The World Teaches Public Protest 101

With nearly 2.8 million jobs lost in 2008, Americans are unemployed in greater numbers than they have been in half a century. Should they be a bit more uppity about the situation?


Job losses across the globe have reinvigorated the labor rights movement. Inspired by the ever-spirited May Day festivities, protests deluged European Union ministries last week as the EU announced the highest jobless rates since World War II. Major demonstrations took place in Prague, Bucharest, Brussels and other cities.

The biggest turnout was in Berlin, where an estimated 100,000 protesters called for another round of stimulus funding which, if granted, would be Germany’s third.

A similar rally took place in Birmingham--which lies in one of Britain's strongest manufacturing regions and where unemployment tops ten percent.

In Athens, businessman and CEO Theodoros Tenezos, is currently in the middle of a hunger strike outside the offices of the Greek Antitrust Authority. His protest can be followed live at Stop Cartel.

The United States hasn’t seen the same kind of large-scale demonstrations, but late last year, employees at Chicago’s Republic Windows and Doors staged a sit-in at the struggling company’s offices. New ownership was found and the workers, in a rare victory, kept their jobs. The success at Republic inspired a similar demonstration at nearby Hartmarx, a local men’s apparel manufacturer known for outfitting President Obama.

Author and outspoken radio personality Naomi Wolf laments the loss of the protest tradition in the U.S. and says Americans' reticence to demonstrate has to do with one hard fact: many forms of protest are illegal in the U.S.

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