Will 2011 “Rock the World” Like 1968 Did?Posted: February 19, 2011
For the past few weeks, as the protests in Tunisia spread to Egypt and then to several other countries, I’ve been reminded of the worldwide political uprisings that took place back in 1968, “the year that rocked the world.” Now that we are even seeing Americans protesting in the streets of Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio, I wonder: could it happen again?
In case you weren’t around in 1968 or your memory is fuzzy, the Guardian published a summary of some of the events of that unbelievable year back in 2008. Sean O’Hagen describes how in May 1968, Paris
…was paralysed after weeks of student riots followed by a sudden general strike. France’s journey from ‘serenity’ to near revolution in the first few weeks of May is the defining event of ‘1968’, a year in which mass protest erupted across the globe, from Paris to Prague, Mexico City to Madrid, Chicago to London.
These rebellions were not planned in advance, nor did the rebels share an ideology or goal. The one cause many had in common was opposition to America’s war in Vietnam but they were driven above all by a youthful desire to rebel against all that was outmoded, rigid and authoritarian. At times, they gained a momentum that took even the protagonists by surprise. Such was the case in Paris, which is still regarded as the most mythic near-revolutionary moment of that tumultuous year, but also in Mexico City, Berlin and Rome.
In these cases, what began as a relatively small and contained protest against a university administration – a protest by the young and impatient against the old and unbending – burgeoned into a mass movement against the government. In other countries – like Spain, where the Fascist General Franco was still in power, and Brazil, where a military dictatorship was in place – the protests were directed from the start against the state. In Warsaw and Prague, the freedom movements rose up briefly against the monolithic communist ideology of the USSR. And in America, capitalism was the ultimate enemy, and Vietnam the prime catalyst.
Those protests, along with revolutions in music, art, fashion, and mores truly changed the world. Could it be happening again? Have we really reached a tipping point?
I thought I’d just put up some links to the important events that have taken place today in the many ongoing protests. You can add your own links in the comments (if anyone else is still awake).
More below the fold….
Ahramonline: Benghazi tense as police leave the streets
Benghazi is no longer under the control of the Libya government, eyewitnesses said according to an Al Jazeera report.
Libyans set up neighborhood patrols in the shaken eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday as police disappeared from the streets following an attack by government forces on a two-day-old encampment of protesters demanding an end to Muammer Gaddafi’s regime, eyewitnesses said.
The situation in the North African nation has become increasingly chaotic, with a human rights group estimating 84 people have died in a harsh crackdown on anti-Gaddafi demonstrations and the US-based Arbor Networks security company saying Internet service was cut off around 2 am Saturday, eliminating a critical link to the outside world.
“We don’t see a single policeman in the streets, not even traffic police,” a lawyer in Benghazi said. People feared that pro-government forces would soon follow up the encampment raid with house-to-house attacks.
The Hindu: Death toll rising in Libyan unrest
Reports out of Libya estimate that several dozen more people were killed Saturday during the fourth day of protests against the regime of leader Moamer Qaddafi.
The numbers of dead – which range from 15 to 25 to 200 – appeared to be in addition to the 84 people confirmed dead by Friday by New York Human Rights Watch, which said its figure was based on phone interviews with hospital staff and witnesses.
Most of the victims died of gun wounds, HRW said.
Protests centred on the north-eastern city of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city after the capital Tripoli. The northern coastal city of Misurata was also the scene of demonstrations, the National Conference of the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) said.
Emboldened by successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of Libyans have been calling for the ouster of Gaddafi, who has been in power for 41 years.
Al Jazeera: Protesters retake Bahrain centre
Thousands of protesters have reoccupied the Pearl roundabout in the capital, Manama, after troops and riot police retreated from the symbolic centre of their anti-government uprising.
The cheering protesters carrying Bahraini flags, flowers and signs that said “Peaceful, peaceful” marched
to the traffic circle on Saturday. They chanted, “We are victorious”.
Protesters kissed the ground in joy and took pictures of about 60 police vehicles leaving the area.
Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the crown prince, had earlier in the day ordered the military to withdraw, saying that the police would now be responsible for enforcing order, the Bahrain News Agency reported.
Soon after the crown prince’s directive, protesters attempted to stream back to the roundabout, but were beaten back by the police. According to the Reuters news agency, about 80 protesters were taken to a hospital after being hit by rubber bullets or teargas.
The protesters, however, were successful in the next attempt, after riot police withdrew as well from the traffic circle.
sify news: Six more die in Yemen protests
Sanaa/Tehran, Feb 20 (IANS) At least six people were killed in clashes between government supporters and pro-democracy protesters who are demanding the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a media report said.
Four people died during protests in the southern port city of Aden Saturday, and a student was killed in the city of Taiz, Iran’s Press TV reported Sunday.
Another student demonstrator was killed near the Sanaa University campus in the capital Saturday. The 16-year-old was shot dead when government supporters armed with guns, batons and rocks were trying to break into the campus.
Yemeni security forces reportedly did not intervene.
Saturday was the ninth consecutive day that demonstrators had called for the ouster of Saleh.
The Guardian UK: Algeria’s long haul towards liberty (a first-hand report)
In some ways, the demonstration in Algiers on 19 February 2011 was a greater success than the one held on the previous Saturday. It seemed that there were more protesters (though there were also, perhaps, fewer women in the crowd). The activists actually managed to march this week (though they also had to march in reverse at times as the riot police, who reportedly numbered about 30,000, surged forward time and again). Unfortunately, the protesters still did not manage to reach the 1st of May Square itself. And again, there were vastly more police than demonstrators. A young man asked me, “Why are we encircled, if we have our rights like they say?”
There are reports of a dozen or so injured. A union leader of the SNAPAP – a union of public employees that is part of the National Coordinating Committee for Change and Democracy, which organised today’s protest – was taken to the hospital after being beaten at about 11am, and has since been released. A deputy of the opposition political party, the Rally for Change and Democracy, Dr Besbes, was badly beaten on the head and body, and is reported to be still in the hospital with a skull fracture. A limping young man in some pain showed me the scrapes on his leg where he was kicked by police with their boots and shin guards. Still another man told me that he saw a woman collapse after being crushed in the crowd as the police pushed them backwards.
By mid morning, the marchers spontaneously transformed their demonstration into a series of vigorous public debating societies on the Rue Mohamed Belouizdad that leads to the 1st of May Square. Large groups gathered to shout various opinions – against the government, for the government; desperate for change, terrified of a return to terrorism; sick of their living conditions and disgusted by the police response, or just wanting everybody to get the hell out of their neighbourhood already.
Al Jazeera: Moroccans riot ahead of protests
Protesters have attacked a police station and premises linked to French firms in the Moroccan city of Tangier in a dispute over the local utility firm’s management, organisers and residents have said.
Saturday’s violence came a day before a planned nationwide protest to push for political reform but there was no immediate evidence of a direct link.
Riot police intervened to break up the protest in Tangier, which evolved from a sit-in in front of the city hall to a march that gathered hundreds of protesters, the Moroccan branch of the local activist organisation, Attac, said on its website.
The sit-in was organised to push for the cancellation of a utilities contract that the city has awarded to an affiliate of the French firm Veolia.
Moroccans in cities where foreign firms run utility services often complain of hefty tariffs.
Residents, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that a protest initially against utilities tariffs had developed into a march, which anti-riot police prevented from reaching the city centre.
About 18,000 people clogged the main avenue of Tunis on Saturday, many protesting against Islamists, following more than two weeks of calm in the North African country’s capital.
Tunisia’s former president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January after a wave of demonstrations, sending shockwaves through the rest of the Arab world.
As many as 15,000 of the demonstrators on Saturday were protesting against Tunisia’s Islamist movement, calling for religious tolerance a day after the Interior Ministry announced a Polish priest had been assasinated by an extremist group, Reuters reporters said.
“We need to live together and be tolerant of each other’s views,” said Ridha Ghozzi, 34, who was among the protesters carrying signs and chanting slogans including “Terrorism is not Tunisian” and “Religion is Personal”.
Kuwaiti police fired teargas at hundreds of stateless Arabs demanding citizenship in a second day of protests in a village outside the OPEC member’s capital on Saturday, a human rights activist said.
Around 300 stateless protesters clashed with police, who fired teargas in the As-Salbiya village outside Kuwait City, injuring around seven people according to witnesses.
It was the second protest in the oil-producing Gulf Arab state since a wave of unrest inspired by turmoil in Tunisia and Egypt began sweeping across the Middle East in January.
Maha al-Barjas, vice president of the Kuwait Human Rights Society, said seven people had been wounded in the clashes.
On Friday, more than 1,000 stateless had demonstrated in Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City, demanding citizenship Barjas said between 100 to 140 people were arrested in that clash, but most were released on Saturday.
Iran is bristling with tension on the eve of more anti-government protests planned for Sunday.
The opposition movement has gained new momentum following clashes between police and demonstrators on Monday that killed at least two people.
Followers of opposition leader and former presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi have called on supporters to take part in memorial services for two of the protesters as a means of reviving the protest movement that swept Iran in 2009.
On Saturday, a senior aide to Mousavi released a statement lashing out at the government in some of the harshest language yet.
“The ruling regime went on a suppression spree for two years, jailed and even raped our youth, but the Green Movement is still alive,” the statement said
The generals who now run Egypt are strongly anti-reformist and determined to hang on to the lucrative privileges they have amassed during decades of authoritarian rule, raising the suspicions of protesters even though the army insists it will hand power to civilians as soon as possible.
Last week there were signs of growing friction between protesters and soldiers, after a brief honeymoon period in the days after Hosni Mubarak was forced out of the presidential palace. At a victory rally on Wednesday leaders of the revolution broke a long-standing taboo by openly criticising men in uniform.
“The revolution is not finished yet, and we don’t want the army to take over here,” said Mohammed Foud Gadalla, a professor of international law, to loud cheers from protesters who spent weeks risking their lives in Tahrir Square.
Mr Gadalla called for the cabinet of Mubarak appointees to be dismissed immediately and for the scrapping of an emergency law which allows for arbitrary arrest – although neither step is likely while Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi, 76, the deeply conservative head of the Higher Military Council, is in charge of the country.
Wisconsin: Competing protest draw thousands (Reuters)
Supporters of legislation to reduce public employee union bargaining power and benefits in Wisconsin were far outnumbered by opponents on Saturday, as the two sides shouted competing slogans but did not clash.
Tens of thousands have demonstrated this week against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposed legislation, which supporters say is needed to control spending and opponents contend would break the back of state worker unions.
Wisconsin is the flashpoint for a U.S. struggle over efforts to roll back pay, benefits and bargaining rights of government workers. If the majority Republicans prevail, other states could be emboldened to take on the powerful unions.
Both sides drew thousands to the state capital Madison on Saturday — officials put the combined total at 55,000 — but no more than 5,000 of those appeared to be there for the rally backed by Tea Party groups, the first appearance by members of the conservative, limited-government movement this week.
Some Wisconsin doctors threw their support behind teachers protesting the Republican governor’s efforts to strip unions of their bargaining powers, saying they would write sick notes for teachers to skip work to demonstrate.
The union protesters have been picketing the state capitol in Madison for five days, angered by Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed bill, which has the backing of the Republican controlled state Senate.
The Madison School District has said teachers who call in sick to protest won’t be paid, but a group of licensed Wisconsin doctors came to the capitol today saying they would write a physician’s note for anyone who asked.
CNN: Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold have joined the protests in their respective state capitals.
What both states have in common are defiant responses to legislative measures that would limit collective bargaining rights for state workers.
Strickland sent an e-mail to supporters on Saturday, urging them to protest Ohio Senate Bill 5, a proposal sponsored by state Sen. Shannon Jones that would eliminate collective bargaining rights for state workers. Stating a need to “defeat Senate Bill 5 and the rest of our opponents’ anti-middle class agenda,” Strickland asked supporters to protest because “this fight isn’t just about police, firefighters, teachers and other public employees … it’s about whether or not we will be a state that stands up for the middle class.”
Did I miss any important uprisings?
Could 2011 rock the world like 1968 did?