North Africa, Mid-East…Midwest? You wouldn’t read about it
Thousands of people protesting their government – that could be reminiscent of Yemen or Bahrain or any of the protests inspired by Tunisia and, on a larger scale Egypt, where the people’s will, in many cases driven by workers’ struggles, won out over ruling regimes.
But demonstrations are going on in the US state of Wisconsin.
People are chanting: “Absolutely Wisconsin is the new Egypt!”
Workers are fighting to maintain their wages, benefits, and bargaining rights. Unions and their supporters have been standing up collectively for over a week against politicians proposing to take these rights away.
“This is one of the most incredible outpourings we have seen since the great depression and I think it could be the spark that could rebuild the labor movement in this country,” says labor journalist and third-generation union organizer Mike Elk.
But you would not know it walking past a news stand in the US. American papers have photographs of protests in other countries on their front pages, with no mention of the estimated 70,000 protesting on US soil, fighting for their rights at home.
American protesters challenge the story told by the most-watched 24-hour news network in the US. Critics accuse Fox of painting peaceful protesters as rioters and thugs.
While that may be true, the struggles people face from the Midwest to Mid-East cannot be painted with one broad brush.
“We do have a higher standard of living. It’s not as bad as what we are seeing overseas, in the Third World, developing world, but it is a manifestation of the same global move,” explains radio host Alex Jones.
The manifestation is received very differently by US press and politicians, depending on where it is happening.
American media that shared in the excitement of Egyptian protesters vilifies the ones in their own backyard.
President Barack Obama sided with the democratic demands of Egyptians on the street, and called for “political, social, and economic reforms which meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”
Meanwhile, Mike Elk says that “on the day the Egyptian military helped liberate the Egyptian people, the governor of Wisconsin threatened to call out the National Guard.”
Lawmakers in the US were rallying the troops against protesters and the top republican in the US derided their tactics, saying this was “not a way to have an adult conversation.”
Egyptians seem to disagree. A prominent union leader pledged support for the Western workers in his video.
Everyone watched the people of Egypt celebrate their triumph, a victory fought and won with support of the US.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield of working people right in America, those who are fighting largely go undefended.