The future of protest is high tech
Monica Clua Losada and David J Bailey/ WION
People across the world are demonstrating their discontent in increasingly creative and disruptive ways.The past year has seen schoolchildren across the world join the Fridays for Future strikes, witnessing mass walkouts from schools across the globe. In Chile, coordinated fare-dodging protests on public transport – also led by school pupils – has now grown into mass unrest against the rising cost of living. During the past two weeks, protests have erupted across Lebanon in opposition to rising taxes, involving road blockades and a human chain across the country to illustrate the unity of the people.Something notable about these protests, from Chile to Lebanon to Catalonia, is that protesters are mobilising around far more than single issues. Their primary demands – from economic issues to climate change – are set against a backdrop of questioning the status quo more broadly. And it’s not just demands that are expanding: the ways in which civil disobedience and direct action are carried out is also becoming increasingly novel.A closer look at the continuing demonstrations in Catalonia illustrates the significance of this.
In September, a new initiative was created in Catalonia: Tsunami Democràtic. Nobody fully seems to know where it came from or who was the organising force behind it. Those initially sharing its tweets came from different political families, including all three pro-independence parties, as well as some of those who had been imprisoned as a result of their involvement in the Catalan independence movement.Following its initial announcement, little was heard from Tsunami Democràtic besides occasional tweets highlighting the effectiveness of peaceful civil resistance. This changed on October 11 – the day the Supreme Court sentence against the Catalan leaders was expected – when Tsunami Democràtic released a song: “La Força de la Gent” (The Strength of the People). This echoed the spirit of the song “Agafant l’Horitzó” (Let’s take the Horizon), which was released prior to the independence referendum of October 1 2017. The group then started organising protests.
So far, Tsunami Democràtic has only called three of the countless protests we’ve witnessed since Monday October 14, when sentences were announced against the seven government ministers as well as the speaker of the House and two civil society leaders.The first – and largest – protest was the occupation of Barcelona airport on the same day the sentences were announced. Some 155 flights were cancelled and the disruption caused to the airport was considerable, as the blocking of roads and of one of the terminals lasted well over six hours. On October 21 Tsunami Democràtic called another protest, with only a few hours’ notice, prompted by a surprise visit to Barcelona by Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sanchez. The protest had a simple demand – #SpainSitandTalk – following the weekend’s refusal by Sanchez to answer the Catalan president’s calls.