Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Protest Like an Egyptian

The recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have inspired activists in other localities, and in the past days we have seen protests in Iran, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, and Wisconsin. Yes, you read that correctly. Wisconsin. I'm not kidding. On Tuesday the home state of the reigning Super Bowl champions saw one of the largest protests in recent memory, and believe it or not, hints of inspiration from Egypt protestors could be seen.


In an attempt to address a deficit in the current budget, Gov. Scott Walker proposed a bill that would cut teachers' salaries, severely weaken organized labor unions and limit collective bargaining rights of public employees.  Well this has not gone over well, and on Tuesday 15,000 angry badgers flooded the Capitol in Madison, chanting "KILL THE BILL!" and trying to get into Walker's office. My aunt has worked at the Capitol for over 27 years, and these protests are the the biggest she's seen since the anti-apartheid protests of the 1980s.  More than a few signs smeared Walker as a dictator, and some
made direct references to Egypt, as the Nation reports

Signs at Tuesday’s rally — which the AFL-CIO said attracted a crowd of 15,000 and which news outlets broadly reported drew more 10,000 state and local employees and their backers— referred to the governor as “Hosni Walker” and declared: “Protest Like an Egyptian.”

Another asked: “If Egypt Can Have Democracy, Why Can’t Wisconsin?"

One senior state employee had gone online to find the Arabic words for “Remove Walker” and made a picket sign with the message.

To me this really stands as a true testament to just how spectacular and inspiring the Egyptian uprising has been.  As a native Wisconsinite, I can tell you that you don't generally hear anybody mentioning the Middle East unless they know someone who serves in the military and is being shipped off to Iraq.   Of course these protests are arising out of local conditions and grievances, but the mere presence of snarky signs calling the governor of a midwestern state "Hosni" really speaks volumes on how significant these uprisings have been.

In an interesting parallel with the protestors who camped out in Tahrir Sqaure, Wisconsinites such as my friend Ben, a state employee, are sleeping on the floor of the Capitol tonight.  Fortunately Governor Walker doesn't employ armed thugs, and Ben's biggest obstacle to a good night's sleep will be the cold marble floor of the rotunda

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