Breaking Down The Protests Of 2021 So Far

Just five months into the new year, the world has seen a surge in anti-government protests by its peoples. With economic insecurity and the effects of the coronavirus looming, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to condemn their regimes for several reasons. Since January 1st, 2021, there have been over 230 major anti-government protests worldwide, with more than 110 countries experiencing the significance of such. Authoritarian or authoritarian-leaning countries have seen 78 percent of these, and over 25 protests have been specifically linked to the coronavirus pandemic.


Most of the most significant protests occurred at the start of the year, with Russia’s Alexei Navalny Arrest Protests. The detention of opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny sparked these demonstrations. Navalny was arrested and later imprisoned for at least two and a half years due to his charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny had suspected Putin and his associates of obtaining billions of dollars and had spoken out about the oppressive governments in power under his presidency. The general public took to the streets to protest a lack of widespread corruption and an economic downturn. This mass protest is still active, with over 100,000 people participating in movements over the last five months leading to no legislative changes.


At the beginning of February, another major protest emerged in Myanmar. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets after removing Aung San Suu Kyi’s constitutionally elected government by a coup led by the Burmese military. The protesters want the State Administration Council leader to resign and the release and reinstatement of detained elected officials. Citizens are now fighting for the outcome of the 2020 general election to be recognized in the expectation of restoring civilian democracy. Protests have taken many forms, including marches, strikes, civil disobedience, online advocacy, and protest art. While the movements are being aggressively suppressed, this uprising is still ongoing, and the death rate continues to rise in the hundreds, with thousands arrested since its start.


More than 50,000 Bolivians participated in political arrest protests in March. These demonstrations erupted in response to the detention of former interim president Jeanine Añez and other political opposition figures on coup-related charges. Añez has been sentenced to four months of pre-trial detention on terrorism, sedition, and treason charges since her conviction. Citizens also expressed fear that Bolivia’s judiciary is being unfairly controlled and that President Luis Arce’s administration is cracking down on those who criticize governmental regimes. During these protests, civilians blocked streets and marched in many cities, defying the risks of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, no changes in leadership have occurred in response to the active protests.


Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental campaigner, led a significant number of environmental protests in April. Each month, a series of Fridays for Future strikes took the form of demonstrations. A large number of people protested around the world to increase concern about climate change. One detention occurred when a group of environmental activists staged a rally in front of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu’s Singha Durbar, demanding that the government declare a “climate, health emergency.” Environmental campaigners and environmental protests slammed the Leader’s Summit on Climate, claiming that it failed to take the necessary steps to achieve climate justice. This brought the protests to a close and increased global awareness of the effects of climate change.


At the beginning of May, nationwide demonstrations have erupted in Colombia in response to economic instability. The demonstrations were called in response to the government’s now-cancelled tax reform scheme. However, they have evolved into a call for action against injustice and what protesters and activist organizations claim is police brutality. The government claimed that the original proposal was critical to mitigating Colombia’s economic crisis. However, it would have also reduced the threshold at which wages are taxed, harming the middle class. So far, mass marches and a nationwide protest have taken place, with protesters demanding a guaranteed income guarantee, the reversal of a government health care plan, and the abolition of the riot police. At the start of the demonstrations, over 90 people have gone missing, and over 20 people have died due to disproportionate police brutality.


Protest protests are on the rise across the globe, owing to deepening inequalities and work crises exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, worsening economic circumstances and political failure to solve people’s problems have sparked more global demonstrations. Seeing how many marches have happened in the first five months of 2021 piques one’s interest in what the rest of the year will hold. It is heartbreaking to see the growing number of protesters killed, arrested, and injured. The United Nations has become increasingly aware of these deadly demonstrations. The UNHCR is holding a close watch on corrupt states where these events are taking place to provide international assistance where it is needed.

Mia Heaphy


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