If you've watched the news lately, you've noticed the economic hard times have sparked unrest about economic inequality and corporate greed. Domestically, it has manifested with the Occupy Wall Street protests, which have spread to other cities and communities across the country. Elected officials have taken notice, as it has been addressed by the president, vice president, and presidential candidates in the Republican debates. But, of course, it remains to be seen whether or not they'll take action. If changes are made, then regular U.S. citizens, who had the courage to use their voice, can be credited for getting the ball rolling. It's incredible what can emerge from a simple protest — just take a look at the few listed below. Without them, the world wouldn't evolve.
Boston Tea Party (1773)The numerous successful protests that have occurred throughout American history can be attributed to our value of individual liberty. Citizens have always detested government intrusion and high taxes, as evidenced by the Boston Tea Party, which was a resistance to the excessively high taxes on tea delivered by the East India Company. Outraged, the colonists seized the ships containing the tea and threw it overboard into the Boston Harbor. The actions strengthened America's sense of self and gave it the confidence to eventually conduct a revolution.
March on Washington (1963)Almost 200 years after America became unified in its quest for independence — and 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — the country was divided and suffering from a moral crisis. Perhaps the seminal moment in the Civil Rights Movement came in Washington, when hundreds of thousands gathered to demonstrate for civil and economic rights for African Americans. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have A Dream" speech, which helped motivate politicians to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Prague Spring (1968)The election of Alexander Dubcek as the First Secretary of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia signified change for the communist country. Reform-minded, he planned to decentralize the government and grant citizens freedoms such as speech and travel. Naturally, the Soviets were unhappy with the changes, and sent troops to occupy the country, causing a wave of nonviolent protests from angry citizens. Although the Soviets occupied the country until 1990, the will of the people brought attention to their desire for freedom, and strengthened the worldwide resistance to communism.
People's Democracy March (1969)Northern Ireland's Catholic community, fed up with discrimination and inequality, held a four-day march from Belfast to Derry resembling King's Selma-to-Montgomery marches. Along the way, they staved off attacks by loyalists, exhibiting the strength needed to encourage change. The People's Democracy eventually dissolved, but their message was heard loud and clear.
Kent State (1970)College students' collective desire to question authority has given rise to several monumental protests, particularly during the turbulent 1960s. Kent State, of course, was the site of the most infamous student gathering, as the eventual presence of the Ohio National Guard resulted in the deaths of four students and injuries of nine others. The Guard's use of tear gas and excessive force angered students across the nation who watched the events unfold on television. In turn, four million of them participated in a massive strike, an indicator of the widespread outrage aimed at America's involvement in South Asia.
Sowento Uprising (1976)The world watched in disgust as apartheid took hold in South Africa for almost five decades. A movement to end the policy began with the Sowento Uprising, which was instigated by the enforcement of the teaching of Afrikaans, a West Germanic language. Ten thousand students marched in the streets, attracting the presence of armed police. When the protestors began throwing stones at the police, live rounds were fired. The uprising persisted for several weeks, resulting in the deaths of up to 600 people. As a result, the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela moved to the forefront of the struggle for liberation.
Iranian Revolution (1979)Viewed as oppressive and a puppet to the West, the Shah's unpopularity in Iran gave way to massive demonstrations in 1977, prompting his exile and the end of the Pahlavi dynasty. The revolution was backed by hoards of citizens and a well-financed army who supported the political ascension of Ayatollah Khomeini. Subsequently, a new government was established with the heavy influence of Islamic law. Foreign governments such as the United States grossly underestimated the potential impact of civil unrest, and watched helplessly as their ties to the country disintegrated.
Tiananmen Square Protests (1989)After four decades of communist control over China, some citizens weren't willing to relent on their demands for democratic reform. The death of CPC General Secretary Hu Yaobang, an advocate for political liberalization, brought forth a gathering of 100,000 students in Tiananmen Square, which evolved into nonviolent protests. The declaration of martial law was followed by the use of tanks and troops, provoking a confrontation that involved an unknown number of deaths. Countries that had worked hard to improve their relations with China were encouraged by the citizens' desire for democracy, but turned off by the way the government handled it.
Iraq War Protests (2003)America's invasion of Iraq elicited worldwide outrage and anti-war protestors took to the streets to display their opposition to what they perceived as more needless deaths. At one point during the lead-up to the war, between six million and 10 million people marched in up to 60 countries, according to the BBC. It was estimated, for example, that 1.3 million people marched in Barcelona, 750,000 people marched in London, and 250,000 people marched in San Francisco. A couple of years later, most Americans, including many who supported it, admitted to Gallup that the war in Iraq was a mistake.
Egypt Protests (2011)In one of the more recent awe-inspiring protests, millions of Egyptians voiced their opposition to the policies of president Hosni Mubarak, who had been in office for almost three decades. Fed up with the abuse of political power and poor economic conditions, they fought with security forces, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Mubarak attempted to stop the uprising by dissolving the government and appointing Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate Omar Suleiman as Vice President, but demonstrations continued, and the president relinquished his position. Mubarak faced charges of corruption and complicity in the killing of protestors in August, but, suspiciously, testimony failed to produce sufficient evidence.
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