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At least 12 people dead after night of looting and violence in Venezuela

The Guardian | Protest -

Two days of massive protests on the streets of Caracas against the government of Nicolás Maduro spilled into a violent night in several parts of the city

At least 12 people were killed overnight following looting and violence in Venezuela’s capital amid a spiraling political crisis, authorities in Caracas said Friday.

Related: 'We are like a bomb': food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics

Related: Venezuela's anger is on the streets. But the ballot box remains key for change

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Scientists prepare for protest: 'the march should be a starting point'

The Guardian | Protest -

March for Science organisers hope the mobilising thousands around the world can help restore science to its rightful place. But marching may not be enough

The placards are made, the speeches prepared. On Saturday, crowds in their thousands are expected at 500 marches in more than 35 countries to remind the world, and its many politicians, that society cannot thrive without science. It will be the largest show of solidarity for science the globe has ever seen.

Arranged to coincide with Earth Day, the anniversary of the modern environmental movement, organisers hope that the mobilisation of so many can help restore science to what they consider to be its rightful place. But despite healthy support for the events – more than 100 professional societies and organisations have endorsed them – marches alone will not be enough, according to researchers who study protest movements.

Related: Are you attending the global March for Science? Tell us why

Related: Why the global March for Science is already a success

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Why support for Syria’s nonviolent fighters is key to ending the war

Waging Nonviolence -

by Maria J. Stephan

Debates over the morality, legality and strategic efficacy of U.S. missile strikes in Syria will dominate the news for the foreseeable future. It is understandable why so many people, notably many Syrians, would want to see a regime that has repeatedly targeted its population with sarin and chlorine gas, barrel bombs and starvation tactics be punished for its actions. The Syrians I know feel alone and abandoned by the world. They have seen the United States and its Western and Arab allies undertake massive diplomatic and military action targeting the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, while regime-sponsored violence has been responsible for a vast majority of the close to 500,000 civilian deaths in Syria since 2011.

No matter where one stands on the issue of military intervention — and there are legitimate reasons to doubt the effectiveness of air power to deter or erode Assad’s killing machine — it should be possible to agree on one thing: There will be no end to the civil war in Syria without the sustained and active participation of Syrian activists, peacebuilders and humanitarians inside the country, in the surrounding region, and dispersed in the diaspora.

These individuals and groups, which are operating under the most difficult conditions imaginable, are building and sustaining health and education systems, protecting civilians from violence and extremism coming from multiple sides, organizing to increase community participation in the peace process, and trying to imagine and piece together an alternative future. They include groups like the White Helmets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Karam Foundation, Citizens for Syria, Syria Deeply, Project Amal ou Salam, the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria, the Syrian Civil Society Platform, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, Khadraa Organization, Syrian Expatriate Medical Association, Violet Organization, the Syrian Emergency Task Force and Women Now for Development. These organizations are building the resilience, social capital and civic infrastructure upon which a future peace will rest.

Six years into a civil war whose humanitarian and geo-political consequences have been devastating, it is easy to forget that the Syrian revolution began nonviolently. In March 2011, after a group of kids in Dera’a province (close to the Jordanian border) painted graffiti calling for the fall of the Assad regime, the local police tortured them and abused their families. In response, protests broke out in Dera’a and across the country. More moderate calls to end regime impunity and corruption quickly gave way to demands that the Assad regime step down.

Inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrians were eager to free themselves of the shackles of Assad family dictatorship. The first eight months of the revolution were dominated by massive rallies, celebratory dance protests in the streets, puppet shows that dramatized the corruption and repression of the regime, sit-ins led by lawyers and students, and red dye applied to fountains to dramatize the blood shed by the Assad regime — these were staples of the nonviolent resistance. During this phase of the struggle, although the majority of protesters were Sunni, members of minority groups, including Christians, Kurds, Druze and Alawites (an off-shoot of Shi’ism and the sect of the ruling Assad family) protested in disproportionately high numbers.

A decentralized network of Local Coordination Committees quickly took root inside Syria and took the lead in organizing the protests and demonstrations. Later, local councils were established and focused on civilian representation and service provision. Eventually, as regime violence escalated and the opposition increasingly turned to armed resistance, forming the Free Syrian Army and other militant factions, the civilian structures focused increasingly on local administration and humanitarian operations.

There have been multiple analyses of why the nonviolent resistance in Syria failed to achieve its ultimate goal — the removal of the Assad regime — before the onset of civil war. Although historically nonviolent campaigns have been twice as effective against violent campaigns in removing central governments, Syria was a tough test case for nonviolent resistance. The Assad family had ruled with an iron fist for decades; Syrian civil society was painfully weak when the revolution began in 2011, with few or no truly independent civic organizations (including no independent trade or labor unions); Syrian security forces were highly sectarianized; and the region was in the throes of a Sunni-Shia power struggle.

Once the nonviolent uprising began, Bashar al-Assad ordered lethal violence against peaceful protesters and employed armed thugs, called “shabiha,” to kill individuals during demonstrations. The Syrian Electronic Army and regime security forces infamously tracked down, arrested, tortured and killed thousands of the best nonviolent organizers and activists. Eventually, Syrian army mortar attacks and bombings proved to be devastating for the nonviolent resistance.

Ultimately, time was not on the side of the civil resistance. Data show that the average nonviolent campaign takes about three years to run its course. In Syria, the nonviolent resistance had less than a year before a combination of brutal regime violence, and a turn to armed insurgency by opposition elements, resulted in a massive escalation of violence and a spike in civilian deaths. There was simply not enough time to build trust between opposition groups, learn from mistakes, build a resilient organizational base, and peel key groups — like Sunni business elite — away from the regime.

Syrian nonviolent activists acknowledged weaknesses in planning a longer-term strategy (beyond a few weeks or months) of resistance and in uniting around goals and leaders. External governments and other donors, meanwhile, both grossly underestimated the strength of the Assad regime (influential policymakers thought the regime would fall in a matter of months) and their support to the nonviolent opposition was woefully slow and inadequate.

Once the violence intensified, minority sects’ participation in the resistance dropped significantly, while the Assad regime’s propaganda machine portrayed the resistance as foreign-backed Sunni terrorists. Eventually, terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, Nusra Front and ISIS filled the political vacuum in rebel-held areas, and the nonviolent Syrian activists were forced to resist violence and extremism from both the regime and armed opposition groups.

It is hard to be optimistic about the situation in Syria. The average civil war since 1945 has lasted 10 years. It is possible that the war in Syria, which has morphed into a regional and global proxy war, will go on for longer. The civil war literature cites the importance of a mutually hurting stalemate, when none of the conflict parties thinks it can win without incurring excessive losses, and all sides are suffering from a continuation of fighting, to their successful termination.

In the case of Syria, it is difficult to imagine the civil war ending without a regional agreement involving those countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Qatar — which are backing various factions in the civil war. Then, alas, there is the necessary buy-in from Russia and the United States. Peace agreements, when they are reached, usually only take hold when guaranteed by peacekeeping boots on the ground. In the case of Syria, such a force will be challenging to assemble.

Still, civil wars always end, whether in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Liberia, Guatemala, Mozambique or, most recently, in Colombia. In each of these cases, a combination of war weariness and persistent civil society mobilization and pressure on state and non-state armed groups were critical ingredients in ending the armed conflict. Organized pressure by women and religious leaders, notably, helped accelerate the path to peace in each of those places. “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” a film about the role played by Liberian women in ending that country’s civil war (through sustained nonviolent pressure and gutsy noncooperation with the status quo) has been seen by many Syrians.

I predict that similar dynamics will play out in Syria. For this reason, those nonviolent, Syrian-led organizations that are struggling to keep people alive at the same time that they build a counter-force to violence, tyranny and extremism deserve robust outside support. These groups are creating women’s-led “peace circles” inside Syria, reporting on atrocities committed by various armed factions, providing education and trauma healing for refugee children, challenging ISIS and other extremist groups and planning the elements of an eventual transition.

The voices of these Syrian nonviolent fighters should be amplified in the media, their shoestring budgets should receive multi-year support, and they should feel international solidarity. Donors should focus greater attention on supporting Syrian-led community mobilization in places that are either under the control of, or threatened by, extremist groups. For example, in Idlib city, recent community-led nonviolent organizing has forced the withdrawal of the extremist group Jaish al-Islam. This is critical to weaken violent extremism’s grip on local communities and offer Syrians an alternative. The efforts of these civic groups, combined with the diplomatic efforts of Syrians and international actors from across the political and ideological spectrum, will eventually bring the war to an end.

‘It was ridiculous that 16-year-olds didn't get a vote’: teens protest after Brexit result

The Guardian | Protest -

Amy Gibbs and schoolmates head for Downing Street on 24 June 2016

It was the day after the EU referendum; Brexit had won, David Cameron had resigned, and we were like: “Are you kidding?” It was a Friday and we weren’t at school, as we’d finished our GCSEs, so we looked on Facebook to see if there were any protests taking place. This photo was taken outside Downing Street later that day. It wasn’t a big march, as I think the result was still sinking in: just a few hundred of us congregating with banners, making our voices heard. It was my first protest.

It’s ridiculous that we, as 16-year-olds, weren’t given a vote. In the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to vote. I did the maths after the Brexit result, and based on the turnout of young voters in Scotland, if 16- and 17-year-olds had voted, the result would have gone the other way – just. A survey backed that up. Were we excluded on purpose? It makes you wonder. We weren’t really given a reason. Britain’s relationship with the EU affects our generation’s future more than anyone else’s – much more than a general election – so we should have had a say.

Related: ‘My picture was splashed on the front page’: how I became the face of transport chaos

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Amsterdam: The living breathing lungs of ADM terrain Westpoort

House Occupation News -

On the edge of an expanding industrial area in Amsterdam called Westpoort, a special development took place.

A group of people created a forest. The forest functions as a natural filter for emissions from local industries. It filters particulate matter, which are small particles of toxic debris and dust from the coal, concrete and petroleum industries located in the nearby area.

On the ADM terrain the trees and plants continually capture these small particles and hold on to them with their leaves and branches until they are washed away naturally by the rain. This is a pollution barrier at work.

The ADM trees also work as a sound barrier to the activity in the industrial freight and coal terminals located in the area. The trees also capture and store CO2 gas. This sound barrier, natural air filter and CO2 storage works every day.

At present the ADM forest forms a direct benefit for the surrounding living areas such as Westzaan and Zaandam, but also for the environment in a much bigger sense.

Location and Surroundings
The ADM terrain is situated next to some of the biggest freight and logistics companies in Amsterdam, such as OBA Bulk Terminal Amsterdam (coal, steel & chemical industry), BP Terminal (petroleum wholesale) and Waterland Terminal BV (freight logistics). These are but a few of the companies who are situated within the range of the ADM terrain (3 km or less).

These companies have to monitor all of their emissions, including CO2, and have to make sure they do not exceed their limits, even more so now that a new energy strategy of the Amsterdam Klimaatbureau for 2040 is in place. This strategy is an energy plan for the city and ports of Amsterdam.

The City of Amsterdam Klimaatbureau operates within the policies that are set by the European Union, which determines limits for pollution; gasses; particulate matter production; the protection of nature; cleaning the water tables of rivers, lakes and seas for the whole of Europe.

The Amsterdam Klimaatbureau scheme for 2040 states; “The Port Authority has committed to (a reduction of) 40% of CO2 by 2025 and this includes inland and ocean shipping” and “in addition to cleaning up (coal and oil)… energy use in the port must be made more sustainable…. Sustainable innovative companies (recycling systems, bio fuels, transshipment and wind turbines) will set up business in the port.”

We ask the Amsterdam Klimaatbureau this:
How is it possible to clear a forest full of natural habitat (water, birds, trees, plants and shrubs), all of which are working to capture CO2 and filter emissions in an area which is constantly increasing in biodiversity with an active natural sound barrier, while at the same time boasting about reducing emissions in their new energy scheme?

It seems that there is no awareness of what has been unfolding on the ADM terrain. The Amsterdam Klimaatbureau document clearly states that becoming greener is better and how companies have to be environmentally conscious if they are to develop at the port.

What are they doing to enforce this?
ADM asks for support from the Amsterdam Klimaatbureau to recognize the importance of the 20 year old forest and what it actually does (CO2 capture; emissions and water filtration; sound barrier; nesting for birds, insects, pollinators and amphibians).

The EU strategy for the protection of natural habitats is known as the Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna & flora. This directive is an important legal standard that was set in 1992 to ensure the protection of biodiverse areas such as the ADM terrain.

How is it possible for the Amsterdam Klimaatbureau and council to ignore Council Directive 92/43/EEC and grant a permit to a company which has a total disregard for nature and support the destruction of a natural nesting habitat with protected plants and wildlife?

Birds like the King Fisher and birds of prey like the Buzzard are protected by the Birds Directive formally known as Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds. Amphibians like the Natter Jack toad are listed as well. All these animals have been documented and certified by ecologists to have nests in the area that was cleared. Again, how is this possible?

The ADM forest, trees and plants
The front part of the ADM terrain previously consisted of a mix of mature trees, young saplings and plants and shrubs essential for wildlife and the cleaning up of local emissions. The companies Chidda Vastgoed BV / Amstelimmo BV and Koole Maritiem BV attempted to cut these trees during the nesting season, between April and May 2015. They were stopped by the residents of ADM and the police as they failed to present their permits.

However, in August 2015 they cut around 2,000 trees at the front part of the ADM terrain illegally. Also, there was no compensatory C02 emissions plan for the area they cleared. This means that there was no effort made to replant trees and shrubs in the nearby surroundings.

The animals and birds that were nesting were not considered with enough respect and also the Natterjack yellow stripe toad, which is a protected listed amphibian, was not taken seriously. Proof of this toad’s nesting habitat was clearly made and represented in several environmental reports.

Shockingly, Chidda and the company Koole Maritiem managed to receive a further permit to cut 470 trees which were over 10 cm in diameter and more than 1000 trees which were under 10 cm. They manged to receive this permit after they had already cut some trees which were not on the permit.

(This is an aerial photograph of the trees they were allowed to cut. The trees within the red loop are the one’s they cut illegally)

Furthermore, none of the proposed building plans of Chidda were executed. This is a breach of the ‘Just in time policy’. This policy came into effect on 13th of May 2009. It serves to ensure that companies do not get the right to cut down trees and flatten wild terrain until they have clear building plans, which then have to be carried out. The policy also serves to protect animals and wildlife. This is a council policy which is notoriously difficult to access, although it does exist for the above reasons. Therefore it should be publicly accessible.

Tree facts and info
An area with 2,000 trees, where each tree has a potential to consume 45lbs of CO2 per year, should have an adequate replanting and regeneration scheme. This is known as a carbon offset and should be implemented by the company that is responsible for felling the trees.

This is common practice by companies that consciously look after the environment.

The felling of 2,000 mature trees equals the loss of a cleaning potential of 90,000lbs of C02, which is 45 tonnes of stored CO2 per year.

In October 2016 Chidda and Koole applied for a permit to cut 10,000 trees inside the gate of the ADM terrain. Currently the 10,000 trees that are left on the ADM terrain have the potential to capture 450,000lbs of C02, equal to 225 tonnes of CO2 per year (source: Arbor Environmental Alliance).

Thankfully, the permit which Chidda and Koole applied for was rejected by the council on the basis of bad practice and the absence of a clear plan for development by the companies involved.

If the companies receive the permits to cut down all the trees within the community, this would clearly indicate that there is no environmental policy enforcement being upheld in the Westpoort harbor of Amsterdam.

The 20 year old ADM forest needs to be recognized and protected.
In January 2017 Chidda and Koole received a permit to ‘prune’ the trees around the lake behind the ADM terrain. They abused their permit by tearing trees down with heavy machinery. Fortunately they were stopped by the authorities.

In March this year they applied for another permit to cut the trees around the lake, regardless of the fact that the nesting season is beginning.

Summary
The nature on the ADM terrain shows us how recovery from industrial waste and destruction is possible. The forest grows and natural diversity is being generated every day. The community living there has supported this development.

ADM is a beautiful example of the symbiosis between nature and humans and it is unique in many ways.

It’s time to clean up, breathe fresh air, drink clean water and grow food on a cleaner, greener and, ideally, unpolluted earth.

Join our fight against Chidda’s development plans and help support the cleaner greener environment that we should all live in. Any support is welcome.

www.adm.amsterdam/petition

More in depth info? Check these links:
The Amsterdam Kilimaatbureau publication on the 2040 Energy strategy
• Here is a video from news station AT5 of the action that was made against the protection of the ADM on the 28th of August 2015. This is an illegal action by companies Chidda and Koole caught on camera where a persons life was put in danger.
• Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora
• Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds
• For more information on European Environmental Policies
• This is a link to an audio interview of the full story of what happened on the days Chidda / Koola decided they would take matters into their own hands and clear all the front part of the ADM terrain.
• Arbor Environmental Alliance has a website with lots more information about why trees are so important.
Here is a more in-depth study of the biodiversity that exists on the ADM terrain made (by Norbert Daemen of nature advice bureau Arda)

ADM
Hornweg 6, 1045AR Amsterdam, Netherlands
https://adm.amsterdam/

Authors of this article: Chin, Lisette and Cjara
Bron: https://adm.amsterdam/article/article-amsterdamalternative-edition-aprilmay-published-online-april-21st-2017-living

Facts over feelings: Australians join global march for science

The Guardian | Protest -

Former science minister Barry Jones warns policy is increasingly divorced from evidence, as 12 Australian cities prepare for global march

Barry Jones, a Hawke government minister who held the science portfolio when the high court decided the Tasmanian dam case in 1983, despairs of an Australian government making the same decision in 2017.

Instead of taking a principled opposition on the grounds of science, he said, the Labor party would probably do a photo opportunity pouring the concrete.

Related: Science strikes back: anti-Trump march set to draw thousands to Washington

Related: Why the global March for Science is already a success

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Venezuela opposition launches new protests a day after three deaths

The Guardian | Protest -

Thousands of activists take to the streets in Caracas as opposition lawmakers say security forces have used excessive force to halt the marches

Venezuela’s opposition renewed nationwide protests on Thursday to pressure the government of President Nicolás Maduro to hold elections and improve a collapsing economy, a day after three people were killed in similar demonstrations.

However, crowds were smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who flooded the streets of Caracas and provincial cities on Wednesday, the latest and largest in several weeks of protests against what Maduro’s opponents condemn as a lurch toward dictatorship.

Related: Deaths and injuries reported amid 'mother of all marches' in Venezuela

Related: 'We are like a bomb': food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics

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Gérard Depardieu leads Cannes Directors Fortnight that mixes politics with pop opera

The Guardian | Protest -

The French festival strand picks provocative films about Israel, Ukraine and US society alongside a Joan of Arc electro musical, and there’s room for the debut of British director Rungano Nyoni’s film about an African girl accused of witchcraft

Related: Cannes takes on Trump with highly politicised lineup for 2017 film festival

The Cannes film festival has continued its emphasis on politics with the announcement of the lineup for the Directors Fortnight, the separately organised selection that runs parallel to the official festival.

Related: Cannes film festival 2017: full list of films

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Are you attending the global March for Science? Tell us why

The Guardian | Protest -

On 22 April – Earth Day – scientists and champions of their cause around the world will mobilise. We’d like to hear from you if you are taking part

It started as a small Facebook group in Washington DC but has grown to a global movement that will see scientists from around the world take to the streets on 22 April.

Related: Scientists to take to the streets in global march for truth

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Caracas: thousands of Venezuelans take part in ‘mother of all marches’ – video

The Guardian | Protest -

Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Caracas in what they are calling the “mother of all marches” against the embattled socialist leader Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday. Venezuelan police launched tear gas in an effort to disperse demonstrators, leading to some violent clashes that left one man dead

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Violence feared as protesters clash at Venezuela 'mother of all marches'

The Guardian | Protest -

Tensions high in Caracas following student’s death after he was shot in the head near a clash between pro- and anti-government groups

Venezuela braced for an outbreak of political violence on Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of anti-government demonstrators flooded on to the streets of Caracas for what the opposition billed the “mother of all marches” against the government.

Tensions – which have built up over several weeks of bloody protests – were ratcheted up after a student died having been shot in the head near a clash between pro- and anti-government groups.

Related: Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis

Related: 'We are like a bomb': food riots show Venezuela crisis has gone beyond politics

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Meet the organizers behind the next ‘Day Without an Immigrant’ strike

Waging Nonviolence -

by Sarah Aziza

Activists carry a banner for the strike at a march on February 16 in New York City. (Facebook/Cosecha)

When 26-year-old Catalina Adorno hit the road on March 28, she knew it would be at least six weeks before she’d sleep again in her own bed. Since that day, Adorno, a Mexican-born New Jersey resident with a strong voice and bright laugh, has criss-crossed from Pennsylvania to Maine as part of a regional support team for Movimento Cosecha, a national immigrant rights coalition. Her stops have included major cities and small towns, as she and her three teammates work to mobilize Cosecha’s vast network of “local circles” ahead of a massive day of coordinated action slated for May 1.

On April 3, Adorno’s team stopped off in Washington, D.C. to hear Cosecha spokesperson Maria Fernanda Cabello make the formal call for a May 1 nationwide strike. The planned action, billed as “A Day Without an Immigrant,” is set to be the largest immigrant rights action for at least a decade, with hundreds of thousands already pledging to stay home from work for a day in protest of systemic discrimination towards the immigrant and undocumented communities. At the press conference, Cabello pointed to the massive labor and capital power represented by the immigrant community, including 11 million undocumented residents. The May 1 protest, asserted Cabello, would be the next step in a strategy of harnessing this power to “change the conversation on immigration in the United States.”

It’s a lofty goal for an organization that formed less than two years ago, but Cosecha has a strong track record already. Drawing inspiration from farmworkers and their leaders — Dolores Huerta, Larry Itliong and Cesar Chavez  — as well as “the thousands of African-Americans who stood up to the racist Jim Crow system,” Cosecha is an energetic movement that has grown quickly. Its ranks include a national team and hundreds of part-time volunteers across the country, which enabled Cosecha to play major role in several waves of direct action, including scores of campus walkouts and multiple protests outside Trump Towers.

Denis Solis from the SEIU speaks at the press conference on April 3 in Washington, D.C., announcing the immigrant strike. (Twitter/Cosecha)

Denise Solis also took the stage at the April 3 press conference to represent SEIU United Service Workers West, one of the labor unions joining in the strike. She applauded Cabello’s remarks and added that the overt racism of the Trump administration has made this action more urgent than ever. “The policies of the Trump administration are motivated by cruelty [and] villainize black and brown people,” she said. “We are shutting it down on May 1 to stand up to these policies and show that most Americans don’t support cruelty and racism.”

Listening to the words of Cabello, Solis and others, Adorno reflected on her own life as an undocumented, Mexican-born resident of the United States. “Growing up undocumented, I felt I had a secret that made me less than other people. I lived in constant fear,” she said. It wasn’t until she met organizers at her New Jersey college that she began to think of her status in a new way. “I began to see that documents did not define me as a human being, that all this fear is the result of a system that criminalizes our people.” The election of Trump, she said, has only amplified long-standing anxieties. “He’s so vocal about targeting us, our fear is very real.”

Yet as Adorno criss-crosses the country as part of Cosecha’s support team for local activists, she has discovered a network of grassroots organizers who are channeling their own fears into action. When we spoke on the phone, she had just finished an hours-long training session with a “local circle” of workers and immigrants who are preparing to strike on May 1. The Phoenixville group is one of about 80 such Cosecha-aligned circles across the country, and it is with these groups that the real gravity of the movement rests. United by the goals of winning “permanent protection, dignity and respect” for the immigrant community, each circle is able to tailor its strategy to its own local concerns, said Adorno, while the 27-member national team plays the role of coordinator.

Adorno, who works full-time and for free, will be on the road until at least mid-May, both facilitating trainings and helping communities deal with any post-strike fallout. In each town, Cosecha’s mobile teams rely on the hospitality of local organizers, crashing on couches and enjoying home-cooked meals, coffee and late-night conversation. It’s a grueling but inspiring job, Adorno said, who added that her “support role” often involves as much learning as instructing. “We do a lot of listening to people’s needs and to their plans,” she explained. “One of the principles of our movement is that everything we need is already in the community — and seeing this on the ground is mind-blowing.”

Jose Carlos Berdeja from Rockport, Maine at a meeting in Boston for Cosecha leadership on March 25. (Facebook/Maria Fernanda Cabello‎)

In fact, Cosecha’s national organizers often arrive to play catch-up with local activists. “When people talk about the immigrant community, they don’t always give them the credit they deserve,” Adorno said. “People know what they want and they are ready to let the country know.” So far, Cosecha-aligned groups have organized campus walk outs, formed alliances with local business owners, coordinated banner drops, and, on February 16, launched a spontaneous worker strike that made national news. “That was a moment where self-organizing got ahead of the national team,” she recalled with amusement. “People were ready to strike sooner than we thought!”

Drawing on a history of resistance

Many of these recent actions have come in response to Trump’s aggressive targeting of the immigrant community, but it would be a mistake to view these events solely as a reaction to the new administration. The immigrant community has been threatened by deportation and criminalization for years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations. The choice of May 1 as a strike date is also a call-back to the movement’s history and the first “Day Without an Immigrant,” which took place on May 1, 2006. This first strike came at a similar time of national foment and anti-immigrant legislation. The particular trigger in 2006 was the so-called “Sensenbrenner bill” proposed in the U.S. Senate, which would mandate harsh crackdowns on the undocumented community and criminalize employers and private citizens deemed to be providing “aid” to “illegal immigrants.” Incensed, immigrants and allies demonstrated in over 140 cities, with a half-million marching in Los Angeles and 100,000 in Chicago.

Paul Engler, an Los Angeles-based organizer and founder of Center for the Working Poor, was deeply involved in the 2006 actions. Eleven years later, his voice still rises, rapid and giddy, as he recalls the wave of direct action that swept the country that spring. By 2006, Engler already had a long history of labor organizing, but says he was stunned by the spontaneous response to Sensenbrenner. “I can’t even describe what it was like to see people mobilize on that scale for immigrant rights,” he said, “to see hundreds of thousands of people on the streets … It was incredible. Before that, the largest group we’d been able to mobilize was about 12,000.”

What made the difference, Engler contends, was the overreach of the Sensenbrenner bill. After months of deportations and raids, the bill’s draconian measures served as a “trigger event,” pushing an already-agitated community from terror to determination. “There was a change in the air,” Engler recalled. “It was the beginning of a permanent shift.” Soon, a galvanized front, led by Latino organizers, began mobilizing through community networks, Spanish-language press, radio DJs and unions. Like Adorno today, Engler said he had trouble at times keeping up with the burst of self-organizing. “For a while, the people outpaced the mainstream labor unions,” he explained.

While Sensenbrenner and Donald Trump’s proposals are merely extensions of long-standing discrimination, Engler argues both have served to catalyze mass action. “Trump threw away the dog whistle and catered to the racist wing of the Republican party,” he said, “and Sensenbrenner basically criminalized anyone who wasn’t actively reporting undocumented people.” In such cases, the extreme circumstances push people to act — even those who traditionally avoid political controversy. Among those mobilized by Sensenbrenner was the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahoney, who called the bill “blameful [and] vicious.” On Ash Wednesday in 2006 he pledged to order a campaign of civil disobedience in his 288-parish archdiocese if the Sensenbrenner bill became law. “He essentially made every single priest [in Los Angeles] into an activist,” said Engler. “It was unbelievable.”

Yet, more than charismatic leadership or sophisticated organizing, it was the individual decisions to resist that ignited the 2006 movement. According to Engler, it was the willingness of organizers to “sacrifice and disrupt” by calling for strikes and campus walk-outs that sets 2006 apart from other moments of political setback. “People were actually putting themselves on the line,” he said, “risking their jobs, their safety.” In these direct actions, the immigrant community forced the American public to grapple with the real implications of anti-immigrant rhetoric, causing many to reconsider. Engler points to Alabama’s anti-immigration legislation, HB 56, which caused a mass exodus of immigrants after it passed in 2011. “People realized that entire business sectors would collapse without immigrants,” he said, “and a lot of Republicans flipped their opinion on the bill. This proves that even racists can shift if you show them the economic impact.” It’s also evidence that strikes like the upcoming May 1 action can work.

Laying the groundwork

Since 2006, Engler has helped train hundreds of local organizers in movement-building through Momentum, a “movement incubator” training program he co-founded with Carlos Saavedra and several others. Saavedra, who grew up undocumented after his family immigrated to Boston from Peru, has been a long-time leader in the fight for immigrant rights. As a young man, Saavedra was lead advocate for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, with United We Dream, and later founded the Ayni Institute, an organization dedicated to training organizers in low-income communities. At Momentum, Engler, Saavedra, and others aim to “give progressive organizers the tools and frameworks to build massive, decentralized social movements.”

Cosecha is comprised of many graduates of Momentum, and its not hard to hear the echoes of Engler’s analysis Adorno describes the logic behind the 2017 strike. “For too long, our community has trusted the system, and we’ve been played by political parties,” she said. “This country depends on the labor and consumption power of immigrants, and we’re going to demonstrate our power by withholding these things.”

At the same time, however, the decision to strike carries grave risks for workers. “People are desperate to strike, but there’s also fear — fear of being fired and not being able to support your family,” Adorno said. “But people feel so devalued, so dehumanized, they know this is what they have to do to fight back.” Many communities are collecting emergency funds and preparing legal teams to help families who may lose a source of income to the strike. “Some people lost their jobs during the February strike,” Cabello told me in a separate phone conversation. “We’re doing our best to keep that from happening this time.”

Yet, despite this caution, labor unions are taking a bolder stance than they did in 2006, when they limited their support to protecting individual members who joined the strike. “This time, there are unions actually endorsing the strike, which is huge,” Engler explained. Cabello says unions make a “natural partner” for the action, but many of them would not have joined without direct pressure from their members. In the case of one branch of the Service Employees International Union in California, members arrived at a meeting bearing signs announcing, “We’re ready to strike on May 1.” Others needed less convincing. “This is why [they] joined unions in the first place — they want to strike and make a difference,” Cabello said.

So far, Cosecha’s partners include the Food Chain Workers Alliance, the SEIU United Service Workers West, and UNITE HERE Tech Cafeteria Workers, which together represent at least 400,000 members ready to join the May 1 strike. Also joining the strike are local business owners and members of the tech industry.

Luis Rojas Rodriguez at a Salsa Shutdown action in an Old Navy store, during the Cosecha National Assembly on February 11 in Boston. Over 350 immigrant leaders came together from across the country to launch the May 1 campaign. (Twitter/Cosecha)

The immigrant and labor communities, of course, have not been idle since 2006. Across the country, activists have continued to protest discriminatory laws through campus walk-outs, civil disobedience, social media campaigns and smaller-scale strikes. One important step came when Barack Obama announced the DACA program in 2012 — after years of deliberate struggle and advocacy led by young, undocumented “Dreamers.” This legislation allowed for undocumented individuals who entered the country as minors to apply for two-year deferrals on deportation and permission to work. Yet, immigrants and allies have been repeatedly let down by mainstream politics, and even the success of DACA is partial. “The ‘Dreamer’ narrative only highlighted part of our community and sacrificed the rest,” Adorno said. “At the time, we were desperate for a win, but our community deserves much better.”

With that in mind, the organizers of the May 1 action aim to transcend the legislation-focused actions of the past by calling explicitly for true, comprehensive reform. “What’s different is that people are looking beyond individual legislation and beyond a single political party,” Cabello said. Rather than simply resisting deportation and criminalization, the immigrant community is asking for “permanent protection, dignity and respect.” May 1 will only be the beginning. After the strike, teams like Adorno’s will spend several weeks checking in with local circles, assessing outcomes and discussing next steps. “We want to build up to a full week of strikes and actions,” she said. This next step may come as soon as the end of 2017, according to Cabello, but it will depend on the needs and initiatives of those on the ground. “We will continue to follow the wisdom of the people.”

Venezuela braces for the 'mother of all protests' as both sides call for rallies

The Guardian | Protest -

As dissatisfaction with the government grows, opposition leader needs no reminder of the risks involved in inflaming an already febrile national mood

As Venezuela braces for the “mother of all protests” on Wednesday, opposition figurehead Henrique Capriles needs no reminder of the risks involved in inflaming an already febrile national mood.

The walls of his office building are still blackened from the fire that blazed here last week after security forces lobbed a gas canister during an anti-government demonstration.

I cannot just sit by and watch a government that is increasingly authoritarian. I feel it is my duty to stand up

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Why the global March for Science is already a success

The Guardian | Protest -

On 22 April, from Oklahoma to Greenland, scientists and their champions will mobilise, and in many ways, the March for Science is already a success

Science teacher Jackie Scott will be in the streets this Saturday in Little Rock, Arkansas. “I march because my middle school students deserve to have a better world,” she wrote. “They deserve to see what real research looks like and sounds like when it is communicated.”

From Oklahoma to Greenland, scientists and their champions will gather on April 22 for the much anticipated March for Science. And in many ways, the event is already a success: because thousands of scientists are speaking up, millions of people are considering how science actually matters to our lives.

“It’s a poverty of imagination that diminishes our discourse, curtails curiosity, and makes our interactions petty and small. A poverty of imagination that breeds distrust for institutions and, increasingly, for information. A poverty of imagination that breeds distrust of other people who do not look or think like us. A poverty of imagination that shrinks our sense of self and our sense of a lofty and inspiring common purpose, luring us to the extremes rather than leading us towards the extraordinary.”

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Greenpeace fined under Lobbying Act in 'act of civil disobedience'

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Exclusive: Greenpeace says ‘gagging law’ favours big business and refused to register as a campaign group in run-up to 2015 election

Greenpeace has become the first organisation to be fined under the government’s Lobbying Act which critics warned would silence legitimate campaign groups.

Ministers said the legislation, dubbed the “gagging law” by charities, would hold corporate lobbyists to account when it was introduced in 2014.

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Scientists to take to the streets in global march for truth

The Guardian | Protest -

March for Science on 22 April will see scientists and supporters at more than 500 locations stand up for evidence-based thinking

Scientists and science supporters will take to the streets in a global March for Science on 22 April . What began as a small Facebook group in the US capital, Washington DC has spiralled into a global phenomenon that will now see marches and other events in more than 500 locations around the world, from Seattle to Seoul.

It is great news that so many people are prepared to stand up and defend the need for evidence-based thinking and the scientific method. But it is also a sad comment on our times that a March for Science is needed at all. Post-truth populism has infected democracies around the world, scientific objectivity is under threat from multiple sources and there seems a real danger of falling into a modern dystopian dark age.

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