“Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough,"
Time defines the Person of the Year as someone who, for better or for worse, influences the events of the year.
"Is there a global tipping point for frustration?
Everywhere, it seems, people said they'd had enough,"
Time Editor Rick Stengel said in a statement.
"They dissented; they demanded; they did not despair, even when the answers came back in a cloud of tear gas or a hail of bullets. They literally embodied the idea that individual action can bring collective, colossal change," he said.
"No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor in a town barely on a map set himself on fire in a public square, it would spark protests that would bring down dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and rattle regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. Or that that spirit of dissent would spur Mexicans to rise up against the terror of drug cartels, Greeks to march against unaccountable leaders, Americans to occupy public spaces to protest income inequality, and Russians to marshal themselves against a corrupt autocracy."
"For capturing and highlighting a global sense of restless promise, for upending governments and conventional wisdom, for combining the oldest of techniques with the newest of technologies to shine a light on human dignity and, finally, for steering the planet on a more democratic though sometimes more dangerous path for the 21st century, the Protester is TIME's 2011 Person of the Year."
Time contributor Kurt Anderson said: "The stakes are very different in different places. In North America and Europe, there are no dictators, and dissidents don't get tortured. Any day that Tunisians, Egyptians or Syrians occupy streets and squares, they know that some of them might be beaten or shot, not just pepper-sprayed or flex-cuffed.
"The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City," he said.
On almost every continent, 2011 has seen an almost unprecedented rise in both peaceful and sometimes violent unrest and dissent.
Protesters in a lengthening list of countries including Israel, India, Chile, China, Britain, Spain and now the United States all increasingly link their actions explicitly to the popular revolutions that have shaken up the Middle East.
Admiral William McRaven, head of US Special Operations Command and overall commander of the secret US mission into Pakistan in May that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, came in at second place on the Time list.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, whose 81 day secret detention by authorities earlier this year sparked an international outcry, came in at No 3, followed by US House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.
Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who married Prince William in April, rounded out the Time short list.
The December 26, 2011 Person of the Year issue of TIME goes on sale on Friday, December 16.