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31 Dec, 2014 12:32

Protesting across the globe: What took people to the streets in 2014

Protesting across the globe: What took people to the streets in 2014

Calls for independence, pleas to stop war, objection to mass surveillance, outrage over police brutality, and much more drove people to the streets in 2014. RT takes a look at what prompted millions around the globe to rise up.

Euromaidan and eastern Ukraine backfire

What is now known worldwide as Euromaidan can surely be named the protest of the year. The initially peaceful demonstrations which started as a reaction to then-President Viktor Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the EU association deal last year became violent in 2014.

A protestor throws a molotov cocktail at riot police in the centre of Kiev on January 22, 2014. (AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)

Kiev’s central Independence Square - Maidan Nezalezhnosty - was turned into a battlefield as Ukrainian protesters clashed with police through January and February.

READ MORE: ‘Warzone’: Open street battles in Kiev as rioters, police face-off (PHOTOS)

Molotov cocktails started fires, which were fueled by rubber tires. The square and adjacent streets were engulfed in flames by night and smoke by day. Violent force - which led to a great number of casualties - was used by both Euromaidan supporters and riot police.

Riot police officers gather as they clash with protestors in the center of Kiev on January 22, 2014. (AFP Photo / Anatolii Boiko)

The unrest resulted in a coup that toppled Yanukovich and his government in February.

Those not satisfied with the new authorities who were appointed as a result of the coup - some in Kiev and most in eastern parts of Ukraine - took to the streets too. East Ukraine and Crimea said the new Kiev government was illegitimate and demanded a referendum to decide on the future of the region.

As no agreement was reached between the two parties, protesters started taking over the buildings of regional administrations, declaring independence from Kiev. In turn, Kiev launched a crackdown operation in April which turned into an ongoing military conflict.

A woman looks through a damaged entrance door as pro-Russian demonstrators hold a rally outside the regional government building in Donetsk, March 3, 2014. (Reuters / Stringer)

READ MORE: Ukraine’s killing fields in 10 stories: RT reporter goes to Lugansk and Donetsk

A total of 4,634 people have been killed and 10,243 injured since the start of the conflict, according to a December report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Global protests against Israeli military op in Gaza

Thousands of people across the globe took to the streets in 2014 to protest against Israel’s 50-day 'Operation Protective Edge' in the Gaza Strip, which started on July 8 in retaliation to Hamas rocket fire.

During Israel's offensive, more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians. Among the victims at least 469 were children, according to a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official.

Protesters gather at Place de la Republique during a banned demonstration in support of Gaza in central Paris, July 26, 2014. (Reuters / Benoit Tessier)

Protesters from America to Australia joined in support of the Palestinians, with the most massive rallies taking place in the UK. The move was supported by hundreds in France, Chile, India, Austria, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Germany, Morocco, Turkey, Oman, Spain, Malaysia, and many other countries.

READ MORE: Thousands rally against Gaza strikes in London, Paris, Dublin, Tel Aviv

Demonstrators protest to support the people of Gaza, in central London August 9, 2014. (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

In Israel, anti-war activists and Palestinians protested the operation in Tel Aviv, despite a police ban on public gatherings due to military restrictions in cities targeted by Hamas rockets.

US demonstrations against police brutality

The US witnessed a wave of protests across the country in 2014, following the death of Eric Garner - a 43-year-old black Staten Island resident - in July.

Protesters stage a "Die-In" on a display taxi cab in the Forever 21 store in Times Square, during a march against police violence, in New York, December 7, 2014. (Reuters / Andrew Kelly)

The video of the incident shot by a passerby shows New York Police Department Officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in an apparent chokehold, while a group of other officers force Garner to the ground.

Garner, who reportedly suffered from asthma, died after repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe." His phrase became the backbone of the protests, which began right after his death.

Logan Browning, with duct tape over her mouth, joins demonstrators protesting against police violence, including the July chokehold death of unarmed black man Eric Garner in New York, as they march near the area where LAPD shot an assault suspect on December 5, in Hollywood, California December 6, 2014. (Reuters / Patrick T. Fallon)

Another incident that prompted people to take to the streets in protest against police violence was the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in August.

The protests were fueled by the fact that Wilson was not indicted by a grand jury in November. Hundreds were arrested across the US as they rallied against the grand jury decision. The hands-up gesture became the symbol of the protest, as witnesses claimed Brown had his hands raised when he was shot.

READ MORE: No indictment: Clashes, arson after grand jury verdict for Ferguson cop

Members of a rowdy group of demonstrators stand with their hands up as they are lit by a police spotlight on West Florissant during protests in reaction to the shooting of Michael Brown near Ferguson, Missouri August 18, 2014. (Reuters / Lucas Jackson)

In December, the non-indictment of Daniel Pantaleo gave new momentum to the Garner protests. Following the jury’s decision, people in New York City and San Francisco gathered in protest, demonstrating with several 'die-ins.'

READ MORE: Dozens arrested as NYC protests Eric Garner decision

Residents of Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and other US cities staged protests against the jury’s decision. Demonstrators in London also showed solidarity with the US rallies.

Tens of thousands joined the 'Millions March' in New York City to protest against police brutality, as well as the non-indictment of officers in both cases.

READ MORE: #BlackLivesMatter: Anonymous calls for march of millions over police brutality

#HandsUpWalkOut rallies spread across the US, commemorating Brown, Garner, and other people lost to police violence - including John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Israel Hernandez, Oscar Grant, Ezell Ford, and Ramarley Graham.

After Christmas, demonstrations under the mottos “Hands up, don’t shoot" and“Black lives matter,” as well as “No justice, no peace!” took place in several major American cities. The number of protesters peaked in Los Angeles, where over 5,000 took part in the so-called 'Millions March for First Amendment Rights.'

Kurdish drive during ISIS Kobani assault

Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants have gained momentum in 2014, declaring an unrecognized caliphate and extending control of territories in Iraq and northern Syria. As the jihadists tried to advance in Syria, all eyes were on the courageous Kurdish fighters of the city of Ayn al-Arab – also known under the name of Kobani. Since September, the militants have been storming the border city with Turkey in Syria's north, while the Kurds have defended it.

Protesters carry pictures of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), during a demonstration in support of Kurdish fighters and the besieged citizens of the Syrian town of Kobani and against the Islamic State, in Aleppo's Kurdish neighbourhood of Sheikh Maksoud November 1, 2014 (Reuters / Hosam Katan)

The pro-Kurdish protests started in autumn in Turkey, where Kurds are the largest ethnic minority. People were furious over what they called Ankara’s inadequate response to ISIS threats.

Protesters were met with tear gas and water cannons. The subsequent rioting and violence resulted in over 40 fatalities by October.

Demonstrators gesture as they gather to protest against Islamic State during a rally in solidarity with the people of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, in Diyarbakir, in the Kurdish dominated southeastern Turkey November 1, 2014 (Reuters / Sertac Kayar)

November 1 saw an international day of protest for the Kurds, with tens of thousands rallying across the world in support of the Kurdish fighters in Kobani, demanding stronger military action to combat the jihadists.

READ MORE: Global day for Kobani: Thousands march to support Kurds’ fight against ISIS

Hong Kong ‘Umbrella’ protests

In 2014, Hong Kong witnessed one of its largest protests in decades. Demonstrations were launched by students in September outside the government HQ and continued through the end of the year, drawing more than 100,000 people to the streets at their peak.

Protesters open their umbrellas, symbols of pro-democracy movement, as they mark exactly one month since they took the streets in Hong Kong's financial central district October 28, 2014. (Reuters / Damir Sagolj)

The demonstrators rallied night and day and staged sit-ins, demanding greater electoral rights from mainland China and the resignation of Hong Kong’s chief executive.

Many in the crowd carried umbrellas, as they provided protection from pepper spray and water cannons used by police to disperse the crowd.

That’s how the protest got its symbol, the yellow umbrella, and its 'Umbrella Movement' title. The demonstrations were also supported by a broader Occupy Central movement.

READ MORE: Hong Kong police pepper spray protesters as hundreds try to surround govt office

Beijing’s unwillingness to meet the demands of the demonstrators saw the movement's support soon dwindle.

Venezuela street battles

Anti-government demonstrators pretend to bat gas canisters to police during riots in Caracas April 1, 2014. (Reuters / Christian Veron)

Venezuela was shaken by violent protests and political demonstrations in the first half of 2014, triggered by high levels of inflation, mass power cuts, and a lack of basic goods.

Over 40 people were killed in clashes between police and militant groups known as "colectivos." Human rights groups condemned the violence, saying the government used excessive force on the “unarmed protesters."

Anti-government protesters clash with police during a protest in Caracas March 12, 2014. (Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

READ MORE: Fresh street battles as Venezuela protest death toll hits 39 (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

President Nicolas Maduro – successor to the iconic Hugo Chavez – denounced the unrest as an attempt to carry out a coup d’état, blaming the opposition and the US. The leader of the opposition movement, ‘Popular Will’ Leopoldo Lopez, claimed the government orchestrated the bloodshed. Lopez is currently on trial under charges of arson, terrorism, and homicide.

Scottish independence referendum rallies

Scotland has been divided by pro- and against campaigners, both of which took to the streets in 2014 across the British Isles.

The Scottish independence referendum held in September saw a 55-45 vote to stay in the UK, with an 84 percent voter turnout - a number that far eclipses the 65 percent attained in the 2010 general election from the whole of the UK.

Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014. (Reuters / Dylan Martinez)

READ MORE: Thousands demand vote recount in Scottish #indyref

Following the referendum, more than 90,000 people signed an online petition calling for the votes to be recounted, backing accusations that the referendum was marred by vote-rigging.

Millions for Catalonian independence

In another call for independence, Europe witnessed one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in recent years as Catalans took to the streets, holding massive protests and rallies since mid-2014.

Catalans holding independentist flags (Estelada) gather on Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes during celebrations of Catalonia National Day (Diada) in Barcelona on September 11, 2014. (AFP Photo / Quique Garcia)

Dressed in red and yellow, the colors of the Catalan flag, people demanded a referendum to vote for a split with Spain. The number of participants, estimated at about 1.8 million, even surpassed the number of Barcelona residents.

With its own language and culture, the autonomous region has a population of 7.5 million and accounts for nearly one-quarter of Spain’s GDP.

READ MORE: 1.8mn people, 11km line: Catalonians stage their biggest independence rally

The referendum was scheduled for November 9. However, the Iberian region’s plans were shot down by Madrid, which ordered a ban not only on the non-binding polls, but also on any show of support for independence at all – symbolic or otherwise.

Brazil World Cup unrest and anti-corruption protests

As Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup, protests against corruption and excessive government spending on stadiums for the games were held across the country prior to and during the event. The demonstrators instead demanded that the money be spent on public services including transportation, healthcare, and education.

A woman is pushed by riot policemen during a clash with demontrators in a protest against the 2014 World Cup in Sao Paulo June 12, 2014. (Reuters / Ricardo Moraes)

The protests were fueled by the government raising transport fare in February. Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested after violent clashes with police that took place before the World Cup began in June.

READ MORE: Tear gas, stun grenades: Brazilian police disperse protesters hours before WC opener

More than a million Brazilians took to the streets of at least 80 towns and cities during the football event. Several protesters died in the violence and dozens were injured.

Tens of thousands against internet tax in Hungary

Ten-thousand participants march accross the Elisabeth bridge during an anti-government rally against the goverment's new tax plan for the introduction of the internet tax next year in Budapest on October 28, 2014. (AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Hungary in October demanding that legislation imposing a tax on internet traffic be withdrawn.

READ MORE: 100,000+ rally in Hungary over internet tax despite govt concessions (PHOTO, VIDEO)

The demonstrators continued to protest following the government's amendment of the controversial internet tax bill, saying the country is turning anti-democratic under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Mexican anger over Iguala mass kidnapping

Mexico has been facing violent rallies since local authorities revealed that 43 students were handed over by corrupt police to the Guerros Unidos gang. The gang members confessed to murdering them and reducing their bodies to ashes in September.

A woman holds a sign during a protest demanding justice for the 43 missing students of the Ayotzinapa Teacher Training College Raul Isidro Burgos, in Tecoanapa, in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, December 11, 2014. (Reuters / Jorge Dan Lopez)

Their disappearance has posed the biggest challenge so far to President Enrique Pena Nieto's administration, with many questioning the government’s progress in fighting against drug violence. There have been reports of injuries and arrests as police disperse the raging crowds.

READ MORE: Mexicans march against president as fresh graves discovered (PHOTO, VIDEO)