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Peace News -


Peace activists walk free after actions in Australia and the US.

In Australia, five Christian peace pilgrims had charges against them dismissed after entering one of the country’s most sensitive locations.

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Peace News -


Biofuels challenged in North Yorks

On 22 October, around 60 British climate campaigners assembled in the autumn sunshine at the vast cooling towers of Drax power station in North Yorkshire.

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IfNotNow leads ‘Jewish Day of Resistance’ against Trump and appointees

Waging Nonviolence -

by Sarah Aziza

IfNotNow marched on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia on Nov. 22. (Facebook / IfNotNow)

Demonstrators are gathering in over 30 U.S. cities today as part of a “Jewish Day of Resistance” against President-elect Donald Trump and his appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor. The group responsible for organizing the day’s events is IfNotNow, an organization of Jewish youth concerned with the rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia characterized by the rhetoric of Trump and his appointees.

In New York City, protesters will line up on the Brooklyn Bridge and outside the midtown office of Birthright Israel. In Washington, D.C., protesters already entered the lobby of the Republican Jewish Coalition, or RJC, holding signs to “Draw the Line” against policies that threaten to tear the country apart and calling for the coalition to stand against Bannon. The group was “violently forced” from the building by RJC private security, according to IfNotNow organizer Ethan Miller. The incident was recorded on Facebook Live.

“The political lines are being redrawn right now,” said New York-based IfNotNow organizer Sarah Lerman-Sinkoff. “We’re concerned that our institutional leaders are trying to cozy up to power, believing that will protect them.” One of those leaders, according to IfNotNow, is the Zionist Organization of America, or ZOA, which endorsed Bannon’s appointment. In response, IfNotNow helped organize a protest on Nov. 20 outside a ZOA gala dinner in New York where Bannon was scheduled to appear. The demonstration drew over 700 protesters, and when Bannon failed to show, Lerman-Sinkoff said the group counted this as “a major victory.”

Miller described Wednesday’s actions as building on the growing dissent catalyzed by Trump’s election, saying, “This is bigger than Bannon or Trump, it’s about what they represent.” He sees IfNotNow as representing the growing number of Jewish youth who are demanding a stronger moral stance from their leaders. “We refused to be sold down the river by institutions silently supporting Trump because he supports right-wing policies in Israel and supports the occupation.”

Opposition to the occupation was the founding objective of IfNotNow, which formed in reaction to the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza. IfNotNow aims to bridge political divides by focusing first on dismantling the occupation. “Other organizations are focusing on policy, but we think all solutions will be stronger once the occupation has ended,” Miller said. The occupation is “a moral crisis” in the Jewish community, Miller continued, adding that Jewish leaders must recognize the “freedom and dignity” of the Palestinian people as integral to their community’s future.

IfNotNow, which has seven official chapters across the United States, has seen a surge in first-time activists since the election and has provided advice, support and two-day training sessions to meet the growing interest. They also work closely with fellow grassroots movements like the migrant justice group Cosecha, while maintaining a uniquely Jewish framework, by organizing actions around Jewish holidays and traditions, and singing Hebrew songs.

“There is a long Jewish tradition of having public moral discussions,” Miller said. “That’s what we want to do — to bring issues of justice into the public arena.”

Blaze of Glory: the grand tradition of burning the American flag

The Guardian | Protest -

Donald Trump has tweeted that he wants to jail anyone who sets fire to the stars and stripes. But this act of protest has a special place in US history

Jimi Hendrix did not need a match to burn the American flag. All he needed to desecrate Old Glory was an electric guitar. When Hendrix started to play the national anthem at Woodstock in 1969, the audience must have been baffled. Patriotic bullshit, man! But as he played The Star-Spangled Banner, he distorted it to produce increasingly painful, harsh and violent sounds. The Vietnam war and the dissonance of a US at odds with itself throb in the surreal chaos Hendrix makes of a song written in 1813 to express love of the flag:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

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Guatemala’s indigenous water protectors organize to challenge hydroelectric projects

Waging Nonviolence -

by Jeff Abbott

Women from along the Cahabón River demonstrate in Guatemala City on October 17 by holding inverted water containers to symbolize the privatization of their water. (Prensa Comunitaria/Nelton Rivera)

Thousands of indigenous Q’eqchi, Achí and Pomcomchí Mayas took part in a series of protests on October 17 against hydroelectric projects along the Cahabón River in the Guatemalan department of Alta Verapaz. The simultaneous protests, which took place in Guatemala City and the municipality of San Pedro Carcha, aimed to force the government’s hand over a delayed consultation on the project in Santa María Cahabón.

“[The company] entered [our community] without advising anyone,” said Bernado Caal Xol, one of the organizers of the movement against the hydro project. “We filed this complaint in order that they inform us, and consult us about the project.”

Nearly 200 men, women and children traveled to the city to march through the streets to demand that the courts respect the community’s right to consultation prior to the construction of the hydroelectric projects along the Cahabón River. During the march in Guatemala City to the Constitutional Court, women carried inverted water containers to symbolize the loss of access to the water of the river.

Alta Verapaz is a place of natural beauty. Vast rivers, jungles and cave systems stretch across the rolling terrain of the territory. Here the lush forests still conceal the rare quetzal, the small green bird that is the national symbol of Guatemala. This natural beauty has brought eco-tourists, as well as adventure and energy companies interested in exploiting the vast water resources for hydro energy.

In 2014, the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mining identified Alta Verapaz as one of the departments with the highest potentials for energy generation. There are 15 projects along the Cahabón River. Yet these plans have brought the companies and state government into conflict with the indigenous populations of the department.

The Guatemala-based company Oxec S.A. owns the hydroelectric dams Oxec and Oxec II, with investments from Energy Resources Capital Corp, which is based in Panama. Oxec S.A. is owned by the powerful Bosch Gutiérrez family and is being built by the Spanish company Grupo Cobra, which is owned by Florentino Pérez, the president of Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid. The project has already generated negative environmental impacts. The photos that have made it out of the construction site show a scarred earth.

The project has also brought social discontent to quiet rural communities, especially as residents have seen their water sources privatized and their access to the banks of the river limited by the company. But according to Caal, these immediate impacts foreshadow greater impacts in the future.

“There are two parts to our concerns. The first is with the damage that is occurring to the river; in time the river will dry up and the communities that live along the banks of the river will be left without water,” Caal said. His second concern is the cultural damage. According to the Popol Wuj, the holy book of the Kiche, he continued, “the river is sacred; it is untouchable for us.”

Residents along the river have also seen their access to the river limited by the construction project. “Now no one can enter to swim, to fish and to collect water where they are installing the project because they are installing security fences,” Caal said. “This has a psychological impact. Before, one could go down to the river to bathe, collect water and wash clothing. But now there are well armed private security officers along the river.”

Cahabón River. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

In response, organizers have mobilized the 29,000 residents of the 195 communities that rely on the river as a source of fresh water, fishing and their culture through sharing information on the project and the effects that it will have on them. They have successfully reached nearly all residents through their campaign.

“They just arrived and took the river without informing anyone,” Caal said. “We’re informing the people about who the company is, and for how long the company will have rights to the river.”

These tactics have led a majority of the population to oppose the project. The few communities that are in favor of it are receiving support and gifts from the company.

Primarily the community organizers have utilized legal means to challenge the construction of the Oxec projects. Organizing around the consultation is the basis of the community mobilization. Caal and the others from the Cahabón worked tirelessly to inform the residents through community meetings prior to the vote in the consultation.

Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization protects the rights of indigenous communities to consultation prior to the construction of projects within their territories. Guatemala became a signatory of the convention in 1997. Indigenous communities have held over 85 consultations since 2005 over extractive projects, with residents overwhelmingly rejecting any project within their territory. Despite this, the companies and Guatemalan government rarely respect the opinions of residents, and push through the projects by any means possible.

Their first major victory came in April 2016 when the Guatemalan Supreme Court sided with the Q’eqchi’ residents and suspended the company’s licenses over the company’s failure to consult residents prior to construction.

A consultation was then planned for July 31, 2016, but just days before it was to begin, the company filed a legal action against the planned vote to block it. The appeal followed the murder of two people in one of the communities. The company argued that under these conditions there could not be a proper consultation. As a result, the appeal delayed the consultation from occurring, pending a decision from the Guatemalan courts.

The community responded by calling for holding the consultation anyway, as a show of good faith. But the state interceded by deploying the Guatemalan National Police and military police to guarantee that the consultation would not occur.

Energy privatization and regional integration

The expansion of energy generation in Guatemala is part of a project that has been envisioned for the region for decades. Regional integration was first conceived in the mid-1970s, when the governments of Central America, along with Spain, began talks of integration.

The end of fighting across the region in the 1990s permitted the beginning of the realization of this plan. Energy production and distribution were privatized as part of the Peace Accords. Companies such as Duke Energy, Unión Fenosa from Spain, and ENEL from Italy, quickly purchased production plants.

According to Salvadoran researcher Antonio Sandá Mera, following the privatization of energy in Guatemala and El Salvador in 1998, the governments of the region committed to the construction of the Regional Energy Market. These new efforts facilitated the construction of the Central American Electrical Interconnection System, which would facilitate the transferring of energy via high-tension lines across the region.

This initiative was strengthened through regional integration projects such as Plan Puebla-Panama, which was proposed by Mexican President Vicente Fox in 2001. The plan sought to integrate key sectors of infrastructure, including energy grids, highways, telecommunication and tourism routes across the region. The plan was later renamed Plan Mesoamerica following the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2004.

The Guatemala Ministry of Energy and Mining, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, reaffirmed in early 2016 the goal of doubling energy production by 2025. This expansion seeks to utilize Guatemala’s vast water sources and geothermic activity to generate energy.

The expansion of energy generation is promoted as a means of ending energy poverty across Guatemala. But these projects do little to relieve the excessively high cost of energy, and further contribute to the emergence of new social conflicts.

These previous attempts at regional energy integration were also marked by extreme violence and human rights violations. The most well documented case is the massacres that made way for the construction of the Chixoy dam in Baja Verapaz, Guatemala.

Between 1982-1984 the Guatemalan military massacred 600 people Achí in communities along the Negro River in order to make way for the construction of the Chixoy dam. The military justified the massacres by accusing the indigenous campesinos as being part of the guerrilla movement. The project also displaced 3,200 people directly, and 6,000 indirectly, and flooded villages and sacred sites.

Modern human rights violations

The modern expansion of energy generation is marked by extreme cases of human rights violations. Research published in October 2016 by Antonio Rodríguez-Carmona and Elena De Luis Romero highlight the consistent violations in the expansion of energy generation in Guatemala.

According to researchers, these projects have violated the rights of the residents to prior consultation, their right to their territory, and have continued the discrimination against indigenous communities. Furthermore, the companies and the municipal governments have failed to provide information to the communities about the projects.

Their report also highlights the forced disappearance of 20-year-old Q’eqchi’ Maya, Ovidio Xol Chub, in November 2014. Xol Chub was in the process of negotiating the sale of his land in the community of Xicacao when he disappeared. As of 2016, the Guatemalan Public Ministry has failed to investigate the disappearance.

Furthermore, companies have denied the existence of indigenous communities as a means of denying the communities of their constitutional right of prior consultation. As an example, the Environmental and Social Disclosure for the construction of two hydroelectric projects in the communities of San Mateo Ixtatan and San Andres in the department of Huehuetenango highlight the manipulation of impact reports to avoid consulting the communities.

“The vast majority of the residents of the project area are Ladinos — Spanish-speaking Guatemalans who do not follow an indigenous lifestyle,” the report reads. “The project area communities do include some members of the Q’anjab’al and Chuj indigenous language groups and these people are clustered in certain communities; however, there are no communities in the project area of influence that are monolingual or composed exclusively of any ethnic group.”

But the reality of San Mateo Ixtatan is that it is nearly 97 percent indigenous according to 2002 census data from the Guatemalan government.

The memory of the massacres during the 36-year-long internal armed conflict influences the movement against the modern expansion of energy generation across the northern border with Mexico, which is a region slated for development. In fact, the community of Santa María Cahabón was the site of brutal massacres carried out by the Guatemalan military during the 1980s. According to Caal, the military carried out executions and then the soldiers utilized the rivers currents to carry the bodies away.

“They were clearing the area for projects like these,” Caal explained. “These plans have existed since before today. But during the 1980s the company was called Chulac.”

The Chulac hydroelectric mega-dam was one of three large-scale World Bank funded energy developments in Guatemala. The Guatemalan National Institute of Energy and World Bank intended to build the dam on the Cahabón River, but the project was eventually abandoned due to poor rock conditions for construction, and other factors.

Organizing other communities along the river

The movement in the communities of Cahabón has inspired the neighboring municipalities to stand up to the expansion of hydro projects along the river. The leaders of the movement have sought to work with their neighbors to challenge all projects along the river.

There are currently five hydro projects in San Pedro Carcha, which are also being built by the Cobra Group. Similar to the situation in Cahabón, the residents of Carcha have seen a similar privatization of their access to the waters of the Cahabón River. This has led them to begin organizing with their neighboring municipalities.

“What we are doing in Cahabón is now arriving to Carcha,” Caal said. “The residents of Carcha are now organizing against the projects.”

Leaders have also sought to build a larger network through the founding of a Maya Q’eqchi’ council in Alta Verapaz that will represent the interests of the Q’eqchi’ communities throughout the region. Movement leaders have constantly shared information with the other communities in order to inform them on the project. Residents have especially responded to the campaign to organize against the projects due to the affects they have already seen on their access to the river.

Thousands of residents of San Pedro Carcha marched on October 17 as residents of Santa María Cahabón marched through Guatemala City. They declared that they would stand in solidarity with their brothers in the nearby municipality.

“We support our fellow comrades from Cahabón, who gathered in front of the Constitutional Court demanding to resolve definitively that community consultations on megaprojects are carried out,” the leaders declared during the march. These two neighboring municipalities seek to link their struggles and challenge the expansion of hydro projects along their river.

In September 2016, members of the Community Development Councils of San Pedro issued a demand to the municipal mayor to suspend the projects along the river.

“We express our indignation for the deception that the Q’eqchi’ families have suffered during the process of the acquisition of the land mediated by the pressure, intimidation of the property owners, and the alterations of the environment, and the destruction of the river.”

In their declaration, the community leaders demanded that the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mining, the company, and the other government agencies provide more information on the investments for the construction of the project.

The movement has faced backlash from companies that are constructing the project. In October 2016, a flier appeared across the region looking to smear Caal and left-wing congressman Amlicar Pop. These fliers appeared a month after Caal and the other members of the resistance in Cahabón began to organize in Carcha. The fliers, which contained Caal’s Facebook profile photo, stated that Caal was not desired in the area and accused him of crimes.

“This was done by the companies that are building the projects,” Caal said. But despite the campaign of misinformation, he and the other leaders are committed to continuing their struggle.

'Bogus charges': Standing Rock activists say they face campaign of legal bullying

The Guardian | Protest -

Native American protesters claim that threats of fines and criminal charges, many which later unravel in court, are designed to silence their efforts

In what appears to be a concerted effort to deter people from joining the Standing Rock protests, North Dakota officials are pursuing serious criminal charges and threatening to levy hefty fines against Native American activists.

Despite state and federal evacuation orders, a government roadblock, escalating police violence and aggressive prosecutions that attorneys say lack basic evidence, thousands of veterans are preparing to travel to Cannon Ball this weekend to support the growing movement to stop the Dakota Access pipeline.

Related: Standing Rock protesters hold out against extraordinary police violence

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Pro-refugee protesters disrupt parliament and shut down question time

The Guardian | Protest -

Christopher Pyne calls for ‘thorough investigation’ after group opposed to government’s treatment of asylum seekers chant, unfurl banners and superglue hands to railing

About 50 protesters threw Parliament House into disarray on Wednesday, forcing question time to shut down for more than 20 minutes as security guards struggled to remove them.

The protest against the government’s treatment of asylum seekers began in the public gallery in the House of Representatives, with activists standing up and chanting: “Where is your moral compass? ... We will not stop until you close all the detention centres!”

Related: Malcolm Turnbull smiles on as his Validation Day turns into a hot mess | Katharine Murphy

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Sit-in at BBC Welsh studios – archive, 30 November 1968

The Guardian | Protest -

30 November 1968: Protestors are unhappy about the scarcity of programmes in Welsh

Between 30 and 40 members of the Welsh Language Society last night staged a sit-in at the newsroom department and the news and television studio of the BBC at Broadway, Cardiff.

In Bangor, about 50 people walked into the foyer of the B.B.C. studio there, sat on the floor, and said they would stay all night. Posters were stuck on the walls calling for more Welsh language programmes.

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Ban upheld against Hong Kong MPs who mocked oath of allegiance

The Guardian | Protest -

Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus ‘Baggio’ Leung remain disqualified for protest at swearing-in ceremony, while third legislator faces similar sanction

A Hong Kong court has upheld a ban on two pro-independence lawmakers, a day after the government signalled it would seek to disqualify a third legislator in an unprecedented series of legal challenges.

A panel of three judges upheld a lower court’s ruling that Yau Wai-ching, 25, and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, 30, were disqualified for not properly reading the oath of office. The pair have previously said they plan to take the case to the court of final appeal, Hong Kong’s highest court.

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Standing Rock is the civil rights issue of our time – let's act accordingly | Bill McKibben

The Guardian | Protest -

The US government sent helpers to protect integration efforts in the 1960s. Why not do more to protect the Dakota Pipeline protesters today?

When John Doar died in 2014, Barack Obama, who’d already awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, called him “one of America’s bravest lawyers”. Without his courage and perseverance, the president said, “Michelle and I might not be where we are today”.

Related: The Standing Rock protests are a symbolic moment | Neil Young and Daryl Hannah

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Why Professor Watchlist gets my teaching values completely wrong

Waging Nonviolence -

by Robert Jensen

From a “critique” of my work on the recently launched website Professor Watchlist, I learned that I’m a threat to my students for contending that we won’t end men’s violence against women “if we do not address the toxic notions about masculinity in patriarchy … rooted in control, conquest, aggression.”

That quote is supposedly “evidence” for why I am one of those college professors who, according to the watchlist’s mission statement, “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Perhaps I could take such a claim more seriously were it not coming from a project of conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, which has its own political agenda — namely educating students “about the importance of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government.”

This rather thin accusation appears to flow from my published work instead of an evaluation of my teaching, which confuses a teacher’s role in public with the classroom. So, I’ll help out the watchlist and describe how I address these issues at the University of Texas at Austin, where I’m finishing my 25th year of teaching. Readers can judge the threat level for themselves.

I just completed a unit on the feminist critique of the contemporary pornography industry in my course Freedom: Philosophy, History, Law. We began the semester with “On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill (I’ll assume the Professor Watchlist approves of that classic book), examining how various philosophers have conceptualized freedom. We then studied how the term has been defined and deployed politically throughout U.S. history, ending with questions about how living in a society saturated with sexually explicit material affects our understanding of freedom. I provided context about feminist intellectual and political projects of the past half-century, including the feminist critique of men’s violence and of mass media’s role in the sexual abuse and exploitation of women in a society based on institutionalized male dominance (that is, patriarchy).

The revelations about Donald Trump’s sexual behavior during the campaign provided a “teachable moment” that I didn’t think should be ignored. I began that particular lecture, a week after the election, by emphasizing that my job was not to tell students how to act in the world, but to help them understand the world in which they make choices.

Toward that goal, I pointed out that we have a president-elect who has bragged about being sexually aggressive and treating women like sexual objects, and that several women have testified about behavior that — depending on one’s evaluation of the evidence — could constitute sexual assault. “Does it seem fair,” I asked the class, “to describe him as a sexual predator?” No one disagreed.

Trump sometimes responded by contending that President Bill Clinton was even worse. Citing someone else’s bad behavior to avoid accountability is a weak defense (most people learn that as children), and of course Trump wasn’t running against Bill, but we can learn from examining the claim.

As president, Bill Clinton abused his authority by having sex with a younger woman who was first an intern and then a junior employee. He settled a sexual harassment lawsuit out of court, and he has been accused of rape. Does it seem fair to describe Bill Clinton as a sexual predator? No one disagreed.

So, we live in a world in which a former president, a Democrat, has been a sexual predator, yet he continues to be treated as a respected statesman and philanthropist. Our next president, a Republican, was elected with the nearly universal understanding that he has been a sexual predator. How can we make sense of this? A feminist critique of toxic conceptions of masculinity and men’s sexual exploitation of women in patriarchy seems like a good place to start.

In that class, I spent considerable time reminding students that I didn’t expect them all to come to the same conclusions, but that they all should consider relevant arguments in forming judgments. I repeated often my favorite phrase in teaching: “Reasonable people can disagree.” Student reactions to this unit of the class varied, but no one suggested that the feminist critique offered nothing of value in understanding our society.

Is presenting a feminist framework to analyze a violent and pornographic culture politicizing the classroom, as the watchlist implies? If that’s the case, then the decision not to present a feminist framework also politicizes the classroom, in a different direction. The question isn’t whether professors will make such choices — that’s inevitable, given the nature of university teaching — but how we defend our intellectual work (with evidence and reasoned argument, I hope) and how we present the material to students (encouraging critical reflection).

It would be easier to dismiss this rather silly project if the United States had not just elected a president who shouts over attempts at rational discourse and reactionary majorities in both houses of Congress. I’m a tenured full professor (and white, male and a U.S. citizen by birth) and am not worried. Yet, even though the group behind the watchlist has no formal power over me or my university, the attempt at bullying professors — no matter how weakly supported — may well inhibit professors without my security and privilege.

If the folks who compiled the watchlist had presented any evidence that I was teaching irresponsibly, I would take the challenge seriously. At least in my case, the watchlist didn’t. But rather than assign a failing grade, I’ll be charitable and give the project an incomplete, with an opportunity to turn in better work in the future.

Tiffany blames Trump protests for hitting sales at flagship jewellers

The Guardian | Protest -

Luxury jeweller suggests ‘recent election-related activity’ at Trump Tower has been putting customers off in New York

Donald Trump’s successful campaign to become US president has claimed one of its first economic victims after luxury jeweller Tiffany blamed protests at Trump Tower for hitting sales at its flagship store.

Many of the demonstrations before and after the election have centred on the president-elect’s skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, located on the same block as the jewellery store on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street.

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Standing Rock: violence and evacuation orders raise spectre of showdown

The Guardian | Protest -

Apprehension and distrust pervade North Dakota protest site as promises from state that there are no plans to forcibly remove people does little to assuage fears

Police violence against Standing Rock protesters in North Dakota has risen to extraordinary levels, and activists and observers fear that, with two evacuation orders looming, the worst is yet to come.

A litany of munitions, including water cannons, combined with ambiguous government leadership and misleading police statements, have resulted in mass arrests, serious injuries and a deeply sown atmosphere of fear and distrust on the banks of the Missouri river.

Related: Standing Rock protest: North Dakota governor orders immediate evacuation

Related: Dakota Access pipeline protester 'may lose her arm' after police standoff

Related: The Standing Rock protests are a symbolic moment | Neil Young and Daryl Hannah

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Sheffield trees dispute prompts 'scenes you'd expect in Putin's Russia'

The Guardian | Protest -

Five people have so far been arrested in bitter battle, with Nick Clegg criticising the police for detaining peaceful protesters

It was, said Nick Clegg, “something you’d expect to see in Putin’s Russia, rather than a Sheffield suburb”. Council contractors and police had descended on a particularly desirable street in his Hallam constituency under the cover of darkness, “dragged” people out of bed to move their cars and detained peaceful protesters – “all to chop down eight trees”, he wrote in a local paper.

So far five people have been arrested in relation to a long-running and increasingly bitter battle over the fate of Sheffield’s trees, including a 70-year old emeritus professor and a 71-year-old retired teacher, both women. On Thursday two men will become the first of the city’s tree protesters to appear in court, charged under trade union legislation, following a protest on 2 November.

Related: Seeing the wood for the trees in Sheffield | Letters

Related: A dawn raid, dissenters silenced: is this a war on trees? | Patrick Barkham

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