People across the globe are professing their dissatisfaction in progressively creative and rowdy manners.
The past year has seen schoolchildren across the globe join the Fridays for Future strikes, observing mass walkouts from schools across the globe. In Chile, integrated 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 prior two weeks, protests have burst 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 significant about these protests, from Chile to Lebanon to Catalonia, is that protesters are marshaling 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 chiefly. And it’s not just demands that are expanding: the ways in which civil infractions and direct action are carried out is also becoming progressively 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 Democratic. Nobody totally seems to know where it came from or which organizing empowering it. Those initially sharing its tweets came from different political families, in addition with all three pro-independence parties, as well as some of those who had been confined as a result of their involvement in the Catalan independence movement.
Following its initial proclamation little was heard from Tsunami Democratic as well as occasional tweets featuring the efficacy of peaceful civil resistance. This changed on October 11—the day the Supreme Court sentence against the Catalan leaders was expected—when Tsunami Democratic released a song: “La Força de la Gent” (The Strength of the People). This echoed the spirit of the song “Agafant l’Horitzó”, which was released before the independence referendum of Oct. 1, 2017. The group then started organizing protests.
So far, Tsunami Democratic has only called three of the countless protests we’ve witnessed since 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 group’s huge success in calling and achieving immense protests at the drop of a hat has been enabled, to a large degree, by technology. It has utilized the messaging app Telegram with specific success, collecting over 385,000 subscribers. Telegram channels (which are designed to send information from a single source to subscribers) have become crucial sources of information and organizing around the world.
Tsunami Democratic has also established a new app designed to coordinate protests in real time depending on people’s locations. This proved so popular that its systems broke down during the first few hours, as so many people tried to download it.
The app, which has not been put to use yet, is approachable using QR codes that are shareable among up to ten users. This means that if one of the codes is acting skeptically, the whole chain can be removed. It is designed to arrange users (called water drops) into actions to create a “tsunami.” This could include the occupation of transport hubs (such as train stations or airports), but also the strategy of demonstrations against specific events. The idea is quite a novelty, and has already gathered interest among tech communities.
Tsunami Democratic has already made waves. The Spanish Home Office has labeled it a terrorist organization. Last week, the Guardia Civil (Spain’s paramilitary police force), closed down the Tsunami Democratic website, and the home office minister announced that they are investigating who is behind it. So far, except for the musicians that appear in the song, and football manager Pep Guardiola’s video reading Tsunami’s manifesto, there are no other public faces.
We live in a time when protests are growing on a global basis, often in reaction to undemocratic actions of states.
In this light, the actions of Tsunami Democràtic are significant: they elaborate a propensity for a growing proportion of people to turn to creative forms of disruptive protest. These methods are typically open, fluid, without adamant structures. They symbolize novel trials to express a voice when it seems that those in power are progressively uninterested in listening.
Whether or not this is reality, in the case of Catalonia, the proportion of the population interesting in protest is already much higher than 3.5%. Timid local police estimates signifies that there were more than 500,000 people engaging in the marches for freedom during the last general strike: about 14% of the Catalonian population.
Empowered by technology, such movements are becoming more systematic and creative than ever. While there is no assurance that these novel forms of protest will be successful, the recent news that fracking will be prohibited in the UK highlights the way that relentless, current, coordinated, and novel efforts to threat those in power can result in exceptionally positive outcomes.