The “No” Protest

Cynicism was deep. There had been hundreds of gross violations of human rights before. And yes, some protests. But those protests were crushed by police violence—always cheerfully justified by those who cheer such things—and everything quickly returned to “normal.”

The focus was always on the misbehavior of the protesters, never on the bloody acts of those in power who shoot unarmed people to death, cage children, and perform other unspeakable acts. The unspeakable acts were rarely spoken of.

But this was different. Nobody knows why it happened this time and not before. Nobody expected it to happen at all.

Nobody gathered. Nobody chanted. Millions, yes literally millions, stood in front of their homes and held signs. They were every age, gender, ethnicity. They wore masks. And they said nothing.

At first, it was ignored, then laughed at. But by the end of the first week, the Regime and its supporters began to get nervous.

For one thing, people weren’t going to work or school or even paying taxes. They weren’t listening to leaders or responding to provocations. The Regime’s supporters made accusations and threats against the protesters. And were ignored.

The second week, a Regime supporter shot a pair of protesters to death in front of their home. Still no reaction except for a pile of flowers left by strangers at the murder scene.

The murderers were caught and freed by authorities. Still no response.

The Regime tried to force the protesters back to work by suspending paid benefits nationwide. People had no income, no money to buy food or pay rent.

The hunger strike came next. Some people died. Flowers were placed on stoops.

Nationwide, factories and farms and shops and virtual offices remained open, but the labor shortage crippled them. The stock market plummeted and this was all the talk by the Regime and the media.

The ongoing human rights abuses, the murders of protesters and the strike itself continued.

The Regime mobilized the military. There were no leaders to arrest, so they were sent stoop to stoop to arrest protesters. Many military officers refused to take part, but the arrests went ahead with the troops who continued to faithfully follow orders.

Still, the protests went on and their numbers were growing.

And the signs!

“Love one another.”

“Human rights.”

“Stop the murders.”

And the most popular sign of all:


The images of protesters overwhelmed social media along with the hashtag #no.

About two months in, after thousands of arrests and a determined demand by the Regime and its supporters of a return to law and order, the signs changed.

“The Regime must resign.” Protesters held this sign in every state in the country. The words were suddenly everywhere—on highway overpasses, billboards, written in chalk on buildings and roads. Everywhere.

The Regime announced reforms while demanding an end to the protests. Both the reforms and demands were ignored.

More police and more military officials resigned and joined the protests in front of their own homes.

The Regime issued more threats and accusations. They killed thousands in the nationwide assault of Black Wednesday. The assault changed nothing. Except the signs which now said:

“The Regime must resign today.”

It did. The following year, on the anniversary of Black Wednesday, the tribunals met. Some of the accused were brought back from foreign countries, where they had fled. Others had been hiding in remote locations within the country. Nearly everyone was captured. The trials proceeded and long sentences were handed out. Prisoners served their time in the old concentration camps (the so-called “detention centers”), although their treatment was humane—unlike the hell that the former refugees (now citizens) had experienced.

The new Regime wasn’t perfect. But it was cautious and sure as hell didn’t violate human rights.