In the eight years leading up to 2018, the available comparable global data shows a 102 per cent increase in the number of riots, general strikes and anti-government demonstrations, according to the 2020 Global Peace Index.
The number of both protests and riots roughly doubled, while the number of general strikes quadrupled, from 33 events in 2011 to 135 in 2018.
Nonviolent demonstrations accounted for 64%, and another 6% were general strikes, with the remaining 30% classified as riots. More than 4,700 nonviolent demonstrations were recorded, compared to nearly 2,200 riots.
The high level of civil unrest in 2011 reflects the Arab Spring, followed by a decline in the number of protests in 2012 as these movements either achieved their goals, were repressed by governments, or escalated into civil wars. However, total global civil unrest rose above 2011 levels just three years later and has remained above that level since.
Riots did not decline in the years immediately following the Arab Spring, when the number of anti-government demonstrations fell. The number of riots around the world has increased 282% since 2011. The trend peaked in 2014, especially in countries with fragile democratic institutions, before plateauing. Since 2016, there have been at least 300 events every year.
Protests peaked globally in 2016, as unrest continued to escalate in many countries but violent demonstrations fell off. Teachers, parents, labourers and municipal workers protested in India, which had nearly 150 different demonstrations. Proposed changes to France’s labour laws brought demonstrations and a no confidence vote for then-President François Hollande’s government, while Brazilians protested government corruption, calling for the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff. In the United States, more than 1,000 people were arrested in the nation’s capitol that year in protests focusing on police violence, gun violence, and environmental issues.