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'She was making her stand': image of Baton Rouge protester an instant classic

The Guardian | Protest -

Photo which shows Iesha L Evans standing still in the face of two Louisiana state troopers in riot gear has drawn comparisons to other historic protest images

As tens of thousands of people protest with renewed vigor following the police shooting deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and react to the five Dallas police officers that were killed by a sniper, one photograph has emerged from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as a symbol of the civil unrest that has spread across the nation.

The image, taken by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters, shows a woman, who has been identified as Iesha L Evans, standing in a long dress in the face of a line of Louisiana state troopers dressed in riot gear outside of police headquarters. Evans looks calm and poised and almost seems to repel the two officers who are charging towards her.

This photo was taken at the #BatonRouge protests. Wow.

extraordinary moment from Baton Rouge, photo by Jonathan Bachman @reuters #BlackLivesMatter

Powerful image of protester being detained near HQ of the Baton Rouge PD. via @reuters

Jonathan Bachman of @Reuters is doing such strong work in #BatonRouge. Powerful images.

This photo made by Jonathan Bachman of Reuters from the protests in Baton Rouge is incredible.

Mugshot released of Ieshia Evans, 35, whose Baton Rouge protest pic went viral (Jonathan Bachman of @Reuters)

@RohdeD @nprscottsimon @Reuters History and what we can bend at the root with love instead of fear humbles me

When you see this image you think thank God America won the Cold War and defeated tyranny


Behold Lady Liberty #LeshiaEvans

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Dallas police chief calls for public to adjust its expectations of officers

The Guardian | Protest -

Chief David Brown vents frustration amid escalating protests across US, as calls for law enforcement reform are met with frustration from police organisations

Several American cities lurched into investigations and reflection on Monday, after a week of killings and confrontation. As they did so, details began to emerge about Micah Johnson, who on Thursday wounded nine police officers and killed five, during a protest march in Dallas.

Related: Police and black Americans: a relationship worse than in the 90s | Al Sharpton

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It’s time to give up the guns

Waging Nonviolence -

by Frida Berrigan

Embed from Getty Images

The video filled my Facebook feed Thursday, but I didn’t watch it. And then stills from Diamond Sterling’s live stream were published at the top of The New York Times tossed on our front walk yesterday morning. I sat outside and read all I could and sobbed. I watched my neighborhood wake up and tried to greet people as though it were just another morning.

I wondered how I could meet a black person’s eyes without crying and apologizing. I cringed internally at that mental picture — how white and blubbery that would be, how pathetic and unwelcome that would be. But maybe that is part of what is necessary. I don’t know.

My husband Patrick and I had gone to our church’s vigil the night before and sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It was lovely. It gathered many people in. The picture on the front page of our local paper showed a group holding our big yellow “Black Lives Matter” banner, chatting and smiling. Confronted with the image of Philando Castile bloodied in the passenger seat of his car, his eyes open but vacant, I found myself wishing our vigil had been more solemn and resolute.

And then we heard about Dallas, about the five police officers shot and killed during a peaceful protest of the police killings of Castile and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. If we lived in Dallas, that’s where we would have been, I thought, as I listened to a witness describe how Shetamia Taylor pushed her 15-year-old son to the ground and lay on top of him to shield him from sniper fire. She was shot in the leg, one of two civilians wounded. Taylor was at the march with her four sons, ages 12-17, to peacefully express their outrage. I read about how police officers continued to do their jobs under fire, protecting people using their training to safeguard the innocent even as their colleagues were killed in cold blood.

As I tried to absorb this new wave of horror and carnage, I kept thinking about Diamond’s video. “I don’t need to see it,” I thought. I was pulled over by a police officer a few weeks ago. I was going too fast — 85, the officer told me. Patrick rooted around in multiple tote bags before producing my wallet. My hands were shaking just a little when I pulled out my ID. Our kids were asleep in the back seat. The officer, an older white man, came back a few minutes later, gave me a warning: “Slow down, ma’am.”

“I will, officer, I am sorry. Thank you, sir.”

We pulled off, and I was so relieved. It was the first time I had used the word “sir” in seriousness in a long time.

Embed from Getty Images

I gritted my teeth and watched the video. “People live this,” I told myself. When I was pulled over, I was worried about getting a ticket: full stop. Nothing else. For Philando Castile, a busted taillight was a death sentence. Reynolds had the self possession to press record in the midst of this harrowing experience. I needed to see it. Diamond uses the word “sir” at least a dozen times in her 10 minute video. It is a talisman or evidence of good home training, a reminder to the officer screaming “Fuck” in the background of shared humanity, a handle to pull herself back into “normality,” a signal to her daughter that it’s going to be OK (even though it will never be OK again). Diamond Sterling’s little girl sits in the backseat as gun blasts fill the car, and then separated from her mother during this indelible episode. Heartbreak. Hot anger. She is just a little older than my son Seamus. She is only in the video for a few seconds, her eyes serious and her ear translucent against the Minnesota sky. I hear her voice, her plaintive and then soothing invocation of the word “Mommy.”

At intervals throughout the video you can hear someone screaming “Fuck” in the distance. The voice seems to belong to the officer who killed Philando Castile. His freakout is at such odds with Diamond Reynolds’ preternatural calm. As I watched the video, I thought: Whoever thinks guns are cool needs to hear the sounds a human being makes when they kill another human being. It is the kind of aftermath of killing that is never celebrated in the movies or police procedurals. It sounded real.

Fear is toxic, and armed fear is lethal. So, how do we get out of it? Where does it end? Without the guns, it is just fear and hatred and racism. Without the guns, we have a chance to listen, to change. As long as there are guns there is killing. Again and again and again. How many people have been killed in the United States since that night in the middle of June when Latin techno was interrupted by gunfire and screams — when 49 people were killed and another 50 injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando? I found the Gun Violence Archive and I started counting. Working backwards, I reached 300 by the first of this month. Orlando happened on June 12. I could not keep counting. We are not at war. Not here, right? We are told all the time that we are fighting terrorists “over there” so we don’t have to fight them “here.”

In this country we have a lot of ways to push this uncomfortable, brutal truth away: We point out the tragedy of black-on-black violence, we discredit and smear the victims, we nimby it out of existence by moving further and further into segregated enclaves, and we use the language of war. It didn’t take long after Dallas for the language of war to obviate racism, dull nuance and ennoble every clumsy effort. The other effect of casting these events as a war — between Black Lives Matter and “real America,” between blacks and whites, between Obama and police officers — is that it allows for lots of reckless escalation and massive collateral damage.

But, my head went there too. Someone who lived through the Dallas demonstration and sniping called the experience a “little war.” How can that be? Ask the people of Dallas who were out to say “Black Lives Matter” and “Stop the killing” if it felt like a war. Ask black people just about anywhere in this country if they feel like they are under siege. Micah Johnson, the man taking aim at the police officers on that hot night, was an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. He was killed by an armed robot. He was at war.

The same day Philando Castile was killed reaching for his wallet (as directed by a police officer), another 36 people (by my count) were also killed by guns across this nation. After Orlando, Congressional representatives staged a sit in at the Capitol. They were gripped by the need to do something about guns. Today, to honor the five police officers killed in Dallas, to honor Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, let’s disarm the combatants and start the peace process. It’s time — past time — to give up the guns.

Protests against police brutality held from Louisiana to California – video

The Guardian | Protest -

Widespread protests against the police shootings of two black men continued in cities across the US on Sunday night. In Memphis, hundreds of demonstrators shut down the bridge that connects Tennessee and Arkansas after a Black Lives Matter rally earlier in the day. Demonstrations were also held in Atlanta and on the west coast in California, where protesters made a human peace sign in Inglewood

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Armed with smartphones and memes, Zimbabwe's protesters find their voice online

The Guardian | Protest -

Activists say social media has given them the collective courage to speak out against Robert Mugabe’s 36-year rule

Zimbabwe’s protest movement is gaining momentum as social media provides citizens with the collective courage to speak out against president Robert Mugabe’s government.

Online discontent has been growing since April after Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire posted a video rant about his economic struggles using the hashtag #ThisFlag.

Related: 'Now we are waking up': Zimbabwe protests leader seeks international help

#ShutdownZim2016 like we did last week let ALL Twitter/ FB activists push our memes, pictures, videos, msgs to WhatsApp. #ThisFlag

Our weapon of mass destruction is a smartphone and $1 data bundle

I’m struggling to take care of my family because of the selfishness of a few architects of our country’s failure

I live in a country where I can be abducted for calling an incompetent government incompetent! #ThisFlag

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Historic Moreton Bay fig being felled to make way for Sydney light rail

The Guardian | Protest -

Environmentalists and eastern suburbs residents rally outside prime minister’s electorate office to protest against demolition of ‘irreplaceable’ tree

Environmentalists rallied outside Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney office on Monday morning to protest against the removal of a 150-year-old Moreton Bay fig, affectionately known as the “Tree of Knowledge”.

Arborists began chopping down the historic tree at the entrance of the University of New South Wales on the corner of Wansey Road and High Street in Randwick on Sunday night to make way for a CBD light rail project that will run through Sydney’s south-east.

Tragic! 150 yr old Tree of Knowledge nearly gone! Join us Monday 10am outside PM's electoral office #sydney #nswpol

Related: Data is the secret weapon in the battle to save Australia's urban forests

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Black Lives Matter rallies hundreds in second UK day of protest

The Guardian | Protest -

Traffic brought to standstill in Brixton while in Birmingham protesters join demonstration against death in custody of Kingsley Burrell

Hundreds of people in the UK have demonstrated against the killing of two black men – one in Minnesota and one in Louisiana – in the United States.

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

This is for our brothers and sisters in the states. From London. We here youStop police brutality #blacklivematters

Related: Student restrained by police died from neglect, inquest finds

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Policing isn’t working for cops either

Waging Nonviolence -

by Kazu Haga

Embed from Getty Images

“It’s okay mommy…. It’s okay, I’m right here with you…”

Those were the words of four-year-old Dae’Anna, consoling her mother Lavish Reynolds after she witnessed the police shoot and kill her boyfriend Philando Castile.

Those words are now scarred into the psyche of America, much like words that came before it: “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “I can’t breath.” “It’s not real.”

If you haven’t realized that the system of policing isn’t working for the black community, you haven’t been paying attention. Just hours after the killing of Alton Sterling, a four-year-old child witnessed someone getting shot and bleeding out while she sat in the backseat. The system didn’t work for her, her mother or for Philando Castile. The system didn’t work for Alton Sterling, or for Mike Brown, or for Freddie Gray or for countless others.

But here’s something we miss in this climate of police violence: the system of policing isn’t working for those working in law enforcement either. It doesn’t serve anyone.

When I watched the video taken by Lavish Reynolds, I was blown away by the cool and calm demeanor in her voice and how it was offset by the complete panic in the voice of the officer. His was filled with fear.

And why wouldn’t it be? Behind that trigger lies a man who just took the life of another man in front of a child. I’ve worked with enough people in prison, as well as veterans who have taken the lives of others, to know that no human being is immune to the fear, guilt and shame that comes with the taking of another’s life.

The system of policing is one that relies on violence, fear, repression and a colonizer mentality. But the individuals who are employed to enforce that mentality are human beings with a human psyche, just like any other. It’s silly to assume that these men and women aren’t impacted by the violence they witness and participate in every day. No human being can participate in the levels of heightened violence that police are engaged in without being affected by it.

The tragedy in Dallas is a response from a people within a community that has lived with that fear and violence for generations. If you belong to a community that is constantly facing murder, incarceration and dehumanization, it should come as no surprise when members of that community decide that they have had enough and react with violence. It is tragic, yet should not be surprising if you can see their perspective. Similarly, just because police experience that violence from “the other side,” it should not surprise us that if may affect them in similar ways, and that they may similarly react with outbursts of violence.

Marin Luther King, Jr. wrote that “the white man’s personality is greatly distorted by segregation, and his soul is greatly scarred.” He said that the work of defeating segregation was for the “bodies of black folks and the souls of white folks.” He understood that to be a white supremacist, to hold hatred in your heart for so many and to inflict violence on others destroys your soul.

Others have written about the history of policing in the United States — especially in the South — and its roots in the slave patrol. So it should come as no great leap to consider that participating in policing in 21st century America could scar one’s soul.

This is not about being an apologist for the individuals responsible for the killing of black life. It is not about comparing the suffering of black communities to that of law enforcement. But in nonviolence, we know that if you don’t understand the perspective of those who you are in conflict with, you do not understand the conflict. You do not need to agree with, excuse or justify the other’s perspective, you simply need to understand it so you can see the complete picture.

And part of the picture looks like this: Cops are human. They work for an institution with historical ties to slavery and a long legacy of racism. They are indoctrinated in a culture of “us vs. them,” of doing “whatever is necessary so you get home,” of fear, distrust, and dehumanization of those deemed as being on “the other side.” They are taught to fear for their lives. They are trained almost exclusively in tactics of violence and repression. They are sent into situations of conflict every day with those limited tools, into communities where they are playing out tensions that have been brewing for hundreds of years.

Embed from Getty Images

Looking at that picture, no one should be surprised at incidents of police violence, and we should all understand that to some extent, it is rooted in the spiritual and emotional degradation that results from being immersed in such a violent institution.

I’ve been thinking lately about Eric Casebolt, the officer who responded to a call at a pool party in McKinney, Texas and proceeded to throw a young girl onto the ground and point his gun at other teenagers.

Casebolt should have been fired immediately, and his record should follow him everywhere, preventing him from ever having employment as a cop or even as a security guard.

If we look more into the history of that conflict, the story of Casebolt’s own trauma begins to emerge. The pool party was the third call that he attended to that day. His first was a suicide where he witnessed a man blow his head off in front of his family, and had to console the family. Immediately after, he was called to another attempted suicide, where he had to talk a young girl down from jumping off a ledge — also in front of her family. By the time he reached the pool party, he was an emotional wreck.

Again, that’s not to excuse his actions as an individual. But understanding that context and perspective also allows us to point our fingers at the larger culprit: a system of policing that didn’t care enough about Casebolt’s mental health that they couldn’t even give him the rest of the day off. A culture of machismo that doesn’t give space for cops like Casebolt to grieve or process what he just went through.

When the system comes together to defend cops like Casebolt, their defense of him is a smokescreen. The system doesn’t care about any individuals — the individuals are dispensable. It is trying to distract us from the fact that the system itself is corrupt. If the system truly cared about the people who work in the system, it would create fundamental changes to stop the killings of black people, thereby decreasing the chances of retaliatory killings like the ones in Dallas.

But for us, the more we focus our anger on the individual who pulled the trigger, the more we are letting the system off the hook. And the more the system defends the individual, the more we want to see him or her locked up, as if they are the problem. Hook, line and sinker.

Individual accountability requires healing, and a space for the perpetrator of the harm to feel remorse for their actions. I’ve learned over time that people can’t empathize with the pain that they caused until their own pain and story has been honored. So, can we build a movement that honors the pain of the officers, creates spaces to help them see the pain that they cause, and — following the example of former Baltimore officer Michael Wood — allows them to defect from a system that doesn’t serve them either?

And can we hold that level of compassion without pacifying our righteous indignation towards a system that doesn’t value human life? How do we build a fierce and powerful resistance movement that addresses the individual and the system? What does it look like to hold individuals accountable with compassion, and systems accountable with indignation?

#AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile and #Dallas are sobering reminders that violent institutions are causing human death on all sides. And until we find justice for all people, their spirits will be with us, nudging us to answer those questions.

Oslo: Regarding the recent evictions

House Occupation News -

We in Vestbredden knows there have been questions and a need for an update from our international supporters, after the recent evictions in our street. A lot of supporters have been asking weither Vestbredden is evicted or not, it is important to keep the facts clear and as no international newspapers wishes to cover our struggle ; we must be our own media. There have also been lies about chemical weapons in the evicted spaces.

In the last two months, the entire Hauskvartalet as a whole has been squatted in protest against the sales prospect. The previously evicted Hausmannsgate 42 was re-squatted along with Brenneriveien 1 aka Hausmannsplatz.

Tuesday 05.07.2016; we were informed in the morning by concerned supporters that the cops had scheduled evictions of the two support projects at 05:00 the morning after, 07.07.2016 . We were already informed about the eviction notices that had been delivered externally by dialoguepolice previously.

At 05:30 the police got access across the roof of H40 while another team was ready to climb ladders into Brenneriveien 1 from the lower section of the Hausmania roofs. In few minutes, police had surrounded the area. Newspapers would later write that there were around 50 officers inside. Short time after; supporters, performers and photographers were covering the rooftops surrounding the eviction zone.

At 05:45 the police had managed to break through parts of the external barricade of Hausmannsplatz. They had evicted/arrested 4 people from Hausmannsplatz while one was remaining passively underneath a car. Another team was trying to access the fortified entry of H42, but newspapers wrote they had problems opening the wooden gate and described it as a «spiked trapdoor». At this point there was also the team on the roof awaiting orders to enter.

At 06:15 the police had managed to wield through the gates of H42 and the residents and supporters inside had gather in one room to make passive resistance against the police. Few minutes after «clearing the area», police started carrying out the current residents of the house.

At 07:00 all the people who had remained at Hausmannsplatz had been moved away from the area. The police and hired towing companies were moving away the «living units» and vehicles from the area while other crews were tearing down our gardens.

At 08:00 the last cars had been moved out of the area and disgraceful cementbeads stuffed with flowers had been put up as barricades against new vehicles. It had also been installed a security box with two guards working in shifts 24:7. Out of the 13 people who had been evicted, 11 were arrested and were later given fines that added up to 40,000 NOK roughly.

The fact that Oslo Kommune is still attempting to scare people away with extreme fines and police violence is to us despicable, but no surprise…

Hausmannsgate 40 is still standing, but we are back in a unstable situation as the properties as far as we know are ready to be taken over already. The squatted properties changed the details in the contract between URBANIUM AS and Oslo Kommune because the contract states that only one of the properties in the sales prospect is inhabited; that information has been incorrect for the past two months until now. We are still excluded from the dialogue between the different parts in the prospect and representatives from MDG/The Green Party and AP have both refused to comment any further on the case.

We do not know the extents of a future eviction of H40, but we do know that Espen A Pay has told the media he is intending to demolish the 130 year old houses to fulfill his city-ecological Camdentown cultural masochist-fantasy.

The contract is still not signed, and each day is another victory for us.

We hope you/your collectives will be able to assist us in the future and hope this release has cleared some shit out for all of you.


Vestbredden Vel Vel, Hausmannsgate 40 0182 Oslo NORWAY


#Zimshutdown2016 and the new protest politics taking root in Zimbabwe

The Guardian | Protest -

Even Robert Mugabe’s most ardent supporters are beginning to voice support for the widespread anti-regime demonstrations

After a mass strike in Zimbabwe this week, the country’s 92-year-old president was forced to convene an emergency meeting as the nation came to a standstill.

The strike, dubbed #Zimshutdown2016 on Twitter, was not only unprecedented, but it was a rare moment of public defiance in a country that has been ruled by Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party for more than 35 years.

Related: Zimbabwe shuts down in peaceful protest against corruption

The entire crisis that has befallen our country is a result of poor governance and endemic corruption

POWERFUL! Zimbabweans standing together against "corruption, injustice & poverty". #ThisFlag #ZimShutDown2016

Related: Zanu-PF tried to destroy Zimbabwe. Now we are fighting back | Evan Mawarire

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'We were ignored': anti-war protestors remember the Iraq war marches

The Guardian | Protest -

Millions marched against the Iraq war, but were ignored by those in power. We ask those who demonstrated how the protests changed their lives

Anti-war protestors gathered in towns and cities around the world to oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In the UK, the movement became the biggest public protest the country had ever seen. Yet despite mass public opposition, the invasion went ahead a little over a month later.

Evidence in the Chilcot report published on Wednesday is vindication for all those who were passionately opposed to the war, specifically those against British involvement.

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10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin

Revolution News -

Turmeric may be the most effective nutritional supplement in existence.
Many high quality studies show that it has major benefits for your body and brain.

Here are the top 10 evidence-based health benefits of turmeric.


  1. Turmeric contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Most studies used turmeric extracts that are standardized to include large amounts of curcumin.
  2. Chronic inflammation contributes to many common Western diseases. Curcumin can inhibit many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation reducing inflammation.
  3. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects because it neutralizes free radicals and stimulates production of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes.
  4. Curcumin boosts levels of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which stimulates the growth of new neurons and fights various brain degenerative processes like Alzheimer.
  5. Curcumin has beneficial effects on the heart because it improves the function of the endothelium decreasing the risk of developing coronary diseases. Also, it is a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative agent.
  6. Curcumin interferes with cancer cell signaling pathways at the molecular level, which may help prevent and perhaps even treat cancer.
  7. Curcumin can cross the blood-brain barrier and can interfere with the pathological process of Alzheimer’s disease.
  8. Arthritis is a common disorder characterized by joint inflammation. Many studies have shown that curcumin can help treat symptoms of arthritis and can be more effective than anti-inflammatory drugs.
  9. A study in 60 depressed patients showed that curcumin was as effective as prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.
  10. Curcumin May Help Delay Aging and Fight Age-Related Chronic Diseases




The post 10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin appeared first on EyePharma USA.

Did you march against the Iraq War? Share your memories

The Guardian | Protest -

Millions of people marched around the world against the invasion of Iraq. Were you one of the protestors? Share your memories, photographs and reflections

Anti-war protestors gathered in towns and cities around the world to oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which despite public opposition went ahead a little over a month later. Evidence in the Chilcot report published on Wednesday, is vindication for all those who took part in anti-war protests, specifically those opposing British involvement.

Demonstrators reached the hundreds of thousands in central London, in what became the UK’s biggest public protest, with smaller protests taking place across the country including in Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester. Outside of organised protests, many people held their own local gatherings, displayed posters in windows, distributed leaflets and wore badges and t-shirts as a mark of opposition.

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Were you involved in the Zimbabwe shutdown? We want to hear from you

The Guardian | Protest -

As the #ThisFlag movement gathers momentum, we’re asking whether this is a turning point for the country’s politics

Zimbabweans stayed away from work yesterday as part of a mass protest against endemic corruption at the hands of Robert Mugabe’s government.

The protest, known #ZimShutDown2016, was coordinated by the #ThisFlag movement which has seen thousands of people take to social media to voice their criticisms of the widespread corruption, injustice and poverty in the country which has been ruled by Mugabe for 36 years.

As the nation takes stock of #ZimShutDown2016 a moment of solidarity please with this original warrior #ItaiDzamara

First #ThisFlag was a "fad" then they said it was "politics" now they say its funded by the west. The citizens movement is surely alive.

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University of Papua New Guinea cancels academic year after student unrest

The Guardian | Protest -

Cancellation comes as a boycott of classes and violent protests continue around the country in response to the shooting of students demonstrating against the prime minister

The University of Papua New Guinea has cancelled the academic year after student boycotts and protests saw the murder of one man and the shooting of eight students by police officers.

Weeks of protests, centred around the prime minister’s avoidance of a police inquiry into corruption allegations, escalated when police fired into a Port Moresby protest march at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) last month.

Related: Papua New Guinea shootings: university wins injunction banning further protests

Related: Papua New Guinea's students have a point. Peter O'Neill should talk to them, not send police | Jonathan Pyke

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What will it take to stop extrajudicial killings in East Africa?

Waging Nonviolence -

by Phil Wilmot

Peaceful demonstrations were held in Kenya and other East African nations to protest the extrajudicial killings of Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri. (Facebook / Law Society of Kenya)

Kenya is often praised as a beacon of democracy and stability in East Africa, but recent squelched demonstrations and recklessness by police have led Kenyans to question whether the benchmarks of their nation’s progress are being quickly eroded.

The discovery of human rights lawyer Willie Kimani’s corpse in a river 43 miles outside of Nairobi on Friday does President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government no favors in soliciting additional support from the Western world.

Kimani had represented client Josephat Mwenda — a motorcycle taxi driver — in a case at Kenya’s Mavoko Law Courts on June 23. After filing complaints against police over a bullet that struck his leg while operating his motorcycle, Mwenda faced allegedly fabricated drug and traffic charges — an effort by police to intimidate him into reneging his official complaints. Shortly after leaving court, the two men and their driver, Joseph Muiruri, were abducted.

A massive search ensued, spearheaded by International Justice Mission, or IJM, which was Kimani’s employer. State authorities were called to action, and word spread quickly to diplomats and larger media houses around the globe. The last person to have seen Mwenda was someone who spotted him — and perhaps others — calling for help from a metal container on a police base, where he tossed out a note on a piece of toilet paper saying, “Call my wife. I’m in danger.”

When little progress was being made in the search for the missing persons, lawyers crowded Kenya’s Supreme Court steps to demand an independent investigation. Kenya’s Flying Squad, accused of extrajudicial killings in the past, was the entity in charge of the investigation.

“The security system has completely failed in its constitutional mandate to protect Kenyan citizens,” said Law Society of Kenya president Isaac Okero, who lauded his colleague Kimani as an exemplary figure for those seeking to fulfill professional mandates as lawyers.

Peaceful demonstrations during the search were too little too late. When Kimani’s body was finally found, it had been stuffed in a sack, his hands still tied behind his back.

“Willie was joyful, funny and persistently positive,” said IJM communications fellow JoAnn Klandrud. “Although he worked in stressful situations under intense pressure, he was seemingly carefree. Over the past several years, police have been responsible for hundreds of murders.”

Few private investigators are truly chomping at the bit to involve themselves in matters like homicides by police. In 2009, Oscar Kamau Kingara and his colleague John Paul Oulu were ambushed in heavy Nairobi traffic, then killed by gunshot wounds. The assailants fled the scene. Kingara, a human rights lawyer and activist, had been investigating and documenting extrajudicial police killings.

The tragedies of Kimani’s death and Kingara’s earlier assassination are points of mourning for anyone anywhere who believes in justice. Unfortunately, they unveil a much broader and escalating concern across the region, where the atmosphere of fear engendered by regular disappearances and executions parallels that of Argentina in the late 1970s and early 80s.

“The incident of Kimani highlights a growing epidemic across East Africa,” said Chemisto Kubai, a public interest lawyer from Mt. Elgon.

According to Pacifique Nininahazwe, Burundi’s most widely-known activist, “Extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances have numbered in the hundreds since the April 2015 protests. [President] Pierre Nkurunziza is determined to exterminate all those who do not think like him.”

Justice for Kimani, Mwenda and Muiruri can only be fully attained if we treat their disappearance and subsequent torture not as a one-off incident, but as one that highlights the growing pattern of disappearances in the region. Unfortunately, a lawyer of significant notoriety from a large international human rights organization had to be among the victims for the movement against such injustices to earn a modest degree of global attention. This shows how dangerous the reality is for less visible activists whose abuse consistently falls upon deaf ears.

Monday protests

Fortunately, Kenya’s citizens are among the better organized populations of East Africa.

On Monday, activists and human rights groups began the work week with a march from Nairobi’s Freedom Corner to deliver petitions to the Supreme Court, police bosses and Parliament. Their demands included calls for the resignation of the inspector general of police and other security personnel. This coincided with a campaign using the hashtag #StopExtrajudicialKillings.

“We have announced that for one week, lawyers will effectively put down their tools,” Okero said. “We are so outraged that we are not in a state that we want to work in.” Boycotts of the courts are ongoing. During the first day, judges and lawyers all across the country stayed home.

The mood of demonstrations was set by the colors used. White T-shirts and coffins were covered in blood red lettering with slogans denouncing extrajudicial killings. According to Cidi Otieno, secretary general of the Coalition for Grassroots Human Rights Defenders, “The abduction and brutal murders of [Kimani, Mwenda, and Muiruri] were a big blow to our struggle … We asked the people to come out in large numbers.”

Across the border in Uganda, Solidarity Uganda and IJM arranged a solidarity vigil to grieve with their neighbors to the east and cast a light on the worrying trends of insecurity facing organizers and human rights defenders in their own country. Attendees, however, wanted to do more than hold a vigil.

“We need to do a physical march or something,” suggested an attendee representing the law firm Niwagaba & Mwebesa Advocates.

The sentiment was echoed by Simon Seyonga of the Center for Health, Human Rights and Development, who said, “We need to make much more noise, even when the space is tight.”

All of the tactics employed in these first few days after the discovery of tortured bodies are mere stepping stones toward attaining justice for those allegedly murdered by Kenyan policemen. Organizers in Kenya want to do more to politicize the funerals. Meanwhile, supporters of the deceased are planning to attend court in large numbers once suspects are arraigned.

Although the intensity of the situation feels overwhelming, a few adjustments can be made by organizers and human rights organizations to initiate the beginning of the end of political kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings in East Africa.

Expanding the definition of human rights defenders

Civil society organizations are part of the elite social class in East African countries. Although they may not earn salaries comparable with those of parliamentarians, they wear suits, carry smartphones and are seen driving private cars. Perhaps subconsciously, they develop programs centered on preserving people like them.

This is perhaps one reason why the classification of “human rights defenders,” or HRDs, has been restricted to the likes of employed people of higher social standing: lawyers, journalists and professionals in civil society organizations. There are many programs in East Africa run by organizations and coalitions that aim to protect HRDs, but they are often resistant to support activists and community organizers who may not have the social clout and media value of someone like Kimani. (This is obvious even in this campaign, given the way Mwenda and Muiruri have been largely overlooked.)

Activists on the frontlines of social change have few kind remarks for human rights organizations whose operating licenses — as one Ugandan activist put it — “rest in the hands of the oppressor.” Fear often prevents them from achieving their mission of protecting the most vulnerable.

According to Norman Tumuhimbise, a formerly abducted and tortured Ugandan activist, “Some [human rights organizations] are just moneymakers. They write reports, launch those reports in posh hotels, and then draft proposals for more funding.” He insisted that activists should make their activities transparent to the public to give them more credibility than those of other stakeholders working on similar objectives. “We activists should also blacklist some opportunistic civil society organizations. They are more evil than the state.”

The power of nonviolent social change has demonstrated time and again that victims of a problem do not need intermediaries. There is no reason the most vulnerable people should remain idle and expect civil society organizations with little sense of urgency to represent their interests. Intermediaries can sometimes be used, but “advocacy” is best waged when those most victimized by an injustice discover creative means that do not necessitate the public dialogue being led by voices that speak on behalf of the so-called voiceless.

Strengthening both rapid response and long-term efforts

According to Ugandan activist Hamidah Nassimbwa, who has been jailed on numerous occasions, the first step in engendering a culture of rapid response to disappearances is the educating of citizens in the villages and slums — not in fancy hotels where so many human rights functions take place.

“The public doesn’t know that it’s their role to say ‘no’ to human rights abuses,” she noted. “That’s why they pay when asked for money for police bonds, even thanking the police when their bonds are supposed to be free.”

Apart from educating communities on their rights, a network and system can be created to ensure that the disappeared is declared dead and a vigil is held within 24 hours of any abduction. This will pressure the state to either release the person they are torturing or use its resources to quickly trace the missing person.

Drastic times often call for hasty measures, but losing sight of the long view will only weaken the movement to put an end to the terrorizing of East African citizens.

The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo of Argentina, the Ladies in White of Cuba and the Saturday Mothers of Turkey teach us that many years of consistent, solemn demonstrations may be necessary to procure justice for the disappeared. Their movements also illustrate the importance of yielding to the actions and leadership of the family members of victims.

Developing an East African solidarity network

Heads of state in the region are fond of duplicating one another’s tactics. One flips the switch on social media, and the other turns it off the following month. Disappearances are an extreme form of repressing dissent, but rulers in the region have seen how effectively it silences their societies.

Without maintaining a grassroots East African network that is at least competitive with the amount of correspondence and cooperation the political elites are enjoying among themselves, residents of the region are doomed to an ever-shrinking civic space for the foreseeable future.

“East Africans need to collaborate at the regional level to ensure that the various treaties and conventions related to human rights are upheld,” Otieno said, noting that demonstrations in 30 towns across Kenya enabled police to apprehend another suspect of the murders who was still at large following the discovery of the bodies. With broader cooperation, greater achievements could be made. “In countries where public gatherings are impossible, we can use judicial activism and target specific leaders with cases in court.”

Rwanda and Burundi are particularly dangerous countries for those struggling to end state-sponsored injustices. Finding a dead person in the street or at the edge of a body of water is an increasingly normal occurrence.

Many of the Rwandans and Burundians who have spoken out in recent history are now exiled and largely carry out their own struggles with few external allies. Nininahazwe described recently leaving Burundi “clandestinely, since everything was set up for my elimination.” Other activists in the largely French-speaking areas of East Africa declined to comment for this article, citing possible repercussions.

Something must be done to overcome this climate of fear. Lack of engagement with regional neighbors may breed an even worse degree of insecurity in the long term. Resistance to the regional oligarchy can only be carried out by an East African community united amidst its diversity.

In terms of tactical approaches, the consensus in East Africa seems to be that vigils, while a starting point, are far from a sufficient answer to the atrocities perpetuated by death squads and a culture of impunity in the various nations of East Africa. Such acts of solidarity should serve only as catalysts for much more organized cross-border strategies.

IJM staff member Marian Bogere said they organized the vigil for their colleague to “tell Kenya that we care, that we feel their pain with them, that we care about human rights.” Such emotions are a fertile seedbed for an East African alliance against extra-judicial killings.

“We want this to be a watershed moment,” IJM field office director Claire Wilkinson told the press. “We want this to be the turning point for police reform and for police accountability in Kenya.”

Romania reopens 1989 revolution probe amid growing generational divide

Waging Nonviolence -

by Alexandru Predoiu

Embed from Getty Images

Earlier this month, a Romanian court ruled that the investigation into the brutal repression of unarmed demonstrators during the 1989 revolution could be reopened. The decision comes less than a year after the case had been declared classified by the Military Prosecutor’s Office, which — after  overseeing the case for 26 years — said it didn’t have the evidence to prosecute anyone, and blamed the events of 1989 on soldiers firing at one another due to “fatigue and stress.” Interim Prosecutor General Bogdan Licu sought to reopen the case in April, arguing that the previous ruling was illegal and “did not take into account numerous key documents regarding the case.” The High Court of Cassation and Justice of Romania accepted the appeal on June 12, allowing the investigation into the actions of former members of the Romanian Communist Party and high officials from the ministry of interior and armed forces, as well as some civilians, to continue.

The Romanian revolution of 1989, which brought an end to Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorial regime, was part of a series of events that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War. Considered one of the bloodiest struggles for liberty in recent history — during which 1,142 people were murdered and more than 2,000 injured or maimed by army and police forces over the course of just nine days — it is still considered an open wound in the Romanian collective memory.

Since then, several thousand police investigations have been opened over the last 26 years. Many people who participated in the revolution formed NGOs to put pressure on the state and its institutions to “find out the truth about who shot at them,” as a famous protest chant of the revolutionaries puts it. But no favorable decisions have been made in Romanian courts. Only the European Court for Human Rights has forced the Romanian state to pay compensation — to just 17 people — while criticizing its institutions and justice system for the way proceedings have been carried out.

At the same time, however, the reputation of the aggrieved revolutionaries has slowly diminished among the general public because for the past two decades the state has been giving special pensions to some participants or families and relatives of the dead as compensation for what happened. As a result, a high number of corruption cases appeared from 2006 to 2012, when it was discovered that approximately 3,500 people — with the help of some NGOs and doctors — had forged papers in order to claim special compensation. Meanwhile, other groups were used by almost all of Romania’s major political parties as paid supporters during protests or counter protests, creating a stigma for several years around anyone protesting in the squares.

The new generation of activists or active citizens, the ones who constitute Romania’s civil society today, has been battling this negative legacy — not just with the politicians in power, but also the former revolutionaries themselves. The breaking point between the old and the new occurred during the 2012 anti-austerity riots, when people from the new generation decided to separate their protest from the revolutionaries by gathering on the opposite end of Bucharest’s University Square, so as to not be associated with the image they projected in society.

The divide between the two generations further solidified during the 2013 Rosia Montana anti-mining protests, during which several new activist groups were founded, isolating the revolutionaries and forcing them to adopt the shouts of large crowds. These groups — like Romania Curata, Activisti Fara Frontiere and Comunitatea Uniti Salvam — differ from the revolutionaries in their opposition to all political parties, focus on concrete issues as opposed to political scandals, and tactics such as marches, human chains, public awareness campaigns and sit-ins. All of this constitutes what some describe as an unbridgeable chasm between the two generations.

Like other young activists, Irina Melente — a member of the samba activist group Rhythms of Resistance — said she understands how 1989 and the revolution gave them the framework, the structure and, to some degree, the freedom to struggle for specific causes, but now the majority of the generation responsible for it has “retreated into the passivity of their lives, disappointed at how post-socialist Romania turned out.” Meanwhile, the only groups remaining active “are without bearing or purpose and easily manipulated by party activists.”

Marius Nastase, a revolutionary who was paralyzed by a bullet that damaged part of his spinal column, agrees with this assessment, saying he feels “disappointed that the solidarity and fire of our generation faded away.” As for the new generation of activists, he said, “We took to the streets thinking of them also, but now they struggle for other things. They are much more organized.”

So far, the only mention of support for the reopened investigation has come in the form of press releases from NGOs representing the revolutionaries. Younger activists seem to feel that the struggle to hold those accountable for the crimes of 1989 is not theirs to wage. Alex Lita — member of the activist group Militia Spirituala — confirmed this by stating, “It would only be legitimate if they [the revolutionaries] act on this. We would surely offer support.” As for the wider Romanian public, which remains skeptical of state institutions and the justice system, it’s likely that only an initial verdict by the court — whether it be a conviction or an acquittal — would cause a reaction.

When asked if he would like to see activists of all generations working together, Nastase smiled and said, “With their organizational and creative capabilities and our grit we would surely make a powerful community.”

Hungary: Statement from Ligetvédők, Occupy City Park Budapest

House Occupation News -

We the Ligetvédők (Occupy City Park Budapest) have been occupying this area for more than 100 days, for we think it is unjust and harmful to transform Városliget (City Park) into a museum district (Liget Budapest Project). We are locals, civilians and experts, among whom many have been protesting for years against this huge prestige-investment.

The propaganda for the Liget Budapest Project investment has been going on for almost 4 years, despite a survey of IPSOS, which shows that 75% of the Budapest citizens are against new buildings in the park and the professional resistance is also massive.
A referendum was started about the Liget Budapest Project, but the government simply created a new law in order to stop it. In the past years we could only take part in fake, pretended conciliations which ignore the common weal. We have demonstrated, protested, collected nearly 100,000 signatures and we organised forums for professionals. We made use of every opportunity to press the contractors of the Liget Budapest Project to take into account the rightful opinions of the professionals and the civilians, as it is about the future of one of the World’s oldest and the inner city’s last real common park. The government’s reaction is a flow of new regulations and laws, that were and are still made in order to let the government do with this park whatever they want.

The City Park has been the property and beloved community place of the citizens of Budapest for 200 years. During this time many children have learned how to bike here, locals come here to run, do yoga, walk dogs, have picnics and even to sledge in the winter. Each year millions of people come around here, who want to be closer to nature.

Many empty or raunchy areas would be available for the government all around Budapest, if they would like to build cultural centres and museums, considering the capital city’s and the locals’ demands. Many alternative plans came into existence years ago to allow that.

The more than 11 billion Forints (Hungarian currency) -from public money- already spent on the project would have been easily enough to renew the unfortunately long-time neglected park. Despite of that, the goverment wants to spend further 250 billion Forints to mutilate the park, by putting up at least 5 monstrous buildings, which would come with cutting down around 1000 trees. This move would worsen the -already bad – quality of the air of Budapest and would cause great environmental damage in the park’s ecosystem.

The plans of the Liget Budapest Project weren’t even ready yet, when in March trees were cut in the planned building area for the Hungarian House of Music. Vigilant and brave activists risking bodily harm stopped the action and the arriving locals occupied the area (which beforehand used to be an open-air pub). The civilians and the professionals, who protested earlier united with the activists, started the Ligetvédők movement and founded the Ligetvédők Camp (Occupy City Park Budapest). For more than 100 days we have been protesting and have been working solely voluntarily as a spontaneous group of individuals so that the demands of the professionals and civilians after all these years can finally be heard.

Many thousands of people have visited our camp,expressed their solidarity and their gratefulness or joined our movement. Our Facebook-page in 3 months got twice as many supporters -without a paid campaign- as the official page of the Liget Budapest Project in more than 2 years, that actually is spending all in all 450 million HUF public money only to advertise their project.

We don’t hold on to ruinous buildings, nor to fatally sick trees. But we insist, that the professionals and the citizens have the right to have a voice in the future of the City Park. So if the citizens don’t approve the planned 300,000 tons of concrete and the bedding plants on the top of deep garages and new buildings (said to be ‘green areas’) instead of the real green spaces with trees and bushes, then no one can decide to take away the common park of Budapest and transform it into a tourist attraction, only so that their self-centered financial interests are gratified.

Let’s take back from the government our last real common park in Budapest, before it is too late!