Ray Davies was a regular representative for Caerphilly on the committee of Nuclear Free Local Authorities, which usually meets in Manchester, attending until well into his 80s. Though the vagaries of the railway system generally led to his making late entries to meetings, his commitment to opposing the dangers and folly of the nuclear industry will be greatly missed. It is hard to believe that his red beret will never be appearing round the door again.Continue reading...
Among the hundreds of Palestinian villages that were evacuated between 1947 and 1951, there is one whose descendants are actually getting close to fulfilling their right of return. In an unprecedented case, the demolished Christian village of Iqrit should soon be connected to Israel’s electricity grid. This comes just as a group of Iqrit’s young descendants mark three years, this August 5, of continuously inhabiting the church in their otherwise destroyed village.
Iqrit sits atop a hill in the Western Galilee, just a few kilometers south of the Lebanese border. In October 1948, as part of Operation Hiram, the then newly established Israel Defense Forces drove out the population of about 500 mostly Christian Palestinians living there. According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, the operation intended to create an “Arab-less border strip” along Lebanon to serve as a “security belt.” This was part of the larger ethnic cleansing that displaced hundreds of thousands and is remembered by Palestinians as the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe). Jewish Israelis remember the same event as their War of Independence. The Nakba is marked on May 15, the day Israel was established in 1948.
Many of the millions of today’s ethnic Palestinians continue to fight to return to their families’ lands, a right first codified in United Nations Resolution 194 in December 1948. Israel has not complied with this resolution and its enforcement is a primary demand of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign known as BDS. Many Palestinians around the world and in occupied Palestine are barred from simply visiting the land where their families are from, making on-the-ground organizing out of the question. Returning remains a distant dream for most.
While some Iqritis were sent north to Lebanon, the majority were internally displaced and now hold Israeli citizenship. Today, there are over 400 Iqriti family heads dispersed throughout northern Israel in cities and villages such as Haifa and Rame. The latter is where most of the villagers were brought at the time of evacuation after being mislead into believing they could return home two weeks later.
The story of the Nakba is common to Palestinians. Iqrit, however, is unique in that its villagers brought their case to Israel’s Supreme Court and obtained a decision in July 1951 that legally granted them the right to return to their homes. The IDF, however, did its best to render that impossible. A few months later, on Christmas Day, they surprised Iqritis by bombing their entire village of about 100 homes. All that remained was Iqrit’s church at the top of the hill and their cemetery near the bottom, both still there today. Yet, despite this and 67 years of various setbacks, Iqritis have not allowed Israel to sweep the 1951 ruling under the rug.
Another major legal point in their favor is a 1994 ministerial committee recommendation that further reinforces their right to return. Late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin appointed a committee in 1992 concerning the cases of both Iqrit and nearby Kufr Bir’im, pairing these two Christian villages for reasons that remain unclear. The recommendation states, “there is no reason to prevent the displaced villagers” from returning and “it is the government’s duty to assist them in doing so,” as well as to provide compensation. It was never ratified and Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli ultranationalist in 1995. The following year marked the beginning of the reign of current right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Nemi Ashkar, chairman of the Iqrit Community Association, or ICA, Israel claims that allowing Iqritis to return would set a precedent for similar appeals from other villages. “But this fear of precedent is not really valid [from the perspective of Israeli law],” he argued. There is no other village possessing Israeli legal support like Iqrit does — the most significant being the 1951 ruling and 1994 recommendation. At the time of the Nakba, according to Ashkar, Iqritis “simply got good advice” to go to the then newly established court and have managed to keep themselves on Israel’s agenda ever since.
Furthermore, there has been no Israeli development on Iqriti land inhibiting their return, as is the case with many other Palestinian villages in Israel proper that have been overtaken either by Jewish Israeli villages or Jewish National Fund forests. These forests occupy the majority of the horizon looking out from Iqrit’s hilltop with Jewish villages also in sight — the nearest one being Shomera and its IDF base immediately across the road. Aside from one man in Shomera who brings his cattle to graze on their land, Iqritis have no problems with their Jewish neighbors.
“There are a lot of reasons that have proven our right to the land,” said Ashkar, who resides in Kufr Yasif, a 25-minute drive from Iqrit. “Nobody can tell us that we have no right to own the place.”
Every year since 1995 — with the exception of 2006 due to Israel’s war with Lebanon — the adults of Iqrit have organized Roots Camp — an educational gathering for the youngest generation of descendants, who have not yet gone off to college. Since these youths are raised in the Israeli education system, the camp fills a narrative gap that Israel’s Ministry of Education tends to neglect. In fact, Netanyahu banned the word “nakba” from textbooks, essentially banning Palestinian children from learning the history of their families’ experiences, as well as preventing Jewish Israelis from being exposed to the narrative. Netanyahu’s Nakba Bill also penalizes government bodies and institutions for commemorating the catastrophe.
Samer Toume, a 25-year-old Iqriti graduate student of biomedical engineering at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, explained how Roots Camp combats Israel’s exertion of power through education by saying, “History books are written by the ones who can control what is taught and what is not taught. So, this camp teaches people about what nobody else teaches them,” including different aspects of Palestinian history and culture, “mainly through the story of Iqrit.” This year’s camp runs from August 18-22.
The villagers are also always open to anyone, Palestinian or otherwise, who wants to learn about Iqrit. Classes of Jewish and Arab students, as well as international tourist groups visit frequently.
Toume is part of the core group of about 15 third-generation-displaced Iqritis — mostly working students in their 20s — who decided, during their camp on August 5, 2012, that they had to return for good. They have sustained a constant presence since then, taking shifts 24/7 and sleeping in a room attached to the church or just outside of it under the stars. Many others who do not sleep there still visit frequently and are actively involved in other aspects of organizing, such as for the annual camp, cultural or political events and Christian holiday gatherings. Dealings with the government are usually handled by Iqritis from the second generation of displacement.
The annual Roots Camp also teaches about Iqrit’s natural environment, passing down knowledge about how to nurture the plants that have survived since before the demolition. This includes fig and olive trees among others, and soon they hope to grow tobacco again. “Our grandfathers were known for their good tobacco,” Toume said.
Unfortunately, even the plants of Iqrit are under scrutiny by the Israel Land Administration, or ILA, which claims ownership over the land. The villagers are prohibited from rooting anything new in or on the land. No “structures,” no plants, not even flowers. For instance, at the last camp in August 2014, one group of kids planted about a dozen trees outside of their cemetery, only to be greeted less than an hour later by a pick-up truck ready to investigate and soon uproot them.
This is a regular occurrence. Every couple weeks — or whenever the authorities hear about any sort of activity, as they somehow always do — officers come prepared with cars and trucks to remove anything diverting from the status quo.
Sometimes officers randomly stop by or a drone cruises through the air. In June 2014, three of the core on-the-ground activists were — according to other group members — arrested in an extremely unprofessional and unnecessarily violent manner. Jerius Khiatt and Walaa Sbait were kept in jail for two nights and Nidal Khoury was kept for three; Khiatt and Sbait were sentenced to house arrest and then prohibited from visiting Iqrit for several weeks. While such harassment and intimidation by authorities is not unusual, the Iqritis remain undeterred.
Their church — still standing, but surrounded by rubble — is considered to be a symbol of their immovable presence. Right now, it is powered by four solar panels — their second set, after their first was mysteriously stolen — and a generator when needed. In April, Iqrit was finally granted a Supreme Court decision permitting them to be connected to the electricity grid.
Ashkar is one of five who has been spearheading this request for electricity. The case has been ongoing for years and he tends to it on a daily basis, but remains optimistic. “We see the progress, and we are satisfied with what is happening,” he said. They are in the process of mapping and the Israel Electric Corporation has a working plan. He expects to see more conclusive progress in the next three months.
Toume, on the other hand, is more skeptical and fears that the government won’t allow the electric company to follow-through with the court’s decision. “I won’t believe them until I see the first lamp really shining here,” he said, pointing out the lack of accountability pertaining to the 1951 decision. “Until I see electricity, I don’t believe it.”
Iqrit has been connected to Israel’s national water system since 1971, when the villagers received permission to be buried in their cemetery. Their next legal focus after receiving electricity will be to bring the cemetery’s land back under their legal ownership. This is already underway and will represent yet another step towards their eventual full return and rebuilding of the village, which they still unreservedly believe they will soon achieve.
Twenty minutes from Iqrit lies Kufr Bir’im, the one other village included in Rabin’s committee recommendation. Inspired by the return to Iqrit, activists attempted to do the same at Kufr Bir’im in 2013, but with less success, as their return only lasted about a year. They were subject to multiple raids by the ILA and were cut off from electricity, gas and water. They were eventually prohibited from visiting their own church, which is their only undestroyed building as well. Their cemetery has been vandalized several times.
Iqrit is an inspirational anomaly. Only time will tell how their case will influence the wider struggle for justice among Palestinians. Yet, despite the exceptional legal advantage that Iqrit has on paper, Ashkar said their case shows that they “are still fighting the war.” Iqrit may serve as an experimental model for other returning villages to learn about not just how to organize, but also how and when to negotiate with authorities — and to what extent they should negotiate with authorities at all, given Israel’s track record when it comes to following the law, not to mention its long list of discriminatory laws.
Unlike most Palestinian descendants, most Iqritis have the physical access to their village that allows for a connection with the land to be fostered firsthand. This connection is a major component underlying their struggle. Ashkar remembers his connection to Iqrit developing at a young age, spending time on the land with his family while growing up before Roots Camp was running. Toume’s interest began with hearing stories from his grandparents; it continued to grow at Roots Camps and has since evolved into something more. “After three years here, I have my own story, and I want to protect it.”
Toume discussed the challenge of keeping up such an effort on the ground despite all the powers working against them. “You have to have a lot of energy and want very much to do this for three years,” he said. “It is obvious that young people prefer to stay in Haifa and drink beer in a bar with their friends than to come here and try to do something.” He somehow finds the time to be particularly active, staying there regularly in between his studies and working on his two medical start-ups from a space in the back of Iqrit’s church. Working students are very much at the foundation of the village’s on-the-ground activism.
Ashkar believes that Israel hopes the Palestinians’ yearn to return will die with age. Within the next decade, they will be at the fourth generation of displacement. It’s as if the authorities are stalling, expecting the case to weaken with time, waiting for them to “forget [their] demands.” If this is what the Israeli government is hoping for, they are likely in for disappointment, as the Iqritis, it seems, are only gaining strength and speed with age.
August 5 marks three years since the core group declared their permanent return to Iqrit. Soon, if all goes according to plan, there should be an Israeli-powered light shining at the top of their hill. The youngest descendants are not only receiving education about their people’s history for the first time — a history that the Israeli government tries to ban them from learning — but they are also creating their own stories on their families’ land. Iqritis are clearly unrelenting in both their legal and on-the-ground organizing to hold their government accountable. Much like their church, they will not be moved.
by Chris Crass
From the massacre in Charleston to the police murder of Sandra Bland in Texas, racist violence is being met with outrage, and a growing black-led multiracial resistance movement that is on the move. With a sustained focus on institutional racist violence in the media due to the Black Lives Matter movement, white people across the country are both coming to consciousness about the enduring reality of white supremacy and looking for ways to take action for racial justice.
To help equip and inspire white people to step up and take action, I reached out to long-time faith-based white anti-racist leader and United Church of Christ minister Rev. Anne Dunlap, who serves as a “street pastor” for racial justice and solidarity in the Denver, Colorado area. For over 25 years she has been working in freedom movements with folks across race, gender and class lines, with a focus on solidarity with black, immigrant, worker and indigenous communities. As a faculty member of Iliff School of Theology, she helps train religious leaders to not only work for social justice themselves, but to move their congregations and larger faith communities into action.
In this interview, Rev. Dunlap reflects on her anti-racist work in white communities, her multiracial alliance-building efforts, liberation theology and the guidance she received from her departed mentor, black liberation theologian, historian and visionary, Vincent Harding.
How are you working to move white people into the racial justice movement in this time? What’s working? And what are you learning from what works?
I have been a faith-rooted justice movement activist and leader for a long time — nearly 30 years if you go back to my “call” into the work at age 16 that launched this trajectory of my life. I’ve done this work in many capacities, and most often as a “bridge” between white folk/communities and marginalized folk/communities. Whether it’s racial and economic justice, police brutality, detention abolition, deportation resistance or indigenous rights, I do pastoral solidarity work, as well as constantly try to get more white folk involved. In addition, in our local United Church of Christ conference we are working toward creating a position for racial justice and solidarity in which part of my work would include resourcing our predominantly white churches so that they can be bolder for racial justice. More informally are lots of conversations with white friends and colleagues about how we can show up — and how we show up — in the work for racial justice. Resource sharing is incredibly important here, whether by social media or sending a friend my favorite Andrea Smith resource.
One thing I have noticed is that as a white clergyperson who shows up often in pretty public ways, I am finding white people seek me out for conversation to talk through how they might do that too, or that they find themselves emboldened to take action where they are because they have seen me do it. I take that to mean that white folk are longing for some white models for racial justice and solidarity, and so we need those of us more practiced at it and/or are willing to “be public” to continue to do that, and encourage more folks to try it. And here I don’t mean posting your selfie at the latest action, but more importantly being public about our questions and wrestlings, being public about our mistakes, being public about the resources we find helpful, being public about our horror at what is continuing to be done in our name. If I might channel my mentor, Vincent Harding, let people see you be fully human in this messy, magnificent work that is the freedom movement.
To that I would add a couple of things: 1) recognizing that I am not an expert or the model and being clear that although I have been at this a long time I am also always just beginning; and 2) being public does not mean centering myself as a white person and thus de-centering the voices, experiences and lives of black, Latina/o, indigenous and immigrant folk. That can be a tricky dance, to both not hide and also not center my white self, and I am sure I don’t always get it right.
How do you think about effectiveness and how do you measure it? Can you share an experience that helps you think about effective work in white communities for racial justice?
As a spiritual leader rooted in radical Christian tradition and informed by liberationist, feminist/womanist, and post-colonial praxis, I have to ask: How do we understand “effectiveness” in ways that are non-capitalist? Capitalism is its own theological system which I find runs completely counter to what my tradition teaches. Capitalist “effectiveness” is driven by numbers, by production as if humans were cogs in a machine, by increasing profit and consumption and by continuous extraction of resources regardless of impact, by dividing up winners (most worthy) and losers. Capitalist “effectiveness” requires, as Andrea Smith writes, perpetual enslavement of black bodies, perpetual disappearance of indigenous bodies, perpetual war against the “foreign threat” of brown bodies. I’m not interested in those definitions of effectiveness.
What is “effectiveness” that is prophetic and revolutionary, that honors the wholeness of human dignity and the tender fragility of human lives and bodies, that honors not only human life but all creatures, flora, fauna, mineral, liquid, vapor? One experience that helps me think about this is a 2007 action I participated in, a nonviolent act of resistance against the Columbus Day parade in Denver that resulted in nearly a hundred of us being arrested and being pretty brutalized by the Denver police, both in the street and in the jail. I helped organize students, faculty, staff at the Iliff School of Theology where I was a student leader at the time. We had a group of 11 students and alums who were among those arrested — and nearly 40 more were present.
From the capitalist view one might argue this action was not “effective.” We were arrested, the parade continued, and almost all of us who went to trial were found guilty of violating the city’s “parade ordinance” (put in place to prevent protests of the Columbus Day parade), resisting arrest and other charges. The Denver police were never held accountable for their brutality against us. Some of us continue to live with the trauma to our bodies and psyches from that day. The whole event and its aftermath of trials and healing took immense resources and energy.
From what I might call the prophetic view, however, this is what I see: white students at Iliff emboldened to take action on this and other justice issues, including white parents who went to their children’s schools to get curriculum about Columbus changed; healers who stepped up and identified themselves and have continued to provide for the community’s healing; relationships of solidarity, trust and fierce love that were born that day and continue; and for many white folk, including myself, the breaking apart of the veil of “legitimacy” of the “justice system” and policing, and how both of those systems actually serve to perpetuate white supremacy. I am still seeing the impact of that action to this day in our community; the city thought they had won but the result was a stronger multiracial community of resistance in Denver, and with white folks pretty radicalized by our experience (whether as arrestees, witnesses or seeing the aftermath).
This is the kind of effectiveness our tradition teaches us is possible. It turns the wisdom of the world on its head. What the Roman Empire determined as “effective” — executing the radical Jesus by crucifixion — was rendered as foolishness when the Spirit-filled community rose up in resistance with their ringing proclamation that the Empire had no power over life or death: “Christ is risen!”
What are the goals and strategies (as emergent, planned, messy, and sophisticated, basic as it is) you’re operating from?
My big goal — and I believe this is the “big goal” the Divine attests to and longs for us in our tradition — is the total undoing of white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy for a world in which all life, not only human, but creatures and the land, as well, can flourish. To get there my part is to be in deep human relationship with marginalized communities, and to work with white folk and faith communities in particular.
We need as many nimble tools as possible for collective liberation. Besides the organizing work and just plain showing up for actions and such, some other tools for white folk who claim to be Christian include: 1) recovering and immersing ourselves in the liberative and revolutionary sources, biblical and theological, of Christian tradition, and sharing and embodying those. This includes perpetually reminding ourselves that the Bible is not the victory handbook of the Empire, but the outcry and deeply human wrestlings of the oppressed; 2) educating ourselves all the time especially through listening to oppressed voices. And letting those voices interrogate us deeply, letting them make us confront the ways white supremacy lives inside our heads. This is the un-sexy (because it is often invisible) work of disrupting whiteness as a white person and it’s just as important as showing up publicly, because it helps us know how to show up in better, more liberative ways; 3) learning the “people’s history” of struggle and liberation, including the local history of where we live, and sharing it; and 4) knowing our limits and doing our own healing work. This is so important and must not be overlooked. Therapy, herbal practice, Sabbath, physical labor at my friend’s goat farm, and spiritual direction all help keep me going and help me bring my best, most grounded self to the work, and I publicly encourage and affirm other folks’ efforts towards self-care.
A word about spiritual direction: I find this helps me cultivate discernment, holds space for my vocational wrestlings in the face of challenge, and fosters my ability to sit in the unknown and trust there is more going on here than I am aware of; this in particular allows me to let go of control which is one way whiteness perpetuates itself.
What challenges are you facing? How are you trying to overcome them? What are you learning from these experiences?
There are a couple of main ones for me. The first is institutions. Entrenched oppressions in institutions — including and especially the church and the academy — and the institutional capacity for self-preservation rather than liberation challenge me at the deepest level and cause me the most despair. Community — both close friends and a community of solidarity — is so much help in navigating this challenge. I have also learned that if there is no space for movement, no space for Spirit to crack open something, it might be best to walk away. I have done that on occasion — not walk away from the freedom movement, but from that particular institution that will take my life in ways I am not willing to give it. Everyone must do their own discernment around this; I may leave where another person may stay, and that’s cool.
The second challenge is being overwhelmed. Constantly confronting injustice and the death-dealing powers of empire is wearying enough, and I think our saturation with 24-hour news cycles and constant social media updates can sometimes make this worse (though social media is great for connecting and expressing solidarity). I have to be sure to take Sabbath time to rest, integrate, tend to my spirit and body and home. As a white person I have struggled with this because the temptation to be the “perfect ally” who shows up to everything is very strong (and capitalist-driven). I’ve learned to remind myself that I am not the center of the movement, and a healthy me, even if I’m not at everything, is so much better for the movement than a burned-out me.
How are you developing your own leadership and the leadership of people around you to step up in these profound, painful and powerful Black Lives Matter movement times?
As I mentioned, I have been in this work a long time, though focused more on immigration and economic justice. Last year two things happened that prompted some deep vocational discernment for me: Vincent Harding died, a loss I grieved deeply, and a few months later Michael Brown was killed. These are connected for me because Michael Brown was killed not long after Harding’s memorial service here in Denver, and I began to talk to Harding every day, asking him what I should do. It soon became clear that I was being called to deepen my justice work through the Black Lives Matter movement, and to do so by leaving my prior congregational position and embracing my role as “street pastor” — as well as responding to the outcry for white folks to educate white folks — by offering myself to our United Church of Christ conference as a resource.
In these intervening months I have utilized this “in-between” time of unknown in terms of a particular job by reading everything I can, taking advantage of trainings, finding resources for working on collective liberation with white folks and white church folks, trying on some new ways of reclaiming my voice as a leader, and most importantly building relationships and showing up in solidarity with our Black Lives Matter leaders in Denver. I feel like these last eight months in many ways have been a preparation for some amazing and difficult work that is about to unfold.
by Jeff Abbott
This article is also available in English.
A lo largo de la costa atlántica de Honduras, las comunidades afro caribeñas garífunas se ven amenazadas por propuestas de creación de proyectos mega-turísticos y ciudades gestionadas por corporaciones, a menudo conocidas como “ciudades modelo”. Como consecuencia de ello, las comunidades garífunas están siendo forzadas a abandonar sus tierras.
En enero de 2015, el vicepresidente de los Estados Unidos Joseph Biden propuso un plan para proporcionar a los gobiernos de Centroamérica 1000 millones de dólares – además de otras ayudas acordadas con anterioridad – para incrementar las inversiones en la zona, con el objetivo de mejorar la seguridad y generar la oportunidad de combatir las causas “raíz” de la migración ilegal.
El plan ede Bide no es mas que la continuación del Tratado de Libre Comercio con Centroamérica y el Plan Mesoamérica mediante la ampliación del mercado energético regional integrado y facilitando a las empresas multinacionales la inversión en enormes proyectos de desarrollo en toda la región que provocarán grandes daños a la comunidad. Este verano el Congreso votará este paquete de ayuda.
Sin embargo, tal y como han señalado los críticos, los planes crearán un retroceso negativo para la gente de la región, incluyendo el aumento de conflictos sociales y la destrucción del medioambiente.
“El gobierno estadounidense está financiando a nuestro gobierno para desalojarnos”, dijo Ángel Castro, residente de la comunidad garífuna de Vallecito. “No están aquí para apoyar a las personas afro decendientes, menos aún al pueblo de Honduras.”
La conexión con el modelo económico de acumulación por desposesión no se pierde en Castro. Y añadió: “Esto es parte del capitalismo y la política del neoliberalismo”.
Los mega-proyectos son sólo uno de los problemas a los que las comunidades garífunas de Honduras han tenido que enfrentarse en los seis años transcurridos desde que el golpe de estado, apoyado por los Estados Unidos, derrocó al entonces presidente Manuel Zelaya. Ahora han comenzado a organizar y defender sus tierras a través de la resistencia noviolenta.
Defendiendo la tierra y la cultura
Las comunidades garífunas llevan siglos viviendo en la costa Atlántica de Honduras y han desarrollado su propia cultura, idioma, comida y música. Son los descendientes de los esclavos africanos y de las poblaciones indígenas Arawak que fueron deportadas de la isla británica de San Vicente en 1797. En la actualidad, las comunidades garífunas abarcan la costa atlántica desde Belice hasta Nicaragua con 48 comunidades en Honduras, en los departamentos de Cortés, Atlántida y Colón.
A principios de los años 1800 el gobierno hondureño dio a las comunidades títulos ilegales de 1,012 hectáreas de tierra. Desde entonces se han encargado de estas tierras colectivamente, alimentándose de la pesca y la agricultura.
Ahora estas comunidades se enfrentan al desalojo para dar paso a la construcción de proyectos de desarrollo apoyados por políticas económicas neoliberales como la Alianza por el Progreso y la Estrategia para el Compromiso de los Estados Unidos en Centroamérica. Además, el creciente interés de los narcotraficantes y las plantaciones de aceite de palma africana han forzado a las comunidades a abandonar sus tierras.
“Todos sufrimos la misma situación,” dijo Selvyn, de la comunidad de Porto Cortez. “Todos estamos siendo desalojados de nuestras tierras. El Estado ha decidido excluir a las comunidades del diálogo nacional.”
Pero frente a los desalojos para facilitar la creación de mega proyectos, y amenazados por narcotraficantes fuertemente armados, las comunidades garífunas han decidido dedicarse a la resistencia noviolenta para defender su territorio.
En agosto de 2012, miembros de las comunidades a lo largo de la costa atlántica de Honduras reclamaron el corazón de su territorio de la invasión de los narcotraficantes, los proyectos de mega turismo y la expansión del aceite de palma. Fueron ellos quienes fundaron la comunidad de Vallecito en el territorio que los garífunas consideran sus tierras ancestrales, a un kilómetro y medio del mar.
Al igual que en muchas culturas indígenas, la tierra y el mar están vinculados a la identidad del pueblo garífuna y son cruciales para la continuación de su sociedad. Las comunidades sostienen que el asalto de su territorio es también un ataque a su identidad y cultura.
“El mar y la playa son esenciales para el pueblo garífuna”, dijo Guillermo, un residente de Vallecito. “Es parte de mi vida; que es lo que significa ser garífuna”.
La resistencia noviolenta que utilizan para defender su tierra es también parte de la identidad garífuna.
“El pueblo garífuna es un pueblo pacífico”, dijo Yilian Maribeth David, desde la organización de base Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña (OFRANEH). “Nunca hemos utilizado armas o la violencia en la lucha por la recuperación de tierras, ni tampoco en las manifestaciones en las principales ciudades contra las violaciones de los derechos de nuestra gente.”
Las comunidades garífunas no han recibido clases ni entrenamientos en las tácticas noviolentas. Más bien, su dedicación a la noviolencia proviene de su religión.
“No se nos ha enseñado acerca de las luchas pacíficas”, dijo David. “Más bien, la espiritualidad garífuna es el mantenimiento de la práctica de la lucha pacífica. Esto se debe a que nuestra religión se basa en la creencia en ancestros que dan señales en sueños y visiones de cuándo y cómo llevar a cabo una actividad y también indican en qué momento hay que parar. Todo esto lo lideran los chamanes”.
Pero la situación de estas comunidades se está deteriorando y su resistencia pacífica está siendo contraatacada con violencia.
Una situación que se deteriora
En los años transcurridos desde el golpe de estado, los inversionistas han encontrado un nuevo apoyo del gobierno cuando roban la tierra de las pequeñas comunidades campesinas e indígenas. En este ambiente los garífunas se han organizado para defender sus tierras.
“Las comunidades no van a vender sus tierras”, dijo Celso Alberto, de la comunidad de Santa Fe. “Así que el gobierno ha estado expropiando las tierras.”
La industria del turismo ha ido creciendo a lo largo de la costa de Honduras desde mediados de los 90. Pero en los últimos tres años, los proyectos de desarrollo turístico se han ampliado, y también lo han hecho los desalojos. Localidades costeras de las comunidades garífunas se han visto despojadas de sus tierras para la construcción de proyectos de mega turismo.
Los proyectos forman parte del Plan de Mesoamérica, que promueve la creación de un corredor turístico de Belice a través de Honduras a lo largo de la costa. Las comunidades sostienen que estos proyectos no les benefician y sólo mercantilizan su cultura.
“Las personas sólo vienen a consumir la cultura, beber el té gifi y vernos bailar”, dijo César Leonel, un joven garífuna y miembro de la Red Mesoamericana de Radios Comunitarias. “Se hospedan en hoteles en territorio garífuna, donde puede que sólo haya dos o tres garífunas trabajando.”
Además, la ubicación de las comunidades las hace vulnerables a la invasión de los productores de aceite de palma y los narcotraficantes. Por lo tanto, la defensa del territorio también ha llegado a significar la defensa contra estas industrias legales e ilegales. Si recuperan las tierras, las comunidades garífunas podrán seguir frenando el transporte de narcóticos a través de su territorio.
Desde 2012, la comunidad de Vallecito ha evitado con éxito, a través de su presencia permanente, que los narcotraficantes locales reconstruyan un punto de tránsito a lo largo de la costa, que fue destruido por el ejército hondureño. Sin embargo, las comunidades se han enfrentado a la intimidación y la violencia por parte de los traficantes.
El gobierno de Honduras respondió a estas amenazas mediante el despliegue de un pequeño grupo de soldados para “proteger” a la comunidad garífuna. Ahora tres soldados están permanentemente en la entrada del territorio de la comunidad. Pero los miembros de la comunidad de Vallecito no ven las ventajas de la presencia de los soldados.
“El ejército es sólo la imagen de la protección”, dijo Guillermo. “Cambian los soldados cada mes, así que no se acercan demasiado a nuestro movimiento.”
A pesar de los éxitos contra los narcos, las comunidades garífunas todavía siguen siendo vulnerables al desalojo para dar paso a proyectos turísticos.
“El Estado está vendiendo nuestras tierras de manera ilegal”, dijo Leonel. “Nos enfrentamos a la expulsión sistemática de las comunidades garífunas de sus tierras para que los extranjeros compren nuestras tierras para construir enormes hoteles.”
La lucha contra la migración
Para las comunidades garífunas, la defensa del territorio y la identidad es también una lucha contra las fuerzas que les impulsan a emigrar a Estados Unidos en busca de oportunidades.
“Cuando las comunidades no tienen el espacio para reproducir su cultura, por supuesto que emigran”, dijo Leonel.
Las comunidades también han comenzado a crear sus propios proyectos de desarrollo para crear oportunidades para sí mismos, incluyendo la creación de espacios autosuficientes en las tierras recuperadas donde cultivan casi todos los alimentos que necesitan y continúan con la tradición de la pesca. Para estas comunidades, la recuperación de la tierra supone también la defensa del derecho a la soberanía alimentaria y el derecho a la subsistencia como comunidad.
“Nuestra visión no es la de comercializar nuestra tierra”, dijo Guillermo. “Más bien, estamos sembrando las semillas de los alimentos que necesitamos para comer.”
Las comunidades, junto con la OFRANEH, han trabajado para desarrollar proyectos que ofrecen oportunidades a su propia gente.
“Dado el éxodo masivo de mujeres, jóvenes y adolescentes a los Estados Unidos en los últimos dos años, la OFRANEH está trabajando en diversas áreas con el fin de proporcionar una opción de ingresos para el pueblo garífuna”, dijo David.
OFRANEH, la juventud garífuna y las organizaciones de mujeres han creado proyectos para ofrecer oportunidades. Los jóvenes se han movilizado para crear una granja de cerdos, una plantación de plátano y un criadero de tilapia. Según David, “se crearon estos proyectos con la intención de mantener a los jóvenes ocupados e interesados, y al mismo tiempo mantener las tierras.”
El grupo de mujeres se ha centrado en la siembra de alimentos como el arroz, los frijoles, los chiles y la yuca.
“La siembra de alimentos básicos ha disminuido a un ritmo alarmante debido a la proliferación de la plantación de monocultivos [como la palma africana]”, dijo David. “Por ello las mujeres se están centrando en el tema de la soberanía alimentaria y la seguridad alimentaria.”
Defensa legal de la tierra
Junto con la recuperación de tierras, las comunidades garífunas han utilizado convenciones nacionales e internacionales para la defensa de su territorio.
Las comunidades poseen seis títulos de propiedad de sus tierras territoriales; títulos de los que son propietarios todos los miembros de las comunidades de forma común por lo que es imposible vender extensiones individuales.
Pero a pesar de estos títulos de propiedad, el Estado y la agencia de la tierra hondureña han vendido sistemáticamente la tierra de las comunidades a los intereses internacionales. Las comunidades han señalado que estas ventas son ilegales.
Las comunidades también han invocado los derechos reconocidos a las comunidades indígenas en el Convenio 169 de la Organización Internacional del Trabajo. Honduras se adhirió al Convenio 169 en 1996. La convención establece que las comunidades indígenas deben ser consultadas antes de comenzar cualquier proyecto de desarrollo en sus tierras. El Convenio tiene como objetivo que las poblaciones indígenas puedan participar en las decisiones sobre el uso de sus territorios.
Sin embargo, en ningún momento se ha consultado a las comunidades garífunas sobre el uso de sus tierras. El Estado ha respondido que las comunidades no entran en los grupos protegidos por la Convención. Sin embargo, las comunidades han mantenido sus exigencias de ser consultados.
Generando puentes entre territorios
Las comunidades Garífunas se enfrentan a una situación sombría, pero han contactado con gente más allá de sus fronteras para pedir ayuda en su lucha por defender su territorio.
Las comunidades están trabajando para atraer el interés internacional a su difícil situación. Este movimiento de hondureños negros en concreto, está trabajando para crear uniones con el movimiento Black Lives Matter en los Estados Unidos.
“La relación con Black Lives Matter nació a raíz de una reunión sobre la migración y la cultura en Los Ángeles en abril de 2015″, dijo David. “Nos pusimos de acuerdo y decidimos que si las organizaciones negras se unen independientemente de nuestras fronteras, podremos lograr resultados. Cada vez que tengan un problema en su contra, nos declaramos en solidaridad con ellos. Y cada vez que nos pase algo a nosotros, ellos harán lo mismo. Estamos unificando nuestras voces.”
Traducido del inglés por Nayua Abdelkefi.
In the first of a series on the changing nature of urban space, academic geographer and gonzo urbanist Bradley L Garrett discusses ‘Pops’ – privately owned public spaces – and asks who our cities are really for
I was recently sent a link to a YouTube video entitled We Too, in which a trespasser sneaks into the under-construction, 34-storey Lexicon skyscraper near the Silicon Roundabout in London, and pitches a tent on the top floor.
In the video, after a good night’s sleep, the interloper unzips the front flap of the shelter and steps into the early-morning air. The city unfolds before him in a stunning vista, suggesting the view that future occupants of the skyscraper will enjoy – or, more likely in London, the view that international investors will use as a selling point when they put the flat back on the market after a few years of not living in it.
Despite multiple objections from politicians, the construction of 'Pops' is continuing to escalate and expand
When space is controlled, we tend to police ourselves, to monitor our behaviour and to limit our interactions
Direct action against the loss of public space would echo the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932Continue reading...
Kentucky Case Spotlights Problem of Untrained Law Enforcement Disciplining Students with Disabilities COVINGTON, Ky. — A deputy sheriff shackled two elementary school children who have disabilities, causing them pain and trauma, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Children’s Law Center, and Dinsmore & Shohl. The children, an Read More
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Contention around a mine in Myanmar – especially police treatment of activists campaigning to close it – has grown into a challenge for the development of rule of law in that country.
by Jeff Abbott
Along the Atlantic coast of Honduras, Afro-Caribbean Garifuna communities are being forced from their land, as proposals for the creation of mega-tourism projects and corporate-run cities, commonly referred to as “model cities,” gain momentum internationally.
Congress is set to vote on one such plan this summer. Originally proposed by Vice President Joseph Biden in January, the plan would provide the governments of Central America $1 billion — on top of previously existing aid agreements — to bring further investment into the region. While the stated goal is to improve security and generate opportunity to combat the so-called root causes of illegal migration, Biden’s plan is essentially a continuation of the Central American Free Trade Agreement and Plan Mesoamerica and will only make it easier for multinational corporations to invest in more community-damaging mega-development projects throughout the region.
As critics have pointed out, the plans create negative blowback for the people of the region, including increased social conflict and environmental destruction.
“The United States government is funding our government to evict us,” said Angel Castro, a resident of the Garifuna community of Vallecito. “They are not here to support the people of African descent, let alone the people of Honduras.”
The connection to the economic model of accumulation by dispossession is not lost on Castro. He added, “This is part of capitalism and the politics of neoliberalism.”
Mega-projects are just one of the problems that Honduran Garifuna communities have had to face in the six years since a U.S-supported coup d’etat removed then-President Manuel Zelaya from power. Now, they have begun to organize and to defend their land through nonviolent resistance.
Defending land and culture
The Garifuna communities have called the Atlantic coast of Honduras home for centuries and have developed their own culture, language, food and music. They are the descendants of African slaves, and the indigenous Arawak populations who were deported from British St. Vincent Island in 1797. Today, Garifuna communities span the Atlantic coast from Belize to Nicaragua, with 48 communities in Honduras, in the departments of Cortés, Alántida and Colón.
In the early 1800s, the Honduran government gave the communities the legal titles to 2,500 acres of land. Since then, they have held this land collectively, sustaining themselves with fishing and agriculture.
Now, these communities are facing eviction to make way for the construction of development projects supported by neoliberal economic policies such as the Alliance for Prosperity and the Strategy for Engagement. Additionally, the expanding interests of narco-traffickers and African palm oil plantations have forced the communities from their land.
“We are all suffering the same situation,” said Selvyn, from the community of Porto Cortez. “We are all being evicted from our lands. The state has decided to exclude the communities from the national conversation.”
But faced with evictions to make way for mega-projects, and threatened by heavily armed narco-traffickers, the Garifuna communities have decided to dedicate themselves to nonviolent resistance in defense of their territory.
In August 2012, members of communities across the Honduran Atlantic coast reclaimed the heart of their territory from encroachment by narco-traffickers, mega-tourism projects and the expansion of palm oil. They founded the community of Vallecito in the territory that the Garifuna consider to be their ancestral land, a mile inland from the sea.
As in many indigenous cultures, the land and sea are linked to the identity of the Garifuna people and are crucial for the continuation of their society. The communities argue that the assault on their territory is also an attack on their identity and culture.
“The sea and the beach are essential for the Garifuna people,” said Guillermo, a resident of Vallecito. “It is part of my life; it is what it means to be Garifuna.”
The nonviolent resistance used to defend their land is also part of the Garifuna identity.
“The Garifuna Village are a peaceful people,” said Yilian Maribeth David, from the grassroots Fraternal Black Organization of Honduras, or OFRANEH. “We have never used weapons or violence in the struggle for the recovery of land, or in the demonstrations in major cities against the violations of the rights of our peoples.”
The Garifuna communities have not received classes or training in nonviolent tactics. Rather, their dedication to nonviolence comes from their religion.
“We have not been taught about peaceful struggles,” David said. “Rather, the Garifuna spirituality is the keeping of the practice of peaceful struggle. This is because our religion is based on belief in ancestors who give signs in dreams and visions of when and how to perform an activity and also indicate at what point to stop. This is all led by shamans.”
But the communities’ situation is deteriorating, and their peaceful resistance is being countered with violence.
A deteriorating situation
In the years since the coup, developers have found new support from the government when they steal land from small-farming and indigenous communities. It is in this environment that the Garifuna have organized to defend their land.
“The communities will not sell their land,” said Celso Alberto, from the community of Santa Fe. “So the government has been expropriating the land.”
The tourism industry has been expanding along the Honduran coast since the mid-1990s. But in the last three years, tourist development projects have expanded, and so too have the evictions. The Garifuna communities’ seaside locations drive the dispossession of their land for the construction of mega-tourism projects.
The projects are part of Plan Mesoamerica, which promotes the creation of a tourism corridor from Belize through Honduras along the coast. Communities argue that these projects do nothing for them and only commodify their culture.
“People only come to consume the culture, drink gifi-tea and watch us dance,” said Cesar Leonel, a young Garifuna and member of the Network of Community Radios of Mesoamerica. “They stay in these hotels in Garifuna territory, where there may only be two or three Garifunas working there.”
Additionally, the communities’ locations make them vulnerable to encroachment by palm oil producers and narco-traffickers. Therefore, defending territory has also come to mean defense against these legal and illegal industries. By recuperating the land, the Garifuna communities will be able to continue to slow down the transportation of narcotics through their territory.
Since 2012, the community of Vallecito has through their permanent presence successfully kept the local narco-traffickers from reconstructing a transit point along the coast, which was destroyed by the Honduran military. But the communities have faced intimidation and violence from the traffickers.
The Honduran government responded to these threats by deploying a small group of soldiers to “protect” the Garifuna community. Three soldiers now maintain a permanent presence at the entrance of the community’s territory. But the community members of Vallecito do not see the benefit of the soldiers’ presence.
“The military is only the appearance of protection,” Guillermo said. “They change the soldiers every month, so they don’t get too close to our movement.”
Despite the successes against the narcos, the Garifuna communities still remain vulnerable to eviction to make way for tourism projects.
“The state is illegally selling our lands,” Leonel said. “We are facing the systematic eviction of Garifuna communities for foreigners to buy our lands to build massive hotels.”
For the Garifuna communities, the defense of territory and identity is also a struggle against the forces driving them to migrate to the United States in search of opportunity.
“When the communities don’t have the space to reproduce their culture, of course they migrate,” Leonel said.
The communities have also begun pursuing their own development projects to create opportunity for themselves. This has included the formation of self-sufficient spaces on the recuperated lands. There, they grow almost all the food they need and continue the tradition of fishing. For them, land recuperation is also the defense of the right to food sovereignty and the right to subsistence as a community.
“Our vision is not to commercialize our land,” Guillermo said. “Rather, we are sowing all the seeds for the food we need to eat.”
The communities, along with the OFRANEH, have worked to develop projects that provide opportunities to their own people.
“In view of the massive exodus of women, youth and adolescents to the United States in the past two years, OFRANEH is working in various branches for the purpose of providing an income option to the Garifuna people,” David said.
OFRANEH and the Garifuna youth and women’s organizations have formed projects to create opportunity. The youth have mobilized to a create a pig farm, a banana plantation and a tilapia hatchery. According to David, “These projects were formed with a vision to keep the youth busy and interested, as well as at the same time maintain the land.”
The women’s group has focused on planting foods like rice, beans, chiles and yucca.
“The planting of basic foods has declined at an alarming rate due to the proliferation of planting monocultures [like African palm],” David said. “So women are focusing on the issue of food sovereignty and food security.”
Legal defense of land
Along with land recuperation, the Garifuna communities have utilized national and international conventions in the defense of their territory.
The communities hold six titles to their territorial land. These titles are all held in common among the people, making it impossible to sell individual tracts.
But despite these titles, the state and the Honduran land agency have systematically sold the land of the communities to international interests. The communities have pointed out that these sales are illegal.
The communities have also invoked the rights granted to indigenous communities by Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. Honduras became a signatory to Convention 169 in 1996. The convention states that indigenous communities must be consulted prior to any development project on their lands. It is aimed at allowing indigenous populations to participate in the decisions over the use of their territories.
At no point, though, have the Garifuna communities ever been consulted on the use of their land. The state has countered that the communities do not fall under the groups protected by the convention. But the communities have maintained their demands to be consulted.
Building bridges across territories
The Garifuna communities face a bleak situation, but they have reached out across borders for aid in their struggle to defend their territory.
The communities are working to draw international attention to their plight. Specifically, this movement of black Hondurans is working to build connections with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.
“The connection with Black Lives Matter was born following a meeting on migration and culture in Los Angeles in April 2015,” said David. “We agreed and decided that if black organizations come together regardless of borders, we can achieve results. Every time there is a fight with them, we declare ourselves to be in solidarity. And every time something happens to us they will do the same for us. We are unifying our voices.”
Activists hand workers copies of the music and encourage them to help the oil company ‘avert disaster’ on plans to drill for oil under ice cap
Shell staff arriving for work in London were regaled with a new piece, Requiem for Arctic Ice, on Monday morning, performed by a string orchestra in protest at the energy giant’s plans to drill for oil under the ice cap.
Greenpeace activists handed workers copies of the music and leaflets calling on them to blow the whistle, on what was the first day of a month-long protest outside Shell’s offices on the South Bank.Continue reading...
As of last Thursday, Sweets Way Resists had succeeded in regenerating 1/142nd of the Sweets Way estate. We did so in just six days and for about £370, using a lot of volunteer labour and a mix of found and donated materials. We hope that the People’s Regeneration Show Home will encourage others around London and beyond to come together and reclaim – and when necessary rebuild – homes where they are, rather than leaving them in the hands of those who simply see them as investments.
Beyond inspiring others with a little taste of what regular people are capable of doing to a smashed up building, we also showed that we can do Annington’s job – regeneration – better than they can. We’ve shown that the story of private development offering the only route to quality affordable homes is a convenient myth that facilitates the decimation of socially-rented housing stock, for the benefit of private profits. There IS another way.
Remember what we’ve done in this past week every time you hear a council, developer or social housing provider argue that it would be ‘too expensive’ to do anything other than just sell-off public homes or leave regeneration in the hands of the private sector! Why not put that argument to the test?
By our math, if we keep up our regeneration plans at last week’s rate, we could make the entire estate re-inhabitable for a mere £52,540. Which is considerably less than we’re sure Annington have earmarked for the project, or what Barnet Council spend each year on housing benefit given to private landlords.
Needless to say, their regeneration plans are slated to be considerably more expensive and will yield far fewer units below market rent than the current 142 houses. Annington will argue that none were ever social housing, but doing so is simply a distraction from the fact that they were leased as such for the past six years, and so in practice, their regen plans will drastically reduce the number of houses available to those who can’t afford full market rent from 142, to 59. (And those 59 are in themselves a mix of so-called ‘affordable’ homes that will cost up to 80% of market rent, and part-buy-part-let schemes, neither of which will be accessible to the majority of former residents.)
When we went into 153 Sweets Way, its waste water piping had been deliberately destroyed; its toilet and sink were smashed to bits; its upstairs windows were left open, letting rain in. Very few of us have any specialist skills or experience in DIY or renovation work, yet with just a bit of skilled help from a plumber, an electrician and a cabinetmaker, we fixed-up a building that had not simply been left to deteriorate over time, but had been deliberately made uninhabitable by its owners.
Most of us agree that the council should be offering homes to those who need them – but given their abject failure to protect critical housing stock in the midst of a housing crisis, it’s up to all of us to protect and secure the homes we need. Until they prove they can do their job, we’ll do what is needed to keep good homes and strong communities from being torn apart.
We’d call this D.I.Y. but it is more collective, more collaborative than that. None of us could have turned this home around on our own, but together, we can outdo one of the largest property owners in the country at their own game.
This is a D.I.O project – Doing It Ourselves – and we hope that others will take it and run with it wherever they are facing the sell-off and demolition of their homes. It’s up to all of us to find our way out of this housing crisis – let’s continue to prove that we can do it ourselves!
Come to 153 Sweets Way (N20 0NX) to get a sense of what we’re capable of, and learn more about how you might create a People’s Regeneration Show Home on your own estate!
On Saturday (August 8) we’re holding an open day on the estate. You can join us for:
– Our weekly street stall, 11-1 in front of Waitrose on the Whetstone High Road
– Tours of the People’s Regeneration Show Home and it’s smashed up counterpart, the Annington Degeneration Show Home, next door, 2-3pm @ 153 Sweets Way
– An open meeting hosted by Sweets Way Resists and Sweetstopia after the tours looking at ways to protect our estate from demolition.
Today, 2nd of August is a date designated as Roma Holocaust Memorial Day when we remember the Roma victims of Nazi regime of World War II. The genocide on Roma in Europe (also known as Porajmos) has widely been called the “unrecorded Holocaust” since close to half a million members of this minority has been killed, Read More
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Amid opposition to flag following Charleston shootings, protesters at Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park say their celebration is about ‘southern heritage’
In a flare-up of the controversy that followed a June mass shooting in South Carolina, hundreds of protesters waving Confederate flags gathered this weekend in Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park.
The park is home to the huge Confederate Memorial Carving, a southern Mount Rushmore that features Confederate president Jefferson Davis, General Robert E Lee and General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.Continue reading...
The Lenexa, Kansas Police Department got caught for the first time in a long time using excessive force and deadly choking techniques last Thursday, and to say the least they were unhappy about it. A video taken by witness John Sherman went semi-viral on Facebook which shows a black man with his face being shoved into the ground by Read More
The post Lenexa PD Try & Fail to Justify Deadly Choke Hold in Viral Video (Witness Interview) appeared first on revolution-news.com.
Activists managed to block Royal Dutch Shell’s icebreaker Fennica from heading to the Arctic for about 40 hours. And even though the ship was eventually able to weave through the activists, Shell now has to deal with some unwanted attention.
This battle between activists and the oil company began when Shell’s icebreaker Fennica ran into something around the Aleutian Islands and tore a hole in its hull earlier this month. The ship, which is needed for oil drilling in the Arctic, arrived in Portland for repairs on July 25 with the intent of returning to the Arctic once the repairs were done. Unfortunately for Shell, on July 24, activists from various groups including Greenpeace, Mosquito Fleet, 350, and Rising Tide had already begun their plan to block this ship from leaving Portland and were in the water near St. John’s Bridge, which the ship would have to pass under to continue its trip to the Arctic.
“[Fennica] couldn’t be fixed in Alaska, [and] presumably didn’t want to go back to Seattle, where there had been such protest, so it came to Portland on a very tight timeline to repair it and then get back up to the Arctic,” Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, told Democracy Now! “And that’s why this blockade was so powerful, was that any delay that we [created] could have shortened the amount of time that Shell can drill this summer, because they have such a short ice-free window. They have to get up there, drill and get out before the winter ice returns.”
The activists say that drilling for oil in the Arctic opens up the possibility of truly disastrous oil spills in a remote, ecologically-important region where clean-up would prove to be extremely difficult.
On July 25, activists in kayaks, known as “kayaktivists,” surrounded Fennica and chanted “Shell No! Save the Arctic!” Protesters occupied the waters off Portland for days after, and then, on July 29, 13 people, attached by ropes to the St. Johns Bridge, lowered themselves from the bridge in order to block the ship from passing under it. The activists stated that they were ready to remain dangling from the bridge for as long as it took to stop the ship.
“We’re prepared to stay as long as it takes to send a message to Shell and stop the Fennica from leaving,” Georgia Hirsty, one of the protesters, told Portland’s KGW.
Fennica remained at the dock during that day, but the next day, the ship attempted to begin its trip to the Arctic. Traffic on the bridge was shut down as activists hung from the bridge and occupied the waters below in their kayaks. As the ship approached early in the morning, activists on the bridge and in the waters put their bodies directly in the way of the ship’s path. The ship soon decided to turn around and head back to the dock as activists celebrated their temporary victory.
“This morning was quite the adventure. It felt really, really great to watch the Fennica turn around and go back to port,” Kristina Flores, a Greenpeace activist, told Democracy Now! “That was just a really great, great sign that we are winning, that we are strong, and when the people come together, we can win. And we will win.”
Soon, the Coast Guard, Oregon State Police, Portland Fire & Rescue and other government agencies arrived, shut down traffic on the bridge and in the waters, and attempted to break up the protest. Authorities began to cut the ropes connecting dangling protesters to each other and pull the kayaktivists out of the way. One kayaktivist even jumped out of his kayak, refused to get out of the water, got into a fight with a cop, and was arrested for “assaulting a public safety officer.”
Shell’s lawyers also asked a judge to fine Greenpeace $250,000 each day until the protest ended. The court found the group in contempt of court and ended up levying fines on them for their protest, starting at $2,500 an hour and going up to $10,000 an hour.
“We met with the climbers on the bridge. We really felt it was their decision, first and foremost,” Leonard said. “And we all decided to stay on the bridge, that saving the Arctic was worth more than the monetary value of the fine that they were imposing. So we stayed absolutely put there.”
Shell insists that they have no problem with the protests but are very worried about safety.
“We respect the rights of individuals and groups to express their opinion,” Shell Oil spokeswoman Megan Baldino told KGW. “All we ask is that they do so within the confines of the law and maintain safety as their first priority. Safety is paramount.”
Afterwards, a mix of intense heat and the police got some of the protesters to come down from the bridge and out of the waters. This soon created a gap in the activists’ blockade which was quickly taken advantage of by Shell’s ship. At around 6 p.m. that day, hours after their initial victory, Fennica, assisted and accompanied by police, weaved through the protesters and made its way toward the Arctic.
“The Fennica is now safely on its way to Alaska and will join Shell’s exploration fleet in the Chukchi Sea — where the Transocean Polar Pioneer commenced initial drilling operations at approximately 5:00 tonight AKDT,” Shell Oil told KGW in a statement.
Despite the ship making it through the blockade, Greenpeace activists managed to bring much attention to the issue as well as worsen Shell’s already-bad financial situation. The company announced that it would cutting 6,500 jobs because of poor second quarter earnings showing their profits have dropped by 33 percent since last year. Politicians like Portland’s mayor Charlie Hales and Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer also released statements denouncing the drilling in the Arctic.
The activists vowed to “double down” on their campaign against Arctic drilling and were encouraged by all the attention and support they received.
“People just came down by the scores to just fill the crowd. People were driving across the bridge, dropping off food and water for the climbers. We got emails of support from all around the world,” Leonard said. “I got messages from Argentina and Turkey, where people said that all around their offices and homes they were gathered around the TV watching this. I have never, in my 30 years of work as an environmental activist, seen this level of support coming in from locally and all around the world.”
What a lovely project! My head today is not responding. I’m about to talk to an estate agent about putting in an offer for our co-op to buy some land. My head space is definitely elsewhere!
Extracts from the new book, Popular Protest in Palestine, an important study of popular unarmed resistance to the Israeli occupation since the second intifada
'I'm sick of protesting this shit'
I’m suffering from end-of-term
Matthew Armstead reflects on the Charleston church massacre
It will be hard for young readers of PN to comprehend what living under the threat of aptly-named MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – was like, but believe me when I write that I didn’t e