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They've been through it. Arab Spring protest leaders have some surprising words of wisdom.
Interviews compiled by Jon Jensen in Cairo, Noga Tarnopolsky in Jerusalem and Hugh Macleod in Beirut.
It all began in Tunisia. The protests that toppled a dictator inspired a region, and they spread to Egypt, then Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria. Then they struck Israel.
Now, it seems, they have spread to the United States. As Occupy Wall Street gains momentum and fans out across the country, protesters have made no secret out of the fact that they are emulating in their own way the formula that worked for their counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa.
The organizers of the Occupy protests have aggressively pursued social media strategies and worked to maintain its leaderless momentum. But as initial press reports begin to cool off, as does the weather, will the protests fizzle?
It is unlikely that the Occupy demonstrators will be meeting with the kind of violence doled out by Hosni Mubarak, Ali Abdullah Saleh and Bashar al-Assad, and the situation in each country is vastly different. But many protest leaders in the Middle East said that they feel a connection to not only their fellow protesters in the region, but also their fellow protesters in the United States and elsewhere.
“I do feel that we are part of a global moment,” said Stav Shaffir, 26, one of the lead organizers of the Israeli protest movement. “It is important to me that what we are doing gets out and that people will hear about it and understand the complexities of each country and each case, and support each other.”
On that note, some stalwarts of the Arab Spring have some ideas about how the U.S. protesters can keep up the pressure, and some tactics to share that worked for them, including the need to provide entertainment and snacks for long periods of time. Apparently, that’s really important.
Ramy Raouf, communication officer at Front to Defend Egypt Protesters
What advice do you have for protesters in the United States?
“All protesters take the same risks, from Tunisia to Egypt — police are cracking down using the same tactics. Every single person that goes out onto the street in America for a peaceful protest should know very well their rights under the U.S. law.
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"When police react with violence, the protesters also need to understand the official laws of the region to understand what they can and cannot do. If they ever get arrested, they should always have a lawyer ready. During peaceful assemblies, protesters who have been arrested should never answer any questions without a lawyer present.
"Protesters should always go to the streets carrying a bag. In that bag, they should carry a can of Pepsi, a bottle of water, and a bottle of vinegar. They should also carry plastic bags and extra clothes. If the police shoot tear gas during a protest and it gets in their eyes, they can immediately smell the vinegar. Then splash the water on their face. After that, add pepsi to wash out the eyes. It will reduce the effects of the gas.
"Alternatively, they could bring an onion and start smelling the onion when the tear gas starts. If the police officers use electric shocks or stun guns, protesters should wear the plastic bags on their legs. You won't get affected by the shocks if you're wearing the plastic. These are tips for any peaceful protest.
"If violence takes place, the protesters should document all the police abuses. Always take pictures, even with a small camera. And maintain accurate numbers of injured and arrested."
What kinds of things should the US protesters keep in mind if they want to meet with success?
“They need to do two things. The first is to mobilize people in big numbers. They should have as many people come to the protest with the same demands. If you are only 50 people, it's not useful. But with bigger numbers on the ground, you can really pressure the regime. The second thing is direction and purpose. The protesters should always keep in mind the direction they would like to go, and should always operate with carefully planned steps."
Gigi Ibrahim, Egyptian activist
What advice do you have