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Who is your winner of discontent? A look back at a year of protests

A Yellow vest protester clashes with police in Nantes on Dec 22, 2018.
A Yellow vest protester clashes with police in Nantes on Dec 22, 2018. Copyright REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Copyright REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
By Alice Tidey & Natalia Liubchenkova
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Millions of people in Europe and beyond hit the streets in 2018 to denounce issues such as injustice, inequalities and climate change. Here is our round-up.


Millions of people in Europe and beyond hit the streets in 2018 to denounce issues such as injustice, inequalities and climate change.

Some succeeded in reversing policies but even the ones that failed had a profound impact on the local, regional or global culture.

Here we take a look — complete with a picture gallery, below — at some of the most powerful protests of the year.

Protest photo gallery

Click the arrow to scroll through the gallery, which features protests from Russia, London, Barcelona, Kyiv, Bucharest, Budapest and Paris.


France: 'gilets jaunes' ('yellow vests')

The so-called "gilets jaunes" ("yellow vests") movement started online as a rallying cry against French President Emmanuel Macron's proposed taxes on fuel, described as necessary to combat climate change.

The nationwide citizen movement — which does not have a leadership structure — quickly snowballed into a more general protest about spending power and inequalities.

After weeks of demonstrations, which included road blockages across the country and several — often violent — days of national action, Macron caved in. The taxes on fuel were scrapped and several measures purported to boost low incomes were announced.

Hungary: 'Slave law' protests

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been publicly rebuked multiple times by the European Union for allegedly undermining democratic rule.

Yet his grip on power had so far appeared quasi-untouchable as he was re-elected for a third consecutive term in April and with his ruling Fidesz party facing a fragmented opposition at home.

But the right-wing leader was seen visibly shaken as opposition MPs staged a protest in parliament against two of his latest measures.

Then, it spilt onto the streets.

Up to 10,000 people braved freezing temperatures earlier this month to take part in a protest called "Merry Xmas Mr. Prime Minister". It denounced amended legislation, dubbed a "slave law" by critics. 

The law enables employers to ask staff to work up to 400 extra hours annually but be paid three years later.

They also criticised a judicial reform that will create new administrative courts — that will answer to the government — to oversee issues including electoral law, protests and corruption.

READ: Why are people protesting in Hungary? | Euronews explains


Romania: Rule of law and corruption protests

The country was rocked by the biggest street protests in decades after the ruling left-wing Social Democrats party introduce plans to overhaul the country's judiciary.

The reforms were criticised by the EU, the US State Department and thousands of magistrates as weakening rule of law and the fight against corruption.

READ: Euronews' full report on corruption in Romania

USA: Protests over Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh

Thousands of protesters brandishing placards reading "We will not be silent" and "We believe Dr Christine Blasey Ford" marched through Washington DC in October calling on the Senate not to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.


The march was the culmination of weeks of protest against Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct, and which exposed the partisanship of the Supreme Court nomination process.

Kavanaugh was nevertheless confirmed — although with the smallest Senate margin in 137 years.

READ: Trump says mockery of Kavanaugh accuser got him confirmed

Russia/Ukraine: Protests to free film director Oleg Sentsov

People gathered outside Russian embassies across Europe this summer as detained Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov reached his 100th day of hunger strike.


Sentsov was arrested at his home in Crimea in May 2014 for opposing Russia's annexation of the peninsula. 

He was condemned to 20 years in prison for organising terrorist acts which human rights organisation have denounced as bogus and politically motivated.

The protest shone a light on Russia's treatment of political prisoners. 

Earlier this month, the European Parliament awarded Sentsov with its 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.


Russia: Putin's pension headache

Tens of thousands rallied across Russia this year to protest against a pension reform to raise the retirement age for women to 63 from 55, and for men to 65 from 60.

The protests hit Vladimir Putin's approval rating and led to a rare concession from the Russian President who had previously said he would never touch retirement age.

The law signed in October saw women's retirement age bumped up to 60 — instead of 63 — but the increase to 65 for men was confirmed.

Armenia: mass anti-government protests

Armenians staged mass anti-government protests this year which successfully toppled Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan accused of clinging to power and condemned for his close ties with Russia.


The movement gathered momentum after journalist Nikol Pashinyan set off on a 120-kilometre march on March 31, from Gyumri to Yerevan to oppose the government. By the time he reached the capital two weeks later, thousands had joined him.

Sargsyan resigned within days and Pashinyan was catapulted as acting prime minister and won snap elections by a landslide earlier this month.

READ: Armenia election: Who is Nikol Pashinyan?

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