Protesters Link Up Around the Globe

Protesters raise their fists at the start of a demonstration in Barcelona, on October 18, 2019, on the day that separatists have called a general strike and a mass rally. - Spain's protest-hit northeast was gripped by a general strike today as thousands of "freedom marchers" converged on Barcelona for a mass show of dissent over the jailing of nine Catalan separatist leaders. (Photo by Pau Barrena / AFP) (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Why you should care

From Hong Kong to Spain, protesters with different goals are joining virtual hands in solidarity.

WHAT TO KNOW

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TOPSHOT – Demonstrators take part in a Voodoo ceremony before marching in the protest demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince on October 17, 2019. (Photo by Valerie Baeriswyl / AFP) (Photo by VALERIE BAERISWYL/AFP via Getty Images)

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What’s happening? Across the world, massive protests are roiling: From Spain to Hong Kong to Chile to Lebanon to Ecuador to Haiti to Bolivia, protesters have been marching against injustice in a series of disparate movements. But while those individual protests had different tipping points — in Chile an increase in transit costs, in Lebanon a WhatsApp tax — they’re now beginning to talk to and support each other.

Why does it matter? Many of these protests have a common root: People strapped by austerity and repressive governments see inequality rising (and corruption at the top), and they’ve decided they’re not going to take it anymore. Even climate protests like the school strikes and Extinction Rebellion are demanding that the world’s wealthy sit up and pay attention — and if these movements work together, they could grow even stronger, meaning governments around the globe should take notice unless they want their streets to be next.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

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TOPSHOT – A protester holds a Catalan pro-independence “Estelada” flag during the Hong Kong-Catalonia solidarity assembly in Central district in Hong Kong on October 24, 2019. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

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Protesters of the world, unite.  On Thursday, Hong Kong protesters hit the streets again – but this time waving Catalan flags and urging for “a fight for freedom together.” While some urged caution via social media, arguing that the provocation could hurt their international support, others emphasized the need for solidarity. In India, Instagram account @withKashmir — which aims to amplify voices from Kashmir while the region is under de facto military siege — posted a picture of a joyously profane sign from the Lebanon protests that quickly went viral across India.  

Turning it off. As social media acts as a glue, governments across the world have also started using internet blackouts as a way to stop protests. In Kashmir, the internet has been turned off for weeks, while protests in Iraq earlier this month demanding government reforms were met with an internet shutdown. Some also worry that Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam will attempt to block the internet there in a bid to quash long-running independence protests. 

Out in the open. Public spaces in Lebanon are few and far between, but in recent days protesters there have reclaimed old spaces and created new ones. In the southern city of Tyre, demonstrators burst into a coastline resort — a symbolic move since most of Lebanon’s coastline has been bought up by political elites — while sidewalks in Beirut have been transformed into mini street cafes. The conscious effort to reclaim city spaces in Lebanon comes two months after Hong Kong protesters occupied an airport, prompting the city to cancel incoming flights.

The long arm of the law. Threatened by the massive movements, some cities and countries are pushing back on the very notion of protest. London banned climate change protest group Extinction Rebellion from demonstrating earlier this month (which didn’t stop members of the group from blocking underground trains and scaling scaffolding on Big Ben), while demonstrators in Hong Kong defied a police ban to march this past weekend and have continued to wear face masks despite prohibitions on them enacted via colonial-era laws. 

WHAT TO READ

Protesters Worldwide Are United by Something Other Than Politics, by Tyler Cowen at Bloomberg

“Protests are not an especially salutary form of egalitarian pressure, so the underlying problems are unlikely to improve very much, which in turn could worsen the political pressures.”

Do Today’s Global Protests Have Anything in Common, on the BBC

“Catalan protesters have also been distributing infographics made in Hong Kong that detail how demonstrators can protect themselves from police water cannon and tear gas.”

WHAT TO WATCH

What do Protests in Hong Kong and Barcelona Have in Common

Watch on Deutsche Welle on YouTube:

“One of the biggest similarities is the strategy they use … the group that mobilized the public to go to the airport, they tweeted a photo of the demonstration and used the hashtag #bewatermyfriend [which] is a very important strategy for Hong Kong protesters.”

Lebanese Protesters Sing ‘Baby Shark’ to Toddler

Watch on Inside Edition on YouTube:

“They clap, sing and do that dance. Little Robin looks around in disbelief, but at least he’s calm.”

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Genie in a bottle. Leaders of countries and cities that have erupted in protest may find that even when they roll back the measures that sparked protests, it’s not enough. Chilean president Sebastián Piñera has apologized and promised a minimum wage hike and new taxes on Chile’s wealthiest — but people remain in the streets.

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