Facing austerity cuts, students & faculty occupy Univ. of Southern MaineMarch 22, 2014
Faculty and students launched an occupation of a Maine university building Friday to demand a halt to mass faculty layoffs and department slashes that they say are part of the austerity cuts devastating public education nation-wide.
Over 100 people launched a late-morning occupation of the hallway outside the Portland office of the University of Southern Maine provost Michael Stevenson — the hallway that faculty passed through Friday on their way to receive lay-off letters.
People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about “next steps” for holding the university accountable. “We’re using this as a space to organize,” said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Occasionally, laid-off faculty addressed the crowd in emotionally-charged statements just moments before or after receiving notice.
Meanwhile, at a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud, students took to the microphone to speak out against budget cuts.
"I’m staying here as long as it takes," Jules Purnell, junior in Women and Gender Studies, told Common Dreams while occupying the hallway. “We’re in a scarcity economy, and we are all terrified right now, but we have to think about solutions.”
Protesters said 11 to 15 full-time faculty members at the university were handed letters on Friday notifying them that they were being “retrenched” or forced out of their jobs, and USM President Theo Kalikow and Provost Stevenson announced plans to lay off more faculty and staff and eliminate four programs: American and New England studies, geosciences, arts and humanities at the school’s Lewiston-Auburn College facility, and recreation and leisure studies.
Wendy Chapkis, professor in Sociology and Gender and Women’s Studies who participated in the occupation, told Common Dreams that the lay-offs hit faculty of color the hardest. “We’ve been agitating for years for the university to hire women of color,” said Chapkis. “Now they are laying off dozens of faculty members, starting with the most recent hires. Out of the 8 people I know who were laid off, three of them are minority faculty.”
John Eric Baugher, associate professor in sociology who received a lay-off notice Friday after 9 years at USM, told Common Dreams that “university management is pressuring senior faculty to retire to save the jobs of younger faculty” — in what he said amounts to “emotional blackmail.”
"This is potentially precedent-setting," he warned. "There are colleges and universities across the country modeling themselves on the corporate world. If they can get rid of fully tenured, salaried faculty, what will this mean for other universities?"
Administrators have sought to place the blame on a tuition freeze and a multi-million dollar shortfall as the state of Maine, under Governor Paul Lepage, flat-lines funding for the Maine university system. Students say they are fighting for more state and federal funding for USM and demanding that universities facing cuts “chop from the top” rather than force students and workers to bear the brunt of austerity.
"A lot of students here are non-traditional and come here as workers and parents," said LaSala. "By instating these cuts they are saying that students in southern Maine have no right to a diverse education. We want our human right to education. This is happening across the country."
A recent report by public policy organization Demos finds that, across the U.S., states used the 2008 recession to justify austerity cuts to higher education funding, and universities are increasingly turning to business models based on rising tuition rates. “In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system—more than seven out of 10 college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400,” reads a summary of the report.
Yet, students and faculty expressed hope that growing movements can buck what they say is a war on public education. “We need to believe in each other, because we are each other’s only hope,” wrote Purnell in a statement circulated at the protest. “If we are committed to one another and making lasting change, we can do this.”
SourcePhoto

Facing austerity cuts, students & faculty occupy Univ. of Southern Maine
March 22, 2014

Faculty and students launched an occupation of a Maine university building Friday to demand a halt to mass faculty layoffs and department slashes that they say are part of the austerity cuts devastating public education nation-wide.

Over 100 people launched a late-morning occupation of the hallway outside the Portland office of the University of Southern Maine provost Michael Stevenson — the hallway that faculty passed through Friday on their way to receive lay-off letters.

People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about “next steps” for holding the university accountable. “We’re using this as a space to organize,” said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams.

Occasionally, laid-off faculty addressed the crowd in emotionally-charged statements just moments before or after receiving notice.

Meanwhile, at a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud, students took to the microphone to speak out against budget cuts.

"I’m staying here as long as it takes," Jules Purnell, junior in Women and Gender Studies, told Common Dreams while occupying the hallway. “We’re in a scarcity economy, and we are all terrified right now, but we have to think about solutions.”

Protesters said 11 to 15 full-time faculty members at the university were handed letters on Friday notifying them that they were being “retrenched” or forced out of their jobs, and USM President Theo Kalikow and Provost Stevenson announced plans to lay off more faculty and staff and eliminate four programs: American and New England studies, geosciences, arts and humanities at the school’s Lewiston-Auburn College facility, and recreation and leisure studies.

Wendy Chapkis, professor in Sociology and Gender and Women’s Studies who participated in the occupation, told Common Dreams that the lay-offs hit faculty of color the hardest. “We’ve been agitating for years for the university to hire women of color,” said Chapkis. “Now they are laying off dozens of faculty members, starting with the most recent hires. Out of the 8 people I know who were laid off, three of them are minority faculty.”

John Eric Baugher, associate professor in sociology who received a lay-off notice Friday after 9 years at USM, told Common Dreams that “university management is pressuring senior faculty to retire to save the jobs of younger faculty” — in what he said amounts to “emotional blackmail.”

"This is potentially precedent-setting," he warned. "There are colleges and universities across the country modeling themselves on the corporate world. If they can get rid of fully tenured, salaried faculty, what will this mean for other universities?"

Administrators have sought to place the blame on a tuition freeze and a multi-million dollar shortfall as the state of Maine, under Governor Paul Lepage, flat-lines funding for the Maine university system. Students say they are fighting for more state and federal funding for USM and demanding that universities facing cuts “chop from the top” rather than force students and workers to bear the brunt of austerity.

"A lot of students here are non-traditional and come here as workers and parents," said LaSala. "By instating these cuts they are saying that students in southern Maine have no right to a diverse education. We want our human right to education. This is happening across the country."

recent report by public policy organization Demos finds that, across the U.S., states used the 2008 recession to justify austerity cuts to higher education funding, and universities are increasingly turning to business models based on rising tuition rates. “In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system—more than seven out of 10 college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400,” reads a summary of the report.

Yet, students and faculty expressed hope that growing movements can buck what they say is a war on public education. “We need to believe in each other, because we are each other’s only hope,” wrote Purnell in a statement circulated at the protest. “If we are committed to one another and making lasting change, we can do this.”

Source
Photo

Italian protesters take on police during mass march against austerity
October 20, 2013

Violence broke out between police and demonstrators in Rome on Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest Italy’s new budget.

Fifteen protesters were arrested and at least 20 police officers were injured, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. 

“We are laying siege to the city!” chanted the crowd, as a small minority pelted the police and government buildings with water bottles and eggs. 

A group of protesters turned over garbage bins and set some of them on fire in front of the Economy Ministry. 

Police say they confiscated tear gas canisters and rocks from some of the radicals in the predominantly youthful crowd and found chains stashed away along the route of the march. 

Organizers estimated that 70,000 people took part in the protest, while authorities placed the number closer to 50,000. 

“With this budget the government is continuing to hurt a country which is already on its knees,” said Piero Bernocchi, leader of the left-wing COBAS trade union that was behind the demonstration. 

“Even after austerity has proven to be disastrous, with debt rising, the economy crumbling, and unemployment soaring, they still continue with these policies.” 

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Enrico Letta - who is presiding over a fractious Left-Right coalition - presented the 2014 budget that immediately came under a firestorm of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. 

Left-wingers criticized the document for freezing state sector pay and pensions, while right-wingers and businesses said it failed to stimulate growth with insufficient cuts to Italy’s oppressive corporate taxes.

Source

Firemen soak cops in foam protesting cuts in Brussels
October 8, 2013

Belgian firemen were protesting against national budget cuts for the fire department in Brussels on Monday. Firemen from all the country gathered in front of prime minister’s office with fire trucks and blocked traffic in Brussels’ ring road. They burned tires in the streets and sprayed water and foam towards police guarding the protest. At some point police officers stood knee-deep in foam on the street. Talks are ongoing on the ministerial level on the new Belgian budget, and firemen are protesting against cuts in their insurance benefits and insufficient staffing.

Source

Protesters outside Daily Mail offices condemn ‘campaign of hatred’
October 8, 2013

Protesters have gathered outside the offices of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday to voice their opposition to what they described as “grotesque acts of journalism” by both titles in their ongoing spat with the Labor leader, Ed Miliband.

Around 200 trade unionists and leftwing campaigners joined Muslim leaders for the demonstration outside the newspapers’ London headquarters.

"The message is clear," said the journalist and campaigner Owen Jones, addressing the crowd. "Enough is enough: stop your campaign of hatred."

Jones said the newspapers had waged a vicious campaign demonizing large sections of society, from public sector workers to women and trade union members.

"We are speaking up for decency … this is a show of cheerful defiance by all the people who have been picked on by the Daily Mail."

The protest follows an increasingly bitter feud between Miliband and the Mail that was sparked when the paper claimed in an article last weekend that the Labor leader’s late father, the academic Ralph Miliband, “hated Britain”. The Labor leader was given the right of reply but the paper also reprinted most of the original accusations.

Relations between Miliband and the newspaper group hit a new low when it emerged that a Mail on Sunday reporter had intruded on a private memorial service for a relative of the Labor leader.

John Rees, a protester from Hackney, north London, said the papers’ treatment of Miliband had been disgraceful. But he said the protest was also about wider issues.

"The Daily Mail has an agenda which wants to decry and diminish anyone who stands up for the NHS, trade unions or minorities. It is a pernicious influence on the political environment of this country."

The Mail on Sunday editor, Geordie Greig, apologized for the intrusion at the memorial service after Miliband wrote to the proprietor, Lord Rothermere, asking whether the common line of decency had been breached by the reporter gatecrashing the service for his uncle on Wednesday. The Daily Mail has not apologized for the article claiming Miliband’s father, a respected academic, hated Britain.

Source

The Philadelphia public education crisis: Budget cuts force schools to open without adequate staff, supplies
August 20, 2013

Want to see a public school system in its death throes? Look no further than Philadelphia. There, the school district is facing end times, with teachers, parents and students staring into the abyss created by a state intent on destroying public education.

On Thursday the city of Philadelphia announced that it would be borrowing $50 million to give the district, just so it can open schools as planned on Sept. 9, after Superintendent William Hite threatened to keep the doors closed without a cash infusion. The schools may open without counselors, administrative staff, noon aids, nurses, librarians or even pens and paper, but hey, kids will have a place to go and sit.

The $50 million fix is just the latest band-aid for a district that is beginning to resemble a rotting bike tube, covered in old patches applied to keep it functioning just a little while longer. At some point, the entire system fails.

Things have gotten so bad that at least one school has asked parents to chip in $613 per student just so they can open with adequate services, which, if it becomes the norm, effectively defeats the purpose of equitable public education, and is entirely unreasonable to expect from the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

The needs of children are secondary, however, to a right-wing governor in Tom Corbett who remains fixated on breaking the district in order to crush the teachers union and divert money to unproven experiments like vouchers and privately run charters. If the city’s children are left uneducated and impoverished among the smoldering wreckage of a broken school system, so be it.

To be clear, the schools are in crisis because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania refuses to fund them adequately. The state Constitution mandates that the Legislature “provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education,” but that language appears to be considered some kind of sick joke at the state capital in Harrisburg.

It’s worth noting that the state itself runs the Philadelphia School District after a 2001 takeover. The state is also responsible for catastrophic budget cuts two years ago that crippled the district’s finances. And in a diabolical example of circular logic, the state argues that the red ink it imposed, and shoddy management it oversees, are proof that the district can’t manage its finances or its mission and therefore shouldn’t get more money.

Make no mistake, on the aggregate the district does not perform well. Only slightly more than 60 percent of students graduate from high school, with less than 60 percent proficient in reading and math. But put that in the context where 80 percent of students come from disadvantaged backgrounds while administrators struggle to cobble together enough cash to even open doors, let alone provide a safe, rich and comprehensive educational experience.

Particularly noxious lawmakers are fond of spouting the ridiculous notion that money can’t help struggling schools, as if more and better-trained staff, better equipment and diverse programming wouldn’t make a difference in kids’ educations and their lives.

The timing of this meltdown is unfortunate, as if there were ever a good time for the euthanasia of public schooling. According to the 2010 census, Philadelphia grew in population for the first time in 60 years, changing direction from decades of decline. Most of that growth came from immigrants who will rely on public schools — or not, as the case may be. Another area of growth was in young families, who will face a choice, once they have school-age children, to stay in the city or flee to superior suburban schools as previous generations have done.

Nearly the entire burden to keep the district afloat has fallen to the city, which raised property taxes each of the two previous years specifically to funnel extra money that the schools weren’t getting from the state. This is in one of the poorest and most highly taxed cities in the nation.

The floundering district is both a symptom and cause of the city’s predicament, creating a vicious cycle of people who can afford to bail moving to the suburbs, leaving a crippled tax base, with the result being less money to fix the schools and ever-higher taxes imposed on those who stay.

Unlike the city, the state could come up with the necessary cash without excessively burdening its finances. Pennsylvania has the lowest severance tax of any state drilling for Marcellus shale gas, with plenty of room for an increase. The state had a modest surplus at the end of the last budget year. The governor has no trouble coming up with money to build new prisons, which will serve as future homes for all too many children of Philadelphia who are being failed and tossed aside by adult leadership, if you can call it that.

The pattern has become clear: defund the schools, precipitate a crisis and use that as an excuse to further attack the schools, pushing them closer and closer to a point of no return. The $50 million to open the schools this year is just the latest and most immediate example of three years of brinkmanship.

The district was hit with a double whammy in 2011, when stimulus funds that it had idiotically been using for operating expenses dried up, and incoming Gov. Tom Corbett took office eager to prove his reactionary bona fides by enacting massive budget cuts to public education to the tune of $1 billion statewide, disproportionately hitting Philadelphia. The result was an absurd $629 million shortfall, which was filled by a mix of cuts and city tax hikes.

Last year, the district took out a $300 million bond to patch another big deficit, the very definition of a band-aid fix as it only added to what is now $280 million in annual debt payments.

This round of budget hysteria kicked off in May when the superintendent announced that the district was another $304 million in the hole for the upcoming school year and requested extra funding from the city and state as well as givebacks from the teachers union to fill the gap.

To prepare, he laid off nearly 4,000 teachers and staff members, and closed 24 schools, after the district had shut eight the year before. Empty buildings and mass layoffs — the perfect image of 21st century education.

The city and state came up with a Rube Goldberg device of funding worth about $140 million, composed of repurposed federal funds, better city tax collections, borrowing against future city taxes and a whopping $2 million thrown in by the state beyond what it had already committed.

Most of even that inadequate amount hasn’t arrived yet as the state sits on $45 million in federal money it refuses to disperse until the teachers agree to enormous salary cuts and rollback of other benefits and city officials bicker among themselves on how to deliver the money they promised.

It’s still unclear what, if anything, will be kicked in by the teachers, who already make disproportionately less money than their suburban counterparts while teaching in much more challenging environments. Their contracts expire at the end of the month.

Leering over the whole mess is the controversial charter school movement, which siphons $675 million from district schools. The charter experiment has been a mixed bag, with some performing well, others proving mere vehicles for graft and corruption. Critics see them as a way to divert public money into politically connected private hands, and even more important, a way to break the teachers union because they aren’t bound by district collective bargaining rules.

It’s not hard to see the same forces at work here as those taking apart public sector unions in Wisconsin and trying to confiscate Detroit city employees’ pensions in Michigan. Indeed, the district leadership met Thursday to unilaterally suspend the school code to get around teacher seniority and automatic raise rules as they use the $50 million to rehire some of the employees laid off earlier this year.

Teachers are understandably displeased at being blamed for a problem the state has caused. “It is Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s obligation to fully fund public education. Yet the budget office seems to be employing any and every means to avoid living up to this responsibility,” Philadelphia Teachers Federation president Jerry Jordan said in a statement. “Chronic lack of resources has brought this crisis to our schools, not work rule provisions in collective bargaining agreements.”

“The trunk of my car is now filled with a carton of paper, pens, lined paper, and copybooks I have bought for my students this September,” district teacher Christine MacArthur wrote in an editorial to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Now we are also to pay for the mistakes of our employers?”

Parents and students are trying to push back, but may ultimately have little traction. Thousands of students led by the Philadelphia Student Union walked out last spring to protest the doomsday budget, to no avail. Now, with the stark projections of May becoming reality in August, members are canvassing the streets to rally support. “I’m just doing it for my school because it’s the right thing to do,” one student told a local television station. “We are going to need counselors. Without counselors, it’s going to be hard to get into college.” The group is considering boycotting school entirely if the district doesn’t get the money it needs.

“It’s indescribably insane,” says Helen Gym of the advocacy group Parents United for Public Schools, who has three children in the public school system. “It’s unbelievable that it’s come to this.” The group put out a statement Thursday reemphasizing that $50 million was far from enough to have effective schools.

“I don’t send my child to go to a shell of a building, I send my child to get an education,” Gym says. “They can’t do that with $50 million.”

The district got its $50 million, though, and will get more in dribbles and drips. That will barely, not really, suffice for inadequate schooling this year. Next year, stay tuned for a repeat. Barring an unforeseen economic renaissance in the city or thorough overhaul of the state executive and legislative branches, the district is poised for year after year of one crisis after another.

Parents and teachers are all too aware of what’s happening. “Tom Corbett, the weakest governor in the United States, is trying to stake his claim on completely dismantling and starving one of the nation’s largest school districts into dysfunction and collapse,” says Gym.

The nails aren’t all in the coffin yet, but they are being pounded deeper every year by a state that has turned its back on, if is not openly hostile to, the idea of free and equitable education for all.

“It’s an absolute atrocious mockery of anything related to public leadership,” Gym says. “To not have a stable public school system is more devastating to Philadelphia than anything that has happened before.”

Source 

Group interview for a call center position today was the saddest thing I’ve experienced in a while. About 30 of us sitting around a table, mostly 50 y/o+ people. When they talked about their experience, they had often been in charge of whole sales departments and call centers themselves. They each had at one point lengthy, successful careers and seemed competent and earnest. They led teams, set up centers, managed large-scale projects. I mean, their professionalism was on. point.

But those middle-income jobs are gone and they aren’t coming back. The position we all interviewed for entails booking cruises for 8 hours a day. Now they have to compete with young people who know how to navigate new systems intuitively, who can type quickly, who’ve had years of entry-level customer-service-grind work, who are seemingly easier to manage and healthier. The woman on my left said she’d been looking for a year. The one on my right said she’d been looking for work for three years. I can’t even imagine how frustrating that must be. 

And this was a $10 an hour job in an expensive CITY. I mean, these people were falling over themselves, lying through their teeth about how AMAZING the company was and how EXCITED they were for the hourly position, but they had SO much experience doing much more complex, rewarding type of work. And frankly, I doubt if many of them get the position. It’s terrible & sad. :(

-Robert

Teachers and supporters of education flood Moral Monday in protest of oppressive, fascist, anti-education Republican party
July 30, 2013

Thousands of North Carolina teachers and other protesters on Monday staged one of the largest of the almost-weekly demonstrations opposing Republican policy decisions.

The North Carolina Association of Educators brought busloads of teachers to Raleigh on Monday as the so-called “Moral Monday” protests reached the three-month mark. Thousands of red-shirt-wearing educators listened to speakers on a lawn inside the state government complex, then marched several blocks for another rally outside the antebellum state Capitol building.

"Educators are sick and tired of being demoralized," NCAE President Rodney Ellis said at a news conference preceding the rally. "We’re sick and tired of being unappreciated. We’re sick and tired of being disrespected. Public educators and public schools are not failing our students, politicians are."

Crowds grew so large that police shut down a portion of Lane Street.

Many said they were outraged and angry that the state budget signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week doesn’t include raises for North Carolina’s teachers – among the lowest paid in the country – and sets aside $20 million for “opportunity scholarships,” which opponents have compared to a school voucher system.

Julie Grice, who has been teaching in Hickory for 20 years, said future teachers will have to deal with the challenges of the legislature not supporting them.

"They are going to have to pay out of their pocket. They are going to have to work many hours for little pay," she said.

Earlier in the day, a smaller group of protesters gathered at the State Capitol to demand a meeting with Gov. Pat McCrory. Police kept the demonstration outside the building but said they would deliver the protesters’ letter to the governor.

With lawmakers gone, the protest featured none of the civil disobedience that led to about 925 demonstrators being arrested outside the legislative chambers in previous weeks.

North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said the weekly protests will continue, but move to different locations around the state. The next will be in Asheville next Monday and there are plans to hold demonstrations in all 13 of North Carolina’s congressional districts, Barber said.

"We are not ending Moral Monday," he said. "We are suspending it here and taking it on the road."

Source

The Bulgarian uprising largely ignored by the corporate media continues into it’s 8th day
June 23, 2013

For the eighth straight day, tens of thousands of Bulgarians have demonstrated for the government to resign. At least 10,000 people have joined rallies in Sofia nightly since June 14.

On Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed concern over political developments and the rule of law in Bulgaria after protests followed the appointment, since withdrawn, of a media mogul as the country’s national security chief. Though the protests began in reaction to that appointment, they have turned into demonstrations against the Socialist-backed government and politicians in general.

"We demand that the oligarchy resign from political office so that Bulgaria can conform to European Union standards," organizers demanded.

Barroso highlighted the appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski, who lacked experience in security matters, to head of the state agency DANS. The parliament, which had initially approved the appointment, later reversed it unanimously. The European Union has monitored Bulgaria since it joined in 2007 as it works to meeting the bloc’s demands on judicial reform, corruption and organized crime. On Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski’s inaugural trip to Brussels, Barosso said that he urged him to “consult widely on key appointments, especially in the areas of the fight against corruption and organized crime.”

"Some of the recent developments in Bulgaria were not good, and they raised concerns not only in Bulgarian society but among the European partners of Bulgaria," Barroso said. "The candidates chosen should be based on merit, and they should have the highest standards of integrity," he added.

The technocratic prime minister came to power at the head of a Socialist-led government last month after a snap election followed the resignation of the conservative coalition in February. Since then, however, thousands have been demonstrating against corruption and organized crime while the conservatives are boycotting parliament and demanding new elections.

"I will persevere in my efforts to ensure the normalization of the political and public situation in the country," Oresharski pledged, adding that his government took the EU’s recommendations seriously. "We will persevere in our efforts to build the confidence of our partners in the EU," he added.

For his part, Bulgaria’s president praised the protest rallies on Friday, saying that politicians must heed the demonstrators’ demands for reform. “Bulgaria can be proud of this good-natured, democratic protest, which delivers a message to the politicians,” said President Rosen Plevneliev, who holds a largely ceremonial office. “I very much hope they will be heard and that this time the politicians really take responsible, clear and, I would say, brave decisions,” he added.

An opinion poll by Alpha Research published this week found that over 80 percent of Bulgarians support the protests, though respondents split nearly evenly on whether the Cabinet should immediately resign. The poll also found that only 23 percent of respondents approved of the new coalition of the Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party, the lowest level for any government since 1997. About 28 percent of respondents to the June 13-18 survey expressed disapproval.

Protesters have planned further rallies for the weekend.

Source

Enough is enough! Hundreds of thousands flood streets in cities across Brazil
June 18, 2013

In some of the biggest protests since the end of Brazil’s 1964-85 dictatorship, demonstrations have spread across this continent-sized country and united people from all walks of life behind frustrations over poor transportation, health services, education and security despite a heavy tax burden.

More than 100,000 people were in the streets Monday for largely peaceful protests in at least eight big cities. They were in large part motivated by widespread images of Sao Paulo police last week beating demonstrators and firing rubber bullets into groups during a march that drew 5,000.

There was some violence, with police and protesters clashing in Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte. The newspaper O Globo, citing Rio state security officials, said at least 20 officers and 10 protesters were injured there.

Monday’s protests come after the opening matches of soccer’s Confederations Cup over the weekend, just one month before a papal visit, a year before the World Cup and three years ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The unrest is raising some security concerns, especially after the earlier protests produced injury-causing clashes with police.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic hub, at least 65,000 protesters gathered Monday at a small, treeless plaza then broke into three directions in a Carnival atmosphere, with drummers beating out samba rhythms as people chanted anti-corruption jingles. They also railed against the matter that sparked the first protests last week — a 10-cent hike in bus and subway fares.

Thousands of protesters in the capital, Brasilia, peacefully marched on Congress. Dozens scrambled up a ramp to a low-lying roof, clasping hands and raising their arms, the light from below sending their elongated shadows onto the structure’s large, hallmark upward-turned bowl designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer. Some congressional windows were broken, but police did not use force to contain the damage.

"This is a communal cry saying: ‘We’re not satisfied,’" Maria Claudia Cardoso said on a Sao Paulo avenue, taking turns waving a sign reading "#revolution" with her 16-year-old son, Fernando, as protesters streamed by.

"We’re massacred by the government’s taxes — yet when we leave home in the morning to go to work, we don’t know if we’ll make it home alive because of the violence," she added. "We don’t have good schools for our kids. Our hospitals are in awful shape. Corruption is rife. These protests will make history and wake our politicians up to the fact that we’re not taking it anymore!"

Protest leaders went to pains to tell marchers that damaging public or private property would only hurt their cause. In Sao Paulo, sentiments were at first against the protests last week after windows were broken and buildings spray painted during the demonstrations.

Source (Article & Photos)

Hundreds of climate activists join hundreds of anti-capitalists (& certainly many/most are likely both) in Canary Wharf’s biggest protest
June 14, 2013

One of London’s key financial districts saw its biggest ever protest on Friday as an estimated 200 people occupied Canary Wharf to protest against public spending cuts and lack of action against climate change. Among the protesters were pensioners, children, people with disabilities, a brass band, musicians and a range of groups including Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Greater London Pensioners Association, No Dash for Gas and UK Uncut.

A spokeswoman for the event said: “We picked Canary Wharf because it’s a symbol of out-of-control neoliberal capitalism. It’s completely private property where protests have been outlawed. We’ve come here because we want to pull together anti-capitalist, climate and anti-austerity struggles.”

The owner of Canary Wharf has previously taken legal action and put in place security measures to prevent protests in home of some of Britain’s biggest banks. The action was part of a range of anti-G8 protests currently taking place, but unlike other events this one passed peacefully.

Protesters erected and scaled bamboo tripods – structures designed to prevent attempts to clear the area by force. An assembly, speeches and workshops were held, as well as creative activities, music and poetry performances and guerilla gardening. James Granger, of Fuel Poverty Action, who helped organize the event, said the banks and financial institutions in Canary Wharf are “bankrolling fossil fuel projects across the world which are causing climate change and fuel poverty”.

"The price of fossil fuels is increasing, which is leading to one-quarter of the UK population facing the choice between heating and eating," he said. "I’m here to say that there is an alternative – renewable energy which is cheaper and cleaner, and an economy that works for the needs of people not the needs of profit."

Betty Cottingham of the Greater London Pensioners Association said: “I’m here to protest along with the young and middle-aged people about what this lot are doing to our world. There’s going to be 3,000 extra deaths this winter because pensioners and other people daren’t turn the heating on.”

A Canary Wharf banker, who did not wish to be named, said he did not make the link between banking and the recession. “If it hadn’t been caused by banking it would have been caused but something else,” he said. “I think these people are here because they care about what’s going on out there and the recession has given them a justification to get out here and do this.”

Source

'Moral Monday' protest in North Carolina: 151 arrested as activists decry extreme right-wing agenda
June 4, 2013

Upwards of 1,600 demonstrators amassed outside the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh on Monday, railing against the “extreme agenda” of the GOP-controlled legislature, WNCN reported. As attendees of the “Mega Moral Monday” protest spilled from the square outside the building and into the state Senate chambers, WRAL reported that 151 were arrested and released by 5 a.m. on Tuesday.

Monday’s demonstration is the latest in a series of “Moral Monday” events organized by the North Carolina NAACP and other civil rights groups, activists and unions. They’ve been taking place since April, though the gathering this week was by far the largest, and the arrests nearly doubled the total of the previous four protests. Organizers have decried the increasingly conservative nature of the state legislature, which has been pushing controversial issues such as voter ID, hydraulic fracking and cuts to education spending.

"The people are awake now, and we have decided to stand up," state NAACP chapter president Rev. William Barber told the crowd Monday. "We are a movement. This is not a moment." Republicans inside the building appeared largely unmoved, despite the raucous protests.

Source

See Philip Radford (Greenpeace director)’s post on the environmental contingency at moral Monday’s

"Hi I was wondering if it would be possible for you guys to help spread the word about something. A riverside area of London known has ‘the Southbank’ is home to a disused space or ‘undercroft’ which is well used & loved as skateboarding space.

There is never a time where it isn’t full of people hanging out and making use of it. The Southbank Centre is a group of ‘arts’ centers that want to destroy this community-loved-space in order for refurbishments e.g. probably more high rent retail units or restaurants even though  there are already plenty in this space.

They want to destroy a genuine piece of culture & heritage within the local community for the sake of commercializing the area even more. There has already been a petition against this but right now one of the biggest steps we can take is to object the official planning permission request by the Southbank center.”

Submitted by http://flowersdotcom.tumblr.com

Additional resource:

Community space free of rampant exploitation that doesn’t revolve around some commercial, corporate, capitalist exchange, and gives increasingly poor young people a place to spend their time, is important.

Eurozone unemployment hits new high with a quarter of under-25s jobless; overall unemployment now at staggering 12.2%
June 2, 2013

Protesters who picketed the European Central Bank on Friday are planning a second day of action across European cities as anger grows over austerity measures that many blame for taking Eurozone unemployment to an all-time high.

In rain and strong winds, members of the Blockupy movement cut off access to the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters and vowed to keep up the disruption on Saturday in a financial hub they describe as a seat of “dictated austerity”. Their action came as official figures showed eurozone unemployment hit a new high last month with young people again the hardest hit – almost one in four are now out of work.

Unemployment in the crisis-stricken currency bloc rose to 12.2% for April, according to Eurostat, the statistics office of the EU. At 24.4%, youth unemployment was double the wider jobless rate and up from 24.3% in March. The problem was most extreme in Greece where almost two-thirds of those under-25 are unemployed. The rate was 62.5% in February, the most recently available data.

The numbers come days after eurozone leaders unveiled plans to get more young people into work as they faced warnings about the risks of civil unrest, long-term economic costs and fears that a generation could lose faith in the European project.

In Frankfurt Blockupy protesters blamed the troika of institutions it says is pushing austerity measures on southern Europe: the ECB, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and perhaps most importantly, capitalism. Blockupy’s Roland Süss said: “With the blockade of the ECB we are making the European resistance against the devastating poverty policy visible. It’s an expression of our solidarity with the people in southern Europe whose existence is threatened by the austerity programs.”

Blockupy, a European version of the Occupy Wall Street movement, put the number of activists blocking the ECB at 3,000. There was a more conservative estimate of between 1,000 and 1,500 from police, who used pepper spray to prevent the protesters breaking into the central bank’s high-rise building. Protesters also targeted Deutsche Bank’s headquarters and Frankfurt’s airport. The movement and other anti-austerity groups are threatening rallies throughout European cities on Saturday, including London.

While France and Germany responded to growing anger at youth unemployment this week with a new jobs plan, labor market experts warn that any measures will take time to turn the tide after 24 consecutive monthly rises in the jobless level. Economists say things will get worse before they get better for the 19.4 million people in the eurozone out of work.

In the wider EU area unemployment stood at 11%, as the rate rose in all but nine countries compared with a year earlier. The biggest rises in overall joblessness on a year ago were in Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Portugal. Youth unemployment in Spain is 56.4%, in Portugal 42.5%. Italy recorded its highest overall unemployment rate since records began in 1977, at 12%, with youth joblessness at 40.5%. Economists said that the rise in unemployment was fairly broad-based with rises in so-called core countries as well, including Belgium and the Netherlands. The rate in France was 11%.

Ireland recorded one of the biggest falls in unemployment, down to 13.5% from 14.9% a year ago. That compares with a rate of 7.7% for the UK, where youth unemployment is 20.2%.

Source

Update: Today, the clashes sparked by this outrageous reality continued in Frankfurt, Germany with thousands on the streets. See video here.

#Occupy Capitalism

Spanish firefighters clash with riot police during a protest against proposed spending cuts in Barcelona on May 29. Hundreds of firefighters had earlier gathered in front of the Catalonian parliament building, lighting flares, throwing smoke bombs and burning coffins labelled ‘public services’.The firefighters’ union warned that cuts to staff and budgets proposed as part of Spain’s broader program of austerity would “put at risk the safety of workers and the people of Catalonia.”

Spanish firefighters clash with riot police during a protest against proposed spending cuts in Barcelona on May 29. Hundreds of firefighters had earlier gathered in front of the Catalonian parliament building, lighting flares, throwing smoke bombs and burning coffins labelled ‘public services’.

The firefighters’ union warned that cuts to staff and budgets proposed as part of Spain’s broader program of austerity would “put at risk the safety of workers and the people of Catalonia.”