Friday, December 10, 2010

Protesters - Not Going to Take It Anymore!

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Protests, Riots, and Insurrections
What will come of it? Is it good or bad for the United States and the West? Will the Muslim Brotherhood and/or al Qaeda take advantage and somehow secure power?
Alan Caruba
Monday, March 28, 2011
I’ve been thinking a lot about protests, riots and insurrections lately because they seem to be happening all over the Middle East and even in London.
In London, an estimated half million Brits turned out in the streets to protest government cuts in services, paying little heed to (a) how heavily they are taxed for them and (b) how they have all but bankrupted the nation. Though the protest was at times raucous thanks to local anarchists, it should be noted that the local constabulary did not shoot anyone.
Contrast that with the streets of Yemen, Syria and even little Bahrain where protests have generated a number of deaths as the main means of “crowd control.” This is also the way protests in Iran have been dealt with, along with imprisonment, torture, and all the other arts of despotism.
In Libya, an insurrection against four decades of despotic rule by Col, Gadhafi has dragged in the U.S., the U.N., NATO, and, briefly, the Arab League into the dispute. Given that Gadhafi had made it clear he intended to kill as many Libyans as necessary to retain his grip on the nation, there was no way this could be ignored.
By contrast, when a huge crowd gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo the military did not roll out the tanks. After a few futile efforts to disperse the protesters, President Mubarak was eased out of the office he had held since 1981 and sent packing. All things considered it was a bloodless coup. The Egyptians just held an election to decide some changes to their constitution.
Other contrasts come to mind, most notably, the 1989 massacre that took place at night in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square when protesters, mostly young Chinese, gathered to seek more freedom, more justice, and more democracy. It did not happen. While outwardly prosperous, China remains the classic Communist state.
One of the biggest gatherings in the U.S. capitol involved an estimated million people who came out in March 2010 to protest against the passage of Obamacare. It was an extraordinary turnout and one that the mainstream media tried to depict as unruly and impolite, but it was nothing less than astonishing that so many people could gather in one place without any disruptive behavior. David Axelrod, an advisor to Obama at the time, gave the White House response. “They’re wrong.”
When Obamacare was passed, the Tea Party that had organized the protest just grew like Jack’s beanstalk and, by November 2010, lots of Democrats who had voted for it found themselves cast out of the House, along with some in the Senate. Americans know how to protest, how to organize, and how to vote out liberals.
The differences between American, British, and Middle Eastern protests are quite evident. In the former two, you show up, speeches are given, and everyone goes home. In the latter, you show up and the regime in charge is likely to shoot you.
In America it was the Boston massacre that literally kicked off the Revolution against England in general and the king in particular. British troops, feeling threatened, fired on a relatively small group of protesters and, as they say, the rest is history.
The history of what is occurring in the Middle East is playing out in its cities and, while the region is not famous for democratic reform, the U.S. intervention in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein may well be seen in retrospect as the trigger for all the insurrections occurring throughout the region. Before the Marines and infantry showed up, you could only vote for Saddam.
The trigger incident in Tunisia occurred when a street merchant, harassed by the local police, set himself on fire, but it really doesn’t matter what the trigger is because it is the far larger resentment of the populations in the nations of the Middle East that has finally been ignited.
The other largely unreported factor is the deep schism between Shias and Sunnis. It expresses itself in different ways in different nations. Sunnis are the majority or control the affairs of most nations except Iran.
The old regimes are being challenged. If you are a monarch the last thing you want to see are other monarchs being dethroned. If you are a despot, you can be replaced.
What will come of it? Is it good or bad for the United States and the West? Will the Muslim Brotherhood and/or al Qaeda take advantage and somehow secure power?
Questions, questions, questions!
And no one knows the answer.
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Students attack Prince Charles' car after fee hike
Matt Dunham And Cassandra Vinograd, Associated Press
Thursday, Dec 9, 2010
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101209/ap_on_re_eu/eu_britain_tuition_tangle;_ylt=AokLofVYVCrAEJQ9hIW77Kus0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTFpYnJrM2FhBHBvcwMzOARzZWMDYWNjb3JkaW9uX21vc3RfcG9wdWxhcgRzbGsDc3R1ZGVudHNhdHRh
LONDON – Furious student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, vandalized buildings and battled riot police Thursday as a controversial hike in university fees triggered Britain's worst political violence in years.
In a major security breach, demonstrators set upon the heir to the throne's Rolls Royce as it drove through London's busy West End on its way to a theater. A group of up to 20 struck it with fists, sticks and bottles, breaking a window and splattering the gleaming black vehicle with paint.
In the frenzy, some chanted "off with their heads!"
Adnan Nazir, a 23-year-old podiatrist who was following the protesters, said Charles, 62, kept his calm, gently pushing his 63-year-old wife toward the floor to get her out of the line of fire.
"Charles got her on the floor and put his hands on her," Nazir said. "Charles was still waving and giving the thumb's up.
"It was just a surreal thing," he said. "It was completely manic."
Charles' office, Clarence House, said the royal couple was unharmed. But the attack took police completely
by surprise and raises serious security questions.
The chief of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, said the force would launch an investigation into Thursday's violence.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the violence against the royal couple was "shocking and regrettable."
"It is clear that a minority of protesters came determined to provoke violence, attack the police and cause as much damage to property as possible," Cameron said. "They must face the full force of the law."
Police said it was unclear whether the royals had been deliberately targeted, or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The couple arrived looking somber but composed at the London Palladium theater, where they were attending a Royal Variety Performance.
Camilla later managed to shrug off the ordeal, saying there was "a first time for everything," the Press Association news agency reported.
Protesters erupted in anger after legislators in the House of Commons approved a plan to triple university fees to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) a year.
As thousands of students were corralled by police near Parliament, some strummed guitars and sang Beatles songs — but others hurled chunks of paving stones at police and smashed windows in a government building.
Another group ran riot through the busy shopping streets of London's West End, smashing store windows and setting fire to a giant Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.
Police condemned the "wanton vandalism." They said 43 protesters and 12 officers had been injured, while 22 people were arrested. Police said the number of arrests would likely rise.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that "what we are seeing in London tonight, the wanton vandalism, smashing of windows, has nothing to do with peaceful protest."
The violence overshadowed the tuition vote, a crucial test for governing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, and for the government's austerity plans to reduce Britain's budget deficit.
It was approved 323-302 in the House of Commons, a close vote given the government's 84-seat majority.
Many in the thousands-strong crowd outside booed and chanted "shame" when they heard the result of the vote, and pressed against metal barriers and lines of riot police penning them in.
Earlier small groups of protesters threw flares, billiard balls and paint bombs, and officers, some on horses, rushed to reinforce the security cordon.
The scuffles broke out after students marched through central London and converged on Parliament Square, waving placards and chanting "education is not for sale" to cap weeks of nationwide protests aimed at pressuring lawmakers to reverse course.
The vote put Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and his Liberal Democrat party in an awkward spot. Liberal Democrats signed a pre-election pledge to oppose any such tuition hike, and reserved the right to abstain in the vote even though they are part of the governing coalition proposing the change.
Those protesting were particularly incensed by the broken pledge from Clegg's party.
"I'm here because the Liberal Democrats broke their promise," said 19-year-old Kings College student Shivan David. "I don't think education should be free but I do think that tripling fees doesn't make any sense.
We are paying more for less."
Clegg defended the proposals, saying the plans represent the "best possible choice" at a time of economic uncertainty.
But under intense political pressure, 21 Liberal Democrat lawmakers — more than a third of the total — voted against the fee hike. Another eight, including at least one government minister, abstained.
Experts warned that fallout from the policy could pose a greater risk after the vote.
"The real danger for the government is not that they won't pass it through, but that it will be a policy fiasco," said Patrick Dunleavy, a political science professor at the London School of Economics. "By picking this fight with the student body ... the government seems to have gotten itself into choppy water."
Cameron's government describes the move as a painful necessity to deal with a record budget deficit and a sputtering economy. To balance its books, the U.K. passed a four-year package of spending cuts worth 81 billion pounds, which will eliminate hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs and cut or curtail hundreds of government programs.
Associated Press Writers Jill Lawless and Gillian Smith contributed to this report.
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