|Sent time:||Tuesday, October 11, 2011 11:12:19 AM|
|Subject:||[september17discuss] Interesting Article|
Occupy Wall Street: Stalwarts of Arab Spring offer advice
They've been through it. Arab Spring protest leaders have some
surprising words of wisdom.
Interviews compiled by Jon Jensen in Cairo, Noga Tarnopolsky in
Jerusalem and Hugh Macleod in Beirut.
It all began in Tunisia. The protests that toppled a dictator inspired
a region, and they spread to Egypt, then Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and
Syria. Then they struck Israel.
Now, it seems, they have spread to the United States. As Occupy Wall
Street gains momentum and fans out across the country, protesters have
made no secret out of the fact that they are emulating in their own
way the formula that worked for their counterparts in the Middle East
and North Africa.
The organizers of the Occupy protests have aggressively pursued social
media strategies and worked to maintain its leaderless momentum. But
as initial press reports begin to cool off, as does the weather, will
the protests fizzle?
It is unlikely that the Occupy demonstrators will be meeting with the
kind of violence doled out by Hosni Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh and
Bashar al-Assad, and the situations in each country is vastly
different. But many protest leaders in the Middle East said that they
feel a connection to not only their fellow protesters in the region,
but also their fellow protesters in the United States and elsewhere.
“I do feel that we are part of a global moment,” said Stav Shaffir,
26, one of the lead organizers of the Israeli protest movement. “It is
important to me that what we are doing gets out and that people will
hear about it and understand the complexities of each country and each
case, and support each other.”
On that note, some stalwarts of the Arab Spring have some ideas about
how the U.S. protesters can keep up the pressure, and some tactics to
share that worked for them, including the need to provide
entertainment and snacks for long periods of time. Apparently, that’s
Ramy Raouf, communication officer at Front to Defend Egypt Protesters
What advice do you have for protesters in the United States?
“All protesters take the same risks, from Tunisia to Egypt — police
are cracking down using the same tactics. Every single person that
goes out onto the street in America for a peaceful protest should know
very well their rights under the U.S. law.
From Egypt: Has Egypt's revolution become a military coup?
"When police react with violence, the protesters also need to
understand the official laws of the region to understand what they can
and cannot do. If they ever get arrested, they should always have a
lawyer ready. During peaceful assemblies, protesters who have been
arrested should never answer any questions without a lawyer present.
"Protesters should always go to the streets carrying a bag. In that
bag, they should carry a can of Pepsi, a bottle of water, and a bottle
of vinegar. They should also carry plastic bags and extra clothes. If
the police shoot tear gas during a protest and it gets in their eyes,
they can immediately smell the vinegar. Then splash the water on their
face. After that, add pepsi to wash out the eyes. It will reduce the
effects of the gas.
"Alternatively, they could bring an onion and start smelling the onion
when the tear gas starts. If the police officers use electric shocks
or stun guns, protesters should wear the plastic bags on their legs.
You won't get affected by the shocks if you're wearing the plastic.
These are tips for any peaceful protest.
"If violence takes place, the protesters should document all the
police abuses. Always take pictures, even with a small camera. And
maintain accurate numbers of injured and arrested."
What kinds of things should the US protesters keep in mind if they
want to meet with success?
“They need to do two things. The first is to mobilize people in big
numbers. They should have as many people come to the protest with the
same demands. If you are only 50 people, it's not useful. But with
bigger numbers on the ground, you can really pressure the regime. The
second thing is direction and purpose. The protesters should always
keep in mind the direction they would like to go, and should always
operate with carefully planned steps."
Gigi Ibrahim, Egyptian activist
What advice do you have for protesters in the United States?
“The best thing I can say is they need to find a way to keep the
momentum going. And assemble a group of people that have the same
ideas to connect everyone and keep the momentum going. They should
know not to give up despite their relatively small numbers. It’s not
actually about numbers at this point. I actually see this movement
growing. And if these American activists continue their protests and
keep doing basically what they're doing, they could actually succeed."
What was the most important thing for you to do once all the Egyptians
descended on Tahrir Square?
“Whenever you occupy a place and are sitting in one spot for many
hours, and not getting a response from the government, you have to
keep yourself entertained. Before we reached Tahrir in late January,
the activists had agreed that we would gather for a meeting, but we
didn't know exactly what we would do or say. So when we got there, we
called a meeting near a palm tree in the square. We discussed how to
keep protesters there for as long as possible. We decided that if
they're not fed or entertained, then people would start leaving. So we
started collecting money for food. And we sent people throughout
Tahrir who were singing, telling stories and walking around speaking
to each other. You need something like that — even if it's yoga — you
have to keep people entertained for long periods of waiting."
How can the Occupy Wall Street protesters succeed?
“One important thing is to have a clear set of demands. And have those
demands, which can be in a list, have to be made very public. Over 18
days, Egyptian protesters eventually put up large posters with our
demands for the entire square to see. They should also start thinking
about how to expand their movement. I think it's going already in the
right direction, with the labor unions agreeing to join. But they need
more labor unions to get involved."
What about social media?
“I recommend that protesters use Twitter so that people can follow
what's happening. And they should create a unified hashtag, because
I've noticed that's there are several hashtags in New York. It's very
important to have a unified hashtag because one spelling mistake can
make a difference. I think #OccupyWallStreet is too long. We used
#Jan25, which was short and to the point. We came up with hashtags for
all protests. We even had a safety hashtag for activists to tweet once
they got home from a protest so that other activists could know that
they were okay."
What should protesters do if the police crackdown?
"If the police resort to violence, it's up to the individual protester
to decide whether or not they want to run away or fight back. I
personally fought back in Egypt. But either way, you have to defend
yourself. I recommend that protesters have a mask or scarf just in
case the police start with tear gas. In Tahrir, I put an onion dipped
in vinegar inside my scarf, and wrapped it around another scarf. And I
only breathed through my mouth. But maybe the tear gas in America
isn't expired like it was in Egypt. If protesters get arrested, they
should know that they have more rights than we had. They can get a
phone call. If they're arrested, the protesters shouldn't say anything
until there's a lawyer present. They should also find out exactly what
charges they face. There's a legal system in America, and that means
more legal room to defend themselves."
How do you see it going in New York so far?
"Well, it's already spreading to another cities. That's the key. It
was different in Egypt, but they will need to figure out what will
keep the momentum going for protesters in American communities. Still,
they're doing a good job. This could be a revolution — I already see
it as a revolution."
Stav Shaffir, 26, a lead organizer of the Israeli social protest
What advice do you have for the U.S. protesters?
“First thing is, don’t over organize. I think it is one of the most
important things. We are all, all of us, protesting against much
greater forces than our own. I have to say that I didn’t understand
the magnitude of this before we started our own protest. I had no idea
how big these interests are.
"We are all standing up against governments, conglomerates, and you
have to begin to understand just how powerful they are.
"So the only power we have is not to be an organization. Safeguard
your own chaos. The establishment has no idea what to do with a
chaotic style of leadership. If you have many leaders, they don’t know
what to do with it. You have to make sure to keep up constant activity
under different leadership, so that they never know where the next
thing is coming from. They are clueless how to respond.”
What should the U.S. protesters keep in mind if they want to meet with
“The other thing is honesty and authenticity. You have to be
absolutely sure of yourself, to keep being kids, to work from the
heart. We do not have to be experts in order to see the problems that
surround us, so it is important to remain true to yourself, to respond
from the heart, honestly.
"When you are facing a large evil and such injustice, what we have on
our side is that we still feel, that we feel mercy, solidarity,
friendship; these basic things are what keep us strong.”
Do you have tactical advice?
“In terms of tactics, you have to allow as much liberty as you
possibly can. People come up with amazing solutions to problems if you
just let them. We never even thought about building a community
kitchen, for example. One day someone said ‘we need a kitchen here’
and within the hour, we had a kitchen.
"You have to be prepared to improvise and laugh at problems, not take
things too hard or too seriously. Also, its colder there… You probably
need some sunshine."
Sameh al-Hamwi, from the Syrian Revolution General Commission
What advice do you have for the U.S. protesters?
“The Wall Street protesters must stay away from violence, especially
with the police. They must allow an open space so that people and cars
can pass through because by doing so they will gain the support of the
public. They must keep cleaning the street and organize their sit in,
creating activities, new ideas every day, new banners and logos.
"They could put big speakers to play music or broadcast speeches so
people in other neighborhoods can hear. This is how we did it in Hama,
to communicate the protest to other people from other neighbourhoods.
"They should be communicating with the media a lot and putting down
new ideas and innovative targets. They should issue a list of goals
and write them on canvas banners for the protesters to sign, either by
hand or by their fingerprints in paint.
"It should not be a leadership campaign. Activists should be
distributed between groups so that if one is arrested it does not
affect the outcome.
"My heart is with the American people and the youth.”
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