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Activists protest at ‘sidelining of social justice’ at UN climate talks

The Guardian | Protest -

Campaigners frustrated at how women and indigenous people have struggled to have voices heard

Youth climate activists have called for a global strike on Friday to protest that human rights and social justice have been sidelined at the UN climate talks in Madrid, where governments look set to wrap up two weeks of negotiations without a breakthrough on the pressing issue of greenhouse gas reduction.

Campaigners have been frustrated not only at the slow progress of the talks but also that groups representing women, indigenous people and poor people have struggled to have their voices heard within the conference halls where the official negotiations are taking place, even while 500,000 people took part in a mass protest in the streets outside last Friday.

For almost three decades, world governments have met every year to forge a global response to the climate emergency. Under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, every country on earth is treaty-bound to “avoid dangerous climate change”, and find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally in an equitable way. COP stands for conference of the parties under the UNFCCC.

Related: Global heating plus inequality is a recipe for chaos – just look at Chile | Maisa Rojas

Related: COP25 climate summit: what happened during the first week?

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Celebrate movements with WNV’s new T-shirt and tote

Waging Nonviolence -

At Waging Nonviolence’s 10-year anniversary party last month, we were excited to debut our first ever T-shirt and tote bag, which are now available as gifts when you become a sustaining member of the site at $5/month or more. They are the fruit of a collaboration with designer Josh Yoder, who has produced some stunning visuals for a number of social justice movements.

When we began brainstorming ideas for the design, we really weren’t sure what to do. We’ve always been reticent to sell “merch” because our goal is to put the movements we cover front and center. After talking this through with Josh, it became clear that we needed a design that did the very same thing. Ultimately, we settled on one that features 25 movement logos and icons, both historic and present. We wanted to pay tribute to the movements that have inspired and informed our work over the years.

We deliberately chose some symbols that are more widely known and others that are more obscure. They include official organizational logos, as well as remixed iconic movement imagery. Our hope is that it will serve as a conversation starter, with people swapping stories about the different symbols they can identify. And in the process, we can take stock of the power and impact of so many different movements that have shaped our world for the better.

To help facilitate these conversations, we thought it’d be helpful to give you an answer key with a little information about each of the symbols in the design. We’ll take one row at a time starting with the top, so let’s dive in. 

The dove is a traditional symbol of peace going back thousands of years. This particular image has been widely used by antiwar groups and is an adaption of Picasso’s “La Colombe. 

A raised, clenched fist could be associated with countless movements around the world dating back to at least the Industrial Workers of the World in their 1917 “Solidarity” cartoon. Since then, versions of the fist have been used by the feminist, Black Power and indigenous rights movements, as well as Otpor! in Serbia and the April 6 movement in Egypt.

The crane became an international peace symbol thanks to Sadako Sasaki — a 12-year-old girl, who was a victim of the atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After being diagnosed with leukemia from the radiation, Sadako began folding cranes when her father shared a Japanese legend that if you fold a thousand origami cranes you will be granted a wish. 

The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, better known as ACT UP, chose to use a pink triangle accompanied by the slogan “Silence = Death” as their logo in 1987. The group went on to organize some of the most bold and disruptive protests of the era, and played an influential role in developing life-saving treatments for those with HIV/AIDS. Despite the progress that has been made, the crisis persists and ACT UP is still at the forefront of the struggle to end it. 

The image of the black cat, known as “Sabo Tabby,” is a long-time symbol of the Industrial Workers of the World and labor strikes more generally. As the union explains, “its original purpose was as a code or symbol for direct action at the point of production, specifically sabotage… [though] it must be emphasized that the latter did not mean destruction of machinery or equipment.” Since then, the image has been modified and adopted by many other movements that they have inspired. 

The woman wearing a sash represents the suffragettes, who secured U.S. women the right to vote in 1920 through what WNV columnist Nadine Bloch called a “phenomenal, inspirational, often nail-biting and groundbreaking campaign.” Their creative tactics have been a source of inspiration to countless movements around the world. 

The image of a man in front of a tank is referencing Tank Man, the unidentified Chinese man who blocked a column of tanks following the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. The photo has since become one of the most iconic images of protest and resistance.

British artist Gerald Holtom created the next design for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958. The symbol combines the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D” — denoting “nuclear disarmament”  — enclosed in a circle. That history is lost on many, who simply know this as perhaps the most recognizable “peace sign” in the world. 

The Aztec eagle is taken from the red and white flag for the National Farm Workers Association, which later became the United Farm Workers. It was designed in 1962, just after the founding of the union by César Chavez and Dolores Huerta. “A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride,” Chavez said, referring to the flag. “When people see it they know it means dignity.”

Designed in 1975 by Danish activist Anne Lund, the image of the “Smiling Sun” is the most common international symbol of the movement against nuclear power. Accompanied by the words “Nuclear Power? No Thanks,” the logo has been translated into 55 languages and seen a resurgence in its use since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. 

Growing out of the student sit-ins in 1960, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, played a critical role in many of the major campaigns and actions during the civil rights movement. They used this image of a black hand shaking a white hand as their logo.

The modified yin and yang symbol was a symbol created by the Anti-Apartheid Movement, or AAM. Founded in London, in response to a call for international support from Albert Luthuli, AAM first used this image during protests following the Sharpeville massacre of black protesters by police in 1960. 

Transfeminism, according to scholar and activist Emi Koyama, is “a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond.” The logo combines male, female and mixed gender symbols, with a fist in the middle. 

Sunflowers have been a symbol used by the climate justice movement since at least the first Earth Day in 1970. In addition to their beauty and bright color, they also have “the ability to remove harmful toxins from our soil,” as the Farmers Almanac has noted.

Handala is a character created by the Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Ali, one of the most well-known cartoonists in the Arab world. The image of this 10-year-old refugee child has become a powerful symbol of the Palestinian struggle for justice. In describing the child, Al-Ali wrote that “His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way.”  

The migrant justice movement has embraced the monarch butterfly as one of its symbols for good reason. “To me, the monarch butterfly represents the dignity and resilience of migrants and the right that all living beings have to move freely,” said artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez, who launched the “Migration is Beautiful” campaign in 2012.  

In July 2011, the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine Adbusters published a poster of a ballerina on top of the Charging Bull statue. Behind her are protesters in gas masks obscured by a cloud of tear gas with the hashtag #OCCUPYWALLSTREET and a date. The image would spark the imagination of organizers in New York City who would turn the idea into a reality and a worldwide movement for economic justice.

The image of a person in a wheelchair breaking their chains is the logo for ADAPT, the national grassroots disability rights organization. By organizing bold acts of civil disobedience — like chaining themselves to buses and crawling up the steps of the U.S. Capitol — ADAPT activists played a critical role in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. They drew national attention again in 2017 for leading protests that successfully thwarted the Republican health care reform bill, which would have drastically cut Medicaid and led to 22 million losing their health coverage.

According to the United Nations, over 10 percent of the world’s population are technically squatters, in that they live on land or in buildings they do not own or rent. Squatting is a nonviolent act — in opposition to the commodification of housing — taken by people to meet their basic needs, and the circle with the arrow cutting through it is the international squatters’ symbol.    

Over the last couple years, the youth-led Sunrise Movement has quickly moved to the forefront of the climate justice movement and through bold action put the Green New Deal on the political map

Inspired by Edward Abbey’s novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” the radical environmental group Earth First! developed provocative new direct action tactics — known as monkeywrenching — to prevent logging and stop the construction of dams or other forms of development that harm the wilderness and wildlife. Their logo is the stone tomahawk crossed with a monkey wrench.

Accompanied by the words “Water is Life,” the image of “Thunderbird Woman,” became popular during the Standing Rock encampment to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in 2016. Created by Anishinaabe artist Isaac Murdoch, it has since been used by frontline water protectors around the world. 

The day after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017, more than 4 million people participated in the Women’s March, which is likely the largest single-day protest in U.S. history. A common sight at the demonstrations was the pink, knitted or crocheted “pussy hat,” with cat ears. In addition to making a powerful visual statement at the marches, the idea was conceived of by Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman as a way for those who could not physically attend to be a part of the action by making hats.

In 2014, a mass pro-democracy movement exploded in Hong Kong. While its full name was Occupy Central with Love and Peace, it was commonly called the Umbrella Revolution because umbrellas were widely used by protesters to shield themselves from not just from the sun, but the tear gas that was regularly fired at them by police. 

Finally, there’s the V-sign that appears in place of the letter “v” in our logo. This is, of course, the well-known symbol for peace in the United States. It is used in other countries to mean different things, but its origins as an activist symbol date back to the 1960s antiwar movement. Peace activists — including celebrities like John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who helped popularize it — adopted the V-sign from World War II, when it meant “V for victory” or “end of war.” It also was used to mock President Richard Nixon, who had made it his trademark sign.

With this knowledge you will now be able to impress your friends when they ask any questions about the design. And if you know of any iconic movement symbols or logos that we didn’t include, let us know in the comments and we may feature them in the next iteration of the design!

Police and protesters clash as Algeria holds disputed election

The Guardian | Protest -

Unrest in Algiers and other cities as low turnout expected amid widespread disaffection

Police and demonstrators have clashed in Algeria as polls opened in a tense presidential election.

The Hirak opposition movement, which emerged this year from weekly demonstrations against the former French colony’s political establishment, has said the poll cannot be considered free or fair while the ruling elite, including the military, stay in power and has called for a boycott.

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EU leaders meet to try to agree on carbon neutrality by 2050

The Guardian | Protest -

Greenpeace activists unfurl climate emergency banner on Brussels venue before event

European leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels will make a new attempt to set the European Union on course for carbon neutrality by 2050, in a test of the bloc’s credibility on the climate emergency.

Hours before EU leaders were due to arrive on Thursday, Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner on the side of the summit venue warning of the climate emergency.

The European Green Deal is the EU’s answer to what the European commission’s new president, Ursula von der Leyen, called the “existential issue” of the climate emergency. Most EU countries have signed up to goal of a climate neutral EU by 2050, a goal demanding dramatic change in energy use, farming, housing, transport, trade and diplomacy.

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'We will not let up': activists protest NYPD subway crackdown

The Guardian | Protest -

New York City has not backed down from plan to hire 500 officers and increase policing in subways and buses

Hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of New York City last month holding signs and crying out chants against a crackdown on fare evasion and excessive policing in the city’s transit system.

The demonstration was the most dramatic escalation of increasing tensions between New Yorkers, the city’s police department and the state-run transportation agency that runs the subways and buses in New York City after a crackdown on fare evasion and increase of police presence in subway stations.

Related: Know your rental rights in the US: four valuable facts to keep handy

marching to show that the disgusting abuses of the nypd and mta will not be tolerated #FTP pic.twitter.com/tIEEMtbMIp

In case you’re wondering how an arrest in NYC goes down. The guy has made absolutely no indication that he would flee or fight and wasn’t trying to hide.

If you can’t see, the reason everyone moved was because all the police had taken out their guns and aimed at him. pic.twitter.com/dAstrtMntz

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Indian police fire teargas at citizenship bill protesters

The Guardian | Protest -

Paramilitary forces deployed at demonstrations in north-east over bill excluding Muslims

Indian police have fired blanks on protesters as thousands ignored a curfew in the north-east of the country in fresh demonstrations against contentious new citizenship legislation.

Officials said on Thursday about 20 to 30 people have been hurt in the protests in recent days, with vehicles torched and police firing teargas and charging the crowds with heavy wooden sticks.

Related: Indian citizenship law discriminatory to Muslims passed

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Outrage after Colombia riot police force young woman into unmarked car

The Guardian | Protest -

  • Protester freed after members of public give chase
  • Video of incident adds to criticism of police tactics

Outrage has erupted in Colombia after a young woman participating in anti-government protests was grabbed by riot police in body armour, forced into an unmarked vehicle and driven away.

Video of the incident showed the woman sobbing and screaming “Help! The police have kidnapped me!” through the window of the black Chevrolet sedan as it drove away from the demonstration near the National University in Bogotá on Wednesday night.

Video de cómo policias del Esmad suben a la fuerza a una mujer a un carro particular Chevrolet HCI 264
¿Intento de secuestro?
Compartir al máximo pic.twitter.com/6vYOBlIAQE

Related: Colombia: thousands take to the streets in third national strike in two weeks

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French unions dismiss pension reforms and vow to continue strikes

The Guardian | Protest -

Unions see proposed measures unveiled on Wednesday as raising standard retirement age

French unions have vowed to continue a nationwide strike which has brought transport to a virtual standstill as they dismissed the prime minister’s proposals on changing the pensions system.

After a week of strikes caused transport chaos and saw hundreds of thousands of demonstrators march on the streets, the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, gave a televised speech outlining the government’s planned pensions overhaul. He vowed that the controversial pension changes would be implemented in phases, “without brutality”, and conceded that changes would not affect workers born before 1975. He called the plan “fair” and said it justified putting a stop to the strikes.

Related: Macron wants not just reform but to change the way France thinks | John Lichfield

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The old made our climate mess. And the young will get us out of it | Rebecca Solnit

The Guardian | Protest -

If we are to survive, we must follow the demands and examples of the next generation

World leaders are meeting in Spain to decide whether or not to bother with preventing the destruction of the earth, like people in a vehicle speeding toward a cliff deciding whether to brake or swerve or just chat about other things. Powerful senior citizens in the United States – Trump, Giuliani, Biden – are trading playground insults, and the middle-aged people who make a lot of decisions about how to handle this emergency seem incapable of thinking beyond the singularly imagination-killing criterion of short-term profit.

I began writing this column at a Youth v Apocalypse demonstration in San Francisco. The protest, which was led by teens, of course, as well as some of the 20-something members of the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, took place in front of Black Rock, the world’s largest investor in fossil fuels. There was a little cluster of mothers at the demonstration too, with babies and toddlers whose life expectancy, barring catastrophes, extends into the 22nd century. It was a Fridays for Future demonstration taking place all over the world, with half a million mostly young people in Madrid.

We must expand our imaginations so can experience real climate victory. That means making radical changes

Rebecca Solnit is a Guardian US columnist

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The decade that was … Inside the 13 December edition of the Guardian Weekly

The Guardian | Protest -

As the 2010s draw to a close, Gary Younge reflects on 10 years of protest that have largely failed to deliver anticipated change. Subscribe here.

This week, as the Guardian Weekly was being delivered to readers, Britons voted in the first UK election to take place in December since 1910. At the time of writing the result is (perhaps blissfully) unknown, but we will be back next week with in-depth analysis of Thursday evening’s outcome. In the meantime, our news, politics, comment and data teams will cover every moment of the vote in depth. Catch every minute here.

Our cover this week is Gary Younge’s essay on the end of a decade which started with the Arab spring and Occupy movements and ended up – via Ferguson, #MeToo and Greece – on the streets of Hong Kong, Santiago, La Paz, Beirut and Shiraz. It was the decade of protest, Younge writes – and a guttural reaction to the financial crash and years of political and social oppression. In some cases, the results were striking victories, but in too many the return blows of the establishment paused revolution in its tracks. Will the school climate strikers and Extinction Rebellion be able to break through the status quo in the 2020s?

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Janet Barker on being manhandled by Mark Field: ‘He might become a better person’

The Guardian | Protest -

When the Greenpeace activist was grabbed by the neck by the then Tory MP, she refused to make an official complaint. She reflects on her decision and the aftermath

When the Conservative MP Mark Field leapt from his chair, pushed a female Greenpeace protester against a pillar, gripped the back of her neck and then manhandled her out of a Mansion House banquet in June, he probably did not anticipate the headlines.

Janet Barker, the climate emergency activist, was not alone in being stunned at his hot-headed actions. When TV footage emerged capturing Field’s ferocious look as he propelled Barker roughly towards the exit, it unleashed a formidable backlash.

WATCH: Conservative MP Mark Field shoves a protestor against a pillar then grabs her by her neck and shoves her out of the Mansion House dinner after climate change protestors interrupted the banquet. pic.twitter.com/DFwZYxROfF

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Seattle: Autonomous Tiny Home Village Pushes Back Eviction to March 2020

House Occupation News -

Report from Stop the Sweeps and Demand Utopida Seattle on the recent pushing back of an eviction of an autonomous self-organized tiny house village.

Seattle Deputy Mayor Mosley has promised that the village will not be swept and may remain on the current site through March 2020. The City has secured a commitment from the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) that they will not try to remove the houses, which they claim to own. He expressed some concerns about whether the budget outlined by the village will be adequate, wants the village to commit to allowing case managers to work with residents, and says there are some other details to be worked out, but it is a relief to everyone to have this overview agreed upon. The residents will now be responsible for coming up with the funds to cover utilities and other operating costs which are estimated to be $27,000 through March 2020. If you are so inclined to donate, please follow this link here.

This is an incredible victory for the residents of Nickelsville Northlake who have struggled so hard these past 9 months to retain their chosen, self-managed community model in the face of intense pressures – and it illustrates what the community as a whole can accomplish when we stand together in solidarity. The sweep of Nickelsville Northlake was not stopped due to any one single leader or organization but due to the Nickelsville residents speaking out about their plight and a tremendous outpouring of support from the community. As of this writing almost 300 members of the Seattle community said that they were willing to actively participate in mutual aid and oppose the sweep alongside Nickelsville residents, up to and including arrest. The residents believe in their autonomous community so much that they were willing to occupy this part of unceded Salish territory that is claimed by Seattle City Light.

As a result of these successes, the counter demonstration on Monday, December 9th is called off and Nickelsville Northlake residents extended an invite to the community to celebrate this monumentous victory with a communal feast on Sunday.

The call to action and response gives us a possible avenue of approach for stopping sweeps. Although a diversity of tactics is certainly needed along with different communities responding in separate but unified ways. This is an incredible victory for the residents of Northlake Nickelsville, the sweeps of our houseless neighbor continue on a near daily basis, often without this much publicity or enthusiasm. We would like to harness this outpouring of empathy and solidarity moving forward to form a rapid response network to sweeps that happen with little to no warning. If you would like to be an activist, ally, signal booster, mobilizer, or organizer as a part of this please fill out this form with your contact information.
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Extinction Rebellion stages air pollution protests in London and Manchester

The Guardian | Protest -

Demonstrators target key roads to demand government action to tackle deadly issue

Climate change activists wearing gas masks have blocked a central London road to demand the next government tackles “deadly levels of air pollution” in the capital.

Six Extinction Rebellion protesters dressed in hi-vis suits glued their hands to yellow breeze blocks in the middle of Cranbourn Street, outside Leicester Square tube station.

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Australia needs to challenge authority if we’re going to confront water, fire and climate crises | Jason Wilson

The Guardian | Protest -

Governments increasingly make laws to curtail rights of protest, assembly, property and privacy and we need to suspect and resist that

Any shame white Australians might have felt about the country’s origins as a penal colony has long since disappeared.

For many decades those with convict ancestors have tended to proudly claim them. By the time of my primary education in the 1980s, the crimes of those transported tended to be minimised by teachers. Almost all, the comforting story ran, had stolen loaves of bread.

Related: Every day is Survival Day in the colony of Australia | Scott Trindall

Related: Australia's anti-encryption laws being used to bypass journalist protections, expert says

Related: Oxford Dictionaries declares 'climate emergency' the word of 2019

Jason Wilson is a Guardian Australia columnist

Comments on this post will be pre-moderated

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The UN conference move shows global heating plus inequality is a recipe for chaos | Maisa Rojas

The Guardian | Protest -

The protests that forced COP25 to switch from Chile to Madrid had the climate crisis at their core
Maisa Rojas is scientific coordinator for the COP25 climate conference

It’s a grey winter day as I walk through the UN climate conference (known as COP25) in Madrid. The pavilions and rooms all have the names of cities, regions and rivers in Chile. They’re especially familiar to me: as well as being scientific coordinator for COP25, I’m director of Chile’s Centre for Climate and Resilience Research. It’s all a stark reminder that we should be in Santiago.

But on 18 October 2019, the president of Chile declared a state of emergency and instituted a curfew to quell three days of public unrest that started because of an increase in metro fares. The outbreak of anger was summed up by the message, “This is not about 30 pesos, it is about 30 years”, referring to discontent lasting three decades, which appeared on walls across the city and on social media. The protests ultimately led to COP25’s move to Madrid.

The good news is that addressing social issues alongside the climate crisis can generate powerful, long-lasting solutions

Related: Neighbours meet to plot path out of Chile crisis amid exasperation at elite

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Hong Kong: mammoth rally marks six months of pro-democracy protests

The Guardian | Protest -

Sea of protesters pour on to streets calling for elections and inquiry into police tactics

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have once again poured on to the streets of Hong Kong, their chants echoing off high-rise buildings, in a mass show of support for a protest movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month.

Chanting “Fight for freedom” and “Stand with Hong Kong”, a sea of protesters formed a mile-long human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone.

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No trains and no compromise as France faces a winter of discontent

The Guardian | Protest -

With hardline unions threatening indefinite strikes over pension reforms, there is apprehension at the political perils facing Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron will seek to placate angry strikers this week while honouring his election pledge to shake up France’s pension system in a delicate balancing act that will define his political future.

Ministers are looking at possible concessions that could defuse the strikes and protests that have paralysed the country since last week.

Related: Macron wants not just reform but to change the way France thinks

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Defiant protesters back in Baghdad square within an hour of slaughter

The Guardian | Protest -

Demonstrators grow ever more determined to force real political change in Iraq despite a bloody crackdown which left over 20 dead

The gunshots emptied protesters from Baghdad’s Khilani square in minutes, but as nearby streets filled with the crush of people running for their lives, two men stayed on, waving a vast Shia banner in defiance of the bloodshed around them.

The pair must have known they were in the gunmen’s crosshairs, and soon one of them crumpled, hit by a bullet. But their determination to continue was a powerful message to authorities and militias trying to crush Iraq’s popular uprising by force.

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Unlikely allies win campaign to stop state monopoly in Kenya

Waging Nonviolence -

On Dec. 4, Kenya’s senate committee on transport summoned the cabinet secretary for transport over his directive to haul cargo from the port city of Mombasa to Nairobi exclusively by rail. The meeting — attended by activists, businessmen and leaders from Mombasa — ended with the cabinet secretary, James Macharia, promising to rescind the directive, which has hurt business in the coastal city.

The senate meeting was a culmination of two months of action led by the affected business people in Mombasa. It all started one September morning when Harriet Muganda arrived at the governor’s offices in Mombasa. There was a presentation of findings on the effects of a newly-commissioned Chinese-built railway on the economy of Mombasa by the University of Nairobi. The hall was already full, so she stood near the door with others who weren’t able to get a seat.

It was Muganda’s first time at such a function, as she considered herself apolitical and had never attended a political rally or event before. Since it spoke to her livelihood, this one, however, was dear to her. She worked in Mombasa, a key cargo entry point for East Africa, as a clearing agent charged with handling custom documentation related to shipments getting into the country on behalf of her clients.

For the past year, business has been bad, following a government directive to have all cargo hauled to Nairobi via the government-run railway. The government said it made this decision to reign in malpractices at the Mombasa port, according to the cabinet secretary for transport. Businessmen and activists, however, believe that it was to ensure that standard-gauge railway, or SGR, has as much business as possible in order to be able to repay the Chinese loan that was used to develop it.

Economists have argued that the Chinese-built railway doesn’t make economic sense and therefore the government had to enforce a monopoly in cargo haulage in order to make money. Processing of custom documentation for all cargo getting into the country by ship is now being done in Nairobi, over 300 miles away. This has left many businesses without work, and trucking, bulk handlers and other cargo-handling companies have since moved or closed shop. Muganda estimates that 200,000 people have lost their jobs. 

The University of Nairobi’s findings aligned with what the transporters were experiencing. James Ambok, the CEO of Kenya Truckers Association decries the effects brought about by the state’s monopolization of cargo haulage. “I am telling you that the SGR sometimes does around 14 trips to Nairobi, and in each trip it has got 108 containers,” he explained. “So, it means each and every day, over 1,000 drivers do not have jobs. It means each and every day 1,000 turnboys do not have jobs.”

Harriet Muganda at a Fast Action protest in early November. (WNV/Anthony Langat)

After the presentation, Muganda and a few other business people felt that they had to do something. Salim Karama, who owns trucks for long-distance delivery, asked Muganda to take the contacts of the people who were there. She was also tasked with forming a WhatsApp group to enable them to communicate and deliberate on what to do next.

“It was on a Thursday when we met and by that evening, we had 50 people in the group. They included business owners and their employees. By the next day we were over 256 and I had to form another WhatsApp group,” she said.

They called the group “Fast Action,” and they lived up to their name. Three days later, on Sept. 16, Fast Action Business Community organized its first protest in the streets of Mombasa. They marched six miles from the courthouse in Mombasa to Changamwe and back. The action caused businesses along the route to come to a standstill, and transport was paralyzed as trucks followed them at a snail’s pace, honking in support.

Every Monday since then they continued with their protest. The group uses WhatsApp to fundraise for things like banners, T-shirts and even the water that they need on the days of the protests. They would sing and chant slogans — including “people power” and “no to SGR monopoly” — as they slowly walked their route. Since their first protest in September, the numbers grew every week. On the second week of November, they expected 3,000 protesters, but the rain reduced the number by half, according to Muganda.

Haki Africa — a Mombasa-based NGO that campaigns against land grabbing, police brutality, corruption, gender-based violence and other issues — has been supporting Fast Action’s protests. They assist Fast Action with the planning to ensure that they follow due process with regards to the law governing protests. They have worked to obtain the permit for their protests and offered them free representation in court when they were denied permits by the police.

This campaign has faced serious challenges. Twelve protesters, including Fast Action organizers and Haki Africa staff, were arrested and locked up on Oct. 7 for six hours despite having all the necessary permits to carry out the protest. “I think the main challenge so far have been the police,” said Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid. “We have had some of the protesters arrested here, including the business people and ourselves.”

Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid addressing the press, as they awaited the court’s ruling on Fast Action Business Community’s petition to continue their protest. (WNV/Anthony Langat)

Khalid said that they have been approached by civil society movements based in Nairobi who want to be part of the movement. However, their immediate plans were to organize protests in every town along the Mombasa-Nairobi route, since they are more directly affected.  As of mid-November, they were meeting and planning with people in the towns of Voi and Mtito-Andei, which are along the route to Nairobi. Their intention was to hold subsequent protests in at least three towns along the Mombasa-Nairobi corridor. These are towns that depend mostly on the trucks passing through for business. They managed to hold a protest in Mtito-Andei in late November which was disrupted by the police despite having the necessary permits.

While protests by civil society and organized labor have been common in Kenya, it is unheard of for businessmen to be at the forefront of a movement. “It is the business community that is taking the lead and agitating for their rights as business people,” Khalid explained. “The economy has really taken a hard hit, and there are concerns that this has affected their businesses and families and livelihoods as well.”

Nevertheless, the actions have struck a chord with the political and civil society groups and drawn attention to the coastal town, which isn’t regarded as a protest capital in the country.

Apart from Haki Africa, Muslims for Human Rights, or Muhuri, another coast-based non-governmental organization that works on land access and gender equality has gotten involved in the campaign. Notable figures from Kenya’s civil society — including Katiba Institute founder Yash Pal Ghai, economist and activist David Ndii, and InformAction Director Maina Kiai — have also come out to support Fast Action’s protests.

Toward the end of October, the Fast Action Business Community had planned to have a public lecture at the Technical University of Mombasa. Ndii, Ghai and Kiai were set to address the crowd, but that morning, the police cordoned off the venue to block anyone from entering. The meeting was then cancelled. The protests now include business people from many spheres including shopkeepers, tuktuk and motorbike taxi operators, among others who indirectly benefit from the cargo business.

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir (middle) with Fast Action Business Community members as they await the court decision on their right to protest. (WNV/Anthony Langat)

Abdulswamad Nassir, a member of parliament for Mvita in Mombasa, has been supportive of the group and went to show solidarity with them in court when the police denied them permits to protest. “People need to express their views and opinions,” he said. “You can’t suppress a whole society and community, and decide without any reason whatsoever that they do not have [the right] to raise their opinions.” The court ruled in favor of Fast Action.

Protesting in Kenya is not viewed favorably by the authorities and instances of injuries or even death of protesters due to excessive use of force by the police are a normal occurrence. A 2018 report by Amnesty International stated that “the police used excessive force to disperse protesters who supported the opposition party and demonstrated against the electoral process, including with live ammunition and tear gas. Dozens died in the violence, including at least 33 people who were shot by police and of whom two were children.”

The leadership of the Fast Action protests were clear in what they wanted: non-monopolization of the cargo transport by the state and the reinstatement of cargo-handling and clearing services to Mombasa. “We just want our businesses back; we want our livelihoods back to normal as they were before the SGR,” Muganda said. “If the government would agree to stop the monopolization of cargo transportation so that there is a healthy competition between the government’s SGR and the private transporters, I don’t think anyone would go back to the street to protest.” However, until something is done, she said that the protests would continue.

The group mobilized more residents of Mombasa and friends from other towns — through social media and by talking with people one-on-one — to join in the protests every Monday. “We will continue with the protests,” Muganda said.  “It will stop being black Mondays and it will be black every day, because we now have no work and all the time to do this.”

On Dec. 2, their protests were disrupted by police as had become the norm. Two days later, they were invited for a meeting at the senate in Nairobi. The cabinet secretary for transport had been summoned by the senate committee on transport. In the meeting, the cabinet secretary promised to rescind the directive on mandatory hauling of cargo via rail. In a statement released a day later, Karama said that Fast Action had postponed the planned Monday protests after the successful meeting.

However, the group is cautious about the victory and not ruling out a possible return to protests. A few days after the meeting, all the cargo was still being ferried by rail to Nairobi, according to Muganda. She is still skeptical about the government’s commitment to lifting the directive. Only a few days after the senate meeting, the government spokesperson vowed to crack down on the protesters on the premise that the they were hurting operations of the port. “We are suspending the Monday demonstrations to gauge and monitor the movement,” Karama said. “We will come up with the final decision when we are satisfied that the situation has improved to bring life to Mombasa county’s economy.”

Over a dozen killed in Baghdad when gunmen open fire on protesters

The Guardian | Protest -

Attack follows mass stabbings in Tahrir Square, a focus of the anti-government movement

At least 14 people were killed and more than 40 others wounded when gunmen in cars opened fire on a protest camp in Baghdad, sending people running for cover in nearby mosques. Three of the victims were police officers.

The attacks on Friday came a day after a string of suspicious stabbing incidents left at least 13 wounded in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, the centre of Iraq’s leaderless protest movement.

Related: ‘It’s personal here': southern Iraq ablaze as protests rage

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