European protest landscape 2000-2015

Visualization of political protest events in 30 European countries from 2000 until 2015

Bruno Wueest / 2016-12-22

The following maps show events on politically motivated strikes, demonstrations, petitions and acts of violence in 30 European countries from 2000 until 2015. The data are collected jointly by the ERC research project "Political Conflict in Europe in the Shadow of the Great Recession" (see project website) and the SNF research project "Years of Turmoil: The Political Consequences of the Financial and Economic Crisis in Europe" (see project summary). The data set was collected manually from automatically filtered newswire reports. If you want to learn more about our extensive automated filtering, please consult our most recent working paper. If you are interested in the indicators we collected data on, you should have a look at our codebook. The following countries are covered by the data set: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland ans United Kingdom. Among others, we collected the location (at the city level), the date and the form of the protests. There are a lot of publications by participating reearchs under way, so the data set is not public yet. However, in the following, you can get an overview of the so far quite unique data set.

The animated maps below were produced with carto, a powerful cloud computing platform that provides GIS and web mapping tools mainly built on PostGIS and PostgreSQL. To build an animated map with carto, the locations of the protests first needed to be geocoded. This was achieved by using the API of the amazing mapzen, an open access mapping platform.

General patterns in European protests

The first animation presents the overall patterns of monthly protest activities across the 30 countries. There are distinct spatial patterns between centers of protests and much more quiet regions. For some regions, it is clear that there are a lot of political protests. Most notably the Basque country and Northern Ireland are traditional trouble spots. In the Basque country, however, protests ebb away after the armistice agreement of 2011. Another region with almost constantly contentious political events is Greece, but only after the impact of the financial crisis in 2008. This is not really surprising as well. Maybe less known is that Central Europe, and here mainly Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is a center of protests as well according to our data. Many other regions, most notably Scandinavia, are experienceing much less political protests. Again other regions such as France, Bulgaria or Romania, experience times of intense protest waves, followed by times of relative calm. There are also a clear general dynamics over time. For example, the protests in the face of the global financial meltdown at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009 are clearly visible in the timeline at the bottom of the chart.

Differences between forms of protest

Political protests occur in highly different forms and it is not always justified to merge such diverse actions as strikes, peaceful marches, signing of petitions or political violence. The second animation therefore presents the development of protests in Europe separated by four different types of protests: a) demonstrations (green dots), which include everything from demonstrations, marches, rallies, meetings, vigils and other non-confrontational gatherings, b) violent protests (red), which comprise acts of sabotage, riots, the destruction of private or public buildings, bomb or arson attacks, violence against persons, clashes with the police or cyber-attacks, c) strickes and blockades (yellow), which include industrial action of any kind (incl. work stoppages, pickets), blockades, occupations, sit-ins, camps and other confrontational strategies that are related to a specific place as well as d) petitions and symbolic protests (blue), which subsumes petitions, letters, consumer activism, boycotts and symbolic protests (performances etc.). Again, it can be seen that the Basque country and Northern Ireland are quite peculiar regions, since they endure a lot of violent protests. However, also countries such as France, Greece or Hungary experience more political violence than other regions. Other countries like Iceland, Portugal or Romania have almost no history of violent protests. If people are protesting in these countries, they mostly do so peacefully.

These maps are just simple descriptions of European protests. We already know that the data suffer from some problems that make a comparison across countries difficult – most notably, we use internationally operating news agencies that cover some countries more than others. At the moment, several PhD and publicaiton projects are underway, which will use this data in a more sophisticated way and correct at least some of these problems. So be prepared to hear more about the European protest landscape in the near future!