Economic Uncertainty Leading to Global Unrest
Senior Editor, CNBC
London is reeling from three nights of riotingthat's poured hundreds of people into the streets, leaving several local neighborhoods in shambles. One man is dead, dozens injured and arrested.
The protests have now spread to other cities, with violence reported in parts of Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol.
Great Britain and other parts of the world are experiencing unrest at a time of global economic uncertainty and stock market volatility.
Here's a look at what's happening around the world and how economic downturns are bringing protestors into the streets.
Police in London say the violence began during a vigil for a man, Mark Duggan, who’d been killed by police. However, those on the streets say what's happening goes beyond one man's death.
In late June, half the public schools in Britain where closed by a massive protest over public pensions cuts, including three major teachers' unions, customs and immigration officers, and air traffic controllers. Some 750,000 people took part in the protest.
London's press has reported that discontenthas been simmering among Britain's urban poor for years, in neighborhoods like Tottenham, where the riots started.
But as one man told NBC News about an economic protest two months ago, "There was not a word in the press about our protests. Last night (Saturday) a bit of rioting and looting and now look around you."
In response to the violence, Prime Minister David Cameron has said law and order will prevail in Great Britain and he's doubled the amount of police officers in the streets and instituted curfews for young adults.
Cameron's conservative government is under fire for spending cuts to social programs in order to help reduce the country's debt. Among those hit the hardest are large numbers of minority youths who have been at the forefront of the unrest.
Some 250,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel, on Saturday over the rising cost of living. Demonstrations actually began last month when a few people set up tents in an expensive part of Tel Aviv to protest rising property prices.
The protests have moved to other cities in Israel, where some 50,000 people rallied.
The demonstrations have turned into a major challenge for the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Polls released last week show his approval ratings have dropped while support for the protesters is high.
Netanyahu has announced a series of reforms including freeing up land for construction and offering tax breaks. But the reforms have only increased anger in the streets, according to reports.
Here are some of the demands from protestors, according to Reuters:
- Increase personal tax brackets for top earners
- Enshrine the right to housing in the law; introduce rent controls; boost mortgage relief
- Stop further privatization of things such as health facilities
- Provide free education for all from the age of three months
- Raise the minimum wage to 50 percent of the average wage
Spain, Greece , Portugal
All three of these European Union nations have experienced protests and rioting in reaction to government austerity programs and bad economic conditions.
In late June, riots broke out in Athens and other parts of Greece as the country's parliament voted to approve severe cutbacks in government spending.
Dozens were hurt and businesses destroyed as police battled rioters with tear gas and night sticks.
Greek lawmakers made the cuts in order to receive more bailout money from the International Monetary Fund and European Union—or run the risk of defaulting on their debts.
In Spain, thousands of people turned out in late May to protest the country's 21 percent unemployment rate.
They also demonstrated against government corruption and austerity measures to reign in the country's debt. Hundreds of people set up tents in a Madrid square and spent a week there in protest.
Portugal saw massive strikes and protests last March in response to government spending cuts. At least 200,000 people gathered in Lisbon.
Thousand of workers took to the streets throughout the country in May of this year to march for higher pay. They demanded better wages in light of rising inflation, including higher oil prices.
They called on the government of President Benigno Aquino III to do more to help protect jobs.
In reaction, the government held job fairs as hundreds of workers have been laid off as the economy slumps. Workers say that effort has fallen far short of what they want.
Nearly 1,000 cab drivers in eastern China blocked traffic and protested on Aug. 1 over rising fuel costs. It was the latest sign of discontent about the country's surging inflation.
Inflation is hitting China hard, with food prices recently increasing 12 percent. Many Chinese officials are reported concerned that inflation, along with rising property prices, could lead to even more unrest.
This past June, thousands of workers battled for three days with police in the capital city of the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. They were protesting declining living standards.
The recent protests can be traced back to February of this year, in what was an attempt to copy theArab Spring uprising. That's when calls through Chinese social networks were sent out for an uprising in several local cities.
However, reports say the turnout was small in comparison to the enormous police presence and there were more clashes between journalists and officials than demonstrators.
In another legacy from the Arab Spring, protests and riots in Syria against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad have been going on for five months.
Reports say at least 1,600 people have been killed by government forces.
The demonstrations are a combination of calls for economic as well as political changes. Assad's government has promised a package of reforms including higher wages, letting political parties exist, easing restrictions on the media, and a new anti-corruption drive. But so far, none of the measures has been set in place.
Last week Assad sent troops and tanks to quell the mostly Sunni Muslim city of Hama in central Syria, and the army launched a similar assault on Sunday against Deir al-Zor.
Syria has cracked down with deadly force on protests in the past. In 1982 then-president Hafez al Assad—the father of Bashar al-Assad—sent troops into the Syrian town of Hama, killing between 10,000 and 40,000 people.
Syria's Arab neighbors as well as the United States have called for Assad to step down. He's ruled Syria for the past 11 years after succeeding his father. Assad says he has no intention of giving up his post as president.