TIME Magazine named its Person of the Year in 2011 'The Protester,' which Chris Hayes said on "Up's" Year-in-Review program 'in many ways is the right choice.' It seems hard to make a case for anyone else. And in a year of uprisings against previously unshakable political regimes, there were a number of iconic images, like demonstrations on Tunisia's streets following Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation, celebrations in Tahrir Square after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, and the Occupy Wall Street camp erected in Zuccotti Park.
North Koreans held demonstrations of a different kind at the end of the year, over the death of their Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il. The memorable part for me was watching North Koreans crying hysterically. Everything about their outpourings of grief looked exaggerated, seemingly befitting their caricature-esque former dictator.
While there are differences of opinion as to whether the crying was contrived or genuine (as hard as this may be to believe), the implications of these gatherings were clearly different from many we'd seen in 2011.
My reaction to the North Koreans crying was profound sadness. They've been locked away from those countries whose citizens have risen up to assert their humanity. It's difficult to project how far North Koreans are from having basic human rights and access to information from outside their country. Citizens fear even minor political dissidence could result in being sent to prison camps, where North Koreans have been tortured and starved.
Even without a clear line of sight as to when people in places like North Korea will stop being oppressed, the events of 2011 have offered hope. I am inspired by humanity for having endured grave dangers to protest political and economic repression. So to those who have made 2011 the year of 'The Protester,' I say, "Thank you."
-Amitai Perline is an Associate Producer for Up w/ Chris Hayes