Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, says, "Mohamed suffered a lot. He worked hard. But when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity."
The Protester is not dreaming of nor coveting millions of dollars, nor titles such as President, Ruler, King, Queen, Sheik, etc. All The Protester is wanting is a fair shake at life. The ability and opportunity to find gainful employment, take care of their family, keep a roof over their head and food on their table, the ability for quality health care, reasonable tuition for a higher education… these are only a few of the many desires the average citizen of all countries want, including our own.
And this year, they spoke and will continue to speak until change is made for the betterment and fairness for all.
History often emerges only in retrospect. Events become significant only when looked back on. No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square in a town barely on a map, he would spark protests that would bring down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattle regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Or that that spirit of dissent would spur Mexicans to rise up against the terror of drug cartels, Greeks to march against unaccountable leaders, Americans to occupy public spaces to protest income inequality, and Russians to marshal themselves against a corrupt autocracy.Protests have now occurred in countries whose populations total at least 3 billion people, and the word protest has appeared in newspapers and online exponentially more this past year than at any other time in history.
Is there a global tipping point for frustration? Everywhere, it seems, people said they’d had enough. They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change. And although it was understood differently in different places, the idea of democracy was present in every gathering. The root of the word democracy is demos, “the people,” and the meaning of democracy is “the people rule.” And they did, if not at the ballot box, then in the streets. America is a nation conceived in protest, and protest is in some ways the source code for democracy — and evidence of the lack of it.
The protests have marked the rise of a new generation. In Egypt 60% of the population is under the age of 25. Technology mattered, but this was not a technological revolution. Social networks did not cause these movements, but they kept them alive and connected. Technology allowed us to watch, and it spread the virus of protest, but this was not a wired revolution; it was a human one, of hearts and minds, the oldest technology of all.
Everywhere this year, people have complained about the failure of traditional leadership and the fecklessness of institutions. Politicians cannot look beyond the next election, and they refuse to make hard choices. That’s one reason we did not select an individual this year. But leadership has come from the bottom of the pyramid, not the top. For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is TIME’s 2011 Person of the Year.
Some photos from TIME 2011 Person of the Year: The Protester – followed by TIME videos.
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All photos by Peter Hapak for TIME.
Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, says, “Mohamed suffered a lot. He worked hard. But when he set fire to himself, it wasn’t about his scales being confiscated. It was about his dignity.”
Greek protester George Anastasopoulos, left, and Occupy Oakland protester Melanisia Carmilia Jacobs. “I got involved in the protests here after watching the Indignados movement in Spain,” Anastasopoulos says. “All these movements for democracy and justice and respect — these moved me so much.”
Lina Ben Mhenni, a.k.a. A Tunisian Girl, a prominent blogger during the Jasmine Revolution, says, “Dictatorship can’t last.”
Mahmoud Salem, a.k.a. Sandmonkey, Egyptian revolutionary blogger, activist and protester.
Egyptian protester Emil Samir, left, holds a sign that reads, “The People Want the Fall of the Field Marshall.” Occupy Wall Street protester Chelsea Elliott says, “I’m happy to get maced if it helps the movement. I’d do it again.”
Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement in Egypt. During the years of his activism, prior to the Egyptian revolution, Maher was arrested five times. He says he has spent a total of four months in jail. “It’s an old proverb. In protests there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests.”
Hamada Ben Amar, a.k.a. El Général, Tunisian rapper whose song “Rais Lebled” became the anthem of the Jasmine Revolution. “We must not surrender our rights, these rights that we achieved through revolution and by eliminating this state called dictatorship in the Arab world,” he says.
Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader in India, says, “When God wants to bring in change, he needs a vehicle of change, and I became that vehicle.”
Captain Ray Lewis, a retired Philadelphia police officer, was arrested at Occupy Wall Street in November. “Walking across that intersection handcuffed was the proudest moment of my life,” he says. Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist who was arrested and assaulted by police in Cairo, tweeted, “The past 12 hrs were painful and surreal, but I know I got off much much easier than so many other Egyptians.”
“Jack,” a 24-year-old Occupy Oakland protester, was wounded by a projectile fired by police.
Molly Katchpole led a petition in October to persuade Bank of America to cancel its plans for a debit-card fee. “I think that business can be operated in a way that takes people into account,” she says.
Esraa Abdel Fatah, a.k.a. “Facebook Girl,” is a prominent Egyptian Internet activist and co-founder of the April 6 movement. “They were my greatest days. I could see the utopia of Egyptian society in Tahrir Square. I think those days will be rooted in Egyptian history,” she says.
Sayda al-Manahe’s son Hilme was shot by a sniper during a protest in Tunis on Jan. 13. He was buried the day Ben Ali fled the country. “My son is now a symbol, a symbol of Tunis. He gave his life so we can have freedom.”
Spanish protester Carmen Rodríguez, left, says, “I loved going home each day, completely exhausted, but unable to stop talking about all the new ideas. And then each day, as I walked back, I would get to the top of Carretas Street and see all those people in Sol and just cry, it was so moving.” Right, Molehe Kalaote, an Occupy Oakland protester.
Occupy Oakland protester Andre Little, left. Greek protester Katerina Patrikarakou covers her face in a Maalox mixture to counter the effects of tear gas.
Wisconsin protester Joanne Staudacher wears her “manifesto.” She says, “I’m trying to take what I consider the 4H approach to government these days. The 4H pledge — I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my community, my country, my world. The idea that you have to think things through, you have to figure out what’s important, you gotta go with that, and then you gotta get your hands in there and you’ve got to do something.”
TIME Person of the Year 2011: The Protester
Why TIME Chose “The Protester” as Person of the Year 2011
I couldn’t imagine any other choice for Time’s Person of the Year. The other candidates paled in comparison.
Time mag finally got it right eh? an inspired choice She. thanks. continue…
Great choice! Awesome share!