Bosnia & Herzegovina: All power to the plenums?
February 23, 2014

It’s been two weeks since the start of the Bosnian rebellion. A recent poll has shown that 88% of the people in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina support the protests. These protests are still going on, but they are peaceful now and hence the media attention is no longer as great, even though the protests remain a much discussed topic in the region. However, perhaps the main locus of the protest movement has now switched to the direct democratic plenums (general assemblies) emerging all around Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The plenums

General assemblies in their various forms are a very old means of direct democratic organization of the oppressed during times of protests, rebellions, strikes and revolutions (like the 1905 and 1917 revolutions in Russia, 1936 in Catalonia or 1956 in Hungary). The earliest versions of some kind of general assemblies were already present in ancient Athens, while many ‘theorists of utopia’ imagine some kind of general assemblies in their blueprints of potential democratic societies in the future.

The sudden emergence of the plenums in large parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina has taken everybody by complete surprise. One could even say that the plenums themselves are the greatest positive development in the protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far. The first plenum appeared in Tuzla, the center and starting point of the protests, where the protesters were most articulated and most organized from the start. After that, plenums started to appear in other cities as well, taking Tuzla as their example.

The following cities now have their own plenums: Sarajevo (the capital), Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar, Travnik, Brčko, Goražde, Konjic, Cazin, Donji Vakuf, Fojnica, Orašje and Bugojno. Right now, regular sessions are taking place where people discuss political problems and make demands on the government (the most common being the revision of privatization issues, various social demands, taking away the privileges of the political class, and so on). There are also efforts ongoing to try to coordinate all the already existing plenums on the state level in order to develop universal and not just local demands. The first joint plenum is also planned in Sarajevo, with the arrival of the delegates of local plenums.

This is not the first time that the word plenum is used in the region with this concrete meaning, referring to a direct democratic ‘general assembly’. The first time the word was used in reference to general assemblies was during a great wave of university occupations in Croatia back in 2009. The same term later appears during the 2010 university occupations in Austria and Germany (though it’s not clear if this has some kind of direct link to the Croatian student movement or if it’s just a very strange coincidence), and in 2011 during the university occupations in Slovenia and Serbia (where there was a direct influence of the Croatian student movement).

The protesters who are organizing the plenums in Bosnia and Herzegovina openly acknowledge that they are using the experiences of the Croatian student movement and their how-to-make-a-general-assembly manual called The Occupation Cookbook. Of course, all these plenums are very similar to the general assemblies the world witnessed in 2011 during Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere, so one can also indirectly relate them to the ‘Occupy tradition’ of the last couple of years. In any case, it is quite clear that one can find common patterns of horizontal organization around the world, which have very old roots, but have also been reinvigorated in recent times.

What is to be done?

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the plenums have certainly shown to be a highly useful method in organizing the protesters and articulating their demands. In the last couple of days, there are signs of evolution in the plenums, with their structure becoming more complex. Thus, just like in the Croatian student movement or during Occupy Wall Street, the plenum in Tuzla has organized working groups that are to deal with special issues, mimicking the ministries of the Tuzla canton: education, science, culture and sports; development and entrepreneurship; spatial planning and environment protection; coordination with workers, administration of justice and governance, industry, energy and mining; interior affairs; health care; agriculture, water management and forestry; commerce, tourism, transportation and communications; work and social policy; finances; war veterans’ problems; legal problems.

But the plenums are not without their faults. First of all, they are indeed a useful way to organize protesters, but they are not really representative of the general population. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are reportedly plenums with more than 1.000 people in attendance and in many case there are also live online feeds. However, 1.000 people at the Sarajevo plenum cannot really be representative of the whole city, which has more than 300.000 inhabitants. Not to mention the fact that the plenums are usually taken to represent not only one city but whole cantons, while for people living outside of the canton centers , getting to the plenums can be costly in terms of both time and money.

Of course, even if everybody could come it would be impossible to have a general assembly with tens of thousands of people. While bearing in mind that bourgeois representative democracy also has many flaws of its own and that it remains at best a very limited kind of democracy, still one should strive at making direct democracy as expansive and participatory as it can be. The unified plenums on the level of a city or canton are a great and completely legitimate way to start organizing during the protests, but they can hardly be a final solution. Even now there are plenums in smaller cities (like Cazin, Fojnica or Donji Vakuf), which are not cantonal centers and are concerned with more local issues (and not with canton-wide politics in general), but there seems to be no strict coordination between lower and upper level plenums (which is not necessarily a surprise in this early stage of plenum development).

There are a number of problems at stake here. One is whether the plenums can maintain their numbers after the protests subside (which has to occur at one point or another) and after their aura of novelty has gone. This appeared to be a great problem in the Croatian student movement, where the plenums have in time — after the occupations finished — diminished and slowly ceased to function, in one case only after a couple of years, but still (though it must be noted that, at least at some universities, the plenums still exist in a way, as they can always be assembled when deemed necessary). The future of the plenums in Bosnia and Herzegovina will partly depend on their successes. Some victories have already been achieved: in Tuzla the politicians, responding to the demand of the Tuzla plenum, have already given up some of their privileges (a yearly wage after they go off duty).

Still, it is generally difficult to expect a mass presence at the plenums forever. People have their own personal interests and, indeed, they have to work for a living (if they are lucky enough to work, since the unemployment rate stands at about 45% in Bosnia and Herzegovina). You cannot really expect someone working 8 hours (or more) per day to spend a couple of hours at a general assembly afterwards (if we want to achieve some kind of direct democracy we should obviously be striving towards a reduced working day). Also, it is hardly realistic to expect that everybody will want to decide on everything all the time.

That said, however, the idea of direct democracy is not that everybody has to decide on everything all the time. The point is that direct democracy should provide everybody with the possibility and the means of deciding directly on certain issues (if that is what they want to do). Thus, in theory we can indeed vote directly on everything, but in practice we’ll do it only when we want to and when there’s a very important decision to be made.

In bourgeois representative democracy, that is usually not possible (exceptions like Switzerland, with its many referenda, are rare), because almost all the decisions (except for a referendum here and there) are taken by the chosen representatives, who can do basically whatever they want during their elected term. In a direct democratic system, the difference would reside in the fact that the chosen representatives would not so much make their own decisions (except in the case of small, technical, everyday affairs), but would rather act upon the general decisions agreed upon by the assembly, which they would just carry out.

These “representatives” would be more like some kind of administrators who would be recallable at any time (again, through general assemblies, referenda, or other direct democratic means) if people do not approve of their work. How many decisions would in practice be left to the “administrative autopilot” (if we’re pleased with it) and how many decisions would be taken directly by everyone — at local, city, region or country level — would be a matter of choice, concrete circumstances and political needs.

Full article

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america-wakiewakie:

Venezuela: it’s the opposition that’s anti-democratic | Roar Mag
Don’t be fooled by the sight of protests in Venezuela: this time the anti-democratic villains are not in government but in the US-backed opposition.
I’ve been away for the past week so I wasn’t able to write anything on the unfolding turmoil in Venezuela, but I’ve been following the situation closely and in recent days have grown increasingly frustrated with (a) the total lack of balanced reporting on Venezuela in the international media, including left-liberal publications like The Guardian; (b) the seeming ease with which comrades on the libertarian left ignore the events in Venezuela as if it were somehow “irrelevant” to our cause, simply because we’re not supposed to have any close ideological affinity with chavismo; and (c) the ill-informed basis on which many activists and even several major movement pages have taken the side of the protesters against the government, unquestioningly sharing the propaganda of the right-wing opposition and echoing dangerously superficial and wrongheaded interpretations about the protests. I intend to write more on this later, but here are some initial reflections:
1. Just because there’s people in the streets doesn’t mean they’re on our side. We live in the era of the protester, and violent protest has become a media spectacle par excellence. In the wake of Tahrirand Occupy, we have been conditioned to automatically feel sympathy for all men and women taking to the streets and facing down lines of riot police. Now there’s a YouTube clip floating around the web of a Venezuelan girl with an obnoxious upper-class American accent recounting the story of Venezuela’s heroic student uprising against an “illegitimate government”. At first sight, the video — which garnered over 2 million views so far — seems to neatly fit the narrative of the global uprisings. But anyone who cares to do some fact-checking or background research will quickly discover that the protests in Venezuela are rather different from Occupy or the Chilean student movement.
2. The protests in Venezuela are (at least partly) orchestrated by the right-wing oligarchy. Let’s get the facts straight: plenty of Venezuelans are taking to the streets with legitimate grievances about violent crime, high inflation and food shortages — and there is no doubt that the Venezuelan riot police are indeed behaving violently towards many of these protesters. All police brutality should be roundly condemned. The people of Venezuela should be allowed to freely express their indignation in public without fear of repression. But it bears emphasizing in this respect that at least two of the protesters’ main grievances have been deliberately escalated by the oligarchic elite itself: through extensive hoarding and smuggling of consumer products (giving rise to shortages and fueling price inflation) and massive speculation on the foreign currency market (pushing down the Bolívar and feeding into further inflation). This is precisely the type of economic warfare that the US-backed Chilean opposition drew upon prior to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.
Moreover, even though the protests initially began as a student mobilization on Venezuela’s national Youth Day (February 12), they have in the past week become effectively subsumed under the leadership of the most right-wing section of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), led by Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo López. As the firebrand leaders of the most anti-democratic faction of the oligarchic elite, López and Machado have been actively calling for the overthrow of Nicolas Maduro’s democratically-elected government and have urged the continuation of violent protest until he resigns. In the last 15 years, these people have shown themselves to be intent on restoring their class privilege at any costs, even if it requires casualties among the general population. They are deliberately fueling violence and social unrest in order to delegitimize and oust the government.
(Read Full Text)

america-wakiewakie:

Venezuela: it’s the opposition that’s anti-democratic | Roar Mag

Don’t be fooled by the sight of protests in Venezuela: this time the anti-democratic villains are not in government but in the US-backed opposition.

I’ve been away for the past week so I wasn’t able to write anything on the unfolding turmoil in Venezuela, but I’ve been following the situation closely and in recent days have grown increasingly frustrated with (a) the total lack of balanced reporting on Venezuela in the international media, including left-liberal publications like The Guardian; (b) the seeming ease with which comrades on the libertarian left ignore the events in Venezuela as if it were somehow “irrelevant” to our cause, simply because we’re not supposed to have any close ideological affinity with chavismo; and (c) the ill-informed basis on which many activists and even several major movement pages have taken the side of the protesters against the government, unquestioningly sharing the propaganda of the right-wing opposition and echoing dangerously superficial and wrongheaded interpretations about the protests. I intend to write more on this later, but here are some initial reflections:

1. Just because there’s people in the streets doesn’t mean they’re on our side. We live in the era of the protester, and violent protest has become a media spectacle par excellence. In the wake of Tahrirand Occupy, we have been conditioned to automatically feel sympathy for all men and women taking to the streets and facing down lines of riot police. Now there’s a YouTube clip floating around the web of a Venezuelan girl with an obnoxious upper-class American accent recounting the story of Venezuela’s heroic student uprising against an “illegitimate government”. At first sight, the video — which garnered over 2 million views so far — seems to neatly fit the narrative of the global uprisings. But anyone who cares to do some fact-checking or background research will quickly discover that the protests in Venezuela are rather different from Occupy or the Chilean student movement.

2. The protests in Venezuela are (at least partly) orchestrated by the right-wing oligarchy. Let’s get the facts straight: plenty of Venezuelans are taking to the streets with legitimate grievances about violent crime, high inflation and food shortages — and there is no doubt that the Venezuelan riot police are indeed behaving violently towards many of these protesters. All police brutality should be roundly condemned. The people of Venezuela should be allowed to freely express their indignation in public without fear of repression. But it bears emphasizing in this respect that at least two of the protesters’ main grievances have been deliberately escalated by the oligarchic elite itself: through extensive hoarding and smuggling of consumer products (giving rise to shortages and fueling price inflation) and massive speculation on the foreign currency market (pushing down the Bolívar and feeding into further inflation). This is precisely the type of economic warfare that the US-backed Chilean opposition drew upon prior to the overthrow of Salvador Allende in 1973.

Moreover, even though the protests initially began as a student mobilization on Venezuela’s national Youth Day (February 12), they have in the past week become effectively subsumed under the leadership of the most right-wing section of the opposition alliance, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), led by Maria Corina Machado and Leopoldo López. As the firebrand leaders of the most anti-democratic faction of the oligarchic elite, López and Machado have been actively calling for the overthrow of Nicolas Maduro’s democratically-elected government and have urged the continuation of violent protest until he resigns. In the last 15 years, these people have shown themselves to be intent on restoring their class privilege at any costs, even if it requires casualties among the general population. They are deliberately fueling violence and social unrest in order to delegitimize and oust the government.

(Read Full Text)

An anarchist perspective on the protests in VenezuelaFebruary 22, 2014
On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (Experimental University of Táchira), located in the inland state of the country, protested the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate, which took place in the context of the city’s increasing insecurity. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained. The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, and these demonstrations were also repressed, with some of the activists incarcerated.
The wave of indignation had as context the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basic public services, as well as the beginnings of the imposition of new economic austerity measures by President Nicolás Maduro. Two opposition politicians, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and also tried to press for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.
When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities of the interior, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Últimas Noticias, which receives the majority of its advertising budget from the government itself, revealed through photographs that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolás Maduro stated on national television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”
The repression of the protesters draws not only on police and military enforcement agencies; it also incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of them on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he callscolectivos (collectives).
The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the major TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information have been the social media networks, especially Twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed record-keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repressive forces. Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released). The number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered torture, including reports of sexual assault, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.
In his speeches, Nicolás Maduro encourages the protesters opposing him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any ongoing criminal investigation, he automatically stated that everyone killed has been murdered by the protesters themselves, who he disqualifies with every possible adjective.
However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavistamovement, because a lot of its base is currently withholding its active support, waiting to see what will come next. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has called. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolás Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, the most recent being a tax increase.
The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left-wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.
The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.
In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of President Maduro, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have fired guns at police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, especially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.
The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (which includes anarchists and sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) is not involved in this situation. We are simple spectators. Some of us are actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.
Venezuela is a historically oil-driven country. It possesses low levels of political culture among its population, which explains why the opposition protesters have the same “content” problem as those supporting the government. But while the international left-wing continues to turn its back and support — without any criticism — the government’s version of “a coup”, it leaves thousands of protesters at the mercy of the most conservative discourse of the opposition parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.
In this sense, Leopoldo López, the detained conservative opposition leader, tries to make himself the center of a dynamic movement that, up to the time of this writing, had gone beyond the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.
What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute by minute.
For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:
http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.comhttp://www.derechos.org.vehttp://laclase.info
- Rafael Uzcátegui for the Venezuelan autonomous-anarchist newspaper El Libertario
Source
If anyone has other suggestions for news/social media outlets for more updates from Venezuela, message them to me!

An anarchist perspective on the protests in Venezuela
February 22, 2014

On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (Experimental University of Táchira), located in the inland state of the country, protested the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate, which took place in the context of the city’s increasing insecurity. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained. The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, and these demonstrations were also repressed, with some of the activists incarcerated.

The wave of indignation had as context the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basic public services, as well as the beginnings of the imposition of new economic austerity measures by President Nicolás Maduro. Two opposition politicians, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and also tried to press for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities of the interior, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Últimas Noticias, which receives the majority of its advertising budget from the government itself, revealed through photographs that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolás Maduro stated on national television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”

The repression of the protesters draws not only on police and military enforcement agencies; it also incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of them on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he callscolectivos (collectives).

The Venezuelan government actually controls all of the major TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information have been the social media networks, especially Twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed record-keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repressive forces. Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released). The number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered torture, including reports of sexual assault, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolás Maduro encourages the protesters opposing him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any ongoing criminal investigation, he automatically stated that everyone killed has been murdered by the protesters themselves, who he disqualifies with every possible adjective.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavistamovement, because a lot of its base is currently withholding its active support, waiting to see what will come next. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has called. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolás Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, the most recent being a tax increase.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left-wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of President Maduro, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have fired guns at police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, especially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (which includes anarchists and sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) is not involved in this situation. We are simple spectators. Some of us are actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil-driven country. It possesses low levels of political culture among its population, which explains why the opposition protesters have the same “content” problem as those supporting the government. But while the international left-wing continues to turn its back and support — without any criticism — the government’s version of “a coup”, it leaves thousands of protesters at the mercy of the most conservative discourse of the opposition parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, Leopoldo López, the detained conservative opposition leader, tries to make himself the center of a dynamic movement that, up to the time of this writing, had gone beyond the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute by minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:

http://periodicoellibertario.blogspot.com
http://www.derechos.org.ve
http://laclase.info

Rafael Uzcátegui for the Venezuelan autonomous-anarchist newspaper El Libertario

Source

If anyone has other suggestions for news/social media outlets for more updates from Venezuela, message them to me!

Sow hunger, reap anger: Why Bosnia is burning - Privatization, unemployment at the heart of protests
February 9, 2014

Bosnia-Herzegovina finally emerged from the sidelines, once again as a country in flames. On February 5, laid off workers of the recently privatized factories of the industrial city of Tuzla, the third largest in Bosnia-Herzegovina, took to the streets to claim their healthcare and pension payments, to get their 50 months’ back pay, and to demand the government to fight youth unemployment, whose rate in Bosnia-Herzegovina ramped up to 60%.

The protests, organized by the local trade unions and the association of unemployed of the canton, and announced by the Facebook page “50.000 people for a better tomorrow”, were joined by students and citizens, who stood in front of the cantonal court building before moving towards the cantonal government building with the intention to enter its premises. Pushed back violently by the police, protesters started to hurl eggs and stones against the building’s wall, while the riot police — intending to secure the entrances of the cantonal building — reacted with teargas and rubber bullets. The town of Tuzla was completely blocked, and at the end of the day 27 people were reported arrested, while another 23 were injured.

Since the workers did not give up, two more days of unrest followed. Within days, six rallies in solidarity with Tuzla’s workers were organized across Bosnia-Herzegovina, in both of the semi-autonomous entities that compose the country since the end of the war: Republika Srpska, the predominantly Serb entity, and the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosniak-Croat entity. However, while the gathering in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian entity, followed a pacific path, in Zenica, Mostar and Sarajevo the protests were transformed into an urban guerrilla.

After the governmental building of Tuzla was set on fire, and the head of canton Sead Čaušević resigned, on the third day of unrest even the cantonal government of another industrial town, Zenica, was torched, and its premier resigned as well. That very same day, in the ethnically-divided city of Mostar, both the town hall and the cantonal building were set ablaze, together with the headquarters of the two main nationalist parties, the Croat HDZ and the Bosniak SDA. In the capital, Sarajevo, the presidential building, hosting the national archives, and the cantonal and the town council became the target of the rage; symbols of a corrupted and incompetent political class that has been plundering the country since the end of the last war. In Sarajevo, at first, police reacted with stun grenades and rubber bullets, and clashes were reported in the Skenderija area.

Although at this time analysis and debates revolve around the violent turn the protests took, it is worth taking a step back to where and why the protests surfaced to begin with. Tuzla, the “salty ground”, had an industrial vocation since the Austro-Hungarian times. The multi-ethnic town, a crossroads of different peoples, is known for being a stronghold of the (allegedly multi-ethnic) Social Democratic Party. The largest factories in the area, nationalized under the socialist system, underwent a process of privatization after the war, which resulted in their bankruptcy and consequent job loss for most of the workers.

After the 2007 privatization of the detergent factory DITA, its major owner — heavily indebted with bank loans — did not pay any pension funds and health insurance to the workers, and, although he was sued, cannot be prosecuted owing to his alleged inability to appear in court*. Following the closure of their firm, in December 2012 the workers of DITA — a giant that before the war guaranteed 1.400 working places — chose not to go on strike but rather to start pickets outside the factory. Today, after more than one year of protests and hunger, eventually the world got to know about their grievances.

The workers of Tuzla are just a symptom of the economic collapse of the country, whose administrative and political system — imposed from without — has never worked. Their collective outrage put the question of political economy back on the Bosnian agenda, while politicians tried to hide the economic conditions of the country by playing the ethnic card. With an overall unemployment rate close to 28%, endemic corruption and an inefficient legal system, the workers of Tuzla demonstrated that precariousness as a result of the neoliberal privatization of their firms, affects all sectors of society.

Full article
Photos 

Rio fare protesters seize main station & let commuters travel for freeFebruary 7, 2014
After street protests, station invasions and turnstile vandalism, Rio de Janeiro’s free public transport movement finally got what it wanted for a few hours on Thursday night with a takeover of the city’s main train and bus hub.
Thousands of commuters were shepherded through demolished ticket gates at the Central do Brasil station amid a violent confrontation over proposed fare rises that resulted in fires, arrests and disruption of transport networks.
The station in downtown Rio echoed with police percussion grenades and the protesters’ celebratory samba drumming as they seized control of the main bank of ticket machines.
Close to a thousand people joined the passe livre (free pass) march, sparked by the announcement by the city mayor, Eduardo Paes, that bus fires will rise from 2.75 reais to 3 reais (£0.75/US$1.25) on Saturday.
That may seem cheap compared with London or New York. But for a daily commuter on a minimum monthly wages of 724 reais a month it leaves transport costs at more than a sixth of income. Bus price rises were the spark for massive protests that expanded to cover dozens of other issues and brought more than a million people on to the streets of 80 cities in Brazil in June 2013. At the time the ticket hikes were postponed but the issue is once again on the agenda. 
Although Thursday’s protest was far smaller than last year’s it was more focussed and the organisers’ tactics appeared to take the large ranks of police by surprise.
After marching peacefully from the Candelaria area dozens of activists from the Black Block group sprinted off and entered the station before police could close the gates. They smashed turnstiles, waved flags and entreated commuters to enter the train system without paying.
Riot police and station security temporarily regained territory with pepper spray and percussion grenades, but after a brief hiatus the demonstrators regained control of the concourse and started drumming, dancing and singing as passengers – many clutching hankerchiefs to their faces because of the pungent police gas in the terminal – passed by without paying.
“I totally support this protest,” said Fabiana Aragon, a red-faced, teary-eyed health worker who was heading home after work. The 43-year-old said she spent almost a third of her 1,000 reais income on transport fares but still had to endure long delays, dirty trains and hot, crowded carriages without air conditioning. “The situation now is absurd.”
The clashes spread to the streets outside the station. Half a dozen fires burned in the streets of the neighbouring red-light district. Firemen were called in to extinguish a blaze that reduced a bus ticket booth to embers. Hundreds of panicked commuters stampeded through the main bus station after police fired percussion grenades despite no visible sign of protesters. Two young black men with face-masks cried as they were arrested, handcuffed and put inside an armoured police vehicle.
Participants in the demonstration said there would be more protests in the run up to the World Cup, which starts on 12 June.
“Public transport is slow, dirty, hot and expensive. The government shouldn’t be talking about raising fares, it should be working to improve services,“ said Yasmin Thayna, a 21-year-old student. “When the World Cup comes there will be more demonstrations. The World Cup is worsening inequality.”
It remains to be seen, however, whether the movement can return to the scale of the 2013 protests.
Source

Rio fare protesters seize main station & let commuters travel for free
February 7, 2014

After street protests, station invasions and turnstile vandalism, Rio de Janeiro’s free public transport movement finally got what it wanted for a few hours on Thursday night with a takeover of the city’s main train and bus hub.

Thousands of commuters were shepherded through demolished ticket gates at the Central do Brasil station amid a violent confrontation over proposed fare rises that resulted in fires, arrests and disruption of transport networks.

The station in downtown Rio echoed with police percussion grenades and the protesters’ celebratory samba drumming as they seized control of the main bank of ticket machines.

Close to a thousand people joined the passe livre (free pass) march, sparked by the announcement by the city mayor, Eduardo Paes, that bus fires will rise from 2.75 reais to 3 reais (£0.75/US$1.25) on Saturday.

That may seem cheap compared with London or New York. But for a daily commuter on a minimum monthly wages of 724 reais a month it leaves transport costs at more than a sixth of income. 
Bus price rises were the spark for massive protests that expanded to cover dozens of other issues and brought more than a million people on to the streets of 80 cities in Brazil in June 2013. At the time the ticket hikes were postponed but the issue is once again on the agenda

Although Thursday’s protest was far smaller than last year’s it was more focussed and the organisers’ tactics appeared to take the large ranks of police by surprise.

After marching peacefully from the Candelaria area dozens of activists from the Black Block group sprinted off and entered the station before police could close the gates. They smashed turnstiles, waved flags and entreated commuters to enter the train system without paying.

Riot police and station security temporarily regained territory with pepper spray and percussion grenades, but after a brief hiatus the demonstrators regained control of the concourse and started drumming, dancing and singing as passengers – many clutching hankerchiefs to their faces because of the pungent police gas in the terminal – passed by without paying.

“I totally support this protest,” said Fabiana Aragon, a red-faced, teary-eyed health worker who was heading home after work. The 43-year-old said she spent almost a third of her 1,000 reais income on transport fares but still had to endure long delays, dirty trains and hot, crowded carriages without air conditioning. “The situation now is absurd.”

The clashes spread to the streets outside the station. Half a dozen fires burned in the streets of the neighbouring red-light district. Firemen were called in to extinguish a blaze that reduced a bus ticket booth to embers. Hundreds of panicked commuters stampeded through the main bus station after police fired percussion grenades despite no visible sign of protesters. Two young black men with face-masks cried as they were arrested, handcuffed and put inside an armoured police vehicle.

Participants in the demonstration said there would be more protests in the run up to the World Cup, which starts on 12 June.

“Public transport is slow, dirty, hot and expensive. The government shouldn’t be talking about raising fares, it should be working to improve services,“ said Yasmin Thayna, a 21-year-old student. “When the World Cup comes there will be more demonstrations. The World Cup is worsening inequality.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether the movement can return to the scale of the 2013 protests.

Source

It begins: 4 LGBT activists arrested for quoting Olympic CharterFebruary 7, 2014
The message has been sent loudly and clearly from Putin’s Russia: first rule of the Olympics, don’t talk about the Olympics. At least, don’t talk about what the Olympics, theoretically, are supposed to mean. Four activists were just arrested in St. Petersburg for carrying a sign that quoted Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. That principle states, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.” Principle 6 has become a rallying cry for athletes who oppose LGBT discrimination and we should expect to see the ubiquitous number 6 on rebel athletes throughout the games.
That, however, did not help these four brave souls in St. Petersburg. They were arrested while preparing to hang a banner with the exact wording of Principle 6 from the city’s Belinskiy Bridge. One of those taken into custody was Anastasia Smirnova, a leading figure in the country’s LGBT movement. Smirnova has received international attention in recent months by continuously linking the oppression of the LGBT community with the Olympic Games. Human Rights Watch highlighted Smirnova’s work last year and quoted her saying, “Ours is a campaign for equality. It is a campaign that promotes the idea of human dignity for LGBT people in Russia—but it is not a campaign against the country.”
We don’t know the names of the others arrested, but it has been confirmed that one is pregnant. We also know, according an LGBT activist who witnessed the arrests, that their demonstration was over before it started, with police speeding in and surrounding the four in the time it would take to flip a coin. As this eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous out of safety concerns,said to Buzzfeed, “Either the phones are being listened to or maybe there are cameras all over the city; only a few people knew about this action.”
The charges as of now are unclear. They are in custody for reasons that are still being speculated upon, but are probably being held for “participating in an illegal action”, essentially demonstrating without permission, or being in violation of Russia’s so-called “anti-gay propaganda” laws. One of the most frightening parts of these laws is that, as Jeff Sharlet outlined in GQ, they tend to mean whatever the authorities want them to mean. Is it propaganda if your 5-year-old daughter proudly tells her teacher that she has two mommies? Is it propaganda if you listen to music by an LGBT artist that your neighbor can hear through their walls? Is it propaganda if you are the pope and you say about the prospect of gay priests, “Who am I to judge?” The answer is a loud and emphatic, “Maybe… but do you really want to risk finding out?” In this way, these laws are not unlike the “no homo promo” laws that exist in eight states in the United States. What does it mean to “promote” homosexuality? Whatever the cops and state want it to mean at a given moment.
UPDATE—12:50 pm: According to Anastasia Smirnova’s Facebook page, she and the other arrested LGBT activists have been released after being charged with “participation in an illegal public assembly.” Their court hearings are scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Source

It begins: 4 LGBT activists arrested for quoting Olympic Charter
February 7, 2014

The message has been sent loudly and clearly from Putin’s Russia: first rule of the Olympics, don’t talk about the Olympics. At least, don’t talk about what the Olympics, theoretically, are supposed to mean. Four activists were just arrested in St. Petersburg for carrying a sign that quoted Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. That principle states, “Discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement.” Principle 6 has become a rallying cry for athletes who oppose LGBT discrimination and we should expect to see the ubiquitous number 6 on rebel athletes throughout the games.

That, however, did not help these four brave souls in St. Petersburg. They were arrested while preparing to hang a banner with the exact wording of Principle 6 from the city’s Belinskiy Bridge. One of those taken into custody was Anastasia Smirnova, a leading figure in the country’s LGBT movement. Smirnova has received international attention in recent months by continuously linking the oppression of the LGBT community with the Olympic Games. Human Rights Watch highlighted Smirnova’s work last year and quoted her saying, “Ours is a campaign for equality. It is a campaign that promotes the idea of human dignity for LGBT people in Russia—but it is not a campaign against the country.”

We don’t know the names of the others arrested, but it has been confirmed that one is pregnant. We also know, according an LGBT activist who witnessed the arrests, that their demonstration was over before it started, with police speeding in and surrounding the four in the time it would take to flip a coin. As this eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous out of safety concerns,said to Buzzfeed, “Either the phones are being listened to or maybe there are cameras all over the city; only a few people knew about this action.”

The charges as of now are unclear. They are in custody for reasons that are still being speculated upon, but are probably being held for “participating in an illegal action”, essentially demonstrating without permission, or being in violation of Russia’s so-called “anti-gay propaganda” laws. One of the most frightening parts of these laws is that, as Jeff Sharlet outlined in GQ, they tend to mean whatever the authorities want them to mean. Is it propaganda if your 5-year-old daughter proudly tells her teacher that she has two mommies? Is it propaganda if you listen to music by an LGBT artist that your neighbor can hear through their walls? Is it propaganda if you are the pope and you say about the prospect of gay priests, “Who am I to judge?” The answer is a loud and emphatic, “Maybe… but do you really want to risk finding out?” In this way, these laws are not unlike the “no homo promo” laws that exist in eight states in the United States. What does it mean to “promote” homosexuality? Whatever the cops and state want it to mean at a given moment.

UPDATE—12:50 pmAccording to Anastasia Smirnova’s Facebook pageshe and the other arrested LGBT activists have been released after being charged with “participation in an illegal public assembly.” Their court hearings are scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.

Source

Activists to protest NYPD’s handling of murder of Islan NettlesJanuary 29, 2014
On Thursday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m., a coalition of representatives from New York City human rights organizations will protest the NYPD’s negligence in the immediate aftermath of the brutal beating death of transgender woman, Islan Nettles. The protest at One Police Plaza demands an explanation by incoming NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton and the NYPD for its initial malfeasance on the case and demands a report on the current status of the homicide investigation by NY County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.
"The transgender and cisgender communities together call on William Bratton and the NYPD to set an example with the Islan Nettles case by committing to seeing justice served, not only for Islan Nettles, but for all victims of transphobic violence in New York City," said Brooke Cerda, founder of the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition.
Endorsers include the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition, ACT UP/NY, Luz’s Daughter Cares, Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), Harlem Pride, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR), Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, Ali Forney Center, VOCAL-NY, ETNYC and Make the Road.
Several glaringly obvious breaches of procedure stand out about this case. At midnight on Aug. 17, 2013, Paris Wilson, accompanied by friends, flirted with Islan Nettles in Harlem, directly across the street from Police Service Area 6 at 2770 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between West 147th and West 148th Street. (Public Service Area 6 covers the 24th, 26th, and 32nd Precincts.)
Upon realizing Nettles was transgender, Wilson became enraged and began to harass Nettles and her transgender companions with transphobic slurs. Wilson began punching Nettles vigorously in the face until she fell to the pavement, slamming her head on concrete, according to the NYPD. Notified by one of Nettles’ friends, police officers arrived at the scene and pulled Wilson off Nettles, who was then transported to Harlem Hospital and admitted with severe head trauma.
Officers at Police Service Area 6 did not question Nettles’ companions thoroughly and never checked on Nettles’ condition after her admittance to Harlem Hospital, according to law enforcement sources. Officers at the scene never obtained DNA evidence from Wilson’s hands. Investigations were halted until Aug. 23, when the D.A.’s office learned that Nettles was declared brain dead and removed from life support. When asked about crucial footage from the ten surveillance cameras located on the PSA 6 edifice and on surrounding structures, the D.A.’s office said all cameras were broken and no footage existed.
After the assault, Simone Wilson, mother of Paris Wilson, coerced an inebriated friend of her son to confess to the crime but he later denied the allegations, according to the NYPD. Shockingly, Simone Wilson was never held accountable for falsifying evidence or for hindering the investigation. Nettles’ friends and family also report that Simone Wilson aggressively photographed them at Harlem Hospital, as if threatening them if they filed charges.
Following a misdemeanor charge of third degree assault, Paris Wilson was immediately released from jail on a mere $2,000 bail and on Nov. 19 even that charge was dropped due to “lack of evidence.” The D.A.’s office has since said it is “aggressively investigating the crime as a homicide,” but no suspect or statement on the progress of the investigation has been presented in the two months since the investigation began.
The Jan. 30 protest calls for the NYPD to explain its failure to immediately and adequately investigate the crime scene, question witnesses, retain DNA samples and surveillance footage and check on Nettles’ condition, even if the crime was initially misperceived as merely an assault.
We call for the NYPD to explain why Simone Wilson has never been charged with obstruction of justice. We demand that D.A. Vance provide a status report on the investigation. Finally, we call for the NYPD to audit the 24, 26, and 32 Precincts and all city precincts for their capacity to conduct timely and unbiased investigations of this and all transphobic violent crimes.
Life expectancy for transgender women of color is 23 years, according to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that on average one trans person is murdered per month in the U.S., most of them women of color.
The protest will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 at One Police Plaza in Manhattan. For more information, call 718-924-3322 or visit http://luzsdaughtercares.wordpress.com/tag/justice-for-islan-nettles/
Source
I’ll be out there tomorrow - spread the word, let’s get a big crowd out there & demand justice for Islan <3

Activists to protest NYPD’s handling of murder of Islan Nettles
January 29, 2014

On Thursday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m., a coalition of representatives from New York City human rights organizations will protest the NYPD’s negligence in the immediate aftermath of the brutal beating death of transgender woman, Islan Nettles. The protest at One Police Plaza demands an explanation by incoming NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton and the NYPD for its initial malfeasance on the case and demands a report on the current status of the homicide investigation by NY County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

"The transgender and cisgender communities together call on William Bratton and the NYPD to set an example with the Islan Nettles case by committing to seeing justice served, not only for Islan Nettles, but for all victims of transphobic violence in New York City," said Brooke Cerda, founder of the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition.

Endorsers include the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition, ACT UP/NY, Luz’s Daughter Cares, Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), Harlem Pride, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR), Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, Ali Forney Center, VOCAL-NY, ETNYC and Make the Road.

Several glaringly obvious breaches of procedure stand out about this case. At midnight on Aug. 17, 2013, Paris Wilson, accompanied by friends, flirted with Islan Nettles in Harlem, directly across the street from Police Service Area 6 at 2770 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between West 147th and West 148th Street. (Public Service Area 6 covers the 24th, 26th, and 32nd Precincts.)

Upon realizing Nettles was transgender, Wilson became enraged and began to harass Nettles and her transgender companions with transphobic slurs. Wilson began punching Nettles vigorously in the face until she fell to the pavement, slamming her head on concrete, according to the NYPD. Notified by one of Nettles’ friends, police officers arrived at the scene and pulled Wilson off Nettles, who was then transported to Harlem Hospital and admitted with severe head trauma.

Officers at Police Service Area 6 did not question Nettles’ companions thoroughly and never checked on Nettles’ condition after her admittance to Harlem Hospital, according to law enforcement sources. Officers at the scene never obtained DNA evidence from Wilson’s hands. Investigations were halted until Aug. 23, when the D.A.’s office learned that Nettles was declared brain dead and removed from life support. When asked about crucial footage from the ten surveillance cameras located on the PSA 6 edifice and on surrounding structures, the D.A.’s office said all cameras were broken and no footage existed.

After the assault, Simone Wilson, mother of Paris Wilson, coerced an inebriated friend of her son to confess to the crime but he later denied the allegations, according to the NYPD. Shockingly, Simone Wilson was never held accountable for falsifying evidence or for hindering the investigation. Nettles’ friends and family also report that Simone Wilson aggressively photographed them at Harlem Hospital, as if threatening them if they filed charges.

Following a misdemeanor charge of third degree assault, Paris Wilson was immediately released from jail on a mere $2,000 bail and on Nov. 19 even that charge was dropped due to “lack of evidence.” The D.A.’s office has since said it is “aggressively investigating the crime as a homicide,” but no suspect or statement on the progress of the investigation has been presented in the two months since the investigation began.

The Jan. 30 protest calls for the NYPD to explain its failure to immediately and adequately investigate the crime scene, question witnesses, retain DNA samples and surveillance footage and check on Nettles’ condition, even if the crime was initially misperceived as merely an assault.

We call for the NYPD to explain why Simone Wilson has never been charged with obstruction of justice. We demand that D.A. Vance provide a status report on the investigation. Finally, we call for the NYPD to audit the 24, 26, and 32 Precincts and all city precincts for their capacity to conduct timely and unbiased investigations of this and all transphobic violent crimes.

Life expectancy for transgender women of color is 23 years, according to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that on average one trans person is murdered per month in the U.S., most of them women of color.

The protest will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 at One Police Plaza in Manhattan. For more information, call 718-924-3322 or visit http://luzsdaughtercares.wordpress.com/tag/justice-for-islan-nettles/

Source

I’ll be out there tomorrow - spread the word, let’s get a big crowd out there & demand justice for Islan <3

Cambodia: Workers rights activists call for Jan. 26 mass protest despite ban on gatherings of 10 or moreJanuary 25, 2014
Cheang Thida (pictured above) is a young woman local union leader of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) at Kin Tai Factory in Phnom Penh. Last December she led 10,000 workers on a legal and peaceful strike demanding a minimum wage that satisfies the workers&#8217; basic needs. As a consequence, she was sacked from her job making Armani Jeans.
By the beginning of January this year the strike had spread and was involving between 50,000 and 100,000 according to grassroots worker organisers. But their strike was crushed by a brutal military intervention on January 2-3 which resulted in the killing of at least four workers and serious injuries to many more. On January 4 a protest camp of the opposition CRNP was violently dispersed.
Twenty-three workers and activists detained in the crushing of are still in prison and are facing charges of intentional aggravated violence and intentional aggravated damage to property.
A Free The 23 campaign has been launched by trade unions and human rights groups. But when a small group of unionists and activists from the campaign tried to present copies of statements of protests to foreign embassies in Phnom Penh on January 21, 11 of them were detained.
Among the 11 detained (and released later that day) was Cheang Thida and Rong Chhun, a leader of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) to which Thida&#8217;s union is affiliated. According to Joel Preston, an Australian working as a consultant with the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) in Cambodia, they were targeted because they are leaders of the “the fiercest and most independent union confederation in the country”.
“Thida was instrumental in leading 10,000 workers on strike in a major garment district, Chak Angre Krom. As a result Mr Rong Chhun was summoned to court on January 14. Following this, Thida and Chhun were at the US Embassy with a group of other activists submitting a petition for the release of the detained workers when a car pulled up and police kidnapped the two from the crowd,&#8221; Preston told Green Left Weekly
“Chhun is a very public figure and those associated with CCU, CATU or CITA (The Cambodian Independent Teachers&#8217; Association) are also at risk.”
An attempt by the Free The 23 campaign to hold a small prayer meeting near the Royal Palace on the evening of January 19 was also broken up.
The Phnom Penh municipal government has imposed a ban on gatherings of 10 or more in the city and has enlisted private security guards to strictly enforce this ban. These security guards are dressed in blue uniforms and wear black-visor motorbike helmets (see photo right). They carry long batons and have been aggressive towards protesters.
A group of trade unions and human rights organisations have responded by calling a mass rally for January 26 at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.
Malay Tim, the president of the Cambodian Youth Network, told GLW that the rally was called by nine trade union and associations: the he Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation; Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association; the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions; the Cambodian Youth Network; the Cambodia&#8217;s Independent Civil-Servants Association; the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia; the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia; the National Trade Union Coalition; and the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association.
“We hope to bring out about 10,000 people around three demands: 1. Free the 23 human rights defender and workers; 2. A minimum wage US$160 a month for workers in all sectors; 3. Stop the violence.”
Tim added that the government had refused a permit for the rally and warned that it will be dispersed however the people “had no alternative but to counter-attack with non-violent struggle for justice and a living wage.”
He rejected the ban on gatherings of 10 or more saying it contravened the Cambodian constitution which guarantees rule according to “principles of liberal democracy and pluralism” (Article 1).
Full article

Cambodia: Workers rights activists call for Jan. 26 mass protest despite ban on gatherings of 10 or more
January 25, 2014

Cheang Thida (pictured above) is a young woman local union leader of the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions (CATU) at Kin Tai Factory in Phnom Penh. Last December she led 10,000 workers on a legal and peaceful strike demanding a minimum wage that satisfies the workers’ basic needs. As a consequence, she was sacked from her job making Armani Jeans.

By the beginning of January this year the strike had spread and was involving between 50,000 and 100,000 according to grassroots worker organisers. But their strike was crushed by a brutal military intervention on January 2-3 which resulted in the killing of at least four workers and serious injuries to many more. On January 4 a protest camp of the opposition CRNP was violently dispersed.

Twenty-three workers and activists detained in the crushing of are still in prison and are facing charges of intentional aggravated violence and intentional aggravated damage to property.

A Free The 23 campaign has been launched by trade unions and human rights groups. But when a small group of unionists and activists from the campaign tried to present copies of statements of protests to foreign embassies in Phnom Penh on January 21, 11 of them were detained.

Among the 11 detained (and released later that day) was Cheang Thida and Rong Chhun, a leader of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions (CCU) to which Thida’s union is affiliated. According to Joel Preston, an Australian working as a consultant with the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) in Cambodia, they were targeted because they are leaders of the “the fiercest and most independent union confederation in the country”.

“Thida was instrumental in leading 10,000 workers on strike in a major garment district, Chak Angre Krom. As a result Mr Rong Chhun was summoned to court on January 14. Following this, Thida and Chhun were at the US Embassy with a group of other activists submitting a petition for the release of the detained workers when a car pulled up and police kidnapped the two from the crowd,” Preston told Green Left Weekly

“Chhun is a very public figure and those associated with CCU, CATU or CITA (The Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association) are also at risk.”

An attempt by the Free The 23 campaign to hold a small prayer meeting near the Royal Palace on the evening of January 19 was also broken up.

The Phnom Penh municipal government has imposed a ban on gatherings of 10 or more in the city and has enlisted private security guards to strictly enforce this ban. These security guards are dressed in blue uniforms and wear black-visor motorbike helmets (see photo right). They carry long batons and have been aggressive towards protesters.

A group of trade unions and human rights organisations have responded by calling a mass rally for January 26 at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh.

Malay Tim, the president of the Cambodian Youth Network, told GLW that the rally was called by nine trade union and associations: the he Cambodian Food and Service Workers Federation; Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association; the Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions; the Cambodian Youth Network; the Cambodia’s Independent Civil-Servants Association; the Building and Wood Workers Trade Union Federation of Cambodia; the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia; the National Trade Union Coalition; and the Cambodia Independent Teachers Association.

“We hope to bring out about 10,000 people around three demands: 1. Free the 23 human rights defender and workers; 2. A minimum wage US$160 a month for workers in all sectors; 3. Stop the violence.”

Tim added that the government had refused a permit for the rally and warned that it will be dispersed however the people “had no alternative but to counter-attack with non-violent struggle for justice and a living wage.”

He rejected the ban on gatherings of 10 or more saying it contravened the Cambodian constitution which guarantees rule according to “principles of liberal democracy and pluralism” (Article 1).

Full article

Black students at University of Michigan demand action on campus diversity
January 22, 2014

Some members of the University of Michigan’s Black Student Union issued a list of seven demands to college administrators Monday calling for improved racial diversity and inclusion on campus. The participants gave the university seven days to meet their requests before they consider a ‘physical’ form of activism to spur reforms.

Demands include an increase in black representation to equal 10 percent of the university population and more affordable housing on campus for those of lower socioeconomic status.

The Black Student Union launched the ‘Being Black at University Michigan’ movement last fall to spark a dialogue about race on campus and gained national attention when their hashtag #BBUM trended on Twitter.

Students displayed their demands on the steps of Hill Auditorium where speakers like University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belefonte spoke at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source

In its latest attempt to silence &amp; threaten the safety protesters, Turkey has made it illegal to give emergency medical aid without the government&#8217;s say so:
Turkish government measures curbing the freedom of doctors in administering emergency treatment have been condemned by medical and human rights groups, with professionals accusing the government of intimidation and seeking to criminalise urgent assistance to street protesters.
President Abdullah Gül signed into law the contested bill drawn up by the government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compelling doctors and health professionals to apply for government permission before they may administer emergency first aid.
Medical personnel could face jail terms of three years and fines of up to 2.25m lira (£600,000) for breaking the law. The crackdown by the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) is seen as the latest in a long line of repressive measures enacted since Turkey was rocked by a wave of anti-government street protests last summer.
The legislation is part of an omnibus bill approved by parliament this month. Critics denounced it as an attempt to criminalise doctors and silence dissent.
Dr Vincent Iacopino, of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), said: &#8220;Passing a bill that criminalises emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government&#8217;s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices. This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone&#8217;s health at risk.&#8221;
Dr Hande Arpat, of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors, who volunteered during last summer&#8217;s protests, said the government had written medical history by passing a law that runs counter to all principles of medical care.
"Not only does the law go against all of our professional and ethical duties, [and] international human rights agreements that Turkey is party to, but it also contradicts the Turkish criminal code that obliges all medical professionals to provide medical aid to those who need it," he said.

In its latest attempt to silence & threaten the safety protesters, Turkey has made it illegal to give emergency medical aid without the government’s say so:

Turkish government measures curbing the freedom of doctors in administering emergency treatment have been condemned by medical and human rights groups, with professionals accusing the government of intimidation and seeking to criminalise urgent assistance to street protesters.

President Abdullah Gül signed into law the contested bill drawn up by the government of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, compelling doctors and health professionals to apply for government permission before they may administer emergency first aid.

Medical personnel could face jail terms of three years and fines of up to 2.25m lira (£600,000) for breaking the law. The crackdown by the governing Justice and Development party (AKP) is seen as the latest in a long line of repressive measures enacted since Turkey was rocked by a wave of anti-government street protests last summer.

The legislation is part of an omnibus bill approved by parliament this month. Critics denounced it as an attempt to criminalise doctors and silence dissent.

Dr Vincent Iacopino, of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), said: “Passing a bill that criminalises emergency care and punishes those who care for injured protesters is part of the Turkish government’s relentless effort to silence any opposing voices. This kind of targeting of the medical community is not only repugnant, but puts everyone’s health at risk.”

Dr Hande Arpat, of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors, who volunteered during last summer’s protests, said the government had written medical history by passing a law that runs counter to all principles of medical care.

"Not only does the law go against all of our professional and ethical duties, [and] international human rights agreements that Turkey is party to, but it also contradicts the Turkish criminal code that obliges all medical professionals to provide medical aid to those who need it," he said.

Six arrested & charged at march for Jesus Huerta, who was murdered in police custody
January 21, 2014

Sunday night, a third march and vigil were held for Jesus Huerta who died two months ago. Jesus died in police custody while handcuffed in the back of a police car. Police allege that he shot himself in the head while handcuffed. In the United States, Jesus is this the third person of color alleged to have shot themselves in the head while handcuffed in the back of a police car in the last two years. Also, it is the third killing by Durham police under investigation by the SBI in recent months.

Durham riot cops have notoriously confronted and broken up or attacked previous rallies for Jesus, and this time was no different. A march of about 200 people took to the streets around 5:30 after leaving the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church chanting “JUSTICIA PARA CHUY, PRESENTE PRESENTE!” The march was going quite well, and was peaceful until lines of riot police confronted marchers and sent them scattering. Marchers then split up into groups, and headed back to the church for the vigil. Events were streamed live on Ustream, and videos from the protests and vigil as well as interviews with attendees are available here.

After police showed up, some marchers smashed windows of the police station, while others spray painted cop cars. But the majority of them were just trying to get back to the vigil without being teargassed or beaten.

Eight activists were taken into custody, and six were charged; some had not even taken part in the march and were trying to meet up with friends. One activist gave their account of the situation, and reported that while walking up the street and passing a parking lot, they saw about 10 people running down from the parking deck. Immediately, a number of police on bikes, motorcycles, in cars, and driving SUVs surrounded them and ordered them to get on the ground. One activist was kicked three times in the ribs while on the ground, and then everyone was searched. When police found nothing, they took all eight individuals into custody. Two caucasians were released immediately without charge, and two juveniles were picked up by their parents. One person made bond that night, while three others spent the night in jail, and were bonded out in the morning by a community fund. None of the individuals were arrested for vandalism, but were charged with unauthorized entry to a city parking facility, obstruction, and resisting arrest (police reportedthat the group they arrested were running from them). The activist who gave this account said, “I hope no one is discouraged by this, and I hope everyone still plans on attending the next march. I most certainly will.”

The community is holding a benefit concert to aid with the financial costs the family still faces over the death. Members of the Huerta family say they need help with burial expenses. El Centro Hispano is a nonprofit organization collecting the donations. Donations can be made directly or by mail at El Centro Hispano: 600 E. Main St. Durham, NC 27701, or through their website: elcentronc.org. In both cases designate “For Huerta Family.” Before the march, Evelin Huerta released a statement on behalf of the Huerta family clearing up rumors that the family was not in support of the marchers.

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Ukraine anti-protest laws enter force amid third day of protests
January 21, 2014

Controversial anti-protest laws which sparked unprecedented riots in Ukraine entered force on Tuesday as the latest standoff between thousands of protesters and anti-riot police in Kiev moved into a third day.

The new laws, which ban nearly all forms of protest in the ex-Soviet country, were officially published in the newspaper of the Ukranian parliament after a warning from President Viktor Yanukovych that the violence threatened the entire country.

They allow for jail terms of up to five years for those who blockade public buildings and the arrest of protesters wearing masks or helmets.

Other provisions ban the dissemination of “slander” on the Internet.

The move to bring them into force came despite calls from the West and the opposition to bin the legislation, raising fears that the authorities could use the restrictions to resort to violence to disperse the protest.

Clashes on Sunday and Monday, which followed two months of protests, turned the centre of the capital Kiev into a veritable war zone as some 10,000 demonstrators battled security forces.

Fireworks and stun grenades lit up the night sky while the deafening drumming of protesters with sticks on metal echoed through the streets.

The violence in a country where the pro-democracy ‘Orange revolution’ in 2004 peacefully overturned a rigged presidential poll and forced a new ballot is unprecedented.

The clashes erupted after a rally of some 200,000 people against the restrictions on protesting was pushed through by Yanukovych supporters in parliament on Sunday.

'Threat to all of Ukraine'

In a televised address to the nation, Yanukovych warned on Monday that the violence threatened the foundations of the entire country, which is divided between the pro-European west and the pro-Russian east.

"I am convinced that such phenomena are a threat not only to the public in Kiev but all of Ukraine," he said, indicating his patience was wearing thin.

"I treated your participation in mass rallies with understanding, I expressed readiness to find ways to solve the existing contradictions."

The opposition led by three politicians including former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said it was ready for dialogue but stressed it wanted to hold talks with Yanukovych, not his aides.

The government set up a special commission to address the crisis.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka warned protesters to halt “mass rioting”, describing it as a crime against the state.

Protests began after Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a pact for closer integration with the EU in November.

With more than 200 people injured so far, thousands of Ukrainians braved temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) to take part in the standoff with police.

According to the Kiev health authorities, more than 100 protesters were wounded in the violence.

Health officials said three people lost eyes and one person had his hand amputated, health officials said.

The interior ministry said more than 100 members of the security forces had been wounded.

The ministry added that several dozen people had been arrested for mass rioting.

In the epicentre of the clashes outside the entrance to the iconic Dynamo Kiev football stadium in central Kiev, both sides hunkered down behind barricades on Monday.

Protesters lobbed stones dug up from the cobbled road, flung Molotov cocktails and threw fireworks over a 20-metre (65-foot) no-man’s land at police lines.

Police responded by throwing stun grenades and occasionally using rubber bullets and tear gas, while the most radical protesters used lasers to blind security forces.

"Who, if not us, and when, if not now," read a banner carried by one group of protesters.

Opposition leaders, including Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, appeared unable to have any influence on the hard core of radical protesters and stopped short of supporting their actions.

But Ukraine’s jailed former prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko came out in support of those clashing with police, saying she would be with them if she could.

"Protect Ukraine and do not fear anything," she said. "You are heroes."

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New York City agrees to pay $18 million settlement to protesters of the RNCJanuary 16, 2014
The city of New York has agreed to pay $18m to settle a civil rights claim from hundreds of protesters who were rounded up and detained in overcrowded and dirty conditions after they rallied outside the 2004 Republican National Convention.
The settlement, between city hall and almost 500 individuals, brings to an end a long-running sore between the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters and the New York police department (NYPD) that had been pursuing aggressive surveillance and detention tactics in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. More than 1,800 people, including teenagers and many uninvolved bystanders, were caught up in the massive police sweep outside the convention that was held to mark the nomination of George W Bush for a second presidential term.
The deal, announced by the law department of the city of New York on Wednesday, does not come down on either side of the argument. It admits no liability on the part of the NYPD, noting that for nine years City Hall and the police department “had vigorously defended all these lawsuits, maintaining that the conduct of the police had at all times been constitutional”.
It nevertheless involves a payment of $10.4m to individual plaintiffs and to 1,200 members of a class action that alleged violation of their rights, and a further $7.6m in attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.
The settlement offers a note of agreement between the parties, saying that “both the plaintiffs and defendants recognize the difficulties in policing an event of this magnitude, especially in New York City.” But it adds that the circumstances of the arrests at the RNC had been “heavily disputed” and in the end “the parties and the court believed it was in the best interests of all involved to settle the outstanding claims at this time.”
The events of 30 August to 2 September 2004 in New York were among the most dramatic of any political convention in US presidential history. Tensions were running high over the invasion of Iraq the previous year and hundreds of thousands marched against Bush and the war in one of the largest expressions of public dissent against a president.
Wednesday’s settlement notes that the demonstrators “on the whole, protested lawfully and peacefully”. But a total of 1,806 were arrested, most on charges of parading without a permit or disorderly conduct.
Lawyers acting on behalf of the protesters renamed Pier 57, then a disused former bus depot in Manhattan where those arrested were taken, Guantánamo on the Hudson. “All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits. Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights,” Jonathan Moore, the lawyer who filed the original lawsuit a few months after the convention, said at the time .
Pier 57 was not properly adapted for use as a detention center. In it, detained individuals were herded 30 or 40 at a time into 10ft by 20ft pens.
Some were held for more than two days without being brought before a judge, a violation of New York’s legal limit of 24 hours between arrest and arraignment. They were only released when a New York supreme court judge ruled the breach of the deadline a contempt of court.
Some released detainees were taken straight to hospital for treatment of rashes and asthma caused by oil-soaked floors and chemical fumes. Most had the charges against them were dropped immediately or within six months of the arrests, and some police claims of resisting arrest were later shown to be spurious through video evidence gathered by defence lawyers.
The announcement of the final settlement only two weeks into the term of New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, may not be entirely coincidental. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his police chief Ray Kelly, had consistently defended the conduct of the NYPD in the week of the RNC convention, 30 August to 2 September 2004, saying it had been justified by intelligence of possible violent threats that had been uncovered. But the documentary evidence to support that claim has never been released.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks three years previously, Bloomberg and Kelly had expanded the activities of the NYPD dramatically to include surveillance and infiltration of political and protest groups. A year before the convention they received court approval to expand NYPD investigations into the work of political and social organisations, which Kelly said was necessary as “we live in a more dangerous, constantly changing world”.
When the convention came along, with its venue in the overwhelmingly liberal city of New York, tensions were running high particularly over the invasion of Iraq that occurred the previous year. Hundreds of thousands marched against Bush and the war in one of the largest expressions of public dissent against a president.
Before Wednesday’s settlement, the fact of which was first disclosed by the New York Times, the city had already spent more than $18m fighting legal battles in the aftermath of the convention: $2.1m to resolve 112 of the total of 600 individual claims, and a further $16m in legal fees. The final settlement brings the total cost of the police over-reach to $34m.
Source

New York City agrees to pay $18 million settlement to protesters of the RNC
January 16, 2014

The city of New York has agreed to pay $18m to settle a civil rights claim from hundreds of protesters who were rounded up and detained in overcrowded and dirty conditions after they rallied outside the 2004 Republican National Convention.

The settlement, between city hall and almost 500 individuals, brings to an end a long-running sore between the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters and the New York police department (NYPD) that had been pursuing aggressive surveillance and detention tactics in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. More than 1,800 people, including teenagers and many uninvolved bystanders, were caught up in the massive police sweep outside the convention that was held to mark the nomination of George W Bush for a second presidential term.

The deal, announced by the law department of the city of New York on Wednesday, does not come down on either side of the argument. It admits no liability on the part of the NYPD, noting that for nine years City Hall and the police department “had vigorously defended all these lawsuits, maintaining that the conduct of the police had at all times been constitutional”.

It nevertheless involves a payment of $10.4m to individual plaintiffs and to 1,200 members of a class action that alleged violation of their rights, and a further $7.6m in attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.

The settlement offers a note of agreement between the parties, saying that “both the plaintiffs and defendants recognize the difficulties in policing an event of this magnitude, especially in New York City.” But it adds that the circumstances of the arrests at the RNC had been “heavily disputed” and in the end “the parties and the court believed it was in the best interests of all involved to settle the outstanding claims at this time.”

The events of 30 August to 2 September 2004 in New York were among the most dramatic of any political convention in US presidential history. Tensions were running high over the invasion of Iraq the previous year and hundreds of thousands marched against Bush and the war in one of the largest expressions of public dissent against a president.

Wednesday’s settlement notes that the demonstrators “on the whole, protested lawfully and peacefully”. But a total of 1,806 were arrested, most on charges of parading without a permit or disorderly conduct.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the protesters renamed Pier 57, then a disused former bus depot in Manhattan where those arrested were taken, Guantánamo on the Hudson. “All that was missing were the orange jumpsuits. Under the guise of terrorism and the fear of terrorism, we are all losing our rights,” Jonathan Moore, the lawyer who filed the original lawsuit a few months after the convention, said at the time .

Pier 57 was not properly adapted for use as a detention center. In it, detained individuals were herded 30 or 40 at a time into 10ft by 20ft pens.

Some were held for more than two days without being brought before a judge, a violation of New York’s legal limit of 24 hours between arrest and arraignment. They were only released when a New York supreme court judge ruled the breach of the deadline a contempt of court.

Some released detainees were taken straight to hospital for treatment of rashes and asthma caused by oil-soaked floors and chemical fumes. Most had the charges against them were dropped immediately or within six months of the arrests, and some police claims of resisting arrest were later shown to be spurious through video evidence gathered by defence lawyers.

The announcement of the final settlement only two weeks into the term of New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, may not be entirely coincidental. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his police chief Ray Kelly, had consistently defended the conduct of the NYPD in the week of the RNC convention, 30 August to 2 September 2004, saying it had been justified by intelligence of possible violent threats that had been uncovered. But the documentary evidence to support that claim has never been released.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks three years previously, Bloomberg and Kelly had expanded the activities of the NYPD dramatically to include surveillance and infiltration of political and protest groups. A year before the convention they received court approval to expand NYPD investigations into the work of political and social organisations, which Kelly said was necessary as “we live in a more dangerous, constantly changing world”.

When the convention came along, with its venue in the overwhelmingly liberal city of New York, tensions were running high particularly over the invasion of Iraq that occurred the previous year. Hundreds of thousands marched against Bush and the war in one of the largest expressions of public dissent against a president.

Before Wednesday’s settlement, the fact of which was first disclosed by the New York Times, the city had already spent more than $18m fighting legal battles in the aftermath of the convention: $2.1m to resolve 112 of the total of 600 individual claims, and a further $16m in legal fees. The final settlement brings the total cost of the police over-reach to $34m.

Source

Victory in unlawful mass arrest during 2004 RNC in largest protest settlement in historyJanuary 16, 2014
In a settlement announced yesterday with the New York Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights advocates, New York City has agreed to pay nearly $18 million for the arrest, detention and fingerprinting of hundreds of protesters, journalists, legal observers and bystanders during the 2004 Republican National Convention – the largest protest settlement in history. The NYCLU filed the first cases following the Convention and has been central to the legal challenge to the NYPD’s actions.
“No lawful protester should ever be treated like a criminal in New York City, or anywhere else in the United States,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “This historic settlement must serve as a reminder to New York City and government across the country that the right to protest is a fundamental pillar of a fair and functioning democracy. And it is the role of government and law enforcement to not only tolerate protest, but protect and defend it.”
The 2004 RNC prompted hundreds of thousands of people to participate in lawful demonstrations in New York City. Despite the peaceful nature of the gatherings and the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to protest, the NYPD engaged in mass arrests, including of more than 1,800 protesters, bystanders, legal observers and journalists. The Department then fingerprinted everyone and held hundreds for more than 24 hours at a filthy, toxic pier that had been a bus depot.
In early October 2004, the NYCLU filed the first two Convention lawsuits. One (Schiller v. City of New York) arose out of the mass arrest of 226 people on a sidewalk on Fulton Street near the World Trade Center and the other (Dinler v. City of New York) out of the mass arrest of nearly 400 people on East 16th Street near Union Square. Both challenged the mass arrest, lengthy detention and blanket fingerprinting of protesters, journalists and bystanders at each location.
Following many years of litigation, the federal District Court in October 2012 ruled that the Fulton Street mass arrest was unconstitutional and rejected the city’s claim that the 16th Street mass arrest was permissible. In that ruling, federal Judge Richard Sullivan urged the city and the plaintiffs in the dozens of remaining Convention cases to settle, leading to today&#8217;s settlement. And as condition of settling the two NYCLU cases, the city has agreed to abandon all the appeals it had filed of the October 2012 ruling.
“The mass arrest, blanket fingerprinting and prolonged detention of demonstrators, bystanders and journalists at the Convention is one of the darkest chapters in New York City’s long and proud history of protest,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the NYCLU cases. “While no amount of money can undo the damage inflicted by the NYPD’s actions during the Convention, we hope and expect that this enormous settlement will help assure that what happened in 2004 will not happen again.”
Full article

Victory in unlawful mass arrest during 2004 RNC in largest protest settlement in history
January 16, 2014

In a settlement announced yesterday with the New York Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights advocates, New York City has agreed to pay nearly $18 million for the arrest, detention and fingerprinting of hundreds of protesters, journalists, legal observers and bystanders during the 2004 Republican National Convention – the largest protest settlement in history. The NYCLU filed the first cases following the Convention and has been central to the legal challenge to the NYPD’s actions.

“No lawful protester should ever be treated like a criminal in New York City, or anywhere else in the United States,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “This historic settlement must serve as a reminder to New York City and government across the country that the right to protest is a fundamental pillar of a fair and functioning democracy. And it is the role of government and law enforcement to not only tolerate protest, but protect and defend it.”

The 2004 RNC prompted hundreds of thousands of people to participate in lawful demonstrations in New York City. Despite the peaceful nature of the gatherings and the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right to protest, the NYPD engaged in mass arrests, including of more than 1,800 protesters, bystanders, legal observers and journalists. The Department then fingerprinted everyone and held hundreds for more than 24 hours at a filthy, toxic pier that had been a bus depot.

In early October 2004, the NYCLU filed the first two Convention lawsuits. One (Schiller v. City of New York) arose out of the mass arrest of 226 people on a sidewalk on Fulton Street near the World Trade Center and the other (Dinler v. City of New York) out of the mass arrest of nearly 400 people on East 16th Street near Union Square. Both challenged the mass arrest, lengthy detention and blanket fingerprinting of protesters, journalists and bystanders at each location.

Following many years of litigation, the federal District Court in October 2012 ruled that the Fulton Street mass arrest was unconstitutional and rejected the city’s claim that the 16th Street mass arrest was permissible. In that ruling, federal Judge Richard Sullivan urged the city and the plaintiffs in the dozens of remaining Convention cases to settle, leading to today’s settlement. And as condition of settling the two NYCLU cases, the city has agreed to abandon all the appeals it had filed of the October 2012 ruling.

“The mass arrest, blanket fingerprinting and prolonged detention of demonstrators, bystanders and journalists at the Convention is one of the darkest chapters in New York City’s long and proud history of protest,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the NYCLU cases. “While no amount of money can undo the damage inflicted by the NYPD’s actions during the Convention, we hope and expect that this enormous settlement will help assure that what happened in 2004 will not happen again.”

Full article

Thousands of teachers in Puerto Rico strike against pension cuts
January 15, 2014

Thousands of teachers across Puerto Rico walked off their jobs Tuesday in a noisy two-day strike over cuts to their pensions that the island’s government says are necessary to avert financial disaster but that educators say will force many of them into poverty.

The teachers gathered with tambourines, cowbells and bullhorns outside public schools across the island on the first day of classes after winter break, forcing hundreds of schools to close. 

Aida Diaz, president of Puerto Rico’s Teachers’ Association, condemned the law that was approved on Christmas Eve and calls for switching from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution system, among other changes. She noted that teachers in Puerto Rico do not collect U.S. Social Security, and that many would see a decrease in their pension.

“This is the most important fight in our history,” she said. “It’s about protecting and defending the only source of income we have upon retirement.”

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