Protests of 2019

Tahrir 2019, Tiananmen 1989, and the Second Signpost – THE ...

More people have taken to the streets in the past 12 months than any year since 1989. 2019 surpasses even 2011, the year of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. Around the world, demonstrators challenge corruption, unjust laws and political repression. People are tired of the ageing establishments that have failed to tackle problems like climate change or wealth disparity. Protests peaked in October 2019, and in places like Chile and Hong Kong, are ongoing.

Government decrees sparked protests. In Lebanon, it was a tax on Whatsapp calls, in Chile a 4% hike in metro tickets, in India a law that grants citizenship to neighbouring refugees so long as they aren’t Muslim. Hong Kong’s protests started with a bill to extradite criminals to mainland China.

Lebanon Report - October - MEIRSSAmnesty International identifies five common causes:

  • Corruption: Protestors accuse their leaders of misusing public funds and demand their resignation. Egypt (October -), Lebanon (October – ), Chile (October -). Iraq, (October- ) Pakistan (November – ) Colombia (November -).
  • Cost of living: Austerity measures, sanctions and faltering economies have increased day-to-day costs, particularly petrol. Egypt (September), Haiti (November 2018 – ), Ecuador (October), France (November 2018 -), Iran (November – ).
  • Climate justice: Protestors, particularly the young, rally against government and big businesses’ slow response to climate change and environmental ruin, including forest fires. In September 2019, 7.6 million people in 185 countries participated in climate strikes. Worldwide school strikes, Extinction Rebellion (January -). Bolivia (October).
  • Political freedom: Protestors demand true democracy or greater independence in their respective regions. Hong Kong (June -), Sudan (September – ), Catalonia (October), India (October – ). Guinea (October-).

President says sorry but Chile faces more protests, strikeChile is the wealthiest country in South America, yet suffers crippling inequality. Unrest has cost over $3 billion in damage, 26 people dead and over 3,461 injured. In response, the government promised a referendum in April 2020 to replace the current constitution, drafted under Pinochet, with a civilian one. Two-thirds of Chileans support the protests, according to Al-Jazeera.

Hong Kong Protests: Massive Crowds and Police ClashesHong Kong protestors demand universal suffrage and accountability for police brutality. China is trying to bring the autonomous territory closer into its fold, and have it comply with its laws and restrictions. Demonstrations have seized the city every weekend since June and forced its economy to a halt. The protests have cost Hong Kong $950 million in police overtime.

Government responses are more restrained than in the past. They know indiscriminate killing can vilify the state and embolden its critics. In addition to lightning-fast coordination, smartphones and social media let protesters broadcast state brutality for the world to see. Were Beijing to pull a Tiannemen square in Hong Kong, it could not hide it again. Mass arrests and nonlethal weapons like water cannons and rubber bullets make a better strategy. Protests have largely been peaceful; though in some cases have broken out into riots. The most violent crackdowns are in Iran, where the government is hiding bodies.

As Protesters Clog Catalonia, Court Snuffs Out Declaration ...

The protests of 2019 expose a faltering world order. Neoliberalism has reigned supreme since the Cold War and is predicated on economic freedom and limitless growth. Since 2008, however, new wealth has fallen into increasingly fewer hands. According to Oxfam, the world’s richest 26 people own more than the poorest half.

Sources: Al Jazeera, Amnesty International, The Economist, The Guardian, Oxfam, Washington Post

See Also:

The Irishman

Martin Scorsese's 'The Irishman' Gets a Poster!The Irishman (2019) is the latest film from director Martin Scorsese. Like GoodFellas (1989) and Casino (1995), it is a crime epic set in the glory days of the American mafia. Scorsese’s muse Robert De Niro stars alongside genre mainstays Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in their first film together. Steven Zaillian of Schindler’s List wrote the screenplay. Released on Netflix, it runs a hefty 3.5 hours. The film tells the story of Irish-American mobster Frank Sheeran and the 1975 disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa. It is based on Sheeran’s biography, ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ – code for contract killing.

Frank Sheeran (De Niro) is a truck driver in 1950s Philadelphia when mobster Russell Buffalino (Pesci) takes him under his wing. Sheeran’s service in WW2 taught him Italian and desensitised him to killing. Through Buffalino he meets Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), charismatic and blustering president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the largest trade union in America. Frank murders on Hoffa’s behalf and builds a name for himself in the underworld until circumstance and mob politics force him to choose where his loyalties lie.

Digital ‘youthification’ technology makes De Niro, who is 76, and Pacino, 79, able to play younger men. Though De Niro’s face is believable – even his artificial blue eyes – his stiffness and gait betray his age. Surprisingly Pacino pulls it off.

The Irishman takes liberties with fact. Its source material is based on Sheeran’s confessions to lawyer Charles Brandt before he died in 2003. The 25-30 murders he details, however, are officially unattributed to this day, the insinuation the mob killed Kennedy is disputable. They did help get him elected, however. JFK’s father made his fortune bootlegging in the 1930s. In 1960 he promised the mob his son would overthrow Castro, and restore Havana to the gangsters’ playground of old. The Bay of Pigs Fiasco resulted. Former FBI agents claim Sheeran was simply a crooked union official. He was violent, sure, but never murdered anyone, or at least was never caught. De Niro stated he believed Sheeran’s account, though the film ultimately tells ‘our story, if not the actual story.’

The Irishman deals less with the mafia itself and more its characters’ journeys. Catholic themes of sin and atonement feature, as they do in many of Scorsese’s works. I loved Hoffa and Tony Pro’s ‘meeting scene’ in the third act and the haunting ending. De Niro and Pacino give their finest performances in years and Pesci, who left retirement for his role, is superb as calculating don Russel Buffalino. Though I am hesitant to say it tops GoodFellas without rewatching, The Irishman is easily Scorsese’s best since.

Verdict: 5/5