Year of the Protester

(revised and updated November, 2020)

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.

1960s Protesters Not Admired

Back in the 60s young Baby Boomer demonstrators were marching against the Vietnam war and racism.  They were not treated well by the press, nor the majority their fellow citizens.

Even if, not all Baby Boomers give credit to the U.S. protesters of the 1960s for changing the world. What cannot be denied is for this year’s protests (2011) the stakes and losses were much higher.  And, they achieved their goals within months.

Protests and protesters far from novel to Baby Boomers.  We have seen them, and taken part in them most of our lives.  That is why we have so many articles about protests on the 60s Folks In Their 60s blog.

Protester: Kent State

Sure, there was the Kent State massacre of protesters.  In the 60s, hundreds of hippies and political activists were jailed.  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.

Protesters of the Arab Spring

Masses of people holding posters and shouting the longings of their hearts flashed onto our TV screens.   Twitter feeds were full of reports on protests over the past twelve months.

The year began with protesters taking to the streets of 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 policewoman.  All he was trying to do was to prevent the unlawful confiscation of his produce.

Later in the day, with his livelihood and reputation destroyed, he doused himself with paint thinner and lit himself on fire.  He burned to death.  Within days, videos of Bauazizi’s story and the initial protests by his peers were uploaded to Facebook.  The world became aware of the injustice.  Protesters took to the streets in many large cities of the world.

The results of the protests: Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, was forced to step down.

If you have forgotten 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 rise to similar popular uprisings across the Arab world.

After just a couple of weeks, a similar, popular uprisings occurred in Algeria, Oman, and Egypt. The Egyptian youth employed Facebook and Twitter to organize their logistics and communicate with each other.  The world witnessed it all on their mobile devices and TV as dangerous drama played out day and night in Tahrir Square.  These protests also ended in the resignation of a leader, the powerful Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters just recently formed into militias and toppled Muammar Gaddafi who had ruled the Libya for forty-two years. There are on-going, mass demonstrations in Syria, Jordan, and other Arab states.

(UPDATE)  These protesters of the Arab Spring were the fuel for dramatic changes in the leadership and policies in the Arab world.

Occupy Wall Street Protesters

What of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators 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 thanksgiving for the bravery of the protesters in the Arab world.

These protester are the People of the Year 2011.


By Chowning

Richard Chowning was a teenager during the 60s. Being a Southern California resident during those years, he experienced many of the events and trends that distinguished those times.