Leaderless Protest in Thailand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Chile, Colombia, Belarus...

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

20/22/2020: Helmets, gas masks, flashmobs, hand signals, the techniques that came into widespread use among protesters a year ago in Hong Kong, have spread across the globe and are now especially prominent in Thailand. Hong Kong’s largely student-led movement lent their moral support early on and openly to protesters in Thailand who have been seen as sharing numerous goals and principles of progressive change – vision for the future. Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong regularly tweets in support of the Thai movement with the hashtag #StandWithThailand. Last week he wrote: “People should not be afraid of their governments. Only governments should be afraid of their people.” New generations of protesters in Thailand and Hong Kong stand out both for their youth and their skill at harnessing modern technology.

Tens of thousands of Thai democracy activists - mostly but not exclusively in Bangkok - are currently defying a ban on gatherings after months of mounting protests targeting the prime minister and king. As demonstrators in Bangkok hold up umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas, one is reminded of the anti-government protests of a year ago when Hong Kong’s youth squared off with the long arm of China’s Communist Party and its supportive security apparatus. With their bullhorns confiscated by the police in Thailand, activists now depend more on hand signs and a 'jungle phone' (passing messages by voice through a crowd one protester to the next, (¨water cannons coming¨). To signal that they need helmets, activists raise their hands in a triangle above their heads in Bangkok like they did earlier in Hong Kong. Crossing their fingers means someone is injured. Rotating an index finger in an anti-clockwise direction warns of the need to disperse.

The absence of a centralized leadership was one of the central keys to success in Hong Kong, achieving seven straight months of protests that rocked the city, with the movement still alive and well, more low-key, waiting for the right moment to employ even more novel strategies. As seen in the image from Nigeria, leaderless protest is catching on in Africa as well. In Thailand the use of the app Telegram has been skyrocketing in recent weeks. Especially this last week, the numbers of new users are exponential, since the government placed a ban on political gatherings of more than four people. Protesters use it to coordinate rallies. A group started by Free Youth, a key protest collective, reached the maximum 200,000 subscribers soon after it launched. Authorities have responded by ordering internet providers to block the app.

Like the Hong Kongers, Thai activists have also been putting decisions to a vote. On Monday the main Free Youth Facebook page asked supporters if they should take a break, by hitting the “care” emoticon to pick a rest and the “wow” emoticon to protest. Wow won the contest. Thai protesters are now trying to "remain as flat as possible, making leadership open and easy to replace, very different from past protests in Thailand that tended to be personalized around a few single charismatic leaders (who were generally quickly arrested). The use of the hashtag #everybodyisaleader speaks to this reality and the need for protection through anonymity. Most recently, protesters in Thailand are celebrating victory in a sense, given the fact that the emergency decree has been withdrawn as a result of their perseverence.

Protesters in the United States have also watched Hong Kong carefully and learned from what has worked, and what has not, and this is also true of Latin Americans in Colombia, Chile, and other places. It remains to be seen to what extent Nigeria, and other hot protest spots such as Minsk, Bogota, and Santiago also learn from the valient and intelligent example of Hong Kong, and the way that the strategies that they invented are now being employed and perfected in Thailand.

I leave you with recent images of protest in Nigeria.

#Protest2020 #protestabuja #protestlagos #protestbangkok

#StandWithThailand #thailandprotest #leaderlessdemocracy #protestwithoutleaders #Thailand #HongKong #Nigeria #Belarus #Colombia #Chile


Protest2020! 2020 is the year of protest, ushered in on the heels of 2019, which saw numerous social explosions in the last few months of the year. Climate change, in particular, is feeding a well-founded sense of fear, particularly among the vulnerable and their activist allies whose lives and futures are highly precarious. In fact, all of us are vulnerable, and awareness is growing of the way in which we are all in this together. While in most places, most notably Hong Kong, protests have turned violent and thousands of arrests have been made, there have not yet been large numbers of fatalities, although dozens of protestors have died and continue to die in South America. In other parts of the world, most notably the Middle East – home to warfare for decades – particularly in Iraq and its neighbor and former enemy Iran, hundreds of protestors have been killed with live, military-grade ammunition. After 5 years of civil war in Syria, protest has given way to military action hand in hand with death and destruction. The numbers of people murdered by the governments of the region are not fully known, and especially hard to verify in Iran, where a brutal religious dictatorship maintains a thick cloak of secrecy over such information.

Iran and its allies in Iraq are now moving precipitously towards war with the United States, in part because the mentally ill president of that country needs to wage war in order to win reelection. Large parts of the world that are the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change are already suffering; places like the Philippines are experiencing devastating and lethal storms, one after the other, breaking all historical records.

Much of Australia has been on fire for months as we ring in 2020, accompanied by the hottest temperatures on record. This is changing Australian lives, politics, and the consciousness of the ordinary Australian who is now getting involved in the struggle to save their island, and coming to a better understanding of how their survival is linked to the rest of the world. In Japan, forces are growing in protest to push the Japanese government towards support for the Hong Kong protestors, confronting mainland China; also supporting the struggles of minority groups in mainland China, reporting on government abuses, etc. The US government has expressed its full support for the Hong Kong protestors, further escalating tensions between these two superpowers along with ally Russia. These tensions were already at their most aggravated moments as a result of the US/China trade war.

To make matters still worse, especially for SE Asia, the North Korean dictator is threatening the use of a new strategic weapon. Our world on the arrival first of 2020 and now 2021, is a tinderbox as never before. The 2020 presidential elections in the USA will be the single greatest determining factor for the survival of the planet. Given that the current president preaches a doctrine of conflict and confrontation rather than collaboration, and denies that climate change is even exacerbated by man-made actions, if he is re-elected, there will be little hope for our world in the short term.

Here at Protest2020.com, we invite you to protest, share your views, and help us all to march towards a more sustainable and peaceful world that will not totally implode, at least within our lifetimes, leaving hope for life to continue in more intelligent forms, better appreciating our planetary home. We ultimately seek harmony with nature so as to preserve life as we know it, as we dream it could be. Everything depends on how hard we are willing to fight to make it so.


Let’s get arrested, the more the merrier!