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London: Journalist Spotter Card

House Occupation News -

In the past year or so, the bottom feeders of the press managed to write many lurid stories about comrades in the UK and our networks, which have not only invaded people’s privacy but have put them at risk from the state and fash. These journalists infiltrated our protests and social events, took close range pictures, trawled social media and pieced together sensationalist and often wildly inaccurate pieces about individuals, and put footage on the internet that led to people being targeted by the cops.

While I expect no better of the media, I do expect us to put up more of a fight. The tolerance of the broader London anarchist/anti-authoritarian scene for the presence of journalists on our demos, and sometimes in our spaces (at times even on invitation!), is exceptional and I’ve witnessed it in few other anarchist milieus. Why is this? Is it mere slackness, a fear of rocking the boat, or are people actually buying the liberal bullshit from the likes of the NUJ about “freedom of expression”? A combination of the above seems the likely contender.

In many cases, the widespread use of “social” media means that information is simply given to hacks on a plate; they need only copy and paste a few Arsebook quotes, and download some photos that the user themselves has put on their profile to come up with a story, such is the quality of the mainstream media. Obviously, people need to wise up to this and close down their social media accounts, or at the very least clean them up.

However, as has previously been pointed out, journalists and photographers are also widely tolerated on our demos. This is sometimes because there are far too many parasites salivating behind their cameras, and not enough of us to feel like we can stop them. Other times, the likes of Russia Today (now ‘Ruptly’) appear to use hidden cameras to live-stream from inside demos, on one occasion, showing some comrades changing their clothes in the belief they were hidden from view. Live-streamers from RT/Ruptly have been confronted on a couple of occasions when caught out, but more people need to be aware of this, and be on the lookout willing to take the initiative to challenge them.

On a few occasions, people have put two and two together and have managed to identify reporters or photographers who frequently attend protests. For example, ‘Rachel Megawhat’, the right-wing Breitbart photographer and journo pictured below, regularly attended London demos over the past couple of years, including those organised by No Borders activists and Class War. Being nondescript, she was able to go undetected for a while, however, she was identified and then kicked out of numerous protests – usually against the will of whining press-lovin liberals.

While we shouldn’t get too paranoid or overly hung up on what the media has to say about us, their actions can of course have serious consequences. One example being Barnaby Nerberka, another protest regular (also pictured below). Nerberka uploaded extremely compromising footage of the Scumoween riots onto the Guardian site, which was then used by the cops to put out its ‘wanted’ notices, contributing to mass arrests and possible serious sentences.

If we don’t want to put each other at risk or give them a story on a plate, we need to start making a more concerted effort to keep these hacks out of our protests and spaces. This means taking the time to write our own reports rendering them completely redundant, familiarising ourselves with some of their faces, being willing to boot them out, masking up, using different names, and generally fomenting a culture of antagonism towards the press and photography in ‘our’ spaces. They need us, not the other way round, whatever you might hear to the contrary from the media and their liberal supporters.

To this end, here is a spotter card featuring the mugs of some particularly obnoxious journalists, photographers and corporate film-makers who for their own personal advancement, have trodden over the lives of people who actually believe in something other than monetary gain and have taken risks to fight for it. These individuals have either recently written sensationalist pieces about individuals or groups or have uploaded compromising photos or footage of comrades. Remember their faces and make sure that their presence is not tolerated in our spaces.

Barnaby Nerberka:

Photographer ‘Rachel Megawhat’ of Breitbart:

Source –

Den Haag: De Vloek eviction, verdict claiming 30.030,35 euros

House Occupation News -

On the 21st of December 2016 the court in The Hague sentenced ten people who were arrested during the eviction De Vloek free space to pay 30.030.35 in damages to the city council.

De Vloek, after being squatted for 13 years, was evicted on the 9th of September 2015 by an excessive police force, the army, anti terror units, water canons and a sniper. [Vloek on S!N] Ten people were arrested and later sentenced for squatting and five of the ten for violence against police officers. Those five also spent two weeks in prison.

Months after the eviction the council issued a demand claiming more than 50,000 euros in so called damage costs. We refused to pay and started a court case that lasted a couple of months. On the 21st of December 2016 the judge sentenced us to pay 30.030,35 euros in damages to the council. The amount is meant to cover the costs of transporting rubble, supposedly used for barricades, from the eviction site and also includes bailiff costs.

Financial Repression
It’s not the first time that a city council has used the method of financial repression. People who resisted the eviction of Ubica in Utrecht were sentenced to pay 37.500 euros. This is one of the many methods the state has at its disposal to quell social struggles and to add an extra punishment on top of the criminal sentence already received. We are being held collectively responsible for the payments to be made. This means everyone is held accountable for the entire sum; everyone of us can be held personally responsible to pay the entire 30.030,35 euros. It is therefor not possible to divide the amount by ten for everybody to pay their share.

We have decided to go into appeal. The appeal does not postpone the execution of the verdict. The question is thus if the council will wait for the verdict of the appeal or implement the current verdict.

The Struggle
Lets not forget what the struggle around De Vloek was about. A very active struggle was fought for 18 months. From the squatting of The Pier, the occupation of the city council’s roof and various demo’s and other actions. This struggle did not only focus on the defence of an important social space in the anti-capitalist movement. It was also a struggle against gentrification in Scheveningen. A struggle which not only involved us but a lot of other people in The Hague en elsewhere. A struggle against the repression by capital, developers and the megalomania of local politicians. A struggle which must be continued!

Despite this sentencing and the other repressive measures effecting us in The Hague we are determined to not bow down to this world of exploitation, racism and authority. The fight continues!

More information about repression in The Hague:


A call center run by refugees fills a communication void in Greece

Waging Nonviolence -

by Marta Molina

Refugees at a camp in Greece. (Facebook/Refugee Solidarity Movement Thessaloniki-Eidomeni)

Refugees arriving in Greece have found themselves forced to organize in order to survive. One of the most basic needs, after feeding oneself, is to be able to communicate — to be able to ask for help, to go to the doctor, to get a lawyer, to know your rights, to get out of the refugee camp and to work in a new country. These tasks can be extremely difficult for refugees in Greece, the majority of whom only speak Arabic.

Ramez Shame, who is a refugee from Egypt, speaks both Arabic and English, which is a second language for many in Greece. As soon as he realized how his language skills could help others, he went to work. After taking stock of the needs of refugees, Shame and three others started a cooperative hotline in Thessaloniki to act as a bridge for refugees, called the Refugees to Refugees (R2R) Solidarity Call Center.

“When they go to the hospital, sometimes the doctors refuse to check them in because they can’t communicate,” he said, stressing that the dire economic situation in the country adds another layer to refugees’ problems. “Because of the economic crisis in Greece, it’s very difficult even for Greek people to get medical attention. So you can imagine what happens to the immigrants or refugees who need medical attention. It’s also difficult for them to get legal advice.”

Shame was touched by what was happening with refugees and started the call center because he believes that Arabic speakers are especially equipped to help, not just because of their shared language but because they share hardships. “If you experience hunger, you know what it feels like for others to be hungry. When someone takes away your rights, you feel the injustices faced by others,” he said. “We can understand what they are going through, we can communicate and give them advice.”

A fair refugee cooperative

The Refugees to Refugees Solidarity Call Center is a part of FairCoop, a global network of cooperatives that has organized itself online — outside the limits and controls of nation states — and has chapters or “nodes” around the world. One of the minds behind FairCoop is Enric Durán. He has been an activist for 17 years, and is now living in exile from Spain for expropriating more than $650,000 from Spanish banks to protest the perversion of the banking culture. Durán believes that in order to create change, protest does not go far enough — alternatives must be created. FairCoop is one of the many projects he has supported in order to create the possibility of a new economy.

Durán argues that the global economic system always prevents political change, and that we must gradually move away from the banking system that we have, which is rooted in capitalism. FairCoop tries to facilitate the transition to a new world by working to reduce economic and social inequality, he said, while at the same time building up global capital that would be accessible to all of humanity.

He explained that FairCoop understands that a transition towards a just monetary system is needed, and so the cooperatives use FairCoin as a cryptocurrency to carry out their acts of redistribution of resources and to build a new global economic system.

Through FairCoop, banking resources can be accessed without a bank account. One of the key concepts within the overall FairCoop ecosystem are its local nodes, like the refugee call center. “Local nodes acts as decentralized local assemblies of FairCoop, a meeting point between the global projects of FairCoop and the various projects developed locally — creating links, synergies, knowledge development and growth of the entire ecosystem we are creating together,” Duran said. “Autonomously, they welcome people to FairCoop, and serve as an exchange point of Faircoin.”

In its current phase, explained Durán, FairCoop is ready to give a boost to the local nodes because they believe it is vital not only to their development, but it encourages the creation of more nodes worldwide.

As part of this campaign they want to contribute necessary funds to the nodes to help establish them as stable local cooperatives where participants determine their own priorities based on local circumstances and are able to carry out tasks that would not be easily achievable without funding. They also want to enable nodes to build their own cooperative projects or collaborate with local collectives to empower people on the local and global levels.

And it was through the Thessaloniki FairCoop node that the Refugees to Refugees Solidarity Call Center was born.

Improving communication to be more free

Since the end of September, cooperative members have been working together to get this cooperative project off the ground. The call center posts information in several different languages about transportation, getting settled and attaining residency in Greece — all by and for refugees.

The team is made up of three people aside from Shame: Jalal, who speaks French and Arabic; Avin, who speaks English, Arabic, Kurdish and some Turkish; and Yaya from Gambia, who speaks English.

Together, they started to build the call center’s website, uploading information there, and helping immigrants and refugees to know their rights — not only in Greece but also throughout Europe.

“We often have five calls per day, and sometimes refugees who you know call your phone instead of the call center line,” Shame explained. “And most of the time refugees who have access to the Internet are able to get useful information on the website to answer their questions.”

Sometimes the call center assists volunteers who come to Greece to help, but don’t have all of the tools to do so.

“For example, an Italian volunteer in a refugee camp called saying the refugee he wanted to help did not speak English and that he did not speak Arabic,” Shame explained. “He said ‘I want him to explain to me what he is feeling in his mouth, because I want to get him to a clinic for dental care.’ I asked him to put me on speakerphone, and I started to translate between them. It was like I was there in the camp, but I was here in the office. And that night, he asked me to come to the clinic to help translate for his dental work, and so I went and we got it taken care of.”

The call center’s biggest struggle at the moment is with raising enough funding to support their work. “Every step we take in this project requires money,” he said. “We need to pay for this phone line every month or it will be shut down. Every refugee working here takes a small salary just to stay alive. To keep this project working, we really need donations.”

In addition to financial support, the call center is looking for people with other skills to support their project. “We sometimes need technical help or assistance or communication with a volunteer who is fluent in something else,” Shame said. “There are some people from Spain who come here to work with people in the camp. Sometimes they have food but don’t know where they should drop food off, where it is most needed. So they ask us because we have a network and we can guide them to where to give food donations.”

While this cooperative has just launched, they want to strengthen communication and cooperation between people who are isolated outside of cities and provide them with information about how to mobilize and find a new path.

Rail campaigners hold station protests against fare increases

The Guardian | Protest -

Demonstrations take place across England and Scotland after commuters hit by average increase of 2.3%

Campaigners have braved freezing temperatures to protest against the new year’s hike in rail fares at dozens of stations in England and Scotland.

Action For Rail staged the demonstrations after fares rose on Monday by an average of 2.3%, almost four times the rate of inflation.

'27p per minute just to get to Stevenage'. No ode to joy

Local Labour members out supporting the @ActionForRail campaign in #Eastbourne bright and early!

Early morning start for #railfail chats with commuters at Grimsby Town station

@MomentumSBham @JeremyCorbyn4PM

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Fight the power: documentaries to unleash the activist in you

The Guardian | Protest -

Children in poverty, rape in the military, mass murderers at large … Oscar-nominated director Lucy Walker picks 10 powerful documentaries to galvanise you into action

The documentaries praised on these pages are all ones that fired me up, galvanised me into action, but they should not be considered my top 10 favourites of all time – because there is just too much work that has meant too much to me. There are films that have brought justice to individuals such as The Central Park Five (directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon) about five black and Latino teenagers wrongly convicted of raping of a white woman jogging in New York in 1989.

In this category, I would also mention The Jinx (directed by Andrew Jarecki) about the real estate heir Robert Durst, accused of murder and the subject of a manhunt; and The Thin Blue Line (directed by Errol Morris) about a man sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. Then there are films that are such titans that it seems a waste of time to consider them again here. That list would be topped by Davis Guggenheim’s An Inconvenient Truth, about Al Gore’s mission to get the planet to wake up to global warming.

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Here are 7 ways you can keep fighting for justice in 2017 | Ijeoma Oluo

The Guardian | Protest -

It’s reasonable to just want to hibernate for the next four years. But that won’t help make things better

We just ended the worst year. Now starts, well: the worst worst year. Those of us appalled and terrified by the election of Donald Trump and the open rise of white supremacy in America ended 2016 exhausted and disillusioned. Now we enter 2017 in full knowledge that this year will probably be no better.

No matter how much we’d like to hide in our homes for the next four years, we know that we cannot do that. We must fight for equality and justice. But the question is: how? What action can we take in the aftermath of such a heartbreaking defeat?

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Women's sport, space probes and protests – reasons to look forward to 2017

The Guardian | Protest -

The turbulence of this year might seem set to continue well into the next, but there are good things to come too. From mass protests to comfort telly, there’s something for everyone – and lie-ins are positively encouraged

Related: Troubled times make it hard to be an optimist. But I don't plan to stop | Mary Elizabeth Williams

It does, admittedly, look as if 2017 will be bleak. Donald Trump becomes president, Theresa May has pledged to trigger article 50 by the end of March, and the far right march onwards. Still, it’s not all bad news. There’s the new season of Game of Thrones, apparently high heels are out, and it looks as if publishers may finally stop putting out thrillers with the word “girl” in the title. Here are six more reasons to be cheerful.

Related: What is giving you hope for 2017? | Sarah Marsh

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A year-end plea: don't let politics overshadow life's splendor | Steven W Thrasher

The Guardian | Protest -

It’s foolhardy to chain your self-worth to the political cycle when we have but this one precious life to enjoy

This is my last column of the year, and I want to reflect on one of the more depressing sentiments I’ve heard friends express since election day: that they can’t wait for the next four years to be over.

But quadrennial presidential cycles are a terrible frame to mark the timing of our lives. Hoping for time to pass swiftly makes our lives seem small and unworthy. We can’t let four-year chunks of time determine our emotions and gloss over the gift of our very own lives, as if presidential politics are more important. So please remember: you are important, every day, much more so than any of the grifters headed to the White House.

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Guards allowed to shoot nuclear protesters after 1988 break-in at UK base

The Guardian | Protest -

Faslane submarine raid was met with fury by Margaret Thatcher and followed by change to rules, declassified files show

Guards at the Faslane submarine base on the Clyde were authorised to shoot anti-nuclear protesters if there were a risk of sabotage, Margaret Thatcher was told after a 1988 break-in that left her furious.

An incursion in October that year reached a control room onboard HMS Repulse, prompting the then prime minister to write on a memo: “I am utterly horrified. Examples of slackness in sensitive matters keep coming to light. I must have an urgent report. We could have been put in grave danger.”

Related: Revealed: Thatcher aide wanted to use Prince William to hobble CND

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How Standing Rock solved my 2016, First World problems

Waging Nonviolence -

by Andy Bichlbaum

Embed from Getty Images

2016 was a rough year. After Nov. 8, it became almost unlivable. In my case, a sustained state of anxiety and depression erupted occasionally into nausea and panic. Behaviors buried since the Bush era made their reappearance, and I even did some brand-new things, like physically threaten someone who called me a faggot. It was as if something — myself, I guess — was trying to figure out how to exist in this new reality.

Before the election, I hadn’t always been at peace, but I’d settled into a homeostasis in which I felt at least possibly useful, based on the idea that action at the bottom could affect things at the top — like Obama with the Keystone XL pipeline, for example. But now what? Under power that would clearly never give a flying fuck about any progressive pressure unless it actually stopped the whole system, my psychic bedrock seemed to be crumbling.

First World problems, of course. Most people in the world have recently known, or currently know, exactly what it’s like to live under power that’s indifferent to their lives and desires. Even many Americans know this — for example, the Lakota Sioux of Standing Rock, who are seeing the last shreds of their world threatened by the “Black Snake,” as they call the oil industry trying to build a pipeline right through their watersheds. For them and other First Nations, our coming autocracy is just a new flavor of authoritarian disregard.

Hmm. Maybe they could help with my bedrock erosion problem.

My friend Jean-Louis had been living at Standing Rock for the past five weeks, near where a camp of sometimes 15,000 “Water Protectors” had been going strong since August. Jean-Louis, who’s 76 years old and the heir of a famous artist, had decided to use his small fortune for the cause. He’d so far invested $300,000 in the resistance at Standing Rock, and planned to spend another $300,000 too.

He’d asked me to come twice already, and offered to pay for the trip. I hadn’t accepted because I didn’t know what I could do to help — but now, on his third invitation, I knew exactly why I needed to go: not to help, but to learn. I would take a camera and ask the Water Protectors what people like me could learn from people like them about protecting our world from brutally indifferent power. I’d plunder Standing Rock not for oil, but a new way of being.

My plane ticket to Bismarck was for Monday, Dec. 5. That was also the day the Army was threatening to evict Oceti Sakowin, the main Water Protector camp not on Native land. In response, 2,000 veterans had begun arriving to form a “human shield” around the Protectors.

Then, as if on cue, Monday’s forecast came to include a blizzard, the season’s first. If the Army acted, they’d be facing 2,000 veterans and a big snowstorm. Instead, they relented, refusing the pipeline’s “easement” through traditional Sioux land, the issue that had started the encampment in April. It was a massive victory — partial but still historic.

Another effect of the blizzard was that it took me three hours to make the 60-mile drive from Bismarck to Standing Rock Monday evening. Sometimes I had to roll down the driver-side window and watch the yellow line.

Embed from Getty Images

When I arrived, I saw shacks and teepees, but the people were all hidden inside, wringing what warmth they could from their heaters and fires. I slept at my friend Tito’s camp in Oceti Sakowin, next to a roaring fire in a sturdy shack that Tito and friends had had the foresight to insulate.

My first morning, I had coffee at the neighboring Two Spirits campsite, then wandered around the Oceti Sakowin camp for a while. I told myself I was “scouting” for my mission: to ask what the rest of progressive America could learn from these people who’d stalled a project backed by billions of dollars.

The inside of my nose felt alarmingly stiff, and I kept slipping on the ice. It was beautiful, everything a resistance camp should be — flags fluttering, teepees rising picturesque against the snow — but almost no one was visible: People were still inside, trying to keep warm.

I went back to Tito’s camp to warm up. Then back to the Two Spirit camp. Then back out to “scout” some more.

And then, I suddenly realized I didn’t fully understand my own question anymore. What could “we urbanites” learn about resistance? When I tried to form it into words I might actually ask, I found I simply couldn’t. I searched the environment for cues to how I might phrase it, but at my New York speed, I just couldn’t see much of anything.

I got in my car to drive to the casino hotel, where Jean-Louis was staying, and where my friend Rupa Marya, the physician, had set up a medical response clinic. Maybe they’d help me make sense of my time here.

I inched back towards the gate through which I’d entered and found myself in the midst of a total shit-show. Cars were stuck or sliding all over the place as they tried to accelerate up the incline to the highway. My own car slid into a snowbank and had to be dragged out backwards by a local with a 4×4. Someone suggested driving to the south exit, with a less steep incline, but that was completely blocked by a trailer. Two and a half hours later I was back exactly where I had started.

I tried to meditate. It took me a while to find a warm, quiet spot, but then my thoughts were so loud and bouncy that just trying to watch them exhausted me. I think my mind felt betrayed: I’d come here to find some solidity, some meaning in a suddenly meaningless world, but instead I felt more groundless than ever.

I walked and shivered for an hour, then got back in my car to try the south exit again. This time, it was clear. I accelerated up the path to the highway and… success! I drove the 10 icy miles to the casino in under an hour.

There, I headed through the nightmare of slot machines to find Rupa and her makeshift clinic, set off in a corner of the “Pavilion,” an arena of sorts attached to the casino, normally for cattle shows and the like, but now serving as a staging and sleeping area for 2,000 people taking refuge from the sudden bitter cold.

Andy Bichlbaum and Rupa Marya (second from left), along with nurses in the makeshift clinic at the Casino Pavilion. (WNV / Andy Bichlbaum)

With veterans in camo scattered among civilians, it looked like a cross between a military deployment and a disaster relief zone, which in a way it was. Except that in the middle of this one, four singing drum circles traded off, pulling from circle to circle a cluster of videographers. Absurdly, I videotaped as well.

When I tore myself away to find Rupa, she embraced me as if I were the only thing that mattered. “Look, it’s the Yes Men guy!” she bubbled over to the other physicians and medics.

How was she, I asked. “It’s a disaster,” she answered instead. There were dozens of cases of hypothermia, and a half-dozen people were just plain missing. “One thousand people slept here last night,” she told me. “Two thousand tonight. Can you imagine?”

Just then, someone brought to Rupa a dazed young Protector who’d been out shoveling snow from the casino driveway. “Hypothermic,” Rupa said matter-of-factly, and walked him to a physician just outside the partition.

I suddenly wanted very badly to feel useful, and asked Rupa how I could help.

“Help?” She sounded delighted. “Do you have any training?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, we’re actually good. But thank you so much.” She didn’t seem to realize I’d asked her for a favor.

We stood together watching the drumming, which had now given way to a full-on round dance. “Wow, isn’t this amazing?” she said, before being called away to fix another Protector.

For a second I wondered if now was the time to go around asking my question. But I was suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling of envy — of Rupa, of the 2,000 veterans, of everyone here who knew what they were doing and why. To know what to do, to have the tools to do it, and then to just do it, suddenly seemed like the only state in the world worth aspiring to. It felt like all the unhappiness I’d ever experienced in my First-World life was due to not knowing how to be of service. When I had known — happy. When I hadn’t — not. Any misery I’d ever felt was precisely to the degree that I didn’t know how to be useful. It was just that simple.

So instead of asking my question, I went to find Jean-Louis, hoping he might have something useful for me to do. I thanked him for flying me out here.

“Oh, you’re welcome. There’s someone I want you to meet,” he said, and introduced me to a sexy, sassy, long-haired gay Navy vet named Hey. That’s their real name, and they use the pronoun “they.”

“I’m a pretty princess,” said Hey, drawing giggles from Jean-Louis.

I was instantly over my angst, at least for now.

Hey had been here since August, since the encampment had started to grow, in a sagging tent called “the Pretty Princess Palace,” close by Tito’s camp in Oceti Sakowin. Like Rupa, Hey betrayed no fatigue at all, only energy and a caring beamed all around: towards Jean-Louis, who’s 76 and straight, with an irreverent and disarming flirtatiousness; and towards a Native couple struggling to change their two small children out of wet clothes, with: extra mittens, a hundred-dollar bill, and a promise to find them space in a room for the night, which Hey straightaway dropped everything to fulfill.

Somewhere in there we plotted an idea for a prank news team. It would go like this: “Hi. I’m Sharla Jones from KNET-TV. Could I play with your hair?” The questions would get progressively weirder, finally ending with “May I pee in your butt?”

I suddenly felt at home. And that night, as we lay huddling together in a sleeping bag against the bitter Great Plains cold (one of the two gas heaters wouldn’t start), Hey told me just how they’d gotten here. It was strange to get my wisdom transmission from a Navy queen rather than a Sioux elder, but I guess that’s just how it works.

Andy Bichlbaum and Navy veteran Hey (right). (WNV / Andy Bichlbaum)

Here’s their story.

Hey became a veteran the usual way: They served in the military and survived.

The way Hey ended up in the military is also the usual one: poverty. That, plus a crazy father and drugs and so on, made military service feel like the only option available.

In the Navy, Hey discovered sex with men.

Also, they committed some war crimes.

Many obnoxious things have been written about how, in war, people find something deep and intense. That’s partly because the military experience is so carefully engineered. Over the millennia that there have been armies, they’ve evolved to organize adolescents into persistent units of a size that our ancestors knew on the savannah: up to 200 and no larger. It’s a small, trustable world, all you need and all you can really rely on. It’s satisfying down to the marrow, an experience to literally die for — or kill.

But then, once the cocoon of savannah reality molts away, you feel pretty bad about having killed on command — at least if you’re Hey.

Feelings of guilt, it turns out, make PTSD a whole lot worse. If you blank out in a horrific killing experience but feel no guilt about it, that’s one thing — you’ll suffer, you’ll relive the horror at inopportune moments, it’ll “haunt” you. But if you have guilt about the experience, if you consider yourself to have been an agent of “war crimes,” it’s a whole other thing, as studies have shown.

So, for over a year after the Navy spit him out in 2011, Hey would wake up almost every night choking in terror, unable to breathe. Recreational drugs did no good, and neither did a real estate job and an apartment.

Then, in September of that year, Hey heard the call of the savannah from a little paved square called Zuccotti in downtown New York City, perhaps the least savannah-like place in the United States.

Hey went to see it: maybe a hundred, 200 people occupying the square, roughly the same size as a Navy unit, but fighting for common decency rather than oil. Hey dropped everything and moved in. For the first time since their discharge, life felt ok.

A machine that gives people like Hey what they need, community, and then spits them out after making them do terrible things, has exactly nothing to recommend it. But can another kind of battle, with good as the object, provide the same sorts of satisfaction?

Occupy answered a deep yearning for comrades and a purpose that included fighting injustice. I’d felt it too. I didn’t move there — my apartment was 10 minutes away by bike — but I visited every spare minute I could, and got involved in a number of projects and working groups. Once, I ran into a friend who told me that for the first time since she’d known me, I seemed content, without my usual searching look. I think it was that feeling of satisfaction that my body remembered, there in the Pavilion, when I’d felt that overwhelming desire to be of service.

Hey experienced Occupy a few times more fully than I did. When the police evicted the occupiers a month later, they were one of the first arrested. But Occupy didn’t end with the eviction, of course. There were hundreds of people like Hey who’d let everything fall to be a part of the battle, who weren’t going to just pack up and go back to wherever. So when Superstorm Sandy struck New York City, the Occupy networks sprang into action, becoming the most effective relief agency ever. Hey helped rebuild a few hundred homes in New Jersey.

Then, in 2012, Hey embarked on a six-month silent meditation retreat in which they learned to stay put when the past came to haunt them. And when Standing Rock began swelling in August of 2016, Hey was there right away.

I asked Hey whether they knew why they needed so much to be part of these struggles, to this degree.

“I’d like to think it’s compassion,” Hey answered. “But it’s probably just to atone for my war crimes.”

Is that why I too feel drawn to battles like these? Is living in a wealthy country itself a war crime, since we live on the backs of those who can’t enjoy such prosperity?

This battle, in any case, was momentarily won. First Nations people had stood up, resisted a pipeline, and stopped it for now. That much was empirical. It’s also empirical that almost everything good — the eight-hour day, the end of slavery and child labor, the right of women to vote and gays to marry, what have you — was won through struggle, sometimes cold and harsh. The long arc of history does in fact bend towards justice.

But Hey’s story showed me how this empirical stuff could happen, how shit and blood could be spun into meaning. Or at least it was one such way, one window into the process. If Standing Rock were a proverbial elephant, I’d taken a magnifying glass to one tiny bit of its skin. What about the rest of the vast reality?

Those 2,000 vets who’d arrived just before me — had some of them, like Hey, collapsed at the end of their service and ricocheted around until they found a community to truly serve with, without war crimes this time? What other stories had brought them here? And what about Rupa and the dozens of medical and legal professionals who’d left jobs and obligations to be of service here?

Most of all, what about each of the Sioux, Omaha, Dene, Ho-chunk, Creek, and others who’d come and endured months of discomfort and sometimes violence, to make Standing Rock the next Wounded Knee? Had some of them too found community, that they’d missed as much as anyone else? What else?

The idea of a formula that “we” can learn from any “them” is sloppy at best, colonial at worst. Yet since things do change, and movements do win, there must be a formula. Maybe it’s just not one we can ever wrap our heads around, or that can ever be reduced to a few words on a camera, or probably to words at all. The elephant is humongous, beyond anything most of us can imagine, which is why we can’t begin to absorb it.

Yet Standing Rock is being absorbed, just as Occupy was. At the dinner table, or in bed, or maybe even at the office water cooler, stories like Hey’s are radiating across the country in all kinds of ways. Those who participate in struggles let others see the elephant through one particular patch of skin, helping to mobilize something inside for the new struggles of 2017 and beyond.

Speaking truth to power: the revolutionary potential of theatre

The Guardian | Protest -

Soho theatre’s pop-up soapbox inspired a raft of brief yet pointed speeches. The project’s 2017 tour of London venues couldn’t come at a better time

The downstairs space at Soho theatre in London normally plays host to comedy gigs, but a few months ago it hosted a very different kind of standup night. Ordinary people stood up to be counted with brief speeches in which they spoke passionately about something important to them that they believed should be important to all of us.

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Hundreds of peace activists are marching from Berlin to Aleppo

Waging Nonviolence -

by Sarah Aziza

Peace activists in Germany on the Civil March for Aleppo. [Twitter / @bix_bit]

In the wake of untold civilian casualties in Syria, thousands have pledged their support for what’s being called the Civil March for Aleppo. The initiative, which began in Berlin on Dec. 26, will see hundreds of marchers re-trace the 2,100-mile path between Syria and Germany. The group, comprised of 14 nationalities, took to the cold streets carrying white flags, camping gear and a message of peace.

The march was organized by a group of over 100 activists, led in part by Anna Alboth, a long-time advocate for Syrian refugees. Alboth told the BBC that, while the march required preparation, the marchers were in a much easier position than Syrians who fled to Europe. “It’s not as if we’re going tomorrow and we have just one pair of shoes,” she said. “That’s the situation many refugees have been in.”

The group aims to walk around 10 miles each day, passing through Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece and Turkey. They anticipate the journey will take about three-and-a-half months, with marchers joining for either part of the way or the entire journey to the Turkey-Syria border. If possible, the group may attempt to reach the Syrian city of Aleppo, which has been the site of massive civilian casualties and a devastating siege.

The marchers have coordinated with lawyers and organizers on the ground in each of the countries on the route. Despite leaving shortly after the lethal attack in Berlin and amidst rising Islamophobia in Germany and neighboring European countries, organizers hope their focus on the humanitarian aspects of the conflict will defuse sectarian divisions and drive international attention toward the civilian cost of the ongoing war. The group elected to carry only white flags, rather than bearing any overt political symbols, and explained this decision on their Facebook page.

“Why white ones? It’s not a surrender,” they wrote. “For us, we took it as our sign, which symbolizes for us the struggle for peace, democracy and freedom. A community … united against the killing.”

Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab, who was to be freed on bail, reimprisoned

The Guardian | Protest -

Head of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights was detained in June over tweets criticising Yemen war and alleging torture at a prison

The prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been held in pre-trial detention since June for a number of free speech offences, was to be released on bail on Wednesday until prosecutors made a sudden reversal and ordered him back into custody over other investigations.

Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and a leading figure in the country’s 2011 Arab spring protests, faces up to 15 years in jail for comments made on Twitter criticising the war in Yemen, as well as making allegations of torture by authorities at a local prison.

Related: Human rights groups call for release of Bahraini activist

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Progressives see a leader in Bernie Sanders as they prepare to fight back

The Guardian | Protest -

Sanders supporters ready to take on Trump as progressives’ voices grow louder after the election: ‘We have to do what the Tea Party did’

It wasn’t meant to be like this.

Hillary Clinton was supposed to be president. The Democrats were supposed to be competitive in the Senate and the House.

Related: Bernie Sanders meets Spike Lee: ‘Where do we go? Where is the hope?’

Related: Bernie Sanders rallies supporters with call for new direction in Democratic party

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20 years after peace accords, Guatemalans resist remilitarization of everyday life

Waging Nonviolence -

by Jeff Abbott

Activists march holding a sign asking where are the disappeared during the anti-military march on June 30. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

Nearly every corner of Guatemala City tells the story of tragedy from 36 years of internal armed conflict that gripped the country from 1960-1996. The entrance to the Portalito Bar in the historic center, where Enersto “Ché” Guavera used to drink during his time in Guatemala, contains a plaque denoting the spot where student leader Oliverio Castañeda de Leon was assassinated by the Guatemalan military. Another plaque further up the street demarks where Myrna Mack, a Guatemalan anthropologist, was assassinated near San Sebastian Park. Eight years later, Archbishop Juan Gerardi was bludgeoned to death in the church that sits in front of the park.

These spots are reminders of the violence that fell upon Guatemala during the long dark days of the war. But these markers of historical memory have not stopped the oligarchy and military elite from trying to rewrite the history of the war.

December 29, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the peace accords that brought an end to the fighting. These 20 years are marked by historic revision, and the remilitarization of Guatemalan society. But a small group of activists organized under the umbrella group Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence, or HIJOS in the Spanish acronym, has sought to retain the historic memory, push back against the post-war militarization, and challenge the neoliberal project that has accelerated since the war.

“There was never a full recognition of what was done by the military [during the war] in the last 20 years,” said Francisco Sanchez, one of the founding members of HIJOS. “We began to question the discourse of reconciliation that [foreigners and non-governmental organizations] were trying to impose. We began to generate a space for people to rediscover their history, and to create our own agenda.”

He added, “At that time it cost us a lot to talk about what happened during the war. Many responded that we couldn’t talk about what was done during the war, and that ‘we have to continue constructing the peace.’ But today, 20 years after the end of the war, the topic is a much more active debate.”

Guatemala HIJOS is loosely connected with other HIJOS groups in Latin America. But despite carrying the same name, the groups are all autonomous.

The group emerged at an important time in Guatemalan history. The collective was founded two years after the signing of the peace accords. At that time, reforms were suggested by the peace accords, and Archbishop Gerardi was assassinated after the church published the report on historic clarification on the crimes committed during the war. The group also carried out its first actions following the publishing of the secret military diary that documented the campaign of forced disappearances, which still continues to inspire their quest for historic memory.

The group has taken various direct actions over the years, including blocking military parades, infiltrating military zones, as well as organizing forums to discuss the history. They especially have worked to share the recent history with the youth of the country, who rarely receive the whole story in school.

Linking the struggle against neoliberalism and militarism

Their work has also included challenging of the neoliberal model that was imposed upon the country through the peace accords.

“Many look at us as an organization or a space that is only anti-military,” Sanchez said. “But we also identify ourselves to be anti-imperialist as well. We have identified that behind the national security programs that have been implemented across Latin America is the United States, as well as the old oligarchies. For us, the only time when Guatemala can advance as a society is when the military disappears.”

Activists mark the spot where Oliverio Castañeda de Leon was assassinated in the 1980s. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

This has led them to connect with indigenous communities that are struggling against the dispossession of land by transnational companies.

According to Sanchez, the conflict became one of the greatest indigenous rebellions in the country’s history, and the response of the dictators and the state was the genocide against the indigenous peoples. “The genocide was not the end, but rather the middle of the imposing of a model of capitalist accumulation based on exportation and the exploitation of natural resources,” he explained. “It is not coincidence that after the peace accords, the state generated all the legislation that permitted the entrance of transnational companies that today generate great conflict.”

The group has also worked to bring awareness of the struggles of the rural indigenous communities to the urban centers.

“We are also trying join the struggles of indigenous communities,” Sanchez said. “The counterinsurgent plan has returned at a time when the indigenous communities are questioning the model of accumulation. Today there are more indigenous leaders imprisoned for defending their territory than members of the military imprisoned for the crimes they committed.”

The group has received numerous threats and attacks for their activism. In 2004, the group suffered from a series of attacks on their collective housing that stole musical and sound equipment, and computers. There have also been threats made against the lives of members.

These threats increased during the trial against former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt, who stood trial for the genocide against the indigenous Ixil people. HIJOS stood with the Ixiles in demanding that the former dictator be found guilty for the violence of the counterinsurgency.

In 2013, Ríos Montt was found guilty of genocide. But a week later the charge was overturned, and the Guatemalan congress declared, “there was no genocide.” HIJOS in response began painting “Si Hubo Genicido,” or “There was Genocide,” across Guatemala City.

HIJOS’ work today is especially important, as the Guatemala military has slowly creeped back into everyday life, and as former military officials have found their way back into government, and work for the transnational companies that are evicting the communities from their land.

The militarization of post-war Guatemala

The 20 years since the signing of the peace accords have been marked by the steady increase in the presence of the Guatemalan military in the day-to-day life of citizens. The accords were initially meant to limit the presence of the military in internal security, and strengthen the newly formed Guatemalan National Civilian Police. But due to the steady rise in violent crime, including homicides, gang violence and drug trafficking, it became all too common to see the military in the streets of Guatemala supporting the operations of the police.

“One of the incomplete processes of the peace accords is the reduction of the military, and its reformation into a democratic society,” Sanchez said. “On the contrary, military members continue to amass more and more power.”

A soldier climbs into the back of a military pickup during a march of campesinos in Guatemala City. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

In 2000, during the administration of Alonso Portillo, the Guatemalan congress signed Accord 40-2000, which permitted the Guatemalan military to support the police in operations against organized crime. The military presence has since slowly expanded into other operations. Today the military is deployed in order to provide “security” in the city centers, markets, tourist centers, and on buses and in the bio-reserves, as part of the “Green Battalion.”

The largest expansion of military presence occurred during the administration of Otto Pérez Molina, a former colonel and member of Guatemala’s elite special forces, the Kabiles. As a candidate, Pérez Molina had campaigned on the return of full military aid from the United States to the Central American country. In fact, he was able to increase military aid by 40 percent, prior to the collapse of his administration in a massive corruption scandal in 2015.

The administration also oversaw the largest increase in attacks on human rights defenders since the signing of the peace accords. According to data from United for the Defense of Human Rights Defenders, there were 409 cases of attacks on human rights defenders in 2011. By 2014, that number hit a high of 813, and then dropped to 493 in 2015.

This period also saw one of the most significant increases of militarization in regions that are normally peaceful, such as the indigenous highlands, which had suffered at the hand of the Guatemalan military during the internal armed conflict. These regions are the center of the social conflicts created by transnational companies interested in the exploitation of natural resources.

The election of Guatemala’s right-wing nationalist version of Donald Trump, Jimmy Morales, has done little to stem the expansion of the military’s presence across the country. In March 2016, Morales appeared on national television standing next to military leaders to announce the expansion of the “citizen security” program, which was implemented by the administration of Pérez Molina. The expansion will lead to a larger presence of the military across the country in order to respond to the rise in crime.

Morales utilized a campaign against corruption as a springboard to gain the presidential office. But the media turned to Morales’ relationship with the old guard of the Guatemalan military, specifically his connection to Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado — a former colonel who had served in special operations in Coban, where the remains of 568 indigenous victims were found in unmarked graves. The then-frontrunner downplayed these relationships, assuring the media that all parties had some relationship with the armed forces.

Former soldiers have also found their way into private security firms. This military presence has led to severely increased levels of violence in areas of social conflict.

On September 27, 2009, Adolfo Ich Chamán, a respected community leader from a small town near El Estor, Izabal, was shot and hacked to death by members of the security forces of the Guatemalan Nickel Company. In 2012, Guatemalan police arrested Mynor Padilla, the company’s head of security, who was a former colonel in the Guatemalan military. His trial has slowly advanced, but has run into numerous delays and accusations of outside influence.

Direct action and reclaiming the day of the military

HIJOS has taken direct actions to challenge the celebration of the military in the streets of Guatemala City. One such action is the yearly march to challenge the Day of the Military on June 30.

In the 11th march organized by HIJOS Guatemala, hundreds of activists turned out in the historic center to march against the militarization of their country this year.

A woman looks at the images of the missing people from Guatemala’s 36-year-long internal armed conflict in Guatemala City’s Central Park. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

“We are commemorating our heroes and martyrs that fell during the war fighting for a better world,” said Roberto Landaverry, a historian and popular educator. “We are trying to counter the domination of memory and that today is the day of the military. The Guatemalan military carried out the genocide, it is connected to narco-trafficking and organized crime, and it continues to violate human rights. We have nothing to celebrate today.”

In 2007, around 30 people associated with HIJOS invaded and blocked the yearly parade. According to Sanchez, this led to a national debate over the parade, and its eventual removal from the streets by the administration of Alvero Colom out of respect for the victims of the internal armed conflict. This decision was continued during the administration of Pérez Molina, in spite of the administration’s close relationship with the armed forces.

The decision to remove the military parade from the streets followed years of organizing by HIJOS. During its campaign, the group collected thousands of signatures from citizens.

In 2016, Guatemalan social media erupted in outrage towards the end of June, following President Jimmy Morales’ announcement that after the seven-year hiatus, the controversial military parade would be held in Guatemala City on July 3. A poll by the national newspaper, Prensa Libre, found that 64 percent of the population opposed the return of the military parade.

Following the massive outcry from citizens on social media and in the streets, the administration was forced to announce that it would hold the military celebration within military facilities in the capital, and not on the city streets.

In spite of this victory, Sanchez admits it is difficult to gauge the impact of the collective.

“We do not know our direct impact, to be honest,” Sanchez said. “But when we pass out fliers or have festivals, many people come to us and share their stories or say that they too had family members who were disappeared. Our actions in the streets show those who do not speak that they are not alone.”

He added, “15 years ago people were afraid to speak, but today people are beginning to speak more. We are trying to reclaim public spaces. We are trying to say that we will not forget.”

Women's March on Washington: a guide to the post-inaugural social justice event

The Guardian | Protest -

  • Organizers of women’s rights event: ‘We’re not targeting Trump specifically’
  • Protests to be held in 30 cities nationwide, with others around the world

More than 200,000 people are expected to participate in a mass demonstration the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington. Since the idea first emerged with a vision to take over the Lincoln Memorial in the days after the election results, plans have shifted, developed and expanded worldwide.

Related: Will Trump cause progressives to forget about women's rights? | Jessica Valenti

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The rise of fascism is not inevitable – just look at Bridges Not Walls | Ellie Mae O’Hagan

The Guardian | Protest -

‘How can we fight the rise of the far right?’ people say. Try Bridges Not Walls, the movement spawned after Trump’s election to reject hate

When your friends and family regard you as The Political One, seismic news events are a bittersweet experience. For every political catastrophe this year has thrown our way, I have received messages and phone calls from family and friends hoping that I might have some special insight, some furtive piece of knowledge that will explain things and assure them it will be OK.

In the chaotic aftermath of Brexit, several friends contacted me – some of whom I hadn’t seen for years – asking what they could do to make things better. The joy that springs from speaking to loved ones meant I always tried to come up with some nuggets of wisdom, but the truth was I didn’t have any answers, and I felt just as hopeless and worried as they did.

Related: Believe it or not, Brits are becoming less materialistic | Peter Ormerod

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Why Wham! were positively the most misunderstood group of the 1980s

The Guardian | Protest -

They wore their hearts on their sleeves and sang about being on the dole, so how did Wham! come to be regarded as the musical embodiment of Thatcherism?

More than any other group, Wham! were regarded as an exemplar of high 80s, home counties Britain – tanned and wealthy, hedonistic, defiantly apolitical in an age of change. With three decades’ hindsight, knowing that George Michael gave bunches of concert tickets away to NHS nurses, knowing that he recorded a brace of anti-Iraq war singles, and recalling that Wham! played a miners’ benefit concert at the height of their fame, it’s hard to think of a group who have been more misunderstood.

Wham! rose to fame in 1982, the era of New Pop, a term the critic Paul Morley had coined for an artist-led reclamation of the charts and light entertainment. Released on the tichy indie label Innervision, their 1982 debut Wham! Rap was an NME single of the week, critically revered for its cri de coeur: “I’m a soul boy! I’m a dole boy!” George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were using a blue-eyed soul template, like revered New Pop practitioners ABC or the Associates, but married this to lyrics and public performances that were at all times about fun. Time revealed Michael to be a far more complex man, a gentle revolutionary in terms of political pop and a balladeer to match almost anyone, but with his pal Ridgeley as a crutch, the emotions were all positive with Wham! The group’s slogan was “Choose Life”, writ large on oversize Persil-white T-shirts.

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Protest like your basic rights depend on it – because power is taken, never given | Jamia Wilson

The Guardian | Protest -

The arc of change may be long, but we must keep fighting. Shared values can build momentum, shift culture and even influence policy over time

Initially, I didn’t plan to attend the Women’s March on Washington, slated for the day after the inauguration.

Though a long-time feminist activist and a passionate proponent of nonviolent resistance, I had a long list of reasons I didn’t want to protest on 21 January. At first, I blamed the aftershocks of the terror I felt after realizing that a significant amount of voters willfully chose to affirm hateful rhetoric, xenophobia, corruption and sexually predatory behavior.

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Far-right protests draining police resources, figures reveal

The Guardian | Protest -

South Yorkshire police forced to spend almost £5m since start of 2012 on keeping peace at demonstrations

South Yorkshire police have spent nearly £5m on policing far-right protests since the beginning of 2012, figures have shown.

Freedom of information requests by the Guardian have revealed that 99.5% of the force’s overall expenditure on protests from the beginning of 2012 to October this year went on policing demonstrations by far-right groups.

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