The World’s Most Memorable Protests
By Dan Billings
In September 2011, protestors began to congregate in Zuccotti Park in New York City where they remained until November 15, 2011, when police began to remove their tents and clear the park. The protestors used the slogan “We Are the 99%” in reference to the overall inequality within the current governmental and financial system. These protests sparked similar unrest across the United States including in Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, and Oakland. The excess and inequality that serves as the root of these protests can be seen in the documentary series The Zeroes, which showcases Trader Monthly, a magazine that glorified the extravagant lifestyle of traders in the 1990s.
The Zeroes – Everyone Wants to be P-Diddy
Protests like those that occurred on Wall Street this year have been taking place for centuries. No matter the time or place, there has always been excess and abuse by governments, corporations, and other powerful entities that motivate the masses to voice their discontent and disapproval.
The Boston Tea Party
In 1773, many American colonialists were upset with the British colonial tax system. As a result, many colonialists refused to pay the taxes, because they believed that taxation without representation was unjust. The British then retracted many of the taxes, except for the one on tea.
On December 16, 1773, locals congregated around a wharf where tea ships were docked. A group of about 200 men, some disguised as Indians, boarded three British ships and dumped crates of tea into Boston Harbor. The British reaction to the protest led to the start of the American Revolution.
*These individuals became the namesake for the current Tea Party movement, which is protesting governmental bailouts and a federal health care system.
The Haymarket Riots
By the late nineteenth century, the labor movement had begun to gain traction in the United States. Two days after a May Day march, on May 1, 1886, workers in Chicago met at a local plant to continue their strike. Police officers arrived and fired on the workers. In return, union leaders organized a rally at Haymarket Square, on May 4, 1886, to support the striking workers. At the end of the May 4th rally, a bomb was thrown into the crowd, injuring civilians and killing several policemen. Although the bomb thrower was never identified, seven individuals were sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer. Many believe the individuals were sentenced more for their political beliefs than the bombing.
Gandhi’s Quit India Protest
After leading protests in Indian communities in South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi returned to India to protest against the British Empire. His issues included an end of discrimination, expansion of women’s rights, ending the Hindu caste system, and independence of India from foreign powers. After achieving independence from Britain, as a result of the Quit India movement, Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by a Hindu nationalist who was associated with a group that believed Gandhi was responsible for weakening India after the partition of the country into India and Pakistan.
Martin Luther King’s March on Washington
On August 28, 1963, at least 200,000 individuals converged on Washington D.C. in support of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the central purposes of the march was to support a civil rights bill that was recently introduced by the Kennedy administration. The marchers had many celebrity members including Sidney Poitier, Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, and Charlton Heston. But the defining moment was Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which advocated racial harmony. King performed the speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, where a plaque memorializing the event resides to this day.
The Vietnam War led to many protests on college campuses. On May 1, 1970, students protested again President Richard Nixon’s Cambodian Incursion, a series of maneuvers where troops entered eastern parts of Cambodia. On Monday, May 4, Kent State University officials handed out pamphlets declaring a planned protest canceled after days of protest and unrest. When students began to converge on the rally site regardless of the reported cancellation, the National Guard tried to disperse the crowd by using tear gas – but high winds diminished the effect of the gas. With bayonets attached to their rifles, the Guard began to advance on the protestors, with 29 out of 77 Guardsmen firing their weapons with a total of 67 rounds of ammunition. Four students were killed and eight others were injured. As photographs and news reports began to emerge, students started similar protests across the country.
*In response to the deaths at Kent State, Neil Young wrote the protest song “Ohio” for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
In 1989, a series of demonstrations occurred at Tiananmen Square in China. Students began the demonstrations to encourage economic reform and liberalization of the Communist system. Over 100,000 people converged on the Square after the death of one of the more liberal members of the government, Hu Yaobang. The most memorable picture from the protests included a single man standing in front of a line of tanks after the military was called in remove the protestors.
In the past year, a wave of revolutions has blanketed the Arab world. Dissatisfied communities are responding to years of unjust actions by brutal dictatorships, unemployment, and a general discontent with the state of their countries. Major demonstrations have occurred in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria. The first uprising occurred in Tunisia, which ended when President Ben Ali fled the country. Shortly thereafter, the government of Hosni Mubarek in Egypt was overthrown.
Currently, an ongoing revolution is occurring in Syria where protestors are calling for political reforms and the end of a state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963.
After a recent election where Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party won a slight majority of the votes, many Russian citizens took to the streets to protest the results. Widespread reports of vote tampering spread across Russia as international observers called the election results suspect. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the election “flawed.” The protestors are demanding a new election by way of the largest such protest since the fall of Communism.
The Zeroes – Let It All Hang Out
The Zeroes – The Jealousy Machine
Dan Billings lives in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. When he’s not running and listening to BBC podcasts, he’s reading comic books. He likes to consider himself a successful funny man, but that may only be true compared to the other legal writers that he spends his days with. On occasion, he writes on his own personal blog at rockthewesternworld.com.