Democracy Now! is following the popular uprisings as they travel this week across the globe from Iran, Libya, and to the United States, where a massive movement to protect unions and the middle class has taken Wisconsin by storm.
Iranian protesters returned to the streets on Sunday to mark the deaths of two men killed during demonstrations last week. Police used batons and tear gas to break up the protests. Among those detained were Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
"On one hand, the Iranian authorities are expressing solidarity with the democratic movement in Tunisia and Egypt and throughout the region," says Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, in an interview with Democracy Now! Feb. 21. "Then deny that very principle to their own people."
After a week of deadly unrest in the North African country of Libya, tens of thousands of people celebrated Sunday as they retook the streets of the eastern city of Benghazi. Residents say some soldiers joined the protesters and defeated a force of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's elite guard. Others say the military has left the city. This comes after days of brutal violence. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have been killed in Libya this week. Clashes have reportedly reached the capital city of Tripoli. For more on the situation in Benghazi, Democracy Now! was able to reach a protester named Haithem by telephone late on Feb 20.
"The situation in Benghazi, the military is just gone and after really a brutal fight with the protesters, but finally we win," Haithem says. "But it takes a lot of people died just for yesterday they killed 200 person from the protesters. Because the problem is, Mr. Obama he spoke about four persons died in Bahrain, but in Libya, in one day they died 200 persons, but nobody talk about it. ... We want democracy. He [Gaddafi] has been here for 42 years. It is enough."
Acclaimed Libyan poet and scholar, Khaled Mattawa, discussed the situation with Democracy Now!
"I think the regime is over even if Gaddafi manages to survive," Mattawa says, who is an associate professor in the English Language and Literature Department at the University of Michigan. "Libyans are saying, 'Yes we will have a new constitution, perhaps we will have a new flag. But we do not want you or your father or the rest of your plan, so get out of here. ... Libya is forever changed by these events."
In the largest rally yet, an estimated 80,000 people protested in Madison on Saturday against a "budget repair" bill that would strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights. The state's Democratic Senators--who have fled the state to stall a vote on the bill--sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker on Friday telling him labor would accept cuts to pensions and increased contributions to health and retirement plans if he would negotiate on collective bargaining. The cuts Walker has proposed in a sweeping budget bill would exclude public safety workers like police, state troopers and firefighters, but this does not mean they are in support of the legislation.
To talk more about the impact of firefights and police officers joining the demonstrations, Democracy Now! spoke with Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association.
"After talking with my membership and talking with the leaders of our union we decided we had to act, because an assault on one is an assault on all. As firefighters and police officers, we don't sit idly by and let things happen. We make things happen," Michell says.
"If there is a fire in a house, we go in and put the fire out, when people are running out we are running in," Michell says. "Now we have a fire in the house of labor, there's a fire in our house and we are going to put that fire out. And if it does fall, it does crumble, we will be with our brothers and sisters to help rebuild it."
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