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At least 80,000 attend march against Catalan independence

The Guardian | Protest -

Pro-Spanish unity groups lead rally in Barcelona after 350,000 gather in support of separatists

Tens of thousands of people joined a protest in Barcelona yesterday demonstrating against independence from Spain, and calling for unity across the country and peaceful co-existence in Catalonia, following the violent unrest of the past fortnight.

The demonstration on Sunday, organised by Societat Civil Catalana, an umbrella group of political parties and civic bodies that want Catalonia to remain part of Spain, was attended by about 80,000 people, according to local police, although SCC put the attendance at 400,000.

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Protesters form human chain across Lebanon

The Guardian | Protest -

Anti-government grassroots movement says it wants to foster feeling of national unity

Tens of thousands of protesters in Lebanon have attempted to form a human chain running across the country to symbolise newfound national unity.

Demonstrators planned to join hands from Tripoli to Tyre, a 105-mile (170km) chain running through the capital, Beirut, as part of an unprecedented mobilisation across sectarian lines.

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Anti-government protesters defy bloody crackdown in Iraq

The Guardian | Protest -

Hundreds refuse to leave Tahrir square in Baghdad despite further deadly clashes with security forces

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters remained in Baghdad’s central Tahrir square on Sunday, defying a bloody crackdown that killed scores and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.

Young men had erected barricades on a bridge leading to the capital’s fortified Green Zone between them and security forces who continued to lob tear gas canisters towards them.

Related: At least 40 killed and dozens injured in Baghdad amid protests sweeping Iraq

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‘It’s civil war’: struggle over strategy divides People’s Vote campaign

The Guardian | Protest -

Row over explicitly pro-Remain ‘splinter group’ lead some staff to demand formal split

Mass staff protests, alleged power grabs, attempts to remove senior officials and months of boardroom wrangling have threatened to destabilise the People’s Vote campaign, an Observer investigation has found.

Feuding inside the campaign to secure a second referendum has seen demands for some organisations involved to be thrown out, according to a series of accounts. Some fear the splits mean that “the people claiming to want to stop Brexit may end up being the ones who let it happen”.

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Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray: ‘This is my first protest – it’s lasted two years’

The Guardian | Protest -

Since 2017, the man now known as Mr Stop Brexit has stood outside parliament. So what does he make of the state of play?

Political activist Steve Bray, 50, is known as “Mr Stop Brexit”. Since September 2017, the former rare coins dealer from Port Talbot, South Wales, has braved all weathers to mount his “Stand of Defiance European Movement” (Sodem) protest outside parliament every day it sits. He is notorious for photobombing live news broadcasts.

Take us back to the beginning. How did you get into all this?
This is my first ever protest and it’s lasted two years. I was never that political or loyal to any party, but it began with arguments online in the run-up to the referendum. I lost most of my friends, including a couple of lifelong ones, because I realised they were racist, xenophobic and downright pig-ignorant. I joined a few online groups and had news channels on permanently, but all the coverage was about migrants or scaremongering. I decided there must be some way to counter this.

The BBC built a five-metre high platform, but I just got a long pole to keep my flags in the frame

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Hundreds shot and beaten as Chile takes to the streets

The Guardian | Protest -

Doctors say they don’t have supplies to treat wounded and accuse authorities of under-reporting injuries

“The soldier was about 40m away. He looked at me and fired,” said Christopher Madrid, pointing to the patch above his right eye. “I swung away and the bullet grazed [my forehead] and came out, left a scar of four or five centimetres.”

Madrid, a 25-year-old student, was shot last Monday by Chilean army troops as he marched in a street protest near the Catholic University in central Santiago.

Patients at La Posta were dying, workers said, due to lack of basic supplies, including surgical gloves, syringes, masks

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Spanish police clash with thousands of Catalan protesters in Barcelona

The Guardian | Protest -

Police charge 10,000-strong crowd as pro-independence demonstration turns violent

Spanish police and militant elements in a thousands-strong crowd of protesters clashed in the streets of Barcelona close to police headquarters late on Saturday, as a pro-independence demonstration by a direct action group turned violent.

After a largely peaceful gathering of an estimated 350,000 pro-independence supporters jammed the centre of the city earlier in the day, a second crowd began to form around Barcelona’s police headquarters about 7.30pm. As the crowd grew to around 10,000, according to police estimates, TV footage showed protesters throwing bottles, balls and rubber bullets at officers.

Related: Tourist trade counts the cost as separatist riots blight Barcelona

Related: New generation, new tactics: the changing face of Catalan protests

Related: Spanish state repression in Catalonia may be shocking – but it’s nothing new | Arnaldo Otegi

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About 41% of the world’s people are under 24. And they’re angry…

The Guardian | Protest -

From Hong Kong to Chile, young people are rising up to fight injustice and inequality. Their elders should be grateful

A spate of large-scale street protests around the world, from Chile and Hong Kong to Lebanon and Barcelona, is fuelling a search for common denominators and collective causes. Are we entering a new age of global revolution? Or is it foolish to try to link anger in India over the price of onions to pro-democracy demonstrations in Russia?

Each country’s protests differ in detail. But recent upheavals do appear to share one key factor: youth. In most cases, younger people are at the forefront of calls for change. The uprising that unexpectedly swept away Sudan’s ancien regime this year was essentially generational in nature.

Perhaps these protests will merge into international revolt against injustice, inequality and oppressive powers-that-be.

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Jane Fonda accepts Bafta award during arrest at climate protest

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Actor is led away in handcuffs after winning Stanley Kubrick award for excellence in film

Jane Fonda accepted a prestigious award from Bafta Los Angeles while being led away in handcuffs after being arrested during climate emergency protests.

The actor and activist was honoured with the Stanley Kubrick award for excellence in film at the annual Bafta Britannia ceremony.

Folks, @Janefonda accepted the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award WHILE BEING ARRESTED. #Britannias

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Protests against Ethiopia's Nobel peace prize PM turn deadly

The Guardian | Protest -

Violent clashes leave at least 67 dead as activist compares Abiy Ahmed to a dictator

Violence in Ethiopia that began with protests against the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, and quickly morphed into ethnic clashes has left 67 people dead in Oromia state, a police official said on Friday.

“The total number dead in Oromia is 67,” said Kefyalew Tefera, the regional police chief, adding that five of the dead were police officers.

Related: The Nobel peace prize can inspire Abiy Ahmed to new heights in Ethiopia

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Iraq: two killed as nation-wide anti-government protests turn violent - video report

The Guardian | Protest -

Two people died in Baghdad on Friday and more than 350 people were injured as Iraqi security forces used teargas and stun grenades to repel crowds marching towards the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone, protesting against corruption and economic hardship. The authorities have struggled to address protesters' grievances since unrest erupted in Baghdad on October 1, spreading to southern cities. Demonstrators blame corrupt officials and political elites for failing to improve their lives.

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Why people are protesting in Haiti – video report

The Guardian | Protest -

Weeks of widespread protest have paralysed parts of Haiti. Demonstrators are calling for the country's president, Jovenel Moïse, to resign from office, but despite violence and charges of corruption he has so far refused to stand down

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Diabetes patients are leading a new access to medicines movement

Waging Nonviolence -

Elizabeth Pfiester was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age four. To this day, she struggles with regular bouts of crashing blood sugar lows, which can trigger a seizure, and spiking sugar highs, which can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Like many others with Type 1, Pfiester has endured multiple emergency hospitalizations and near-death experiences. 

All of which makes her a perfect leader for a fast-growing movement.

“Patients will be the moving force behind sustainable change for access to medicines, as they have throughout history,” said Pfiester, the founder and director of the advocacy group T1International. “Because, for us, it’s a matter of life or death.” 

An access to medicines movement led by policy wonks, professional activists and health care professionals is not a recipe for success.

Popular anger about prescription drug prices is building, especially in the United States. Multiple polls show Americans naming medicine costs as the top issue Congress should tackle. The people know that corporations gifted with monopolies on government-discovered medicines are making breathtaking profits price-gouging the sick. Half of all Americans skip filling prescriptions or go without other care each year due to cost.

Consider the case of insulin, the medicine Pfiester and others with Type 1 — and many people with Type 2 diabetes — rely upon for survival: A vial of insulin that cost pharmaceutical corporations only about $6 to manufacture is priced as high as $300, an increase of more than 1,000 percent since the 1990s. As a result, one in four Americans with Type 1 diabetes is forced to ration their insulin, causing health emergencies and, too often, death. The three corporations that have cornered the global market report annual profits that are double the average of other Fortune 500 corporations.

In response, Washington-based advocacy groups are making drug prices a lobbying priority, and medical and economic researchers are issuing strongly-worded reports. Elected officials are introducing legislation demanding change. Yet, all of this sound and fury, and the grassroots frustration that has triggered it, has so far translated into little more than sound-bite rhetoric from leading politicians. To date, there has been no meaningful reform.

Why haven’t things changed? The pharmaceutical industry’s substantial lobbying and political campaign contributions certainly play a role in maintaining the status quo. But the history of social movements suggests another reason for the disconnect between public opinion and enacted policy: An access to medicines movement led by policy wonks, professional activists and health care professionals is not a recipe for success. The lessons of the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the anti-apartheid movement and beyond teach us that real change will only come when those most affected are leading the push.

Patients rising

Fortunately for the millions who struggle to afford the medicines they need, patients are rising. Foremost among them are people with Type 1 diabetes, many coming together under the banner of T1International, founded by Pfiester in 2014.

T1International has preserved an uncompromising patient voice by refusing all pharma donations.

Pfiester was once an enthusiastic volunteer with well-known diabetes patient advocacy groups like the American Diabetes Association and JDRF (formerly Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), and later worked for JDRF in the U.K. for a time. “Then I noticed that they all took large sums of money from the companies that sell insulin,” she said. The groups are not required to disclose all donor data, but the available information paints a picture of non-profit organizations dependent on donations from for-profit pharma corporations. The American Diabetes Association, for example, has admitted to taking over $18 million in pharmaceutical funding in 2017. 

A recent New England Journal of Medicine report revealed that at least 83 percent of the largest non-profit disease and patient advocacy groups accept pharmaceutical industry donations. The researchers estimated that the number would be higher if the remaining groups disclosed donor data. As the study’s lead scientist, Matthew McCoy, told Kaiser Health News, “The ‘patient’ voice is speaking with a pharma accent.”

Unsurprisingly, Pfiester found that the major diabetes patient groups declined to bite the hand that feeds, refusing to point the finger of blame at their donor pharma corporations that enrich themselves by hiking up the cost of insulin. So, in 2013, while Pfiester was a student at the London School of Economics, she started a blog about the struggle people with Type 1 face and the corporate greed that fuels the crisis. Within a year, the blog evolved into the formal organization of T1International, which from the beginning has preserved an uncompromising patient voice by refusing all pharma donations. (Besides T1International, a notable exception to the phenomenon of pharma-dependent patient groups is Patients for Affordable Drugs, founded by cancer patient David Mitchell.)

On World Diabetes Day in 2014, T1International helped launch a social media campaign with the hashtag #insulin4all, a call to action that has defined a fast-growing movement. T1International patients have conducted multiple demonstrations outside pharma corporation headquarters, including one supporting a dramatic face-to-face confrontation between Eli Lilly executives and Nicole Smith-Holt, the mother of Alec Smith, a young Minnesota man who died in 2017 after rationing his Lilly-produced insulin.

In support of an agenda that includes mandated transparency for drug corporation development and manufacturing costs, emergency insulin access without a prescription, and insurance co-payment caps on insulin, people with Type 1 have testified in Congress and in multiple state legislatures, defied U.S. law with high-profile importation of insulin from Canada and conducted civil disobedience in front of pharma headquarters, all while building a network of more than 30 volunteer-led U.S. state chapters. T1International conducts the world’s largest type 1 diabetes access survey, and their work has been featured in the New York Times, The Lancet, NPR and CBS News.

James Elliot presenting at a workshop for T1International chapter leaders. (WNV/Robert White)

This activism must be patient-led if it is going to be successful, says James Elliott, a T1International trustee living with Type 1. “We have seen so many health campaigns come and go, on insulin as well as other issues. The ones that last, that have impact, are always driven by people who are actually living with the condition,” he said. It is not enough to simply add in patients to an existing organization, or pull them onstage at a press event to share their stories, Elliott added. “Having non-patients trying to organize on behalf of patients is like a car factory being organized by a group of labor professors from a different state. It’s just not going to work.”

The struggle continues, but there has been progress along the way. Multiple state legislatures have passed transparency and emergency insulin access laws, Colorado has adopted an insulin co-payment cap, and T1International is helping advance the big-picture solution of public manufacturing of insulin. “Every success we have had is because people are speaking their truths, sharing their stories, and demanding better for themselves and their fellow patients,” Pfiester said. “Without patients in the lead, our authenticity would be in jeopardy.”

Patients have beaten Big Pharma before

Yet the path to patients making an impact is often not a smooth one. T1International pays a financial price for not accepting corporate donations that fuel other patient groups. For several years, Pfiester worked for little or no salary, and still runs the organization out of the living room of her apartment. Pfiester and her colleagues also face the need to manage their disease along with their activism.

“Ultimately, organization must come from within the patient community, by the patient community.”

“Advocacy is exhausting, even without a chronic condition in the mix,” Pfiester said. “Living with Type 1 diabetes means lots of ups and downs and health challenges. The mental load of Type 1 diabetes means we are thinking and worrying about our blood sugars 24/7. So, to have that weight on top of the worry of accessibility and affordability — plus to choose to fight for ourselves and others — is a lot to take on.”

Unfortunately, allies in the access to medicines movement sometimes add to the load. Many times, the health care advocacy model mimics the care and discovery models, which highlight the expert physician or determined researcher. In that scenario, patients are the passive — often helpless — beneficiaries of the professionals’ selfless calls for better treatment. They are expected to share their compelling stories, express their gratitude, and leave the strategizing to the experts.

“Often, patients are not taken seriously in advocacy circles, which is infuriating on many levels,” Pfiester said. “Unless we also have certain degrees, our experiences are often diminished or not taken as seriously as ‘experts,’ despite the fact that we actually live and breathe our health condition. Patients are rarely in the room, part of discussions and strategy planning for policies or campaigns that impact us directly.”

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  • Elliott echoes this frustration. “Ultimately, organization must come from within the patient community, by the patient community,” he said. “This is not to say external experts, volunteers, politicians, clergy, and well-meaning people have no role. But their role is one of support.”

    Social movement history backs up that analysis. As Pfiester and Elliott both point out, it was patients who won the access to medicines movement’s signature victories. The HIV/AIDS treatment campaigns, first the U.S. movement of the 1980s and ‘90s led by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, and then the global access movement of the turn of the century led by organizations like the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa were led by patients. Like current activists with Type 1 diabetes, they made it clear to pharmaceutical corporations and the politicians who protected them that this was a fight for their survival. As one HIV-positive activist said at a protest, “You are denying me drugs. Look me in the face and tell me to die.”

    Those patients ratcheted up the public pressure, “naming and shaming” their oppressors through demonstrations, media campaigns, and creative public advocacy like staged murder trials outside the gates of pharma corporations and the delivery of body bags to the White House. Eventually, the companies and the governments cracked. Antiretroviral drug prices plummeted over 90 percent nearly overnight, saving millions of lives.

    Pfiester and T1International are following a similar script, in part because they honor the lessons of their predecessors, and in part because patient advocates have no other choice. They know that the corporations they confront are not going to happily surrender their insulin windfall profits. Instead, the companies are weaponizing the dollars they have extracted from people with Type 1 diabetes, diverting some of the billions raked in from insulin price-gouging to pay for lobbyists and political campaign donations and PR blasts.

    But Pfiester and Elliott insist that the corporate millions cannot match the power of a movement led by people directly affected “Patients speak from a place where they know the issue because they live the issue,” Elliott said. “It is not an abstraction for us, and that is what will carry us to serious and lasting change.”

    Two killed and dozens injured in Baghdad amid protests sweeping Iraq

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Demonstration against corruption and economic hardship was met with rubber bullets and teargas by police

    Two people were killed and dozens injured in Baghdad as police fired rubber bullets and teargas canisters in an attempt to disperse a protest on the streets of the Iraqi capital amid unrest sweeping the country.

    Tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Friday morning to begin the march to the city’s fortified Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located, but were blocked by police on the al-Jumhuriya bridge.

    Related: Protests rage around the world – but what comes next?

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    Protests rage around the world – but what comes next?

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Unrest is seemingly everywhere. We look at the some of the reasons for and responses to it in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Catalonia and Iraq

    In Lebanon they are against a tax on WhatsApp and endemic corruption. In Chile, a hike in the metro fare and rampant inequality. In Hong Kong, an extradition bill and creeping authoritarianism. In Algeria, a fifth term for an ageing president and decades of military rule.

    The protests raging today and in the past months on the streets of cities around the world have varying triggers. But the fuel is familiar: stagnating middle classes, stifled democracy and the bone-deep conviction that things can be different – even if the alternative is not always clear.

    Related: An explosion of protest, a howl of rage – but not a Latin American spring

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    Chile protests: UN to investigate claims of human rights abuses after 18 deaths

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Unrest has led to thousands of arrests and hundreds of injuries, prompting action by former president turned UN high commissioner

    The UN high commission on human rights is sending a team to Chile to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against demonstrators, amid a swell of furious street protests over inequality, falling wages and the rising cost of education and healthcare.

    “Having monitored the crisis from the beginning I have decided to send a verification mission to examine reports of human rights violations in Chile,” the high commissioner and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced on Twitter.

    Having monitored the crisis in #Chile since it began, I have decided to send a verification mission to examine the allegations of #HumanRights violations. Parliamentarians and the Government have both expressed a desire for a @UNHumanRights mission.

    Related: 'They smashed me in the head': anger at Piñera as Chile's bloodied protesters allege brutality

    Related: An explosion of protest, a howl of rage – but not a Latin American spring

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    'Evil economics': William Barber condemns proposed plastics facility in Cancer Alley

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Activist joined demonstrators in St James parish as they rallied against facility that would double the amount of toxic emissions

    For the second time in two months the moral revival campaigner and civil rights leader the Rev William Barber has visited an area of toxic pollution in Louisiana known colloquially as “Cancer Alley” as he places the fight for clean air there at the centre of a national protest movement.

    The North Carolina-based activist, thrust on to the national stage after the success of the Moral Mondays protests in his home state, joined a group of local demonstrators in St James parish, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, on Wednesday as they rallied against a proposed plastics manufacturing facility nearby.

    Activists from St John & St James parish, along with @RevDrBarber, are rallying outside the site of a proposed $9.4 billion plastics plant by petrochemical giant Formosa. Some wearing @ExtinctionR stickers:

    “If I die, I’m going to die standing. If I die, I’m going to die speaking the truth.” @RevDrBarber preaching in full flow at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church:

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    An explosion of protest, a howl of rage – but not a Latin American spring

    The Guardian | Protest -

    From Chile to Ecuador and Bolivia to Haiti police and protesters are clashing on the streets, but what are the common threads and will they lead to change?

    Tanks on the streets in Chile. Barricades and bloodshed in Bolivia. Weeks of unrest that have pushed Haiti to the brink and forced Ecuador’s president to relocate his government.

    “This is a social revolution,” said Andrea Lyn, a 61-year-old actor who took to the streets of Santiago this week. “It is us saying: ‘No more’.”

    Related: Indigenous Ecuadorians too strong to be ignored after deal to end protests

    Related: 'They smashed me in the head': anger at Piñera as Chile's bloodied protesters allege brutality

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