Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Under the banner Ende Gelände—"here and no further"— activists brought the Rhineland coalfields to a halt. (Photo: Ende-gelaende.org)

Seven Inspirational Protests of 2016

Jayde Tynes

 by Global Justice Now

Needless to say, 2016 has been a tough one for social justice activists around the world. With the rise in xenophobia after Brexit, the presidential election of Trump and the looming threat of trade deals such as TTIP and CETA, we’ve been busy. But let’s also make sure we celebrate the fact that we have risen to the challenge. Here are seven protests of 2016 that can inspire more movement building and successful activism in 2017. 

1. Standing Rock

With thousands of people taking part and millions talking about it on social media, the North Dakota pipeline protests got an international following in 2016. The grassroots movements, spurred by the Native American Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, started in the spring in reaction to the approved construction of the pipeline threatening the region’s clean water and ancient burial grounds. On 4 December, the environmental activists saw a major campaign success as the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Dakota Access pipeline to drill under the Missouri river. However, many protesters continue to camp on the site not considering the matter solved.

2. Black Lives Matter UK

What began in 2012 as a campaign calling for a nationwide response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the police officer who killed the black teenager Treyvon Martyn, inspired activists in the UK to campaign against police violence and racism in the UK.  #BlackLivesMatterUK launched in 2016 with a direct action that brought traffic to a standstill outside Heathrow Airport. This was the beginning of further demonstrations from London to Manchester. Another coordinated action took place across the UK in July, on the fifth anniversary of the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan by police in north London, which led to riots in several cities across England in 2011.

3. India labour strike

An estimated 150 million Indian public sector workers took part in a nationwide strike in September that is widely thought to be the world’s largest ever industrial action. The strike saw activists shut down state banks and power stations and halted public transport.  Protesting what they refer to as ‘anti-worker and anti-people’ policies of Narendra Modi’s government, the trade union demands include a 692 rupee (approx. £8) daily minimum wage and a ban on privatization in India’s railway.

4. Yarl's Wood 

This year, UK-based activists continuously campaigned to close down Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre by surrounding the building and creating a wall of noise. With more than 2,000 people gathering outside the infamous detention center, the protest on 3 December was the biggest seen to date. Most of these demonstrations have been led by former detainees and asylum seekers, and supported by various human rights and social justice organizations. Women who were once held in Yarl’s Wood have spoken of their experience of inhuman conditions and treatment by immigration officers.

5. Anti-Trump protests

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the US in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in November, criticizing the sexism, racism and xenophobia they claim that Mr Trump has made mainstream. An estimated 6,000 people demonstrated in Los Angeles, while 10,000 marched from Union Square to Trump Tower in New York. Protests also occurred in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Pennsylvania. A ‘Million Women March on D.C’ is scheduled for 21 January – the day after Trump’s presidential inauguration.

6. Anti-TTIP/CETA protests in Germany

2016 has been the year of continuous protests against the toxic trade deals TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and CETA (the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Across German cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Stuttgart, tens of thousands of people protested against these deals saying that they are a threat to food safety standards, environmental protection and workers’ rights. Thanks to millions of European and American activists, TTIP was stopped earlier this year, but the fight against CETA goes on.

7. German coal mine shutdown

In May 2016 an estimated 1,500 protesters managed to shut down the open cast coalmine in Lusita, close to the German border with Poland. Deemed to be one of the most polluting ones in Europe, the controversial coalmine was the target for climate activists across Europe, who set climate camps and organized demonstrations against the mining of fossil fuels. Activists also blocked coal trains and conveyor belts transporting coal to power plants near the mine.


Jayde Tynes

Jayde is the digital communications support assistant as Global Justice Now. She has recently relocated to London to continue to pursue her passion for learning in the areas of social justice, creative storytelling and internationalism.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Arbitrary, Racist, and Unfair': Judge Blocks Biden From Ending Title 42

"Only the coyotes profiteering off of people seeking protection have reason to celebrate this ill-reasoned ruling," said one migrant rights advocate.

Brett Wilkins ·


'This Is a War' for Democratic Party's Future, Says Sanders of AIPAC's Super PAC

"They are doing everything they can to destroy the progressive movement in this country," said the senator.

Julia Conley ·


Ginni Thomas Pressed Arizona Lawmakers to Reverse Biden's 2020 Win: Report

"Clarence Thomas' continued service on the Supreme Court is a scandalous and appalling breach of judicial ethics," said one observer. "He is implementing the exact same theories that his wife used to try to steal the 2020 election for Trump."

Brett Wilkins ·


Millions More Kids Going Hungry Since GOP, Manchin Killed Expanded Child Tax Credit

"Even brief disruptions in access to food can have lasting consequences," wrote the authors of a new analysis of worsening hunger among U.S. families.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo