PHOTOS: Season of discontent: Protests around the world

Protesters gather in front of the electoral computing center in La Paz, Bolivia, Oct. 21, 2019. (Photo: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Another day, another protest.

On Monday it was Bolivia — demonstrators clashed with police after the political opposition said it had been cheated in an election won by incumbent President Evo Morales.

Last week, the streets of Santiago, Chile, descended into chaos as citizens enraged by a hike in public transportation fares looted stores and set a bus on fire, prompting the president to declare a state of emergency.

Earlier this month, Ecuadorian authorities did the same after violent unrest triggered by the decision to end longtime fuel subsidies.

And that was just South America.

An antigovernment demonstration in Hong Kong, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Hong Kong has been in turmoil for months, Lebanon's capital Beirut was at a standstill, parts of Barcelona resembled a battlefield last week and tens of thousands of Britons marched through London at the weekend over Brexit.

Protests have flared around the world in the last few months. Each has had its own trigger, but many of the tactics and underlying frustrations are similar. Governments, economists and ordinary people are taking notice.


In at least four countries beset by recent violent protests, the main reason for the uprising is economic.

Governments in Chile and Ecuador have incurred their people's wrath after trying to raise fares and end fuel subsidies.

As clashes engulfed Quito, Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno tried to negotiate with indigenous leaders who had mobilized people to take to the streets.

Austerity measures in Ecuador spur protests against President Lenín Moreno, Oct. 11, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

Within minutes, chief protest organizer Jaime Vargas had rejected that outreach.

“We’re defending the people,” Vargas said in a live Facebook video from the march in Quito.

His response, visible to millions of people, underlines an added challenge authorities have when trying to quell dissent: Social media has made communication between protesters easier than ever.

Tens of thousands of people have flooded Beirut in the biggest show of dissent against the establishment there in decades. People of all ages and religions joined to protest worsening economic conditions and the perception that those in power were corrupt.

Riot police fire tear gas to disperse demonstrators in Beirut, Lebanon, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

Similar factors were behind deadly civil unrest in Iraq in early October.

More than 100 people died in violent protests across a country where many Iraqis, especially young people, felt they had seen few economic benefits since Islamic State militants were defeated in 2017.

Security forces cracked down, with snipers opening fire from rooftops and the internet being restricted to stem the flow of information among protesters.

“The bullets do not scare us. They do not scare Iraqis. This will all come down over their heads,” said one protester in Baghdad.


Hong Kong has been battered by five months of large and often violent protests over fears Beijing is tightening its grip on the territory, making it the worst political crisis since Britain relinquished it to China in 1997.

There have been few major rallies in recent weeks, but violence has escalated at those held, with militant activists setting metro stations ablaze and smashing up shops, often targeting Chinese banks and stores with mainland links.

Police have fired thousands of rounds of tear gas, hundreds of rubber bullets and three live rounds at activists throwing bricks and petrol bombs.

An antigovernment protester is restrained by riot police in Hong Kong, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Events in Hong Kong have drawn comparisons to demonstrations in Catalonia, Spain, in recent days. There too, people are angry at what they see as attempts to thwart their desire for greater autonomy, if not full independence, from the rest of the country.

Protesters set cars on fire and threw petrol bombs at police in Barcelona, unrest sparked by the sentencing of Catalan separatist leaders who seek an independent state.

Demonstrators also focused on strategic targets to cause maximum disruption, including the international airport, grounding more than 100 flights.

That came several days after similar action in Hong Kong, suggesting that protests movements are following and even copying each other on social media and the news.

“In Hong Kong, they have done it well, but they are crazier,” said Giuseppe Vayreda, a 22-year-old art student at a recent Catalan separatist protest.

On Thursday, Hong Kong protesters plan a rally to show solidarity with those demonstrating in Spain.


In some cases, individuals rise to the forefront of protest movements, using social media to get their message across.

In Egypt, where demonstrations last month were relatively small yet significant in their rarity, the catalyst of dissent against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was an Egyptian posting videos from Spain.

Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, inspired millions of people to march through cities around the world in September to demand that political leaders act to stop climate change.

A climate strike march at the Alberta Legislature in Alberta, Canada, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo: Amber Bracken/Reuters)

Tens of thousands gathered in a New York park to listen to her speech.

“If you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us, then we have some very bad news for you,” she said. “Because this is only the beginning. Change is coming whether they like it or not.”

(Reporting by Reuters correspondents; written by Mike Collett-White; edited by Nick Tattersall)

See more Reuters photos from the recent protests below:

A man is confronted by Haitian National Police, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters)
A Catalan demonstrator throws a tear gas canister back to the riot police during Catalonia's general strike in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo: Albert Gea/Reuters)
A demonstrator fires a homemade weapon during a protest against Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno, Oct. 12, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
Antigovernment protesters in Hong Kong's tourism district of Tsim Sha Tsui, China, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
A demonstrator falls as riot police fire a water cannon during a protest in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
An antigovernment demonstrator lobs back a tear gas canister with a tennis racket in Hong Kong, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)
A demonstration against President Lenín Moreno's austerity measures, in Quito, Ecuador, Oct. 9, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
A demonstrator in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 2, 2019. (Photo: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)
A woman takes cover after a trial verdict on Catalonia's independence referendum, Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 16, 2019. (Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters)
A demonstrator in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 3, 2019. (Photo: Wissm al-Okili/Reuters)
A police vehicle burns during a protest in Quito against Ecuador's austerity measures, Oct. 7, 2019. (Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters)
Demonstrators in Jal el-Dib, Lebanon, Oct. 21, 2019. (Photo: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)
A demonstrator in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
A general strike in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo: Rafael Marchante/Reuters)
Demonstrators in Baghdad, Iraq, Oct. 2, 2019. (Photo: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)
At a protest against the increase in subway prices in Santiago, Chile, Oct. 19, 2019. (Photo: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)
A demonstrator in Dora, Lebanon, Oct. 18, 2019. (Photo: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

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