If anything can be called a unifier in 2019, it is the street protests running around the globe—various skeins of outrage bound as a common strand. Throughout the year, mass agitations and barricades—violent at times—erupted from Lebanon and Algeria to Catalonia and Chile, and from Hong Kong and Ecuador to Sudan and India. Though the millions thronging streets with banners, slogans and raw emotion were similar, they were actuated by different reasons. If in Lebanon it was a tax on phone calls via WhatsApp, in Chile it was hike in the metro rail fare; in Hong Kong it was a draconian law and in Sudan it was the demand for the “corrupt”, long-serving leader’s ouster. The outpouring of anger on display indicated the depth of the ire they had for their rulers.
With a global median age at 30 and nearly one-third of the world population at 20, experts pointed out the power of the educated, unemployed youth. Yet, large numbers of the elderly and middle-aged belied that characterisation.
In a trend seen from 2011 in Egypt, social media helped organisers to stay a step ahead of the authorities’ ham-fisted reprisals. But, unlike the “street fighting years” of the ’60s, a unique feature was their mostly leaderless quality. While the “solidarity of the streets” was strung by a giant concatenation of emulative acts, impromptu planning marked individual stages. There is no unanimity on how the protests would end—some have begun to peter out; in others, cries punch holes in the winter air still.
The heart-stopping quality of these arresting images conveys raw immediacy—a reminder that we all belong, by extension, to a long, flaming street.