Today we look back at 2011, a year that saw the U.S. killing of Osama Bin Laden, the ouster of a dictator in Egypt and the death of one in Libya, the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, and the expansion of the secret U.S. drone war in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula. As U.S. troops leave Iraq, thousands of private security contractors remain to guard the U.S. embassy—the largest in the world. The Horn of Africa was hit by the region’s worst drought in decades as the devastating impact of extreme weather was felt across the globe, while the world’s most powerful countries continue to refuse to join in a pact to address climate change. However, 2011 may be most remembered as a year of global uprisings. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, millions of people took to the streets to oppose repressive regimes and an unjust economic system. We spend the hour today looking back at the protest movements that shaped 2011. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Today we look back at 2011, a year that saw the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden, the ouster of a dictator in Egypt, the death of one in Libya, the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, and the expansion of the secret U.S. drone war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia. U.S. troops left Iraq, yet thousands of private security contractors remain to guard the U.S. embassy, the largest in the world. The Horn of Africa was hit by the region’s worst drought in decades, as the devastating impact of extreme weather was felt across the globe.
But 2011 may be most remembered as a year of global protests and uprisings. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, millions of people took to the streets to oppose repressive regimes and an unjust economic system. We spend the hour today looking back at the protest movements that shaped 2011.
AMY GOODMAN: Tunisia has announced an interim national unity government days after a popular revolt ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In what’s been called the first Middle East revolution since 1979, Ben Ali fled Tunisia on Friday after a month of unprecedented protests. Thousands took to the streets to rally against unemployment, high food prices, corruption and state repression. At least 80 people were killed in a government crackdown. On Monday, Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi announced members of opposition parties will hold government positions for the first time. But key figures of the old guard, including the former defense, foreign, interior and finance ministers, will keep their posts in the new government. Up to a thousand protesters took to the streets on Monday in protest and called for the exclusion of all members of the Ben Ali government.
PROTESTER: [translated] We are not expecting anything from these criminals. Their laws are made with the blood of the Tunisians. They are liars, they are assassins, they are criminals. Can you trust a liar, the one who has been supporting a dictator? We don’t want them anymore. If they don’t understand, what language do we have to use?
AMY GOODMAN: The protests that led to President Ben Ali’s overthrow gained momentum last month after unemployed university graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire. He died earlier this month. The self-immolation has led to apparent copycat protests in other North African states, with four men setting themselves on fire in Algeria and one each in Egypt and Mauritania.
ISSANDR EL AMRANI: What’s happening in Tunisia is having an electrifying effect, not only in Egypt, but throughout the Arab world.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a video recording that was posted to Facebook on January 18th and then went viral across Egypt. It was recorded by a young Egyptian named Asmaa Mahfouz.
ASMAA MAHFOUZ: [translated] I’m making this video to give you one simple message: we want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25th. If we still have honor and want to live in dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25th. We’ll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights…
Never say there’s no hope. Hope disappears only when you say there’s none. So long as you come down with us, there will be hope. Don’t be afraid of the government. Fear none but God. God says He will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. Don’t think you can be safe anymore. None of us are. Come down with us and demand your rights, my rights, your family’s rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Egypt in the largest popular challenge to longtime President Hosni Mubarak since he came into office over 30 years ago. Drawing inspiration from the recent uprising in Tunisia, an estimated crowd of 15,000 people packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
PROTESTER: [translated] We’re tired, ma’am. We’re tired. Stop the price hikes. We’re suffering. We’re Egyptians. We love Egypt, but stop this. We want to eat. We want to live. We want our children.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Amy, I’ve traveled to Egypt countless times from the United States after I moved there for college and then work, and when my plane from JFK touched down in Cairo International Airport on Saturday, the day after the massive protest where the protesters beat back the Interior Ministry, police and state security forces, I did land in a different country than the one I had known my entire life. Egypt has been reborn. This is not the Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt anymore. And no matter what happens next, it will never be again.
NAWAL EL SAADAWI: Women and girls are beside boys in the streets. They are—and we are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system, to change the people who are governing us, the system and the people, and to have a real democracy.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders; only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak, is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTERS: No Mubarak! No Mubarak! No Mubarak!
AMY GOODMAN: While the world’s attention has been on Egypt, mass protests continue across the Arab world… In Yemen, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched Thursday and called for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled Yemen for 32 years. On Wednesday, Saleh announced he would not seek to extend his presidency beyond 2013, but protesters want him to step down sooner.
MONAWAR AL HMADI: [translated] We hate promises. It’s too late, and we have long asked for reforms. We have been patient with oppression, we have been patient with hunger, hoping that the officials will finally understand us. But they just don’t.
AMY GOODMAN: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is facing increasing calls to resign following violent attacks by pro-Mubarak forces against protesters near Tahrir Square in Cairo. At least six people have been killed. Almost a thousand have been injured. Machine-gun fire has been heard throughout the day in the square.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: It really looks like a battlefield. This is not the same Tahrir that we were walking in every day since. This is different Tahrir, one that came under attack by Mubarak’s thugs. And we’re going to go see what happened.
SELMA AL-TARZI: They came in thousands of thugs throwing stones and Molotov bombs at us, burning the trees and throwing big huge pieces of rocks. They were breaking the pavements and throwing pieces of the pavement at us.
AMY GOODMAN: We have very important news to announce. For those who are just tuning in, Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. Or more accurately, the people of Egypt have forced Hosni Mubarak out. The dictator is gone. The announcement was made by the hastily chosen vice president, hand-picked by Mubarak himself, named Omar Suleiman.
DEENA: My name is Deena. And there are no words to describe how I feel. We’ve dreamt of this day every single day of our lives here. We can’t—it’s unbelievable. It’s not even conceivable for us.
ANJALI KAMAT: Well, it’s a historic day in Egypt today. It’s the first day for the new Egypt for millions of people around the country. In the city of Cairo, the entire city is celebrating. Mubarak just announced that he would resign. His resignation came about as a result of three weeks of unprecedented mass protests across the streets of Cairo, across cities and towns in Egypt. It’s absolutely historic.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, Amy, I think if you had asked me three weeks ago, “Would a popular uprising have forced President Mubarak to resign?” I would have told you you were crazy…
People are proud now to call themselves Egyptian. That’s the victory chant of Tahrir, was [in Arabic], which means, “Lift your head up high, you’re Egyptian.” So I think everyone’s proud of what happened.
But we have to be very clear where we stand right now. There is a military group of commanders who are ruling the country, and there’s still a very long road ahead to achieve real reform and real democracy.
MAY: This is just the first step. We still have a very, very long way and a lot of hard work, but I think we will get there.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, it’s a startling event. I mean, I don’t think one can predict where it’s going, but it’s obviously creating at least the basis for major changes in the region.
PROTESTERS: Spread the love! Stop the hate! Don’t let Walker legislate! Spread the love! Stop the hate! Don’t let Walker legislate!
PROTESTER: Students, are we going to stand for this attack on our teachers?
PROTESTERS: Hell no!
PROTESTER: Are we going to stand for this attack on the people that make our universities work?
PROTESTERS: Kill this bill! Kill this bill! Kill this bill!
JUAN GONZALEZ: Massive labor protests in the state of Wisconsin have entered their fifth day. On Thursday, 30,000 teachers, students and state and municipal workers took part in a noontime rally at the Statehouse in Madison to oppose Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers, as well as slash their pay and benefits. Another 20,000 people took part in a rally last night at the State Capitol. Public schools in Madison are closed for the third day in a row as teachers continue to protest.
The Republican-controlled State Senate was scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday. But Democratic senators took an extraordinary measure by refusing to show up for the vote, leaving the Republicans without a quorum.
AMY GOODMAN: People are coming from all over the country, but mainly it’s people based right here in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites are descending on the Capitol from every corner of this state. They see this as ground zero for labor activism in the United States.
BARBARA CRANE: We want to stand with our brothers and sisters for what we consider the genocide of the middle class of this country, and we’re not going to take it anymore!
MICHAEL MOORE: America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe, so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands.
AMY GOODMAN: After seven years in exile, the Aristides have returned.
There is a crush of people who have accompanied the Aristides from the airport in Port-au-Prince to their home in Tabarre, tens of thousands of people, T-shirts that say “Aristide,” signs that say, ”Bon retour,” “Good return.”
Well, it was something to see you burst through the door, from the embrace of I don’t know how many thousands of people.
JEAN-BERTRAND ARISTIDE: And I understood them, because they suffer so much and for so long.
What is happening in Egypt or what started in Tunisia, Egypt and in the Arab world, we saw it here in 1986, when the people realized that they had to stand up and make a difference in changing their lives. And it happened in 1986. And I was very delighted to see it in the Arab world, where democracy prevailed, and must prevail, for some countries. And for all the countries, it’s not yet that, but it’s a must for all those who are dreaming of a better life.
AMY GOODMAN: Human Rights Watch is reporting at least 332 people have been killed in Libya in a massive government crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Despite the violence, the protests against the 42-year reign of Muammar Gaddafi appear to be gaining steam.
HISHAM MATAR: I think what we’re witnessing is the violent lashings of a dying beast, who is willing to go to extreme measures in order to try to cling on to power.
ANJALI KAMAT: Large parts of eastern Libya, from Benghazi east to the Egyptian border, seem to be completely in the hands of people who call themselves the revolutionaries, the anti-Gaddafi forces, who have taken this part of the country after fierce battles with Gaddafi’s police and mercenaries, who have used incredible violence against a lot of the people here.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.
HORACE CAMPBELL: It is very important, for those who have solidarity with the Libyan uprising, with those fighting for freedom in Libya, to support the people in Libya and at the same time denounce any attempts by the Western forces, especially elements within the administration in the United States and Great Britain, for military intervention.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: In news from the Middle East, the King of Bahrain has declared a state of emergency for three months following weeks of pro-democracy protests. The King’s announcement came one day after about 1,000 Saudi troops have crossed into Bahrain to help defend Bahrain’s ruling family. Pro-democracy protesters have described the Saudi presence on the island as a declaration of war.
AMY GOODMAN: The United States has continued to back the regime despite repeated appeals from protesters. Last Tuesday, we spoke to Zainab Alkhawaja, daughter of the detained human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja.
ZAINAB ALKHAWAJA: My message to Obama is basically that he has to choose. He has to choose if his administration is really with human rights, democracy and freedom, as he claimed, and with change towards democracy, or is he more concerned about supporting his friends who are dictators in the Middle East?
SECRETARY-GENERAL ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: NATO allies have now decided to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya.
JEREMY SCAHILL: The no-fly zone has always been a recipe for disaster. It was a disaster in Iraq, where it resulted in a strengthening of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The U.S. has bombed Gaddafi’s house. The U.S. is bombing targets that have no aerial value whatsoever.
AMY GOODMAN: State forces in Yemen opened fire on protesters in three cities Wednesday, killing at least nine people and injuring scores of others. A doctor in the capital city of Sana’a reported six people were killed, roughly 100 were wounded, when shooters opened fire on a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands marching to the cabinet building. Speaking from a hospital ward filled with wounded protesters, one witness described the assault.
WITNESS: [translated] So many people were hit by bullets. So many people are killed everywhere. So many people are killed. This regime doesn’t know mercy. I call on a revolution that destroys this regime. I call on an awakening of the people to destroy this regime and this killer (Saleh), who killed our martyrs.
AMY GOODMAN: Syrian forces have fired on demonstrators taking part in a massive “day of defiance” against President Bashar al-Assad. Thousands of people have reportedly taken to the streets, defying a massive deployment of Syrian forces nationwide. Over 500 Syrians have reportedly been killed.
AMY GOODMAN: But we just have gotten Haitham Maleh on the front, a prominent Syrian dissident and human rights attorney. Because he is in hiding, and we have not been able to get him ’til now, I want to make sure that we get his voice in here.
Haitham, can you talk about the situation in Syria right now and why you’ve gone into hiding?
HAITHAM MALEH: It is getting worse. Very bad situation in all Syria. The army attack the people everywhere. They send tanks… So, more than 10,000 people are arrested everywhere.
MARWAN BISHARA: The Arab moment has come. It’s clear that the genie is out of the bottle.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!'s look back at 2011, a year of global uprisings, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. To get a copy of today's show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: The late, great Gil Scott-Heron singing “Did You Hear What They Said?” He died in May 2011 at the age of 62. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we look back at 2011, a year of global uprisings.
JUAN GONZALEZ: We turn now to Madrid, Spain, where the central square, known as Puerta del Sol, has become an urban encampment for tens of thousands of protesters. They are calling for better economic opportunities, a more representative electoral system, and an end to political corruption.
ALEJANDRO, unemployed electronic engineer: [translated] I hope this changes our situation and that we improve our quality of life. We have a right to regular jobs, a future and a decent salary, to more opportunities in life, the chance to get a house, to pay for that house, without being enslaved, but especially a better quality of life.
AMY GOODMAN: Thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets of Athens to protest a new round of austerity measures. This week Greece’s government unveiled more cuts and privatizations in response to the country’s debt crisis. On Wednesday, a large crowd marched on the Greek parliament.
PROTESTER: [translated] They have mortgaged our future and our present without asking us and with the excuse that there is no other way, while we know very well that there is another way. It’s that simple. They must leave and never come back here.
AMY GOODMAN: New Yorkers are escalating protests against austerity measures contained in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest budget.
SAM COLEMAN: And my message to the mayor is very simple: you can find the money. There are many, many, many wealthy New Yorkers who do not pay enough taxes, and the revenue is there, the money is there. And our schools need the money, and you cannot balance this budget on the backs of our children or our parents or our teachers.
AMY GOODMAN: More than a hundred members of the group New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts have erected a tent camp next to City Hall and vowed to remain until Bloomberg reverses his proposals. Activists have dubbed the encampment “Bloombergville,” recalling “Hooverville,” the popular name for the shanty towns for the homeless during the Great Depression.
AMY GOODMAN: Amidst the new setbacks for public workers, thousands of nurses have staged a protest on Wall Street demanding a new tax on the financial sector.
ROSE ANN DEMORO: Just like working people pay taxes on all of their purchases, that these yo-yos who buy and sell and buy and sell our country should pay a minimum tax on that. That money, that money, can—a very minimum tax could amount to at least $350 billion that can go back to our communities, that can go back to jobs, that can go back to healthcare.
AMY GOODMAN: In Britain, hundreds of thousands of public sector workers have launched a one-day national strike to protest sweeping cuts in government spending and changes to the country’s pension system. Mark Serwotka is general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.
MARK SERWOTKA: We’ll see everything from thousands of schools closed to queues at airports, driving tests canceled, prisoners detained in police cells, court sittings shut, and anyone trying to access the benefit or tax credit system will probably find their telephone calls are not answered. So we think there will be severe disruption. And we hope, when the government sees the strength of feeling of their own staff, they will start meaningfully negotiating with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Some 200,000 protesters took to the streets of Santiago, Chile, Thursday calling for more government support for the education system. Organizers described the protest as one of Chile’s largest since the fall of the dictatorship in 1990. Police responded by firing tear gas and water cannons. Thirteen protesters were arrested. Giorgio Jackson is the student federation president at Catholic University of Chile.
GIORGIO JACKSON: [translated] The truth is that the spread of people is huge, but we all have the same idea: that the education system is in crisis, and one of the reasons why is inequality. Chile is one of the most unequal countries in the world, and today we need to find a solution to that root problem. Obviously education is the key that can achieve that change.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, in Israel, tens of thousands of people have joined nationwide protests against high costs of living and growing income inequality. Police estimate as many as 120,000 people have turned out nationwide to support a movement that’s picked up momentum in recent weeks. In Jerusalem, some 15,000 people gathered outside the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Thousands also marched in the capital Tel Aviv.
PROTESTER: I’m here with many other thousands of Israelis to protest against the neoliberal and capitalist government of Bibi Netanyahu that’s choking working-class and middle-class families and young people and old people. Jews and Arabs are choking under economic burden.
AARON MATÉ: We are in Athens, Greece, where delegates from across the U.S. have gathered to board The Audacity of Hope. It’s one of 10 ships in the Freedom Flotilla 2, the aid mission to the Gaza Strip.
AARON MATÉ: I’m here with Alice Walker.
ALICE WALKER: And we actually tried to cross the water to get to the people of Gaza, especially to the children, who need to know that the world is here and the world cares and the world sees and a lot of us love them, and we do not agree that they should be brutalized and harmed.
AMY GOODMAN: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has ruled out talks with rebels amidst ongoing clashes. In remarks broadcast to a crowd of thousands of supporters, Gaddafi said there will be no negotiations with rebel forces until, quote, “Judgment Day.” NATO, meanwhile, is being accused of killing civilians in the city of Zlitan. On Thursday, foreign journalists were shown civilian sites allegedly hit by NATO bombs. A wounded Libyan man said a family of civilians were killed when NATO bombed their home.
ZLITAN RESIDENT: [translated] It was a civilian site. The whole family passed away. They didn’t die after the first air strike but died after the second one.
AMY GOODMAN: The government crackdown on protesters in Syria has reached a new level of violence, just as prayers ended Monday, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. At least six people were killed earlier today, pushing the toll to at least 150 over the last two days. An attack on the central city of Hama began on Sunday, when more than a hundred people were killed by government forces, continued into Monday with another 24 dead across the country.
RAZAN ZAITOUNEH: We have a message. We want the whole world to know what’s going on. It’s really—I cannot believe it, that after all this time, after about more than four months, international society still deal with no seriously with the situation in Syria.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: August 3rd is a day many Egyptians will never forget. It’s the day their former president, Hosni Mubarak, first stood trial for his crimes, just six months after a popular revolution forced him out of office.
CAIRO RESIDENT: [translated] In the past 30 years, today is the first day of a lawful state, with laws that are implemented on everyone. And today, for the ousted President Mubarak and his sons to be in the dock, this is a message for whoever will come after him and whoever will do wrong. From now on, they know they will belong in prison.
AMY GOODMAN: Muammar Gaddafi has issued a defiant message from hiding, urging supporters to continue the fight with NATO-backed rebel forces. In an audio recording aired on a Syrian network, Gaddafi accused international forces of seeking to occupy Libya for its oil and called on loyalists fighting the rebels to, quote, “let Libya be engulfed in flames.”
MUAMMAR GADDAFI: [translated] Everything you hear is lies. Don’t believe it. Fight it with guns. Fight it with bullets. Let bullets speak on behalf of the Libyan people. If they want to enter into a long war with us, let it be so.
AMY GOODMAN: More than 450 people have been arrested in the largest street riots and looting Britain has seen in decades. Armored vehicles are now patrolling parts of London. Fires burned through the night in several sections of the city. Rioting has spread to Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol. Riots first broke out Saturday night in the north London section of Tottenham following a vigil for Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man shot dead by police.
DARCUS HOWE: There is a mass insurrection. And I’m not talking about rioting; I’m talking about an insurrection that comes from the depths of society, from the consciousness, collectively, of the young blacks and whites, but overwhelmingly black, as a result of the consistent stopping and searching young blacks without cause.
AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York City, an 82-year-old resident of Brooklyn facing foreclosure was allowed to stay in her house Friday after over 200 people gathered in front of her home to block the eviction. Mary Lee Ward has lived in her home for 44 years. Her supporters say she is facing foreclosure because she was a victim of deceptive and predatory lending practices. She spoke from her front stoop after learning the eviction was put off for now.
MARY LEE WARD: We’re not slaves anymore. My grandfather was a slave, but I’m not. And they’re not going to force me to do anything against my will. You’ve got to put up a hard fight for the faith, and that means the fact that you have to stick with it when you know that you’re right, you know you have the evidence, you know you have the facts. Don’t let nobody walk over you. Don’t let nobody make you a slave.
VERIZON RECORDED MESSAGE: Thanks for calling Verizon. You can now reach us at 1-800-VERIZON for all of your needs. Please be advised, due to a strike, you may experience significant delays in having your call answered.
AMY GOODMAN: Forty-five thousand workers at Verizon have entered their fifth day on strike in what’s been described as the nation’s largest strike in four years.
AMY GOODMAN: From Georgia’s death row prison in Jackson, this is a Democracy Now! special broadcast. We are just an hour from the scheduled execution of Troy Anthony Davis, an execution the whole world is watching.
MARTINA CORREIA: And I just would like to say that, you know, I’ve been battling cancer for 10 years. And I’m—I don’t have cancer, but I’m reaping some of the effects of the medicine. Several months ago, I couldn’t—I was doing fine. And after that, I couldn’t get up out of the chair. But I’m here to tell you that I’m going to stand here for my brother today.
[with crowd] I am Troy Davis! You are Troy Davis! We are Troy Davis!
KRISTEN STANCIL: The court-ordered execution of Troy Anthony Davis has been carried out. The time of death is 11:08 p.m. At this time, the media witnesses will be coming out to give their firsthand account of what happened during the execution.
AMY GOODMAN: Again, prison official sharing the news that Troy Anthony Davis was executed at 11:08. That was the time of death. I’m standing with—
WESLEY BOYD: Wesley Boyd. And I’d like to say this has been a travesty of justice. And I’d like to tell the—America ought to be ashamed of yourself. And God help America. And if you’re alive in America, please don’t come to Georgia. Don’t come to Georgia. Don’t buy any Georgia pecans. Don’t buy any Georgia peaches. Don’t buy any trade with Georgia. The whole world, don’t buy anything with Georgia. God bless America. God bless Troy Davis.
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of people are expected in New York City Saturday for a protest dubbed “Occupy Wall Street.” Organizers say they intend to “take over Wall Street” and stage popular assemblies. Organizer Justin Wedes said the protest is being called to help spark a mass movement against corporate dominance.
JUSTIN WEDES: And so, more than having any specific demand, per se, I think the purpose of September 17th, for many of us who are helping to organize it and people who are coming out, is to begin a conversation, as citizens, as people affected by this financial system in collapse, as to how we’re going to fix it, as to what we’re going to do in order to make it work for us again.
SAM ALCOFF: On Saturday, thousands of protesters took to the streets of downtown Manhattan for what was described as an action to “Occupy Wall Street.”
MARY ELLEN MARINO: I came because I’m upset with the fact that the bailout of Wall Street didn’t help any of the people holding mortgages. All of the money went to Wall Street, and none of it went to Main Street. Now, we’ve just learned that Geithner was actually asked to split up the Citibank, and he didn’t do it. And Obama didn’t do anything about it.
SAM ALCOFF: The plan wasn’t simply for a one-day protest, but an ongoing and creative occupation of the Financial District itself. Organizer Lorenzo Serna.
LORENZO SERNA: The idea is to have an encampment. Like, this isn’t a one-day event. Like, we’re hoping that people come prepared to stay as long as they can and that we’re there to support each other.
DAVID GRAEBER: People have to, like, go into their public squares, meet each other, start talking to each other, and start brainstorming of ideas. I mean, essentially, the idea is the system is not going to save us; we’re going to have to save ourselves. So, we’re going to try to get as many people as possible to camp in some public place and start rebuilding society as we’d like to see it.
AMY GOODMAN: Over 1,000 people gathered in New York City yesterday for a so-called “Day of Outrage” to commemorate the execution of death row prisoner Troy Davis.
LEE WENGRAF: The struggle for Troy Davis has not just struck a chord, it has taken the lid off of the outrage that people feel about the depths of racism that surrounds the death penalty, the prison system, all the criminal justice, police brutality.
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, it’s day 10 of the Occupy Wall Street campaign. On Saturday, more than 80 protesters were arrested as hundreds took part in yet another march to Wall Street. The New York Police Department used nets and physical force to break up the crowds. Videos uploaded to YouTube show officers pepper-spraying protesters in the face from close range, punching demonstrators and dragging people through the street.
YELL: This one police officer had whipped out his mace and sprayed it about a foot away from me and around my area, where there were other people. The mace at that point was so close to me that it was dripping down my face, down my chest, all over me. It was ridiculous. I was about maybe 45 to an hour—I was blind for about 45 minutes to an hour.
MICHAEL MOORE: This is literally an uprising of people who have had it… The majority of Americans are really upset at Wall Street. Millions of Americans have lost their homes or are facing foreclosure right now. Fifty million do not have health insurance. Fourteen million officially are unemployed, and it’s probably well up into the 20 million-plus people that are actually unemployed. So you’ve already got an army of Americans who are just waiting for somebody to do something, and the something has started.
OCCUPY WALL STREET SPEAKER: Mic check. I’d like to hear this man. So I’d like to ask him to speak in short sentences, so everyone can repeat.
MIKE BURKE: We’re just blocks from Wall Street and the former World Trade Center. We’re in a park called Liberty Plaza, where for the past 13 days thousands of protesters have gathered. Hundreds have slept here overnight in an unprecedented protest for an action called Occupy Wall Street. Behind us now is the General Assembly, a nightly meeting where the protesters gather to decide what actions should come next.
MARISA HOLMES: Marisa Holmes, and I’ve been with the New York General Assembly from the beginning. And basically, every night, we’ve had an occupation here of 200 to 300 people a night, sleeping and organizing themselves. We have a food committee, a medic team, a legal team, a couple of different media teams working. And really, it’s about self-organization, participation and democratic process.
FRANCES FOX PIVEN: I think we desperately need a popular uprising in the United States. None of us know. I study movements. We don’t know the exact formula when those movements erupt. But it could be. And if that’s true, then these people who are here are really wonderful, and I would do anything to help them.
AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, the Occupy Wall Street protests in the Financial District took a dramatic turn this weekend when protesters tried to march across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday. Their demonstration quickly turned into one of the largest arrests of nonviolent protesters in U.S. history. Democracy Now!’s Ryan Devereaux was on the bridge as protesters first encountered police. This is the report he called in. You have to listen closely.
RYAN DEVEREAUX: OK, we’re stopping—we’re now stopped. We’re in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge. People are linking arms. The police are beginning—they’re beginning to arrest people now. It looks like one man has been pulled from the crowd. People are linking arms, chanting, “Let us through! Let us through!” Now chanting, “People, united, will not be defeated!”
AMY GOODMAN: Similar occupation demonstrations are springing up in cities around the country, from Austin, Texas; to Knoxville, Tennessee; Chicago; Denver; over two dozen locations in Florida and California, and more. Actions have also been organized internationally in Canada, Australia, Japan, Mexico and other countries. In Boston, Massachusetts, as many as a thousand demonstrators gathered in Dewey Square last Friday, where they’ve been permitted to set up tents, many planning to stay indefinitely.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, major demonstrations were held in a number of cities overseas this weekend. In Lisbon, Portugal, as many as 130,000 people marched on Saturday against austerity imposed under the terms of the E.U.-IMF bailout. Over 20,000 rallied in the British city of Manchester Saturday against government cutbacks. And in Greece, thousands of students rallied on Friday to oppose the presence of international E.U. and IMF inspectors.
AMY GOODMAN: Back here in New York, Democracy Now! was reporting last night from Liberty Plaza, the site of the Occupy Wall Street encampment, when we got word that the police were beating and pepper-spraying protesters on Wall Street. On our way to the scene, we ran across a woman being arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened? What happened?
WOMAN: I was standing on the sidewalk. It’s illegal, apparently, so be careful on the sidewalk, guys.
ONLOOKER: Is that all you were doing, just standing there?
ONLOOKER: Why did they—why did they grab you?
WOMAN: They said it was unlawful assembly, but I was the only one on the corner. So, I don’t know.
MIKE BURKE: What’s your name?
WOMAN: Troy Davis. Troy Davis, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Labor unions and students joined the growing Occupy Wall Street movement on Wednesday in the largest march since the protest began 20 days ago here in New York City. Tens of thousands marched from Foley Square to Liberty Plaza, the site of the protest encampment where hundreds have been sleeping since September 17th.
BOB MASTERS: Occupy Wall Street captured the spirit of our time. This is the spirit of our time. This is Madison. This is Cairo. This is Tunisia.
AMY GOODMAN: At the White House, President Obama weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street protests for the first time.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works.
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets Saturday in a Global Day of Rage inspired by the Occupy Wall Street encampment. Protests reportedly took place in 1,500 cities.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!'s look back at 2011, a year of global uprisings, from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. To get a copy of today's show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. We’ll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: The late Hazel Dickens singing Joe Hill’s classic, “The Rebel Girl.” Dickens died in April of 2011 at the age of 75. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with our look back at 2011, a year of global uprisings.
AMY GOODMAN: …including a hundred cities in the United States. The day’s largest protest took place in Italy, where over 200,000 people took to the streets of Rome.
AMY GOODMAN: The founder and editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, made a surprise appearance at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral Saturday to address the crowds of protesters occupying London’s financial district.
JULIAN ASSANGE: What is happening here today is a culmination of dreams that many people all over the world have worked towards, from Cairo to London. What we face today is a systematized destruction of the rule of law.
JUAN GONZALEZ: As we went to broadcast, the ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has reportedly been captured, possibly killed, in his hometown of Sirte, eight months after the first protests erupted against his longtime rule.
LIBYAN REBEL: [translated] Thanks to God, everything is in order so far. The big joy has been completed. Now we are looking forward to building this country, and have a rest. And God willing, it will be very good.
AMY GOODMAN: A tweet posted just before we went to air said police in riot gear have surrounded Occupy Oakland protest encampment and begun firing flash grenades and rubber bullets into the camp. We’re trying to reach someone for further updates.
Meanwhile, here in New York, Occupy Wall Street’s Liberty Plaza received a surprise visit from several leading Egyptian activists, including 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz.
ASMAA MAHFOUZ: Many of U.S. residents was in solidarity with us. So, we have to keep going all over the world, because another world is possible for all of us.
AMY GOODMAN: Marches were held in Oakland, New York and other cities Wednesday night to protest Tuesday’s violent crackdown on the Occupy Oakland movement. Many protesters expressed outrage over the shooting of Oakland protester Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Iraq war vet who fractured his skull Tuesday night when he was hit in the head by a police projectile in Oakland.
PROTESTER 1: Medic!
PROTESTER 2: We need a medic! Medic! Medic!
PROTESTER 3: What happened? What happened?
PROTESTER 2: He got [bleep] shot!
PROTESTER 3: What’s your name? What’s your name?
PROTESTER 2: What’s your name?
PROTESTER 4: Dude, wake up!
PROTESTER 3: What’s your name?
PROTESTER 4: What’s your name?
PROTESTER 5: Can you say anything?
AMY GOODMAN: In news from Latin America, Chile’s largest union coalition has called for a two-day nationwide strike for today and tomorrow. Protesters are calling for a rewriting of Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution as well as pension reforms, a new labor code and more healthcare spending. For months, Chilean students have boycotted classes to demand a free quality education as a right for all citizens.
CAMILA VALLEJO: [translated] We are at a difficult time, knowing we have to resist with unity and trying to generate some fissures. But the fight will last much longer, and it’s important to temper our expectations. We have very high expectations. We must think in terms of short, medium and long term, because what we’ve achieved as a movement is very nice. We’ve proposed deep changes, structural changes, to build a better society.
AMY GOODMAN: We just got a report in from Oakland, the general strike, the first in more than a half a century. We go right now to John Hamilton of KPFA.
JOHN HAMILTON: The Port of Oakland is among the world’s busiest, moving thousands of shipping containers on a normal day. But Wednesday in Oakland was anything but normal… It capped an extraordinary day of actions that followed Occupy Oakland’s call for a general strike.
AMY GOODMAN: In other environmental news, more than 360 people were arrested outside the White House Friday and Saturday for taking part in civil disobedience against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries. The group Tar Sands Action says 1,252 people were arrested during the two-week campaign that wrapped up Saturday. The Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein was among those arrested Friday.
NAOMI KLEIN: I’m here to stand in solidarity with my friends from the Indigenous Environmental Network. I’m here because I’m Canadian, and the tar sands are destroying our country. They’re destroying an incredibly beautiful part of the country. They are endangering the lives of indigenous people who live downstream.
AMY GOODMAN: Nearly two months into Occupy Wall Street, New York City police have carried out a major crackdown on the protesters’ Lower Manhattan encampment, dismantling tents, confiscating belongings, arresting more than 70 people.
AARON MATÉ: So tell me what happened.
PROTESTER 1: I was standing on the outside of the crowd. They started really beating up on this girl pretty badly with their riot shields. And while people tried to pull her out, they sprayed pepper spray like directly into this little clump of people. I was right on the side, but I’m OK.
AARON MATÉ: So what’s going on now is a familiar scene. We’re getting pushed farther and farther away from Zuccotti Park. At every block, police are saying to protesters, “You have the choice to be arrested or move further and further away.”
POLICE OFFICER 3: You’ve got to move right now, or you’re going to be arrested! If you don’t move out of here right now, you’re going to be arrested.
AARON MATÉ: Where do they move to? Where do they move to?
POLICE OFFICER 3: Let’s go! Let’s go! Push this out! Push this out!
RAY LEWIS: My name is Ray Lewis. I’m a retired police captain from the Philadelphia Police Department. And the reason I’m down here is because I’m tired of seeing suffering of so many people while you have 1 percent who is accumulating all this wealth on the backs of all the workers. The police are the 99 percent. Unfortunately, they don’t realize it.
JUAN GONZALEZ: In Seattle, Mayor Mike McGinn apologized Wednesday hours after an 84-year-old retired Seattle school teacher named Dorli Rainey was pepper-sprayed in the face during a protest.
DORLI RAINEY: And the minute the people had us penned so tightly that we could barely move, they started letting loose with the pepper spray. And it was not just a few people that were targeted. When you look at the pictures, you will see that the pepper spray fog and the stream of pepper spray is all over.
AMY GOODMAN: At the University of California, Davis, campus on Friday, campus police officers used pepper spray against student protesters. Videos of the incident have spread rapidly on the internet. The footage shows two police officers firing pepper spray at point-blank range on a group of students sitting together in the quad to protest the dismantling of the Occupy UC Davis encampment.
AMY GOODMAN: Security forces in Egypt have killed at least 35 protesters in Cairo and other Egyptian cities over the past three days during protests against military rule. Hundreds have been injured. The violence began Saturday when police moved in to break up a sit-in in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
EGYPTIAN PROTESTER: [translated] We need civilian rule. We need a president that we are all agreed on. We need a constitution before the elections that will get rid of the remnants of the previous regime and spectrum of political Islam which is implementing certain agendas.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: What we’re seeing here is really a last stand of the Egyptian revolution. What has happened over these last two days is a new uprising that has taken place 10 months after the revolution began. And it’s happening in the face of a very severe and a very brutal crackdown by the police and the army here in Egypt.
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are demonstrating across Yemen today to demand President Ali Abdullah Saleh face trial for charges ranging from corruption to deadly crackdowns on protests. On Monday, Yemeni Nobel Peace laureate Tawakkul Karman traveled to The Hague to ask the International Criminal Court to investigate Saleh.
TAWAKKUL KARMAN: The first job I will do is taking the file of criminal—of crimes of Ali Saleh to the ICC. I am here to tell ICC they have to try Ali Saleh and all his regime when they kill people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Britain, two million workers are in the streets today participating in the largest mass protest in generations. Teachers, hospital staff, garbage collectors, firefighters and border guards are participating in the 24-hour strike. A coalition of 30 trade unions have organized approximately a thousand demonstrations and rallies across the country.
PROTESTER: The only people who need a compromise are the bankers. They need to take the cuts for the mess they’ve made of our country. It’s as simple as that. We have to take the strength of today, and we have to go out and fight and fight and fight, until we win. We are not going to give up. This is from Tahrir Square. They show us the way. We will fight until we win.
AMY GOODMAN: Broadcasting from Durban, South Africa, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
ANJALI APPADURAI: You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table. What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money? You’ve been negotiating all my life… Stand with Africa. Long-term thinking is not radical. What’s radical is to completely alter the planet’s climate, to betray the future of my generation, and to condemn millions to death by climate change. What’s radical is to write off the fact that change is within our reach. 2011 was the year in which the silent majority found their voice, the year when the bottom shook the top. 2011 was the year when the radical became reality.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Egypt, where violence in Tahrir Square began Friday when one of several hundred peaceful protesters staging a sit-in outside the parliament building was reportedly detained and beaten by troops. Up to 14 people have been killed, hundreds injured, over the last three days of clashes.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, the people who are protesting, many of them are the people who started this revolution on January 25th. Many of them are the people that protested for years leading up to it. Many of them are angry youth, that the revolution has been stolen from them. I mean, if we look at what happened since January 25th, when this whole—when this revolution began, really none of the revolutionary demands have been completed. The security forces have not been—have not been reformed. No police officer has been put on trial, or any soldier put on trial, for killing of protesters. And that these revolutionary demands for bread, freedom and social justice, people feel have all but been abandoned. And so, that’s what many of the people are calling for.
AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands of Russians protested in Moscow and other cities Saturday in the largest demonstrations Russia has seen in over a decade. Protesters are demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and have denounced suspected electoral fraud.
LUKE HARDING: I think what people in Russia want are the kind of things that people in the U.S. and Western Europe take for granted. They just want fair elections. They want a kind of real, plural media that listens to opposition voices, that has sort of critical people, who are currently banned, I have to say, from state television. They want a more plural political landscape, because at the moment, basically, Russia is formally a democracy, but in reality, it’s nothing of the kind.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I wanted to ask you about the Arab Spring, and about what you see as Wikileaks’ role in what started in Tunisia on to Egypt, we’re seeing in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Libya. What role did WikiLeaks play?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Rather, yes, the demos knows, the population starts to know, and they start to know in a way that’s undeniable, and they also start to know that the United States knows, and the United States can’t deny what was going on.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Bradley Manning, we turn now to perhaps the nation’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg.
DANIEL ELLSBERG: The Time magazine cover gives protester, an anonymous protester, as “Person of the Year,” but it is possible to put a face and a name to that picture of “Person of the Year.” And the American face I would put on that is Private Bradley Manning… And the combination of the WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning exposures in Tunis and the exemplification of that by Mohamed Bouazizi led to the protests, the nonviolent protests, that drove Ben Ali out of power, our ally there who we supported up ’til that moment, and in turn sparked the uprising in Egypt, in Tahrir Square occupation, which immediately stimulated the Occupy Wall Street and the other occupations in the Middle East and elsewhere. So, “Person of the Year,” one of those persons of the year is now sitting in a courthouse in Leavenworth.
AMY GOODMAN: Today we complete our coverage with the acceptance speech of Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as its youngest winner to date. A 32-year-old mother of three, an outspoken journalist and activist, Karman has agitated for press freedoms and staged weekly sit-ins to demand the release of political prisoners from jail.
TAWAKKUL KARMAN: [translated] Ladies and gentlemen, the revolutions of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and the movement towards revolutions in other Arab countries, such as Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan and others, in terms of motivation, driving power and objectives, did not take place on isolated islands cut off from all the rapid and astonishing changes which our world is witnessing. The Arab people have woken up just to see how poor a share of freedom, democracy and dignity they have. And they revolted… The Arab world is today witnessing the birth of a new world, which tyrants and unjust rulers strive to oppose. But in the end, this new world will inevitably emerge.
AMY GOODMAN: Democracy Now!’s special look back at 2011, a year of global uprisings. What will 2012 bring? Hmmm… Well, what we can say is that Democracy Now! will be there daily to bring it to you, thanks to you.