In the streets; Friday in Egypt, Saturday in Israel and Sunday in England

Tottenham Riots

A double decker bus burns as riot police try to contain a large group of people on a main road in Tottenham, north London. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Well with one more  day before the stock market opens and we get a real taste of the market’s reaction to Standard and Poor’s we have time to think about something – it is not likely that will possible tomorrow.  Of late, the international news has been predictable – on Fridays, after prayer Muslims have gathered to protest.  In Syria that has led to more attacks by the military and more deaths among the protestors.  In Egypt, it has meant an evolving drama that is becoming more politicized as organized groups and parties develop their strategies for the upcoming election; the government up to this point has continued to take small steps of appeasement in hopes of satisfying the protestors.  Fighting continues in Libya was little thought given to Friday prayers or Ramadan.  The rest of Arab world is reasonably quiet, seemingly waiting for things to play themselves out in Egypt and Syria.  The existence of  pan-Arab networks allow the average Arab citizen to follow the events all around the region and think about what that means for him/her.

Saturday is Israel’s equivalent day of protest, each week for the last three weeks the “affordable housing” protests have grown – grown in size and grown beyond just housing into protests on very broad spectrum social issues (still no mention of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I did see one banner that read the “generation of peace”).  This week, there were 300,000 people protesting around the country and organizers are now predicting a million for next week.  If that happened it would be a staggering event; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu today responded to yesterday’s protest by appointing a “committee on social justice” composed of government ministers – the committee is expected to deliver a report in a month.  Wow! That is a group of people with a sense of urgency. Judging by what we have seen in the surrounding Arab states, they might want to take the protesters more seriously than that.

Ask the police in London who failed to anticipate anything worth noting in a small protest in north London on Sunday.  300 to 500 people were expected to gather and protest the shooting of a father of three, during what the police called an attempt to arrest him.  The people did gather, but it seems some brought clubs, bats and firebombs.  And then London erupted in violence – so serious that the mayor of London is considering cutting his holiday short and returning to the city.  He might want to rethink his vacation plans; there might be something smoldering beneath the surface in London.  Ala, the Arab Spring, Reuters is reporting social unrest based in the current economy as the cause of the riots.

Anger at high unemployment and cuts in public services, coupled with resentment of the police, contributed to an explosion of violence and looting in a deprived London neighborhood, residents said Sunday. Reuters, 8-7-11

It would be foolish to draw comparisons or connections between Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Israel and London; except.  Except there is a story floating in the air in 2011 and it is everywhere.  The story has a very simple plot-line; the people have power to bring change when they ban together against government, government policy and government power. To the protesters in London, this was a Rodney King event, the police in their arrogance used unnecessary violence and then conspired to hide the truth.  Whether it is true or not never matters once the spark has been ignited.  London is sure to calm down, although the police say there are social networking efforts to organize more protests and riots.  But they promise, as the police always do, to be ready to stop the violence and bring order.  If things get worse, the Lord Mayor is certain to return and the prime minister will appoint a committee to study everything – report expected later, much later.

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August 2011
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