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How the United States can move beyond mass protests in the wake of Donald Trump

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Does the world seem upset? COVID-19 has certainly caused great upheaval, but it is not the only one confusing our meaning of life. Over the past five years, the world has seen a steady stream of mass protests.

If you live in the United States and Canada, you have witnessed the Black Lives Matter protests, which started here and spread to other countries, and often violent counter-protests, pro-gun rallies and anti-guns in both countries, and pro-pipeline and anti-pipeline protests, the latest of which included indigenous protests.

There have also been protests against violence against women, particularly in Mexico, loosely linked to the #MeToo movement, which started in the United States but has gone international.

The final days of Donald Trump’s presidency saw the storming of the Capitol building, considered the sanctuary of American democracy, by xenophobes, militiamen and QAnon supporters as well as other Trump supporters. They were there to support their president in his bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, and Trumps’ second impeachment trial featured never-before-seen footage of lawmakers running for their lives from the mob.

Read more: Why did Donald Trump do better than expected in the US election?

It was perhaps a fitting end to a tumultuous half-decade in the American republic, a time when forces demanding change and forces insisting on a return to an idealized and largely fictitious past struggled for control. But the United States has not been alone in the battle over the future direction of the company.

Global events

The citizens of Hong Kong are fighting for their democracy. Protests have erupted in Iran on several occasions since 2017, directed against the country’s stagnant economy and Iranian leadership.

Chile has also been rocked by violent protests against economic inequality in 2019 and more recently against police brutality. Economic protests in Zimbabwe brought down President Robert Mugabe in 2017, but continued corruption and economic hardship led to more protests in 2020.

A protester is arrested by Chilean police during a protest against the fatal shooting of a street juggler who resisted police during a routine identity check in Santiago, Chile, February 6, 2021 (Credit : AP Photo / Ailen Diaz)

Venezuela has seen repeated mass protests against the government of Nicolas Maduro for political corruption and a rapidly deteriorating economy. Indian farmers are waging a large-scale campaign to ease Prime Minister Narendra Modis’ agricultural reforms, which farmers say will lead to the destruction of family farms. Protests have intensified in Russia since 2020 over political corruption.

Read more: Indian farmers are right to protest against agricultural reforms

This is just a sample of multiple mass protests in recent years. Understanding why they occur will help explain the frequency. There are some common elements in most mass movements.

For and against change

Some movements are about change and some are against change. It all starts with people who feel that something they urgently need is refused by the authorities. If this denial persists, frustration eventually leads to protests.

Demonstrations fueled by strong frustration, even despair, will continue, grow and generally end up leading to violence, either on the part of protesters or their opponents.

At this point, the authorities must decide whether to crush the protest movement or to grant concessions. For now, the Chinese government is imposing a law that essentially sends anyone who opposes or criticizes the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong government to mainland China for a trial on what one might loosely call charges of sedition or treason.

Various groups of pro-democracy activists arrive in a Hong Kong court in February 2021, accused of joining an unauthorized assembly in June 2020 (AP Photo / Kin Cheung)

The pandemic has made large public protests dangerous, and the number of people fleeing Hong Kong suggests the Chinese government has won, as governments usually do.

Social media often fuels today’s mass protests. Citizens can now connect with others who are equally frustrated with political and economic issues and inequalities, and can organize protests. The first true transnational manifestation of Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Idle No More movement, was widely organized on Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, dictatorships, and even some democratic governments, have often shut down the Internet and cell phone services during mass protests.

And after that?

Will millions of people continue to flee Venezuela because the government has successfully used brutal repression to control protesters as the economy implodes?

Will Vladimir Putin’s widespread use of force in Russia curb protests against corruption and abuse of power?

Detained protesters marching are escorted by police on January 31, 2021, during a protest against the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia. Governments generally win when it comes to resolving mass protests. (AP Photo / Dmitri Lovetsky)

Will the Modi government in India turn to increased use of force if agricultural protesters become frustrated with the lack of action on their grievances and turn to violence?

And what about the United States now that Trump is out of power?

I have already identified groups that were the main supporters of Trump, such as evangelical Christians; industrial workers who have lost their jobs due to globalization and those whose livelihoods depend on these workers; xenophobic; and white supremacists.

Read more: Why die-hard Trump supporters ignore his lies

These are among the people who came to Washington on January 6 to ask Congress to refuse to recognize the election result. All say they feel ignored by the government. But their vision of what America should be like was put to good use by the president, who gave voice to the frustration. Although not all took part in the insurgency, many did, having received permission from the president to do so. Here we have a variation on the usual protests, authority encouraged rather than against protest.

Bidens tries to ease tensions

President Joe Biden is making efforts to address some economic grievances. He is backing a massive aid package for Americans, and his American buying policies will suit those angry at the leakage of manufacturing from the United States. He has also offered subsidies for certain industries likely to create jobs, tax products manufactured abroad by American companies and increase taxes on wealth.

Biden speaks during a meeting with lawmakers on infrastructure investments in the Oval Office of the White House on February 11, 2021 (AP Photo / Evan Vucci)

Evangelical Christians will be more difficult to pacify. Despite being a staunch Catholic, Bidens’ liberal views on abortion likely mean evangelicals will stick with the Republican Party.

Some xenophobes will be appeased by America First’s policies, but many will be angered by Bidens’ relaxation of restrictions on immigration from Latin American countries.

By pursuing identifiable attackers during the Capitol uprising, the government is doing what it takes to prevent a similar violent protest.

Militias and other right-wing extremists seem to be a hallmark of American life. They remained largely in the shadows until Donald Trump gave them legitimacy. With the ongoing prosecutions and undoubtedly increased surveillance, they will once again take a back seat.

If the Biden administration can show it is taking action to address widespread hardships, especially those of African Americans, who have endured generations of systemic racism and inequality, the United States should be able to come out. of this period of sustained mass protests. It remains to be seen whether this is possible in other parts of the world, where the same governments remain for the time being.

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