Follow our special Global Voices coverage on the global impact of COVID-19.
Chances are, as you read this, you're in confinement. One in three people in the world is complying with some social distancing rule imposed by governments to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives since the virus was first detected in December 2019 in China.
The confinements have been under the scrutiny of various human rights groups; they have urged governments to be careful in restricting civil liberties under these exceptional circumstances. However, these confinements pose a paradox when it comes to responsibility: how is it that citizens can be sure that the authorities are not going to misuse their emergency powers in the face of public protests that pose an immediate danger to others? ?
Fortunately, people found some options: from Kosovo to Spain; From Brazil to the Philippines, protests are heard with saucepans, from balconies and windows, which represent a safe option before COVID-19 to attract the attention of the political class.
It should be mentioned that these protests are nothing new. Indeed, as documented by the historian, Emmanuel Fureix, this type of protest dates back to 1830 in France. At that time, Republicans who expressed their opinion of the Luis Felipe monarchy used dishes to make noise in protest. This act was called charivari.
Later, this act of resistance reached other parts of the world. In 1961, during the Algerian war of independence, there was a protest that became known as the “night of the saucepans”. Another of the most famous protests took place in Chile in 1971, during the Allende administration. In 2012, the Quebec student protests were held, followed by the protests in Gezi Park, in Turkey, during 2013. Today it has become very popular in Latin America: it is known as cacelorazo in Spanish-speaking countries and panelaço in Brazil.
From their windows, Kosovars ask the authorities to prioritize life over politics
In Kosovo, for a whole week, citizens were demonstrating with saucepans from their balconies and windows to show their discontent over the current political situation: a power struggle within the coalition government for the emergency measures.
The protesters could not foresee that the prime minister would lose a censure motion on March 25, causing the Kosovo government to be the first country in the world to fall into a crisis due to coronavirus.
– Stefan in Kosovo (@StefanInKosovo) March 25, 2020
NEWS – The Kosovo television channel broadcast live how people protested from their balconies, as the vote began to topple the government.
Now that the Kosovo government has fallen, the decision to form a new one or to dissolve the country's Parliament and call for a period of early elections rests with President Hashim Thaçi, the direct beneficiary of the Prime Minister's removal. However, calling elections in the midst of a pandemic seems impossible, leaving several important issues open:
Motion passed, government collapsed, exposed to extreme uncertainty, quarantined, battling covid19, bracing for an agreement between Kosovo & Serbia. A long list of issues tormenting an average citizen of #Kosovo.
– Donika Emini (@donikaemini) March 25, 2020
The motion was approved: the Government collapsed, exposed to an environment of deep uncertainty, in quarantine, fighting against COVID-19 and reaching an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. The list that haunts the average Kosovo citizen is long.
Cazerolada Spanish against the king
On March 19, 2020, while the King of Spain, Felipe VI, gave his speech on the national network in which he called for the union to confront COVID-19, people leaned out of their balconies and windows to demand that their father Juan Carlos I donated one hundred million euros to the public health system, which he had received from the king of Saudi Arabia and which supposedly would be kept in a Swiss bank.
Spain: massive banging of pots and pans protest as the King starts a TV address to the nation. People in lockdown come out to their balconies to reject the Crown's corruption I can only say #NiVirusNiCorona.#Cacerolated pic.twitter.com/f4hTbz8a2Z#CoronaCiao
– Jorge Martin (@marxistJorge) March 18, 2020
Spain: mass protest with cacerolazo, while the king addresses the nation on a national chain. Since their confinement, people look out from their balconies as a sign of rejection of corruption within royalty.
A few days later, a similar protest took place against the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and his regime as a form of reproach for how they are handling the COVID-19 pandemic:
Casserole from a while ago. Pedro Sánchez DIMISIÓN, in Capitán Haya, Madrid. pic.twitter.com/FqD80On5sJ
– Alfredo Martínez (@alfmartinx) March 21, 2020
On April 1, both the right and far right, called for a protest on social media again, with the label # Cacerolada21h to express their discontent about how the Government is handling the COVID-19 crisis. However, this call had little or no response in some parts of Spain.
A whole month of nightly protests against the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro
Since March 17, the saucepans have not stopped ringing in every home in Brazil. They start every day starting at 8:30 p.m., in protest at how the policies of the president, Jair Bolsonaro, are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic in a country where more than 200 million people live:
“Bolsonaro out!” says downtown São Paulo. pic.twitter.com/KTS2SoYO71
– Euan Marshall (@euanmarshall) March 18, 2020
“Outside Bolsonaro!” -Shout downtown São Paulo.
The first night the protest was held a day earlier than planned on social media. Throughout the country, cities from north to south – even in neighborhoods that sounded their saucepans to demand the removal of the leftist president, Dilma Rousseff, a few years ago -, people shouted “Get out Bolsonaro!”.
The following night, on March 18, just half an hour after the protests began, Bolsonaro tried to misrepresent this act of resistance and put it in his favor: he asked the citizenry to ring those saucepans in support of his government:
– O jornal Hoje (TV Globo) e Veja on line, ostensibly disclose PANELAÇO hoje às 20h30 against o President Jair Bolsonaro.
– But to the same press, which is said to be impartial, NÃO DIVULGA outro PANELAÇO, at 9:00 PM PLEASE DO GOVERNO JAIR BOLSONARO.
– Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) March 18, 2020
– The newspaper Hoy (TV Globo) and Veja online ostentatiously published that A CACEROLAZO would take place today at 8:30 pm against President Jair Bolsonaro.
– And it was that same press, which claimed to be impartial, that WOULD NOT PUBLISH another PROTEST WITH CACEROLAZO at 9:00 PM IN SUPPORT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF JAIR BOLSONARO.
The President has been minimizing the effects of the pandemic; He says that COVID-19 is “any cold” and points out that both the media coverage and the social distancing measures adopted by governors of other states are “hysterical”. Highways were blocked in several states, public transportation was suspended, activities were canceled, and schools were closed.
Bolsonaro has addressed the nation three times on television since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11. His messages have been considered confusing and erratic, since on the one hand he criticizes governors from other states, and on the other he invites “union”.
Since the beginning of April, the Brazilian president has changed his mind: first, he called for commerce and schools to become active again, and then he defended “vertical isolation” – mandatory for those who belong to groups at high risk of contagion. -. Like US President Donald Trump, he promotes the use of chloroquine to cure COVID-19, despite insufficient scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
Aided by propaganda and cameras, Bolsonaro has made walking tours throughout the capital, Brasilia, speaking and waving to his supporters. On his last tour on April 10, he said: “No one will take away my right to move freely.”
Both allies and leaders of the National Congress have criticized him for contravening the WHO's recommendations.
Protest from home in the Philippines
Kadamay, a poor urban group in the Philippines, organized a cacerolazo to demand the delay in the delivery of government support for food. Although the containment order was intended to contain the spread of COVID-19, it greatly affected the livelihood of street vendors and other informal sector workers:
The lack of a clear plan on how support would be distributed to the neediest households led to Kadamai organizing and protesting with a empty kaldero (saucepan) inside their houses. A Twitter tag #ProtestFromHome (protest from home) became a trend on March 22, after the campaign won the support of networks in the country. The police reacted and accused Kadamay of being an anti-Filipino.
The protest also demanded that the Government carry out massive tests to detect COVID-19, and establish as a first priority the sending of support to the most affected communities.
In Argentina, women protest with a saucepan against domestic violence
In Argentina, cacerolazos were not made to wait in protest against the increase in violence against women during the quarantine. Thousands of women joined these protests, prompting a call for the political class to reduce their wages:
This Monday night, a cacerolazo was heard in different neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Under the slogan #Noise, a request was made to reduce wages in the political sector amid the coronavirus pandemic pic.twitter.com/RpQQ24oyYp
– CNN Argentina (@CNNArgentina) March 31, 2020.
Protection of the vulnerable sector in Uruguay
The cacerolazo was also a method used by many Uruguayans to demand social protection measures from the most vulnerable sectors during the COVID-19 crisis. However, there were others who wanted to counter it with applause and singing the national anthem:
– Hernis (@hernisuy) March 26, 2020
Just as the world's citizens are united in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that now that street protests are impossible, they are also united by hitting pots and pans.