2020 has been a year like no other. COVID-19, the deadliest pandemic in recent history, has killed over 2 million people worldwide (and rising) and close to 400,000 in the United States alone. Generations of police officers targeting and killing innocent Black people came to a head this summer, after a history of organized protests against police brutality that began in 1941.
The brutal murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers led to uprisings in support of the Black Lives Matter Movements in several countries across the world. Finally, this year we experienced a nationally disputed election with a president who refused to concede and commit to a peaceful transfer of power, inciting an insurrection against the Capitol.
This year has been filled with monumental events that have shaped all of our lives. This 3-part series will aim to cover some of the year’s most ground-breaking incidents for women, people of color and humanity in general, which will continue to affect humanity for years to come.
The COVID-19 coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China in December 2019. No one could have foreseen just how much people’s lives would be altered because of it. Within a few months, the virus spread to nearly every corner of the world. Schools, businesses and international flights shut down everywhere in order to stop the spread of COVID-19, leaving cities in quarantine for months.
The stock market crashed and, in the United States, millions of people were left unemployed with only a small stimulus check to help them, furthering the economic downturn felt everywhere. Masks and social distancing became the norm for interactions with people. However, due to the lack of urgency and care from the current administration in office, the politicization of masks and the virus in general continues to divide the country and harm citizens, especially essential workers. There have even been armed protests from people who wanted to live life normally and get haircuts, proving the drastically political nature of COVID-19 in America.
By the end of 2020, things began to open up again, but not without consequences. Many major cities, such as New York, continue to be shut down in terms of indoor dining and major activities. Some cities anticipate another major shutdown, especially following mass travel during the holidays. The sense of death everywhere continues to be devastating. In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals were filled to maximum capacity with patients, and freezers were full of dead bodies. These patterns are being repeated in current hotspot areas such as California. By the end of December, over 80 million people had a confirmed case of COVID. At this time, there seems to be the hope of a vaccine, some of which have already begun to be administered (though the debate and frustration over limited supplies rage on). However, this hope can only be achieved if people actually commit to the vaccine, masks and social distancing. As of right now, the split divide seen from the COVID-19 pandemic mirrors the divide of those who will refuse to take the vaccine.
Movement to Impeach Donald Trump
The year began with a 230-to-197 vote to impeach President Donald Trump. The trial surrounded his alleged collusion with foreign nations, specifically Russia, and obstruction of Congress in regards to the 2020 election. While Democrats were adamant about impeaching the President since his election, some Republicans also voted to impeach the President, as well.
Trump often referred to the attempt as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” However, after months of trial proceedings, Donald Trump was acquitted of any charges by the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen if the latest impeachment effort against Trump, brought by the House in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, will take hold.
2020 American Presidential Election
After a tumultuous year, many people hinged on the hope that could be brought by a shift in power, especially since 2020 saw more women and candidates of color than ever before. Ultimately, former Vice President Joe Biden was elected to be the Democratic candidate and Kamala Harris his running mate.
After two presidential debates between incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic-nominee Joe Biden and one vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Vice President-nominee Kamala Harris, people and nations around the world feared for the future of America.
This led to the largest, but also the most hectic, turnout in voting history. Due to the pandemic, millions of votes were cast by mail-in ballots, which caused the results of the election to be postponed for days. In addition, the election depended on swing states such as Georgia, which went blue for the first time in years.
There was a mobilization of voters, specifically BIPOC voters, which allowed Biden to win states that Trump won in 2016 by a significantly wider margin of the popular vote. Finally, on November 7, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the election. Trump has yet to accept the results even as we approach Inauguration Day.
Australian (and later Californian) Wildfires
Australia has historically been plagued by terrible annual wildfires. This past year, however, the nation saw some of its worst fires ever recorded. 46 million acres and 3,500 homes and thousands of other buildings were destroyed. 34 people, many of whom were firefighters and other first responders, and millions of animals died, as well.
Thankfully, with the help of a few rainstorms, the fires subsided in March. However, there has been a terrible impact on the lives of Australians, who are now forced to deal with health problems and economic downfalls caused by the fires, as well as environmental and agricultural problems.
Starting in August, California experienced a similar situation with blazing wildfires that destroyed 10,000 buildings and burned 4.1 million acres. The fires took the lives of 31 people. Most of the fires have been contained as of December. However, the smoke and health risks of the fires still linger and even affect people all over the country.
On August 4th, an explosion shook the capital of Lebanon. The cause of this horrific event that took the lives of over 200 individuals was the unsafe storage of close to 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate. The compound had begun to decay and was triggered by a small fire, which caused the massive explosion. On December 10, Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three ex-ministers were charged with negligence.
Hong Kong Protests
While tensions between Hong Kong and China have been high since Hong Kong’s transfer to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, 2020 saw this come to a head when China passed a new security law forcing criminals to be extradited to the mainland, where human rights are often violated. This new law, which continues to strip away Hong Kong’s autonomy, sparked national outrage in the form of protests, many met with police brutality.
The protests started in March 2019 and are still continuing today. Many of the protestors, most of whom are men and women from Hong Kong, were arrested or detained, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, and fired upon, mirroring the situation of the protests for the rights of Black Americans occurring simultaneously in the United States.
Protests in Belarus
Similar to the protests in Hong Kong, Belarus saw massive anti-government movements throughout much of the year. Beginning in May 2020, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to voice their discontentment about the election that took place over the summer and are calling for the resignation of the president.
Many around the world believe that the election, which allowed President Alexander Lukashenko to assume a sixth term in office, was rigged. Over 30,000 protestors have been detained, and hundreds have been allegedly beaten. 50 people are currently missing, and four people are suspected to have died in police custody. Despite the violence against the protestors, the movement is still going strong.
Ebola first re-emerged as a major health threat in 2013 and, while it was nowhere near as deadly in terms of global population numbers as the current COVID-19 pandemic is, its resurgence in West Africa caused international panic. That wave seemed to diminish, that is, until this past year when a new Ebola outbreak emerged in Central Africa.
Attack in Vienna
On November 2, a gunman, who was equipped with an automatic rifle, a pistol and a machete, opened fire in six different locations in Vienna, Austria, killing four and injuring twenty-two individuals, one of whom was a police officer. While officials feared more people might be involved, 20-year-old Fejzulai Kujtim, who was shot dead by police, appeared to be the only perpetrator.
However, he seemingly had ties to ISIS, which took responsibility for the attacks. However, it is unclear whether ISIS directed or simply inspired the attack. While the overall number of terrorist attacks in the EU has been declining, people fear that the Vienna attack might usher in a resurgence of jihadist activity.
To close out a chaotic year, on Christmas Day, a bombing struck downtown Nashville, Tennessee, injuring eight people, with the perpetrator, Anthony Warner, 63, as the only fatality. Warner started the day with gunshots. The explosion then occurred a couple of hours later by bombs that were hidden inside his vehicle. So far, there is no link to any terrorist groups nor a clear motive for the attack, though Warner was described as having a difficult life. As of now, police are still investigating.
It is clear that 2020 has been nothing short of exhausting and difficult to get through. However, we survived to see 2021. While this new number does not magically signify a complete change in reality, there is hope. The COVID-19 pandemic could come to an end with the proper government response.
If everyone participates in continuing to social distance, mask-wearing and taking the vaccine as it becomes accessible, we could see a significant change. However, even with the vaccine’s progressive rollout, we must err on the side of safety until a large percentage of the population is vaccinated.
On January 20, the United States will inaugurate Joe Biden as president, which could usher in a new era for America. His stances on climate change, immigration and policing, as well as his diverse cabinet picks, could allow for a major shift in America. As for all the protests occurring worldwide, the most we could do right now is stay informed.
Do not let these injustices flee from our minds. Sign petitions, donate money, make phone calls, do something. Refuse to support authoritarian, oppressive governments, such as the Chinese governments. Vote for people in office who have those international ties, who can make a change. But whatever you do, do not sit back and do nothing.