Global Protest Movements

May 1, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 17
Can they lead to lasting change?
By Bill Wanlund


Protest movements swept the globe last year — so widely that some experts said there were more protests, and more protesters, in 2019 than at any other time in history. Millions of citizens in dozens of countries took to the streets to protest a host of grievances, ranging from higher consumer prices to government corruption and social inequality. Thousands died; national leaders were forced from office. Experts differ on whether the wave of protests is a sign of failing democracy or of healthy citizen empowerment. But the deadly global spread of the coronavirus this year halted most street protests, at least temporarily, as governments enforced social distancing restrictions in hopes of preventing further infections — and perhaps in some cases in hopes of breaking the protests' momentum. Many movements took their campaigns online, but how successfully remains to be seen. Social media enables protesters to organize effectively and promote their causes widely. Yet some observers argue that a social media campaign dissipates quickly if organizers cannot meet their followers' expectations.

Two protesters (Rayya Haddad)
Two protesters hold flares aloft during a demonstration to protest government corruption and mismanagement that drew thousands to Beirut in October. Lebanon was one of many countries that were convulsed in protests last year. (Rayya Haddad)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Protest Movements and Counter Culture
Jun. 05, 2020  Corporate Activism
May 01, 2020  Global Protest Movements
Jan. 05, 2018  Citizen Protests
Aug. 28, 1998  Student Activism
Jan. 04, 1991  The Growing Influence of Boycotts
Aug. 22, 1986  Student Politics 1980s Style
May 13, 1983  Christian Peace Movement
Apr. 08, 1970  Politics and Youth
Nov. 19, 1969  Challenges for The 1970s
Aug. 21, 1968  Reorganization of the Universities
Jan. 10, 1968  Universities and the Government
Jan. 03, 1968  Peace Movements in American Politics
Oct. 12, 1966  Alienated Youth
Feb. 24, 1966  Protest Movements in Time of War
May 19, 1965  Campus Unrest
Aug. 14, 1963  Mass Demonstrations
Dec. 11, 1957  Student Movements
Aug. 17, 1939  Conscientious Objection to War
Budget and the Economy
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Climate Change
Consumer Behavior
Freedom of Information
General International Relations
Global Issues
Imperialism, Colonization, and Independence Movements
Infectious Diseases
Protest Movements
Regional Political Affairs: Africa
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
Regional Political Affairs: Europe
Regional Political Affairs: Latin America and the Caribbean
Regional Political Affairs: Middle East and South Asia
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Segregation and Desegregation
State, Local, and Intergovernmental Relations
War and Conflict