Argentina’s social protests against joblessness and poverty in the 1990s were a precursor to the massive street demonstrations that have swept the world since 2011, from Chile, Egypt and the United States to Brazil and Turkey. CELS began advocating for the right to protest in Argentina some 20 years ago and – based on that work – has helped to introduce this pressing issue on the global human rights agenda.
Why is this important? Because social protests are the megaphone of democracy. Their significance goes beyond freedom of speech; public mobilizations are a fundamental tool for people to defend their rights. Many liberties that we enjoy today were won on the streets by past generations, including the ban on child labor, advances toward racial equality, and women’s suffrage. However, since exclusion has persisted under both democratic and entrenched authoritarian regimes, protests have become one of the primary instruments for enforcing human rights. And many states react by repressing them and persecuting activists.