oct 25 (IPS) - Shouting slogans against bank foreclosures, dozens of protesters in this southern Spanish city gathered Wednesday to prevent the eviction of a Moroccan family who couldn’t afford to meet their mortgage payments.

Spain at Risk of Chronic Protests

Monday, September 24, 2012

MÁLAGA, Spain, Sep 24 (IPS) - Over the past year and a half, Spain has been caught up in constant street protests against measures taken to combat the severe economic crisis. But some say the movement has failed to come together around concrete proposals.

Occupy Celebrates Birthday, Forges Ahead

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, U.S., Sep 18 (IPS) - Led by a spirited brass band and waving placards decrying corporate greed, hundreds of occupiers took to San Francisco streets Monday to celebrate Occupy Wall Street’s first birthday, culminating in a ceremony where they symbolically ripped apart loan documents.

Occupy Marks Anniversary Amid Grim Economic Climate

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NEW YORK, Sep 18 (IPS) - Amid a heavy police presence, thousands of anti-capitalist activists in marked the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement against the U.S. political and economic system, which they say favours billionaires at the expense of the middle and working class.

Food Activists See Portents of New and Deeper Hunger Crisis

Thursday, August 16, 2012

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 (IPS) - Food rights activists from around the world will descend on the coastal U.S. state of Florida next week to protest homelessness and hunger facing millions of people in the United States and across the globe.

Teachers’ Strike Does Not Mean Political Liberation for Swaziland

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MBABANE, Jul 31 (IPS) - Swazis should not see the ongoing nationwide one-month teachers’ strike as a movement capable of overthrowing the political regime here, despite the fact that civil servants and nurses have joined the action, according to political analyst Dr. Sikelela Dlamini.

Austerity Package Sparks Protests in Spain

Friday, July 20, 2012

MADRID, Jul 20 (IPS) - "This is war. Parliament has got to go! They're trying to make civil servants take the blame for a situation that was caused by the banking sector and which the government has allowed to happen."

‘Israeli Bouazizi’ Raises Questions

Sunday, July 15, 2012

TEL AVIV, Jul 15 (IPS) - During a march Saturday marking one year since social protests engulfed Israel, a man silently set himself on fire, leaving behind him a painful “I accuse!” letter that exposes widespread disillusionment in the face of the immense expectation for change, and the abyss between the people and the State.

FINANCE: Protestors Demand Robin Hood Tax on Financial Transactions

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hundreds of nurses and protestors from other professions gathered on Friday in Chicago to call on world leaders to adopt a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street transactions as a way to raise hundreds of billions of dollars every year to help heal the U.S. and world economies.

Spain’s 'Indignados' Take to the Streets Again

Friday, May 11, 2012

A filthy vacant lot is now sprouting strawberries, tomatoes and carrots. This small community garden in the centre of the southern Spanish city of Málaga was created by the 'Indignados' protest movement, which is celebrating its first anniversary Saturday by taking to the streets across the country.

U.S.: Marches and Militancy at Occupy Oakland's May Day

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

It was May Day and Oakland was bathed in sunshine. Union workers staged militant actions; immigrants and allies marched for justice with brass bands and drummers; spontaneous street parties erupted.

U.S.: Occupiers Confront Wells Fargo Shareholders

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More than 1,000 people took the Occupy Wall Street Movement message straight to the one percent Tuesday, most of them rallying outside the Wells Fargo stockholders meeting in the heart of San Francisco's financial district - and some 30 of them 'mic-checking' inside the meeting.

U.S. Occupy Activists Hit With Stay-Away Orders

Friday, March 23, 2012

A dozen or so people in the Wednesday night crowd of around 150 at the amphitheatre in the public plaza at Oakland City Hall covered their faces with masks or bandanas.

Banking 'Leprechauns' Steal Irish Taxpayer Money

Friday, March 16, 2012

On the eve of St. Patrick's Day, activists dressed up as leprechauns appeared in front of the Embassy of Ireland to protest Irish taxpayer money being used to pay debts of the Anglo-Irish Bank and the Irish Nationwide Building Society (Anglo/INBS).

Spain's Jobless Unite for Solutions and Survival

Friday, March 16, 2012

Unemployed people's movements and associations in Spain are proposing alternatives to official job seeking channels, in the midst of an economic crisis that so far has left more than five million people out of work.

Facing Painful Cuts and Tuition Hikes, U.S. Students 'Occupy Education'

Friday, March 02, 2012

Shawn Deez, a freshman in peace and conflict studies, says she thinks she knows why some classes are scheduled at the University of California, Berkeley, and some are not. It's corporate influence that makes the difference, she said.

SPAIN: Demonstrators Protest Bank Bailouts and Spending Cuts

Friday, February 24, 2012

Demonstrators in nearly two dozen cities in Spain raised their voices Friday to protest against the use of public funds to bail out banks while the budgets for basic services like education and health are being slashed.

EUROPE-DEVELOPMENT: The 'Indignados' Still Have Wind in Their Sails

Monday, February 06, 2012

Months of protest across the European Union, sparked by ‘indignant’ youth demanding an end to the brand of free market capitalism that has blighted the continent with an unemployment epidemic, finally bore fruit on Jan. 30 when Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, proposed an ambitious jobs scheme.

Political and Economic Turmoil Threaten Women's Progress

Thursday, February 02, 2012

As UN Women celebrated its first birthday, its executive director Michelle Bachelet stressed that political upheveal and shrinking budgets are no excuse to push back the hard-won gains made by the women's movement globally.

Occupy DC Protesters Stay Put Amid Eviction Threats

Monday, January 30, 2012

Two days after some 400 people were arrested during a protest organised by Occupy Oakland on the U.S. west coast, members of Occupy DC say they have no plans to leave despite the threat of police action.

U.S.: A Credit Union to Bail Out People, Not Big Banks

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Occupy activists from Wall Street to San Francisco's financial district have dramatised their anger with big financial institutions by blocking JP Morgan Chase Bank doorways, dancing atop Wells Fargo counters, pitching a tent in a Bank of America lobby, hanging banners across Citibank windows, and accompanying the actions with the now-familiar chant 'Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.'

GREECE: Austerity Plan Breaches Last Line of Defence of Greek Workers

Friday, January 20, 2012

As the Eurozone falls deeper into its sovereign debt crisis, the labour movement in Greece is being cudgelled to its knees by an austerity programme that has so far failed to bring any positive change for the crumbling Mediterranean country.

U.S.: A Movement Evolves to Occupy the Future

Monday, January 09, 2012

With its encampments mostly destroyed, the nascent Occupy Movement in thousands of communities across the U.S. and dozens more around the world has not faded away.

NIGERIA: Police Crack Down on Fuel Protests

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Police fired tear gas and beat protesters to force them out of a square they had occupied in an overnight sit-in in Nigeria's northern city of Kano as part of demonstrations over soaring fuel prices, an organiser said.

MEXICO: Youth on the Front Lines of Protest Movement

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

'We need to be the ones to provide the answers to the questions of our times, because we are the main victims of the voracious policies of capitalism,' says Alexis Jiménez, a 23-year-old ethnologist who has spent the last two months camping out in front of the Mexico City Stock Exchange.

ECONOMY: Argentina Shows World How to Beat the Crisis

Monday, December 19, 2011

What is happening in the European Union and the United States today happened a decade ago in Argentina, when it was a hotbed of protest and the streets of major cities were seething with people telling their leaders they had had enough. And then a new story began to be written.

U.S.: Protestors Occupy Ports in Oakland and Beyond

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Occupy movements in Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Longview, Washington claimed victory Monday when they prevented workers from loading or unloading ships at the three ports.

Forging Bond Will Be Test for Co-ops and Occupy Movement

Monday, December 12, 2011

Canadian cooperatives may grow as the global Occupy movement raises the profile of their business model through boosting interest in credit unions over traditional banks, but uncertainty remains about the degree to which the two camps will join forces from here on.

U.S.: Homeless Play Key Role in Occupy Movement

Monday, December 12, 2011

Homeless people make up a significant proportion of participants in the Occupy Movement in cities across the United States, from Los Angeles to Atlanta, where at times they comprise an estimated third of the occupiers.

U.S.: Occupy Targets Foreclosures

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Five months ago, Gayla Newsome was at work when she got the call. A sheriff had come to her home of 15 years and put her two pajama-clad daughters out on the curb of her West Oakland street. Newsome knew the bank was about to foreclose, but thought she still had time to fight it.

OP-ED: Occupy Foreign Affairs

Monday, December 05, 2011

It's not the topic of George Packer's latest essay that's particularly surprising. Inequality, he writes, is undermining democracy. Progressives have been hammering home this message for years if not decades.

Occupy Oakland Rallies Amid Anger over Pepper-Spraying of Students

Monday, November 21, 2011

Twice evicted from its encampment just outside city hall, Occupy Oakland sprung back to life Saturday, erecting a new three-dozen-tent camp and defying multiple city warnings that lodging in public spaces would not be tolerated.

U.S.: Occupy Movement Pushes Back in Coordinated Day of Action

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tens of thousands of people in hundreds of cities across the country flooded streets, public squares and university campuses in the largest nationwide action since the first group of occupiers set up its encampment in New York City exactly two months ago Thursday.

U.S.: Occupy Cal Students Revive Camp After Police Clubbing

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Cal students were clubbed by baton-wielding university police Nov. 9 - with beatings captured on video - when they linked arms and refused to disband the tent camp they had erected on the University of California, Berkeley campus.

CHINA: Only Business Occupies Shanghai

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As China's financial centre and a pinnacle of domestic wealth, Shanghai could have been in the forefront of a home-grown movement against income disparity of the like sweeping New York's Wall Street and London's City.

U.S.: Occupy Wall Street Activists Vow to Fight On

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

After two months of holding New York City's Zuccotti Park despite repeated threats of eviction, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists were forcibly removed from the site by hundreds of police in riot gear early Tuesday morning.

U.S.: Divide Emerges over Bounds of Occupy Protests

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Nov. 2, the day of Occupy Oakland's General Strike, the streets were filled with chants and music and the sounds of people speaking in the many tongues of Oakland residents.

U.S.: Divide Emerges over Bounds of Occupy Protests

Sunday, November 13, 2011

On Nov. 2, the day of Occupy Oakland's General Strike, the streets were filled with chants and music and the sounds of people speaking in the many tongues of Oakland residents.

U.S.: Occupy Activists, Union Leaders Find Common Cause

Monday, November 07, 2011

When Mary Clinton, 25, joined other activists to help organise the Occupy Wall Street movement on Sep. 17, she never imagined the gamble would turn into a 'populous left movement of the 21st century'.

BRAZIL: 'Occupy' Movement Rolls to Rio

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Inspired by the movement for real democracy and people's power that has spread to hundreds of cities around the world, young Brazilians in Rio de Janeiro have created their own version of 'Occupy Wall Street', dubbed 'Occupy Rio'.

U.S.: Occupy Oakland Shuts Downtown, Port Areas

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The early morning sun bounced off of the 150 or so multicoloured tents that crowded into the re-populated Oscar Grant Plaza Wednesday, just one week and one day after police raided the Occupy Oakland camp and evicted its occupants using tear gas, batons and possibly rubber bullets.

U.S.: Who is the 99 Percent? — Part 2

Monday, October 31, 2011

While the Occupy movements sweeping the U.S. have become almost synonymous with democracy, consensus-based processes, human microphones and other symbols of unity, many populations in the country have felt isolated by the language and tactics of the movement.

JAPAN: Wall Street Protest Finds Strong Echoes

Monday, October 31, 2011

Inspired by the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in the United States, thousands of Japanese youth and workers, dissatisfied with growing unemployment and harsh working conditions in the world’s third largest economy, have taken to the streets to demand stable jobs and government reforms.

U.S.: Who is the 99 Percent? - Part 1

Friday, October 28, 2011

Barely a month after the first group of protesters set up its encampment in Zucotti Park in New York City, the phrase 'We are the 99 percent' has already become legendary.

U.S.: New Inequality Data Likely to Boost 'Occupy' Movement

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A major study on income equality by a non-partisan government agency is likely to boost the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement, whose standing with the general public appears on the rise, according to a new poll.

Not Just a Protest, But a Little Utopia

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement has withstood political pressure, bad weather, police violence, and over a thousand arrests, and is continuing to grow in New York City a month in.

Occupy Movement Heats Up U.S. South

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

As the Occupy Movement spreads like wildfire across the United States and around the world, protests in the U.S. South are facing unique challenges.

Occupy Wall Street Protests March on Midtown, and the World

Monday, October 17, 2011

Activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City flooded Times Square on Saturday as part of a global day of action, with protesters packing the sidewalks and some streets as far as the eye could see in every direction, centered on the plaza where the famous ball drops on New Year's Eve.

SPAIN: ‘Rich Must Share Cost of Crisis’

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

As global working-class outrage against corporate capitalism explodes in organised protests around the world, scores of citizens in Spain are demanding an end to tax breaks for the wealthy.

U.S.: Backlash Swells Against New 'Gilded Age'

Monday, October 10, 2011

The encampment of disenchanted young protesters in New York City's financial district has exposed growing anger around the United States over rising inequality and a stubborn jobs crisis.

U.S.: 'Leaderless' Protest Movement Continues to Snowball

Thursday, October 06, 2011

'First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you — then you win,' a middle-aged man yells into the microphone from a makeshift stage erected at the far end of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC.

SPAIN: 'Indignant' Protests Heat Up Election Campaign

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

'Ex dockyard worker, now a beggar' reads the sign displayed by a man in a spotless shirt who is panhandling near a square in this southern Spanish city where dozens of demonstrators are chanting: 'The bank always wins and I'm against this!' and 'What's going on? We have no homes!'

Occupy Wall Street: 'It Is a Revolution'

Friday, September 30, 2011

Since Sep. 17, hundreds of demonstrators in the Occupy Wall Street movement have transformed the quiet Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan from a place where Wall Street traders once relaxed during lunch breaks into a demonstration camp.

Emerging Markets Hit Economic Stage Like a Tonne of BRICS

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Headlines this week have been saturated with protests against unaffordable food, unfair taxes and unsustainable austerity measures, with one distinct difference setting these stories apart from countless others in recent history.

MALAWI: Markets Torched Ahead of Cancelled Protests

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Soot and ash filled the air the day after a fire gutted Malawi’s Blantyre Market. Men and women merchants wore solemn expressions as they shovelled piles of debris from the site on Tuesday.

Fixing the Economy, Not Lives

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The economic crisis has led Romanian authorities to take some of the toughest austerity measures in Central and Eastern Europe. While no big opposition movement emerged as a result, a special kind of protest has taken place: some have committed suicide to get their messages across.

OP-ED: Protest Movements Teach Economics to Bankers

Monday, August 08, 2011

The European Central Bank (ECB) is run by people who are not very good at economics. They continue to adhere to a fundamentally wrongheaded view of the economy and the central bank's role within it.

SPAIN: 'Indignant' Demonstrators Marching to Brussels to Protest Effects of Crisis

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Protesters from several European Union cities have begun to follow the example of hundreds of demonstrators from Spain who are marching from Madrid to Brussels, the bloc's de facto capital, in a growing protest against the effects of the economic crisis and the fiscal adjustment policies adopted to combat it.

Syria’s Once Profoundly Secular Society Shaken Up

Friday, July 01, 2011

Since pro-democracy protests began last March, Syria’s once profoundly secular society has been shaken up, with deep divides splitting up communities along sectarian lines.

GREECE: Public Outrage over Austerity Plan

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The mass protests in Greece swelled by the hour as parliament voted this Thursday to implement the social and economic adjustment plan approved Wednesday, including measures for privatisation, tax hikes, spending cuts and mass lay-offs in the state sector.

SYRIA: Ongoing Unrest Threatening Economy

Thursday, June 30, 2011

As protests persist in Syria, the economy is becoming an increasing concern for many, who wonder if it will eventually falter in light of the recent unrest.

SPAIN: Protest Movement Spreads to Neighbourhoods, Small Towns

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The May 15 Movement (15-M) which sprang up as huge rallies in public squares in Spain's largest cities to protest against the political, economic and social system, is multiplying as assemblies in local neighbourhoods in provincial capitals and other municipalities.

More information

Other web sites can also provide far more detailed coverage than this site. Here are just a few examples:

  • Occupy Together, which, as they describe, is “a hub for all of the events springing up across the world in solidarity with the Occupy Wall St”
  • Occupy Wall Street campaign site from the Canadian organization, AdBusters, that helped start the Occupy movement
  • 15 October campaign site
  • Occupy Movement coverage by Wikipedia (which has many more links)
  • Occupy Movement coverage from the Guardian newspaper
  • Civil society coverage from Inter Press Service (more than just the protest movement, but often has more context

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The rest of this article has not been updated since November 25, 2003; links to external sites may have stopped working if those web sites have redesigned their sites and not made old links point to their equivalent new ones (if they still exist!)

Global protests up to early 2000s

The large protests at the WTO meetings, at IMF, World Bank, G8 and other such summits that are seen today have typically been against the current forms of globalization and the marginalization it is causing, as well as the increasing disparities between the rich and the poor that it has predictably led to. These issues have motivated people all over the world to protest in many ways.

The mainstream media has concentrated on only a few of these protests, such as:

  • Seattle in 1999
  • Washington D.C. in 2000 and 2002
  • Quebec in 2001
  • Genoa in 2001

These were just some of the more mainstream and reported ones because:

  • Two of them were in the home nation of the current superpower, the United States
  • Quebec was a Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) that involved the United States directly,
  • and Genoa was a G8 summit that involved the 7 richest nations plus Russia.

A few G8, WTO and other summits since have also received mainstream attention.

These protests, directed at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF)/World Bank, the FTAA and the G8 respectively, were all protests at the effects of the current forms of globalization which go along the lines of a neoliberal/corporate capitalism ideology (which, as suggested elsewhere on this site, is more of the mercantilist/imperialist policy of wealth appropriation that has continued throughout history.)

While protests have been aimed at different international bodies and blocs, the underlying themes are similar, while the actual themes of the protests have been different. For example:

  • The WTO protest of Seattle was about the trade policies being drawn up in undemocratic ways yet affecting people all around the world.
    • Here too, the elite’s “front guard” was mobilized to protect the image of the multinational corporations and institutions that support their “rights”.
    • The police crackdown was often violent and unprovoked.
  • The IMF and World Bank protests in Washington D.C. were about the policies of the IMF and World Bank towards developing countries.
    • Their methods of “assistance” have been criticized for a long time for
      • increasing dependency on the richer nations
      • promoting a form of development whereby developing nations continue to provide cheap resources and labor to the richer nations
      • do little to address poverty or meet real development needs
      • etc.
    • These policies are a precursor and basic framework to allow trade policies discussed at the WTO to be effective; they go hand in hand.
  • The protests seen at various G8 summits have included issues such as debt relief.

It is ironic then, that in many countries, leaders, elected through processes of democracy (themselves often painful, trying and hard-won) have been turning against protestors, via pressure from the aristocracy of that nation and from “international” (western) financial institutions that are the target of the protests and criticisms. As protests increase, it is harder for elected leaders to hide behind their claims of being elected, if they are not fulfilling their promises, or turning out not to support their people via their policies:

When the G8 leaders were besieged and publicly upstaged by upwards of 200,000 demonstrators, they had a single line of defence which they repeated to whoever wanted to hear it: “We are democratically elected” - as if this fact had some magic talismanic power. But people are not impressed. Democratic election does not justify presidents when they betray their electoral promises and the public interest, or embark on wholesale privatisation and liberalisation. Nor does it entitle them to move heaven and earth to service the demands of the companies that financed their electoral campaigns. As we know, at least two of the G8 heads - George W Bush and Silvio Berlusconi - represent big business to a far greater extent than they represent ordinary people.

Ignacio Ramonet, Presidents under pressure, Le Monde diplomatique, August 2001

Mainstream Media Portrayal

The mainstream media portrayal by many western nations, notably the US, has been very biased. Being corporate-owned, and because protestors are voicing concerns over the current form of globalization, which is seen as overly corporate-friendly without appropriate considerations for people, this bias can be seen as quite obvious. However, most people get their views and news from mainstream media, from what are regarded as “respectable” news sources and hence it makes it difficult for additional views and perspectives to be heard, thereby contributing to the on-going process.

Protests Have Occurred All Over The World

[T]his “new movement”, portrayed by the media as students and anarchists from the rich and prosperous global north, is just the tip of the iceberg. In the global south, a far deeper and wide-ranging movement has been developing for years, largely ignored by the media.

Jessica Woodroffe and Mark Ellis-Jones, States of unrest: Resistance to IMF policies in poor countries, World Development Movement.

Some mainstream media representation may leave the impression that the recent public protests in D.C., Seattle, Prague and other western cities are recent issues, or that these are the only protests, and that only a few are protesting. In fact, Seattle and D.C. protests were international protests in their composition. The mainstream avoided in-depth issues of developing nations in Seattle, for example, while they concentrated on sensationalism.

Both before (long before in many cases, especially if we include the centuries and decades of opposition to imperialist and colonial globalization) and since Seattle, millions of people around the world have turned up in waves of protests at various IMF, World Bank, WTO meetings or policies in various nations. Repression has been equally brutal and sometimes worse. For example there have been protests in:

  • Angola
    • January 2001 and August 2001 saw national strikes resulting from IMF-prescribed adjustment policies
    • October and December 2002 saw similar protests
  • Argentina
    • Up to 80,000 protested against the IMF, in May 2000.
    • Over 7.2 million workers support a 24 hour general strike in defiance of the new IMF-prescribed labour laws, June 2000.
    • July and August 2001 saw at least 100,000 people protest at further IMF-related measures that would lead to large pay cuts.
    • December 2001, saw two days of violent protests at further austerity measures, and economic meltdown that brought down the government. 16 people are said to have been killed. (See also report from Radio Netherlands).
    • Protests, both peaceful and violent continued throughout 2002
  • Australia
    • During the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, there have been various protests to do with globalization issues.
    • September 11, 2000 saw from 10,000 to 30,000 protestors in Melbourne at the World Economic Forum. There were subsequent protests on other days with turnouts in the mid thousands.
    • A wave of protests have started at different events related to aspects of current forms of globalization
  • Bangladesh
  • Belgium
  • Benin
  • Bolivia (protests in April 2000 led to some bizarre media coverage.)
  • Brazil
    • As reported by the World Development Movement (WDM), “[a] referendum asking whether Brazil should discontinue IMF reforms is backed by more than a million people. Organised by the National Council of Bishops and Jubilee 2000, the ‘unofficial’ referendum is a marked success.”
    • The WDM report continues, that on “7 September [2000], to mark the end of six days of voting and Brazil’s Independence Day, a demonstration draws thousands of protesters under the banner of Cry of the Excluded. All the main cities in Brazil are ‘crammed’, say reports, with more than 100,000 people in Sao Paulo. The Government had previously called the [above-mentioned] referendum ‘stupid’ and an isolated project undertaken by ‘minorities’.” (emphasis added)
    • To coincide with the annual World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland, where multinational corporations get to meet, and have access to world political leaders, Porto Alegre in Brazil, at the end of January 2001 saw a World Social Forum meeting attended by over 10,000 people. The goal was to discuss alternatives to the current forms of globalization.
    • February 2002 saw even more than 2001, with some 51,000 people turning up at Porto Alegre.
    • July 2001 saw police themselves protest and strike for over 12 days in some regions. Troops were deployed from a resulting breakdown of law and order. Some 30 people were killed.
  • Canada, Quebec was the center for protests on the Free Trade of the Americas. It represented protests from throughout the Americas. (See this site’s section on the FTAA for more.)
  • Colombia
    • August 2000 saw 15,000 workers go on protest and strike regarding IMF’s loan conditions requiring further opening up of the economy and cutting back on social provisions and jobs.
    • In August 2001, thousands of small farmers across the country protest at impact of food imports and lack of help from government.
    • Throughout 2002 there were protests at changes resulting from IMF prescriptions.
  • Costa Rica in March 2000, 10,000 people protested at IMF-prescribed policies of privatization, and faced police brutality in the process.
  • Czech Republic (World Bank and IMF meetings in Prague, end of September, 2000)
    • Estimates vary from 20,000 protestors expected to perhaps 50,000 that actually turned out.
    • As with other places, heavy security response and police brutality was in effect, as predicted.
    • Protests in other regions of the world coincided with this — for example, in the U.S. in all 50 states, there were protests — not that the mainstream media would have described it in much detail.
    • The Prague protests disrupted the IMF and World Bank meetings enough to end the meetings a day early.
    • The Prague IndyMedia Center has much more detail.
  • Ecuador
    • Marches at the beginning of 2000, saw over 40,000 indigenous people protesting US and IMF-prescribed reforms (resulting in 35,000 military personnel and police being deployed).
    • 10,000 protested, also in January, at the fear of dollarization of their economy (which became reality in September, 2000)
    • There was even a coup attempt that month.
    • Numerous strikes, protests and uprisings occurred throughout the first half of 2000 due to IMF reforms. Numbers were in the tens of thousands. (On one occasion, 30,000 doctors were part of a protest).
    • The dollarization and other US/IMF-prescribed policies have left many problems in their wake and protests etc are sure to continue.
    • The above-mentioned WDM report provides more detail for 2000, as well as their 2001 report.
    • In February 2001, a state of emergency was declared amidst enormous indigenous uprising demanding an end to violence and a repeal of economic policies which have brought the country to the brink of destruction.
    • Protests at the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) resulted in tens of thousands of protestors from around Latin America, and in a somewhat bizarre turn of events, after initial police crackdown and violence, some police turned around to support protestors calls to have delegates hear them.
    • In 2002 the IMF withheld new credit to Ecuador because it decided that just 10 percent of oil revenues would go towards health and education, after public pressure.
  • El Salvador saw a four-month strike by the Social Security Union at impacts of IMF-backed privatization plans of the country’s health service, including protests by some 12,000 doctors and workers, as reported by WDM.
  • France has seen many, many protests related to globalization in the past years. More recently, during the G8 Summit in the spa town of Evian, an estimated 100,000 protesters gathered between June 1 and 3, 2003.
  • Germany
  • Hawaii in May 2001, saw thousands protest at the Asia Development Bank and its policies, similar to those of the World Bank and IMF.
  • Honduras. Numerous IMF-prescribed cut backs and privatizations policies have been protested against. For example:
    • In August 2000, thousands of civil servants went on strike for 24 hours disrupting education, transport and health services. The strikers were opposing plans by the administration of President Carlos Flores to privatize the electricity, telecommunications and social security sectors as required by the International Monetary Fund.
    • In March 2002 around 2,000 protested against IMF neoliberal policies, and November 2002 saw more protests.
  • India
    • November 30, 1999
    • There were some instances in 2000 where there were forced and violent attempts to stop protestors gathering or forming.
    • More than a million electricity workers protested for a day in December 2000 against a proposed bill that follows “World Bank prescriptions” to privatize the power sector in India.
    • Bhopal in January 2001 saw 150 people were arrested in Bhopal while marching against World Bank and Asian Development Bank policies.
    • A WDM report, mentioned above reports that in July 2001 “Ten million state employees go on general strike against privatisation plans and call for a halt to IMF, World Bank and WTO policies. A union spokesperson said that the Government policy of backing globalisation is selling the country to the multinational companies and foreign interests, adding that: ‘This will serve as a warning to the Government against their anti-worker polices.’”
    • WMD also reported that many protests occured in 2002 as well.
    • Some 15,000 people attended an Asian Social Forum, in Hyderbad. It was a gathering of various movements, NGOs and activists to discuss various issues, at the beginning of January, 2003.
  • Indonesia has suffered badly from the global financial crisis that hit in 1997. Since then, there have been numerous protests, both peaceful and violent, many times.
  • Italy has seen numerous protests, including
    • Naples saw 20,000 protestors in March 18th, 2001.
    • May Day parades in 2001
    • The G8 Summit in 2001, Genoa, saw many protestors turn up. At least one demonstrator was killed by violent police crackdown. Estimates vary from 100,000 to 200,000 protestors.
    • Some 2 million protested in Rome, March 23, 2002, for what was initially a labor-based movement and protest but grew to include a protest against political violence as well.
  • Kenya has seen many protests on IMF conditionalities.
  • Malawi too has seen protests on IMF conditions, that have encouraged keeping wages down and suggested making public sector access more attractive to potential buyers.
  • Mexico has seen numerous protests not limited to the following which are just examples:
    • At first sounding more like local protests, but actually have a more global aspect to it is, the struggle of the Zapatistas in Chiapas. While fighting for their indigenous rights (against military crackdowns which human rights groups have heavily criticized), they have seen the effects of the current form of globalization on them very sharply, as this translation from the leader of the Zapatista National Liberation Army shows.
    • August 8th 2001, saw thousands of farmers (approximately 5000) march in protest of free trade and globalization’s effects on them and destroying self sufficiency in food production, while instead growing food to be exported instead.
    • September 2001 saw Mexico City roads brought to a standstill by protests at tax-increases that burden the poor further.
  • Morocco saw general strikes by health care and education workers towards the end of 2001, at impacts of IMF adjustment policies. Strikes also happened in 2002 by workers in other sectors.
  • Mozambique saw protests in August 2001 at World Bank backed structuring programs.
  • Nepal saw protests in July 2001 at World Bank and Asia Development Bank backed policies
  • Nicaragua saw protests in March 2002 at utility privatisations and price hikes.
  • Nigera has seen many protests on the IMF austerity measures, and violent crackdown as well.
  • Pakistan has seen protests from what has been regarded as policies formulated by the dictates of the IMF and World Bank.
  • Papua New Guinea saw a week long protest in June 2001, with the death of at least 3 people and 13 injured. Protests were at IMF/World Bank austerity measures.
  • Paraguay has seen protests that have also been met with police violence. At least one person was killed by police in 2002, for example. IMF reforms are heavily criticized there.
  • Peru saw protests in March 2001 from as many as 5000 people protesting effects of a mining project operated by a US firm and the World Bank. 2002 saw many protests as well with at least one person killed as a result. While public concern and opposition to IMF policies was noted by the IMF itself, the IMF still encouraged continuation of their reform policies.
  • Philippines
  • Russia
  • South Africa
    • Numerous protests have occured, especially throughout 2000. The above-mentioned WDM report also mentions that “One of the protesters, Trevor Ngwane, a city councillor from the Soweto township, says, ‘Many of those debts were used to buy weapons and suppress the people during apartheid. So we are paying twice for it - once with our lives, and now with an inability to fund critical social services. Instead of building health clinics the Government is selling off zoos and libraries to stay in the good graces of the IMF.’”
    • In August 2001, the Congress of South African Trade Unions claimed over 5 million workers participated in strikes against privatization plans pushed forward by the IMF.
    • During the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, at the end of August 2002 to beginning of September, there were many protests each day, ranging from 15,000 to 40,000 people, on all sorts of issues related to globalization and development. (See also this site’s section on the World Summit for more on this and other issues.)
  • South Korea.
    • October 2000 has seen over 20,000 protest about globalization at an Asia Europe meeting.
    • May and June 2001 see 20,000 to 50,000 people protest at various restructuring plans encouraged by the IMF.
    • November 2001 also sees such protests at work conditions.
    • A nation-wide strike resulted when 31,000 metal workers and chemical employees staged a four-hour strike on May 22 2002. Workers demanded a shorter working week, improved working conditions, and an end to government crackdown on union activities. The strike was coordinated in response to the IMF’s announcement that it might upgrade its 5% economic growth prediction for the country.
    • Throughtout 2002, tens to hundreds of thousands protested at various service cut backs and other issues.
  • Spain
    • March 16, 2002 saw some 500,000 people protest in Barcelona against issues relating to corporatization and globalization in Europe.
  • Switzerland
    • At the Davos meeting in 2000 the mainstream media was urged to spread the message of free trade. Numerous protests and violence was seen.
    • At the beginning of 2001 similar events occured. However, in Brazil, to conincide with the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, a World Social Summit has held, which didn’t get as much attention in the mainstream, but drew huge crowds from all over the world, (as mentioned above in the Brazil bullet point).
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
    • September 2000 saw protests where the IMF was pressing for higher energy prices, wage “control” and tax reform.
    • March 2001 saw thousands protest at government, IMF and World Bank bailout plans.
  • United Kingdom has seen many protests throughout the years, including the June 18 campaign (mentioned below), the protests on May Day, in 2001, etc.
  • United States has also seen many protests.
    • Some have made international news such as the Seattle protests against the WTO in 1999 and the Washington D.C. protests against the IMF and World Bank policies in 2000.
    • There have also been other protests throughout the various U.S. cities which have been less mentioned.
    • In February 2002, New York saw some 5,000 to 15,000 protestors converge on the World Economic Forum.
    • April 2002 saw more protests in D.C. against IMF and World Bank policies and U.S. militarism in the wake of the September 11, 2001 tragedy. Estimates range from 75,000 to 200,000 protestors. In contrast to the April 2000 violence, there was little in April 2002.
    • November 2003 saw tens of thousands protest at the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA) in Miami. The police’s excessive use of force was highly controversial.
  • Uruguay saw the largest protests in a decade in 2003, when IMF imposed reforms saw the country's economy go close to ruin.
  • Venezuela. On 27 February 1989, structural changes imposed by the IMF were followed by a popular uprising (the caracazo), but was put down with 4,000 dead.
  • Zambia. In 2002, as thousands faced food shortages, the IMF insisted on further cutbacks and denied vital loans until that happened.
  • Recent G8 Summits
  • The June 18 campaign in 1999 was another highly publicized event, with biased media reporting. This was another international protest, where many major cities in the world on the same day saw large protests. In fact, as this report shows, the June 18 protests occurred all over the world, including:
    • Argentina
    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Bangladesh
    • Basque country
    • Belarus
    • Brasil
    • Canada
    • Catalonia
    • Chile
    • Colombia
    • Czech republic
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Israel
    • Italy
    • Malaysia
    • Malta
    • Mexico
    • Netherlands
    • Nepal
    • Nigeria
    • Pakistan
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • Senegal
    • South Africa
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Thailand
    • UK
    • Uruguay
    • USA
    • Zimbabwe

    Note that in many of these countries, the protests were in numerous cities.

  • May Day protests, 2001 saw many May Day protests around the world, as the previous link from the Guardian, and their interactive guide reports:
    • Australia
    • Canada
    • China
    • Cuba
    • France
    • Germany
    • Indonesia
    • Italy
    • New Zealand
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Russia
    • South Korea
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • United States of America

    Note that in many of these countries, the protests were in numerous cities.

  • With the 2001 WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar where a new round of neoliberal free trade talks are negotiated, there have been protests around the world. In Doha itself there has been limited protests because of repressive laws. (You can see this site’s section on Doha for more details about the talks itself.) Summarizing from Protest.net, protests have occurred in at least the following places:
    • Australia
    • Austria
    • Bangladesh
    • Belgium
    • Bolivia
    • Brazil
    • Canada
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Qatar
    • Hong Kong
    • India
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Lebanon
    • Netherlands
    • Nigeria
    • Norway
    • Philippines
    • South Korea
    • Portugal
    • Russia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Thailand
    • Tunisia
    • Turkey
    • UK
    • U.S.

    Here too, protests occurred in numerous cities within these countries.

  • As Global Exchange reports (in September 2001), “Since 1976, at least 100 protests against [International Monetary] Fund and [World] Bank policies have occurred in dozens of countries around the world ... Clearly, ordinary citizens are outraged with the institutions' policies. The continued adoption of those policies reveals the democracy disconnect fostered by the IMF and the World Bank.” They further provide just a partial list of some of those countries in order of year, where protests have occurred since 1976. That list is reproduced here:
    Jul 1976Peru
    Jan 1977Egypt
    Sep 1978Ghana
    Jan 1979Jamaica
    Apr 1979Liberia
    Feb 1980Philippines
    May 1980Zaire
    Jul 1980Turkey
    Jun 1981Morocco
    Aug 1981Sierra Leone
    Jan 1982Sudan
    Mar 1982Argentina
    Oct 1982Ecuador
    Oct 1982Chile
    Mar 1983Bolivia
    Apr 1983Brazil
    Oct 1983Panama
    Jan 1984Tunisia
    Apr 1984Dominican Rep.
    Jan 1985Jamaica
    Mar 1985Bolivia
    Mar 1985Zaire
    May 1985Haiti
    May 1985El Salvador
    Aug 1985Costa Rica
    Sep 1985Guatemala
    Sep 1985Bolivia
    Feb 1986Mexico
    May 1986Nigeria
    Sep 1986Bolivia
    Nov 1986Yugoslavia
    Jan 1987Zambia
    Jan 1987Sierra Leone
    Mar 1987Poland
    Mar 1987Ghana
    Mar 1987Ecuador
    Oct 1987Ecuador
    Nov 1987Algeria
    Nov 1987Romania
    Nov 1987Sudan
    Apr 1988Nigeria
    Jun 1988Ghana
    Aug 1988Hungary
    Oct 1988Algeria
    Jan 1989Benin
    Feb 1989Venezuela
    Apr 1989Jordan
    Apr 1989Benin
    May 1989Argentina
    May 1989Nigeria
    Feb 1990Ivory Coast
    Feb 1990Niger
    Mar 1990Nigeria
    Jun 1990Zambia
    Jul 1990Trinidad
    Dec 1990Uganda
    Dec 1990Morocco
    May 1991Nigeria
    Aug 1991Iran
    Feb 1992Albania
    Feb 1992Venezuela
    Feb 1992India
    Apr 1992Nepal
    May 1992Zimbabwe
    May 1992Nigeria
    Dec 1992India
    Oct 1993India
    Oct 1993Russia
    Jan 1994Mexico
    May 1994Uganda
    Jun 1994Gabon
    Jul 1995Ecuador
    Nov 1995Kenya
    Feb 1997South Africa
    May 1998Indonesia
    Feb 1999Romania
    Apr 1999Mexico
    May 1999Argentina
    Jul 1999Ecuador
    Dec 1999Argentina
    Jan 2000Ecuador
    Mar 2000Costa Rica
    Apr 2000Bolivia
    Apr 2000Argentina
    Apr 2000Kenya
    Apr 2000Zambia
    May 2000South Africa
    May 2000Turkey
    May 2000Argentina
    May 2000India
    May 2000Malawi
    May 2000Russia
    Jun 2000Nigeria
    Jun 2000Paraguay
    Jun 2000Argentina
    Jun 2000Ecuador
    Aug 2000Columbia
    Aug 2000Honduras
    Sep 2000Brazil
    Feb 2001Ecuador
    Mar 2001Argentina
    Mar 2001Bolivia
    Mar 2001Paraguay
    Apr 2001Argentina

These are just a small number of examples. It is not a complete list. (See links below for more detailed coverage of protests and more thorough examples.) Protests are likely going to continue around the globe if policies continue along the way they are. (And suppressions or crackdowns are equally likely — ironically by the policing forces that are meant to uphold people’s rights, who instead are and will be upholding and protecting the rights of the elite and power holders. The mainstream media too is likely to continue its negative portrayal, as it affects them directly as well.)

In addition, as the World Development Movement notes, a number of protests are directed at government policies, sometimes when people do not realize that the government is pressured by the IMF/World Bank to follow certain policies. In effect, these influential institutions face less accountability:

Citizens in developing countries are increasingly linking domestic economic policies to the IMF and World Bank agenda.... Yet, despite this trend, people remain detached from these unaccountable international institutions and protest is still predominantly directed at national institutions, which are responsible for implementing the policies domestically.

International institutions have no accountability to citizens of developing countries.... At best, the IMF says it offers “advice” to governments to continue building the necessary political support for reforms, and at worst they distance themselves completely from failed programmes, blaming inadequate political will, corruption or “external” economic factors like commodity price collapse (conveniently ignoring the role IMF and World Bank policies played in encouraging increased production and exports leading to oversupply and depressed prices).

Mark Ellis-Jones, States of unrest III: Resistance to IMF and World Bank policies in poor countries, World Development Movement, April 2003

And despite repeated pressure and protest around the world, organizations such as the IMF and World Bank “stubbornly persist in pushing these policies onto the poorest countries no matter what the political, social and economic circumstances.” Protest seems inevitable, as this “seemingly belligerent adherence to economic orthodoxy, rather than examining real-world evidence and circumstances, and the control that these institutions still wield over poverty reduction strategies and economic policies, means that ‘polite discourse’ and ‘civil society consultation’ can have limited impact. For people at the sharp end of these policies, protest has remained the most effective opposition.”

The mainstream media in western nations, however, have hardly provided any coverage of such protests. Or, if they have in some cases, they have usually been in an isolated context, without more deeper discussions that may also see similarities with other protests around the world. Because a lot of policies around the world are in some ways a result of the influence and ability of more powerful nations to affect economic and political decisions, the people of these more powerful nations don’t get to see the impacts their leaders have around the world, and the faceless majority of humanity continue to live in poverty and misery while the fortunate few in the wealthier parts of the world are unwittingly supporting such policies.

In fact, just a few months after writing the previous paragraph, amongst other places, we have seen police crackdowns in Davos, Switzerland, at the beginning of 2001 at the annual World Economic Forum and soon after that it was mentioned that the next WTO meeting would be held in Qatar so that protestors would not have a chance of voicing their concerns (because Qatar has oppressive laws about such things). Indeed, the next round did take place and developing countries lost out a lot. Unfortunately this pattern is likely to continue.

With the September 11 2001 tragedy, the aftermath and resulting “war on terror” has also muted the anti-corporate globalization protests somewhat. Furthermore, some politicians have tried to equate being critical of “free trade” (which is not really “free”) as amounting to being against freedom and hence terrorist! This approach was especially prominent during the Doha WTO meeting. As another example, while the European Union has repeatedly attempted to alay fears that the increasing measures against terrorism will not be used as an excuse to crack down on political activism, Spain seems to be suggesting a proposal to do just that, trying to indirectly equate anti-corporate globalization activism with terrorism.

Protestors Are Labeled as Anti-Poor!

With such a growing movement world-wide, especially in the home nations of the powerful nations, the mainstream media and politicians that are supportive of current globalization policies are trying to discredit the protestors in various ways. One way has been to actually turn the protestors arguments against themselves. That is, while the protestors argue that the policies of the powerful and of pushing globalization — in its current form — is deepening poverty, the politicians, business leaders, media commentators instead are saying that instead it is the protestors who want the poor to remain poor.

There is a serious ideological backlash [from the protests]. How can the powers regroup after a fiasco like Seattle? The first ploy is to accuse opponents of being “enemies of the poor”, a ploy used by London’s Financial Times and The Economist, and by Mike Moore, director-general of the World Trade Organisation, who said in Geneva “these protesters make me want to vomit”. Paul Krugman, economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and media darling, added: “The anti-globalisation movement already has a remarkable track record of hurting the very people and causes it claims to champion.” Of the demonstrators in Geneva, he said: “Whatever their intentions, they were doing their best to make the poor even poorer” ... The theme was taken up on the eve of Genoa by President George W Bush, in a statement to Le Monde: “The demonstrators are condemning people to poverty”.

Susan George, Democracy at the barricades, Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2001.

Susan George, director of a Dutch organization, Transnational Institute, quoted above is a prominent activist and political scientist. She goes on to point out in the same article that other “ploys” to discredit opponents include:

  • Attempting to discrediting the protesting organizations and attacking their legitimacy.
  • To “repeat that the protesters don’t know what they are talking about, to label them and their organisations ‘opportunist’ or ‘alarmist’”

On the point above about attacking the legitimacy of protestors, one of the main concerns about the current forms of globalization that has led to so many protests has been the lack of citizen’s democratic participation in decisions of international economics and trade policy. As a result, many are protesting. Some have formed groups and organizations for this purpose, while others have just supported various groups. Suggesting that such people have no right to represent people, is like almost saying people should not be allowed to protest any feelings of injustice!

George also points out that government and business organizations have gone through incredible means to prevent or handle protests, such as:

  • Surveillance
  • Trying to disrupt the funding chain
  • Planning to hold future meetings in locations that are even more remote or secure
  • Violent crackdown
  • etc

This, she suggests, “prove that the opponents of corporate-led globalisation are making a real impact - why otherwise would the masters of the universe bother with them? But that is to underestimate the importance international capital attaches to this battle. Its hatred of democracy has never been so clearly displayed. It must, by fair means or foul, establish the legitimacy of its domination before any more shocks. (From this point of view, the elections of Bush and of Silvio Berlusconi are heaven-sent.) Social movements have to watch their step now, especially since Genoa. They are entering a minefield.”

[And just a month or so after Susan George wrote the above, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. resulted in a “War on Terrorism”, where “terrorism” seems to have been loosely defined, to the extent that the global movements against corporate globalization have also been quietened.]

That so many have protested in so many places around the world is also an indication that there is wide frustration at current policies. One wouldn’t go to the streets to protest to keep the poor in poverty. For that, they would get jobs in Washington, D.C, or Wall Street!

We have seen listed above just some examples of places around the world where protests have occured, yet, for example at the G8 Summit in Genoa, political and business leaders tried to additionally taint the image of protestors from wealthier nations. Yet, protestors who have highlighted the injustices around the world that their own nation has contributed to, have been an important part of this global protest movement.

Both [President George] Bush and [New York Times columnist, Thomas] Friedman not only deliberately misrepresented the protesters and their aims [when claiming the protestors wanted the poor to remain poor,] but, more important, misrepresented what the current form of globalization is doing to the world’s poor. Indeed, the global elite would not be making even the modest gestures they offered over the weekend to the poor if it were not for the pressures from the protesters in the rich countries (since they find it easier to ignore — or shoot — protesters in the poor countries).

The protesters (regardless of their tactics) were not fooled by the G-8 leaders' protestations [at the G8 summit in Genoa] of concerns for the poor. Most of the public in the industrial countries is not likely to be duped either. “One hundred thousand people don’t get upset unless there is a problem in their hearts and spirits,” French president Jacques Chirac said after hearing of the police killing of protester Carlo Giuliani, the son of an Italian labor union leader. More than 100,000 people are upset, and the problem is not just in their hearts and minds but in the system of corporate globalization that has delivered so much to the world’s rich and so little to the poor.

David Moberg, The real enemies of the poor, Salon.com magazine, July 23, 2001

The current mainstream economic and political ideology is so engrained into the system that many leaders are likely to honestly feel that the system is the best way to alleviate poverty and improve standards. J.W. Smith, who has done immense research in how wasteful and violent this historic system has been, points out that similar achievements in standards could have been met for all the world with far less waste, environmental degradation, inequality etc, and is worth quoting here for that deeper perspective:

Although in [the] early years the power brokers knew they were destroying others' tools of production (industrial capital) in the ongoing battle for economic territory, trade has now become so complex that few of today’s powerful are aware of the waste and destruction created by the continuation of this neo-mercantalist struggle for markets. Instead, they feel that it is they who are responsible for the world’s improving standards of living and that they are defending not only their rights but everybody’s rights.

This illusion is possible because in the battle to monopolize society’s productive tools and the wealth they produce, industrial capital has become so productive that — even as capital, resources, and labor are indiscriminately consumed — living standards in the over-capitalized nations have continued to improve. And societies are so accustomed to long struggles for improved living standards that to think it could be done much faster seems irrational.

J.W. Smith, The World’s Wasted Wealth 2, (Institute for Economic Democracy, 1994), p. 158.

Protestors Are Labeled as Anti-Trade and Anti-International

The (largely corporate-owned or influenced) mainstream media have often criticized the protestors for being anti-trade or against international cooperation and hence anti people, or against giving a chance for the poor to have a decent chance for a standard living. Yet, protestors are typically crying out for such social justice, for fairer international trade or some sort of internationalism and globalism that is just, democratic, cooperative and improves social justice, chances for all people. Sometimes such diverse groups of people involved will of course mean that there are conflicting suggestions for solutions, while others may not necessarily have suggestions but are outraged or affected so much by the current system, that they have come out to voice their concerns.

However, it seems as though the corporate-owned media assume that the current form of globalization (i.e. corporate-led) is the only way (and this is more anti-people than protestors have ever been). It is already shown that this is increasing disparities (which have been predicted by many over a number of years). Protestors are therefore voicing their concerns to these issues.

Another label often inappropriately applied to this loose global social justice movement is “anti-globalization”. That is, it seems correct when globalization is assumed to be corporate globalization, but in terms of globalization per se, it is a little misleading. That is, most are for a form of globalization where different cultures can come together, where people from different regions can exchange, trade, communicate, participate in real democracy, etc. But, this alone implies that there are many different forms of “globalization”, and, the concerns of these diverse protest movements, is that corporate globalization is not leading to the desired globalization that could benefit most of humanity.

Of course, many that support the current form of globalization will also support the opinion that it improves the chance of poverty, etc. While many may genuinely believe it, as shown throughout this site, and through the various links to other web sites, there is real criticism, and often that the reality does not match the rhetoric. As a result, movements demanding more social justice, real accountability, real poverty alleviation are appearing in many parts of the world.

Susan George, mentioned above, is worth quoting again, but from a different speech, on various aspects of the social or citizens' movement:

To the increasing irritation of the people concerned, the media constantly refer to them collectively as “NGOs” or, worse, as “anti-globalisation”. Some, though by no means all participants do belong to Non-Governmental Organisations with a single-issue focus [Greenpeace, Amnesty, Jubilee, Via Campesina, etc.]. The movement itself is, however, multi-focus and inclusive. It is concerned with the world: omnipresence of corporate rule, the rampages of financial markets, ecological destruction, maldistribution of wealth and power, international institutions constantly overstepping their mandates and lack of international democracy. The label “anti-globalisation” is at best a contradiction, at worst a slander.

As has been made clear, these forces call themselves the “social” or “citizens’ movement”. They are opposed to market-driven corporate globalisation but they are not “anti-globalisation” per se, which would be pointless: clearly technology and travel are bringing us closer together and this is all to the good. They are, instead, anti-inequity, anti-poverty, anti-injustice as well as pro-solidarity, pro-environment and pro-democracy.

...

These broad coalitions may not agree on every detail of every issue but they share the basics. They refuse the “Washington Consensus” vision of how the world should work. Often unjustly accused of “having nothing to propose”, they are, on the contrary, constantly refining their arguments and their counter-proposals.

Susan George, The Global Citizens Movement: A New Actor For a New Politics, Spech given at the Conference on Reshaping Globalisation: Multilateral Dialogues and New Policy Initiatives, Central European University, 30 August 2001

It is not a simple black and white issue as the mainstream often like to present of either you are for an issue or against that issue. It has many complexities and perspectives.

There is an additional aspect the media have concentrated on disproportionately although not realized that it is a concern with the protests. That is, in the US especially, elements of the Right Wing have been also opposing globalization and the progressive protestors risk forming a dangerous alliance with them. The Right Wing have a more isolationist agenda that the media attributes to all the protestors. While that is a concern and something most would oppose, the vast majority of protestors in Seattle and D.C. for example, have been progressive people concerned at the social welfare and basic human (i.e economic and social as well as civil and political) rights for those affected.

In the industrialized countries, there is the additional concern for one’s own job moving overseas which has also led to more people voicing their concerns. As globalization in its current form continues, and IMF/World Bank policies continue to open up developing countries and force their wages and resources to become cheaper and cheaper, this puts a downward pressure on wages in the western countries as well (because corporations move to those cheaper areas, where they can take advantage of the exploitation that can be done). Hence while many in developed nations may have additional reasons to join in the protests, the voices of protestors from developed and developing countries are at the same concern — the effects of overly corporate-led forms of globalization on the society, on democracy, on the environment and so on.

To developing countries, the effects are much worse as standards are systematically reduced. The chance of improvement for most people around the world, for an equitable share and chance are all becoming less likely as the dependency and influence of outside forces take control over their lives, directly or indirectly.

In developing countries especially, many are aware of the geopolitical processes at play, as many have lived through struggles against imperialism and colonialism. However, as the effects of western policies are now also affecting a large number of citizens in their own countries, protests are getting louder.

While there may be elements of nationalism and anti-internationalism involved, by far the largest factor is fairness, equity, social justice, environmental, democracy, accountability, basic rights etc. in international trade as international policies affects domestic policies.

Violence and media fixation on it

The mainstream media, when it has covered such protests in placed like Seattle, Washington D.C and other venues for international meetings, have often concentrated on the violence that has unfortunately accompanied the protestors, who, by the far majority are peaceful protestors. The violence is a shame, as it detracts attention from the important issues that protestors are raising, and even strengthens the legitimacy of the institutions being criticized.

In some cases, the violence has been thought to have been started by undercover police and others to discredit the protestors. This is not a new tactic, nor should it be a shocking “accusation”. However, that some more militant groups protesting against the current forms of globalization have been able to add to this violence has served to promote a more negative image of the purpose of the protests to the wider audience.

And even then, certain aspects of violence doesn’t get reported:

Apparently the BBC refused to run live footage of the police assault the IMC [Independent Media Center] offered to supply them while it was happening because they claimed the event was “unconfirmed”!

Communique from NYC-Ya Basta and NYC Direct Action Network on violence and raid on the Independent Media Center during the G8 Summit, Genoa, Italy, July 2001

Additionally, as the title of an article by journalist John Pilger says, “The violence of a few protesters in Gothenburg is trivial. Blair runs a violent government, which sells lethal weapons.” That is, in the name of free trade, British Prime Minister and others sell arms and so forth which do far more damage, while protestors are at least concerned about social justice issues!

And, on the issue of political awareness being raised, and resulting in mass protests, with respect to the violence, in the above article, John Pilger finishes with:

Certainly, let us discuss violence. Blair runs a violent government. He knowingly attacked civilians with cluster bombs in Yugoslavia, killing children caught in the open. His devotion to “free trade” involves selling lethal weapons, including hand guns, to countries with repressive regimes and internal conflict. Supported by only 25 per cent of the British public, his government barely has legitimacy. The anger and frustration of non-voters and voters alike is shared across the world and by the young on the streets. Thanks to them, real politics are back.

John Pilger, The violence of a few protesters in Gothenburg is trivial. Blair runs a violent government, which sells lethal weapons, June 25, 2001

In detailing many types of protests and rebellions throughout recent centuries, professor of anthropology, Richard Robbins, suggests that the way the world system is structured, protests could unfortunately be considered a “normal” state of affairs:

There has been a tendency for social scientists and others to see [protests, riot or even revolt as] a breakdown of some sort in the social order. So-called functional theories of protest assumed that in the normal workings of society protest is unnecessary and unhealthy. Order, rather than conflict is the normal state of affairs. According to this popular framework, when protest, especially violent protest is present, we will find uprooted, marginal, and disorganized people....

Another perspective, however, suggests that the constant changes inherent in capitalist production, distribution, and consumption makes conflict inevitable: there are always changes taking place in modes of production and organization of labor, in market mechanisms, techological innovation, and so forth. Since all such changes bring some form of social and economic dislocation, we can expect protest to be the “normal” state of affairs. Furthermore, protests are not spontaneous uprisings but movements that bring together in organized fashion people who share certain interests, and who organize to express those interests. Generally, these movements develop from sustained resistance of some sort. Finally, when such movements involve violence, the violence is generally initiated by those against whom the protests is directed. Thus while a labor strike may turn violent, in most cases the violence is initiated by the government, company or private militia, or police.

Richard H. Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 2002), pp. 282 - 283

(See also Robbins, quoted above, from pages 281 to 363 for more details on the aspects of resistance in recent centuries, and their causes and relationships to economic systems.)

From direct democratic protests to virtual democracy

Due to the fear of a large protestor turnout in Barcelona, Spain, the World Bank cancelled a June 2001 global meeting there and “shifted it to the internet” as pointed out out by Norman Solomon. The fears of public protests seem to require a virtual democracy rather than a real one!

Protest organizers are derisive about the Bank’s media spin: “The representatives of the globalized capitalism feel threatened by the popular movements against globalization. They, who meet in towers surrounded by walls and soldiers in order to stay apart from the people whom they oppress, wish to appear as victims. They, who have at their disposal the resources of the planet, complain that those who have nothing wanted to have their voice heard.” ... In any struggle that concentrates on a battlefield of high-tech communications, the long-term advantages are heavily weighted toward institutions with billions of dollars behind them. Whatever our hopes, no technology can make up for a lack of democracy.

Norman Solomon, Simulating Democracy Can Be A Virtual Breeze, Media Beat, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, May 24, 2001

Ironically, these sorts of measures could become more common if there is more continued protest and concern at how these large institutions and others affect the lives of people around the world.

Police Brutality and Other Civil Rights Violations Ignored

A million dollar bail for walking down the street with a cell phone during a demonstration. Passports taken and political activity forbidden because of a misdemeanor act of civil disobedience. The big boys don’t like to be messed with, whether they are bombing the s[#$!] out of a Third World country or meeting in luxury hotels and convention centers to keep the reins of the world economy in their little paws. There’s growing, worldwide opposition to corporate global pillage. The response, typical of autocratic regimes, is the criminalization of dissent.

The Criminalization of Dissent, Special Report, FreeSpeech.org

The media has also ignored the often brutal police and law enforcement crackdowns. Tactics have included:

  • torture
  • physical and sexual violence
  • detaining suspects without proof
  • not providing food or water or access to lawyers
  • absurd bails
  • raiding protests groups and alternative and independent media centers
  • and so on.

And this isn’t just in countries where civil rights are not as prominent. These are some of the same problems that have occurred in the United States where such rights are typically prominent.

Another tactic used has been to get the police to infiltrate as “anarchists” as happened in Prague, Seattle, Genoa, and Miami (during the FTAA protests in November 2003), for example. As mentioned above, these tactics cannot unfortunately be surprising. Even the School of the Americas, a U.S. military training school has advocated things like using torture, blaming the opponents and so on, as described in this web site’s sections on the Arms Trade.

In January 2003, it was revealed that Police in Genoa admitted “to fabricating evidence against globalization activists in an attempt to justify police brutality during protests at the July 2001 G8 Summit” as revealed by media watch-dog group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). Yet there has been hardly any media reporting (almost none in the U.S. and a little bit in Europe) of it two to three days after the revalation. They point out that:

Police in Genoa, Italy have admitted to fabricating evidence against globalization activists in an attempt to justify police brutality during protests at the July 2001 G8 Summit. In searches of the Nexis database, FAIR has been unable to find a single mention of this development in any major U.S. newspapers or magazines, national television news shows or wire service stories.

... [An earlier] story by Carroll (Guardian [UK], 7/23/01) focused on allegations that segments of the supposedly anarchist "black block" in Genoa — the group most often held up as proof that globalization activists are violent — were in fact provocateurs from European security forces. Groups of black-clad people "burned buildings, ransacked shops and attacked banks with crowbars and scaffolding" during the protests, reported Carroll. Some attacked journalists, "smashing their equipment and tearing up their notebooks." Yet "few, if any" of these people were arrested, and local activists seemed not to know the people involved.

Media Missing New Evidence About Genoa Violence, Fairness and Accuaracy In Reporting, January 10, 2003

In some places, including the US, where there has been an expected large turnout in public protests, the local police have often had to quickly increase their numbers that are present. This itself has sometimes not helped as often the rushed increase leads to more armed, yet untrained police in confrontational situations. The protests in Miami, November 2003, against the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), is a recent example where excessive force was used by police.

The G8 Summit for 2001 in Genoa, Italy also saw a protestor killed by Italian police. While not the first death (for example, 4000 were killed in Venezuela in 1989, as mentioned above), it was one of the first caught on camera for the world to see.

No action by [the 2001 Genoa, Italy] G8 summit, no matter how noble in rhetoric or intent, will erase the fact that the economic policies promoted by the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia are now so unpopular that their gatherings must be “protected” with deadly police violence. ... If the croupiers of corporate capital really believe that restructuring the global economy to limit protections for workers, the environment and human rights represents a positive development, why must they employ deadly force to defend the meetings at which they plot their warped vision of “progress”?

John Nicols, One dead, 80 injured in Genoa: The violent defense of indefensible policies, Online Beat, The Nation Magazine, July 20, 2001.

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  • by Anup Shah
  • Created: Sunday, September 17, 2000
  • Last Updated: Monday, November 07, 2011

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Document Revision History

DateReason
November 7, 2011Added new section looking at the recent protests following the 2008 global financial crisis. The older section, last updated November 25, 2003 on global protests against neoliberalism is preserved further below.

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