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Syrian Refugees Welcome, Say Supporters at White House Rally

Revolution News -

Washington DC – About a hundred people rallied at the White House on Saturday to denounce efforts by state governors and Congress to deny Syrian refugees sanctuary in the U.S. They held signs saying, “Refugees welcome here,” and invoked the inscription on the Statue of Liberty to express their support for allowing those from conflict-ridden Read More

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Rest In Power Michael Marshall – The Latest Victim of Denver Police Violence

Revolution News -

The Denver Sheriff Department has murdered again. Michael Marshall passed away as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of Denver sheriff deputies around 6:30pm on November 20, 2015, after over a week on life support. What does a community do in the absence of official channels to seek justice? What does a community Read More

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Cars of Hope Wuppertal: Working with mainstream media along the Balkan route

Revolution News -

On October 29 Cars of Hope Wuppertal started a convoy to support refugees on the Balkan route. Me and other independent media activsts were part of the convoy. Apart from our own media work we also worked a lot with mainstream media. Some thoughts about working with mainstream media on the Balkan route. Living in Read More

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Cutting through the helplessness of the refugee crisis

Waging Nonviolence -

by Frida Berrigan

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Fences. Barbed wire. Plexiglass riot shields. Refugee camps. Unanswered questions. Terror. Roiling seas in flimsy boats. Waiting. Fear. Walking. Huddled in wet, cold fields with no shelter and no certainty about what tomorrow brings. This and so much more is the experience of refugees fleeing the violence and civil war of Syria in Europe.

And now there is a new misery: Investigators into the Paris attacks found a Syrian passport near the bodies of dead bombers and assert that one was a Syrian who entered Greece as a refugee. This piece of information means that all those seeking refuge are now suspect and subject to fear, hatred and another layer of vulnerability. There is already so much misery, and now this. The terrible actions of a few punishing all. The horrific violence that slayed cafe-goers, partiers and fans of rock music is the same violence that these countless men, women and children are fleeing.

Can they still have hope? Can they still find a destination, a future free of violence and political turmoil? Can they keep going? Winter is coming, fast and bitter.

I have watched this crisis ebb and flow across my daily newspaper, mostly just shaking my head and feeling disconnected and helpless. Like many others, the picture of tiny Aylan Kurdi, his lifeless form washed up on a Greek island, affected me deeply. The three-year-old Syrian boy — who along with his mother, father and siblings — fled the militias and fighting in their hometown of Kobane only to drown as rough seas overtook the crowded boat. Only the father survived. I opened the newspaper to that now unforgettable picture and burst into tears. It is a funny expression that is often incorrect — burst into tears. But that is what happened. An outburst of sorrow, anguish and even responsibility. What have I done for these refugees? What have I done to help Aylan’s family? Nothing.

We talked all through breakfast — my husband, our eight-year-old daughter Rosena and three-year-old son Seaus, who wears Velcro shoes, little red shirts and blue pants. He is fatter and taller than little Aylan, and loves playing on the beach at the edge of waters, like the Aegean Sea, that took that little boy’s life. We talked with our kids about the war in Syria, which has created more than 4 million refugees. We talked about how our country has accepted fewer than 1,500 so far (.04 percent of those who have fled their homes) and said that it would allow another 70,000 over the next year (if they could pass through the world’s most rigorous vetting process). We saw that they were still listening, still feeling, and so we pointed out that the United States has provided nearly $8 billion in military aid to Syria since 2011.

“We have space for a family,” Rosena said, her eyes taking in our large dining room and mentally rearranging the rooms upstairs. “They could have my room and I can be in Seamus’s top bunk.” This is how they want to be sleeping anyway, even though neither would sleep well if we greenlighted this plan. I was bowled over by her generosity. It cut through all the fear, scapegoating, othering, racism, politics, bureaucratic inertia and red tape that defines Washington and other world powers.

Rosena is not alone. In fact, the mayors of an impressive number of cities have made a similar call to President Barack Obama. Last month, mayors from around the country sent a letter to the White House that read, in part: We “urge you to increase still further the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept for resettlement. The surge of humanity fleeing war and famine is the largest refugee crisis since World War II. The United States is in a position to lead a global narrative of inclusion and support. Our cities have been transformed by the skills and the spirit of those who come to us from around the world. The drive and enterprise of immigrants and refugees have helped build our economies, enliven our arts and culture, and enrich our neighborhoods.”

The letter is signed by the mayors of major metropolises like Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston and my very own hometown of Baltimore, as well as smaller cities like Allentown, Pennsylvania and Central Falls, Rhode Island. It is worth reading in full and working with your own mayor and city council to get more cities to add their names to the list. It made me cry so hard because the letter represents some of the best of our country.

Three of my grandparents were immigrants to the United States. My mother’s parents were both born and raised in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. Elizabeth O’Mullan was the eldest of four. Their father died when she was a teenager. She educated and trained as a secretary and a social worker, but as a Roman Catholic, she could not find work. Responsible for her younger siblings and mother, she decided to follow hundreds of thousands of her countrymen, who left Ireland because of religious persecution and lack of opportunity. She settled in New Jersey. William McAlister was the second youngest of 10 children on a poor farm — also in County Antrim. Most of his siblings were boys and there wasn’t enough work for them all, so he headed for the United States too. There was no terror or barbed wire in their stories. The indignities of Ellis Island, the fear of the unknown and separation from their homelands seemed small prices to pay for the promises of a brighter future. Friends told McAlister to look up the good-hearted, hardworking Elizabeth when he landed.

The rest was history. They lived in New Jersey all their lives. My grandfather started a contracting company and made a good living. They owned a home, raised seven kids, summered at the shore, sent money back to relatives in the North and were stalwart members of their local Catholic Church.

It is not hyperbole or hokum to say that they lived the American Dream. They escaped poverty, lack of opportunity and religious discrimination with almost nothing and they built a life, a living and a legacy in the United States.

It grieves and angers me that those opportunities are closed to Syrians, who have already suffered so much. What can we do to make President Obama and Congress listen to the wisdom of an eight-year-old girl and 18 mayors?

There is no doubt plenty we can do. Perhaps, for inspiration, we should look to what others around the world are doing to not just sit idle, but have some positive effect on this ever-unfolding tragedy. For example, we have friends from the War Resisters League who spend time each year in Turkey. This year, they sent out an email to friends and family saying that they were raising money for refugee efforts. I was so grateful for the opportunity to be connected to what was happening so far away. We had given through our church to refugee efforts, but this felt so much more direct and immediate.

Volunteers at Pikpa pack goods for refugees. (WNV/Tom Leonard)

They have just returned and here is some of what they shared: “Without exaggeration, this was one of the saddest and most rewarding experiences of our lives. Pikpa camp in Mytilini on the Greek island of Lesbos is the all-volunteer camp we went to. It was an unused summer camp for disabled children that four activists occupied three years ago. Their vision was to open a new kind of refugee camp with a focus on treating the residents with respect and providing conditions that enable them to live with dignity until they are ready to move on.” Our friends raised more than $8,000 and brought with them medicine, medical equipment and other critically needed items — simple things like baby carriers and diapers.

On their last day at Pikpa, our friends helped other volunteers amass winter clothes for the refugees. “This was a reminder of what the refugees face as they head further north into Europe,” they wrote. “Not just chilly weather, though, but a sometimes hostile reception. In the face of this reality, it is reassuring to know that it is not just on Lesbos, but from Athens to Norway, even in Hungary, there are many thousands of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts, stepping up and welcoming their fellow human beings in their time of need.”

I have read and reread these words, finding hope and sustenance in the efforts of ordinary people to help and save and take care of one another. It cuts through the helplessness I feel.

Police apologise to women who had relationships with undercover officers

The Guardian | Protest -

Met pays substantial compensation and acknowledges relationships were ‘an abuse of police power’

Related: Lisa Jones, girlfriend of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy: ‘I thought I knew him better than anyone’

Police chiefs have apologised unreservedly to seven women who were deceived into forming long-term relationships with undercover police officers, it has been announced.

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Showing solidarity with migrants is more than 'comfort' for white people | Amrita Malhi

The Guardian | Protest -

Tolerance isn’t the most ‘radical’ approach to racism. So why do many non-white Australians participate in movements that promote it as a solution?

Tony Abbott’s prime ministership sparked furious debate about Australia’s commitment to multiculturalism, including a push to wind back 18c, slights against Indigenous “lifestyle choices”, and questions about Australian Muslims’ loyalty to the nation.

As this period now fades into ancient history, Australia’s politicians have begun to re-invest in the multicultural narrative, a prescient move given the polarised debate after recent events in Paris. Earlier this month, the three major political parties made sure to send a high-level representative to address a conference organised by the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (Fecca).

Related: 'Real Australians' are a myth and 'saying welcome' to refugees is not enough | Alana Lentin and Omar Bensaidi

Related: Social cohesion binds Australia stronger than ever even as Tony Abbott came unstuck | David Marr

Related: If you don't think multiculturalism is working, look at your street corner | Madeleine Bunting

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Police and protesters clash during Jamar Clark protests as NAACP plans response

The Guardian | Protest -

Friday demonstration for unarmed black man killed in Minneapolis scheduled amid growing police retaliation against protesters outside precinct since Sunday

As protests in Minneapolis intensified over the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of police, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People announced a planned candlelight vigil and march for Friday, which their leaders would attend.

Jamar Clark was shot in the head by police in the early hours of Sunday morning after an altercation. Officials with the Minnesota police union said that Clark was not handcuffed and was reaching for the officer’s gun; but eyewitnesses disputed that, saying he was cuffed and pinned to the ground at the time he was shot.

Photo is agonizing for me to see. My son is PEACEFULLY protesting w/ hands up; officer is shouldering gun. Why?

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Organisers of cancelled Paris climate march urge global show of support

The Guardian | Protest -

People around the world should protest ‘on behalf of those who can’t’, say organisers of climate march forbidden in light of Paris terror attacks

A march expected to attract 200,000 people onto the streets of Paris ahead of crunch UN climate change talks was forbidden by the French government on Wednesday in light of last Friday’s terror attacks.

But organisers have said it is now even more important for people around the world to come out onto the streets for “the biggest global climate march in history” to protest “on behalf of those who can’t”.

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100 years later: 5 timeless lessons from Joe Hill

Waging Nonviolence -

by Nadine Bloch

A hundred years ago on November 19, 1915, the song writin’, cartoon scribblin’, parody pushin’ Industrial Workers of the World organizer Joe Hill was unceremoniously executed by firing squad in Utah. Ah, but you might say, the only thing I know about him is that “Joe Hill ain’t never died,” quoting the words of a popular folk song. While it is true that not many folks outside of the embattled labor movement and associated circles know much about Joe Hill these days — that’s a crying shame.

Joe Hill’s struggles for worker’s rights, free speech, the right to a fair trial, and against the inequality of our economic order are still significant today. Born in Sweden on October 7, 1879 as Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, Joe Hill left behind a legacy of activist songs as well as innumerable words to live, and die, by. In fact, when the deputy who was directing the firing squad at Hill’s execution said to his men “Ready, aim,” Hill shouted out “Fire, go on and fire!” — calling the shots until the end. He was not only tasking the state, but also the rest of us, to hurry up and act already.

Hill came to the United States in 1902 and spent the next 13 years organizing workers and agitating for change from New York to California. As the impacts of labor organizing and the Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, strikes were felt, the “copper barons” and corporate cronies were not too happy. Government crackdown on the Wobblies, as members of the IWW are known, was personified in the accusation and then execution of Hill for the murders of a businessman and his son in Salt Lake City. At the time, huge national attention was focused on his case, which was murky at best. Hill’s refusal to testify on his own behalf no doubt contributed to his guilty verdict; reportedly, Hill believed he would be worth more dead than alive to the union cause. Given that 100 years later folks are still talking about him and singing his union songs, odds are good he was right about that.

It’s also true that Hill managed to organize and agitate even beyond the firing squad. Not wanting to be “caught dead in Utah,” he asked to have his body sent to Chicago where it was cremated. His ashes were then distributed, by mail, in 600 envelopes to IWW members, unions and supporters around the world. Reportedly, some ashes were confiscated by the U.S. Postal Service (and just released in the 1990s), some used in building materials (which still can be found in a wall in a Swedish reading room), some were eaten (most recently by Billy Bragg), and some were scattered at events or on the winds of change in Nicaragua, the United States, Canada, Sweden and Australia. So Hill literally lives on not only in song, but also in other remarkable artists and activists. Here are five lessons from Joe Hill that still resonate today.

There is power in a union

Hill believed in the power of a united working class, of organizing to fight the system, not other people. He joined the IWW because it was open to all workers — people of color, women, the un-skilled and foreigners, who were excluded from the AFL at that time. The early 1900s were the heyday of the Wobblies, who were very effective at speaking to people about the necessity of banding together in “One Big Union” to wield power against the corrupt capitalist system to create an industrial democracy.

Unfortunately, the IWW refused to participate in politics at this time — leaving this arena to more conservative socialists who generally scared off the U.S. public. They also refused to sign contracts with bosses, seeing them as too much of a compromise, which meant they were unable to solidify gains won through strikes. Due to these factors, divisions within the IWW, and severe government crackdowns, membership tanked by the mid 1920s — and the union never recovered.

Linocut by Carlos Cortez, 1979. (CSPG)

Still, Joe Hill wrote some visionary and cutting words to traditional tunes that live on to tell the glory of the working class. In “Workers of the World, Awaken,” he wrote:

Workers of the world, awaken! Break your chains. Demand your rights.
All the wealth you make is taken by exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission, From your cradles to your graves?
Is the height of your ambition, To be good and willing slaves?
Arise, ye prisoners of starvation! Fight for your own emancipation;
Arise, ye slaves of every nation, In One Union grand.

To build your movement, be inclusive

Recognizing that building people power requires growing a movement’s numbers, Hill wrote songs to inspire solidarity in the ranks and recruit new members. He was an early feminist, at least as much as one can tell from his words about union membership and the important role women could play in class struggle. In “The Rebel Girl,” inspired by the phenomenal radical Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, he penned a targeted lesson to his fellow union brothers. He wrote:

Though her hands may be harden’d from labor, And her dress may not be very fine;
But a heart in her bosom is beating, That is true to her class and her kind.
And the grafters in terror are trembling, When her spite and defiance she’ll hurl.
For the only thoroughbred lady, Is the Rebel Girl.

Creativity gets the goods

As a songwriter, poet, public speaker and organizer, Hill was a cultural worker who knew the power of harnessing creativity and catchy tunes to spread a message where traditional media would fall flat. The Wobblies embraced songs, comics, strikes, soapboxing, and other creative tactics in reaching out to unorganized workers as well as in direct actions on the job site. “A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over,” Hill wrote in a letter to the editor of Solidarity in November 1914. “And I maintain that if a person can put a few common sense facts into a song and dress them up in a cloak of humor, he will succeed in reaching a great number of workers who are too unintelligent or too indifferent to read a pamphlet or an editorial on economic science.”

You can’t eat promises

In several songs, it was clear that Hill believed that promises of future gain were no substitute for a better life in the here and now. His parody “The Preacher and the Slave,” of a Salvation Army hymn, “Sweet Bye and Bye,” was the origin of the phrase “pie in the sky,” which stands in for a false promise or unattainable goal.

You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die (and that’s a lie).

Don’t mourn, organize

Perhaps Joe’s most famous directive and organizing principle was captured in one of his last communications, a telegram to union compatriot Big Bill Haywood on the eve of his execution. It lives on in the work of nonviolent activists across the globe from Beirut to Paris, and rings especially true as we struggle to move beyond violent acts of terrorism and revenge to dismantle the systems of oppression that drive evil and inequity. “Goodbye Bill,” he wrote. “I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize.”

Thank you Joe Hill, and those that continue to keep his lessons alive by carrying on the work.

Kosovo: Violent protests after an arrest of opposition MP

Revolution News -

Protesters clashed with police and threw stones and paint at the government building in Kosovo at Wednesday, after an arrest of opposition MP. Albulena Kadaj-Bujupi, an MP of the opposition Alliance  for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) was arrested on the charges that she threw tear gas in the Kosovo Assembly. Police have also issued a warrant for the arrest Read More

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LAPD Runs Over Black Man and Calls for Backup, EMT Arrives 1/2 Hour Later

Revolution News -

Please read and share the attached flyer regarding a (Possible Fatal) Hit and No Tell in #DTLA involving the #LAPD. — Jasmyne Cannick (@Jasmyne) November 18, 2015 LOS ANGELES, CA – As news stations were flooded with stories about a hit and run in Los Angeles on Sunday night, a horrifying incident in Downtown Read More

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The Script for the Fake Ayotzinapa Confrontation

Revolution News -

  Mexico: On Wednesday November 11, several buses of students from Raul Isidro Burgos normal school in Ayotzinapa were attacked by police while headed back to the school from Chilpancingo. The students were ambushed on the Tixtla-Chilpancingo highway. A brutal police repression ensued but the narrative pushed in social media and news was that a Read More

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COP21 climate marches in Paris not authorised following attacks

The Guardian | Protest -

French government says demonstrations in closed spaces can go ahead but not those in public places

Marches planned on 29 November and 12 December during the COP21 international climate talks in Paris will not be authorised for security reasons, the French government said on Wednesday.

All demonstrations organised in closed spaces or in places where security can easily be ensured could go ahead, the government said in a statement.

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Greek Farmers Protest Austerity Measures

Revolution News -

#Greece: Clashes with riot police as farmers protest in #Syntagma against tax reforms and austerity. — Savvas Karmaniolas (@SavvasKarma) November 18, 2015 Greece – Five to eight thousand Greek farmers protested over planned tax and pension reforms demanded by the country’s bailout creditors. Farmers are angered by the Governments plans to substantially increase their Read More

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University students hold anti-racism protests across US – live updates

The Guardian | Protest -

  • #StudentBlackOut demonstrations planned from Yale to Mizzou
  • Day of action follows protests over racism issues at University of Missouri
  • Students demand diversity training, resignations and more faculty of color

5.11pm GMT

One protester at Princeton has told us students are already occupying President Christopher Eisgruber’s office.

@Princeton students occupying President Eisgruber's office until demands are met. #StudentBlackOut

We demand the university administration publicly acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson ...

We demand cultural competency training for all faculty and staff...

Princeton's Black Justice League issue 3 demands. They intend to sit-in until President Eisgruber signs them.

5.00pm GMT

We just learned students are protesting at the University of Pittsburgh today, beginning at 4pm ET.

We’re also expecting demonstrations from students at Emory University, Morehouse and Spelman College around 6pm ET.

#StudentBlackOut #nationalblackout PGH STUDENTS IN SOLIDARITY

4.41pm GMT

There are also calls for protests in Amherst, Boston and Worcester Massachusetts, at Stanford University in California, and Rutgers University in New Jersey.

We also know at least one Canadian school, the University of Toronto, has issued a set of demands, asking administrators to hire more black faculty, provide better mental health services to students of color and to divest from the American for-profit prison industry (a demand suggested by the Black Liberation Collective).

Anti-blackness is systemic. And anti-blackness is a choice. In order to address anti-blackness, we must all become anti-racist in our actions.”

#StudentBlackOut #BlackonCampusUofT

4.27pm GMT

Today’s “day of action” takes place across the country, but times seem to vary. We’re expecting protests at University of Cincinnati in Ohio to begin at 12pm ET.

Tomorrow, 12 pm on Mainstreet. Be there. #theirate8 #studentblackout

3.55pm GMT

Good morning, and welcome to our live blog on the #StudentBlackOut protests planned for universities across the US today.

Anti-racism demonstrations have roiled schools from Yale University in Connecticut to the University of Missouri to Kean University in New Jersey in recent weeks.

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'Dismantle Europe's borders':  Pussy Riot speak up for refugees

The Guardian | Protest -

One of the protest band’s members explains why the migration crisis is ‘the defining issue of our generation’

In the early 1900s the suffragettes fought for the right to vote. In the 1960s tens of thousands of people united to fight for civil rights. More recently, the issue of LGBT equality has raged in Russia and beyond.

In each of these instances it was not governments or the media who led the way. It was ordinary people; people dedicated to fighting injustice even when doing so meant breaking the law, risking possible imprisonment.

Related: The Iraqi Kurdish refugee family stuck in limbo at Moscow airport

Related: Pussy Riot rehearse for Dismaland concert finale – in pictures

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How will activists resist Big Brother’s growing presence in East Africa?

Waging Nonviolence -

by Phil Wilmot

Telecommunications providers in Uganda, such as Africom, are required to comply with interception requests by the government. (Privacy International)

After being released from an illegally prolonged detainment by Ugandan police last year, I opened my Gmail account to find a report from Google documenting suspicious activity on my account throughout the time of my detainment. The source of this activity was somewhere in Kampala, the city where police had retained two of my computers (neither of which have been returned, despite a court directive).

The following day, I read an article in the Daily Monitor, a leading independent newspaper in Uganda, explaining how Uganda’s government was in the process of procuring a fancy phone-tapping machine for about $70 million. This mammoth piece of technology is not only capable of recording both ends of a phone conversation anytime and anywhere in the country, it can even break into email accounts, confirming my suspicions that even after being released, authorities were still monitoring my every move.

The guerrilla bushmen who seized power in Uganda in the mid-1980s built an Orwellian state that relies on an organized offline system of spies speckled throughout the country, as well as a deliberate and extensive ongoing propaganda campaign. But when the masses of young people began using smartphones, these tyrants realized their system of hidden micromanaging would need to be supplemented by a technological crackdown. Consequently, they turned to their security partners in the Global North and — using the rhetoric of terrorism to justify rampant human rights abuses — convinced them to financially support (or at least turn a blind eye to) their rapidly developing Big Brother state.

While countries like the United States offered AK-47 assault rifle training and other tactical support, many of the Ugandan regime’s geopolitical security partners were actually private tech firms and companies. Last month, Privacy International released an extensive report detailing the Ugandan military’s partnership with Gamma International GmbH, a U.K.-based group that supplied the Uganda People’s Defence Force with FinFisher, a spyware program that the regime has used for crushing civil disobedience and blackmailing opponents. This announcement came just a few months after the Italian Hacking Team was exposed by Wikileaks for its communications with the Uganda Police Force — notably the Head of Information and Communications Technology — and President Yoweri Museveni’s office. The IT company’s software has been utilized by the notoriously repressive regimes in Morocco and Ethiopia, and is capable of planting fabricated evidence on victims’ devices.

A photo of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni watches over a hotel business center in Entebbe. (Privacy International)

Sadly, Uganda is far from the only Big Brother state in East Africa to benefit from international security tech firms. Heads of state in East Africa are learning from one another, jumping on the surveillance tech bandwagon one by one.

According to Sungu Oyoo, an organizer and trainer for Kenyans for Tax Justice, “The surveillance state of Kenya is severe given the excuse of terrorism. It can provide a good decoy to clamp down on civil space because it preys on the fears of the public.”

Indeed, Kenyan authorities have infiltrated and harassed various human rights groups, including Muslims for Human Rights and Haki Africa. Some attacks have been physical, resulting in confiscated hard drives, while others were administrative in nature, with accounts frozen and organizations deregistered — an act that was deemed unconstitutional last week in Mombasa’s High Court.

Through its partnership with Hacking Team and legislative affronts such as the Counter Terrorism Act, Kenya’s government has been well-equipped to interfere with large-scale community organizing. Activists eventually realized that by encrypting their email and SMS exchanges, they were only drawing attention to themselves. There is no easy “quick fix” to the rapidly-developing issue of surveillance.

“Whenever I would go to the offices of a funding partner for our movement, an app would open up on my phone showing my location, including the building and floor number,” explained a female activist in Nairobi, who asked not to be identified. “Well-suited men started following me and offering me rides. I had to flee to Uganda and then to Rwanda to lay low for awhile. I was still young in the struggle, so I was baptized by fire.”

Sungu Oyoo posing at a payphone, which no longer work in East Africa. (WNV/Phil Wilmot)

Staying away from organizing forever is no solution either, of course. According to Oyoo, “You have to be innovative to avoid being cut off from the world. If you hear the tapping, you use coded language to decide upon a meeting point, usually a public place like a park or coffee shop since your safety is better ensured in those areas. Sometimes, even when you meet at that point, you take a walk to another location and try to get a feel for your privacy and security.”

Oyoo, who is becoming less concerned and more annoyed with the situation, said, “Now I’m at a place where I don’t give a damn. I’ll just give them some entertainment on the phone. I’ll let them know that I know they are listening.”

The smaller, globally misunderstood nation of Burundi faces similar political surveillance challenges as its East African neighbors. Following an attempted coup in May, the government began investing more in the censorship of social media. Youths, who had been portrayed in the international press as violent and chaotic, despite their own claims to the contrary, were forced to invest in more costly and secure platforms to enable communication throughout the capital of Bujumbura.

As youths filled the streets to demand the resignation of President Pierre Nkurunziza, who in August was sworn in for his third term, Appolinaire Nishirimbere — the founder of a local development organization — became heavily active on social media. Although a small number of youths, influenced by politicians, reacted violently at the time of the protests, Nishirimbere said that is no longer the case. “They prefer to unite their voices, which has made social media very important in this situation.” During a time of repression against media outlets and general instability in the country, access to technological spaces was of utmost importance for young people who felt their interests were being deliberately overlooked.

Despite this growing wave of social-media-fueled resistance, Nishirimbere doubts activists will be able to use legal means against state surveillance in Burundi. “The trouble with allegations of phone tapping is that it is very hard to collect evidence of it,” he said.

Even though political space in Burundi has reduced drastically this year, it’s no match for the Rwandan government next door, which is about as Big Brother as Big Brother gets. First, there are breaches of privacy enabled by security technology, coupled with legislation that uses “security” as an excuse to violate human rights and crack down on political dissidents. Secondly, there is a highly organized offline network of spies micromanaging social relations, whereby every house in the country is monitored by a local resident who assesses all his neighbors’ movements and activities. If political conversation not favoring the sitting government takes place even in the privacy of one’s home, that person may “find his own corpse floating belly-up in a lake,” as one human rights defender put it.

Still, these are somewhat “normal” forms of draconian dictatorship in East Africa. What makes Rwandan President Paul Kagame so unique is the extent to which he has developed terrifyingly effective propaganda, both nationally and internationally. Within Kagame’s Rwanda, he is celebrated as a developmental hero. Internationally, Kagame hires public relations firms to concoct news pieces that favor his foreign reputation.

I’ve witnessed the most progressive of my activist friends in the region fall under his spell. He’s brought a kind of infrastructural development to the country that has won over many of his own citizens who will faithfully report you to authorities if you spread a single bad word against him. Prominent members of the virtually-absent Rwandan opposition have been harassed, arrested and abused on numerous occasions. A journalist colleague of mine once criticized Kagame in his campus magazine only to have two of his goons show up the next day to threaten him.

Rwandan activists unfurl a banner against President Paul Kagame. (Flickr)

Much as the surveillance states in East Africa are still trying to catch up to speed with the technology in their possession, resistance to Big Brother is also in its infancy. A population that is victimized by an ever-encroaching government must forge its way forward, but due to external factors beyond their own immediate control, a little outside solidarity could help, given that foreign governments and private firms are some of the strongest pillars of support for repressive regimes.

Nishirimbere suggests that telecommunications companies be independent of total state oversight through the establishment of fairer telecommunications laws. “Youths should also learn how to communicate effectively for social change,” he said, noting that some of them have registered for phone lines through false identities so that they are less likely to be tracked. Some send apolitical friends to register a new SIM card when they want some space to communicate freely.

“Citizens in the diaspora should hold these [international] companies accountable by writing to the companies to inform and pressure them,” said Kenyan activist Ruth Mumbi about the security firms that knowingly partner with oppressive governments in East Africa. “In some cases their own countries even have laws against doing the kinds of things they are doing.”

Another challenge relates to access to technology for poor activists. According to Oyoo, “East African activists need to have better access to secure tech. These apps and software also need to be less elitist so that they’re easier to use.” Activists are not always financially privileged individuals, and computer literacy and IT education throughout East Africa are quite low in comparison to other parts of the world. Insisting that activists use a better app or upgrade their hardware is much easier said than done. “Many of us are still on the analog system,” said Kampala-based activist Robert Mayanja, referring to his own cheap phone.

There is also a case to be made for developing a culture of openness — and resisting a culture of secrecy — among nonviolent movements in East Africa. Perhaps Oyoo is on to something when he says he “doesn’t give a damn.” While recklessly tossing around specific names and places obviously isn’t healthy for a movement’s security culture, activists and organizers across East Africa shouldn’t have to conceal their noble efforts either.

As a white American married to an East African, I enjoy many security benefits that my peers may not. Even though the risks are still high, I’m personally resolved to take the route of openness in my activities. (Publishing this article is enough to draw unwanted attention.) Dedicating myself to social change while fathering two children in a repressive context is already exhausting. I really identify with Oyoo’s bitter-yet-resigned attitude. I don’t have the time, money or will to manage technological security on top of my other responsibilities. It’s just much easier to stay resilient by declaring my life an open book, but I sure wouldn’t condemn any of my fellow drivers of social change in the region who would take greater precautions or rather lay low.

‘There is zero control’: report on Freddie Gray protests feeds crisis of confidence in police

The Guardian | Protest -

Inadequate planning, poor training and unclear policies for Baltimore police led to an undermining of protesters’ basic rights – and many are concerned as the trials of the officers involved in Gray’s death begin and the city’s murder rate rises

The findings of an independent report on the Baltimore police department’s flawed handling of the protests following Freddie Gray’s death in April came as little surprise to Michael Wood, a former BPD officer and vocal critic of the department.

“Everybody thinks there is some plan but there is virtually zero control that goes on in the agency,” Wood said.

Related: The Counted: people killed by police in the United States in 2015 – interactive

Everybody thinks there is some plan but there is virtually zero control that goes on in the agency

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Stop calling the violence in Burundi 'genocide'

The Guardian | Protest -

Ignore the alarmists, the changes in Bujumburu’s army and government mean comparisons with Rwanda in 1994 are both lazy and ludicrous

Depending on what you read, genocide in Burundi is either imminent or it’s already in full swing.

World leaders have called for action before it’s “too late”, while international media outlets have repeatedly warned that the country is teetering on the brink of a bloody collapse.

#Burundi Is this REALLY analysis or is it clickbait? Burundi is violently dangerous but it ISN'T Rwanda or genocide

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