The unrest that began in Tunisia has now spread to Libya, as the BBC reports violent protests overnight in Benghazi, the second-largest city in the country. Libyans are using social media to call for wider protests on Thursday. The number of “dislikes” on dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s Facebook page is skyrocketing, and no one will drop by to feed his cattle in “Frontierville.”
The crowds formed in Benghazi to demand the release of a human-rights lawyer, but before long they were chanting that “Moammar is the enemy of Allah,” and that’s when the riot police appeared to perform the traditional Libyan crackdown dance. Estimates of the crowd size range from 500 to over 2,000, with at least 14 injuries reported. There were several reports of gunfire.
The Christian Science Monitor says protesters were seen tearing down giant photos of Qaddafi and chanting, “The regime is barbaric, but we are not.” They might also be upset about Qaddafi’s tendency to dress like a guest villain on the Adam West “Batman” show, and the world’s inability to come up with a consistent spelling of his name.
Benghazi is something of a hot spot for dissidents in Libya, with the rest of the country kept in lockdown by secret police and carefully organized squads of “pro-government demonstrators.” The Qaddafi cheerleaders were out in force last night, dominating state-run media coverage from the capital city of Tripoli. The Associated Press quotes them as saying they wish to “defend the leader and the revolution.” Qaddafi came to power in 1969. It’s always fun to see totalitarian stooges talk about their forty-year-old “revolution” and its septuagenarian leader, who fills the streets with giant portraits of himself.
We’ll know this is a serious threat to Qaddafi’s power if the demonstrations actually spread into Tripoli on Thursday. As in Iran, the protesters will run into the jaws of a regime quite willing to murder them. They’re calling for the removal of a blood-splattered monster who revels in the death of innocents, not a corrupt pro-Western authoritarian. The world community will do little more than frown when security forces grow tired of using rubber bullets, while the Obama Administration will respond the same way it did to the latest Iranian crackdown, saying it looks forward to more vigorous demonstrations of democracy in the future from anyone lucky enough to survive Qaddafi’s retaliation.
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