A study has shown that protest movements have tripled in the past 15 years. Most are taking to the streets to protest failed political systems.

Researchers analyzed protests between 2006-2020 and found that there was an increase in every region, with some of largest protest movements ever recorded.

These included the 2020 farmers’ protests and 2019 protests against Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro. The pro-democracy marches in Hong Kong, France’s Yellow-vest protests and the ongoing Black Lives Matter demonstrations that began in 2013.

The number of protest movements around the world has tripled in the last 15 years, with most taking to the streets against failed political system, a new study has found. Pictured: A man faces off against police officers in Washington DC during Black Lives Matter protests last year

A new study has shown that protest movements around the globe have tripled in 15 years. Many are taking to streets to protest the corrupt political system. Pictured: A man confronts police officers in Washington DC during Black Lives Matter protests lastyear

The study, titled ‘World Protests: A Study of Key Protest Issues in the 21st Century,’ was conducted by a team of researchers by German think tank Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) along with a non-profit organisation from Columbia University.

It examined more than 90 protest movements from 101 countries and territories. Its authors concluded that the world is experiencing historically large protests.  

The study – released on Thursday – likened the present to the years around 1848, 1917 and 1968, ‘when large numbers of people rebelled against the way things were, demanding change,’ the authors wrote. 

According to the study, India witnessed the largest protest movement ever, with 250 million people joining a strike against the government’s plan to liberalize farming.

Another Indian protest, a strike against rising prices and low wages in 2013, saw 100 million people participate in the movement. It was the second largest ever recorded.

In 2017, 87 million people participated in a global protest calling for the regulation of social media giants. The rally was against citizen surveillance. The Black Lives Matter movement had 82 million participants. 

The study’s authors identified one reason for the rise in protests: democratic failure. 

Researchers found that 64 percent of protests they recorded were triggered by perceived failures in political representation.

The protestors at the events demanded what the authors call “real democracy” – the highest demand in the research.

Other popular demands included inequality, corruption, and lack of action on climate change. However, the study’s authors stated that legislators generally don’t respond to the demands.

Protesters - some holding yellow umbrellas - take part in a protest against the proposed extradition law on April 28, 2019 in Hong Kong, China

Protesters holding yellow umbrellas take part in a protest against an extradition law that was proposed in Hong Kong, China on April 28, 2019.

Sara Burke, senior expert on global economy policy at the FES, and co-author of the study, said that ‘too many leaders from government and business aren’t listening’.

“The vast majority of protests in the world are reasonable demands that have been agreed upon by most governments. 

She stated that people are protesting for good jobs and a clean environment for future generations. They also want to have a meaningful voice in the decisions that impact their quality of living.

Research shows a clear trend in global protest movements. Only 73 protest movements were found in 2006, according to the study.

In 2020, there were 251 recorded protest movements – more than in 2008 after the financial crash or in 2011’s Arab Spring. 

Europe and Asia saw the largest increase in protest movements. While the numbers were higher in high-income countries than in lower-income countries, there was an increase in protests in all regions and income levels.   

The study recorded more than 2,809 protest movements in different years. 

The authors clarify that their research examines’movements’, not individual protests. 

Yellow vest (gilets jaunes) protesters gather for a demonstration in Paris, France on December 7, 2019. The Yellow Vest movement began in 2018 by demanding economic justice, and later political reforms

On December 7, 2019, protesters wearing the yellow vest (gilets jaunes), gathered in Paris, France for a demonstration. The Yellow Vest movement was founded in 2018 to demand economic justice and later political reforms.

Demonstrators gesture during a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi, India, December 10, 2020

Demonstrators protest the recently passed farm bills near New Delhi, India. December 10, 2020

According to other studies, there were more than 12,000 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020. 

The study also found that protests have different meanings to different people.

The report’s release comes as protests against climate change are taking place, particularly in Glasgow, Scotland. This is where the Cop26 climate summit takes place. World leaders hope to reach agreements on how to address the climate crisis.

However, some European leaders, especially in France, are concerned about the possibility of protesters like the Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vest protesting the high cost of moving away fossil fuels to protect the environment.

The release coincides with ongoing investigations in the US regarding the January 6 insurrection, which saw participants in a “stop the steal” protest that saw then-President Donald Trump storm Washington’s Capitol Building.

The event that captured global attention was the result of participants’ concerns – fuelled over various forms of social networking and perpetuated by Trump by conspiracy theories – over American democracy.

It has been contrasted with the Black Lives Matter protests that began in 2013 but were galvanised by the death of George Floyd’s – a black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis – in May last year.

Although the movements behind these two groups are ideologically at opposite ends of the spectrum, they are both dissatisfied with the status quo and the government.

An image of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is burnt during a protests demanding his resignation, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on October 2, 2021

An image of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was burned during protests calling for his resignation in Sao Paulo (Brazil), October 2, 2021

Researchers also found a significant rise in protests calling for racial justice such as the Black Lives Matter movement. However, there were also increasing numbers of movements that deny the rights and privileges of others.

As examples, the authors pointed towards Germany’s far-right ‘Pegida’ movement, as well as anti-Chinese movements in Kyrgyzstan and the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement.

The authors also noted that although most protests, such as the US Capitol insurrection, were peaceful, there was a steady rise in violence from 2006 to 2020. Just over one-fifth recorded protests involved some form of crowd violence, vandalism, or looting.

Nearly half of all protests were arrested, and just over a quarter of those who participated reported some form police violence.

The study also identified protests as the most popular, with marches accounting 61.3 percent. Closely followed by protest assemblies, civil disobedience, and civil disobedience.

One of the key take-aways of the study is the need for leaders and protestors to be more serious. Only 42 protests in the study were considered’successful’. However, this measure varies from one region to the next.

This study required thousands of hours of effort. Researchers from various organisations collected information ‘by hand’ about different protests.

Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021

Trump supporters clashed with police and security forces during a storm of the US Capitol in Washington DC, January 6, 2021

The Google-backed Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone scanned news articles for data.

The study’s authors acknowledged that their work was inherently political, with Burke saying: ‘There are no neutral numbers in protests.’

She acknowledged that some figures, such as crowd sizes, can be vague and open to interpretation. Researchers are limited to what is reported.

Burke stated that we can only study what is visible to us, and what we can actually see is influenced by where and how we are. 

She also acknowledged that the definition of demands, such as “real democracy”, can be interpreted in different ways. She said that the January 2021 riots were not within the study’s time frame and would have been considered a demonstration for real democracy’, but also a protest to deny right.