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Across the US, activists shine light on Sandra Bland’s mysterious death

Waging Nonviolence -

by Ashoka Jegroo

The NYC Light Brigade and dozens of supporters gathered near the arch in Washington Square Park and held up Sandra Bland’s name. (WNV/Ashoka Jegroo)

In cities across the United States on July 29, the name of Sandra Bland, a woman whose mysterious death in police custody recently made headlines, could be seen bringing light to dark city nights.

The demonstrations were part of a nationwide action to remember Bland and bring attention to her death. Additionally, a petition by the nonprofit activist organization UltraViolet is soon to be delivered to the Department Of Justice and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, seeking a federal investigation into Bland’s death.

“There is going to be a massive petition tomorrow delivered to the Department of Justice demanding an investigation into [Sandra Bland’s] death and accountability for the officers who are responsible,” said Gan Golan, co-founder of the NYC Light Brigade and member of People’s Climate Arts. “And so this action was part of a multi-city action where there are light brigades all across the country going out tonight and spelling out in big lights ‘Say Her Name’ and ‘Sandra Bland’ and other messages like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Unite 4 Justice’ to help amplify this call for justice and accountability.”

Bland was found dead in a Waller County, Texas jail cell on July 13, three days after being arrested by Officer Brian Encinia during a stop for a minor traffic violation. Police claim that Bland hanged herself, but Bland’s family and many activists have expressed doubts that she would commit suicide and suspect a murder and cover-up by police. Bland had just moved back to Texas in order to start a new job on August 3 at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

When dashcam footage of Bland’s arrest was made public, activists also expressed outrage at how Officer Encinia treated Bland during the stop and the subsequent arrest, commanding her to put out her cigarette and pulling her out of her car when she refused to do so. The released footage also included many obvious visual glitches, such as images being repeated and cars randomly disappearing, which led to claims that the video was edited and leading to even more suspicion of the police story.

The case has since put a spotlight on many other suspicious deaths of people, particularly women of color, while in police custody. Bland’s advocacy and involvement with the Black Lives Matter movement has also galvanized many other members of the movement to put more focus on police violence committed against black women. But for most people following the case, the main question remains the same: What happened to Sandra Bland?

The NYC Light Brigade, as well as light brigades in Houston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other cities, joined up with UltraViolet to draft the petition to the DOJ.

“It’s important to come out for Sandra Bland because we have to name specific individuals,” said Athena Soules, co-founder of the NYC Light Brigade. “This is happening everywhere all the time. People of color are being mistreated by the cops, mistreated and murdered. So I believe the more we speak about specific people, the more we demand an investigation, the more progress can be made moving forward.”

But regardless of how Bland died, many activists still see the police as the ones responsible for her death.

“What happened tonight was a really moving vigil to honor the life of Sandra Bland and to call attention to the incredibly egregious and unjust death, and possible murder, of this innocent woman and to demand that there is actually accountability for the police who are responsible for this,” Golan said. “Whether she was murdered or whether she committed suicide, they are absolutely responsible for what happened to her.”

After the NYC Light Brigade and dozens of supporters gathered near the arch in Washington Square Park on Wednesday night, they held up Bland’s name and chanted “Say her name! Sandra Bland” and “Black lives matter!” Tourists and onlookers also crowded around and took pictures and discussed Bland’s case and the recent shooting of Sam DuBose by police in Cincinnati. New York City police monitored the vigil from a distance as people held up the letters of Bland’s name for as long as they could while speakers expressed their anger and sorrow over what happened to Bland. Whenever one person’s arms started getting weak, other supporters were always willing to step in and help hold up Bland’s name.

“As I like to say, it’s solidarity through light,” Souls said. “When people hold these letters, it shows that people are behind the messages. It’s not just a banner being hung. It’s people holding their arms high, getting tired because they believe in what they’re out here for.”

Taiwan: Students Storm & Occupy Ministry of Education Against China-Centric Curriculum

Revolution News -

Thousands of students in Taiwan have stormed and occupied the Ministry of Education to demand an end to the proposed implementation of a China-centric teaching curriculum tomorrow. (July 31) High School student Dai Lin (林冠華)the spokesperson for the Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance has committed suicide. Yesterday Lin was found dead in his room with a grill Read More

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Bosnia: Large worker protests against the new Labor Law

Revolution News -

*All times are Central European Time zone 15:00 – Workers have pierced the police cordon, one worker was injured in the minor clashes. In an attempt to show that they don’t want violence, workers are approaching the building with their hands up. Meanwhile, more backup for police came. In the center of the city, police is blocking occupying the main Read More

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UK denies Ai Weiwei full business visa based on disputed 'criminal' history

The Guardian | Protest -

British embassy officials say celebrated Chinese artist failed to declare his record on application – but supporters say he was never actually charged with a crime

Related: Ai Weiwei free to travel overseas again after China returns his passport

The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has accused British authorities of turning their backs on human rights defenders after UK immigration officials rejected his application for a six-month business visa, claiming he had not declared a criminal conviction in his home country.

#AiWeiwei's UK visa restriction based on trumped-up criminal charges is purely a kowtow to #XiJinping's London visit. OUTRAGEOUS!

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Charges Dropped for Pro-Palestine Protester Assaulted by Gardai

Revolution News -

In a shock ruling today Justice Coughlan dismissed charges against a protester who was badly assaulted by Gardaí at a pro-Palestinian protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Dublin Ireland. The protester John Rooney was dragged face first across a road and was being restrained by Gardaí (Irish police) while he had a severe epileptic fit. Read More

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Climbers in Portland Block Shell Oil’s Alaska-Bound Vessel

Revolution News -

Portland OR—26 climbers have formed a blockade off the St. John’s bridge and are prepared to delay Shell’s Arctic icebreaking vessel, the MSV Fennica, as it attempts to leave Portland on the Willamette River. The climbers have secured themselves in place suspended from the bridge with enough supplies to last for days. According to the Read More

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Hactivists aren’t terrorists – but US prosecutors make little distinction

Revolution News -

Adam Fish, Lancaster University and Luca Follis, Lancaster University Activists who use technology to conduct political dissent – hacktivists – are increasingly threatened with investigation, prosecution and often disproportionately severe criminal sentences. For example, in January 2015 self-proclaimed Anonymous spokesman Barrett Brown was sentenced to 63 months in prison for hacking-related activities including linking to Read More

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To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion

Waging Nonviolence -

by George Lakey

View image | gettyimages.com

When it comes to action, we are pulled by two tendencies that seem compatible but in practice are often in tension. We want our movements to be rational – that is, to strategize well, use resources efficiently, and stay nimble. Yet, on the other hand, we may also want the products of emotion: to experience solidarity, to let empathy connect us with those who haven’t joined us, and to tap the righteous anger that goes with caring about injustice.

In my lifetime social movements have increasingly turned to trainers to increase their learning curve and make actions more effective. However, a movement’s wish to draw on the power of both rationality and emotion poses a challenge for trainers, who are influenced by middle-class bias and traditional education. Class and the academy push trainers to privilege rationality and ignore the wellspring of emotion.

Fortunately, action reasserts the need for both, and training is learning to respond. The movement story in the United States shows the tension, and begins with the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

The civil rights movement didn’t solve this for everyone

The civil rights movement made more breakthroughs than today’s activists have yet caught up with, but that movement’s practice is not a complete answer for us today. I was a trainer in the civil rights movement and saw brilliant use of role play and other experiential tools for preparing to take on white segregationists and brutal police. The tools were helpful in bringing emotions like fear and anger to the surface and, by normalizing them, making them easier to manage.

The fullest positive use of emotion, however, was in the South where black church culture was strongest. Black preachers were experts in mobilizing what they called soul force for the nonviolent struggle, as we can see in the movie “Selma.”

That tradition is not so available for today’s movements, and experiments by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC, did not develop an integrated alternative to the preachers’ model. After the civil rights movement faded a few of its members joined others to form in 1971 the Movement for a New Society, or MNS.

In the early days we in MNS discovered “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” a breakthrough book by the best-known initiator of popular education, Brazilian educator Paolo Freire. Popular education takes sides in the class struggle and honors the wisdom of oppressed people, assisting them through dialogue to name their experience, connect the dots and encourage each other to take action. The tools reassure people who have been told they can’t think well, partly through the facilitator asking questions and showing respect, and partly through the experience of thinking out loud and noticing that others in the group are paying attention.

Our trainers enthusiastically used Freire’s approach, finding that it did elicit more fully the rationality of a group. When MNS combined popular education with the action training born in the civil rights movement, our trainers became in demand around the United States and elsewhere. MNS helped the nonviolent anti-nuclear power movement win its remarkable victory in the late 1970s.

However, a curious phenomenon began popping up in MNS workshops: emotional revolts of participants that most often were expressed at the facilitator team, but also at each other. The workshops’ empowerment tools focused on the rational dimension of the participants. In these mini-revolutions, the group’s emotional life was demanding more attention.

A group in Starhawk’s attic yearns for solidarity

The 1999 Battle of Seattle over corporate-led globalization led to a series of mass confrontations with power holders in the United States and elsewhere. Nonviolent trainers went from city to city, facilitating workshops at each convergence. After a few years, leading activist Starhawk and I called trainers together to take stock of how we were doing. We met in her attic in San Francisco.

Trainers reported multiple successes at working in the midst of chaos, as well as limitations. They also raised strategic questions about the value of mass confrontations that had no concrete or achievable goals.

We turned to skill-sharing, which was fun, and comparisons of analytical frameworks. Suddenly the amicable bunch of trainers turned crabby. We found fault with each others’ comments, but especially distrusted the person who happened, by rotation, to be occupying the facilitator’s chair at the time. Participants urged solutions to our unhappiness: “Let’s go into pairs.” “We need a break.” “We should never have left that earlier point of disagreement.” “Maybe a group song would help.”

Nothing worked. I was as lost as anyone while a storm raged within the group. The facilitator looked flattened. One of the participants lost it, dramatically. Then a respected group member expressed vulnerability. Suddenly, the sun came out, we hugged whoever was near us, we laughed and paused for tea.

Only then did I realize we’d experienced an emotional process that sometimes shows up in groups. We started with our “honeymoon” period when everyone was making nice, then began the raw conflict when people showed more of themselves while peacemakers tried the impossible: to find rational solutions to our pain. Finally, we experienced the breakthrough into community and became, to use organizational development jargon, a “high-performance team.”

I remembered that a group generates a storm when its members want to experience acceptance for the deeper layers of themselves, including differences that they have been, up until then, keeping under wraps. In short, they want closeness, because human beings happen to be social animals.

The rational model suggests that group members could state differences and negotiate common ground in order to gain the solidarity needed for action. True enough, for low-risk, low-stakes action. However, movements often have high stakes that require members to endure fatigue and high stress, execute detailed teamwork, take big risks and draw deep support from their comrades. Nearly everyone has seen this in movies, including sports and war movies, in which a team or platoon that includes members who could never get along back home have together gained a win.

Movements often state goals that require this level of struggle to achieve, and so attract participants who expect to find the support to “go there” — but do not find it. Middle-class control trumps effectiveness in those movements, having only its rationality to offer. In Starhawk’s attic those present would not have asked, in so many words, for that bonding — it would have seemed corny or naïve. Instead, we created it emotionally, by storming.

The good news is that facilitators can be trained to recognize the early signs of a storm brewing and techniques for supporting the storm when it comes. The bad news is that facilitators rarely seek that training, or the other techniques for assisting groups to access their unconscious resources. As with traditional education, popular education did not go there.

Trainers invent direct education to support solidarity-based action

The group of activists who founded Training for Change in the 1990s developed over time a training practice that could make the most of what happened in Starhawk’s attic, and harnessed other group dynamics that support empowered action. Training for Change trainers knew the tools of the civil rights movement and the popular education used by MNS, so we started there. However, we also turned to the resource of emotion, incorporating insights on group dynamics reflected in, among other places, Starhawk’s book “Dreaming the Dark” and psychologist Arnold Mindell’s book “Sitting in the Fire.” My book “Facilitating Group Learning” summarizes a decade of discoveries about both the rational and emotional life of the group, and shares methods that work best across many cultural boundaries. Significantly, this was the action training approach that attracted the widest range of groups, from religious organizations to anarchists to nonprofits to labor unions.

Direct education gets push-back from those who limit learning to the conscious, rational realm, including those who believe that social change happens through wielding abstract academic language like “code-switching” or “intersectionality.”

Our experience is that, when groups bring forth real-world conflicts in the training room, participants get the chance to go to a deeper place and experience the behaviors that abstract words were invented to represent. Supporting conflict in the moment even helps some participants to un-hook from the class-formed attachment to words and become more present to what’s really happening. Actions that flow from such a process are more likely to have an impact on the real world of injustice, because those actions come from experience rather than words.

But what about ‘triggers?’

Conflict-friendly pedagogy contradicts a current assumption in anti-oppression circles that the goal in, for example, achieving racial justice is protection. That assumption gives the facilitator the job of outlining rules to prevent conflict. In some classrooms professors are asked to give “trigger alerts” when material is coming that might in some way be experienced as oppressive.

I believe this trend is anti-liberation. It further empowers power holders, asking authorities (in this case, teachers) to take even more responsibility to monitor and control. It disempowers those who have suffered oppression, by assuming they can’t stand up for themselves when an insult appears. It excuses facilitators from the task of supporting participants to develop the muscles to fight for their own liberation.

The vision implicit in the current trend is to produce hot-house plants who can bloom only with shelter, called a “safe place.” That vision leaves me indignant: my gay and working-class self has grown in personal power in the real world where micro-aggressions abound. In fact, living in the real world helps motivate me to fight for broader change rather than retreat into yet another version of privilege where I will be insulated from the real world.

This well-meaning vision is, because of its classist roots, a version of the gated community.

Trauma survivors need and deserve support. Checking with the facilitator ahead of time might devise options that empower. Depending on the person’s own degree of healing, a particular workshop may or may not work for them. That may especially be true of train-the-trainer workshops, because new trainers need to unlearn reactivity and stay present with aggression that surfaces in a learning group.

The origin of direct education, with its roots in the civil rights movement and its use among oppressed groups that do stand up, insists on a distinction between safety and comfort. In a workshop the facilitator assists members of a group to be both safe and uncomfortable, because discomfort is where the greatest learning and growth are.

Needless to say, today’s movements need the steepest learning curve they can generate.

Activists chant Kendrick Lamar's Alright during police harassment protest

The Guardian | Protest -

The song, which was one of the standout tracks on the rapper’s To Pimp a Butterfly album, was used by activists during a protest at Cleveland State University where an officer pepper-sprayed the crowd

Activists at Cleveland State University repurposed a Kendrick Lamar track during a protest against police harassment, which saw an officer use pepper spray on a crowd.

Footage shows the group chanting the chorus to Lamar’s track Alright, which appeared on his most recent album To Pimp a Butterfly, as they stand off with police at the protest.

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Activists hang from bridge in Portland to block Shell's Arctic vessel

The Guardian | Protest -

Greenpeace climbers in Oregon city say they plan to spend days hanging from the bridge but Shell maintains the Fennica will be off after ‘final preparations’

A group of environmental activists rappelled off a bridge in Portland, Oregon, shortly before 3am PT, in a bid to block a key vessel in Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet leaving the city’s port.

Related: The new cold war: drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic

Climbers are waking up slowly from morning naps. The sun is warm but the wind off the water is a bit chilly. #ShellNo pic.twitter.com/QfmGpM6CD9

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Denver PD arrests Paul Castaway protesters, not the driver who hit them

Revolution News -

by Jesse Benn On July 20, 2015, demonstrators convened outside a hotel where Colorado police chiefs were staying during a conference in Denver. Among the group were family and friends of Paul Castaway, a Native American man who was recently killed by Denver police officer Mike Lee Traudt. The police had been called because Castaway Read More

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Finland Protests MP’s call for a “fight against the nightmare of multiculturalism”

Revolution News -

Around 15,000 citizens protested today in Helsinki, Finland, after a right-wing politician’s comments that multiculturalism is “a nightmare”. The protests were called “We have a dream”, apparently after the famous speech of Martin Luther King Jr., and similar, but smaller protests were held in other cities across the country. The event was supported by a Read More

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Grand Jury Indicts Officer for the Murder of #SamDubose – video

Revolution News -

BREAKING UPDATES: Grand Jury decision is a Murder Indictment for officer who killed Sam Dubose. Prosecution to seek life in prison. Prosecutor: “This is the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer commit.” Described the act as senseless, uncalled for, should have never been a cop, lost his temper and shot him in Read More

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Anti-abortion activists rally across US as third video targets Planned Parenthood

The Guardian | Protest -

Presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ben Carson join protesters at US Capitol calling for organization’s defunding – but poll suggests most Americans disagree

The group behind two anti-abortion videos targeting Planned Parenthood has released a third video, continuing a two-week campaign that has seen renewed calls to defund the healthcare organization as well as several state and congressional inquiries.

Planned Parenthood was forced on the defensive after the release of the first of three undercover videos two weeks ago showed an official with the organization discussing the legal but controversial practice of donating fetal tissue for medical research. The organization has forcefully and repeatedly denied that it profits from the practice, saying the videos have been heavily edited and taken out of context.

Related: The anti-Planned Parenthood videos fail to make a case against abortion | Scott Lemieux

Related: The Planned Parenthood 'sting' video's first casualty? Women with breast cancer | Kira Goldenberg

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Historically critical speech not televised by Penguin Media in Turkey

Revolution News -

We are breaking the censure by penguin media CNN Türk, NTV, Habertürk. Here is the historically critical speech and headlines from HDP secretary Demirtaş’ speech today, after Turkish President Erdogan’s statement that the “peace process cannot continue”, suggesting “some of HDP’s parliament members’ immunity be revoked”. It is a historical moment in Turkish politics because Read More

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Communities struggling against mining win major victory in Guatemala

Waging Nonviolence -

by Jeff Abbott

The victory was celebrated with a piñata of Darth Vader holding a sign with the name of the mine, which was enjoyed by both children and adults. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

For three years the communities of San Jose del Golfo and San Pedro Ayampuc have struggled against the construction of a gold mine in their communities. The La Puya resistance has maintained their opposition in the face of criminalization and violence, but they have finally won a major victory.

On July 15, Judge Angelica Noemi Tellez Hernandez, an appeals court judge, ruled in favor of the nonviolent community resistance. The judge ordered Kappes, Cassiday & Associates, or KCA, to suspend the construction of all infrastructure projects at their El Tambor mine outside San Jose del Golfo.

She found that the company was operating illegally, because it had failed to perform a proper consultation of the communities affected by the project, and that they had failed to obtain any permits for the projects. She ordered that they had 15 days to cease all projects at the mining site, and requires the municipality to take steps to ensure the end of construction of infrastructure.

The mining firm’s lawyers argued that they had obtained the proper permits, and that a consultation had occurred. But the judge saw through the firm’s bluff.

For the communities, the court’s decision gives them further energy to continue in their struggle to defend their water and environment.

“There has been a lot of struggle and pain,” said Antonio Rez, a member of the La Puya resistance. “Now we are never going to stop.”

The band Los Acordes de la Resistencia, which came out of the resistance, preformed for supporters and other members of the resistance. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

Following the court’s decision, the community and their supporters held a celebration organized by the Guatemala City based collective Festivales Solidarios, complete with piñatas and live music at the community’s permanent encampment at the entrance to the mine. It was a festive atmosphere as members of the peaceful resistance opened up their space to visitors and musicians from across Guatemala, Nicaragua, Canada, Venezuela and the United States.

“We knew we had a social reason to struggle, and an environmental reason,” Rez said. “But now, a judge has said that we are justified in protesting peacefully.”

The communities of El Carrizal and El Guapinol first filled the case in October 2014. The suit claimed that the government had failed to act in the interests of the communities by failing to hold a public referendum on the mining project, as is required by both national and international law.

During the case, the communities found an unlikely ally in the Public Ministry, which argued that the mining firm had violated the law with its project, and that the communities were right in their resistance.

The Tambor mine is easy to see from a hill just a short walk from the La Puya encampment. (WNV/Jeff Abbott)

The court’s decision is also a major victory for communities across Guatemala, which have called for the Guatemalan government to respect and comply with the requirements of public consultations prior to any mega-project as required by their constitution and the International Labor Organizations’ Convention 169 on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

Since 2007, communities across Guatemala have held over 75 community-wide consultations on projects such as mining and hydroelectric dams. In every consultation, communities have overwhelmingly rejected any extractive project on their land.

This decision confirms the community’s right to prior consultation over projects, and orders KCA and the municipality to hold a proper consultation in good faith with communities affected by the Tambor mine.

The mining firm is expected to appeal the decision.

Since March 2012, the communities around the Progreso VII El Tambor mining site, which is owned by the United States mining firm KCA, have maintained a permanent, nonviolent, presence at the entrance of the mine. Communities fear that the mine will pollute their water and land.

The La Puya resistance has gained international recognition for their dedication to nonviolence. The community regularly welcomes supporters to their encampment to share with them their story.

Yolanda Oquelí stands in between the Guatemalan National Police and the entrance of the mine as the mining firm KCA arrives with machinery for the El Tambor mine on May 23, 2014. (Guatemalan Human Rights Commission)

In May 2014, the peaceful resistance was violently evicted by anti-riot police who were deployed by the Ministry of the Interior to ensure the arrival of construction equipment to the mine. Police were swinging batons and engulfed the encampment in tear gas as the company entered the mining site with their construction equipment. The community reclaimed their encampment the following day, but they have been under the observation of ever-present police since.

International supporters have launched a petition following the decision. The petition, which was organized by the Washington, D.C.-based, Guatemala Human Rights Commission, demands that the mining firm suspend their illegal operations at the El Tambor mine.

Rez and other members of La Puya resistance have stated their intention to maintain their presence at the entrance of the mine, and continue their defense of the environment. They’ve stated that they are planning new actions, but were unwilling to go into further detail.

Kurdish Solidarity Rallies Against Turkish Aggression and Suruç Massacre

Revolution News -

Turkish Kurdistan has been on fire over the past few days, as Kurds and members of the PKK have fiercely resisted violence from the Turkish state all over Kurdistan. Protesters prepare to throw a molotov cocktail from a rooftop during clashes with Erdogan’s dictatorship tools in Istanbul. #Freedom #LibertyLions Posted by Liberty Lions on Monday, July Read More

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