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Wave of occupations marks step forward for Black Lives Matter

Waging Nonviolence -

by Ashoka Jegroo

An activist addresses the crowd at #ShutDownCityHallNYC on August 1. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

Activists in New York City seeking to defund the police have successfully occupied City Hall Park for a week and seen one of their demands met with the resignation of Commissioner Bill Bratton. While blocking roads and highways has been the tactic of choice for Black Lives Matter since it gained national attention two years ago, the recent deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have sparked the resurgence of a tactic many thought had been left behind in Zuccotti Park.

Occupations against systemic racism and state violence started in Los Angeles, made their way to Chicago eight days later, and then ended up in New York City after another 12 days. But will these occupations end the same way the Occupy Wall Street protests ended? Does the adoption of this well-worn tactic represent an advancement for the movement, or does it illustrate the need for newer, more disruptive tactics?

The first of the recent occupations began on July 12 in Los Angeles when the city’s police commission ruled that the LAPD officers who killed 30-year-old Redel Jones last year on August 12 had acted in accordance with the LAPD’s deadly force policy. The LAPD claimed that Jones was a suspect in a robbery and that she had moved toward an officer with a knife in her hand when they shot her. But at least one witness said that Jones had not charged at officers and was, in fact, running from cops when the shots rang out.

Protesters in Los Angeles tried to enter City Hall on July 12, but were stopped by police. “Initially, when we came down to meet with the mayor, we were met with severe brutalization,” said Melina Abdullah, a professor at California State University in Los Angeles and co-founder of Black Lives Matter LA. “We attempted to go up to the mayor’s office. We were stopped by police officers who pulled their billy clubs on us. I was personally wrestled to the ground, slammed on the stairs and handcuffed. We were detained for quite some time.” Protesters then promised to occupy City Hall until their five demands were met, including the firing of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and reparations for the victims of police brutality.

On July 15, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti offered to meet privately with a “delegation” of the protesters, but was turned down. Instead, the protesters demanded that the mayor come out in public and meet with all of them, which he declined to do. This prohibition against private meetings with politicians would also later be adopted by the Chicago and New York occupations as well. The next day, the protesters decided to change the name of the occupation from #OccupyLACityHall to #DecolonizeLACityHall since the “police and government structures that employ them are the occupiers.”

So far, the occupation has been going on for nearly a month, and the protesters don’t look like they’ll be compromising with the mayor on their demands. “Until he fires Beck, he’s going to be occupied,” Abdullah said.

Chicago’s occupation came next. On July 20, activists staged a march and chained themselves to the entrance of the Chicago Police Department’s infamous black site at Homan Square — where, according to reports, Chicago police have taken people to be interrogated without any legal representation for almost 20 years. Activists then set up an occupation at a vacant lot across the street from Homan Square and dubbed it “Freedom Square.” The activists stated that the occupation would continue until a proposed “Blue Lives Matter” law is rejected by the local legislature. The law, modeled after a similar law passed in Louisiana earlier this year, would protect cops under hate crimes legislation and would make it easier for police to charge protesters with a hate crime for getting into altercations with the police.

“They can charge people responding or people protecting themselves [with] hate crimes,” Damon Williams of the Black Youth Project said. “They have that extra power to criminalize and charge someone with a felony … We know that the police engage with protesting in a militaristic fashion and things could escalate.”

Along with being a spot where activists can engage the community and spread their message, it soon turned into a mini-village and community resource hub modeled on the new world the activists wish to create. Activists organized an outdoor kitchen, an arts and crafts section, a library, sleeping areas, a medical center, and an assortment of other resources. “We are showing love in action,” said Let Us Breathe Collective co-director Kristiana Colon. “We mean for Freedom Square to be a visual representation of our belief in love and freedom. We want to show the North Lawndale community that we love them.”

Then, starting on August 1, activists in New York City, inspired by their comrades in Los Angeles, took over the park right next to City Hall. The occupation was named #ShutDownCityHallNYC, and the organizers explicitly advocated for the police to be abolished. They would also later, on August 4, go on to express solidarity with the #DecolonizeLACityHall and #FreedomSquare actions.

“Before we called this action, LA had already begun their action decolonizing LA City Hall. That was definitely an inspiration for us,” said Nabil Hassein of Millions March NYC. “We put out our call before Chicago’s Freedom Square, but we’ve definitely been watching what they’re doing and that’s also been a great inspiration for us. They’re doing great work pointing towards abolition.”

Much like their comrades in Los Angeles, Millions March NYC, and all the other activist groups involved, issued demands with the first being the firing of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and an end to the “broken windows” policing that he championed. Broken windows, a form of quality-of-life policing that encourages cops to harshly crack down on petty offenses in order to prevent larger crimes, has long been criticized as merely a way to criminalize marginalized groups, particularly communities of color. Also like #DecolonizeLACityHall, #ShutDownCityHallNYC demanded reparations for victims of police brutality.

Activists at #ShutDownCityHallNYC want less money invested in police and more money invested in resources for black and brown communities. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

The other demand of #ShutDownCityHallNYC is shared by all three occupations: defunding the police and the reinvestment of those resources into black and brown communities. Rather than spending millions of dollars on police, all three occupations want those resources spent on providing physical and mental health care, education, housing and other necessities to marginalized communities.

“The differences between what parts of the country are more safe is not a matter of who has the most policing,” activist Elsa Waithe said, as she helped occupy City Hall Park in New York. “It’s a matter of who has the most resources.”

And despite the threat of the NYPD or their supporters possibly attempting to forcefully end the occupation, the activists say they’re willing to keep #ShutDownCityHallNYC going for as long as it takes.

“We’re prepared to hold the space,” Vienna Rye, an organizer with Millions March NYC, said. “Obviously, the NYPD is a violent institution, and they will very likely bring violence to this camp. And that’s something we’re prepared for. That’s also why we’re out here fighting. Because their violence is not just because of this action. The NYPD is violent everywhere every single day regardless of how we’re organizing.”

Thanks to a nearby 24-hour, privately-owned public space, the NYPD wasn’t able to arrest #ShutDownCityHallNYC protesters once City Hall Park closed at midnight, and the occupation made it past its first night. Then, to their surprise, they awoke to part of their first demand being met. After one day of #ShutDownCityHallNYC, Bratton announced that he would be resigning by September after previously hinting at remaining until 2018. Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio denying that the protests had anything to do with the move, it further invigorated the protesters who renamed City Hall Park “Abolition Square” and set-up a variety of workshops and activities for people to do. Much like Freedom Square in Chicago, it has become a center for abolitionists around the city to meet, talk, learn, eat, sleep, organize and hopefully realize the new world they are working to build.

And this is part of why all three cities have embraced occupations as a tactic. While it may not be as novel and disruptive as blocking highways seemed in 2014, this tactic represents both a strategic advancement in the movement and serves as a stationary space for activists to network, brainstorm, discover and organize how to take the movement even further.

“I think people are fed up,” Rye said. “We’re at a point where if we want our communities to survive, we have to find new tactics, a new way to organize, and to really build power and not just do actions that are more symbolic. We’re at a point where we have to organize and build our own power to dismantle this system.”

Oakland gun violence spurs young men's call for action: 'We come together'

The Guardian | Protest -

A march planned by young people in East Oakland draws passionate supporters – but no television crews arrive to document call for peace

The banner was draped over a sports car parked at an Oakland street corner. “We want change,” it read. “We need peace.”

It was early on Friday evening at 84th and Bancroft, the corner where a young father, Twon Shavers, had been shot dead just a few weeks before. Joseph Church Truehill had markers and was encouraging people to sign the banner with the names of those they had lost to gun violence. It was the first peace march the 30-year-old had organized.

Related: For black voters, gun violence a more serious problem than police misconduct

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What's daily life like during the 2016 Games in Brazil? Share your experiences

The Guardian | Protest -

As South America hosts its first Olympic Games, we’d like to know what daily life is like and how it’s being impacted. Share your experiences with us

Despite a troubled build-up, Rio 2016 Olympics opened seamlessly with a pared-down opening ceremony celebrating Brazil’s rich environment and culture.

Just days before, riots and gang violence erupted in a suburb outside the capital. Anti-government protestors blocked the path of the Olympic torch on Wednesday, with riot police using stun grenades and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. The violence came a day after anti-torch protests in nearby towns and several days of gang violence in northern Brazil.

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Unemployed graduates protest lack of opportunity in Zimbabwe

Waging Nonviolence -

by Edinah Masanga

As a part of the #ThisGown protests, students in Zimbabwe dressed in their graduation gowns played soccer with a ball made of garbage on First Street in the capital of Harare on July 29. (Facebook/ZCUG)

Dozens of university graduates in Zimbabwe are taking to the streets in their full graduation regalia under a protest named #ThisGown, to play street soccer with balls made from garbage, and sell sweets and cigarettes. They are protesting Mugabe’s failure in running the country, and the false promise peddled by his ZANU-PF party in the 2013 election campaign to create 2.2 million jobs.

The protests are being organized by a coalition of university graduates called Zimbabwe Coalition for Unemployed Graduates, or ZCUG. The group’s membership has ballooned to over 30,000 unemployed graduates since it was formed in June 2016.

“Our key objective is to ensure that the government of the day is held accountable for our unemployment rate which surpasses all levels in Africa and across the globe,” said Rodwell Manyika, the leader of ZCUG. He added that protests will be held weekly until government gives in to their demands, which include firing corrupt ministers and a change in governance.

Zimbabweans began a wave of nationwide nonviolent protests a month ago. The protests were born out of a citizens movement called #ThisFlag that was kick-started by a clergyman, Evan Mawarire, who posted a video on Facebook in which he spoke of his economic challenges and urged others to do the same.

The Zimbabwean government tried to block social media apps in an attempt to stop citizens from sharing the videos, but VPN software was used by many to circumvent government censorship.

Thousands of videos exposing the stark reality of brutal poverty that most Zimbabweans face were posted online. The #ThisFlag movement then led a peaceful stay-away, which cost the government and businesses millions of dollars.

Manyika is confident that ZCUG has the necessary technical expertise to help the current government turn around the economic quagmire in the country. “We are more than equipped to lecture our government on how the affairs of our country should be run, as the movement is full of technocrats from all disciplines,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s problems took a sharp turn for the worse in 1999 when calls for Mugabe to step down grew and he went on a rampage, killing white Zimbabwean farmers and illegally grabbing their land. This put Zimbabwe on a slippery slope of political violence and human rights abuses. In order to try and curb Mugabe’s dictatorship, the European Union and the United States responded by imposing catastrophic economic sanctions on the landlocked country in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

Mugabe did not back down, but tightened his grip on the country and presided over serious human rights violations, political violence and the plundering of government resources, sending the economy plummeting to dismal levels. This has led to universities graduating students who cannot find employment.

“Every year around 18,000 graduates are churned out from our state universities, and they are not being absorbed by the local job market,” Manyika said. “How much worse would that number be if polytechnic colleges, vocational training centers, and ordinary level and advanced level graduates were included?”

For more than 16 years, Mugabe has successfully used the army and the police to quash any protest against his dictatorship. However, Mawarire caught Mugabe by surprise by urging Zimbabweans to post evidence of his failures on social media, in the full view of the world and out of reach of the security forces.

Since it began, the #ThisFlag movement has evolved quickly and other groups of Zimbabweans have begun their own protests, such as those organized by the ZCUG.

“We shall continue to reorient our government,” Manyika said. “It is no longer crucial for it to look East, South or North, but strictly forward.”

Greece: Responsibility Claim for decentralized Actions at party local offices as a token of solidarity to the 3 squats in Thessaloniki

House Occupation News -

On the morning of July 27th, the so-called left government of Syriza
orchestrated an efficient operation of evacuation of all squats in
Thessaloniki which housed refugees and immigrants. It seems that the
assignee Syriza perfectly functioned as the “middleman” who connected
the far right conservative tension with that of the neo-liberal,
‘Potami’-like (social-liberal party) capitalists. Two tensions connected
by an undisputed blood bond, capital. It seems that some believe, that
all problems that plague society are almost solved and that now the only
thing left is its purging from the world of struggle and the refugees of
war (military or economic). It fills us with joy however that they
practically cancel each other out. The only healthy part of society is
the one which resists, the one which supports the immigrants with
solidarity. It is fighters, usually unemployed, underpaid, students who
dedicate whatever free time they have to create horizontal structures,
which self-preserve themselves and do not have the slightest economic or
political gain. It is those who give life to the decadent
neighborhoods, showing that we do not need dominators to organize our

A piece of advice, it would be a good idea that one of your well paid
advisors should inform you over there in Syriza, that such acts bring us
together and make us stronger. Especially ridiculous things, such as the
announcements the party made against the oppression you launched, places
an even larger part of society on the side of the struggle. This is why,
for every squat you close down, we will open ten.
Besides the perfect materialization of the memorandums which you share
with ‘New Democracy’(liberal-conservative party), it seems you also gave
in to their pressures to impose sanctions against the No Border group.
The political decision taken, was incited by “humanists” Anthimos
(metropolitan bishop of Thessaloniki) and Boutaris (mayor of
Thessaloniki), revealing the real face of all those involved in the
wider society. Then the mayor of Athens Kaminis, right after the
evacuations, sued occupied spaces on public property and tried in vain
to compensate the viciousness of an upcoming evacuation in Athens also,
by making statements in hindsight, about the city creating structures
for housing refugees.

As anarchists we know such practices very well, this is why this whole
thing did not surprise us, contrarily we expected it. However you should
expect and take our response for granted as well.
We therefore take the responsibility for the interventions at Syriza
offices on the night of Sunday July 31st to Monday August 1st. More
specifically, on Sunday comrades made a coordinated attack with rocks,
hammers and paint against Syriza offices in the following
-Ano Patissia
and against the offices of N.D. in Nea Ionia and Agia Paraskevi.

These acts of ours are a minimal symbolic act of solidarity to the 74
arrested in Thessaloniki on July 27th 2016 and to the immigrants who
were sent to concentration camps, as well as a respond to the
Syriza-Anel government, the church of Greece and the municipalities of
Athen and Thessaloniki.


Act For Freedom Now!

Indymedia Athens

Black Lives Matter: 'One day the chains will be broken' – video interview

The Guardian | Protest -

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean died in police custody eight years ago, and writer and activist Wail Qasim tell the Guardian’s Owen Jones why a Black Lives Matter movement is necessary in the UK and what they hope to achieve. Is a society free from racism achievable?

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Are you taking part in the Black Lives Matter protests?

The Guardian | Protest -

Anti-racism campaigners are coordinating protests across the UK, on the the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police

Black Lives Matter activists are carrying out a coordinated day of action to protest against racism in the UK. If you’re taking part in the protests, we’d like you to share your reasons why and what you hope will change.

Black Lives Matter UK (UKBLM), a loose network of anti-racism activists, called the action – which it describes as a “shutdown” – to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police during a hard stop.

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Conditions that caused English riots even worse now, says leading expert

The Guardian | Protest -

Prof Tim Newburn, who studied 2011 riots, says economic and social conditions have worsened for people involved in unrest

Tim Newburn, the LSE professor of criminology who researched the UK riots of 2011, has said many of the underlying conditions that helped cause them have now worsened.

Prof Newburn, speaking ahead of the fifth anniversary of the outbreak of disorder in London, which then spread around the country, said there had not been enough improvement.

Related: It’s five years since the English riots, but the rifts in society are wider than ever | David Lammy

Related: UK riots: Paul Lewis's five-day journey

Related: Five years after the riots, tension in Tottenham has not gone away

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Fathers 4 Justice campaigners scale Jeremy Corbyn’s house – video

The Guardian | Protest -

Two activists from the campaign group Fathers 4 Justice sit on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s roof after scaling his house on Friday. The men hold signs championing the organisation, which supports fathers who have difficulty in gaining access to their children. Police have cordoned off the street in Islington, north London, as emergency services work to get the men down

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Men stage child custody protest on Jeremy Corbyn's roof

The Guardian | Protest -

New Fathers for Justice demonstrators say they targeted Labour leader’s Islington roof because he was ‘rude’ about their cause

Police have been called to Jeremy Corbyn’s north London home, where two men are staging a protest on his roof.

The pair, from New Fathers for Justice, climbed onto the Labour leader’s house in Islington just after 10am and are refusing to move until he talks to them.

Trending on Twitter, big crowd, told the negotiators we are not leaving. Time for change or we will keep doing it!

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Black Lives Matter protest sparks traffic chaos outside Heathrow

The Guardian | Protest -

Protesters block road near London airport, halting M4 traffic, as similar action is seen in Nottingham and Birmingham

Black Lives Matter activists protesting against racism in the UK have blocked roads in three major cities including London, where traffic has been brought to a standstill outside Heathrow airport.

As the movement carried out a coordinated day of action, police tried to end demonstrations in London, Birmingham and Nottingham during the morning rush hour on Friday.

We call a nationwide #Shutdown because #BlackLivesMatter, because this is a crisis.


#blacklivesmatter protestors in the UK have just blocked the motorway route into Heathrow

Black lives matter protest Nottingham town centre, chained themselves to the floor, all trams and most buses stopped

Successful blockade Birmingham #Shutdown Black Lives Matter #BLMUK

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Refugees mount hunger strike and march to protest conditions in Serbia

Waging Nonviolence -

by Sarah Freeman-Woolpert

Hunger striking refugees in Serbia hold a sign that reads “Fleeing war is no crime” while in Belgrade, before beginning their march to the border with Hungary. (Facebook / Refugee Aid Serbia)

A seven-day hunger strike organized by refugees along the Serbian-Hungarian border came to an end last Friday, when the strikers were disbanded by authorities. Many wore silver duct tape over their mouths, while holding signs that said “Fleeing war is no crime,” “Stop wars if you want to stop refugees,” and “Prove that humanity is still alive.” At least 12 required medical attention after refusing food, blankets and tents from humanitarian agencies.

The demonstration — which began on July 22 by mostly young men from Afghanistan and Pakistan — reached around 300 people at its height, but was down to 60 men by the end of the week. Specifically, the strikers were demanding that higher numbers of refugees be allowed to enter the European Union through Hungary, but they were also expressing a generalized outrage at the mistreatment and inhumane conditions they’ve experienced while trying to pass through the Balkan countries.

Despite not having their conditions met, the strikers succeeded in drawing media attention to the plight of those still stranded in makeshift camps along the Hungarian border, unable to advance into the European Union and seek asylum.

Serbian authorities made official statements when the hunger strike came to an end on Friday, saying that refugees had met with a representative of the Serbian Commisseriat for Refugees and Migration and that a group of 100 men will be transferred to formal reception centers within the country. While such a gesture hardly addresses the inadequate conditions in these formal camps — or the complete lack of support for the 600 refugees who remain on the border in makeshift camps near the town of Horgos — it was nevertheless a minor acknowledgement of the protest.

Irena Vari, a volunteer with the Belgrade-based information center Info Park, said the demonstration was peaceful and respectful. “They were very careful not to disturb anyone, and were very mindful not to block the passage through the park. They all cleaned both of the parks where they spend their time to show that they are responsible citizens.”

After beginning the hunger strike, several hundred men marched through the center of Belgrade and continued north to the Hungarian border, where hundreds of people living in tents are waiting for permission to cross the border into Hungary and the European Union.

The march, which organizers dubbed the March of Hope, intended to cover a distance of about 125 miles in over 95-degree weather. Facing extreme heat and physical exhaustion, many of the marchers stopped in the town of Sremski Karlovci and — unable to continue on foot — went north by train to the border town of Subotica.

Embed from Getty Images

Vari applauded the marchers for their “human strength and courage,” while walking for three days in the oppressive heat, with terrible footwear and very little assistance. She said they were in “good spirits,” as they remained determined to continue protesting police violence and achieve safe passage into Hungary.

Once they reached the Hungarian border on July 24, centered around the makeshift camp in Horgos, the men continued their hunger strike for the next five days. Wearing red hats as a sign of unity, the strikers refused all assistance, only accepting small quantities of water from humanitarian aid agencies. Each time the men were offered food and supplies, they discussed and deliberated among themselves to reach a decision. During the protest, the demonstrators, and other refugees in the Horgos camp, lit candles to commemorate recent terror attacks in Munich and Kabul.

Appeals for dignity on the doorstep of ‘Fortress Europe’

Rooh-ul-Amin Afridi, one of the organizers of the hunger strike, said the refugees only wanted to be treated with “dignity and respect,” but that to continue after one week would have been suicide. He has since moved to a camp on the Serbian border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, but as of Wednesday, no one had provided him information about how to apply for asylum. If he is prevented from seeking asylum in Serbia, Afridi plans to continue the hunger strike on his own by sitting in front of an embassy in Belgrade. He said volunteers on the border asked him, “If you can’t change them with hundreds of people, how will you change it alone?”

Benjamin von Wyl, a humanitarian volunteer on the Hungarian border, said the hunger strikers stayed in a meadow a thousand feet from the Horgos border camp. Although Doctors Without Borders and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees both have a presence in the camp, independent volunteers and ordinary civilians were not allowed to approach the area or the men on strike.

Von Wyl said volunteers were told by the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs that they must receive permission to enter the makeshift camp, thus cutting off many independent, non-state run media sources from documenting the strike.

One of the strikers’ demands was for a higher number of refugees to be allowed into Hungary each day. Currently, only 30 refugees are allowed to cross the border per day — 15 from the Horgos camp and 15 from the nearby Kelebija camp.

This is the result of Hungary completing a 280-mile border fence in March, which seals the country off to its southern neighbors, thereby stemming the flow of refugees into the E.U. bloc. Protest organizers told volunteers at Horgos that they would be satisfied if as many as 50 people were allowed to cross into Hungary each day. This would significantly reduce the current waiting time, which ranges anywhere from eight month to two years.

According to von Wyl, the March of Hope brought together people who come from completely different educational backgrounds, nationalities and levels of religious adherence — and saw them all acting together as a group.

“They know that if there is a chance to cross the border, everyone is on his own,” he said. “But their will to organize, this is what was really impressive. During the march and demonstration, the first day and a half was extremely harmonious, it was really unbelievable.”

Barred from entering what von Wyl refers to as “Fortress Europe,” refugees must seek other illegal routes to enter the free-movement Schengen Area. One option is to traverse dangerous territory on the Serbia-Croatia border by foot, which is still laden with unexploded landmines from the wars of the early 1990s. Another option is to pay smugglers exorbitant fees to be hidden in the backs of cargo trucks, while hoping not to suffocate among the shipping containers or be discovered by police.

Refugees who manage to find a hole in the Hungarian border fence face a new policy that — if apprehended within five miles of the border — will result in them being arrested and sent back.

“People are desperate,” Vari said. “They’ve lost everything: [their] families, homes, dignity. They can’t go back, because they would be killed. They have been through a lot just to reach [Belgrade], and with the tightening of the Hungarian border, where the police and the army are brutally beating everyone, including pregnant women and children, they have lost hope, too. Victims of war are being treated as criminals.”

Solidarity, discipline in desperate times

Human Rights Watch reported in July that migrants on the Serbia-Hungary border have been abused by Hungarian authorities and seen their claims to enter Hungary summarily dismissed without consideration of their need for protection and asylum.

The hunger strike was sparked by the demolition of two parks in downtown Belgrade, Luke Celovica Park and Bristol Park, known colloquially by volunteers as Afghani Park and Info Park. Although there is a formal refugee camp outside of Belgrade at the Krnjaca Collective Center, refugees had been sleeping for months in the parks before being pushed out when city officials fenced off the parks to the public.

Afghani Park in the process of being demolished. (Facebook / Benjamin von Wyl)

Refugees in Serbia are increasingly vulnerable after the recent demolitions. In particular, the hunger strike evokes the frustration and unrest growing among young men, many of whom are traveling alone and whose prospects for reaching Western Europe are particularly slim. In some cases, these men receive less assistance from local aid organizations; at least one humanitarian organizations, the Miksaliste Center in Belgrade, stopped serving meals to men in July due to limited capacity and resources.

Given this material instability, the challenges to organizing hunger strikers, or any coordinating resistance efforts, are numerous and substantial. Protesters are highly vulnerable, living in desperate conditions, lacking training and resources, and cordoned off from independent media coverage.

In the case of the demonstrations at Horgos, hunger striking as a tactic for change can be seen as one way in which the deeply personal and religious ritual of fasting can be transformed into a tool for nonviolent social pressure. The vast majority of refugees in Belgrade are Muslims, who recently finished the month of fasting for Ramadan in the beginning of July. Although many refugees did not fast during Ramadan, the hunger strikers in Belgrade show how Muslim refugees, in some instances, have employed a form of discipline developed to demonstrate adherence to their faith, while also protesting the injustices they now face as displaced refugees far from home.

Nevertheless, organizers still face the monumental task of trying to develop clear demands and communicate them to a wider audience. At the same time, they must also recruit more refugees and migrants to participate in their efforts — all while maintaining discipline and coordination among strikers who come from vastly different backgrounds, speak different languages, and have recently experienced severe trauma and hardship.

Afridi said that organizing the strike was a “troublesome job” and that he had difficulty keeping protesters organized, quiet and disciplined, especially as the men became weak and sick. Despite the overwhelming obstacles, however, this is not the first time refugees have engaged in nonviolent organizing and resistance to draw attention to their cause and force immediate action by government actors.

In March, Iranian men in France’s Calais refugee camp, also known as “The Jungle,” sewed their mouths shut to protest demolitions. They also wore blindfolds during a demonstration against camp evictions, before being driven out by French police using tear gas against the crowd. Refugees held signs with similar slogans to those used during the Belgrade hunger strike: “We are humans,” “Where is our democracy?” and “Where is our freedom?”

In December, Eritrian refugees marched to city hall on the Italian island of Lampedusa, protesting the practice of forcibly taking refugees’ fingerprints, which — under the Dublin Agreement — puts them at risk of deportation to the country where they first entered the E.U. bloc, even after arriving further west in Europe.

Protests also erupted in Greece after the closure of Idomeni camp in May, a place Greece’s interior minister described as a “modern-day Dachau.” After the camp was shut down, families were moved into even worse conditions, including warehouses without running water or electricity, which were described as “not fit for animals.” There were only six toilets for a thousand refugees, and no Wi-Fi, preventing refugees from making asylum claims.

Organizing to send a global message

Despite their dire circumstances, refugees have continued to engage in nonviolent organizing to send a powerful message to European leaders about the importance of seeing their struggle in the larger context of the conflicts they are fleeing — and the universal human rights European leaders seek to uphold.

“They’re not striking because of their individual situations,” said von Wyl, after witnessing the march to Horgos. “It’s because of all people stuck in this situation. I never saw a group of 300 people act that harmonic.”

Serbia is just one case in a larger regional and global crisis of human displacement, due to the spillover effect of violent conflicts in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia.

The Balkan migration route, the most-trafficked land route used by refugees fleeing into Europe, is on the frontlines of the crisis. While many European countries erect border fences and reduce their intake quotas, roughly 3,000 refugees remain in Serbia today, according to Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s Minister for Social Affairs.

More than 100,000 refugees and migrants have traveled through Serbia so far this year. In 2015, the numbers reached over 650,000.

Although it is relatively easy to claim legal asylum in Serbia, the vast majority of refugees are trying to reach the European Union because the economic situation in Serbia offers dim prospects for employment.

“We just wanted to tell global leaders that securing only yourselves does not lead to security,” Afridi said. “We are members of a greater global community today, and what’s happening in one country can affect another. If you want to address this situation effectively, stop the wars.”

A new activist toolkit arrives in beautiful fashion

Waging Nonviolence -

by Phil Wilmot

Men wielding helium balloons stepped out of a car in Kampala’s bustling downtown on the morning of August 1, releasing them one by one into the open sky. Onlookers watched and wondered what the colorful display was all about.

A few hours later, a video emerged online of another activist releasing balloons atop Naguru Hill, the highest point in Uganda’s capital city. In the video, the activist explained that the balloons carry a message announcing the launch of a new activist toolkit, Beautiful Rising, aimed at helping people put an end to injustices like militarism and dictatorship.

Beautiful Rising’s reach, however, extends far beyond Uganda. Comprised of community organizers, trainers, tech gurus and writers across six continents, the Beautiful Rising team is working to broaden the relatively thin library of resources on creative nonviolence and social change strategy. What’s more, they’ve done it in a way that takes into consideration the concerns of activists in the global south: security, accessibility and usability.

Contributions from the global south

While working with ActionAid International — a global civil society federation devoted to issues of corruption, poverty and human rights — Danish activist Søren Warburg noticed a very significant shortcoming within the global community of nonviolent activists: a lack of idea and resource sharing.

“There has been very little cross-movement learning from successes and failures,” said Warburg, who then got the idea to spearhead Beautiful Rising. “A lot of resources in the nonviolent direct action catalogue come from the global north, yet courageous activists in the global south are living a whole other political life.”

Warburg realized that — beyond using his professional position to network across more than 40 countries — he would need to take an external look to social and political movements on the ground. This led to a deepening of his past connection with Beautiful Trouble, a group aimed at codifying the innovations of activists in various forms, including a book that offered a starting point for the toolkit.

“The idea was to merge the Beautiful Trouble analytical framework of creative activism to the lived realities of activists in the global south,” Warburg noted.

The partnership still recognized the short length of their tentacles in global south networks, so an advisory board consisting of members throughout the world was convened. (Full disclosure: My wife Suzan and I were among those invited.) The advisory network helped the team roll out regional collaborative workshops over the past two years in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Jordan, where content for the toolkit was gathered and pocket versions of the “Beautiful Trouble” book were distributed.

These workshops included many components of a standard nonviolence workshop with modules on nonviolent discipline and power analysis, but also included sessions on content writing — something many participants cited as the most useful session to their own learning. Completed contributions were added to the toolkit’s various modules under headings of principles, tactics, methodologies, stories and theories.

Screen shot of the Beautiful Rising toolkit.

Some of Warburg’s favorite tactics included in the toolkit are “panty power” from Myanmar, clandestine leafleting with ping-pong balls from Syria, grandmothers stripping naked and unemployed youth releasing yellow pigs — both from Uganda.

“One of the things that cuts across these stories is ‘burn bright, but don’t burn out,’” Warburg explained, referring to the need for self-care and momentum building within movements. “It’s a tiresome job and a risky job.”

Ugandan contributor and artist-activist Helena Okiring praised the participatory process and the impact it had on her own learning. “Being able to put a method to the madness of community organizing makes it easier to engage more effectively and sustainably,” she said.

Surveys by other participants also indicated that time reflecting on their own experiences gave them a greater sense of connectivity to other members of the global struggle for liberation.

“Behind the toolkit is a global network of activists who are seeking to learn from each other and to share their stories,” Warburg said. And thanks to the painstaking work of multilingual activists, the toolkit is available in English, Arabic, and Spanish.

Bottom-up approach to content compilation

While much of the literature on nonviolence has grown out of academia, ideas contributed to the Beautiful Rising toolkit come directly from practitioners themselves.

The idea is that these people know what works and what does not work. They live out their ideals and understand the challenges they face, making them the most qualified to provide insights to fellow activists across the globe.

“This toolkit has employed a concept called ‘failing forward,’” Warburg explained. “You need to fail as much as you can, as fast as you can, so you don’t spend a lot of resources in terms of time and money developing something that is not sustainable. I think the donor community can learn a lot from this project in terms of how we have cooperated with people and tapped into networks.”

While a few ideas were grabbed from existing literature, community organizers involved in assembling the Beautiful Rising toolkit gathered the majority of their content through the extensive networks and connections they have built. This enabled them to gather a wide array of submissions, even from places they couldn’t physically visit or research online.

Visitors to the Beautiful Rising website can even input their own content to be added to the catalogue.

Content was not the only thing that members of movements contributed to the toolkit. They also guided its overall design.

Diana Haj Ahmad of The Public Society, team leader of the design aspect of the toolkit, facilitated multiple co-creation sessions in which various stakeholders gave direction to her work on the toolkit. “There’s no need to shelter the design process from the audience and team involved, because we’d come up with a much better solution all together,” she said.

Low/no-tech accessibility on multiple platforms

One challenge Ahmad and her colleagues took into account was the limited connectivity of users in the global south. This led to the building of a low-bandwidth website, as well as a downloadable and printable offline board game that can also be used as a strategy tool for movements and campaigns. A chatbot for messenger applications like Skype, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger was also developed for medium-bandwidth users.

The board game includes a pyramid that helps users determine their vision, mission, strategy, objectives, and risks they are likely to encounter. A second board and deck of cards for resources precedes the final game board and playing cards, with which users decide what big ideas, principles, theories and tactics they are going to follow before they creatively present them to the whole group. While the game can be played competitively with democratic scoring, it can also be used independently to guide strategic thinking.

The website version of the toolkit — equipped with all principles, tactics, big ideas, stories and theories — requires the highest level of connectivity for the full experience, but is still fairly accessible on many slow connections. A visitor to the website can arrange ideas directly in his or her browser and return to them later.

Deletion of browser history will erase any progress saved on the site. An option for registration at the site was never developed for security purposes.

Maneuverability for strategic planning

The website, game, and chatbot for messenger applications were each designed for usability. “We thought about how to make the toolkit as ‘sticky’ as possible. It had to be easy to access, easy to share, easy to add to,” said toolkit editor Dave Mitchell.

According to Warburg, “The very design and build of the toolbox should serve the content back to movements in a way that works for them. Is that a 600-page report? Maybe not.”

Rather than being a list-like compilation of creative actions and ideas, the toolkit is made to work like a toolkit. It is not merely an information database.

Mitchell said, “The first thing that sets Beautiful Rising apart [from previously existing resources of its kind] is its structure — its modular, interlinked, infinitely expandable pattern language form.” Users can drag modules around on their tables or in their screens.

“This provides organizers with a nimble and responsive framework for thinking about their own activism. We’ve seen how effective this framework is for allowing activists to think more strategically and creatively about the options they have and how they might respond most effectively, often in extremely challenging situations.”

The aesthetics have an ethic of their own, too. Different symbols represent different categories of modules.

“Once you expand the reach of the toolkit across different countries to become more inclusive and global, iconography becomes a bit more problematic,” said Ahmad. “We wouldn’t want it to be associated with any negative symbolism, so we’ve decided to move away from iconography and create a patterning system.”

Ahmad says there are two benefits to this system. The first is a universal language that transcends verbal communication. The second is the provision of a type of toolkit anatomy that shows how concepts connect to one another.

The future of nonviolence toolkits

The Beautiful Rising toolkit already has a diverse community of users by virtue of having been built by activists themselves. Its geographic reach, content and structure will provide countless assets to those waging nonviolence near and far.

Yet a few matters are admittedly outstanding.

“Our starting point [in the global north] was a bit weird,” Warburg confessed. “The challenge has been to build workshops facilitated in a way that we are able to connect with people and connect them with each other, while strengthening the toolkit without being preoccupied with outputs. Too often we spend a lot of money on a project because we have a product we want to launch, prohibiting us from effectively learning from our failures.”

While Warburg’s criticism of a toolkit he helped engineer may be valid, Beautiful Rising has been guided by the expertise of more than 100 activists worldwide. There may be room for improvement, but this toolkit is certainly nothing less than a step in the right direction for strategists. After all, a toolkit is — more than anything — just a starting point.

Unpopular brands: which ones are you boycotting?

The Guardian | Protest -

Which brands have you boycotted and why? Share your experiences with us

After accusations that Philip Green has been enriching himself at the cost of BHS one reader wrote to ask Hadley whether she should stop buying clothes from Topshop.

Protestors have also been calling on consumers to avoid Byron Burgers after the restaurant chain had its own workers deported.

Continue reading...

Police called to Brixton anti-gentrification protest

The Guardian | Protest -

Officers formed human shield to let councillors pass furious crowd after plans to redevelop railway arches were approved

Police were called to a planning meeting in Brixton where protesters objecting to gentrification in the area denounced a decision to redevelop railway arches that house independent local businesses.

Continue reading...

Greece: reprisals after state crackdown on migrant squats

House Occupation News -

Last Wednesday (27th July), the Greek state evicted three squats occupied by migrants in the city of Thessaloniki, triggering reprisals by rebels in the city and beyond. This follows the eviction of the camp at Piraeus port, Athens and the expulsion of a new social centre in Lesvos.

Anarchists in Thessaloniki responded by invading a cathedral during mass, and setting fire to the offices of the company carrying out the demolition work. A number of Syriza offices in Greece were occupied, while Minister Alekos Flambouraris’s home was attacked in Athens, reportedly with molotovs. In Turin, Italy, the Greek consulate was graffitied. In Crete, comrades set fire to a church.

Heraklion, Crete: Incendiary solidarity with squats

In the early hours of August 1st 2016, we placed an incendiary device at the church of Aghios Dimitrios in the city of Heraklion, Crete. We carried out this action as a minimum response to the recent operations of Church S.A. in cooperation with the prosecutorial and police forces in the city of Thessaloniki, where squats were evicted and one of them demolished. Consider this praxis to be a contribution to the call for a Black July by comrades of Rigaer94 in Germany.

“On May 22nd 2009, Mauricio Morales was killed while transporting a bomb destined for the Prison Guards School in Chile. Mauricio participated in the Sacco and Vanzetti squat-library, putting the encounter of public and illegal action into practice. A squatter and a bomber, he did not discriminate among the means of action, nor did he trap himself inside islets of pseudo-freedom.” (Conspiracy of Cells of Fire/FAI-IRF, Urban Guerrilla Cell)

Solidarity with squats
Solidarity with comrades incarcerated all over the Earth
Against anyone who wounds freedom
This world is not to be overturned but destroyed


Muslim women broadcast their strength with #CanYouHearUsNow

Waging Nonviolence -

by Sarah Aziza

Members of the human rights group Karamah supporting the #CanYouHearUsNow Twitter campaign. (Twitter / @KaramahDC)

Donald Trump probably expected business as usual last week when he took aim at Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of a Muslim-American Army captain killed in Iraq. After all, his usual pattern of denigrating minorities, Muslims and immigrants has been a foundational strategy in his bid for the presidency. But thanks to a coordinated Twitter campaign to address his gendered critique of Ghazala Khan — in which he suggested the grieving mother either “had nothing to say” or was muzzled by her religion during a DNC appearance last week — Trump’s bigotry has backfired, at least for the moment.

Following Ghazala’s eloquent defense of her faith and her silence — by calling Islam a religion that teaches equality and citing the difficulty of speaking about her dead son — Muslim women and their allies flooded Twitter with their diverse and defiant voices, sending the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow viral as they proudly broadcast their strength as females and Muslims.

Muslim women “not allowed to speak?” I gave a @TEDTalks and got a standing ovation. #CanYouHearUsNow

— Dalia Mogahed (@DMogahed) August 1, 2016

I’m an outspoken, Muslim female journalist because I’m tired of mainstream media defaming, misrepresenting & silencing us. #CanYouHearUsNow

— Rowaida Abdelaziz (@Rowaida_Abdel) August 1, 2016

We raise Nobel Peace Prize winners, we are Nobel Peace Prize winners. #CanYouHearUsNow

— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) August 1, 2016

As a Muslim woman, I’m guided by my faith to speak out for racial justice, educational equity, LGBT & women’s rights. #CanYouHearUsNow

— Rana Elmir (@elmirana) August 1, 2016

The movement penetrated the Twitter mainstream within hours, making the U.S. trending list as well as “Moments,” the social media site’s editorial section.

With #CanYouHearUsNow, Muslim women show the strength of their voices.

— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) August 1, 2016

Refreshingly, a good number of non-Muslims registered their own disgust with Trump’s rhetoric, tweeting their solidarity with Muslim women around the world.

I am not a Muslim woman but I love and respect you #CanYouHearUsNow contributors! Keep up the great work!!.

— Barb-Wired (@babawoowa) August 1, 2016

#CanYouHearUsNow Standing in solidarity with my muslim sisters

— Free (@jeanette_nadene) August 1, 2016

This time, Trump’s gamble — that preying on the supposed “weak” would be mistaken for strength — backfired gloriously. For a moment, the mainstream displayed a moment of supreme decency, and America has been given a chance to reflect on the actual nature of so-called “American greatness.” As the “Khantroversy” wears on, Muslim women in particular should be commended for their simple, agile and effective reclamation of their narrative.

Dublin: Squat city is under attack

House Occupation News -

Friends, neighbours, comrades, Squat City is under attack! The rich, nasty vulture fund who have acquired the place we call home have been given official, judicial approval to kick us out (and then try to make us pay for doing so). The injunction, granted on Wednesday the 20th of July, comes into effect on the 10th of August. Some time on or after that date, their minions will show up. And we all know what happens then.

Over its lifetime, our squatted complex has been home and shelter for lots and lots of wonderful people, and has slowly developed into a cohesive community of autonomous cooperative houses (some hand built!), along with a wide network of friends and activist groups, all coming together to make something unique. A city within a city. It has been the base for lots of inspring projects, and spectacular events. It’s been a hub of creative resistance to the capitalist-created homeless crisis. And it’s been a symbol of hope, reminding us that we can resist the system on a practical level, building communities and providing homes and safety for those who need them. None of us want to see it end, but if it has to then by jaysus we’re going out with a bang. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be having lots of events and activities, starting with Words in the Warehouse on Saturday the 30th. And we’ll be having a massive party starting the weekend before the injunction date, that’s the weekend of the 6th and 7th of August. We want everyone to come help us make this an unforgettable time in Squat City’s history. Let’s not let them grind us down, let’s keep the revolutionary flame burning to the end!

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grangegorman [at] squ [dot] at