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Time Person of the Year 2011: ‘The protester’

Elizabeth Flock, blog, Washington Post
As it has for the past eight decades, Time magazine selected its person of the year Wednesday morning. The distinction goes to 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. In 2011, they chose: “The Protester.”

… Over the past year, “the protester” has voiced dissent against authoritarian leaders, first in Tunisia, and then in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. The protester in Spain and in Greece, which even had its own protest dog, struggled with a floundering economy. The protester voiced anger over possibly rigged elections, in countries as diverse as Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street protester began demonstrating first in New York, and then in Washington, Chicago, and cities as small as Trenton, N.J.

In this year’s report, Time pieced together what all these revolutions have in common, why they protest, and what the legacy of the year’s protests will be.

… In a viral screengrab, Internet users complained about the Dec. 5 cover story selection. Time Magazine put a protester with the headline “Revolution Redux on the cover of its Europe, Asia and South Pacific editions, but opted for the headline “Why Anxiety is Good For You” on the cover of its U.S. edition.
(14 December 2011)

Why I Protest: Dr. Arthur Chen of Oakland, California

Dr. Arthur Chen, TIME Magazine
A family physician, Dr. Arthur Chen, 60, was an unusual addition to the counter-culture of the Occupy Oakland movement. But the Connecticut-born Oakland resident who works in the city’s Chinatown had a cause — health care reform — and the protests gave him a forum. He spoke to TIME’s Jason Motlagh:

TIME: What was the event that precipitated your activism? And what made it personal?

Arthur Chen:I’m part of that 99%, proud to say, so it’s very relevant. And then in addition to that… I’ve been seeing patients that are low-income impacted, many of them unemployed, and then struggling for survival. They’re immigrants, and so I’ve seen the negative impacts in their lives from day to day. And I’ve seen uninsured patients who have to struggle with the recommendations that I make because of whether or not they can afford it. So it’s been real to me on a personal level, and looking at the population as a whole, looking at the patients that I see, and just knowing intellectually that there’s flaws in our current system. We’re taking capitalism and its negative sides head on, which I think is essential to a democracy. And hopefully preserve the positive side of capitalism, because I’m not totally against capitalism; I just think at this point it’s probably out of control.
(14 December 2011)
Part of TIME’s Person-of-the-Year cover story, The Protester

Also see the video of The Media Messenger of Zuccotti Park: “How an activist/journalist’s live video stream from New York City’s Zuccotti Park garnered mainstream attention and helped galvanize a movement”


Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back

Malcolm Moore, Telegraph (UK)
Something extraordinary has happened in the Chinese village of Wukan.

Wukan, China — For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.

Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.

Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.
(13 December 2011)

With Port Actions, Occupy Oakland Tests Labor Leaders

Malia Wolland and Steven Greenhouse, New York Times
In most cities, the Occupy movement has been thrown on the defensive, struggling to regroup and plan new protests after being evicted from its encampments by the police.

Not in Oakland.

Long the most militant Occupy branch, Occupy Oakland has continued to push the movement’s campaign against the wealthiest 1 percent even after losing its perch in front of City Hall. It spearheaded a one-day action on Monday in which thousands of protesters rallied at West Coast ports from San Diego to Anchorage, effectively closing the Ports of Portland and Longview, Wash., and largely shutting the Port of Oakland.

In the process, Occupy Oakland has cast itself as the true champion of America’s workers, creating a potentially troublesome rift with the Occupy movement’s sometime allies in organized labor.

Several labor leaders criticized the plan to disrupt the ports, which cost many longshoremen and truck drivers a day’s pay. And union officials were irked by Occupy Oakland’s claim that it was advancing the cause of port workers even though several unions opposed the protests.

For example, several days before the disruptions, Robert McEllrath, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, issued a statement warning: “Support is one thing. Organizing from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another.”

Organizers at Occupy Oakland shrugged off the criticism, saying many union leaders are afraid of bold action. The Occupy movement, they say, is doing more for working people than some unions and union leaders are.
(13 December 2011)
EB contributor Michael Yates writes:
“This article in the NYT is pretty superficial. Here you have the resources of the most important mainstream newspaper in the US and they interview one truck driver from Cleveland. They don’t even try to get beneath the surface of things. Lee Sustar and other radical journalists have done a hell of a lot better job.”

Ten Things You Can Do to Sustain the Occupy Movement

Walter Moseley and co-edited by Rae Gomes; The Nation
Alice Walker has noted that one of the failures in our collective memory of the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham is that we have forgotten the names and activist leanings of the four girls—Carole, Denise, Addie Mae and Cynthia—who are often merely reported to be four black girls who died in the bombings. In fact, the burgeoning activists were preparing to give a presentation about civil rights at the church’s annual Youth Day program. Rosa Parks, before she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, had just finished a course on nonviolent action. To neglect the activist background and intention of these women is to believe falsely that historic moments like the civil rights movement “just happen.” In fact, years of organizing and strategizing bring about their birth. Travis Holloway, a poet, political philosopher and activist at Occupy Wall Street, believes this movement has the potential to go beyond mere words and slogans (though, he writes in a recent piece, these help), and like the civil rights movement, to effect real change. Along with suggestions from a wide range of activists, here are “Ten Things” to keep the Occupy movement going and build a foundation for long-term change.

1. We are the 99 percent. A movement of the 99 percent must be inclusive in its makeup and its goals. …

2. Whose streets? Our streets! Crackdowns on encampments means the movement shifts from holding a space to major public events, actions on the street, and horizontal, online organizing forums. …

3. Imagine all the people. Rallies aren’t the only form of protest. Be creative and don’t forget to surprise. If your opponent is counting on noisy drum circles or big signs, try a silent march or vigil ….

5. Occupy the future. Set major, future events now to define the agenda and the permanence of the movement, then use the winter to network in order to better mobilize in the spring. Community organizations, churches and labor have real connections with the community and add support and energy to existing movements. …

6. Occupy your life. Everyone has an opportunity to act out the ideals and goals of the Occupiers in his/her everyday life. We may not be able to leave jobs that are inconsistent with our values, but reflecting on our own feelings and opinions can make us stronger and influence others. …

(13 December 2011)
Walter Moseley is author of popular series of private detective novels (Easy Rawlins, an Afro-American detective operating in Los Angeles during the 40s, 50s and 60s. -BA