Arab Spring Incites Domestic Protests

Posted on November 1, 2011

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News | Lauren Mc Cuen

Last spring, a series of well-publicized protests and revolts all over the world began with the suicide of one Tunisian man. Mohamed Bouazizi had been regularly targeted by the police for street vending. Some sources claim that street vending is illegal in Tunisia, while others state that Bouazizi did not have a proper permit. However, the head of the State Office for Employment and Independent Work stated that no permit is required to sell from a cart. Bouazizi had no other way of making money, and so he endured constant threats from the police to feed his family.
On January 4, 2011, a municipal worker  confiscated Bouazizi’s wares and publicly humilated him. In a shocking display of protest, Bouazizi acquired gasoline and set himself on fire in the street. This act became a catalyst for the Tunisian revolution. The public’s anger over social and political issues boiled up into riots and demonstrations, making Bouazizi a martyr for the cause. Ten days after Bouazizi’s self-immolation, the President of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, stepped down after holding office for 23 years.
Less than two weeks later, demonstrations began in Egypt. These protests went on for 18 days, during which the government tried, with some success, to shut off the nation’s internet access in an attempt to stop protesters from using social media to organize. Social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, was used to not only plan demonstrations but also to alert the rest of the world to what was happening. Violence began between the protesters and supporters of then-President Hosni Mubarak. On February 11, Mubarak resigned. Egypt is currently under the control of the Armed Forces of Egypt, along with Essam Sharaf, a civilian who was an active member of the protests, and was appointed as the Prime Minister of Egypt. The government has promised open elections by the end of the year. After Egypt’s uprising, public outcries began to spread throughout the Arab world, eventually reaching the border of Israel and Iran.
These protests have inspired similar sit-ins in America. A movement known as Occupy Wall Street has begun to speak out against the growing gap between the rich and the poor. On September 17, activists arrived in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan and refused to leave. They formed a small community that has a core base of several hundred protesters.
These protesters object to corruption in the government and the control that large corporations have over people’s lives. They also blame our nation’s recession on irresponsible banking practices. Critics complain that the group does not have specific demands. However, like the activists in Egypt and Tunisia, “occupiers” are demanding large social and governmental reform rather than a single change.
Similar to the spread of protests during the Arab Spring, “Occupy” demonstrations have begun to spring up all across the United States and in other countries. Protests have even began to occur in small communities rather than just large cities.  Doylestown held such a mini-protest for two hours on October 13.
Occupy Philadelphia began on October 6, with advocates setting up camp outside City Hall. While this protest has been able to remain non-violent with only 15 arrests, many other occupations have clashed with the police.  There have been almost 800 arrests in New York alone. Incidents have included a march of over 700 demonstrators on the Brooklyn Bridge and several alleged cases of police brutality. Videos have been posted online of NYPD officers corralling female protesters in mesh nets and pepper spraying them.
The mayor of New York City also threatened to have activists removed on October 14 for the cleaning of Zuccotti Park, after which protesters would be allowed to return. However, the protesters could not bring back  any equipment or tents to camp in. Occupiers began a non-stop cleaning process in the hopes that they would be allowed to stay. Almost all of the protesters were convinced that they would be forced to vacate the park. However, after a tense night of waiting for police to arrive, it was announced that the cleaning was to be postponed.
It remains unknown how long the park will remain under the control of Wall Street, just as it is uncertain how these protests will affect the world. But with an estimated 100,000 activists attending Occupy protests on October 15, Global Day of Action, it is clear that this movement will not be ending any time soon.

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