21st Century Youth-Led Uprisings in Chronological Order
I have drafts of three books about global youth: activism, young women’s issues and activism, and youth viewpoints and beliefs. I invite you to critique and add to chapters of interest. Have I left out any youth-led movements? Thanks and happy 2016, GK
Note: *indicates the protests including an ongoing tent city in a city square. Underline indicates a country with prominent women initiators. Youth started these rebellions but were joined by masses of people of different ages and backgrounds. In some cases, youth includes people in their early 30s. See photos of uprisings.[i]
Serbia: 2000. President Slobodan Milošević was ousted in 2000 by Otpor (Resistance). They provided a model for later uprisings, including Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, and Egypt.
Philippines: 2001. People Power II protests led by university students ousted president Joseph Estrada who was accused of corruption.
Georgia: 2003. Kmara (Enough) protests against rigged elections led to the resignation of President Edward Shevardnadze, called the Rose Revolution. Youth built on earlier organizing against the corrupt education system in 2000 and learned from Otpor.
*Ukraine: 2004, Pora (It’s Time) thousands of young protesters organized against rigged elections in the Orange Revolution. Young people from other former Soviet countries came to observe how to make a “color revolution.”
Zimbabwe: 2004. Sokwanele means enough! Youth protesters distributed CDs and condoms with Bob Marley lyrics on them, painted graffiti, and continued campaigning against President Mugabe until the present.[ii] Their focus is on fair elections, “Campaigning non-violently for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe.”
*Lebanon: 2005. Cedar Revolution protesters blamed Syrians for the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14 and protested the 15,000 Syrian troops stationed in their country. Well-connected and media savvy young people organized large demonstrations resulting in the withdrawal of Syrian troops, the resignation of the government, and the first free parliamentary elections since 1972. (See photos).[iii]
Chile, 2006–2015. The Penguin Revolution mobilized hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to protest privatization of the education system, starting in 2006, with another wave in 2011 that continued in the following years.
Venezuela: 2007. The catalyst for student organizing was the government shut down their favorite TV station, a voice of opposition. Their demonstrations in turn shut down the city but the station wasn’t reopened. Next, students mobilized for a no vote against Hugo Chavez’ 44-pages of 69 constitutional amendments that would have permitted him to be president for life and enlarge his powers. They defeated his proposals. (2014 below)
Burma/Myanmar: 2007. In the Saffron Revolution, students and thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns organized non-violent resistance against military rule. A 24-year-old Burmese monk named Ashin Kovida started the Saffron Revolution. Kovida saw a clandestine film Bringing Down a Dictator, about Otpor’s success in Serbia. The ruling general gave up his military rank to become civilian president in 2011. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from almost 15 years of house arrest in 2010 and was elected to parliament in 2012. Some argue that her campaign was funded by US State Department, similar to other “color revolutions.”[iv]
Moldova: 2009. Natalia Morar, 25, a journalist, organized a protest against rigged elections that attracted 20,000 people to storm the parliament building in the first Twitter Revolution.
Iran: 2009. The Green Movement protested rigged presidential elections but didn’t succeed in removing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (documented in the film The Green Wave, 2012). A common slogan was, “Where is My Vote?” The regime said the uprising was instigated by the US, UK and Israel. Many of the activists and journalists are still in jail. The government monitored social media use, indicating that it can be a resource for oppressors as well as rebels.
Portugal: 2010–2011. “A Generation in Trouble,” a “Desperate Generation,” (Geração à Rasca) protest organized against austerity cuts, inspiring later European protests. Portugal’s public debt was equal to 90% of GDP, leading to cuts in 2010; they didn’t solve the problem so a bailout was agreed upon with more austerity cuts. Youth wrote a “Manifesto of a Generation in Trouble.” About 300,000 protesters demonstrated on the streets in March of 2011, called the 12 March Movement.
*United Kingdom: 2010–2011. University students organized about 50 campus occupations to protest tuition increases and other austerity measures.
In August 2011 riots started after a young black man was shot by police and riots protesting racism spread throughout England. Occupy London began on October 15 at St. Paul’s Cathedral to protest economic inequality, the tent city removed by police in February 2012 (see video[v]).
Tunisia: 2011. In the Jasmine Revolution, President Ben Ali resigned and fled to Saudi Arabia after a fruit vender set himself on fire to protest police corruption. The first democratic elections were won by the Islamist Ennahda party. Party heads of state resigned in 2013 so new elections could be held, fearful of the same fate as the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (photos online).[vi] Tunisia is the success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
*Egypt: 2011. The revolution in Tahrir Square began on January 25. President Hosni Mubarak resigned only 18 days later. In July 2013, after a year in office, the first freely elected President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in a military coup backed by large demonstrations due to his attempts to abrogate power and Islamize the government through the Muslim Brotherhood. The military retained power with the election of General Sisi in 2014, outlawing freedom of speech and assembly, jailing and outlawing youth demonstrations.
*Yemen: 2011, In January demonstrations were led by a woman named Tawakkol Karman against President Ali Abdullah Saleh who resigned in November. Elections were held in February 2014 but religious factions divided the country led by Shia Houthtis rebels who began as the Believing Youth in 1992 that organized school clubs and summer camps. Saleh was believed to be working with them.
Libya: 2011. Uprisings began on February 15 after security forces opened fire on a protest in Benghazi. Demonstrators chanted, “No God but Allah, Muammar is the enemy of Allah” and “Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt.” Muammar Qaddafi was killed in August hiding in a drain pipe. July 2012 elections voted in a secular party over the party aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, but chaos continued with competing militias.
Bahrain: 2011. Protests began on February 17 against the royal family’s monopoly of the economy and government. Sunni King Hamad brought in Saudi Sunni troops. Angry majority Shia youth protested but dissent was stifled and the Pearl Roundabout demonstration site was torn down.
Morocco: 2011. On February 20, demonstrators took to the streets to limit some of the powers of the monarchy. The February 20th movement was initiated by Amina Boughalbi, a 20-year-old journalism student, in a role similar to Asmaa Mahfouz’ call for protest in Tahrir Square in Egypt the previous month. They used horizontal organizing and shared roles for men and women. The youth-led February 20 Movement wanted a constitutional monarchy. The king offered reform including giving up claims of divine rights to rule and nominating a prime minister from the largest party in parliament. Moderate Islamists won the November elections. The protests opened up free speech to criticize the government.
Syria: 2011. Youth ages 10 to 15 wrote in March, “The people want the regime to fall,” the slogan of the Arab Spring, on a wall in Daraa in southern Syria. Fifteen of them were jailed and tortured, having their fingernails pulled out. Protests began in March to demand the release of political prisoners. The civil war between Muslim sects displaced about half of Syrians from their homes.
*Spain: 2011. The 15-M movement of indignados began in May, starting in Madrid and spreading around the country. Protesters occupied the Puerta del Sol until June, and then spread out in neighborhood assemblies. Austerity measures continued under a conservative government, opposed by new indignado political parties like Podomos.
*Portugal: Inspired by the Spanish Indignados in May 2011, the “precarious generation” protested unemployment and high cost of living for 15 days, organized as 15O. They chanted “Spain! Greece! Ireland! Portugal! Our struggle is international!”
*Greece: 2011. On May 25, “The Squares,” the Direct Democracy Now! movement was sparked by the Spanish protests, also protesting against austerity cuts. They occupied Syntagma Square until August, with general strikes bringing out the largest crowd in June.
*Malaysia: 2011. On July 30, inspired by the Spanish protests, Occupy Dataran in Kuala Lumpur was held every Saturday night from 8:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Like other Occupy groups, they held large assemblies communicating with hand signals and aimed to create real democracy, as stated on their Facebook page. The movement spread to other cities and continued in the following years. For example, For example, on New Year’s Eve 2012 hundreds of protesters wearing Guy Fawkes masks held a “V For Freedom” protest against restriction on protest marches. In April 2012, more than 300 students set up tents in the square to call for free university education and ending the student loan program. In May 2014, activists occupied the square to protest a new Goods and Services Tax. In 2015, students in yellow shirts and some wearing the Guy Fawkes masks demonstrated for the prime minister to resign due to corruption charges.
England: August 2011, low-income and immigrant youth rioted after police shot a young and poor black man.
*Israel: 2011. A September tent occupation of Tel Aviv’s ritzy Rothschild Boulevard demanded social justice, but not for Palestinians. It was triggered by the high cost of housing and high taxes for the middle class. Daphni Leef, 25, was tired of high rents, so she used to Facebook to ask other young people to join her on the streets. Similar to other initiators, she was surprised by the hundreds of thousands who joined her in Tel Aviv and then in other cities across the country. The national student association joined in, along with other youth movements.
Oman: 2011, in the summer youth groups demanded the resignation of the prime minister, a nephew of the Emir. He was replaced in November.
*US: 2011, September, Occupy Wall Street. The call to occupy was initiated by Canadian magazine Adbusters. Occupy sites spread to cities across the US and the world, with the most publicity given to New York City and Oakland because of police violence. The Guardian newspaper listed and mapped 746 Occupy sites around the world in 2011.[vii] The map clusters in North America and Europe.
Italy: October 7, 2011, the student union called a national student strike, putting up tents in a square in Bologna. They were referred to as indignados. On October 12 student and other groups protested in front of the national bank in Rome and Indignados marched on the day of global demonstrations, October 15. They weren’t able to camp in Rome’s Piazza San Giovanni because several hundred black bloc demonstrations initiated a violent riot there and they lacked effective organization.
Canada: 2012. In February’s Maple Spring, in the casseroles (banging pots and pans) movement, Quebec students voted to walkout to protest tuition hikes. The strike lasted for 100 days (photos and video online).[viii] Martine Desjardins chaired the largest student group in Quebec, Student University Federation of Quebec from 2012 to 2013, served as a political commentator and columnist, and ran for office in 2014 but lost.
Later in the year Idle No More was started by three indigenous women and a non-native woman to protest proposed changes in environmental protection laws. They drew from their culture to do round dances to gather support for their movement. In January 2013, six young indigenous men walked for two months and 1,600 kilometers to parliament. They called it the Journey of Nishiyuu (human beings) for equal rights for all the reserves. Others joined them along the way. The movement was replicated by other occupied indigenous people around the world, including in Palestine, Australia, New Zealand, and the US.
Mexico: May 2012. Mexican students in “Yo Soy 132” demonstrated against media bias in the upcoming presidential elections. They called for fair elections and spoke against corruption and neoliberal policies. Large protests occurred in 2014 after 43 normal school students disappeared, thought to be murdered by a drug gang. Some accused the PRI government of collusion with the disappearance.
Hong Kong: May 2012. Secondary students formed an activist group called Scholarism to protest the mainland’s efforts to impose patriotic education in schools. They led a sit in and a hunger strike in front of government offices.
*Turkey: May 2013. The occupation of Gezi Park started as a protest against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plan to cover the rare urban green space with commercial buildings, and expanded to protest his increasingly autocratic attempts to instill Islamic values. Gezi remained green but the Prime Minister who became President continued with building projects that demolished green spaces.
*Brazil: June, 2013. Protests against fare increases for public transportation expanded to protests against government spending on world athletic events rather than for social programs and against corruption. The fare increases were rescinded in São Paulo.
*Ukraine: 2013–2014. Protesters occupied Independence Square for three months. President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014, leaving behind a bankrupt country. Protesters in the western part of the country were angry about his reneging on an alliance with the European Union, under Russian pressure. Civil war broke out in Eastern Ukraine led by pro-Russian rebels.
Bosnia: The Bosnian Spring occurred in 2014 with demonstrators wanting to overthrow the corrupt governments and protest unemployment caused by privatization in one of Europe’s poorest and most divided countries. Violent riots took place in February to protest unemployment (over half of youth are unemployed) and lasted for several months with some youth burning government buildings. Protesters went on to organize assemblies in about 24 cities led by intellectuals.[ix] The prime minister, Nermin Niksic, called youth protesters the usual hooligans. Activists organized an independent trade union called Solidarity (Solidarnost) and the Movement for Social Justice to create direct democracy, but lacked large membership. Not much change occurred.
*Venezuela: February 2014, student protests at a university in San Cristóbal spread around the country to protest police detention of students. Middle-class neighborhoods in Caracas protested the high inflation rate, shortage of basic goods like flour, and high crime rate. Opposition leaders were jailed. They wanted socialist President Nicolas Maduro to resign. The protests continued for months, with students camping in three plazas in the capital and in front of the United Nations office.
*Taiwan: March and April 2014. Students occupied the legislative building to protest a trade agreement with China. The Sunflower Revolution protesters carried banners stating, “If we don’t rise up today, we won’t be able to rise up tomorrow,” “Save democracy,” “Free Taiwan,” and “We will let the world know you suck [President Ma Ying-jeou].”
Hong Kong: June, September to December 2014. A movement for democracy organized an unofficial referendum to give voters the right to choose their leaders without Beijing’s vetting the nominees, resulting in the largest demonstration in a decade. Occupy Central with Love and Peace was led by professors and students. Student organizations called Scholarism and The Hong Kong Federation of Students organized an overnight sit-in after the march, cleared by police. They used familiar slogans, “power to the people” from the 1960s and “the people want….” as used in the Arab Spring. A student leader explained, “Students hold the key to future” and asked, “If students don’t stand on the front line of democracy, who else can?” In September, the Umbrella Revolution used umbrellas to protect from police attacks. Police cleared out the occupations on December 15.
- United States: Black Lives Matter protests against police violence against young black men started in Florida in 2014 when George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of black teen Trayvon Martin. Dream Defenders occupied the state government during July. Protests ignited next in Ferguson, Missouri, then New York City, and Baltimore when black men died at the hands of police in April 2015. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was popularized by a woman activist in Oakland. Other women organized marches and organizations in the cities listed above and protests in many other cities, typical of the more inclusive leadership of youth organizing.
- Youth led the gymnastics revelation of abuse by their team doctor, but the other leaders of #MeToo weren’t young.
- *#MeToo movement: The phrase “MeToo” was coined by Tarana Burke in 2006 to protest sexual violence directed at women of color. The movement began on October 5, 2017 when the New York Times published a report of Harvey Weinstein’s harassment of actor Ashley Judd. Other actresses told their stories, including Alyssa Milano who tweeted on October 15, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” which ignited the movement. Olympic gymnasts spoke up about abuse by team doctor Lawrence Nassar. Prominent men lost their positions including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Senate nominee Roy Moore, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Russell Simmons, and Senator Al Franken. TIME magazine’s December issue named the “Silence Breakers” as the Person of the Year. In January of 2018 Hollywood actresses and others formed a coalition called Times Up, including funding for legal fees for women to choose to take action against abusers. They wore black at the Golden Globes Awards to support the movement which spread globally.
*Parkland, Florida: High school students led a #NeverAgain campaign for gun control after 17 students and teachers were killed by a 19-year-old shooter on February 14. Their tactics are discussed on the Global Youth SpeakOut page https://wp.me/p47Q76-GG
[iv] Tony Cartalucci,”Myanmar: Meet Aung San Suu kyi’s Saffron Mobs,” New Eastern Outlook, May 3, 2015.
[ix] Chiara Milan, “New Social Movements Arise In Bosnia Herzegovina,” ROAR Magazine, December 18, 2014.
Lana Pasic, “Who is Behind Bosia’s Riots,” Al Jazeera, February 10, 2014.