Protest movements around the world employ symbols to get out their message. After all, a picture says a thousand words.

Three-finger salute
1In Myanmar, people show the three-finger salute as a sign of protest against the military coup. The gesture stems from the dystopian novel and film series “Hunger Games” and has also been a symbol of resistance in neighbouring Thailand, which has been under a military dictatorship since 2014.

Kneeling as a sign of solidarity
2“I can’t breathe” — that sentence went around the world in the summer of 2020, when African American George Floyd was brutally killed by police officers in the US. People around the world demonstrated against racism and police violence. At Black Lives Matter demonstrations, they showed solidarity with the victims of police violence by kneeling down.

A clenched fist
3In the 19th century, the clenched fist was a symbol of the labour movement. Later, it became a sign of the Black Power movement, which grew out of the US civil rights movement and was criticized for its call for violence. The symbolic power is still effective today. At the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year, protesters posed with their fists raised.

Red as a colour of protest
Protest Movement SymbolsProtests are increasingly taking place on the internet and social media. This is evident in Russia: Under the hashtag “Don’t be sad, everything will be fine,” people post pictures of themselves in red clothing. It is a way of showing solidarity with opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s wife Yulia, who wore a fiery red sweater on the day of her husband’s sentencing.

Protest in green
5In the struggle for the legalization of abortion in Argentina, the green scarf has become a symbol — for the right to abortion, but beyond that also for women’s rights and the fight for equality. When parliament legalized abortions in December, people spoke of a “marea verde,” a green wave that swept the country and the entire continent.

Yellow vests
6Not only colours or gestures have what it takes to be a protest symbol, as the yellow vest movement shows. The high-visibility vests were the distinctive symbol of the “Gilets Jaunes,” hundreds of thousands of whom poured onto the French streets in 2018. The movement was organized mainly via social media and protested for months against the political course taken by President Emmanuel Macron.

Umbrella revolution
7In 2014, thousands of people in Hong Kong took to the streets for more democracy. The fact that these protests were dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” by the media was due to the fact that the demonstrators took umbrellas with them to protect themselves from the sun, pepper spray and police batons.

Flowers for Belarus
8Reacting to the police’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators following the contested re-election of longtime President Alexander Lukashenko, in 2020, Belarusian women adopted powerful symbols of peace to pursue protests. Dressed in white and bearing flowers, they marched and formed solidarity chains in the streets of Minsk, the country’s capital. Flowers have often served as a revolutionary symbol.

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