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

The Guardian | Protest -

Three years of shortages have left Venezuelans desperate and angry for change, posing the most serious threat yet to President Nicolás Maduro

The rumour was there would be chicken.

Word had spread that a delivery of poultry meat was due at the Central Madeirense supermarket, and long before dawn a queue of shoppers was snaking around the block.

Related: Venezuelans on the food and economic crisis blighting their daily lives

Related: President says Venezuela won't be next to fall, but he may not have a choice

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Fracking protesters gather in North Yorkshire as crucial planning meeting begins

The Guardian | Protest -

Ryedale residents tell councillors they do not want to be the first place in the UK to allow fracking

People living close to a proposed fracking operation in North Yorkshire have told councillors they do not want to be the first community in the UK to allow the controversial gas extraction technique.

A meeting has begun to consider an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas at its existing drilling site near the village of Kirby Misperton, between Malton and Pickering, in North Yorkshire.

Related: UK support for fracking hits new low

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Ljubljana: Call for support for Autonomous Factory ROG

House Occupation News -

The autonomous factory Rog is under threat of being evicted and destroyed by the municipal authorities which are pursuing their project of renovating the area into a centre for creative industries. Municipality plans to demolish 4 buildings at the end of may or beginning of june and then – depending on their financial capabilities – continue with the removal of all additions to the main factory building. For now, only one atelier is under threat of being demolished, but once the construction yard is established, the authorities can easily remove the skate park, a gallery, concert hall, circus space, social centre and other places. The municipality does not possess the financial means for the overall renovation and is pushing with demolition works only because the building permit issued for demolitions will expire on the 14th of june, 2016. We call for support for the autonomous factory Rog as much as you are able. You can help us in various ways:

- Sharing this call through your channels, networks and personal contacts.
- Writing a statement or letter of support
- Sending your statement or letter to municipal authorities
- Signing the petition
- Organising events in Rog or using our spaces for your usual activities between 26.5 and 14.6.
- Physical presence in the complex when the bulldozers come
- Your proposal

For question, suggestions and infos, you can contact us at: skupscina [dot] tovarne [dot] rog [at] gmail [dot] com
You can track our activities on

Important dates:

18.5. From 12:00 onwards: Working action – construction of all-Rog-toilets and spring cleaning
20.5. From 12:00 – Block party – groove&BBQ
21.5. At 17:00 – Meeting with support network
25.5. At 17:00 – Youth parade for unlimited use of Rog factory
14.6. – Expiration date of the building permit issued for destruction of additions
15.5. – 14.6. – Critical period when construction works will start

Since many of the people/collectives, who support us, know little of our history and because some brothers and sister organisations asked us for a model text that they can use for their support letter, we wrote a basic informational text below:


Rog factory is an industrial complex on the east edge of Ljubljana centre, which produced the famous Rog bicycles and was shut down in 1991. Since then it has laid abandoned, empty, and in deterioration for 15 years. In 2006 the area was occupied by engaged students, artists and activists, as a critical response to the post-socialist transition process (privatisation and de-industrialization), and erosion of public and social spaces (individualisation and atomisation of society). The occupation pulled legitimacy from the need for places for non-formal artistic, cultural and political activity (autonomy, alternative culture, horizontal political organising).
Users secured and cleaned the spaces and established ateliers, workshops, galleries, skate-park, concert hall, recreational facilities and social centre among others. Despite the municipal efforts to block or disable the grassroot activities (refusal to sign the legal contract for temporary use, and not allowing the community to tap into public electricity network), the users used their self-initiative, collaboration and resourcefulness and in 10 years created one of the main locales of urban culture, critical thought and political activism on the level of city, state and beyond.

Today, there are around 15 organised collectives and around 15 individuals active in the factory in 30 spaces that are relatively self-sufficient and autonomous. The community is bound together through assembly which is the main political body following the principle of direct-democratic decision making and consulting. The activities taking place in Rog can be summarised as:

Artistic and cultural production – figural, contemporary, multimedia and performative arts, sculpture, graffiti, street theatre, circus, music production, ecological urban farming and permaculture, art theory, philosophy and political theory;
Recreational and motoric activities – skateboarding, rollerblading, and BMXing, kung fu, tai chi quan, silk dancing, break dancing and football;
Activism – grassroot political organising, networking, education and training, direct actions and building of horizontal political structures;
Social and music events – jam sessions, concert, club events, experimental musical-performative-social events, picnics, gatherings, flea-markets, ect.;
Handy craft – construction works, repair and assembly of electronic and music equipment, recycling and manufacturing of furniture, permaculture workshops, clothes exchange, dressmaking/sewing and traditionally – bicycle repair, etc.

One year after the occupation – in 2007 – the municipality began with the plan for the renovation of the complex into “Creative Centre Rog” with the emphasis on redeveloping the space into an attractive area for international artists and tourists. With the help of EU-led project devoted for revitalisation of ex-industrial zones, they first proposed a public-private partnership to renovate the main factory building, construction of a design hotel, up-standard apartments and commercial programmes. The public to private ratio was 20:80%. One of the proposals also proposed the relocation of 3 art academies to Rog, but the deans opposed the proposal because of non-defined relations between the academic and commercial programmes and because they didn’t want that their students – who are active in the factory – to lose their ateliers.

The municipality was never able to find an investor following the global recession, so they downscaled the project into an all-publicly financed “centre for architecture, design and visual arts” with the emphasis on developing the creative industries economic sector and helping the young designers with entering the labour market. The community of Rog users criticise the municipal project in following points:

Financially demanding project – the municipality doesn’t possess enough funds to realize the project, and has not yet applied for EU funds. There is no guarantee that the municipality will finish the renovation project in the near future. There are enough construction caves in Ljubljana already;
Spatially unnecessary – creative hubs already exist with developed social and business networks in Ljubljana that the municipality could infrastructurally and financially support instead of establishing new facilities ad nihilo which will need years to become functional
Commodification of artistic and cultural practices – Economic instrumentalisation, commercialisation, precarious jobs, low wages without security;
Gentrification of the city centre – beautification of space, shift of focus from citizens to tourists and consumers, surveillance and restriction of free use of public spaces, relocation of non-profitable uses and populations, etc.;
Top-down led project – current users were never included in concept-formation stage of the renovation project and were used only for testing the already formed programmatic and architectural proposal. They were only allowed to give opinions and suggestions, which were not thoroughly considered and included into the municipal plan;
Aversion toward grassroot practices – Municipal top-down approach is unwilling to recognize the existing practices, unables a opportunity for collaboration and creates antagonism between Rog users and municipal authorities;
Right to the city – city users and dwellers contribute to urban dynamics and therefore have a legitimate claim towards city matters.

We, the users of autonomous Rog factory do not accept the agreement for temporary use because of these facts:

There is no contract or other signed legal document between the municipality and the users. The users were prepared to sign such document, but the city officials refused and therefore prevented legalisation;
The municipality never provided the minimal infrastructural and material conditions. The users used their own time, material resources and money to secure, maintain and manage the spaces;
After ten years of working in precarious conditions, regenerating the area with cultural activities and producing content in public/urban interest, we have a legitimate right to use and manage a property which is not legally ours;
Existing activities and horizontal mode of organisation carry greater potential for further development than the municipal proposal with rigid organisational structure and commercial orientation.

We demand that the municipality step down from their project which is destined for failure and recognise the potentials of existing activities and organisational structure. The municipality should provide the minimal infrastructural and physical
Taping into public electrical network, adaptation of protected south facade, restoration of windows, ecological sanation of galvanisation room and removal of asbest roof panels conditions and should respect the autonomy of the user community. The users are capable of further self-renovation of buildings, providing new contents and self-manage the already existent and working creative factory Rog.

We do not fight for the preservation of current state of affairs, we are struggling for our future autonomous development!

Tovarna Rog
Trubarjeva 72, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
skupscina [dot] tovarne [dot] rog [at] gmail [dot] com

Greenpeace activists scale British Museum to protest BP sponsorship

The Guardian | Protest -

Museum temporarily closes as activists hang huge banners renaming the new BP-sponsored Sunken Cities Egypt exhibition as ‘Sinking Cities’

Greenpeace activists have climbed the British Museum and are hanging banners off its columns in protest at BP’s sponsorship of its new ancient Egypt exhibition.

The museum has temporarily closed because of the protest. “The museum is closed temporarily for visitor safety reasons. We hope we will be able to reopen shortly,” a spokeswoman said.

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Glencore zinc mine must be shut down, say traditional owners

The Guardian | Protest -

A protest planned outside the company headquarters in Sydney will be matched by others around the world by people affected by Glencore mines

The McArthur River mine in the Northern Territory – one of the world’s biggest zinc, lead and silver mines – must shut immediately and owner Glencore must cover the clean-up costs, say traditional owners who will protest outside the company’s headquarters in Sydney on Thursday.

Related: Adam Giles: 'emotional' mine protesters need to have its benefits explained

Related: Glencore: how did it go so wrong, again?

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Meet the new face of Israel’s growing military refuser movement

Waging Nonviolence -

by Mariam Elba

Yasmin Yablanko and Khaled Farrag speaking at Brown University last month. (Facebook / AFSC)

Conscientious objectors from the Israeli military, or “refusers,” are a small but growing group within an increasingly right-wing and militarized society. Last month, several young refusers visited 12 U.S. cities as part of a speaking tour sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Refuser Solidarity Network.

On April 27, following an event in New York City hosted by Columbia/Barnard Jewish Voice for Peace, I spoke with refusers Yasmin Yablonko and Khaled Farrag, who each run their own support groups for conscientious objectors. While Yablonko heads the newly-founded Mesarvot, which provides social and psychological support for those deciding to refuse, Farrag fronts Urfod (Arabic for “refuse”), which specifically supports members of the Druze community refusing Israeli military service. The Druze community faces a unique position because they are the only Palestinians since 1956 to have military service imposed on them.

Fellow refuser Sahar Vardi, who served three prison sentences for her refusal to be conscripted and now works as ASFC’s Israel program coordinator, also joined the conversation, which touched on the perils of being a conscientious objector, how the movement is adapting to Israel’s rightward push and their hopes for peace.

What pushed you to make the decision to refuse your mandatory military service?

Yablonko: I come from a very radical left-wing anti-Zionist house. My mother is actually Druze, like Khaled. And my father is Jewish, but he’s anti-Zionist and a conscientious objector himself. I don’t have a reason to be Zionist. I just knew that I didn’t want to be in the military. I didn’t go to a normal high school, and there was a lot of pressure to go into the military. So, I didn’t refuse publicly. I spoke to a mental health deputy and got out.

Farrag: My story is not much different. I came from a house that was very engaged politically to the left. So, I grew up knowing that I was going to refuse. Therefore, I had family support. I didn’t live at home, so I didn’t have the social experience around my refusing from the general society in my village, but you face opposition from the general public.

Vardi: I grew up in a classic Zionist-left house, so we knew we were against the occupation. We just had no idea what the occupation was. And around the second intifada, it became a little bit more relevant to our lives. Things were happening. Buses were blown up, and there was kind of a feeling around in my closed environment that there needs to be a little bit of a reaction to the concept of occupation. My father was invited to an action in a small village outside of Jerusalem planting olive trees, and he took his two kids along. That was my first time in a Palestinian village and seeing the realities in daily life, seeing the idea that we can go to the village, but Palestinians living in that village — literally 15 minutes away from my house — couldn’t cross over.  They were building the wall at the time. We asked, “What is that going to mean for their lives, like not being able to visit their friends?”

So, for me, understanding those different realities started a process of radicalization. That led to most of my teenage life being involved in a lot of the protests against the wall. You would go to a protest and before you even got close to wall, you’d have soldiers shooting at you and Palestinians dragging you into their house, offering you shelter. Coming from a society that teaches you that soldiers are supposed to protect you and that Palestinians are going to harm you, and then have the exact opposite happen — it shatters a lot of the dichotomies that we’re used to. That was the experience where I said I wasn’t going to be in that protest and, the next day, be the soldier that’s shooting at it.

Can you walk me through the typical process of what happens when someone refuses their mandatory service?

Farrag: The army doesn’t recognize objection. So, when you go and object, you are treated as a soldier who is disobeying an order. If you are consistent with your refusal, they will put you in prison, and after you’ve served your term, you will probably go home for a weekend. When you come back, you have to refuse again, and it goes on and on. In the past, it used to take a couple of years. Now it lasts a few months, until the army — which doesn’t need the manpower, it’s more of a principle issue — gives up and decides that you’re incompatible to serve. You can also take the easier way and ask to see a mental health deputy. You’ll have to prove to him that you are mentally not suitable to serve in the army.

Vardi: That’s assuming you show up to your draft date. People who are less aware of the consequences just don’t show up. Then, legally, they become deserters, which is a criminal offense for a certain amount of time. Military police do these raids, where they go to find deserters. Also, civilian police — if they pull you over and check your license — can arrest you. So, that is a much more severe process: You go straight to prison if you get caught.

How has the movement of conscientious objectors in Israel been changing in light of recent right-wing escalation and the Gaza invasion of 2014? What kind of developments in the movement have you seen since?

Yablonko: There was a lot of campaigning due to the war in Gaza. You saw a lot of different refusal groups and movements starting to work, and from different departments: for reserves, for ground service, and also people who have been trying to get out of the military because they don’t want to serve that specific war. That was something that was really interesting to watch. Following that experience we started our network [Mesarvot] in order to give activists more space to work, not just around wars. We wanted something that would be more continuous and combine our efforts with many different groups working separately. Now, the refusers we support actually do come from many different backgrounds and geographical places in Israel. The people who are the face of refusal are changing.

Farrag: Our organization [Urfod] started a couple of years ago, at the end of 2013. We started gathering a group of activists, former refusers and Druze. But we knew, first and foremost, this is a Palestinian issue — it’s not just a Druze issue. The Druze community and population in Palestine are isolated from each other. We thought that was wrong and that’s why we decided to launch. It’s been going on as a campaign for two years now. The idea is that Druze have always been Palestinians in Palestine and should connect back with their identity. That’s the greater goal. To achieve that, first, we have to get rid of the imposed army service on the Druze male teenagers. Throughout the past two years, we also saw some sort of awakening — even though it’s not felt in large numbers — in the Druze community. The awakening is more about realizing how Druze can serve their duty, but still not get their full rights. They are discriminated against just as any other Palestinian in Israel. They face racism just like any other Arab there. That’s why we decided to also work in the Druze community: to say that army service is not just ruining your history or identity or your Arab and Palestinian identity, but that it’s also not giving us any benefits as a community.

So we’ve started promoting refusing as a first step and provide psychological and legal support to go through refusal, trying to provide incentives for alternatives like scholarships and so on. There has been a growing bad image of the Druze in the Palestinian community since the start of the occupation, where they see them only as soldiers, those who beat them at checkpoints and so on. This is why we decided this is a Palestinian issue. The other side of our work is in Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, in refugee camps, showing that not all Druze go to the army and many of them still consider themselves Palestinians and work within Palestinian frameworks for rights and liberation and so on.

Have your groups formed any partnerships or solidarities that are working against the occupation? Have you formed partnerships particularly with Palestinian rights groups?

Farrag: For us, on the Palestinian side, it was an easy job because we say we are Palestinians. For Palestinians to see such a movement in the Druze community, in some places, is surprising because they’re not aware that there is political engagement and organizing in the Druze community in a radical way. We were engaged with the Palestinian Authority and had endorsements from them. The same is true of the radical left in Israel, even though we worked less there. We collaborated with Yasmin’s network and New Profile, which is an organization that is older and very experienced in supporting refusers. So, together with them, for example, we translated their manual into Arabic to make it accessible to the Druze community. Basically whoever we expected to get support from, we got their support.

Yablonko: Most of our activists are engaged in solidarity activity with Palestinians. As a group we try to make most of our connections in Israeli society because we work around refusal, and these are the people who are not going to the military. Right now, we have very preliminary connections with Orthodox Jews, who are anti-Zionist. These groups are not going to the military and were recently marked as very problematic [by the Israeli government] and were demonized. They continue to be imprisoned sometimes and have refusers of their own. We are trying to see what kind of connections we can build there. I am personally looking for connections with leaders of the Black Lives Matter-equivalent movement in Israel, which supports Ethiopian Jews suffering from police violence and discrimination. They have had actions against police brutality and the military system, as one of the groups that suffer violence from the government.

Tell us about some of the social, professional and personal consequences of refusing to serve in the Israeli military. What kind of stigmas do these young refusers face?

Yablonko: It depends a lot on the family. Many families would disagree with someone’s decision, but still be open and liberal and okay with independent thinking. Family support is very important because you have a lot of other obstacles you have to face. When you finish high school, all your friends will go to the military. When you’re 17 or 18, it’s really hard to go against that. It’s likely that you’ll lose those connections; your life becomes different from everyone else’s. There’s a very harsh social stigma. In Israel, it’s called being a “dodger,” and it’s very bad. It’s not only considered selfish and an abandonment of Jewish society, but you’re also called a traitor and told you’re not protecting your people and your nation.

The education system perpetuates this idea that there is no other way to be a good citizen. The military markets itself, even though service is mandatory. They have ads and videos that are supposed to make you feel ashamed if you are not going to the military, that you are losing the chance to gain experience, connections and scholarships. I, for example, can’t get certain scholarships and other benefits like cheaper housing, which, of course, Palestinians don’t get either. Also, being in prison is not easy — it’s military prison. It’s like a boot camp, but it’s still hard and not having the support of your family is really hard.

What we find is if somebody’s parents don’t approve of them refusing, they might threaten to kick them out, but eventually accept them if they see that they are serious. This is the usual case. It’s also hard to get jobs. Even though it’s illegal not to hire someone because they didn’t go to the military or to ask someone why they didn’t do military service, they will still ask you why it’s not on your CV. They won’t force you to tell the truth, but if you don’t cooperate, it will cause you to not get these jobs. It depends on the field. The social consequences for men are much harder because proving you’re a real man requires you to be a combat soldier.

Farrag: Our movement also faces consequences in the Druze community. But what’s unique about our movement is that it actually targets those who don’t come from a supportive environment. So, if they refuse, they will have a support system.

For example, a year ago, we had a refuser whose uncle’s work in the police force was well known in the community. He decided to go public with his refusal, and he was shunned by his family. He had to stay away from the village, not just from his home. He was attacked violently by friends when he went back to visit. So, we’re really careful about whether they should go public or not. Not only that, one of our female activists was engaged when we started our campaign. Her fiancé was very supportive even though he was not as radical. But his family was not supportive of him and her, and they had to split because of that. Sometimes there are really harsh personal consequences.

As you know, Israeli society and politics are moving more and more to the right, however, the international community is showing a shift in how it perceives Israel and Palestine. There is increasing support for boycott divestment and sanctions, or BDS, and growing criticism of the occupation and the siege on Gaza. Are you hopeful for the future of your activism around refusing?

Farrag: Based on this trip, I would say we’re hopeful. On the international level there’s an increasing awareness, probably more on the people’s level than the policymaker level. For example, lots of activities are organized with the help of Jewish Voice for Peace. We hear about it from home. And that’s one thing that gives hope — their ability to make the rest of the American public more aware. On the local level, in Israel, it’s much more extreme than before, and it seems to be getting worse with time. For better or worse, there’s going to be a turning point soon.

Yablonko: When the government is saying that organizations calling for refusal also call for the destruction of Israel, it puts activists in a very dangerous place in the eyes of the public. It makes our actions seem much more radical than they are, and it helps us actually gain more attention. It’s not a good thing overall, but there’s a good angle to it. Taboos are getting much more strict. When you break these taboos, you’re making someone think.

Vardi: There’s a lot of discourse in the international activist community about [BDS] being the focus of the movement, which I think has been very helpful in a lot of ways, but there’s a risk to putting all our eggs in one basket. We need to look at other forms of pressure. For example, we’ve been working with Sen. Patrick Leahy to apply the Leahy Law to Israel [which would prohibit U.S. military assistance based on Israel’s human rights violations]. There are a lot of other opportunities for action on these things, obviously including supporting what’s happening on the ground and remembering that a large part of what will eventually pressure Israel is not just the international community, but the Palestinian community. It’s important not to forget that when you have a focus on the international side of BDS.

Bosnian LGBTI Activists Demand: Equality Now!

Revolution News -

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOT) was marked in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Activists of Sarajevo Open Center (SOC) gathered in front of Parliament in of Federation of BiH in order to tell the parliamentarians about the need to promote the human rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) persons. ActivistsRead More

Nigerian unions defy ban to launch fuel strike

The Guardian | Protest -

Nigeria Labour Congress said it would proceed with industrial action in protest over increased costs caused by government’s lifting of subsidies

A Nigerian union defied a court ban to launch a general strike on Wednesday in protest at a planned increase in fuel prices.

The government hopes that lifting costly fuel subsidies, causing prices to rise by up to two thirds at the pumps, will help alleviate the worst crisis in decades in Africa’s biggest economy.

Related: The fuel subsidy crisis has woken Nigerians up | Tolu Ogunlesi

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Kenyan police launch inquiry over attack on man during protest

The Guardian | Protest -

Video appears to shows three officers taking turns to hit and kick apparently unconscious man who later said he was not involved in demonstration

Warning: this article contains images some readers may find upsetting

Kenyan police have launched an internal investigation after graphic video footage of riot police beating and kicking an apparently unconscious man on the sidelines of an election protest caused outrage.

In the latest of several protests by opposition activists who say their leader will be denied a fair chance at next year’s election, police fired teargas and beat demonstrators with truncheons on Monday to stop them storming the offices of the electoral commission in Nairobi.

Related: Kenyan police fire teargas during protest over election watchdog

Powerful illustrations by @ndula_victor, @gathara & @BwanaMdogo1 on the need for reforms in Kenya. #BackToAgendaFour

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Kenyan police officers beat protester – video

The Guardian | Protest -

Footage from NTV Kenya appears to show officers hitting and kicking an unconscious man. Police were trying to stop demonstrators from storming the offices of the electoral commission in Nairobi. There are unconfirmed reports in local media that the man in the video later died from his injuries

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How do you protect women's rights on a shoestring? | Bethan Cansfield and Kasia Staszewska

The Guardian | Protest -

The answer, broadly, is with great difficulty. Well done to the UK on leading the way. Now it needs to stump up more cash for grassroots organisations

The assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai, the gang-rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus and the mob killing of Farkhunda Malikzada in Afghanistan are only some of the stories that have sparked global outrage and protests at the failure of governments to prevent violence against women and girls. While the extreme level of brutality in these cases is shocking, violence against women is widespread – one in three women experiences abuse in her lifetime.

The UK prioritised tackling violence against women in its development work, a move that has helped shift the issue up the international agenda – eliminating all forms of violence is a target within the sustainable development goals. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (Icai) has released a report examining the Department for International Development’s (DfID) efforts.

Related: How do we end inequality? Women's rights activists speak out | Liz Ford

Related: Women's human rights defenders under threat – podcast

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'Break Free' fossil fuel protests deemed 'largest ever' global disobedience

The Guardian | Protest -

Coalition of environmental groups call for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground during mass protests around the world over the past two weeks

Thousands of people have taken part in what organizers have called the largest ever global civil disobedience against fossil fuels, with dozens of activists arrested during protests that shut down coalmines, rail infrastructure and a port.

The protests, held over the past two weeks in countries including the US, UK, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia, saw activists call for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground. A coalition of environment groups, which called the actions “Break Free”, are pushing for a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Related: Shell creates green energy division to invest in wind power

Related: The time has come to turn up the heat on those who are wrecking planet Earth | Bill McKibben

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Thousands protest ‘bomb trains’ and environmental racism in Albany

Waging Nonviolence -

by William Fowler

Willie White of Ezra Prentice Homes lifts a fist while marching amongst protesters from across the northeastern United States. (WNV / William Fowler)

Thousands of protesters from across the Northeast came to Albany, New York on Saturday to block a “bomb train” transporting fracked oil and exposing communities along its path to major risks of derailment, oil spillage and explosion. While hundreds risked arrest by standing or sitting on the train tracks in downtown Albany, the only arrests of the day took place 16 miles away, where two climbers — aided by a three-person support team — blocked a train from North Dakota carrying fracked crude oil by suspending themselves from train tracks on a railroad bridge.

The protest in Albany was just one of many targeting the fossil fuel industry to take place that week. Others were held in the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Pennsylvania, Washington and Colorado — each under the banner of Break Free, a 12-day global grassroots effort lasting from May 3-15. Tens of thousands of people in 13 countries, across six continents were reported to take part, amounting to what co-founder Bill McKibben called the “largest civil disobedience in the history of the environmental movement.”

The common link between these actions is grassroots and frontline communities targeting the world’s most dangerous and dirty fossil fuel projects. In Albany, the issue is “bomb trains,” which are trains that stretch a mile long with cars carrying the explosive power of two million sticks of dynamite. There are at least eight known “bomb train” derailments, the deadliest of which occurred in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, where 47 people died and the explosion demolished a town with a 0.6-mile blast radius.

While the trains carrying fracked crude oil pass through many poor and marginalized communities on their trek across North America, Albany’s South End neighborhood may have it the worst, as it is located next to the Port of Albany, where the trains sit, venting toxic fumes, as they wait for their cargo to be loaded onto barges. For the people here, every breath is negatively impacted by fossil fuels, with many — particularly children — suffering from asthma and upper respiratory issues, not to mention cancer. It was this fact, along with the increasing impacts of climate change, that led organizations like 350, Citizens Action of New York, AVillage of Albany and 97 other regional groups coordinating Break Free Northeast to want to make Albany and South End a focus of their campaign. That meant getting frontline community members the resources necessary to lead Saturday’s action and shine a light on the environmental injustices they’ve been suffering.

“We’ve been working hard to build alliances with people who are working for justice right here on the South End of Albany,” said Marla Marcum, an organizer with Break Free and the founder of the Climate Disobedience Center. “We first asked, ‘Would it help your efforts to fight these bomb trains if we came and brought this action here?’ We felt like that was the most important thing to do because we’re bringing people from all over the region right into their community and they are the ones baring the highest burden.”

The highest burden, however, has fallen on the shoulders of families living in an affordable housing community called Ezra Prentice Homes, which AVillage executive director Willie White refers to as “ground zero for environmental racism.”

Ezra Prentice Homes is a family development with 16 buildings and 179 units. Surrounded on three sides by massive transportation infrastructure projects, the homes are on a busy street just south of Interstate 787. The playground, basketball court and railroad adjacent buildings back up to a railroad storage yard and the Port of Albany.

Children growing up in the Ezra Prentice Homes play on their basketball court with the train tracks that carry bomb trains just beyond the hoop. (WNV / William Fowler)

“I’ve lived in this hell hole well over 20 years,” said Deneen Carter, a resident of Ezra Prentice Homes, “and I’ve never had any health issues until I came here.”

Since moving to Ezra Prentice, Carter says she has survived two forms of cancer, thyroid complications, sinus problems and allergies that she attributes to the air she breathes and the water she drinks.

Sadly, Carter isn’t alone in receiving a never ending pile of medical bills necessary to survive at Ezra Prentice. That’s why she now works with local organization AVillage — named for the ancient African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” — which has been organizing the community around health and safety issues for years.

Carter is one of AVillage’s several resident outreach workers hired from the South End community to collect health survey data from residents at Ezra Prentice in order to document the effects of the racist and classist government policies and corporate loopholes.

“I believe this is the worst example of environmental racism I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Jim Freeman, one of the organizers with the Break Free demonstration in Albany. “When I first came here, there were oil trains three rows deep right behind the chain link fence. Those trains were venting toxic fumes up into the atmosphere. The trucks run down here into the Port of Albany at close to 100 trucks per hour, spewing diesel fuel and whatever dust and crap that comes out of the trucks.”

Adding insult to injury, Freeman says the “bomb trains” don’t have to be there. “[The trains] can go in the Port of Albany, but the Port of Albany charges a fee for the trains to park there. They can park [behind Ezra Prentice] for nothing,” said Freeman. “They cared nothing about the people, the citizens of this community, and we’re here to change that.”

In the past, White said he has unsuccessfully requested Governor Andrew Cuomo to visit Ezra Prentice to meet the people and talk about the issues impacting their community. While local leaders representing the people of Ezra Prentice have generously welcomed these climate activists and protesters into their community, they hope it will result in more attention to the health and safety problems here, as well as other frontline communities around the world.

“I believe that us getting together from throughout the northeast, from different states, [we are] showing our government that this is a unified voice,” said Vivian Kornegay, who represents families in Ezra Prentice as the councilmember for Albany’s 2nd Ward. “This is a national problem. It’s not one small community in this country, it’s small communities across this country that are affected by big oil.”

White, who spoke and led chants throughout the march, was enthusiastic about what this event could mean for his community moving forward. “I’m really inspired to have Break Free here today to support this issue. So hopefully we can create relationships that will last forever and be educated through their protests,” he said.

A protester with the Break Free action in Albany tapes a piece of art that reads, “ferocious love will save this planet,” to a fence blocking entry to the Port of Albany. (WNV / William Fowler)

Specific demands from the community and regional activists involved with Break Free include: revoking the clean air permits for Albany Terminal, denying permits for the tar sands heating facility on the Port of Albany proposed by Global Partners; and forcing Global Partners, the Fortune 500 company operating the terminal, to build a sound wall for the Ezra Prentice community. More broadly, the agreed upon demands for all Break Free actions are to keep, at a minimum, 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves in the ground; to oppose all new fossil fuel infrastructure projects, including fracking for natural gas and the installation of pipelines like the Pilgrim pipelines that would actually increase the flow of bomb train traffic coming into Albany; and to call for an end to government subsidies for fossil fuel and a transfer of those subsidies to renewables.

While the fossil fuel industry and its lobbyists have, up until now, held enough power over state and federal governments to allow for the continuing neglect of communities like Ezra Prentice, actions like the one on Saturday are aiming to change things. By placing the issue of environmental racism on a national, and even global stage — given the expansive nature of Break Free’s 12-day stretch of actions — the climate movement is helping to shift the balance of power away from those who benefit financially from fossil fuel infrastructure projects and towards those whose lives they put at risk.

Manus Island asylum seekers protest continuing detention

The Guardian | Protest -

Detainees express anger over what they say is Australia’s refusal to accept Papua New Guinea supreme court decision to close the detention centre

Asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island, detained under Australia’s offshore processing regime, held protests over the weekend calling for an end to their detention after last month’s supreme court ruling that the Papua New Guinea centre was illegal.

Similar protests have been held on Nauru every day for almost two months.

Related: This is Manus Island. My prison. My torture. My humiliation | Behrouz Bouchani

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Egyptians jailed after Red Sea island protests

The Guardian | Protest -

Protesters sentenced to five years in prison for attending peaceful anti-government demonstrations last month

Two Cairo courts have convicted and sentenced to five years in jail more than 100 protesters for taking part in peaceful, anti-government demonstrations last month, officials said on Sunday.

They said the 101 were convicted of breaking a disputed 2013 law that effectively bans street protests. Seventy-nine of them were fined 100,000 Egyptian pounds (£8,000) each and 54 were convicted and sentenced in absentia. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Related: Egypt police suppress protests against Sisi government

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People power can be toxic: sign here if you agree

The Guardian | Protest -

The online petition to sack the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg was objectionable, even before sexist trolls joined in

“‘Stop all immigration and close the UK borders until Isis is defeated.” With their commitment to people power, the staff at 38 Degrees must be relieved that the creators of this petition, which accumulated 463,499 signatures, picked the parliamentary website, not theirs, to issue this demand. Perhaps, when exploring their petition choices, its creators watched the 38 Degrees welcome video, which assures visitors that they have entered a proudly benevolent, as well as democratic space: “Speaking out for a fair and compassionate society is more important than ever before”.

While nominally impartial, 38 Degrees leaves petitioners in no doubt that, although “there has never been a better time for people power”, what they really mean is, “there has never been a better time for people like us’s people power”. This is not really the right place if you want to bring back hanging, campaign for boots on the ground, or pressure Bic to add more sparkle to its range of easy-to-hold ladies’ pens.

Related: Laura Kuenssberg petition taken down over sexist abuse

Related: Campaign to sack BBC's Laura Kuenssberg accused of sexism

What is so carelessly created can be readily, even justifiably, ignored

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Disturbing Video Shows a Cop Brutally Beat a Child for Riding Her Bike, Charges HER with Assault

Revolution News -

Originally published on the Free Thought Project Tacoma, WA — On May 24, 2014, 15-year-old Monique Tillman and her brother were riding their bikes when they were stopped and this young girl brutally assaulted by Tacoma Police Officer Jared Williams. Tillman and her brother had done nothing wrong, and were merely targeted by this ‘publicRead More