6 Student Protests Around the World
From Paris in 1968 to Hong Kong in 2019, student-led protests have made a huge difference in politics.
6 student protests that have made a difference
- U.S. students strikes in 1970
On April 1970, President Richard Nixon’s decision to expand the Vietnam War into Cambodia led to campus protests. At Kent State University, National Guardsmen confronted and killed 4 students and wounded 9. For many people, especially young, it was a shocking example of a heavy-handed authoritarian they saw thriving in Nixon’s America. Soon, over 4 million students shut down over 450 campuses across the U.S. The widespread action soon shifted public opinion about the ongoing war.
- May 1968 in Paris
Students opposed to the 1967 university reforms demonstrated en masse, invading the Nanterre and Sorbonne Universities in Paris and initiating a strike supported by trade unions and workers in May and June 1968. This was the first strike of its kind seen in France. Charles De Gaulle's government sought to alleviate the movement by increasing salaries by 14% reducing working hours improving retirement conditions.
- The Soweto uprising
During the apartheid era, a decree was issued by the South African government in 1974 stating that Afrikaans — a language inherited from colonial Netherlands must be introduced into the black population’s education centers — to the detriment of their indigenous languages. Meanwhile, white students could choose which language would be taught in their classes. Thousands of black students from the Soweto district in Johannesburg protested in the streets on June 16, 1976, demanding equal treatment, social guarantees and better education. The images from this violent repression showing hundreds of dead students traveled the world, exposing the violation of human rights of John Vorster’s government, and flagging the beginning of the end of apartheid.
- Maple Spring strike in Quebec
In April and May of 2012, the suggestion that university fees should be increased by 74% inspired thousands of students in Quebec to demonstrate. The student movement gave rise to massive protests against Jean Charest’s government, who then decided to ban it with the introduction of Bill 78 — which prohibited picketing and protesting near university grounds to dial back the convening of demonstrations, the bill stated that police approval must be sought to assemble. This extreme measure outraged the people of Quebec even more and led to a change in government after the September general elections. In the end, the increase in fees was not applied, and the Bill 78 was abolished.
- 15-M Movement in Spain
The indignant movement had as its focal point the Puerta del Sol, Madrid, the place of culmination for a demonstration convened by student organizations and pro-democracy groups on May 15, 2011. A spontaneous camping session that very night paved the way for a series of peaceful protests which extended all across Spain against political and economic corruption, the two-party system of the PP and the PSOE, something which became crystalized in the political panorama with the emergence of new parties.
- Protests in Hong Kong
Hong Kong was a British colony until being restored to China in 1997, but was meant to have a "high level of autonomy" until 2047. But according to Hong Kong citizens, the Beijing government is interfering more tangibly. In June 2019, a draft legislation to authorize extraditions to China triggered widespread demonstrations. That was led, for the most part, by student movements, who were reclaiming, among other things, the right to universal suffrage. Faced with the force of the protests, the Hong Kong government had to retract, and officially suspend the draft legislation.
- Global climate strikes
The climate crisis is the main driving force behind the School strike for the climate a student movement where students strike every Friday, every week of the year, across the globe to demand that direct responsibility/direct actions be taken against the alarming deterioration of the environment. Greta Thunberg became a key figure in the movement by organizing a demonstration in front of Swedish parliament in August 2018. In September 2019, she delivered a powerful speech at the UN General Assembly in New York which fiercely condemned various world leaders.