The global pandemic has spawned new forms of activism – and they’re flourishing

Erica Chenoweth, Austin Choi-Fitzpatrick, Jeremy Pressman, Felipe G Santos and Jay Ulfelder at The Guardian: “Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the world was experiencing unprecedented levels of mass mobilization. The decade from 2010 to 2019 saw more mass movements demanding radical change around the world than in any period since World War II. Since the pandemic struck, however, street mobilization – mass demonstrations, rallies, protests, and sit-ins – has largely ground to an abrupt halt in places as diverse as India, Lebanon, Chile, Hong Kong, Iraq, Algeria, and the United States.

The near cessation of street protests does not mean that people power has dissipated. We have been collecting data on the various methods that people have used to express solidarity or adapted to press for change in the midst of this crisis. In just several weeks’ time, we’ve identified nearly 100 distinct methods of nonviolent action that include physical, virtual and hybrid actions – and we’re still counting. Far from condemning social movements to obsolescence, the pandemic – and governments’ responses to it – are spawning new tools, new strategies, and new motivation to push for change.

In terms of new tools, all across the world, people have turned to methods like car caravanscacerolazos (collectively banging pots and pans inside the home), and walkouts from workplaces with health and safety challenges to voice personal concerns, make political claims, and express social solidarity. Activists have developed alternative institutions such as coordinated mask-sewing, community mutual aid pods, and crowdsourced emergency funds. Communities have placed teddy bears in their front windows for children to find during scavenger hunts, authors have posted live-streamed readings, and musicians have performed from their balconies and rooftops. Technologists are experimenting with drones adapted to deliver supplies, disinfect common areas, check individual temperatures, and monitor high-risk areas. And, of course, many movements are moving their activities online, with digital ralliesteachins, and information-sharing.

Such activities have had important impacts. Perhaps the most immediate and life-saving efforts have been those where movements have begun to coordinate and distribute critical resources to people in need. Local mutual aid pods, like those in Massachusetts, have emerged to highlight urgent needs and provide for crowdsourced and volunteer rapid response. Pop-up food banks, reclaiming vacant housing, crowdsourced hardship funds, free online medical-consultation clinics, mass donations of surgical masks, gloves, gowns, goggles and sanitizer, and making masks at home are all methods that people have developed in the past several weeks. Most people have made these items by hand. Others have even used 3D printers to make urgently-needed medical supplies. These actions of movements and communities have already saved countless lives….(More)”.