The people battle the power: a year of civil unrest


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

People in Hong Kong protest the government.

Sofia Rendon

Over the course of 2019, hundreds of protests have broken out all across the world by everyday citizens calling for change. These riots, strikes, or marches have started for several reasons, ranging from a struggling economy to governments full of corruption. While some of these demonstrations have achieved their goals, many still face days full of flaming streets and screaming skies.

Possibly the biggest protest this year has been the protests in Hong-Kong. What first started as the combined anger against a proposed bill that would extradite criminals from Hong-Kong to mainland China has now turned into over 20 weeks of protests. Since then, the protesters have made of list of demands:

  • The full withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill
  • The government to not use the word “riot” when speaking of the protests
  • The release of all arrested protesters and their charges dropped without any conditions
  • A separate investigation into questionable police behavior
  • Hong-Kong is given universal suffrage for the Legislative Council and Chief Executive elections

Many have also called for the resignation of Carrie Lam, who many see as a puppet for Beijing.

The government has only satisfied the listed withdrawal of the extradition bill. Their only other response to these demands being their brutal force against the protestors. These protestors have fought back by vandalizing buildings and throwing petrol bombs and bricks, but have tried to remain mostly peaceful.

With the upcoming elections on November 24th, many see this as an opportunity to regain both hope and justice for Hong-Kong. Recently, however, Joshua Wong, who helped lead the Umbrella Movement in 2014, was barred from the upcoming elections on the grounds of his disrespect toward the Chinese government and advocating his “self-determination” politics. In a tweet on October 28, Wong stated,“It proved how Beijing manipulate the election with political censorship and screening.”

Over 2,400 people have been arrested during these protests, hundreds more on both sides injured. Many protestors at the frontlines even carry suicide notes, wills, or last testaments should things get violent, an insight into how drastic the situation is in Hong-Kong. And it doesn’t seem like these ferocious clashes will end anytime soon.

On the other side of the world, the “economic crown jewel of South America” according to CNBC, Chile, now seems like shattered and bloodied glass in the wake of deadly protests breaking out all over the country. Protestors took to the streets starting October 18th after the government announced a 4% hike in prices for metro fares in the capital, many citizens coming together for peaceful demonstrations.

Now, the cities have become battlefields. A state of emergency was declared for multiple cities across the nation, the first time since the dictatorship of Agusto Pinochet in the 1970’s. Even after the government retracted the fare hike, protests continued to take to the streets to voice their feelings that have been building up for over 30 years since democracy began. These events have gotten so out of hand that Chile has canceled an upcoming COP25 climate summit it was set to host.

Though the authorities have tried to stop the violence, they have only fueled the flames of rebellion with their means of suppression, water cannons shooting at protestors, and even throwing people out of vehicles. Over the course of 17 days, 23 people have died, more than 4,300 arrested or detained, and over 1,500 injured in an effort to live a life of economic equality and stability.

In the Middle East, both Lebanon and Iraq have both managed to get their prime ministers to resign after weeks of protests. For Iraq, these protests started on October 1st after activists planned to speak out against the last 16 years of injustice, corruption, and economic decay. Early portions of the Iraqi protests resulted in over 100 killed and 5,000 injured by police forces, caused by live bullet rounds, metal projectiles, and even fires in some instances. 

Lebanon, meanwhile, began their rallies for change on October 17th after taxes were proposed that included the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. Protests ensued after the citizens of Lebanon finally had enough of the government. Lebanon was also on lockdown for 12 days straight, schools and banks staying closed during this time as violence broke out.

Despite these obstacles, many celebrated in their respective countries after Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi of Iraq and Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon resigned. Now they believe that this will be the start of reforming long corrupt and disappointing governments– even if it’ll be a long road to success.

Though there are a lot of unknowns concerning these ongoing protests that challenge the foundations of their homes, change is sure to come in some shape or form as this year concludes.