Why a decade of mass protest has done so little to change things?

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In 2010, in response to ongoing ill-treatment by police, a fruit vendor performed an act of self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. This set off an uprising that led to the removal of dictator Ben Ali and a process to rewrite the constitution in a democratic direction.

Inspired by this, huge demonstrations against police brutality erupted in Egypt, centred in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the protesters calling for the removal of the country’s president, Hosni Mubarak.

These events catalysed what Vincent Bevins calls the “mass protest decade”. The years from 2010 to 2020 saw a record number of protests around the world seeking to transform societies in broadly progressive ways. Many groups were inspired by democratic ideals. These protests were truly global.

In his new book If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution, Bevins starts by asking “how is it possible that so many mass protests apparently led to the opposite of what they asked for?”

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