Protesting across the globe: What took people to the streets in 2014
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.
Kiev’s central Independence Square - Maidan Nezalezhnosty - was turned into a battlefield as Ukrainian protesters clashed with police through January and February.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beijing’s unwillingness to meet the demands of the demonstrators saw the movement's support soon dwindle.
Venezuela street battles
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Hungary in October demanding that legislation imposing a tax on internet traffic be withdrawn.
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.
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.