Year of the Protester

The Protester: Time Mag. Person of the Year 2011

Back in the 60s when United States boomer generation youth were marching against the Viet Nam and racism, they were not treated well by the press. Yet, the protester was selected by Time Magazine as the “man or woman (or sometimes group or idea) the magazine’s editors believe had the greatest impact during the past twelve months, for good or for ill.” What a deserving choice.

Not all Baby Boomers give credit to the U.S. protesters of the 1960s for changing the world. What cannot be denied is that for this year’s protests the stakes and loses were much higher, yet they achieved their goals within months.

Protester: Kent State

Sure, there was the Kent State massacre and hundreds of hippies and political activists jailed in the 60s. This year, hundreds of protesters died and thousands were wounded. Not very many were arrested and taken to jail, they were just hauled away and went missing.

Masses of people holding posters and shouting the longings of their hearts flashed onto our TV screens and popped up on our twitter screens many times over the past twelve months.

The year began with protesters taking to the streets Tunisia demanding the resignation of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The demonstrations sparked by the actions of one poor fruit vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi who was humiliated in front of his friends by a police women when he tried prevent the unlawful confiscation of his produce.

Later in the day, he doused himself with pain thinner, lit himself on fire and burned to death. Within days, videos of Bauazizi’s story and the initial protests by his peers, were uploaded to Facebook and the world watched as Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, was forced to step down. If you have forgotten the Bauazizi’s courageous story, view the video below. The fruit merchant could have himself been selected as the person of the year. His death gave raise to similar popular uprisings across the Arab world.

After just a couple of weeks similar popular uprising occurred in Algeria, Oman and Egypt. The Egyptian youth employed Facebook and Twitter to organize their logistics and communicate with each other and the world. The dangerous drama played out day and night in Tahrir Sqaure, ending in the resignation of Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters just recently formed into militias and toppled Muamar Gaddafi. There are on-going protests in Syria, Jordan and other Arab states.

What of the he Occupy Wall Street protesters currently demonstrating in major cities around the United States? Are the stakes as high as those of their Arab counterparts? Will they have as great an impact on the world? The jury is out, but right now I take a bow, tip my hat, and lift up a prayer of thanks giving for the bravery of the protesters in the Arab world.

They are the People of the Year 2011.