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Activists occupy major park in Budapest to stop unwanted development

Waging Nonviolence -

by Colby Hopkins

Ligetvédők organizers and supporters spend time in the camp socializing and building relationships. (WNV/Colby Hopkins)

A small group of committed activists in Budapest have set up a camp in Városliget, or City Park, to stop the government from clearing trees for the construction of a new museum quarter.

In October of 2015, the Hungarian government approved an approximately $729 million master plan for erecting new buildings in the oldest and biggest public park in Budapest, which is also known as “the Liget.” The construction is part of a controversial park renewal plan called the Liget Budapest Project.

The project’s website boasts the transformation of the Liget into “a world standard, complex, family-friendly cultural and recreational park” bringing in annually an additional million tourists. However, the plan involves reconfiguring the park landscape for construction, including removing hundreds of trees and existing infrastructure — something many citizens do not support.

On March 17, when workers from Városliget Zrt., or the City Park Property Development Company — the business that is contracted to renovate the park and construct the buildings — began clearing trees in an area that is marked for the construction of the Hungarian House of Music, a group of 15 to 20 activists arrived to stop them. Determined to protect the trees and the park, the activists are still there 15 weeks later.

The group, now called Ligetvédők, or Park Protectors, occupied the space where trees were being cut and set up a camp to protest the project. The protest started small, but has grown to a group of about 10 full-time occupiers who are living in tents, 30 activists and organizers who help manage the camp and the protest, and close to a hundred additional supporters who visit on nights and weekends and join a wide variety of events. Their Facebook page now has over 9,200 likes.

According to organizers, the movement had struggled and lost some momentum a few weeks in because of disagreements in the camp. “Of course there will be conflict whenever there is a community, but we sat down and we talked about it and we solved it,” said Daniel Borbély, an activist who spends most days organizing at the park. They were able to regain traction and grow their base by mediating internal conflicts, holding general assemblies, organizing direct actions such as a naked photo shoot, renovating and occupying an abandoned building next to the camp, and hosting programs and concerts on the weekends.

Artists decorate the camp and trees, spelling out “Budapest” in a crochet sign. (WNV/Colby Hopkins)

For most of the activists, the main purpose is protecting the trees and the green spaces the park provides, but they are also enraged by the scale of the project. “I don’t oppose cutting some of the trees if it’s necessary,” said Borbély. “But it’s insane what’s happening here. That’s why I joined.”

Városliget Zrt. representatives said that the amount of green space will increase with the renovations and vehicular traffic would decrease. However, as part of the project the government committed to constructing several new buildings, including the Hungarian House of Music, City Park Theater, Museum of Ethnography, a bio-dome for the Budapest Zoo and a National Gallery. Some existing structures are also being renovated. With the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture; the Museum of Science, Technology and Transport; and the Museum of Fine Arts already occupying space in the park, the government is looking to turn the park into an elite museum quarter.

With green space already extremely limited in Budapest, many activists believe the Liget Budapest Project would fundamentally change the purpose and the atmosphere of the park. Gitta Nyáry, an activist living at the camp said the new buildings “would make it impossible to believe this is a park.”
Other Ligetvédők activists see the construction as an affront to democracy and an example of government power-grabbing because there was no real attempt to include the public in the decision to construct new buildings in the park. “I don’t agree that the government should do something when the people don’t want it,” said Csongor Kiripolszky, an activist who has stayed at the Liget since the second day of protest and is part of the communication group. “The government is doing this project without the public. This is my biggest problem. And of course it’s not okay for them to destroy the nature. But the first problem is it’s not democratic.”

There is evidence to support his claim. A survey by a public affairs research institution, Ipsos, found 75 percent of respondents in Budapest did not agree that new facilities should be established in City Park. Additionally, the survey found that 83 percent of respondents did not want the Hungarian National Gallery to be moved from the Budavár, or Buda Castle, to City Park, and 77 percent did not want government offices moved to the castle.

Ligetvédők organizers display information about the park renovation plans to inform visitors about the project and show why they are opposing it. (WNV/Colby Hopkins)

Currently, the Budapest History Museum and the National Hungarian Gallery are housed at the castle. Activists claim that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, leader of the national conservative Fidesz party, wants to move exhibits from the castle so he can use it as his office and residence.

The scheme is not hard to imagine. The prestigious and historic Hungarian Buda Castle was first built in 1265 and served as the palace of Hungarian kings, so it would be the perfect setting — according to the protesters — for a pseudo-monarch of the 21st century. With his goal of creating an “illiberal democracy,” which has led to the rewriting of the constitution to secure power and hundreds of new laws that erode rights, democracy and civil liberties, Orbán has long been considered Hungary’s new dictator, both at home and abroad. A 2011 Transparency International report also found that the cozy relationship between the country’s political and business elites has effectively led to the Hungarian state being “captured by powerful interest groups.”

To correct the power imbalance, Ligetvédők activists are demanding the public be involved in the plans to renew the park. According to Borbély, “Our goal is to force the government to renew City Park without buildings and with public consensus.” Greenpeace activist Dorothy Taylor, who also lives in the park said, “the best outcome of the protest would be that the project would not be handled by the development corporation — it should be handled by the people.”

The group is committed to staying in the park until the government gives the public a say in the project. They have succeeded in halting the cutting of trees, at least for the time being. But how the government or the development company in charge of the park renovations will respond, remains to be seen.

Borbély said the short-term goal is still “to not get evicted,” but activists are also looking to the future. “The group agrees in creating a community space,” Nyáry said. “I don’t know if they started with this purpose, but now it is a common purpose.” She hopes for a “space to create — painting, theater, or whatever,” and believes, “the community garden is also really important because people are living in the city and they don’t have a garden.” Borbély and others would like to see the creation of an eco-friendly community center that could also serve as a place “to foster social movements.”

Taylor has bigger dreams. “The movement is a little seed,” she said. “We are planting it, and I hope we will grow into a big, colorful, lovely planet, not just for Hungarians, but for all people on the planet to harvest, smell and to taste the fruits.”

Budapest: Activists occupy major park to stop unwanted development

House Occupation News -

A small group of committed activists in Budapest have set up a camp in Városliget, or City Park, to stop the government from clearing trees for the construction of a new museum quarter.
In October of 2015, the Hungarian government approved an approximately $729 million master plan for erecting new buildings in the oldest and biggest public park in Budapest, which is also known as “the Liget.” The construction is part of a controversial park renewal plan called the Liget Budapest Project.
The project’s website boasts the transformation of the Liget into “a world standard, complex, family-friendly cultural and recreational park” bringing in annually an additional million tourists. However, the plan involves reconfiguring the park landscape for construction, including removing hundreds of trees and existing infrastructure — something many citizens do not support.
On March 17, when workers from Városliget Zrt., or the City Park Property Development Company — the business that is contracted to renovate the park and construct the buildings — began clearing trees in an area that is marked for the construction of the Hungarian House of Music, a group of 15 to 20 activists arrived to stop them. Determined to protect the trees and the park, the activists are still there 15 weeks later.
The group, now called Ligetvédők, or Park Protectors, occupied the space where trees were being cut and set up a camp to protest the project. The protest started small, but has grown to a group of about 10 full-time occupiers who are living in tents, 30 activists and organizers who help manage the camp and the protest, and close to a hundred additional supporters who visit on nights and weekends and join a wide variety of events.

According to organizers, the movement had struggled and lost some momentum a few weeks in because of disagreements in the camp. “Of course there will be conflict whenever there is a community, but we sat down and we talked about it and we solved it,” said Daniel Borbély, an activist who spends most days organizing at the park. They were able to regain traction and grow their base by mediating internal conflicts, holding general assemblies, organizing direct actions such as a naked photo shoot, renovating and occupying an abandoned building next to the camp, and hosting programs and concerts on the weekends.

For most of the activists, the main purpose is protecting the trees and the green spaces the park provides, but they are also enraged by the scale of the project. “I don’t oppose cutting some of the trees if it’s necessary,” said Borbély. “But it’s insane what’s happening here. That’s why I joined.”

Városliget Zrt. representatives said that the amount of green space will increase with the renovations and vehicular traffic would decrease. However, as part of the project the government committed to constructing several new buildings, including the Hungarian House of Music, City Park Theater, Museum of Ethnography, a bio-dome for the Budapest Zoo and a National Gallery. Some existing structures are also being renovated. With the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture; the Museum of Science, Technology and Transport; and the Museum of Fine Arts already occupying space in the park, the government is looking to turn the park into an elite museum quarter.

With green space already extremely limited in Budapest, many activists believe the Liget Budapest Project would fundamentally change the purpose and the atmosphere of the park. Gitta Nyáry, an activist living at the camp said the new buildings “would make it impossible to believe this is a park.”
Other Ligetvédők activists see the construction as an affront to democracy and an example of government power-grabbing because there was no real attempt to include the public in the decision to construct new buildings in the park. “I don’t agree that the government should do something when the people don’t want it,” said Csongor Kiripolszky, an activist who has stayed at the Liget since the second day of protest and is part of the communication group. “The government is doing this project without the public. This is my biggest problem. And of course it’s not okay for them to destroy the nature. But the first problem is it’s not democratic.”

There is evidence to support his claim. A survey by a public affairs research institution, Ipsos, found 75 percent of respondents in Budapest did not agree that new facilities should be established in City Park. Additionally, the survey found that 83 percent of respondents did not want the Hungarian National Gallery to be moved from the Budavár, or Buda Castle, to City Park, and 77 percent did not want government offices moved to the castle.

Currently, the Budapest History Museum and the National Hungarian Gallery are housed at the castle. Activists claim that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, leader of the national conservative Fidesz party, wants to move exhibits from the castle so he can use it as his office and residence.

The scheme is not hard to imagine. The prestigious and historic Hungarian Buda Castle was first built in 1265 and served as the palace of Hungarian kings, so it would be the perfect setting — according to the protesters — for a pseudo-monarch of the 21st century. With his goal of creating an “illiberal democracy,” which has led to the rewriting of the constitution to secure power and hundreds of new laws that erode rights, democracy and civil liberties, Orbán has long been considered Hungary’s new dictator, both at home and abroad. A 2011 Transparency International report also found that the cozy relationship between the country’s political and business elites has effectively led to the Hungarian state being “captured by powerful interest groups.”

To correct the power imbalance, Ligetvédők activists are demanding the public be involved in the plans to renew the park. According to Borbély, “Our goal is to force the government to renew City Park without buildings and with public consensus.” Greenpeace activist Dorothy Taylor, who also lives in the park said, “the best outcome of the protest would be that the project would not be handled by the development corporation — it should be handled by the people.”

The group is committed to staying in the park until the government gives the public a say in the project. They have succeeded in halting the cutting of trees, at least for the time being. But how the government or the development company in charge of the park renovations will respond, remains to be seen.

Borbély said the short-term goal is still “to not get evicted,” but activists are also looking to the future. “The group agrees in creating a community space,” Nyáry said. “I don’t know if they started with this purpose, but now it is a common purpose.” She hopes for a “space to create — painting, theater, or whatever,” and believes, “the community garden is also really important because people are living in the city and they don’t have a garden.” Borbély and others would like to see the creation of an eco-friendly community center that could also serve as a place “to foster social movements.”

Taylor has bigger dreams. “The movement is a little seed,” she said. “We are planting it, and I hope we will grow into a big, colorful, lovely planet, not just for Hungarians, but for all people on the planet to harvest, smell and to taste the fruits.”

by Colby Hopkins
Source: http://beforeitsnews.com/politics/2016/06/activists-occupy-major-park-in-budapest-to-stop-unwanted-development-2819594.html

Crowds gather outside parliament to protest against Brexit

The Guardian | Protest -

Thousands of remain voters take to the streets to demand the referendum decision be challenged or rejected

Thousands of pro-EU voters have been listening to impromptu speeches outside parliament promising defiance in the face of last week’s referendum vote.

Draped in EU flags and carrying homemade placards lampooning Ukip leader Nigel Farage and prominent leave campaigner Boris Johnson, a large number of people were still gathered in front of Parliament Square as darkness fell after making their way down there following an earlier protest in Trafalgar Square.

Related: Brexit is a disaster, but we can build on the ruins | George Monbiot

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Thousands of pro-EU demonstrators protest at Trafalgar Square – video

The Guardian | Protest -

People in favour of the UK remaining the European Union, despite the recent referendum results that saw a narrow decision for the country to leave the organisation, gather at Trafalgar Square on Tuesday evening. Demonstrators express concerns over isolationist policies from the UK and state their identities as europeans

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Peace activists protest over military conference at C of E headquarters

The Guardian | Protest -

Christian pacifist campaigners call for policy change as Land Warfare conference opens at Church House in Westminster

Christian peace activists have staged a protest over a conference on military capability and strategy being held at the Church of England’s administrative headquarters in London.

The Land Warfare conference, organised by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), a defence thinktank, on behalf of the UK’s chief of staff, opened at Church House in Westminster on Tuesday. The defence secretary, Michael Fallon, will address the conference on Wednesday.

Related: Treasury of historic clothing revealed at Westminster Abbey

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Pro-remain rallies cancelled over safety fears

The Guardian | Protest -

Events planned for Tuesday night in Manchester, Oxford, Liverpool and London are put on hold

Rallies organised to protest against the EU referendum result have been cancelled due to fears over safety.

More than 2,000 people were planning to attend the Manchester Stays rally, due to be held in Albert Square on Tuesday evening. Organisers have cancelled the event, explaining the “safety of all individuals cannot be guaranteed”.

Related: Brexit news live: Farage tells MEPs 'most of you have never done a proper job'

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Oaxaca’s teachers movement not thwarted by state terror

Waging Nonviolence -

by Shirin Hess

Oaxacan teachers sport umbrellas to shield themselves from the afternoon sun as they march in protest of the education reforms. (WNV/Shirin Hess)

On  June 19, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca was the scene of a senseless massacre. The bloody battle took place in the rural town of Nochixtlan and resulted in the death of at least nine civilians. “Right now, the federal police are withdrawing, going back to their vehicles,” said a witness of the attack as he filmed the horrific scene. Bullets are heard smashing against metal traffic barriers on the roadside as the camera image shakes. Taking heavy breaths he calmly continued, “And as they retreat, they are shooting at us with firearms.”

A week earlier, police crackdowns had begun in various regions of Oaxaca state. These acts of violence are occurring in light of current protests in Oaxaca, where — since May 15— the teachers’ movement has set up a peaceful plantón, or encampment, in the city center, and dozens of roadblocks across the state, including Nochixtlan. The teachers demanded a dialogue with the local and federal government about a recently approved education overhaul and the implementation of its neoliberal policies in Oaxaca.

The conflict first escalated when two of Oaxaca’s major union leaders were accused of money laundering, arbitrarily detained and taken to maximum security prisons on June 11. Tensions rose, the leaders were not released and police performed various intended evictions across the state, though none of these led to fatalities.

Initially the federal police force denied they were carrying guns, however, as evidence mounted, they were forced to admit that they were in possession of weapons. In addition to nine dead, the planned eviction on June 19 left over 100 people wounded and between 22 and 25 disappeared after a confrontation that lasted 15 hours — during which police used tear gas and automatic machine guns to repress the fierce protesters. Hospital workers on the scene were also attacked with tear gas.

Meanwhile Oaxaca’s Gov. Gabino Cue, who gave the order for police reinforcement in Nochixtlan, spent the evening at a wedding celebration.

Oaxaca didn’t take long to react.

Social networks were buzzing with activity and calls for solidarity. The morning after the fatal attacks, community radio and the church were informing people about the rebellion and calling them to participate in the barricades. The National Coordinator of Education Workers Union, or CNTE, a dissident movement within the government-affiliated national teachers union, released a statement demanding the resignation of Gov. Cue, while thousands took to the streets of Oaxaca city to raise their voices against police violence. “Fight, fight, fight, never stop fighting! For a laborers’, peasants’ and popular government!” the crowd shouted as they made their way towards the zocalo, or main square.

“We can’t negotiate about our deceased, there is no price they can pay for them,” said Victoria Tenopala Juárez, member of the Oaxacan Council of Autonomous Organizations and wife of political prisoner Cesar Leon Mendoza to the crowd in the square. “Unite! This fight is the people’s fight, and the reform affects us all.”

In 2014 Mexico’s ruling party — the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto — introduced a series of reforms to the health, energy, telecommunications and education sectors, among others. Ever since its proposal a year earlier, teachers slammed the education reform and its focus on labor policy, which they say is not actually concerned with the development of education and schools and is simply aimed at privatization. The recent local election of another PRI government in Oaxaca only confirms this tendency.

Protests to save public education and against the structural reforms have now taken place among many of Mexico’s labor unions, who demand an equal distribution of resources and an end to corruption in Mexico. “This is a very complex war. It did not start in Oaxaca. The teachers’ struggle, it is a global struggle. It started in Colombia, in Brazil, in Chile, in the United States — everywhere. And today we are in a war trying to say a very firm no to this kind of education,” Gustavo Esteva — an academic, La Jornada columnist and Oaxaca’s Earth University founder — told Democracy Now! “And we are saying no very firmly to all the so-called structural reforms that mean basically a change only of ownership.”

The teachers had demanded dialogue with the government ever since the introduction of the reforms, however, neither local nor federal governments conceded to any form of negotiation with the teachers until the morning of June 21 when the CNTE announced there would be a meeting with Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong the next day. Aurelio Nuño, Secretary of Public Education, did not attend the meeting, and it was rescheduled to take place on June 27.

Already, the reform has had many debilitating effects for Oaxacan teachers. The most obvious are the precarious contracts and employment instability created by a standardized, nationwide evaluation, which will make it easier for teachers to be dismissed. Teachers in the states of Michoacán, Chiapas and Oaxaca have thus far largely resisted the execution of the evaluation. They defend their position by calling attention to how the reforms ignore the many cultural differences in a country as large and ethnically diverse as Mexico. “We aren’t against the evaluations,” said a teacher from the rural town of Tuxtepec. “We just want it to be a fair and contextualized one, that gives us a chance.”

Cultural genocide and resistance

With as many as 16 local indigenous languages, Oaxaca represents one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states in Mexico. Furthermore, Oaxaca is rich in natural resources, with a long history of indigenous and campesino resistance, as well as one of the highest poverty rates in the country.

While corrupt government officials and transnational investment companies have denied people of their rights and appropriate their land under the pretence of “progress,” rural and indigenous communities often suffer consequences such as eviction, extortion, cultural annihilation and other forms of abuse and theft.

According to the CNTE, the recent reforms are nothing more than a continued attempt to promote homogeneity and an unceasing legacy of racist oppression in an already markedly unequal nation. Oaxaca, and in particular the teachers of Section 22 of the CNTE, have played an important role in resisting the reforms, garnering the support from dissident groups all over Mexico; day laborers of San Quintin, the Mexican Electricians Union, health workers, university students, parents of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa students and the Zapatistas National Liberation Army in Chiapas are only a few examples of the teachers’ national advocates. They support the movement against the privatization of education, as well as the right to access public services, labor rights, food sovereignty and an end to violence in the country.

In under a month, members of the CNTE in 18 states have joined the movement, endorsing its demands and setting in motion countless mobilizations across the nation. In addition to this, the movement is gaining support from indigenous communities across Oaxaca’s eight regions. The teachers have made it clear they will not surrender.

Teachers and souvenir sellers share the space below the canopies in the occupied main square of Oaxaca city. (WNV/Shirin Hess)

A majestic cathedral overlooks the encampment on Oaxaca’s main square; a sea of tents, sleeping bags and plastic canopies are raised above the sidewalks. “What they’re doing to us is subtle genocide,” said Euterio Garcia, an indigenous teacher in a community of Oaxaca’s northern mountain range. He argues the education reform represents a high risk for the continuity of Mexico’s indigenous cultures. “I am a bilingual teacher for Chinanteco and Spanish. I have no materials with which to teach my students, no books, nothing. There is no light or water in the village, and no proper plumbing. This is what motivates many of us. There are so many communities that are marginalized and forgotten. They don’t exist on the map, they don’t exist for the state.”

Garcia is among those fighting for a better future for the next generation of Mexico’s rural and indigenous communities. He is member of the CNTE’s local Section 22, which currently consists of between 75,000 and 83,000 members, time and time again proving its power before the Oaxacan state.

“We are like small cells, constantly multiplying and expanding,” said Garcia. “This movement is a grassroots movement, not one of leaders. Our leaders could be bought or coerced. But I, and others, aspire to continue the social struggle. That is why we are still here, after so many years of struggling.”

Garcia said that he, like many of his colleagues, is drained, and hopes that the government will yield before there is any more violence.

A brief history of Mexican teachers

The teachers’ struggle in Mexico has its roots in the beginning of the 20th century, forming what is now Latin America’s largest syndicate, the National Union of Education Workers, or SNTE. The SNTE is commonly labeled a corporatist union in alliance with the country’s 70-year ruling PRI party, while the CNTE has stood for horizontal and democratic union structures, bringing together many of the country’s regional teachers’ movements.

Worsening conditions for many teachers and schools in the poorest states of the country — in combination with the corrupt SNTE — played an important role in galvanizing national protests, and ultimately contributed to the formation of the CNTE in December 1979.

Oaxacan teachers of the union’s Section 22 developed important strategies for their movement and contributed to the longevity of the struggle over the years by carrying out peaceful encampments and roadblocks. During one of these encampments, in 2006, Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz threatened to evict the teachers with the help of Mexican federal police.

The state ordered an attack on the teachers in the early hours of the morning, which galvanized massive popular support for the union. Community media played a crucial role in counteracting mainstream channels of information that demonized the teachers as corrupt troublemakers, and allowed their voices to be heard.

Days later, over 200,000 people streamed onto the streets of Oaxaca to denounce the local government and the dictatorial PRI party rule for their corruption and violent repression. For over five months, the teachers built barricades around the main square and Oaxaca became the scene of a massive popular uprising. Together with over 300 civil society organizations, the teachers formed the Popular Assembly of Oaxaca’s Communities, or APPO, which demanded and achieved the removal of the governor. Tragically, this success was achieved at a high cost. Hundreds of people were kidnapped, disappeared and tortured, and 26 were killed, including an American journalist.

A truth commission led by members of Oaxacan civil society organizations revealed that during the struggle, often referred to as the “Oaxaca Commune,” the state systematically violated human rights. According to author and academic investigator Jose Sotelo Marban, the repression exercised by the police and paramilitary towards the APPO activists falls under the clear definition of “state terrorism.” What happened in Nochixtlan on June 19, was a bitter reminder of these acts of state terror in 2006, almost exactly 10 years ago.

Consequences and state repression

Violent repression and police vigilance are not uncommon in Oaxaca. “There are police roaming outside our school almost every day,” said Gabriela Reyes, a preschool teacher at a school in a low-income part of Oaxaca city (whose name has been changed for security purposes). “We’ve decided to get on with things and not to take notice of them.”

According to Reyes, the police are monitoring those teachers attending marches and making sure no classes are missed. Much of the stigma attached to the movement comes from media that label teachers as lazy and stress the time students lose while their teachers are out on the streets protesting.

Graffiti appears all over the center of the city after the initial eviction at the State Institute for Oaxacan Education on June 14. (WNV/Chandni Navalka)

The teachers overcome this issue by working and covering the union duties in shifts, said Reyes. “It’s not easy, since we already lack staff,” she explained. “But we’ve made it work. In our case at least, 100 percent of the parents at our school stand behind us.” Victories such as free school uniforms and breakfast for students have proven to many parents that the teachers’ organization and persistence has born valuable fruits.

For Reyes and many other teachers in Oaxaca, the reform is predominantly a means of control that openly promotes homogeneity in society. “The reform allows no space for anything alternative in the curriculum. We pride ourselves on culture, heritage and a more environmentally-conscious education,” she said, also highlighting the danger of the reforms’ intention to replace teachers with professionals who do not possess any pedagogic skills or education. “How can we expect an engineer or a mathematician to know how to properly support a group of five-year-olds?”

While Reyes and many others claim the demands of the standardized evaluation are impossible to meet, the state has imposed another repressive mechanism by restricting teachers’ union participation. As if this weren’t enough, in the last five weeks over 4,000 teachers have been dismissed while the salary for others is being withheld as a direct consequence of their participation in the strikes and roadblocks.

Misleading public opinion

The teachers’ dissidence has not been beneficial to the Mexican state, challenging its power over the population. Scapegoating the teachers as the root of the problem in the media has been the easiest way for the government to take attention away from failures of the system, seriously underfunded public services and corporate greed and abuse.

As Mexican academic Maria de la Luz Arriaga Lemus states in her article about the democratization of education, the reforms “were passed with minimal input from the teaching profession.”

The educational reforms were created by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD; entrepreneurs, including Claudio X. Gonzalez, ex-counselor of the pro-government TV channel Televisa; and Mexicanos Primero, an education think tank founded by some of the richest and most politically influential men in Mexico. La Jornada’s Navarro has described Gonzalez as a “dubious” figure who likes to present himself as a social activist concerned about education in Mexico, while his “preferred activity in recent years has been to stigmatize teachers, discredit public education and intimidate those who do not bow to his will.”

In addition, the reform was backed by the “Pact for Mexico,” a participatory agreement between the PRI and two leading parties. All of this was decided almost entirely behind closed doors, without a debate, participation of students, parents or specialists, or the consideration of what educational policies have been implemented in the past.

In the midst of a frenzy of media attacks against the roadblocks, barricades and lost teaching hours, the fact that the Oaxacan teachers have come up with an alternative reform proposal has been pushed completely out of the spotlight. The proposal, which they have called the Plan for the Transformation of Education in Oaxaca, or PTEO, is based on four main principles: democracy, nationalism, humanism and communitarianism, and was written together with the State Institute for Oaxacan Education.

In addition to these principles, it emphasizes the importance of differentiating between Mexico’s cultures and aims to provide Oaxacan schools with more materials and basic infrastructure, such as classrooms, bathrooms and electricity.

Among Section 22’s current demands is the liberation of political prisoners, employment security, payment of all withheld salaries, and above all, a fair and peaceful dialogue with the government regarding these demands and the PTOE.

As tensions rise and Mexico’s teachers and their supporters prepare for the struggles that await them while they continue to protest peacefully, consciousness about what the reforms really mean for the country is starting to sink in for many people. The excessive use of force exercised by the government is absolutely inexcusable, and goes against the right to peaceful protest and the right to freedom of expression.

The barricades in Oaxaca’s city center remain, as do those in Nochixtlan and other rural areas. The people of Oaxaca understand the importance of an autonomous and free education. They know that it is not only education that’s subject to privatization, but that Mexico’s resources on indigenous and communal land are also at great risk of being stolen or appropriated. “They are selling our land, our territory,” said Esteva. But he knows Oaxaca too well. “The people are resisting.”

Karl Dallas obituary

The Guardian | Protest -

Influential music journalist, singer, songwriter and political radical who played a key role in the folk scene of the 1950s and 60s

Karl Dallas, who has died aged 85, was a journalist, singer, songwriter and political activist who had a crucial role in the emerging folk scene of the 1950s and 60s. A colourful radical with a remarkably wide range of interests and eclectic musical taste, he went on to write about folk-rock and rock music. As a peace campaigner who became a Christian in his 50s, he joined the human shield group which travelled to Iraq before the start of the war in 2003 to “try to convince the world that you can’t bomb a country into democracy”.

Dallas’s political stance seemed predetermined from the day he was born, in Acton, west London, when his staunchly socialist parents, Nancy (nee Knowles) and Jack, registered him as a member of the Labour party and named him Karl Frederick (after Marx and Engels). As he explained in his song Necessity: “My father was an engineer, my mother was a clerk.” He showed a rebel streak from an early age, helped by Nancy, who took him on his first demonstration, against Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler, when he was seven. Evacuated to Northumberland during the blitz, he made his way back to Acton and remained in London for the remainder of the second world war.

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Speaking Mirth To Power

Popular Resistance -

By Lorna Garano for Truthout. L.M. Bogad's artful activism blends the strategies of civil disobedience with heaping doses of Harpo Marx. As a professor and "tactical performer, Bogad says he is committed to "speaking mirth to power." In his long career he has staged outrageous theatrical spectacles to skewer governments, corporations and power brokers of all sorts. Bogad has worked with the Yes Men and with unions and human rights groups on picket lines and occupations around the world. He helped to create and train the spectacular Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) and to make the street theater organization known as Billionaires for Bush -- which calls for "Government of, by, and for the Corporations" -- a fixture at the protests that shadowed George W. Bush's time as president. All of this "serious play" is informed and inspired by constant research into the long history of creative resistance.

Puerto Ricans mount historic decolonization effort amid calls to free Oscar Rivera Lopez

Waging Nonviolence -

by Matt Meyer

Oscar Lopez Rivera supporters march in New York City’s Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 12. (Twitter / Arlene Dávila)

The opening annual hearings of the U.N. Special Committee on Decolonization, or the Committee of 24, have long been a time of conflicting viewpoints regarding the archipelago island’s status. This year, however, the peoples of Puerto Rico —  in both diplomatic and dramatic fashion — stood tall and united on the international stage in a manner not previously imagined possible.

In the wake of crippling debt and amid widespread controversy about the recent U.S. Supreme Court case PR v. Sanchez Valle, as well as the Puerto Rican Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA — both of which place clear control of the island’s political and economic future under the direction of the U.S. government — leaders of every major Puerto Rican electoral party and civil society organization petitioned the international body to intensify its support of a decolonization process that would remove U.S. authority.

Testimony by Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, head of the commonwealth-oriented Popular Democratic Party, was joined by gubernatorial candidates from the pro-statehood, independence and nationalist parties — all of whom critiqued current conditions on the island and spoke with one voice on the need for the immediate release of prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, deemed the “Mandela of the Americas” by several Latin American heads of state at the 2015 Organization of American States summit.

On the non-governmental level, June 20 was declared International Day of Solidarity with Oscar Lopez Rivera by a coalition led by the National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Puerto Rican Human Rights Campaign, based in San Juan. Support actions for Lopez Rivera’s clemency were held in a startling 43 countries, well beyond the original expectations of the coalition initiators, who had hoped for at least 35 actions, representing each year of Lopez Rivera’s unjust imprisonment.

At age 74, and behind bars since 1981, Lopez Rivera was convicted for the thought crime of seditious conspiracy (the same charge for which South African President Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison), related to his association with the Puerto Rican Armed Forces of National Liberation, or FALN. Although FALN was involved in several armed actions in the 1970s, Lopez Rivera was never accused of any actions that led to violence or the harm of any individual, and his subsequent consistent public and private statements have remained clear: “I have not and do not condone intentional injury to any human being.” Despite this, his sentencing and treatment over the years has been extremely disproportionate in nature, making him the longest-held prisoner in Puerto Rican history.

Activists gathered outside the United Nations on June 20. Ana Lopez (center) is holding a cardboard cutout of Lopez Rivera. To her left is Puerto Rican former political prisoner Adolfo Matos, and to her right is former Black Panther political prisoner Tariq Haskins. (WNV / Carlos Silva)

The June 20 actions began with a virtual “pray-in” for Oscar’s unconditional freedom coordinated by South African Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, in conjunction with four additional Nobel Laureates from a total of five continents. East Timor’s former President Jose Ramos-Horta, Argentina’s Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Jody Williams of the United States, and Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Island all took part in the prayerful vigil. Corrigan Maguire said she would light a candle for Lopez Rivera, as the prominent human rights elders pledge to continue to work for his release. In an unprecedented move at the U.N. Decolonization hearings — and in the context of both an in-session mobile phone conversation between Lopez Rivera and Ambassador Ramirez, as well as a standing ovation following the testimony of his daughter Clarissa – Bolivian Permanent Representative Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorenty Soliz proposed that the Committee of 24 engage directly in the work to free Lopez Rivera and commit to visiting him in prison — a proposal enthusiastically endorsed by the U.N. body.

“Sometimes the historical moment strikes unexpectedly,” said Hostos professor Ana Lopez, who is the New York coordinator and a key international activist of the Campaign to Free Oscar. “It is said that the stars become aligned guiding the path of righteousness. On June 20, the unanimous passing of the United Nations resolution, calling for Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination and for Oscar’s release without delay, was such a moment.”

Mauritius

Affirming the reach and response of the solidarity actions as “nothing short of miraculous,” Lopez noted that the activities – which took place across six continents – were extremely diverse in nature. In addition to the pray-in and candlelight vigils, groups held demonstrations at key sites of international and U.S. connections, including a quickly-dispersed civil disobedience in front of the U.S. embassy in Athens, Greece. In the Indian Ocean African nation of Mauritius, the indigenous party Lalit held a protest linking Oscar’s freedom and Puerto Rico’s colonial status with the U.S. occupation and use of Diego Garcia as a nuclear military base, much as the United States occupied and used the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for decades.

In some instances, support actions took on more personal forms, such as a small student petition-signing in Taipei, Taiwan and faculty-led petition drives in Algeria, Australia, Nigeria, Trinidad and elsewhere. In a few cases, private meetings between government officials and Lopez Rivera supporters took place, and several representatives of foreign governments made public statements in support of his freedom.

Hanna Petros

Meanwhile, solidarity groups sent broad messages of greeting and love to Lopez Rivera, or to President Barack Obama, demanding that he exercise his power of pardon before leaving office in early January 2017. A former political prisoner and current popular radio talk show host in the Dominican Republic dedicated his June 20 telecast to news about Lopez Rivera’s case. Additionally, two young women from Eritrea – Meaza and Hanna Petros, whose parents were major leaders of the independence movement there, but have been held incommunicado as political prisoners for over a decade — made and publicized signs in their native Tigrinya stating “Release Oscar Now!”

Actions or vigils in the United States took place in San Francisco, Boulder and in front of the United Nations in New York, where Lopez and others from 35 Women for Oscar led chants and listened to reports from inside the intergovernmental organization headquarters, including from Puerto Rican former political prisoner Adolfo Matos. Extensive coverage included interviews airing on Univision, Telemundo, TeleSur and in local print media. In addition to the representatives from National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Puerto Rican Human Rights Campaign, the international coalition included Lopez, Sanabria, the San Francisco-based solidarity activist Judith Mirkinson, National Lawyers Guild president Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, 1199 Service Employees International Union vice president Estela Vasquez and this author. Lopez concluded by saying, “What we witnessed was indeed historic — a new consensus on Puerto Rican self-determination, with Oscar Lopez Rivera’s freedom at the center.”

Corbyn heckled at Pride in London - video

The Guardian | Protest -

Arriving at the Pride march in London on Saturday morning, the Labour party leader is confronted by protesters after holding a press conference on the impact of Brexit. Twitter user Tom Mauchline posted three videos during which he is heard accusing Corbyn of failing to get enough remain votes and demanding he resigns. Corbyn replies: ‘I did all I could’

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As Britain exits, the need for a strong climate movement remains

Waging Nonviolence -

by Kate Aronoff

Embed from Getty Images

Britain’s vote last night to leave the European Union will be a disaster for the climate — both physical and political — on both sides of the Atlantic.

Most obvious are all of the direct impacts Britain’s departure from the European Union will have on environmental policies outright. “Leave” zealots don’t care much for the caps on carbon and free markets that Cameron’s Tories have also shunned, and UKIP party head Nigel Farage is eager to cut through the E.U. “red tape” of environmental regulations. Worse, many Brexiteers also happen to deny temperatures are rising at all, setting them apart even from Cameron and his Tory comrades. One recent study found that Brexit voters are nearly twice as likely as their “Remain” counterparts to deny the existence of man-made climate change — with two out of three thinking the media are guilty of exaggerating scientific consensus on the matter. Farage even called wind energy “the biggest collective economic insanity I’ve seen in my entire life.”

Fresh off the heels of their biggest victory to date, Brexit champions like Farage are now stronger than ever. And because deals like the Paris Agreement chafe up against the kind of isolationism the 21st century far-right loves, it’s not hard to imagine that UKIP will be as eager as Trump to “cancel” the Paris Agreement entirely, and make future collaboration on climate even more challenging. (The party’s energy spokesman, Roger Helmer, went so far as to call the agreement “institutionalized lunacy.”)

Once Brexit goes into effect, whatever formation takes hold of the government will enjoy free reign to scale back the environmental regulations they were roped into by the European Union. That’s a major reason, as Grist pointed out earlier this month, why groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth were pro-Remain. Farming Minister George Eustice has buzzed about that possibility of gutting regulations, as free marketers stand ready to do away with them entirely in favor of a market-friendly (and likely meaningless) carbon tax.

Since we live in an economy based on a series of bets, the financial markets this morning are buckling under their own bad one; namely, that Brexit was impossible. Talk is spreading that Britain’s vote to leave the union will bring the world economy down along with the pound. Those of us who lived through 2008 know how spending averse governments deal with bad markets. Whether Brexit spells a financial slump or not, it’s hard to imagine any pro-Leave forces that might come to power in the next several months will mark a radical break with the reigning dogma: Those already worse-off will be told to tighten their belts, while public funds flood in to prop up the economy’s worst actors. Reflecting on the vote, Paul Mason warns that “Unless Labour can win an early election it will be a fast-track process of Thatcherisation and the breakup of the United Kingdom.”

With a climate crisis that demands massive public investment — in everything from renewable energy to social services to infrastructure upgrades — that kind of austerity, in the accelerated or standard issue variety, will only kick these projects dangerously farther down the road.

Perhaps more concerning are the kinds of Brexit impacts that deal less directly with climate policy proper. Like UKIP, the Leave campaign has been marked from its start by a virulent and aggressive nationalism, hell-bent against refugees and changing demographics alike. Recent U.N. estimates, meanwhile, find that climate change could create anywhere between 200 million and 1 billion climate refugees. Combined with climate skepticism, rising xenophobia could create a Britain verging on dystopia: where the white and wealthy insulate themselves from catastrophe as millions suffer from the impacts of rising temperatures and more militarized cities and borders, erected to keep order in check amidst climate chaos.

This phenomena, of course, is global. Brexit fan Marine Le Pen, head of France’s far-right Front National, once accused a Green Party official in her country of “promoting a profoundly anti-ecological model through the European Union and through the absence of borders.” Trump, speaking from Scotland, tweeted this morning that “America is proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder w/a free & ind UK. We stand together as friends, as allies, & as a people w/a shared history.” His opinions on who should and should not be let into the United States are all too well known, falling along the lines of who he deems fit of claiming that history. As the flow of refugees swells, his views — like Le Pen’s — will only harden.

UKIP’s victory on Brexit emboldens the worst of the world’s racist and authoritarian right. Allowed to take power, those same forces could doom us all to a world warmed beyond reversal, leading their governments even farther away from course-corrections on climate than they already are. As rising tides loom, far-right responses to them — for many communities — could prove as dangerous as the crisis itself.

Brexit is by no means game over for the climate. It does, however, make the challenge for progressives in a warming world eerily clear. A low-carbon future can also be a more inclusive and democratic one. But not without one hell of a fight. If the atmosphere at Trump rallies — or leading up to the E.U. referendum — is any indication that will be harder now too.

Like most other changes for the better through history, progress on the environment thus far has been the result of sustained pushes from below, whether the campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline or the wave of global marches and blockades that made the Paris Agreement — however modest — possible. Now, more than ever, the fight for a better environment is a fight against an ascendant far right — not the working-class Leave voters that registered their disaffection with austerity, but men like Farage and Trump, who twist pain into violence and division.

“Not everyone, or even most, of the people who voted leave were driven by racism,” British writer Gary Younge wrote. “But the leave campaign imbued racists with a confidence they have not enjoyed for many decades and poured arsenic into the water supply of our national conversation.” It’s this kind of toxic environment where men like Donald Trump thrive and where movements that show a way forward are desperately needed.

Donald Trump flies in for Scotland visit as protesters converge on Turnberry

The Guardian | Protest -

Demonstrations including aerial banner and mariachi band planned at golf resort, while Scottish leaders refuse to meet presumptive Republican candidate

Donald Trump is scheduled to land at Glasgow Prestwick airport after dawn on Friday for the start of a two-day visit to Scotland. He will be greeted with far-from-traditional Scottish hospitality, with no senior British or Scottish politicians prepared to meet him and protesters preparing noisy and colourful demonstrations.

US presidential candidates normally go on foreign trips to establish their foreign policy credentials, with pictures taken with world leaders for use later in the election campaign. But this is the only international trip that Trump has made since launching his bid for the White House and it is for business purposes: to formally open his newly refurbished Turnberry golf resort in Ayrshire and to pop into his other golf course resort, north of Aberdeen.

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Berlin: Rigaer94 under siege; Kadterschmiede evicted; hot days ahead…

House Occupation News -

Comrades are currently mobilising in the streets to make the eviction as expensive as possible for the cops and the Berlin Senate. Below is today’s announcement by Rigaer94.

This morning, June 22nd 2016, at around 7.30am, approximately 300 cops, private security and construction workers came to our house in Rigaerstrasse 94. First, the construction workers cut out our doors and removed them. After securing their place in the house, the cops, construction workers and security, took position in the garden, the yard and on the roof, as well as in the staircases. Construction workers and cops joined together to carry out all movable objects they could find in the yard – bicycles, a bike shed, fridges, trailers etc. Our doors were removed and the frames knocked out, the phone and internet connection was cut. Only after our lawyer got access to the house, we were informed about the reason for the police action.

According to a press release of the caretaker group for the building, Pawel Kapica, the ground floor including the workshop, the garden, the washing room, the entrance and Kadterschmiede bar should be rebuilt as flats for refugees. These should be “rented out with regular rental contracts within the conditions of Berlin’s normal rent capping as living spaces” (Friedrichshain hilft e.V.i.G. and Moabit hilft e.V. have confirmed in a press release that these rents wouldn’t be covered by the responsible agencies like LAGeSo and Jobcenter, which is the norm in Berlin for refugee housing).

The attic in the front house was evicted as well. After discussions with the cops, inhabitants saved all the things they could still save from the ground level. Everything else was removed and trashed by the construction workers. During this, many objects where stolen by the construction workers and the security. Only a few bikes that people could prove ownership of were returned. Inhabitants of the front house were controlled and one person was taken into custody.

The entire ground floor including Kadterschmiede is now evicted. This means we are losing our communal space; a major part in our communal life is being destroyed. Security is supposed to stay in the house until the completion of the construction work, which would certainly mean regular controls for the inhabitants. We perceive the security in our house as an acute threat for us and for Rigaer Street.

At the moment, only inhabitants that are registered at the house can leave it and come back, which means getting controlled by the cops that are still lingering in the staircases and entrances. The street around the house is blocked off with fences. We cannot see an end of the action yet.

House owners using living spaces for refugees as an argument to evict us is more than cynical. The eviction threat of the queer-feminist wagon-place Kanal is also being justified by the building of a refugee camp. The Senate wants to establish controllable spaces dominated by racist attacks together with house owners and/or caretakers like Kapica, that make a self-organized life impossible for refugees. We won’t let them play us; we are in solidarity with all refugees and will fight for self-organized spaces for everyone, everywhere.

This eviction is the most delirious police action we have seen in a long time. The danger zone we’ve been enduring since October 2015 is a constant threat to the self-organized projects in Rigaerstrasse and the whole Northkiez. The constant attack by the cops and the State have now reached their peak for our project with the eviction of Kadterschmiede.

We are fucking angry, it’s time to explode, make everywhere a danger zone, throw Berlin into Chaos! Rigaer94 stays untamable! We will never give up – One struggle, one fight!

German: Rigaer94.squat.net | English translation via Linksunten

Read also: Statement from Liebig 34

Historic Justice for Janitors campaign inspires a new generation of janitorial organizing

Waging Nonviolence -

by Shane Burley

Raise America is SEIU’s nationwide campaign to raise the standards for union janitors during contract negotiations. (WNV / Shane Burley)

Workers packed into the crowded Logan International Airport in Boston on Wednesday, June 15, where SEIU Local 32BJ brought together a large swathe of minimum-wage employees who often go unseen to hurried travelers. Baggage handlers, cabin cleaning staff and others who go through contracting companies were rallying together under an organizing banner with a history of struggle dating back 30 years.

While the Fight for $15 raises headlines and wages across the United States, June 15 saw a national day of action in cities around the country for the annual anniversary of the Justice for Janitors campaign. For SEIU Local 32BJ, which handles 155,000 property service workers along the East Coast from New Hampshire to Florida, this was a chance to reclaim the history of a campaign that did the unthinkable in the early 1990s.

“It has become a symbol for how labor unions and workers, working together and exercising their power, can establish standards in all sorts of industries,” said Eugenio Villasante, regional communications manager for SEIU Local 32BJ.

The rally brought together traditionally employed janitors with other airport workers who have been fighting for years to organize a union in their own workplace. Just as with other low-wage positions that were thought to be beyond the scope of unionization, the Justice for Janitors campaign is a reminder of what is possible through strong public campaigns that organize the community as a show of solidarity. With SEIU’s Raise America campaign, which looks to raise the standards for union janitors across the country, the Justice for Janitors legacy holds critical lessons for how public campaigns win concessions.

¡Sí se puede!

Although the earliest planning for the campaign can be traced back as far as 1986, Justice for Janitors came to life in Los Angeles in 1990. Grounds-care, cleaning and some maintenance workers were brought under the larger “janitorial” umbrella, as the average janitorial wage in Los Angeles had shrunk to an average of $4.50 per hour in 1986 through a combination of subcontracting and non-union competition. They went on strike in 1990, drawing on huge community and labor support, a staple SEIU tactic, and won a base raise of 22 percent over the next 36 months.

This led to a wave of janitorial organizing, with SEIU winning massive victories over the coming years, culminating in the nationwide campaign of 100,000 janitorial staff in 2000. At the same time, student organizers with the University Students Against Sweatshops project used the Justice for Janitors banner for their own Campus Worker Solidarity campaign to support janitorial staff organizing against their replacement by non-union contractors. Despite this momentum, the janitors soon entered an incredibly challenging organizing terrain — specifically the 2005 organizing drive in Houston, where they took on the five biggest Texas custodial contracting companies inside of the anti-union political climate of the South. At this point, the janitors were making an average of $5.25 per hour, about a quarter of what the same positions made in New York City. After they fielded dozens of arrests, a large 5,300-worker unit of primarily Latino female staff won massive victories like health insurance and an almost $2.50 raise from the contractors.

The legacy of the campaign has continued as a cultural signifier for the ongoing need to organize janitorial positions, which are often socially maligned and associated with Latino and undocumented work. In recent years, the campaign has drawn heavily on the Fight for $15, focusing on fast food workers in New York City. SEIU now represents more than 225,000 janitors in the United States — with California remaining a leader, given its more than 20,000 represented workers.

On the ground in the Pacific Northwest

SEIU Local 49 handles 1,800 janitors in Oregon and southwest Washington who use the annual Justice for Janitors Day to continue to raise the visibility of janitors as a dynamic part of the larger labor movement. SEIU’s Raise America campaign is helping keep the focus on janitorial staff, which has seen locals in 33 cities — representing 130,000 janitorial workers — fighting for contracts that reflect a living wage and adequate benefits. Raise America began two years ago, as a push to update many of the janitorial contracts that were soon expiring for SEIU locals. Since community support and solidarity between cities was expected to be key in pressuring major contracting companies to further reform pay and working conditions for janitors, the campaign has focused primarily on workers who are already unionized with SEIU and bargaining for significant increases in wages and safety standards. Organizers have also been using community action and public labor advocacy to further put pressure on massive contracting companies coming to the bargaining table.

For janitors leading the fight in the Pacific Northwest, this annual event coincides with vigorous negotiations over key issues like safe workloads and bringing workers up to $15 per hour. The public rally brought together hundreds of workers from janitorial contractors around Oregon and Washington, as well as community supporters from a variety of other labor unions and community coalitions. The Portland State University Student Union has continued a long-term effort to support janitorial staff from SEIU, going as far as having an event the afternoon before Justice for Janitors Day, where janitors spoke at PSU about their experiences.

SEIU Local 49 brought hundreds of janitors and labor supporters to demand that the wages and working conditions improve for workers across the country. (WNV / Shane Burley)

“This is not an easy job,” said Lacey Wiberg, a janitor in southern Washington. “If we didn’t have a union, the companies would treat us really badly. We wouldn’t have the protections that we have.”

Even with a union contract, and after almost 20 years with the same company, Wiberg only makes $13.20 per hour, with no mandatory sick days. After decades doing this work, Wiberg is concerned about having enough savings, should her body “wear out” from the aggressive repetitive work she does on her nightly shifts.

“How can you save anything when you are living paycheck to paycheck?” she asked.

After a bi-lingual event that raised the voices of Latino janitors in Portland, Oregon, workers took to the streets beneath a wave of flapping SEIU flags. For SEIU Local 49, this public show of support will help give workers an edge during their contract negotiations with some of the largest contracting firms in the nation, while — at the same time — signaling broader community support for the janitors. With workers pushing the $15 per hour line, they are tapping into a standard that “low-wage” workers have been setting across the country as different types of work, from fast food to part-time college faculty, put $15 per hour as the lowest wage acceptable.

“The more members and visible community support, the better employers see that people stand with workers, with working families, and that they believe in dignity in the workplace,” said Mark Medina, a Portland-area janitor with SEIU Local 49, whose current contract battle with the five leading contracting companies in the area is building on the massive organizing project begun three decades prior.

“Now we are moving that movement forward,” he said. “Going to a $15 per hour wage with the union. Better benefits. Better treatment on the job. And just continuing that fight that was started in the late 80s.”

Nearby in Seattle, SEIU Local 6 pushed the Metropolitan King County Council to officially recognize June 15 as “Justice for Janitors Day,” putting into the record that the struggle for many of these “invisible” people is an ongoing battle to confront the exploitation of low-wage workers.

Raise the wage

The Raise America campaign and SEIU Local 32BJ, specifically, used this anniversary as a chance to highlight local organizing in the tradition of the original Los Angeles campaign. In New Jersey, workers came out to the Jersey City City Hall to show public support for local bills that would protect janitorial and maid workers by requiring 30-hour workweek minimums for employees and a 90-day notice if a building is canceling a cleaning contract.

In Baltimore, 32BJ janitors testified before the Baltimore City Council for Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke’s hearing on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Clarke’s minimum wage proposal, which would raise the wage of 80,000 Baltimore-area minimum-wage workers by 2020, has been heavily supported by the union, while being opposed by business leaders at places like the Greater Baltimore Committee. Workers told their stories to a listening panel and highlighted the struggles of living at poverty wages.

The Raise America campaign was built on the necessity of moving past the first victories of a union election and bringing vibrancy into the long-term struggles to raise a wage even when a bargaining agent is present. In each city where janitorial staff are represented, union organizers are looking at how to start addressing the key issues of low-wages and tough working conditions. For many, this has meant linking up with the broader Fight for $15 and going after legislation that would raise the base wages and bring in moderate reforms that affect workers. Further contracts will be expiring in Massachusetts and Rhode Island this September, so this is only going to build up steam as SEIU 32BJ continues the battle in the fall.

At the same time, using the history of Justice for Janitors means drawing on a huge community-labor coalition of support for public actions that shift the balance of power toward the workers when negotiating union contracts. This presents a shift for many labor unions that are beginning to again focus on an active labor movement that sees the necessity of constant organizing and agitation, rather than just relying on negotiators after a union election is ratified. Raise America attempts to then bring the militancy and energy of Justice for Janitors into the ongoing battle for raising janitorial wages, an organizing campaign that wins through its permanence and the constant involvement of members.

As many jobs shift, and SEIU begins to prioritize large campaigns at group homes and airports across the country, it means expanding the vision of Justice for Janitors by looking at low-wage, “invisible” positions as a united block with common interests.

“They all have the same kind of problems. They all cope with the same kind of low-wage economy,” Villasante explained. “We’re here to help and transform this economy and make it work for everybody.”

One of the largest questions for the future is whether this battle — represented both by Raise America and the broader Fight for $15 — will be honing in on legislative victories across the country or continuing to focus on unionizing the growing low-wage sector. For janitors, this means looking to where the strongest victories have been and making that a model for how to keep “invisible” workers heard in their workplaces.

I wanted to take a stand for remain – so I flyposted Ukip’s office | Laura Barton

The Guardian | Protest -

In such a close-run referendum, visibly declaring your allegiance seems important. Armed with paper and red felt tips I turned to (polite) direct action

I had been contemplating taking action for some while. Flyers? I wondered. A demonstration? For a time I thought I might post kippers through their letterbox, though my friends soon pointed out that this would be a waste of good fish.

I live, you see, not very far from the Ukip office in Thanet, an area of the country considered the party’s heartland, and where Nigel Farage stood but failed to get elected in the 2015 election. As a staunch supporter of the remain campaign, in the weeks leading up to the EU referendum the office’s proximity has proved a source of temptation.

In my small town I know Spanish, French, Italian immigrants, eastern Europeans – I'm a Brit, but a newcomer still

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Why is the Bolivian government turning water cannon on disabled protesters?

The Guardian | Protest -

A long-running protest over benefits has resulted in a heavy-handed response by police in Bolivia. Where will it end?

It is mid-afternoon on the central La Paz street, Mariscal Santa Cruz, but there is no traffic. Spread across the street are people wearing nothing but nappies. Behind them, three rows of police have built a wall of riot shields that stretches from one side of the road to the other.

Scrawled on their chests in black marker are the words “Renta mensual 500BS” (monthly benefit 500Bs). These are Bolivia’s disability rights campaigners, and their core demand is a monthly government benefit of 500 bolivianos (about £50). They say this would help people with severe disabilities to live with dignity and independence. In Bolivia, 500Bs per month is enough to rent a flat.

After we fall out of our wheelchairs, we can’t get back up. But still, they kept shooting us with jets

Related: The moment I felt excluded because of my disability – share your stories

Related: We need to stop treating people with disabilities as less than human

Related: 'Being classified as a terrorist threat makes me feel excluded'

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Iran says Bahrain has crossed line by stripping Shia cleric of citizenship

The Guardian | Protest -

Revolutionary Guards commander says Manama’s move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim will trigger armed resistance

Bahrain has stripped the spiritual leader of the kingdom’s Shia Muslim majority of his citizenship, resulting in protests outside his home and furious threats by neighbouring Iran over the escalating repression.

The move against Ayatollah Isa Qassim comes less than a week after a court banned the country’s main opposition group, al-Wefaq, accusing it of fomenting sectarian unrest and having links to a foreign power – a clear reference to Iran, which is a fierce critic of Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy.

Related: Bahrain detains rights activist as UN official criticises repression

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Classic account of Soweto revolt in 1976 | Letters

The Guardian | Protest -

In your article on the Soweto revolt (40 years on, victims reflect on Soweto uprising, 16 June), I was surprised to find no reference to Baruch Hirson’s classic account of the revolt, Year of Fire, Year of Ash, first published by Zed Books in 1979 and recently reissued.

It not only gives a detailed description of the uprising in Soweto in 1976, but also shows that this was part of wider opposition to apartheid, as well as tracing the history of protest against African educational institutions in South Africa dating back to the 1920s.

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Let Orlando drive us to action, not fear

Waging Nonviolence -

by Lucas Johnson

Embed from Getty Images

As the debate and the raw emotion of June 12 subsides and the discussion moves into a second week, I find myself still reeling. I am not among those grieving the personal loss. My family and friends in Orlando are safe and the depth of my gratitude reflects this haunting and pronounced awareness that it might not have been so. That life must not be taken for granted. The grim reality that the news that shook mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters from their sleep last Sunday could have been mine. I feel this from far away from Orlando, and it is not lost on me that I write this waiting to retrieve a dear friend from the Brussels airport, where yet another tragedy, just months ago, shook so many.

As I consider the grief of those in Orlando, what shakes me the most is the moment those doubtlessly beautiful and brilliant lives were taken. My mind keeps drifting to the last moments for those murdered — ordering drinks or texting their mothers from bathroom stalls — and the thought that keeps haunting me is that it was just after “last call.” The night was almost over.

The paradox is unrelenting, and it’s the moment of their death that compounds my empathy and grief. I know what it feels like to be free on the dance floor at 3:00 a.m., working it out, happy, with friends, lovers and potential lovers. So many of us know that feeling — that joy, that relative bliss and the vulnerability that comes with it. It is human. I imagine and remember the reprieve from work, from the 9-5, 11-3, or 6 until closing shift, a break from the other complications of life. I also know, as many LGBTQ people know, the sweet feeling of release from having performed our best drag all day to conform to the expectations of the dominant culture. The freedom found in some dark and crowded place where we can shake defiantly, kiss passionately and grind on the dance floor with abandon. The taunts, ridicule, and all manner of violence held at bay by the beats that feel as much within us as round us.

These spaces and moments are not perfect, but in this beautiful and sweet moment we are fully in our bodies, free in our love and desire. The more we’ve suffered and endured, the more the space is needed. I’ve always thought the song “God is a DJ” got it right, and the thought of that sacred moment interrupted by evil exacting such an unimaginable pain leaves me breathless. To the 49 souls whose lives have been lost, to the 53 injured and those who escaped, I will never again be able to dance without thinking of you.

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When I’ve danced before, like many of us, I feel the weight of the gay clubs raided, bombed, the people beaten by police, forced to the ground while assaulted with billy clubs and police dogs. I have danced with the awareness that for the freedom we’ve gained and could express in Orlando, others in many other parts of our world cannot move their bodies so freely, cannot press their bodies against the bodies of those we desire without risking grave consequence. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the more painful, the feeling of progress halted in one horrible instant. We had come to not expect such concentrated horror in places like Orlando.

For this reason and many, the shock of the country is understandable, and it is not at all mitigated by the fact that atrocities have happened before or persist elsewhere in similar or greater magnitude. No parent anywhere should have to feel what these parents must now feel. Yet, many have, do and will. As the war planes ready, and the soldiers prepare to be deployed, to think that the actions of this murderer will be cited as justification for the deaths of thousands is simply too much to bear. Perhaps one of the symptoms of the creeping inhumanity of our culture is our inability to mourn.

That grief drives us to action is not wrong, but for it to drive us to fear is dangerous. It is so dangerous because we are so very ill informed; we in the U.S. public are ignorant and some of this ignorance is willed. Thus, it goes that the horrible acts of a demented man serve to confirm the shortsighted convictions of ignorant people. Hypocrisy reigns, as they wrap themselves in rainbow flags to mourn lives they deemed unworthy of rights like hospital visitation.

Then comes the picking apart of the dead, perpetrator and victims. The New York Times publishes headlines like “Gays and Latinos, 2 Cultures Once at Odds,” that speak of stitching together. The article eloquently chronicles the pain and homophobia of generations past. Yet this is the way the majority always tells the story, as if to be gay is to surrender your claim to Latino, as if being gay could make anyone any less Boricua, as if any of us with more complex identities could separate these insoluble aspects of our being. There is no Latino community without its LGBTQ members anymore than black or African American could exist without James Baldwin or Bayard Rustin, Alice Walker or Angela Davis. I don’t wish to dishonor the victims by pointing out the violence of this reduction. Rather, I find it illustrative of a persistent problem that contributes to the creation of more victims.

Reporters, commentators and the like speak of “separate communities” reducing millions of people — and in the case of Islam, 1.6 billion people — to such a simplified caricature that, were the consequences not so frighteningly real in our time, it would be immediately taken as absurd. They say things like “Muslims are responsible,” or “Muslims don’t like gays,” accepting a logic so faulty it’s hard to understand how it could be said seriously. They render the Muslim gay, lesbian and trans people who have been among my friends in the United States and Europe invisible. These friends who I have, whom I’ve loved, also dance, arms extended, shoulders twisting. They also know the freedom of Pulse. It is true that they have struggled within their communities, as many of us have. Yet their struggle is made more difficult, not less, by bigotry and discrimination, bombs and military occupations directed at them. The W.E.B. Du Bois’s phrases “What does it feel like to be a problem?” and “double consciousness” serve both LGBTQ people globally and Muslim-identified people living in Europe and the United States well. Du Bois wrote those words in 1903. Why haven’t we learned?

It’s all too much to deal with really. As I sit and write, my friend, Zoharah Simmons, who happens to be Muslim and feminist — and a 50-year veteran of the Black Freedom Struggle — arrives at Brussels Luchthaven. Following up on a conversation about nonviolence from our first event with young Belgians, our second event will be about the role of love and education in organizing for a more peaceful and just world. The airport is repaired, one does not notice the traces of the carnage that was here just three months ago. There is a part of me that wishes that I could just go from here to find a club and dance and forget it all. I’m sure I’ll be able to again some day, but right now, my DJ is bowled over and weeping.

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