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Uganda rises up in unprecedented opposition to 31-year dictator

Waging Nonviolence -

by Patience Nitumwesiga

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During the early morning hours of September 21, nine young activists — all in their twenties — hauled a coffin toward a police station in the northern city of Lira. The coffin was draped with posters of Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni and a number of his other allies in government. Written across the coffin on one side were the words “Change the constitution and bury Uganda” — a reference to a proposed constitutional amendment that would do away with the presidential age limit.

At 6.30 a.m., when they arrived at a major intersection, they set the coffin down and lit it on fire. By the time the police station came alive to start the day, the protesters had already left. Not knowing who they were looking for, the officers nevertheless set out on a hunt to find them.

Over the next 12 hours, the young people invaded street after street in Lira, chanting anti-constitutional change slogans, lifting up placards and even setting some tires on fire. The small group soon grew into large crowds in all corners of Lira. The protesters had allies everywhere, and as soon as the police set out to stop a protest on a given street, someone would call the protesters and inform them. They would quickly disperse and reorganize at a different place, and the police would arrive too late, finding no one to arrest.

Eventually, when the police got fed up with the constant evasion, they decided to storm the offices of the nonviolent training organization Solidarity Uganda, claiming that they were hiding the protesters. Police checked behind all doors and in ceiling boards, finding no one. But they didn’t leave empty-handed. Solidarity Uganda staff member Dickens Otim was arrested and charged with inciting violence. Due to a lack of evidence, however, the charge was downgraded, and he was released on bail.

Actions like these have been happening all over the country, as those against the age limit amendment bill voice their concerns in the corridors of power and in the streets of most cities — oftentimes accompanied by the Luganda hashtag and slogan #Togikwatako, which means “Don’t you dare touch” (the constitution).

Uganda’s history with dictatorship

Uganda has never had a peaceful transition of power. Since independence in October 1962, one dictator after another has taken the reigns of the country by force.

Museveni and his National Resistance Army led a military coup in 1985 that toppled then-President Milton Obote. After a few months, the whole country was in the hands of one-time rebels.

Over 30 years later, Museveni still wants to govern the country, even though, legally, he will soon no longer be eligible. Article 102b in the Ugandan Constitution sets the presidential age limit at 75. Museveni is 73.

Ruling party MP Raphael Magyezi proposed an amendment bill on October 21 that would scrap the presidential age limit from the constitution. Opposition MPs protested the bill by singing the national anthem as he attempted to read it. They kept singing for more than five minutes, refusing him the chance to continue his proposal. Meanwhile, pro-Museveni MPs rose up to defend Magyezi, turning chairs into weapons as parliament descended into open fighting for several minutes. Parliament was ultimately adjourned for the day due to the chaos, but a video of the incident became a national sensation. Following its fame, the Uganda Communications Commission banned the live broadcasting of all protest events by television and radio stations, claiming they incited the public to violence.

Members of Parliament were each offered 29 million Ugandan shillings (or about $8,000) to carry out age limit consultations in their constituencies. Some have returned the money, describing it as an attempt to “sanitize bribery of Members of Parliament.” Jonathan Odur, an MP for Erute South (in nothern Uganda) wrote a message to his WhatsApp contacts, as well as on other social media, saying: “In Solidarity with our struggle against abuse of the constitution through DON’T TOUCH campaign, I have also decided NOT TO TOUCH the 29m ‘consultation fee.’”

Police crackdown on civil society and activists

After the first week of protests, police repression increased dramatically. Troops were deployed to Parliament, as well as many roads, towns and residential neighborhoods. Police raided the offices of political parties and civil society organizations, including ActionAid Uganda, Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, Corruption Brakes Crusade and the Uhuru Institute. Solidarity Uganda was also raided again, resulting in the re-arrest of Dickens Otim, along with Solidarity Uganda Director Suzan Abong Wilmot. Many more from other organizations were arrested, such as Norman Tumuhimbise, of the Jobless Brotherhood, who was taken to an unknown location for about a week.

As part of its efforts to squash the opposition from organizing, the government then froze the bank accounts for ActionAid and Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, as well as the personal bank accounts of their staff. Authorities sent a letter to 25 other non-governmental organizations demanding their bank account details. While some refused to divulge that information, a number of civil society organizations also resolved to boycott the banks complying with government orders to freeze their accounts, deciding to instead start their own cooperative bank.

Many activists were detained for longer than the legal 48 hours without any charge. Hashtags like #FreeNorman, #FreeSuzan and #Free Dickens circulated until police released them. Since their release, court dates have been postponed without any explanation.

Meanwhile, crowds that have marched in protest have been tear-gassed and arrested, including university students and masses in major and small towns around the country. But the crackdowns have not deterred resistance efforts.

New heights of nonviolent resistance in Uganda

Opposition MP and musician Robert Kyagulanyi — also known as Bobi Wine — wrote to Museveni, saying, “There comes a time when people are TIRED. UGANDANS ARE TIRED! They have been patient with you. They have been respectful and generous to you knowing that in 2021 a new dispensation will come.” The letter has been circulating all over social media and in mainstream newspapers.

In Ugandan history, there hasn’t been anything close to the level of resistance seen these past couple months — particularly not this kind of decentralized, dispersed type of nonviolent resistance. Typically, when there is the occasional march in Kampala, the rest of the country remains silent. This time, many towns have organized nonviolent actions around the country, and some have been cooperating across geography and tribe.

On October 18, in Rukungiri (located in southwestern Uganda) those participating in a march chased away police forces who at first shot live bullets into the crowd when it refused to disperse. The crowd, who were also singing religious songs and chanting anti-age limit amendment slogans, moved against the officers relentlessly. Some members shouted at police, telling them they were ready to die and that “Rukungiri is not Kampala,” where protesters flee from the police. Ingrid Turinawe, a leader in the opposition party who was slated to speak at the event, described the situation as “police firing bullets like popcorn,” and said the sky was “raining stones” in response.

The people kept coming at the police in their large groups, wearing red ribbons — a symbol against the lifting of the age limit — and singing “Don’t dare touch [the constitution].” All the while, despite being unarmed, the masses braved tear gas and live bullets.

Meanwhile, in Bushenyi District, in western Uganda, things got quite violent. In late September, social media platforms were filled with concerns that residents had allegedly slashed the banana plantation of MP Magyezi, the Museveni loyalist who introduced the amendment of article 102b in parliament.

Culturally, in this area, the slashing of plantains is a way of symbolically cutting off the food supply and showing the wrath of a village toward someone. It is usually done to criminals who escape justice, especially hardcore criminals like murderers and rapists. It is an expression of helplessness in the face of severe transgression. Magyezi has since denied these allegations, claiming that his people are happy with the amendment. But widespread reports of protests in this area tell a different story.

Even in Mbarara, which is a ruling party stronghold and Museveni’s home region, a crowd of peaceful protesters was dispersed by live bullets and tear gas. There was another demonstration by youths who carried a coffin which they marked with placards, mocking Museveni, Constitutional Affairs’ Minister Kahinda Otafiire and ruling party parliamentarians, as corpses. Three of the protesters were arrested.

This kind of collaboration between different activists from different backgrounds proves that mobilization is happening, people are talking more to each other and coming together to unite for a common cause. A Solidarity Uganda street watch map highlights the major resistances in towns around the country and police crackdowns on people’s rights in relation to the resistance.

See full screen

In one of his letters to Museveni and to the people, Kyagulanyi has asked opposition supporters to “Call your Member of Parliament, or better still, pay them a visit and demand accountability. Stand up NOW before it is too late.”

People in many parts of the country have made big plans for their members of parliament. In nothern Uganda, Lango residents have decided to boycott all MPs who support the age limit amendment. They want to put them in what’s often termed a double-bind, where whatever step they take, they lose. For example, on October 9, during independence celebrations in northern Uganda, an MP from Amolatar district was taken off a platform and had the microphone removed from her hand when she attempted to address people in her constituency about the so-called age limit consultations. The same happened in Mbale, Eastern Uganda when an MP attempted to compare Museveni to the pope. Three elderly women pulled the Mbale MP off the platform.

As with any movement, there are stages in the #Togikwatako struggle. National movements to oust dictators often endure a phase of severe repression. That repression is mounting, but Ugandans are using it to energize themselves. They are not playing with a defensive strategy, but one of counter-attack. If they can keep the momentum rising across the nation, Museveni will have more to worry about than the pending age limit.

The dog man who rests his genitals on cats, and other Russian art heroes

The Guardian | Protest -

Oleg Kulik, an artist who was arrested for biting people, joins Pussy Riot and other provocative compatriots in a UK show

Oleg Kulik, an artist who often performs naked, mostly as a dog, is explaining why there is a photograph on display in a London gallery of his genitals gently resting on the backs of kittens. “It was, you know ... so nice, so comfortable.”

Kulik, who has also shared his bed with a goat, preached to fish, and been arrested for biting people watching his mad dog performances – all for the sake of art – is taking part in a new exhibition opening on Thursday at the Saatchi gallery.

Related: Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2017 – in pictures

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Neil Gaiman and Ai Weiwei join major names writing to jailed authors

The Guardian | Protest -

Marking PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer, authors and artists have written letters of hope and solidarity to colleagues in prison

The cartoonist Ramón Esono Ebalé, arrested in Equatorial Guinea earlier this year, may share the same planet as the writer Neil Gaiman. But according to the latter, they “live in different worlds”.

“I am perfectly free to write whatever I wish, to be as imaginative as I want to be, to create people and places, to challenge the things that I believe need to be challenged, and you are not,” Gaiman declared in a letter to the imprisoned cartoonist. “It is the truth of the worlds that you and I occupy, but it is something that I do not and cannot accept.”

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His act of defiance went viral. Now elected, Braxton Winston aims to fix the system from within

The Guardian | Protest -

His clenched-fist salute to riot police became an emblematic image – now ‘It will be interesting to see what happens when the dog actually catches the car’

One of the newest faces of politics in Trump-era America is a man who became a prominent activist after a police shooting in his town and a snapshot that went viral.

Related: Meet the progressives elected after Trump: America’s new political coalition

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I released 2,000 minks from a fur farm. Now I'm a convicted terrorist | Kevin Johnson

The Guardian | Protest -

The FBI says animal rights activists are America’s greatest domestic terrorism threat. This endangers activists – but makes big pharma and agriculture happy

People usually laugh when I tell them I am a convicted terrorist.

I try not to open with that – it seems a little bit forward. First, I explain how my friend Tyler and I entered a fur farm in the dead of night. I describe the unspeakable suffering we found there. I tell people how Tyler and I opened every single cage and released 2,000 mink to save their lives. And once they have the context, I segue into the terrorism thing.

Related: ‘Ag gag’ laws: The battle for animal welfare is a battle over information | Siobhan O'Sullivan

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Moonee Ponds (Melbourne): Husk Collective

House Occupation News -

Statement from Husk Collective, active since August 2017.

We acknowledge that we are occupying land rightfully belonging to the Wurundjeri-willam of the Woiwurrung language and belief group. we pay respects to Elders past and present and would like to express gratitude for the knowledge that has been shared with us. this land is stolen. sovereignty never ceded.
We continue to benefit from colonisation and genocide which are ongoing to this day. we also acknowledge the combined effects of colonisation, racism, patriarchy and the western binary gender system.
We take our lead from the struggles and resistance of Koorie people and invite everyone to join us to work towards undermining colonisation through learning, listening and contributing to the resistance.

We are husk (housing unicorns & solidarity kittens), a noncismen people’s house project. we use empty buildings to provide housing and to create a welcoming social space for noncismen, because unused property is a waste, an injustice and an ongoing tool of dispossession. we are taking the first steps towards ensuring that we respect the true authority of the land we occupy, with the goal of participating in a small way towards the decolonisation project.

We strive to create a space that is safer for noncismen. we are committed to supporting and listening to survivors of all kinds of violence and to continually transform our community through harm minimization and prevention.
We aim to empower our community through learning, teaching and skill sharing.
We are working towards improving ourselves and creating a world free from capitalism, patriarchy, queerphobia, transphobia, whorephobia, racism, colonialism, borders, prisons and hierarchies.

We want to assure everyone that husk will never question anyone’s gender and that people will not be turned away based on the way anyone else perceives their gender presentation or identity.

Husk Collective
Moonee Ponds
VIC 3039, Australia
huskcollective [at] protonmail [dot] com

Amsterdam: Support with We Are Here against an eviction

House Occupation News -

Solidarity with We Are Here. The residents of the Nienoord 2 (squatted since April 17th 2017) received the police letter announcing their evition: Friday morning 17 November 9:00, their property must be “left empty”. The general meeting of Sunday November 12th has permanently decided: The inhabitants will not leave the house voluntarily. They call all sympathisers of their movement to come in great numbers to their house to support their peaceful resistance. Sympathisers, let us support them and show that we do not accept this degrading policy of deterrence. We are here and we need each other to fight the system that oppresses us all.

De Diemen group of We Are Here
Adam tel.: 0685031178

Background info

We are a group of undocumented refugees and part of We Are Here.
Since 5 years we are fighting for “a normal life”, equal to all other people living here. We fled from areas where war prevails, or hunger, or extreme poverty, or where we have been politically prosecuted – conditions caused partly by European, also Dutch (post)colonial interference; our asylum applications have been rejected or remain endlessly pending; some of us have received a residence permit, often after four, five or more repeated asylum requests, without us being able to understand why the one does get them and the other does not (arbitrariness!). And even if some of us want to go back, they often cannot, because the country of origin does not allow them. Thus, we continue to live between hope for the paper that opens the gate to a “normal life”, and fear of being arrested, put in detention or getting deported.

Because we have no “right” for shelter, after many perigrinations along more than 27 squats, in April we squatted a vacant building from the Nienoord 2-5 complex in Diemen, owned by Arq, a dome organization focused on the health of traumatized refugees. Although both Arq and the municipality of Diemen were so far favorably disposed towards our situation, now Arq wants to evict us! While at the same time several members of We Are Here are clients of Equator, part of Arq, where they participate in the trauma treatment program, or have sought help from the Immo Foundation an orgaisation on the same site, that investigates torture and inhumane practices and is defendung human rights. We cannot understand that! The worst is that, as has happened many times before, they want to chase us away now, when the cold season starts! The mayor of Amsterdam once said that in his city no one should sleep in the street, referring to the so-called Bed-Bad-Bread scheme, but that’s a beautiful lie, since the BBB’s are full, with a waiting list of 200 people!

We do not want anymore pseudo-solutions, we want accommodation! Therefore, when they will come to evict us, we will not leave voluntarily! We stay! We have no other place to go. After 27 evictions we now want to confront the citizens of Diemen and Amsterdam and surroundings with our hopeless situation, we have no other choice!
We therefore call upon all sympathizers of our movement to support us.

The Diemen Group of We Are Here
Adam tel. 0685031178

Scottish police thwarted Palestinian activists' right to protest in peace

The Guardian | Protest -

Police commission upheld three complaints by Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign over officers’ actions towards activists

Police Scotland has been warned that it risked breaching the human rights of pro-Palestinian activists by interfering with their rights to peaceful protest and to privacy.

The police investigations and review commissioner (PIRC), which oversees police conduct in Scotland, upheld three complaints from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) after officers in Aberdeen visited one man at home to warn him off attending a rally, barred activists from entering a court and used an activists’ meeting to gather intelligence.

Related: Police reinvestigate 1987 London murder of Palestinian cartoonist

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Indigenous and community groups pressure for strong climate solutions at COP 23

Waging Nonviolence -

by Brandon Jordan

Protesters disrupted Jerry Brown’s speech at COP 23 on Saturday. (Twitter/@IENearth)

As California Gov. Jerry Brown detailed his plans to curb climate change at the 23rd session of the United Nations Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany on Saturday, protesters interrupted his speech to demand tougher climate policies and an end to policies that favor the fossil fuel industry.

The action was organized by It Takes Roots, a coalition of people of color from groups such as the Indigenous Environmental Network and Cooperation Jackson. They went to COP 23 to pressure officials and government representatives like Jerry Brown — who are there to work on specific goals to reduce carbon emissions — as well as to highlight the damage caused to frontline groups, such as indigenous people.

Daniel Ilario, an activist with Idle No More San Francisco and part of the It Takes Roots delegation, attended Brown’s speech because of the history of fracking and refinery expansions in California that affect marginalized communities.

“We [are] demanding more aggressive emissions reductions and a just transition from an extractive to a regenerative economy that respects all life for generations to come,” Ilario said.

The delegation also wants countries in attendance to accept other solutions, such as renewable energy commitments across the globe and preventing new fossil fuel projects from happening. There is a sense of urgency for action as “many of our people, especially indigenous people and people of color, have already experienced the point of no return,” Illario said. “They have lost their lands and their lives. Humans need to remember that there is nothing more sacred than Mother Earth and her natural resources of clean air, water and soil.”

The coalition organized and joined a series of actions before and during COP 23. On November 5, they protested at a coal mine with 4,500 other activists. On November 7, they held a press conference under the banner of the U.S. People’s Delegation, which involved a larger group of organizations, including, Global Grassroots Justice Alliance, Our Children’s Trust and Sunrise Movement. Speakers from various Pacific islands shared their experiences at a speak out in Bonn. Members of the delegation also spoke at the conference, listing their demands for climate justice to government representatives, reporters and other activists.

Members of the It Takes Roots coalition in Bonn, Germany. (Twitter/IENearth)

Katia Avilés-Vázquez, a resident from Puerto Rico and member of the coalition, highlighted the impacts of climate change in Puerto Rico. In September, Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, struck the island and destroyed much of its infrastructure. Puerto Ricans are still dependent on imported supplies as they await restoration of services. By the end of October, around 70 percent of the island still had no electrical power.

Avilés-Vázquez, who was personally affected by the hurricane, put forward one demand that the U.S. government could fulfill: reparations. “We have taken it upon ourselves to rebuild our country and rebuild our soil,” she said. “Not only that, we are offering all of you the solutions to get out of this place as we recover together. One of the things we propose is a just transition and just reparations because we all know fossil fuel emissions are the cause of this.”

The delegation is focused on the 2015 Paris climate agreement as well. The current framework guides countries to reduce carbon emissions and, ideally, prevent global temperatures from increasing over 2 degrees Celsius.

Kandi Mossett, a North Dakotan activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network, said that while many countries applauded the agreement, it still suffered from flaws. One is the lack of recognition for the rights of indigenous people. In fact, representatives removed such language from the final agreement in Paris.

“We want to make sure that we’re still at the table having a voice for the indigenous peoples and pushing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was finalized 10 years ago, but is not necessarily being implemented on the ground in our communities,” she said.

Notably, the accord lacks the signature of just one country: the United States. In June, Donald Trump announced that the United States would leave the agreement, citing its “draconian financial and economic burdens” as a major reason. While Trump is currently on a 12-day trip throughout Asia, his administration is present at the conference to promote fossil fuels as an answer to climate change.

His absence is a major reason why Mossett and others attended the conference. “It’s frustrating to know we have a president who doesn’t even realize what he’s doing or the impacts that he has on the country, let alone the rest of the world,” Mossett said. “He doesn’t seem to care about [that] at all.”

Trump’s carelessness is evident in how he has repeatedly changed his mind on the topic. Months after he announced the United States was leaving the accord, his administration sent mixed messages, at first expressing interest in staying and, later, insisting on leaving without hesitation.

As It Takes Roots ends their series of actions today, the activists in Bonn are urging representatives to take action before it is too late for everyone. Mossett highlighted that activists are in Germany to show solidarity with others affected by climate change and to emphasize that unity is needed to win real climate solutions.

“[Trump] may not be there forever, but the people have to live in these places impacted by the fossil fuel industry forever. That’s what we have to look at — the long term,” she said.

Helen John obituary

The Guardian | Protest -

One of the founders of the protest camp at Greenham Common who devoted her life to the peace movement

In September 1981, Helen John, a midwife, marched from Cardiff to Berkshire to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common and became one of the founders of the protesters’ camp that soon grew up there around the military base. The following year the camp was declared women only and it became one of the longest lasting examples of feminist action, disbanding finally in 2000.

John, who has died aged 80, devoted her life to the peace movement. Leaving her five children with their father to live at Greenham caused John anguish throughout her life, but she would often talk about how she had made the right decision, “for the world”.

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Australian activists vow to press on with pro-refugee Manus protests

The Guardian | Protest -

Group whose members scaled Sydney Opera House and protested at Melbourne Cup says public’s ‘empathy is switched on’

• Leave on Monday or face forcible eviction, men in Manus centre told

The treatment of refugees stranded in Australia’s newly closed offshore detention camp has prompted calls for a global sporting and tourism boycott, as activists vow to continue nationwide protests.

Related: Leave today or face forcible eviction, men in Manus centre told

JUST IN: ‘SOS: Evacuate Manus Now!’ – Protesters scale a crane and unfurl a banner at Flemington. #7News

Related: Tony Abbott fundraiser surrounded by pro-refugee protesters

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‘Violent flank effects’ and the strategic naiveté of Antifa

Waging Nonviolence -

by Molly Wallace

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Published in collaboration with the Peace Science Digest, which summarizes and reflects on current academic research in the field of peace and conflict studies.

We’ve all heard the argument before: However “nice” the use of nonviolence may be, in the real world violence is necessary — and ultimately more effective, so the thinking goes — for challenging a brutal regime, fighting injustice or defending against an armed opponent. But what are the actual effects of adding violence to a movement’s repertoire of resistance strategies?

Previous scholarship has been inconclusive on this question of so-called “radical flank effects,” as studies tend to focus on individual cases and also reflect collective confusion over what is meant by “radical.” Does it, for instance, refer to the means used or the ends sought?

Focusing, therefore, on violent — as opposed to “radical” — flanks, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Kurt Schock sought to bring clarity and systematic analysis to bear on this question of positive versus negative violent flank effects. In a 2015 article for the journal Mobilization, they examined all nonviolent campaigns from  1900-2006 with radical (i.e. “maximalist”) goals — such as the “removal of an incumbent national government, self-determination, secession, or the expulsion of foreign occupation” — to see how the presence or absence of armed resistance affected the success of these nonviolent campaigns. Their findings offer compelling evidence that violence is not generally a helpful addition to nonviolent resistance movements.

How did they arrive at this conclusion? Using both quantitative and qualitative research methods, the authors begin by generating three hypotheses. First, nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks. Second, nonviolent campaigns without violent flanks are more likely to succeed than nonviolent campaigns with violent flanks. And third, violent flanks have no impact on the success rates of nonviolent campaigns.

To test these hypotheses, they search for any significant statistical relationships that might exist between the presence of violent flanks and the success or failure of nonviolent campaigns. They find none, thus providing no support for either the first or second hypothesis. As the authors note, this could mean either that the presence of violent flanks has no discernible effect on outcomes or that it has mixed positive and negative effects that cancel each other out when taken together. When they compare the effects of violent flanks that emerge from inside a nonviolent movement to those of violent flanks that develop parallel to a nonviolent movement, they find that the former are associated with failure, suggesting that negative violent flank effects are more pronounced when a nonviolent campaign cannot distance itself from its armed counterpart. Moreover, they find that mass participation is the strongest determinant of nonviolent campaign success and that the presence of violent flanks has a negative effect on participation levels, suggesting that violent flanks may indirectly decrease the likelihood of success.

To flesh out how violent flanks operate within individual cases, Chenoweth and Schock examine four cases where violent flanks were present: Burma in 1988, the Philippines from 1983-1986, South Africa from 1952-1961 and South Africa from 1983-1994. Two campaigns were successful (the Philippines and South Africa from 1983-1994) and two were not (Burma and South Africa from 1952-1961). Meanwhile, two had violent flanks outside of the nonviolent movement (Burma and the Philippines) and two had violent flanks associated with the nonviolent movement (the two South Africa cases).

After examining the histories of these nonviolent campaigns — and the ways they interacted with armed resistance — the authors find mixed results. Violent flanks had negative effects in the two unsuccessful cases, no net impact in one of the successful cases (the Philippines) and a weak positive effect in the other (the later South African case). Overall there was greater evidence for negative violent flank effect mechanisms than for positive ones.

In the one case where a violent flank had a weak positive effect (South Africa from 1983-1994), Chenoweth and Schock argue that that effect was mostly symbolic — energizing activists around the revolutionary mystique of violent resistance — rather than instrumental to gaining power over the apartheid regime (something that was accomplished, instead, by the nonviolent resistance movement).

However, in the two cases where violent flanks had negative effects, these effects were seriously detrimental. The presence of an armed movement, according to the authors, diminished “chances of success for otherwise nonviolent campaigns by legitimating repression, demobilizing participants, shifting to violent strategies where the state [wa]s superior, and discrediting regime opponents.”

Notably, the armed movements were consistently shown not to protect nonviolent activists but rather to put them at greater risk, as authorities used the presence of armed actors to justify widespread repression against all resistance movements, violent and nonviolent alike.

Chenoweth and Schock find evidence in the case studies, then, that violent flanks do actually influence the outcomes of nonviolent campaigns, despite the earlier quantitative findings suggesting otherwise. Negative and positive effects simply appear to cancel each other out when taken together over a large number of cases, with negative violent flank effects being somewhat more prominent than positive ones. The authors argue, therefore, that “on average, maximalist nonviolent campaigns often succeed despite violent flanks — rarely because of them.”

Contemporary relevance

Despite recent scholarship demonstrating the greater effectiveness of nonviolent resistance (see Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan’s 2011 book, “How Civil Resistance Works”), assumptions about the effectiveness of violence — along with its supposedly radical and/or revolutionary nature — stubbornly persist. When faced with a brutal or blatantly unjust opponent, many people are inclined to believe that only violence will bring about needed change or be able to protect and defend one’s community or fellow activists. We have seen this recent thinking everywhere from Syria to Venezuela, but for those of us in the United States struggling against the Trump administration and the white supremacist and neo-Nazi forces it has unleashed, we need look no further than the presence of Antifa (anti-fascist groups who do not rule out engaging in violent confrontations) in our own protests to see this same logic at work — as well as its counterproductive effects. Such groups see themselves as a necessary counterpart to white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups who come armed to demonstrations, ready to engage in street battles with left-wing activists.

Although this logic of needing to use violence to defend against violence is so widespread and deeply ingrained as to be almost intuitive, the problem is that such moves feed into and reinforce narratives on the right that inspire — and provide cover for — their own claims to self-defense. Just as the presence of a violent flank in an anti-regime nonviolent movement can provide necessary or further justification for government security forces to fire on protesters, so too can it create a similar dynamic among non-state groups, including neo-Nazis and white supremacists, mobilizing more recruits and ultimately increasing the vulnerability of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists and the marginalized and targeted communities whom they wish to defend.

Practical implications

In the wake of recent events in Charlottesville, outrage has rightly focused on the neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups who came armed and even killed one of the counter-protesters. Their goals of racial supremacy and purity, fueled by hate and fear and devoid of empathy, have no place in a country that values equality, pluralism and human dignity, and their ascendancy at the moment is nothing short of terrifying.

For the sake of effectively challenging these groups and their repulsive vision, however, those of us who consider ourselves part of the resistance must also engage in critical inward reflection, especially with regards to the strategic implications of the presence of Antifa affiliates who also came armed to Charlottesville, among otherwise nonviolent counter-protesters.

Although their work to expose and tirelessly organize against fascism is admirable and necessary, those who identify with Antifa and its full range of tactics appear to endorse at least two flawed assumptions. First, they assume that truly radical action to effectively challenge fascism must include violence — what is often termed “physical confrontation” — and that nonviolence equals “dialogue” or “normal politics,” which  implies acquiescence, submission or cooptation. Second, they assume that violence is also necessary to protect activists and targeted communities.

But, in fact, here is what we know from recent social scientific research: Nonviolent resistance is twice as likely to be effective as violent resistance when used for radical goals such as the removal of an authoritarian regime or national liberation, cases with no shortage of brutal, unreasonable opponents. Furthermore, nonviolent resistance strategy is all about analyzing and dismantling an opponent’s sources of power, including through direct action. Finally, as noted in Chenoweth and Schock’s research above, instead of protecting nonviolent activists, the presence of a violent flank frequently creates justification for further repression against them, making them more vulnerable to violence.

It is time, therefore, that we untether violence from its “radical” and “protective/defensive” associations. Not doing so — and hanging on, as Antifa does, to these tired old assertions that violence is a necessary response — is, quite simply, poor strategy. It gives white supremacists and neo-Nazis exactly what they want, reinforcing their “we’re embattled” narratives, thereby strengthening their movement. It muddies the waters by giving commentators on the right something to point to when they try to create ludicrous moral equivalencies between white supremacists/neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists. And, in doing so, it does nothing to actually diminish the strength of white supremacism.

Furthermore, the continued presence of armed elements like Antifa has negative effects within the resistance. Speaking from personal experience, as the mother of a three-year-old, it makes me, for one, feel more vulnerable to violence and therefore less likely to show up to demonstrations with my daughter. I can only assume that many others — not just parents — feel and act similarly, resulting in diminished mass participation in the movement and thereby a decrease in its power and effectiveness.

For all these reasons, if Antifa activists care — as they no doubt do — about effectively challenging resurgent fascist, white supremacist forces, they must think more strategically, considering the short- and long-term effects of their actions. Although “punching a Nazi” may feel like effective action due to the immediate, physical consequences of violence — someone’s bloody nose, someone’s body on the ground — what actually matters for the strategic value of an action is how others respond to it afterwards.

Does it strengthen the opponent group — reinforcing its narratives, drawing more recruits and unifying them against a more easily vilified adversary — or weaken it? Does it strengthen one’s own side — drawing a broader array of activists of all ages and from all walks of life to the resistance movement, unified around a common vision — or weaken it? Does it bring uncommitted third parties to one’s side or alienate them? These — not the number of individuals punched or bludgeoned on the other side — should be the metrics of a strategic response to fascism.

The dangers of white supremacism and fascism are real, and the stakes for American democracy and values are high. It is precisely for these reasons that activists need to engage in discussions about the strategic merits and radical credentials of disciplined nonviolent resistance (both for movement effectiveness and for protection), together strategizing about those actions that will best diminish the power of the opponent to realize its white supremacist, fascist agenda. A few points, in particular, are worth raising.

First, despite common-sense associations of violent action with defense and protection, nonviolent discipline has a better chance of keeping activists safe than armed resistance does, even — counter-intuitively — in the face of a violent adversary. There is no guarantee of complete safety with either type of resistance, but armed resistance is much more likely to elicit further — not less — violence from the other side. Nonetheless, assumptions about arms and their role in defense or protection are so engrained that this is a tough point to get across. If presented with a scenario where a few unarmed activists in a completely nonviolent movement are killed by armed opponents versus one where a greater number of unarmed activists are killed by these opponents while joined by fellow armed activists fighting back, most of us are likely to characterize the unarmed activists in the first instance as “defenseless” and those in the second instance as being “defended,” despite the fact that they were, in fact, better protected in the first instance. These deeply engrained — and flawed — assumptions about the defensive or protective value of weapons must be brought to the surface and critically examined.

Second, there is a strategic logic to nonviolent resistance that most Antifa adherents seem to not know (as demonstrated through the claim on one Antifa website that “only popular self-defense, not simply debate, has succeeded in stopping fascism” or statements made by various Antifa activists in the New York Times suggesting that our choice in response to fascism takes binary form: use violence or “do nothing.”) Far from being synonymous with “debate” or inaction, nonviolent resistance involves the dismantling of an opponent’s sources of power through a range of methods, including various forms of disruption and direct action, and is twice as likely as violent resistance to succeed in achieving radical goals. In other words, the success of nonviolent resistance does not depend on the presence — and persuasion — of a “nice” adversary.

Contrary to mainstream belief, there is a historical record of successful nonviolent resistance against fascism in countries under Nazi control, including the Rosenstrasse demonstrations in Berlin where wives saved their Jewish husbands, Denmark’s rescue of most of its Jewish community, resistance to the Nazi policies of the Quisling government in Norway, and so on. Jacques Semelin’s 1993 book “Unarmed Against Hitler” is one resource that examines these and other cases throughout Europe.

Third, only by maintaining nonviolent discipline can the resistance dramatize and capitalize on the clear contrast between its activists and the white supremacists or neo-Nazis they confront. Stooping to the level of armed hooligans on the other side, engaging them on their own terms, weakens the anti-fascist cause by surrendering the high ground in media representations of demonstrations, providing cover for commentators who wish to draw a specious moral equivalency between the two sides, and alienating people who would otherwise ally themselves with an anti-fascist movement.

Finally, violence is less — not more — “radical” than nonviolence is, especially insofar as it is less effective in achieving radical goals and less likely to dismantle white supremacism and fascism than nonviolent resistance. Far from embodying a radical challenge to fascism, Antifa affiliates are doing exactly what neo-Nazis and white supremacists are hoping they will do — this is precisely the reaction that will energize the very fascists they are hoping to shut down, reinforcing their embattled narratives and strengthening their ranks. Only by disassociating one’s radical credentials from participation in violence will we ultimately move away from these knee-jerk responses to racist violence that do nothing to minimize the draw and strength of white supremacy — and instead move towards more strategic, effective action that actually has a chance of advancing the cause of a diverse, inclusive, just society.

To subscribe or download the full special issue on “nonviolent resistance,” which includes additional resources for each article, visit their website.

Why aren't the streets full of protest about the Paradise Papers? | Micah White

The Guardian | Protest -

In striking contrast to the bombshell release of the Panama Papers, the response this time has been muted. But that’s not reason for despair

The street-level response to the Paradise Papers, the mighty follow-up punch to last year’s Panama Papers, has been curiously tepid. This is probably not what many activists, and the 100 media organizations involved in the leak, expected to happen.

In striking contrast to the bombshell release of the Panama Papers in mid-2016 that immediately triggered a 10,000-person-strong protest in Iceland leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, the Paradise Papers have thus far made many headlines but no uprisings.

Related: The desperate inequality behind global tax dodging | Gabriel Zucman

Related: Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires? | Thomas Frank

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The resistance to Trump is blossoming – and building a movement to last | LA Kauffman

The Guardian | Protest -

An astounding number of new grassroots resistance groups, at least six times the number the Tea Party could boast at its height, have emerged. That’s incredible

There’s a shiny bright spot on the dismal American political landscape: one year after the 2016 election, it’s now abundantly clear that this extraordinarily toxic and menacing presidency has sparked a truly unprecedented grassroots response, different in both scale and character from anything we’ve seen before.

The activist resistance to Trump played a vital role in the impressive wave of progressive electoral victories this week, after having already succeeded in stalling or derailing key parts of Trump’s agenda, most dramatically the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Related: One year on, Donald Trump is still an illegitimate president | Rebecca Solnit

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Manus protest: five charged after Sydney Opera House stunt

The Guardian | Protest -

Two men and three woman will face court after unfurling banners urging government to bring refugees to Australia

Five people have been charged with trespassing after they allegedly climbed to the top of the Sydney Opera House to protest against the treatment of refugees on Manus Island.

Two men and three women all aged in their 20s will face court next month after they allegedly scaled the sails of the harbour landmark and unfurled banners calling for the government to bring refugees held on Manus Island to Australia.

Related: Manus standoff 'ringleaders' threatened by Papua New Guinea prime minister

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Eugene (Oregon, USA): A Conversation with Cascadia Forest Defenders

House Occupation News -

Download This Episode.
For a 59 minute long, radio clean version for syndication purposes, please visit the collection.

Cascadia Forest Defenders

This week, William had the opportunity to speak with someone who works closely with the group Cascadia Forest Defenders, which is based around Eugene, Oregon. This crew has been opposing logging in the Willamette National Forest, and was recently driven out of the camp by forest workers and employees of Seneca Jones Timber Company. We talk about this incident, plus much much more in the way of contextualizing and re-contextualizing forest defense in a time of climate change, plus some important things to keep in mind if you are looking to join established political movements like this. More on this group, this struggle, and the many ways to get involved can be found at

To follow up on something that I said toward the beginning of the interview, about logging around the Asheville area, there were plans in place to log in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests as of 2014. The stated reasons for this logging were environmental and maintenance minded in nature, but it’s thought that those endeavors would help literally pave the way for future commercial logging by establishing a roadway system through the forest.

As promised, here are some links for further reading:
USFS proposes opening most of Pisgah-Nantahla National Forest to logging
Forest Service logging plan draws criticism
Logging on the Nantahala and Pisgah
Logging in Pisgah, Nantahala forests hanging in the balance

Defend J20, Upcoming Trials

The J20 inauguration arrestees case is starting on November 15th. There is a call out for court support including note takers, as well as folks to fill the court in their finest black dress clothes, also for fundraising and any legal support you can muster. For a really good article on the topic, check Despite the good news that 2 of the Felony “Riot” and “Conspiracy To Riot” charges being dropped down to Misdemeanors this case still has a long way to go.

And a few local announcements from Blue Ridge ABC

For those in the Asheville area coming up Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross has 3 events we’d like to share with you. Firstly, today from 5pm to 7:30pm BRABC will be hosting it’s monthly Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night. The first Sunday of every month, join BRABC, who’ll provide stationary, stamps, pens, camaraderie and the addresses of political prisoners with upcoming birthdays you can write to. Or, just take the time to hang, or write to someone you know behind bars. This month, they’ll also be showing TROUBLE #7 about anarchist disaster relief in the Western Hemisphere plus maybe another film.

The pre-registration for BRABC’s benefit Ping Pong Tournament is coming up fast. If you wanna play and help earn some money for legal support coffers, send an email to by November 12th and then show up November 15th at 6:30pm at the Standard Pizza at 755 Biltmore Ave in South Asheville to battle for a good cause. If space allows and you miss the pre-register, show up the day of and there might be a spot.

On Friday, November 17th at 9pm at The Mothlight in West Asheville, get ready for a #ItsARiot benefit comedy show for autonomous disaster relief efforts in Mexico City and Oaxaca in the aftermath of 3 deadly and destructive earthquakes this year and an incredibly inept government response. Door donations will go to some of the folks on the ground in those cities. The night of comedy will be hosted by Moira Goree, featuring the stylings of Kira Magcalen, Chesney Goodson and a special
guest. More info on these and other events from Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross can be found at

Sole and Bursts Podcast Eminent

Also, keep an eye on our website,, this week for a special podcast conversation between Bursts and the anarchist hip hop artist, podcaster and rad dad outta Denver, Sole. Should be dropping Tuesday. We talked about Channel Zero Network, about prisoner support, the J20 inauguration case, the Situationists and a bunch of other topics. You can hear some of Sole’s work including his podcasts at his website.

Show playlist here.

[The Final Straw Radio | November 5th, 2017.]

How prisoners organized to elect a just DA in Philly

Waging Nonviolence -

by Kerry "Shakaboona" Marshall and John Bergen

Larry Krasner and his supporters celebrating on the night of his primary victory in May. (Photo: Michael Candelori / @ccwirephoto)

Tuesday’s general election in Philadelphia saw a former civil rights attorney running on an anti-incarceration platform elected district attorney to the country’s fifth largest city. Larry Krasner, who defended Black Lives Matter activists and indicted police officers while in private practice, promised sweeping reforms and Philadelphia voters responded.

In a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans seven to one, the fact that Krasner won might seem unsurprising. However, back in May, when the Democratic primary was in full swing, Krasner wasn’t the party favorite. Most other candidates, like Tariq El-Shabazz, were considered favorites because they towed a more moderate line and touted their experience as prosecutors. Then, during the general election, he was faced with pressure to moderate his proposals, and the battle continued to make sure that a message of systematic reform was front and center in the race.

In order to shift the race to the left and hold Krasner accountable as he prepares to take office, a broad coalition of progressive groups put aside their differences to focus on winning. The leaders of this alliance are the people most impacted by the city’s justice system, including prisoners in Pennsylvania state prisons. Their efforts, which helped create the conditions for Krasner’s victory, are part of a long history of Pennsylvania’s incarcerated citizens changing public discourse.

Setting the stage with prisoner organizing

Twenty years ago, radical black prisoners in the State Correctional Institution Greene, a super-max prison in rural southwest Pennsylvania, started the Human Rights Coalition, or HRC — a radical new model of advocacy for human rights in criminal justice reform. Distinguishing itself from the old paternal/liberal model — which put professional “advocates” in charge of decision-making — prisoners voted on all major decisions. This model built on the legacy of the National Prisoners’ Rights Movement established by George Jackson in California, and represented a historically significant shift in ideals, organization and actions during the age of Bill Clinton’s “three strikes” law and reign of Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, also known as “America’s Deadliest DA.”

Over the past two decades, the HRC has sown the seeds of criminal justice reform in the city of Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania. The HRC has also inspired the formation of several other prisoners’ human rights organizations in Philadelphia.

Prisoners who were leaders in HRC joined the advisory boards of local and national organizations such as the American Friends Service Committee, Decarcerate PA, Families and Communities United and Reconstruction, Inc. They then encouraged their family members and loved ones to join community organizations as rank-and-file members to ensure their voices were heard. Prisoners at State Correctional Institution Graterford, in particular, organized a political action campaign in Philadelphia that saw their families and communities influence the 2015 Pennsylvania Supreme Court judicial elections, resulting in a clean-sweep of Democratic justices being elected to the state’s Supreme Court.

Earlier this year, the community organizations’ spokespersons were able to contact the candidates and explain that SCI-Graterford prisoners are 5,000 in number and have an average of five family members who will vote for the candidate of their choice. That means a potential 25,000-strong voting bloc.

That number of potential voters compelled El-Shabazz to campaign at SCI-Graterford on four occasions. Krasner also scheduled a campaign event at SCI-Graterford, but prison officials cancelled the event, claiming they had not been given enough notice. After the primary, Graterford prisoners were able to reschedule Krasner’s visit. Speaking to several hundred prisoners, he unequivocally adopted their proposed criminal justice reform agenda.

As a result, according to leaders of organizations in the prison, Krasner earned the overwhelming support of the incarcerated men at SCI-Graterford. His impeccable record and reputation of being a civil rights attorney for the people of Philadelphia also made him the candidate of choice for multiple prisoners’ organizations, such as Right to Redemption (an organizing group focusing on ending life-without-parole sentencing, or what they call Death By Incarceration), the Latin American Cultural Exchange Organization (representing Latino lifers) and the Grey Panthers (representing elderly prisoners).

That being said, support for Krasner wasn’t universal. El-Shabazz received the endorsement of Graterford’s NAACP group. That wasn’t enough, however, to overcome his ambiguous stance on the prisoners’ criminal justice reform agenda or his tainted reputation as a former criminal defense attorney and deputy district attorney.

After discussing which candidate would best represent the collective interests of prisoners and their communities in society, Graterford prisoners reached a general consensus that Krasner would be their candidate of choice. Prisoners supported Krasner’s candidacy with a robust political action campaign of voter education, voter registration, political forums, and get-out-the-vote drives directed towards their families, loved ones, friends and returned citizens.

Building a coalition for a just district attorney

A year ago, high up in a 16th floor law office in downtown Philadelphia, a collection of community leaders gathered to discuss the upcoming district attorney race. Convened by Media Mobilizing Project, a local media justice organization, ACLU Pennsylvania, and Color of Change, the first meeting was a raucous affair. Donald Trump had just won the election. The current district attorney was under investigation. Organizers crowded on windowsills and along the walls argued over who would run, whose issues would take center stage, and what needed to happen. Like so many efforts, it could have died right there.

But it didn’t. Held together by those convening organizations and a deep belief that they could all benefit by working together, the group — calling itself the Coalition for a Just DA — kept pushing, bringing in more groups and widening the table. Organizations flooded the city, coordinated door-knocking efforts, mobilized people who wouldn’t have otherwise voted, and hosted a large forum where candidates were grilled by people directly impacted by policing, incarceration and “crimmigration” (the intersection of immigration policy and the criminal legal system).

Larry Krasner and supporters (Krasner for DA / Richard Garella)

The Coalition for a Just DA didn’t stop after the primary. When centrist Democrats tried to regain control of the race and quell the insurgency, coalition members pushed back. The city’s Democratic machine showed they were more interested in maintaining the status quo — essentially Republican candidate Beth Grossman’s platform — than in reform by quietly stepping back from the race.

In meetings with insiders, the coalition learned that moderate Democrats from around the country were interested in helping Krasner if he won. So, they responded by becoming more bold. Groups directly impacted by youth incarceration, the bail system, crimmigration, policing, Death By Incarceration sentences, and other issues got together and drafted in-depth policy proposals. Prisoners contributed directly to a number of these proposals. The coalition then articulated a set of demands for the first 100 days in office for the new district attorney and presented both candidates with a list of what could be done on day one.

At the same time, moderates became more critical of the radical positions of some Krasner supporters. Instead of throwing other progressives under the bus for being “too radical” or “dangerous,” the coalition kept the focus on winning meaningful reforms. When the Philadelphia Inquirer backed Grossman, worried about looking too progressive, coalition members stepped up canvassing and organizing efforts, bringing in more community organizations.

Lessons for radicals

Politicians and political commentators generally operate within the range of ideas that have broad public support. Anything outside that range is generally considered politically impractical, or even impossible.

The Tea Party and the so-called alt-right are textbook cases of movements widening the range of ideas. While many liberals continue to be shocked by racist statements made by President Trump or other members of the far right, neo-Nazis rally and advocate for genocide in public spaces. When it comes to policies around mass incarceration and policing, movements for justice and equality cannot be afraid to use our capacity to shift the conversation.

A year ago, political leaders in Philadelphia would have told you that only very moderate criminal justice reform was possible. A report from the Philadelphia City Council from fall 2016 recommends a slight reduction in bail for a few nonviolent offenders. Today, the incoming district attorney advocates for the complete end of bail for nonviolent offenders. Earlier this year, and just weeks before he went to jail for corruption, former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said he would seek life sentences for a number of people sentenced to die in prison as juveniles. Throughout the campaign, Krasner publicly stated his support for HB 135, a bill in the Philadelphia House of Representatives that would end life without parole and make over 5,000 prisoners in Pennsylvania currently sentenced to die in prison eligible for parole after 15 years.

Larry Krasner with canvassing volunteers (Facebook / Lawrence Krasner for DA)

This sea change in the district attorney’s office is just one part of the struggle to radically rethink policing, prisons and punishment. This shift in the range of what’s politically possible could not have happened without the many campaigns that came together to form the Coalition for a Just DA or the vision and organizing of Philadelphia’s politically-active prisoners.

Prisoners mobilized a base — their family and friends — that is often disconnected and disenfranchised from politics, showing that winning isn’t necessarily predicated on coopting centrists. It can also be done by organizing people who aren’t normally involved in the election process to vote as a bloc. That’s why last night 147,666 people voted for Krasner, as compared to just 89,238 votes for the Democratic candidate in 2013.

This campaign can be a blueprint for other prisoners, their families and community groups to wage a grassroots radical criminal justice reform campaign. By organizing alongside prisoners, recognizing the possibilities of mobilizing new constituencies, and keeping the focus on building inclusive coalitions and winning real change, radicals can get practical and win.

US politician who mocked Women’s March defeated by woman he inspired to run

The Guardian | Protest -

New Jersey freeholder John Carman asked whether protest ‘would be over in time for them to cook dinner’ – but on Tuesday he was forced to eat his words

A New Jersey politician who shared a meme on Facebook during January’s Women’s March in Washington asking whether the protest would be “over in time for them to cook dinner” has been forced to eat his words.

A woman who was angered by Republican John Carman’s remarks defeated him on Tuesday as he tried to win a second term as an Atlantic County freeholder.

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Politicians and activists gather for COP23 Bonn climate talks - in pictures

The Guardian | Protest -

The world’s nations are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 23rd annual “conference of the parties” (COP) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which aims to prevent dangerous global warming. This year, Fiji plays president and meeting the Paris climate goals are top of the agenda

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Germany's dirty coalmines become the focus for a new wave of direct action

The Guardian | Protest -

Not far from the UN climate talks taking place in Bonn, activists frustrated with slow progress by governments are turning up the heat at the Hambach opencast mine, highlighting Germany’s failure to live up to its green pledges

A giant black mark on Germany’s environmental record is scarred on the land an hour’s drive from the venue of this year’s UN climate talks in Bonn.

Stretching 85 kilometres wide and 400 metres deep, the opencast coalmine near Hambach forest is the biggest hole in Europe and one of the biggest single sources of carbon on the continent.

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