The young take to the streets
I’ve never been to a protest activity the past couple of years, even if I feel like
I could have joined several. In a year’s time in my city alone, there would have been plenty. Nonetheless, protests still continue to engross me, regardless of their congruence with my opinion on the subject of the protest.
Why this fascination, I would wonder. Is it because we live in peculiar times, threatened by countless issues such as climate change and stark capitalism? Is it because of my
supposed astrological inclination for justice, having been born a Libra? Or maybe because protests have become a routine, inescapable sight in our society, something we take
for granted? We delight when classes are suspended to accommodate them. We swear when they cause major inconvenience to our routines.
Recent days have witnessed huge protests in various locations. Hong Kong is entering its ninth week of protests. France is on its 38th week of Gilets Jaunes protests, otherwise known as the “yellow vest” protests on social media. Protests were recently held in New
Delhi to stand up for Kashmir, while Russians took to the streets of Moscow to demand free elections. In Nigeria, the protests to free the cleric Ibrahim el Zakzaky earned the hashtag #RevolutionNow on Twitter. Puerto Ricans have just successfully protested against
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, forcing him to step down from his post.
The backgrounds and the underpinnings of each of these protests would be too much to discuss in a single article. Any attempt would fail, as there are more to protests than what makes it to mainstream and social media. We can only go as far as reported facts, and barely scratch the surface of the sense of sacrifice, courage and patriotism that must inform these actions.
No narrative can do complete justice to what compels people to ditch fear or
complacency or indifference, and make a stand on the streets.
That protest actions are inconsequential, as some people still think, is a silly notion. Human history has been shaped by uprisings and resistance against the established order, from the Protestant Reformation to various countries’ struggles for liberation, to more contemporary events such as the Arab Spring protests, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement. Protests still exist today to fight the same cyclical conditions of oppression and inequality. As a sassy grandma put it in her protest sign during a climate change conference in Vancouver: “I can’t believe I still have to protest this shit.”
Today, protests have become more digital, more global and technology-led. They are also, in many instances, massively youthful. A great bulk of the protesters in Hong Kong are youngsters. When news got around that a young man was arrested for purchasing laser pointers that were deemed offensive weapons, the Hong Kong Space Museum was lit with hundreds of them. In Russia, 17-year-old Olga Misik sat on a street and read aloud the Russian constitution while surrounded by armed riot policemen. In Sudan, 22-year-old Alaa Salah stood on top of a car to lead the chants of the crowd around her. In Puerto
Rico, young people dancing to reggateon beats during protests became the image of a new beginning for the nation.
The news can be both worrying and inspiring. Young protesters in Hong Kong are said to spend for their rally gear and seem prepared, like many of their peers in other parts of the world, to risk their lives to fight against tyranny and defend their civil rights. That unity in volume, the fortitude writ large—that appears to be the future safeguarded, the youth marching as the hope of their respective lands.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.