Olivier Fillieule



On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Originally identified in Wuhan, China, in late December, COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that causes flu-like symptoms and pneumonia. The resulting global health and social crisis is a major one, marked in many European countries[1] by a generalized confinement requirement which, by placing us all under house arrest, has impacted our daily lives and has prohibited or at least restricted all activities relating to travel, work, and leisure. Although the media have extensively covered the economic and social impact these restrictions have had on countries concerned, some aspects of the crisis, such as the fate of activist movements in a world temporarily deprived of public space, have received less attention.

Social movements usually rely on mass gatherings in public spaces to advocate for their causes and to put pressure on policy makers. Restrictions on public gatherings due to the pandemic, however, have made traditional activism and mobilization difficult. As a result, civil society leaders and participants in local and global protest movements have adjusted their strategies during the coronavirus era.

[1] This paper is focused on European countries. For the U.S. case, see for example Eliott Brennan, Coronavirus and protest: How COVID-19 has changed the face of American activism, United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney, retrieved at https://www.ussc.edu.au/events/coronavirus-and-protest-how-has-covid-19-changed-the-face-of-american-activism, July 17 2020.