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Helmut Kohl: leader who united Europe as well as Germany

The Guardian | Protest -

When East Germany collapsed, the West German chancellor rose to the occasion and helped heal the cold war’s bitter divisions

Helmut Kohl, who died on Friday aged 87, was one of a trio of dominant western conservative politicians – along with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – whose determined ideological and practical opposition to the Soviet Union helped lead in the closing months of 1989 to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent end of the cold war that had gripped Europe since 1945.

But despite his reputation as a hardliner and his achievement as Germany’s longest-serving chancellor since Bismarck, Kohl in person was a shambling bear of a man (he was 193cm or 6’4” tall) who often did not take himself too seriously. Rather than claim a perspicacity he did not possess, Kohl freely admitted later that he did not foresee the sudden Soviet implosion and was as surprised as anyone when it happened.

Related: Helmut Kohl chides Angela Merkel and Mikhail Gorbachev in new book

Related: Kohl accused of corruption

Related: German reunification 25 years on: how different are east and west really

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London: Grenfell Tower must mark a turning point for UK housing

House Occupation News -

Grenfell Tower must mark a turning point for UK housing – community protest called for Saturday 18 June, 12 noon.

In response to the horror at Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Action Group and Radical Housing Network have called a protest at Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) Town Hall this Saturday.

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide alliance of grassroots housing campaigns of which Grenfell Action Group are a member. The group are calling on estate campaigners, community groups and tenants from across London to join Saturday’s protest to demand #Justice4Grenfell.

Radical Housing Network and Grenfell Action Group are demanding:
– An independent Inquest and a Public Inquiry, so that no stone be left unturned in investigating what led to this horrific event, and tenants are able to have a voice
– That public authorities be held to account and criminal proceedings brought against all those responsible.
– That all Grenfell residents be offered long-term and affordable housing in their local area – to meet this need, RBKC should buy local private property and turn it into council housing.
– That Grenfell Tower is fully rebuilt and not a single unit of social housing is lost – this must not be an opportunity to privatise homes or for developers to make a profit.

A spokesperson from Radical Housing Network said:
“We demand an inquest and a public inquiry into the Grenfell disaster, so that no stone be left unturned in bringing those responsible to account, and that criminal proceedings are brought.

“For decades, council housing has been run into the ground and council tenants treated with contempt. Now it’s time to go into reverse gear – this has to be a turning point for UK housing.

“The Grenfell community must be allowed to heal together and residents must not be separated from their neighbours. If there is not enough social housing to house residents locally, the council should buy private property and turn this into council housing, rather than lining the pockets of private landlords.

“The UK housing system treats those at the bottom with contempt. Those on the lowest incomes suffer substandard, dangerous housing and overcrowding – whoever the landlord is. Tenants have few rights or say in their housing, whether they live on a council estate or rent privately.

“The UK urgently needs to rebuild its stock of decent, affordable, safe social housing.

“We need a housing system that puts people’s lives ahead of profit.”

Justice for Grenfell protest, Saturday 18 June, 12 noon – 2pm at RBKC Town Hall, Hornton Street, W8 7NX, called by Grenfell Action Group and Radical Housing Network

Press contact:
Joe Beswick – 07873557040
Harriet Vickers – 07817724556
Radical Housing Network
info [at] radicalhousingnetwork [dot] org
http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/

Radical Housing Network http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/grenfell-tower-must-mark-a-turning-point-for-uk-housing/

Chalk Girl: the protester at the heart of Hong Kong’s democracy movement – video

The Guardian | Protest -

Two years after becoming an accidental hero of Hong Kong’s umbrella pro-democracy movement when she was arrested, the 16-year-old is torn between wanting to respect her family’s fears about the risks of her activism and standing up to Chinese interference, rejoining the battle alongside the localists fighting to save their city

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Honoring Oscar Lopez Rivera — beyond parades, referendums and media myths

Waging Nonviolence -

by Matt Meyer

Oscar Lopez Rivera at the front of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on June 11. (WNV/Matt Meyer)

It was a peaceful day, full of joy and celebration. CBS News affirmed that despite the controversy, over a million people participated in the 2017 National Puerto Rican Day Parade last Sunday. The New York Daily News reported that former political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera received “a hero’s welcome” at the event (even though the later print edition of the tabloid ran a misleading front-page sidebar falsely suggesting that he was booed along the route). The controversy centered around plans by the parade committee to give Lopez Rivera the title of “National Freedom Hero.” In response, the multinational business community, including Coca Cola, AT&T and other corporations, pulled funding and sponsorship from the parade.

Within the diverse and sometimes-divided Puerto Rican community, however, there was little disagreement that Lopez Rivera’s attendance at the event was cause for excitement. A beloved and unifying figure, Lopez Rivera — the longest held prisoner in the history of U.S.-Puerto Rican relations, who was commonly referred to as “the Mandela of the Americas” — had recently, finally been freed.

The disconnect between Lopez Rivera’s role in Puerto Rico and the diaspora — and how he is mistakenly perceived, even among some progressives, within the United States and elsewhere — showcases both the colonial cultural/political divide between the two peoples, as well as the tremendous organizing involved in his case. Outside of the Puerto Rican community and nation, Lopez Rivera is seen by some as a freedom fighter to be defended at all costs, by others as a misguided advocate of ultra-left armed actions, who nonetheless deserved release on humanitarian and human rights grounds, and by others as a straight-up terrorist.

Among the people of Puerto Rico, though, support for Lopez Rivera is decidedly not a controversial subject. Some surely disagreed with the tactics used decades ago by the organization to which he belonged; others may disagree with one or another of his political positions. But after more than 35 years behind bars, Lopez Rivera is as admired a figure as a top celebrity or artist — appealing to common folks across generational, class and ideological lines. The grassroots campaign built especially over the past 15 years reached every town and village, with ardent support for Oscar’s release coming from the pro-statehood mayor of his hometown and the pro-commonwealth Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who visited Lopez Rivera in prison. An “Oscar in the Street” aspect of his freedom campaign saw life-size cut-outs of his image spread across the island during the last years of his incarceration, and organizing among women’s groups, young people and the religious community helped make Lopez Rivera a household name, with hundreds of thousands of petitions signed calling for his unconditional release.

While it is true that the campaign reached unprecedented international proportions for a U.S. political prisoner, with Pope Francis and a half-dozen Nobel Peace laureates joining the pressure campaign on Obama, the re-branding of Lopez Rivera as a “terrorist” by those seeking to disrupt the June 2017 parade raised doubts among some about Lopez Rivera’s positions regarding violence and social change. As the recently-elected national co-chair of the pacifist-oriented interfaith Fellowship of Reconciliation and a former chair of the secular nonviolent War Resisters League, I can understand initial concerns and confusion.

Since 1992, however, those involved in the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional, or FALN, and many of the armed groupings of the 1970s have stated that changing conditions warranted changing tactics; some began strongly advocating the use of militant nonviolent direct action (which was widely used in the successful campaign to get the U.S. Navy base out of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques). Although never even accused of any acts of violence, Lopez Rivera himself spoke and speaks repeatedly about his personal devotion to the sanctity of life, and how the only time that has been challenged is when he was a soldier in Vietnam. Even in that chaotic experience, Lopez Rivera is certain there is no blood on his hands.

Yet after it was clear that the FALN were taking a different path than their original tactics — which included largely-symbolic bombings of empty buildings — it has been recently repeated that Lopez Rivera refused a 1999 clemency offer because he was unwilling to renounce violence. Although this refusal is exactly what kept Nelson Mandela in jail for 27 years (convicted of the same “seditious conspiracy” thought crime), and the right to take up arms against crimes against humanity such as colonialism is enshrined in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, the 1999 refusal is simply more media misinformation.

When offered clemency under the Clinton administration, Lopez Rivera joined all his co-defendants in pledging (again) that they would neither engage in nor advocate acts of violence — and they have lived up to that agreement in both letter and spirit. Those released in 1999 are peacemakers, coalition-builders and inspiring artists and activists working productively in every region of the island. And Lopez Rivera was not released at that time in large part because he refused to accept the draconian conditions of staying in prison 10 years longer than the rest. He also protested the fact that some among his co-defendants were offered no deal at all.

But there is much more than a simple concern about violence and nonviolence behind the current efforts to discredit Lopez Rivera. Within the War Resisters League and Fellowship of Reconciliation, members were thrilled at the successes of the Oscar campaign and anxious to welcome this man who has said since his release that the movement has “transcended violence.” We understand that social change does not take place in a fixed historical moment, that people and movements grow and mature, and certainly that it is the primary job of those of us from the colonizer’s side to get out of the way — tactically, strategically and otherwise — of those fighting for their freedom. Self-determination and solidarity is our most important priority.

It is impossible not to notice that those shouting loudest about “terrorist” Oscar Lopez Rivera are also involved in posting physical threats against him and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, one of his most vocal and prominent supporters. “The only 21-gun salute they deserve is between the eyes” wrote one blogger: Those are the words of real and contemporary terrorist violence, directed not at an empire or unjust institutional symbols, but against individuals. As usual, the root causes of perpetual violence are quickly overlooked, and institutional militarism (such as interventionist armies or tear gas-wielding police) are rationalized and accepted. “The only terrorist group I was ever a member of,” noted Lopez Rivera on his first day of freedom, “was when I was part of the U.S. armed forces in Southeast Asia.”

Consistent repression, incrimination, incarceration, black-listing and economic devastation are also acts of state-sponsored terrorism, directed — in the case of Puerto Rico — most intensely at pro-independence advocates. Often led by U.S. intelligence agencies, especially the FBI, those acts would rarely be labeled terrorism, though they have been responsible for more violence and death than any action taken by armed militants. It is terrorism to live in fear of U.S. Navy bombs being tested and dropped on one’s homes, but the people of Vieques faced that reality for decades.

Although the “independence option” has always been a third-place loser on the electoral front, there is plenty of evidence that a vast majority of people believe Puerto Rico to still be a colony, unsatisfied with the current status and unconvinced that previous “votes” on the status question have been anything more than a sham, held by and for the non-Puerto Rican overseers in Washington.

Children lead the Welcome Oscar contingent, including the grand-daughter of the late Congressional Black Caucus leader Major Owens, and the daughter of the conveners of the Irish LGBTQ Allies contingent. (WNV/Matt Meyer)

The plebiscite held on the same day of the 2017 parade may have seen a majority of votes favoring Puerto Rican statehood, but the big news was that over 78 percent of the eligible voting population stayed away from the polls altogether. Independence advocates, commonwealth supporters, and many others waged a far more successful boycott of the vote than Coca Cola and the corporations waged of the parade.

Since the first moments of his release, Lopez Rivera has been clear that he will use his uniquely unifying position to build towards a trustworthy and legitimate process of decolonization. “First,” he carefully explained, “I want to travel to every village and town, to listen to what the people have to say.” This first step in the building of his new foundation is straight out of Gandhi’s playbook; the noted Indian independence leader traveled through the Asian subcontinent before he formulated detailed strategies for a friendly separation from Britain. “The campaign for my release,” Oscar reflected, “was the third of four waves of successful campaigns.” The first wave helped free five nationalists, imprisoned in the 1950s and freed under President Jimmy Carter’s administration. The second was Bill Clinton’s 1999 decision to grant clemency to a dozen Puerto Rican independence activists. The final, according to Lopez Rivera, will be the freeing of the island nation itself.

This is, of course, the real reason the ultra-elite of the island and their U.S. corporate backers hate him so. Lopez Rivera has the possibility of uniting an unprecedented and historical number of people in a decolonization process that will conform to the standards of international law and accepted democratic practice.

In all decolonization processes monitored by the United Nations and international accredited bodies (including the ones led by President Carter), certain conditions are required before a vote can be called legitimate. These include freeing all political prisoners held by the colonizing power, the one condition now almost fully met. Also included is a withdrawal of all colonizing military powers, an idea far from complete, with U.S. bases essentially surrounding the island and the sprawling Roosevelt Roads base taking up a substantial portion of arable land. Although the U.S. armed forces seem ever-present on Puerto Rico (the Marines served as the government of the island for the first years following the 1898 U.S. invasion), the question of outside intervention and its effects on the electoral process can’t be overlooked.

It will take some time for Lopez Rivera to complete his homeland tour, as will any true transition process on status. The dire economic situation, with teachers unable to get paid a livable wage and unemployment at record highs, make the fuse on the Puerto Rican time bomb — far more deadly than any 1970s explosive — an incredibly short one.

Meanwhile, in New York for his historic first visit, Lopez Rivera speaks of peace. Honored with a position at the front of the throng of cheering parade-goers, he rode a float designed by Puerto Rican artisans to appear as a scene “by the water’s edge” — a reference to the locale the 74-year-old patriot missed most during his close to 36 years behind bars. While he did not accept the “national freedom hero” title that the National Puerto Rican Day Parade committee had wanted to bestow upon him, there was little stopping the outpouring of love and affection for this archetype so beloved by his people. Lopez Rivera noted that he preferred to march as an ordinary Puerto Rican elder and grandfather and to bestow the titled honor on all the people of his homeland and those allies who fight with them for justice and freedom. He, therefore, neither wore the special sash designating him as an honoree, nor marched with the other honored parade grand marshals or dignitaries.

Of course, some in the corporate media — careful to remain faithful to their Trump- and Breitbart-aligned backers — still suggested that there were many who booed Lopez Rivera, a lie easily transparent to any who (like me) walked with his contingent all the way up Fifth Avenue. There were maybe half-a-dozen at most who criticized Oscar along the route. Those same reporters suggested an overwhelming majority of Puerto Ricans back on the island had just voted in favor of statehood, despite the extraordinarily high stay-away rate.

For those of us who have gotten to know Oscar Lopez Rivera, it is hard to escape the feeling that we are in the presence of both a great, transcendent figure — having made and about to make history, and a cherubic grandfather type, sweet and caring and giving of his time and energy. As organizers, however, we know that while it is nice to gain friends and family, it is more important to wage effective campaigns that will end injustice and give us reason to celebrate for more than one sunny Sunday afternoon.

Twelve people linked to Turkish security face arrest after Washington brawl

The Guardian | Protest -

City’s police obtain warrants to arrest 16 people accused of involvement in the clash, which saw nine injured after protesters were assaulted

Washington DC police have obtained arrest warrants for 16 people implicated in the bloody brawl outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence last month, including 12 people tied to Turkey’s security services.

Related: 'I could have died': how Erdoğan's bodyguards turned protest into brawl

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Turkey's opposition begins protest march over MP's imprisonment

The Guardian | Protest -

Hundreds taking part in 250-mile trek from Ankara to Istanbul after CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu was jailed for 25 years

Turkey’s main opposition party has begun a march from the country’s capital, Ankara, to its largest city, Istanbul, to protest against the imprisonment of an MP who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for allegedly leaking information to the press.

“We are facing dictatorial rule,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Republican People’s party (CHP), as he set out on the march. “We don’t want to live in a country where there is no justice. We are saying enough is enough.”

Related: Turkish opposition politician jailed for 25 years on spying charges

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Athens (Greece): Statement of CityPlaza Squat against the threat of eviction

House Occupation News -

City Plaza will not bend / Resist the “immigration & passport bureaus”, the frightful flags of states and diplomacy war weapons factories

The court order for the evacuation of the Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza is the latest scene in the repressive management of refugees and the solidarity movement. From the closure of the borders to the shameful EU-Turkey deal, from the prisonlike camps to the evacuation of squats, a policy of casting refugees as a peculiar enemy is being articulated. An enemy that must be dealt with by direct and indirect state violence. The violence on the bodies of foreign nationals breeds fear in the minds of the locals and sinks the entire society deeper into barbarism.

Over the past 14 months, City Plaza, along with all the other refugee housing squats, is a “crack” in the public space where the repressive and racist discourse against refugees is constantly reiterated. City Plaza has not only proven that refugees and locals can live together in harmony and with dignity. It also signifies, along with other similar initiatives, that there is a Europe that is different to the Europe of the Eurogroup and Frontex. A Europe of solidarity, struggle, humanity. And it is precisely this that is a nuisance to those in power.

We will not be afraid, we will not bend, we will not back down.

We are calling on mass support for City Plaza and all refugee squats by any possible way.

Refugee Accommodation Space City Plaza

[Posted on June 10, 2017 by Enough is Enough!]

Waverveen (Netherlands): An empty school has been squatted

House Occupation News -

A school building that has been empty for 7 years was squatted in Waverveen, Netherlands.

On Sunday June 4th a convoy arrived into the green village of Waverveen to squat a small school, on the Botsholsedwarsweg 13A. Owned by the Gemeente de Ronde Venen, the school named ‘Poldertrots’ has been empty for 7 years.

Sunday:
The cops have been and gone after some mild confusion, so we will wait for the arrival of more authorities or Geemente representatives. The Neighbours were all quite OK after receiving a nice letter from the squatters, the kids have been quick to infest the front yard with go-karts and bikes, the sun is shining.

Monday:
The Neighbours have lent us some gardening tools to fix things up, one of the local kids is helping by driving his pedal tractor filled full of trash. Sun is still there.

Tuesday:
Open day announced on Saturday June 10th. The kids from the hood are already having fun skating around in the sports hall. The neighbours seem quite happy to to see something happening with the school, including the gardening. The sun was shining.

A few newspapers have come by today. The Geemente have stated that the process is now with the police.

So far that’s it, the sun has been shining but now it’s raining, just a little bit, its still shining somewhere I guess.

[Posted on June 9, 2017 by Enough is Enough!]

The new horsemen: why American riot police embraced the bicycle

The Guardian | Protest -

As a new digital era of protest has dawned under Occupy and Trump, riot police across the US have embarked on a fundamental shift in crowd control

Early last Saturday afternoon, under clear blue skies, a sparsely attended “anti-sharia” rally left the grounds of City Hall in Seattle, Washington.

Until then, the attendees had been facing off against a much larger group of anti-fascists. The two sides had been exchanging chants and taunts across a wide, fenced-off area, manned with riot police.

They’re more mobile, they can more easily create physical barriers – and the bikes can be used as weapons

They have better and better communications technologies, but we have the bikes

Related: 'They said girls don't ride bikes': Iranian women defy the cycling fatwa

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Barcelona: Eviction of la Rimaia

House Occupation News -

This morning, wednesday June 14th, 2017, the Mossos d’Esquadra (police force of Catalonia) have evicted la Rimaia squat, located at 12 Ronda de Sant Pau. Occupied several times, the last time it has been occupied was between April 20th, 2016 and… June 14th, 2017.

[Sources: fr.squat.net | Twitter Enough is enough & Barcelona Anarchists | ara.cat | La Razon | El Pais | El Punt Avui.]

Two arrested over violent clash during Turkish president's White House visit

The Guardian | Protest -

Police say Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim have been arrested for their role in a violent altercation that took place outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence

Two men have been arrested for their role in a violent altercation outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence during a recent visit to Washington by Turkey’s president, police said Wednesday.

The Metropolitan police department said in a brief statement that Sinan Narin had been arrested in Virginia on an aggravated assault charge. It said Eyup Yildirim had been arrested in New Jersey on charges of assault with significant bodily injury and aggravated assault.

Related: 'I could have died': how Erdoğan's bodyguards turned protest into brawl

Related: John McCain: Turkish ambassador should be 'thrown out' for violence

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London: Justice for Grenfell Tower

House Occupation News -

‘Managed decline’ of council housing and contempt for tenants contributed to fire

Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.

The catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was foreseen by a community group on the estate. Just 7 months ago, Grenfell Action Group, a member of Radical Housing Network, warned that failings in the estate management organisation’s health and safety practices were a “recipe for a future major disaster”. These warnings were dismissed by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) council.

It’s been revealed that Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, ‘sat on’ a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire. Last year, Barwell was one of 312 Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation’.

Radical Housing Network called the fire a horrendous example of the consequences of a combination of government cuts, local authority mismanagement, and sheer contempt for council tenants and the homes they live in – and an indictment of London’s stark housing inequality.

A spokesperson for the Radical Housing Network said:

“The fire at Grenfell is a horrific, preventable tragedy for which authorities and politicians must be held to account. Grenfell’s council tenants are not second class citizens – yet they are facing a disaster unimaginable in Kensington’s richer neighbourhoods.

“This Government, and many before it, have neglected council housing, and disregarded its tenants as if they were second class. Nationally and locally, politicians have subjected public housing to decades of systematic disinvestment – leaving properties in a state of disrepair, and open to privatisation. Regeneration, when it has come, has been for the benefit of developers and buy-to-let landlords, who profit from luxury flats built in place of affordable homes. Across London, regeneration has meant evictions, poor quality building work, and has left tenants with little influence over the future of their estates.

“The chronic underinvestment in council housing and contempt for tenants must stop. It is an outrage that in 21st Britain, authorities cannot be trusted to provide safe housing, and that people in council properties cannot put children safely to bed at night.

“We support demands for a public inquiry into this disaster – there must be Justice for Grenfell. We call for the immediate resignation of Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s Chief of Staff, alongside anyone else whose negligence has contributed to this tragedy.

“All Grenfell Tower residents must be offered secure, long-term local housing by RBKC, and the estate must be fully rebuilt so that no social housing is lost – this should not be an opportunity for the council to privatise homes, or for someone to make a quick buck.”

Notes for editors:

Grenfell Action Group outlined concerns on their blog over a series of posts, but were ignored by authorities. The group repeatedly warned the estate landlord, Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (KCTMO) of serious issues with fire safety in the blocks, highlighting the absence of basic fire protection measures including fire extinguishers and a building-wide fire alarm system. The local council, Royal Borough of Kensington Chelsea (RBKC), dismissed residents’ concerns as it pushed through a £8.6 million regeneration scheme.

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide network of campaigns fighting for housing justice. Grenfell Action Group is a member group of RHN.

Press contact:
Joe Beswick – 07873557040
Harriet Vickers – 07817724556
Radical Housing Network
info [at] radicalhousingnetwork [dot] org
http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/

Radical Housing Network http://radicalhousingnetwork.org/grenfell-fire-warnings-fell-on-deaf-ears/

Athens: Rosa de Foc, international squat house in Exarchia

House Occupation News -

We are an autonomus, self-managed collective based on libertarian and anti-authoritarian principles. We are living on Ashmakh Fwthla 18 in Exarcheia.
We come from several countries, including Greece.

The governing organ of our community is the General Essembly (GA). All important decisions regarding the house or its inhabitants must be approved by GA. Any decision taken otherwise will not be considered legitimate. We will not tolerate any threat of our autonomy, and will protect it. At the same time we perceive the solidarity among squats as self explanatory and continuous situation.

We will be vigilant and active in the struggle against drugs and drug dealing around the area of Exarchia as well as against the possibility of this happening inside the movement.

In addition, we are open to suggestions and political projects that promote the non-profit and anticonstitutional character, the strengthening of relationships among comrades and the general struggle for revolution and Anarchy. We want and we have the ability to house self-educational activities, as well as activities that promote political discussion and communication.

We send our greetings to the revolutionary comrades that fight for freedom around the world, and all the political prisoners that have been kidnapped by the state. Our space constitutes from the beginning a crossroad for comrades from all around the globe and we desire to remain as such.

Whoever wants to take part in our community life and build a connection with us or has some projects or ideas, are welcome every Friday at 1p.m. At this time we organise collective kitchen.

https://athens.indymedia.org/post/1574850/

Russian courts sentence protesters arrested at anti-corruption rallies

The Guardian | Protest -

Rights group says 1,700 people detained in Moscow and St Petersburg during protests called by opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Russian courts have started to hand down jail terms to demonstrators arrested at a series of anti-corruption protests across the country on Monday.

Several protesters in Moscow and St Petersburg were on Tuesday given 15 days in jail, including Ilya Yashin, the opposition leader and political partner of Boris Nemtsov, who was murdered in 2015.

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Anti-fracking movement emerges to halt Argentina’s natural gas boom

Waging Nonviolence -

by Brandon Jordan

It was a hot day in Houston, Texas, on April 26, but that didn’t stop nearly 200 people — representing mainly the oil and gas industry — from filling the luxury hotel known as The Houstonian. While the menu included extravagant meals, such as steak wrapped in bacon with bourbon sauce, the real draw was Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, who had a simple message: “Come invest in Argentina.”

Macri, who met with President Trump in Washington the following day, is positioning his country as the next potential market for natural gas. Argentina boasts one of the world’s largest shale gas reservations called Vaca Muerta, or Dead Cow. While hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, began in the region in 2013, Macri’s government intends to bring in more investments and expand production.

Not everyone in Argentina, however, agrees with the government’s plans. Just a day before the event, the province of Entre Rios, located about 900 miles northeast from Vaca Muerta, became the first province in the country to ban fracking. While the province is not known for any oil exploration, it was hailed as a symbolic victory.

“The act was the result of a growth of information [on fracking] that we shared among different sectors of society,” explained Luis Lafferriere, an organizer who helped pressure lawmakers in Entre Rios to ban fracking. Since 2012, more than 25 organizations — from unions to student-led groups — entered into a coalition called the Movement to Free Entre Rios of Fracking, which held meetings, organized assemblies, coordinated mobilizations and sent lawmakers thousands of signatures against fracking.

The coalition had become familiar with fracking stories from the United States — like the infamous flammable tap water scene in the 2010 documentary “Gasland” and the numerous reports of earthquakes near fracking sites. As a result, they invited speakers from some of those communities to talk about their experiences. After years of pressuring officials, the decision finally came in late April that Entre Rios would not allow fracking on its lands.

“On our path to the provincial law achievement, we won important, partial victories,” Lafferriere said, citing “numerous ordinances in nearly 40 localities of the province” that banned fracking in their respective jurisdictions.

The decision by Entre Rios is surprising, considering Argentina depends on fossil fuels for around 90 percent of its energy. What’s more, natural gas accounts for 50 percent of that fossil fuel mix, and much of it is imported at a higher cost — the result of both a surge in energy use among Argentines and a drop in natural gas production, stemming from the 2001-02 economic crisis.

According to Fernando Cabrera, a researcher at the Buenos Aires-based Observatorio Petrolero Sur, or Southern Oil Observatory, the high cost of importing natural gas did, for a time, stimulate interest in non-conventional resources like renewable energy. However, these resources fell short of expectations, and the country turned its attention toward extracting more fossil fuels — with Argentina’s state-owned company, YPF, leading the way. Indeed, YPF now manages 40 percent of oil production.

Embed from Getty Images

Notably, it is the provinces that are “the owners of fossil fuels in Argentina,” Cabrera said. He detailed how the provinces, like Neuquen, own 12 percent of the oil wells, which means state government officials have an actual stake in permitting fracking.

The national government’s desire to rid itself of foreign dependence on fossil fuels reflects decades of trying to escape economic stagnation. Former President Carlos Menem told the country in 1992, amid the beginning of neoliberal reforms, that it would finally “leave this true hell called the Third World.” The country, however, fell even further into the abyss, until Nestor Kirchner, who was elected president in 2003, defaulted on International Monetary Fund-imposed loans and boosted exports.

Still, the push by the government to expand fracking is causing “hell” for others. In Neuquen — a state just west of the capital of Buenos Aires and in the heart of Vaca Muerta — residents complain of loud machinery that shakes the Earth, which has them fearing eruptions or earthquakes.

According to Milton Lopez, an activist with the group Vista Alegre Free of Fracking and In Defense of Life, the government profits from fracking, while causing environmental damage and sickness. Lopez said his group spent a year pressuring representatives to pass an ordinance. Finally, in January, Vista Alegre became the first municipality in Argentina to prohibit fracking. Almost immediately, however, the victory was challenged in court, following an appeal by Neuquen’s state attorney, who argued that local officials do not have the jurisdiction to make such a decision. Argentina’s Supreme Court suspended the ordinance in May and will announce a decision — albeit without any clear timeline — on whether it is unconstitutional.

While the Supreme Court dismissed their testimony, it didn’t stop residents from expressing their displeasure. They’ve demonstrated in front of the tribunal court handling the case, marched to the capital and blocked a highway. According to Lopez, they won’t be stopped by a “right-wing government” that’s stripping their human rights, as well as their rights to water and land.

“We’re defending our ordinance,” he said. “We’re using all means of communications [to warn people about fracking] … and we’re working with others to prohibit fracking [elsewhere].”

Vista Alegre residents march in defense of their anti-fracking ordinance in Neuquen, Argentina on May 23, 2017. (Facebook / Vista Alegre Free of Fracking in Defense of Life)

Meanwhile, indigenous people are also getting involved. The Mapuche — which are the largest indigenous group in Argentina, with a population near 200,000 and a history dating back to 600 B.C. — are facing a severe threat to their land, especially in the Vaca Muerta basin.

“The concessions made to the companies are illegal,” said Lefxaru Nawel, a Mapuche resident in Neuquen. “They are not following the law or customs. We need to be consulted, but we’re not.”

When fracking started in Neuquen, after the 2013 agreement between Chevron and YPF, it was on lands already tainted with heavy metals such as arsenic and lead from a previous oil well used since the 1970s. Despite occupying oil wells for multiple days in 2013, residents have not seen a response to their protests and worry that there is no plan from provincial or federal officials to address further waste and pollution from more fracking. Furthermore, Vaca Muerta comprises two-thirds of Neuquen and impacts about 30 Mapuche communities.

“We [Mapuche] each have a different situation, but we’re all affected the same,” said Nawel, who lives more than half a mile from a well.

The Mapuche have, for decades, faced public and private officials who seize and taint their land without consulting them — like in the neighboring province of Rio Negro, where authorities take land for mining companies. The fracking companies act no different, Nawel explained, adding that “conflicts are growing” between local residents and state and federal authorities. As a result, repression is also on the rise. In one recent case, authorities used rubber bullets and seriously injured protesters.

At a press conference on May 29 in front of YPF’s headquarters in Neuquen, 10 Mapuche communities handed a letter to government officials requesting that their rights be respected, as fracking operations expand due to private investments. YPF insists it does engage in dialogue with local communities and accused “some leaders” of “pursuing interests” against the community and environment.

While, according Nawel, the Mapuche are merely defending their territory, YPF considers the Mapuche harmful to operations and, in a statement to the press, views their claims as nothing but demands for “meaningless compensation.”

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Fossil fuel companies are eager to profit off of any boom, considering the natural gas bonanza that’s taken place in the United States over the last decade. Last year, Rex Tillerson, then the head of ExxonMobil, said the company might invest $10 billion in the Vaca Muerta shale gas reservation. Other companies, such as Chevron or Shell, are also planning to extract gas from the abundant basin field.

At the same time, however, future actions against fracking are anticipated. Lopez said residents will not feel defeated if their ordinance is found unconstitutional, as they can appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Nawel, meanwhile, stressed that the Mapuche will meet among themselves to prepare for future actions.

In the case of Entre Rios, the national government did not issue a wide public response to the law. Lafferriere suspects this is because it fears other provinces might try to follow their lead. He acknowledged other areas throughout Argentina already have more interest from oil and gas companies. Yet, at the same time, he considers the law a victory for the broader movement against fracking, especially after hearing “anti-fracking fighters” across the nation have been emboldened by the law, adding, “It would be criminal to jeopardize people for the benefit of the few.”

We need to get corporate America and police units out of Pride marches | Steven W Thrasher

The Guardian | Protest -

At the Capital Pride Parade in Washington DC on Saturday, the No Justice No Pride group interrupted the march to protest the way its being coopted

Even the worst corporations and institutions want to label themselves as LGBT allies these days. Why? Corporate America thinks its good for PR and the bottom line. This weekend they were told loud and clear: you have no place in our community.

At the Capital Pride Parade in Washington DC over the weekend, radical queer people from No Justice No Pride repeatedly interrupted the corporate sponsored march on several occasions to protest the participation of police contingents and certain anti-LGBT corporations in the parade.

The DC pride parade has just been interrupted by this banner blocking the Lockheed Martin float. pic.twitter.com/8YgwQQPSP1

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Russia opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained before Moscow protest

The Guardian | Protest -

Anti-corruption campaigner was seeking to capitalise on growing support by repeating protests that rattled the Kremlin in March

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been detained at his home, his wife has said, after he called on his supporters to take to the streets of Moscow to demonstrate the growing momentum behind his protest movement.

The lawyer turned anti-corruption campaigner, who wants to challenge Vladimir Putin for the presidency next year, is popular among a minority of the population, but his support is growing. A protest in March against alleged corruption by the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, drew an estimated 60,000 people to streets in cities across Russia.

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Greater Manchester police under real strain due to cuts, says chief

The Guardian | Protest -

Chief constable tweets table showing cuts to staffing numbers, after weekend policing protests, festival and bombing inquiry

The head of Greater Manchester police has said his force is under “real strain” as a result of major cuts.

Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of GMP, made the remarks three weeks after the Manchester Arena bombing in which 22 were killed and more than 200 injured.

Outstanding from @gmpolice officers & staff this w/e policing protest & Parklife. Real strain on everyone not just this weekend..see below. pic.twitter.com/vFJXfrYax5

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Prague: Squat action on Hybernská ends quickly

House Occupation News -

The Obsaď a žij collective has been kicked out by riot police from the building squatted on Hybernská 10, in the center of Prague. The building is owned by real estate company ÚZSVM. Video of the eviction is posted on June 10th. Reports of the action were posted on the Klinika blog on June 6th.

Pictures originally published on http://a2larm.cz/2017/06/fotogalerie-obsad-a-zij-hybernska/

Venezuela's mass anti-government demonstrations enter third month

The Guardian | Protest -

Clashes between protesters and security forces have become a deadly cycle and doctors are seeing disturbing patterns in the violence

There is a pattern to the protests that have rocked Venezuela for the past two months. Anti-government demonstrators set off on a march to the government buildings in Caracas’s city centre to protest against a government they consider illegitimate. Halfway to their destination national guards and riot police deter them with gas bombs and water cannons. Clashes ensue and dozens of people are injured. Some die.

Related: On the frontline of Venezuela's punishing protests

Related: Venezuela: 50th day of protests brings central Caracas to a standstill

When security forces defy their leader it generally means you are one step away from a failed state. Unless they listen, we could soon be on the brink of anarchy

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