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Angus Taylor faces questions over grasslands meeting – question time live

The Guardian | Protest -

Terri Butler questions energy minister over meeting with environment department. Plus Labor to back government’s proposed agricultural protection laws targeting vegan activists. All the day’s news, live

5.55am BST

Tony Burke to Angus Taylor:

Can the minister confirm that so far he’s told the House he was representing an unknown number of unnamed farmers inside and outside his electorate, who wrote a letter to someone else three years before the meeting, someone who wrote a letter to another someone else six months after the meeting and the mysterious bloke from Yass.

5.51am BST

Please sign Melissa McIntosh up for the same microphone lessons Josh Frydenberg needs.

5.51am BST

Christian Porter tries to stop the question, but Tony Smith allows it.

Angus Taylor:

5.48am BST

Terri Butler to Angus Taylor:

I refer the minister to his previous answer. Can the minister confirm he has been representing himself on the grasslands all along and told ABC radio Illawarra on 26 July that one of the landholders is me and ‘I make absolutely no apologies for standing up for farmers in my region, that includes me.”

5.44am BST

A Dan Tehan lickspittle interrupts where we are going with this.

5.44am BST

Terri Butler to Angus Taylor:

My question is to the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Does the minister stand by his claim in the House that he intervened in the grasslands matter in the interests of his constituents?

Of course, yes. Yes. Yes, I always act in the interests of my constituents.

5.43am BST

Oh, in news that will surprise no one, especially women, Josh Frydenberg has acknowledged that the gender pay gap has not closed, as he asserted on Monday.

He said it is at a record low. That’s about 14%.

5.40am BST

We get a bit of back and forth, but the question is allowed.

Angus Taylor:

I’ve been clear that my indirect interest in the delegate farm was declared to the Parliament in accordance with the rules.

Now, I have always been clear that the discussions with the respect were to focus on the technical aspects of the revised listing and they did. And I advised the then minister of the compliance matter and the need to avoid any discussion of the matter.

5.36am BST

Terri Butler to Angus Taylor:

I refer to the minister’s previous answer in which he claimed he had declared his junior in Jam Land according to the rules. How does the minister explain on FOI decision by his department on 23 August 2019 and the answer to a question on notice from his department also dated August 2019 which state it has no record of any declaration by the minister.

5.35am BST

Has someone told Josh Frydenberg that the Liberals won the election yet?

Could someone get around to that, right after they show him how a microphone works? Perhaps with charades? Or an interpretative dance?

5.33am BST

For an example on how these questions should actually work, here is the question from Rebekha Sharkie:

In April this year the government announced funding to equip every men’s shed with a portable defibrillator. There are over 900 men sheds in Australia and more than a dozen are in my electorate, including one eagerly awaiting the rollout. Could the minister please provide the House an accurate time line on when the government will make good on the promise to ensure that every men’s shed has this vital piece of life-saving equipment installed?

...We recently announced $11m for the men’s shed program that included an expansion of men’s sheds. It also includes additional support for existing men’s sheds and $2m for the men’s shed defibrillator program.

My department is currently carrying out a survey of needs around the country. We expect that to be completed over the course of the coming months, and my request of them and my confident prediction to the House is that we will have these defibrillators rolling out early in the New Year. I would like to pass on my thanks to those in the Yankalola men’s shed.

5.31am BST

James Stevens, the new Christopher Pyne takes the lead in Lickspittle of the day.


5.30am BST

Linda Burney to Scott Morrison:

My question is to the prime minister. Only months ago the government promised that a million pensioners will get an $800 bonus from changes to deeming rates. Can you confirm that only 191 pensioner couples will receive $800. How can the prime minister explain this broken promise?

I thank the member for Barton for her question. I can confirm that under these new deeming rates affected pensioners will receive up to $40.50 extra a fortnight for couples, which is above $1,000.

And up to $31 extra a fortnight for singles, that is $804.

5.26am BST

From that brief moment of togetherness, we go back into questions on the economy.

Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg:

I thank the member for Rankin for his question. I can confirm to the House that the wages price index, which is the for wages growth, grew by 2.3 per cent for the year. This was just behind our budget forecast of 2.5 per cent.

But, importantly, the wages bill for the economy, the wages bill for the economy, was 4.5 per cent for 2018-19. Which was above our budget forecast of 4.25 per cent. Now, Mr Speaker, the member for Rankin should be aware that wages growth fell by 1.6 per cent under Labor Party, Mr Speaker.”

5.24am BST

Anthony Albanese on that same question:

I associate Labor with all of the comments of the prime minister on this very important day, and I say that we support all of the government’s initiatives in this regard and stand ready to support in a bipartisan way any further initiatives that are needed to rid this scourge from our society.”

5.23am BST

Julian Leeser gets the first dixer.

I note that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Will the Prime Minister please update the House about how the Morrison government is investing in improving the mental health of Australians and suicide prevention?

5.17am BST

OK. We are into the questions.

Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison on.......

So whether it’s the Setka sit in, in Victoria, the walkout of WA factions in Western Australia, the corruption we’re seeing in the New South Wales Labor Party, the Leader of the Opposition is presiding over a party that is chaos and confusion and even corruption, Mr Speaker.

5.13am BST

There was a baby Tasmanian Devil in parliament and no one told me.

5.07am BST

Over in the Senate and it looks like the government have adopted some Greens amendments, but forward by Mehreen Faruqi, on a live export bill.

The amendments insert a much needed focus on animal welfare into the bill, which had previously not been mentioned at all,” Faruqi said.

The amendments change the objects of the Act to introduce a requirement to consider animal welfare and amend clause 10 of the bill to specifically provide that the Inspector-General must consider the welfare of animals as part of their reviews.

Before they got on board with my changes, the bill didn’t have a single reference to animal welfare. Under this Government, any improvement to animal welfare is a hard-fought step forward.

5.03am BST

But first we start with a condolence motion for Jim Forbes – the last surviving minister from the Menzies government.

4.49am BST

It is the downhill stretch to question time. Will the Lickspittles (dixer questions) be as terrible as we have come to expect?

Time will tell.

4.33am BST

For the people up the back, who missed the post a few weeks (months, who can say) ago – James Ashby’s ban on entering parliament has expired and he has been back in the building for some time.

4.17am BST

Here is what Anne Rushton had to say on how many people the government estimates would need the $65,000 rehabilitation support it is putting forward as part of its push to have its drug testing welfare recipient bill passed:

In estimating how we put that package together we estimate between two and 3% of the 5,000 people tested are likely to fail the second test, or test positive for the second test.

We hope it is lower than that, that is what we have estimated. And estimating that number, we decided to set aside an amount of money that we thought was more than adequate, probably generous, to be able to provide the services for those two or 3%.

Provide the individualised service to the individual who tested positive the second time so we can case manage them individually. As we know everybody presents in a different way and will require a different set of services. Some require a small amount of intervention, others may take quite a long time.

The second area is to make sure we have the resources to be able to provide to the providers within these regions, so if they need to beef up their facilities and resources to meet an increase in demand, they will be able to do that.

4.09am BST

I probably should have put this up earlier, but following on from Labor’s attack this week, that the government needs to stop looking at ways to wedge Labor and run the country, Graham Perrett came up with a new term last night during one of the debates:

I rise to speak on the fair work laws amendment (proper use of worker benefits) bill 2019. It is yet another Orwellian nomenclature from the ministry of truth opposite – unbelievable! This isn’t legislation; this is “wedgislation”.

I mean, fair dinkum, we’ve dealt with this before, yet here it is back again. What do we have? We have a government focused on union bashing – that’s their favourite pastime – rather than actually looking after the national economy and the best interests of the nation. Those opposite don’t care about the terrible conditions that employees have to put up with. No, they’re trying to wrap the representatives of working Australians in red tape so that they can’t actually do their job.

4.05am BST

Social Services Minister Anne Ruston says she expects around 500 recipients to test positive initially for illicit substances as part of the 5000-strong trial. She expects only 1 - 2% of the total number will test positive a second time and be referred for treatment. #auspol

3.46am BST

Equality Australia and Democracy in Colour have presented a petition to shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus and Greens senator Janet Rice calling for a fair and balanced religious discrimination law, after backlash against the Coalition’s exposure draft bill.

The Greens are clear they can’t support the current bill but Dreyfus avoided expressing a personal opinion:

This is an exposure draft ... It’s far too early to adopt a definitive position in respect of any of this bill simply because it’s not clear that the government will be proceeding with what’s in the exposure draft. In fact if you listen carefully to things the attorney general has said publicly about this, I think it seems highly likely the government is contemplating a change ... we will wait and see what the government finally presents to parliament, when that occurs.”

3.42am BST

Labor MPs have decided to back the government’s new agricultural protection bill - known as the “vegan terrorists” bill – despite three MPs speaking against it.

Kim Carr was the most vocal opponent, raising concerns about the party “capitulating” to the government.

3.24am BST

The Intelligence and Security Committee have determined what is a terrorist organisation for this point in 2019. From its statement:

The Intelligence and Security Committee today tabled its report supporting regulations listing and re-listing groups, such as Islamic State-Somalia, as terrorist organisations under the criminal code.

The committee reviewed the process for listing terrorist organisations and the information provided to the minister for home affairs in support of regulations affecting the listings, which must demonstrate that, each group:

The committee’s report, review of the listing of Islamic State-Somalia and the re-listing of Abu Sayyaf Group, al-Qa’ida, al-Qa’ida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Jemaah Islamiyah as terrorist organisations under the criminal code, asserts that appropriate processes had been followed in the listing of these groups and that each group meets the definition of a terrorist organisation under the criminal code.

The committee’s chair, Mr Andrew Hastie MP, said the PJCIS had an important role in the oversight of terrorist organisation listings, as individuals whom engage with listed organisations may be charged with serious offences including: being a member of a terrorist organisation, recruiting on behalf of a terrorist organisation, or getting funds to or from a terrorist organisation.

3.12am BST

Andrew Leigh has responded to Ken Henry’s comments (unsurprisingly, since they go to Labor’s current attack on the government in regards to the economy).

Ken Henry’s excoriating views on the state of public policy today reflect the Morrison government’s rudderless drift. The Morrison government is the dog that caught the car, and doesn’t know what to do next. Australia faces massive challenges – from inequality to productivity, climate change to wage stagnation – and yet the fresh thinking that used to characterise policymaking is sadly lacking from the Coalition.”

3.07am BST

Former Treasury boss Ken Henry has had a few things to say, according to this report from the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age’s Shane Wright:

Australian politicians are failing the nation by ignoring the advice of experts, former Treasury secretary Ken Henry has claimed, warning large numbers of people could miss out on a job because of their deliberate ignorance.

In excoriating comments to a small gathering of MPs and social scientists in Canberra on Tuesday, Dr Henry said governments were claiming success for policies that had not fixed the problem they were developed to confront.

3.04am BST

Jacqui Lambie has responded to Pauline Hanson’s comments from a little earlier today (Hanson questioned why Lambie would reject the government’s welfare drug-testing proposal, given her family’s personal experience with drug addiction).

My son is an example of what happens when you have access to the support & rehab services you need. 500K Aussies don't have access to those services. My son has moved on from the past, he can thank his 18 mths @teenchallenge in Toowoomba & the people of QLD for that.#auspol

2.58am BST

The parliamentary bells are ringing, meaning the official proceedings are about to get under way.

2.43am BST

The parties have met for their regular meetings and have all emerged.

We’ll let you know what went on when we hear more. Doesn’t seem to have been too much drama in the joint party room, beyond “how good is [insert noun here]”.

2.13am BST

Going back through the Pauline Hanson interview with Sky News and the One Nation leader seems to get a bit personal here, with her critique of Jacqui Lambie’s rejection of the drug-testing policy.

Lambie has been open about her son’s battles with drug addiction and what that did to their family. That’s also given her a first-hand experience with drug rehabilitation services, and said that has guided her – that she knows, for instance, that people needing rehabilitation in Tasmania are sent out of state, because the services are just not there.

Senator @PaulineHansonOz wants a 'Please Explain' from @JacquiLambie as to why she's opposing the drug testing welfare recipients bill: "her child has been on drugs why you would knock back something that could possibly help... who’s got in her ear?" #7NEWS #auspol

1.37am BST

Ask and you shall receive – George Brandis is in town, because all the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade heads of mission are in town, for the annual “how is the world going” meeting.

1.27am BST

George Brandis has been spotted in the building.

We are not sure why our man in London is here, but no doubt it is all very terribly important.

1.18am BST

Pauline Hanson is speaking to Sky News about a speech she is giving on family law reform, where she is calling for 50/50 joint custody of children, from the moment of separation.

1.10am BST

Anthony Albanese on the drug-testing proposal, while talking to Sky this morning:

Well of course funding for rehabilitation is a good thing in its own right and on its own merits. The question here is does what the government propose have merit? When we look at the examples that have been given, both the audit office examination of what has occurred here, the examples in New Zealand where the figures show less than 1% of people who have been tested, it’s been pretty ineffective at a high cost.

And the real question here is how is it that the government – prime minister Morrison gave a speech on the weekend where he spoke about this fortnight’s parliament being all about a test for Labor – how about the government govern? How about they come up with an economic plan rather than just political tactics from day to day?

Related: The Coalition want to drug test welfare recipients. Here's why experts think it's a bad idea

1.01am BST

Samantha Maiden at the New Daily has an interesting story this morning:

It was billed as an $800 aged bonus, with a million pensioners promised a cash splash under prime minister Scott Morrison’s deeming rate change.

But documents released under freedom of information laws to the New Daily have revealed that seniors will secure just $5 a week on average for singles.

12.46am BST

And from Lorena Allam:

Labor’s Linda Burney is demanding the federal government take steps to sort out what she has described as a “secret agreement” that controls the use of the Aboriginal flag in public, because it is now unclear whether her own tattoo of the flag is a breach of copyright.

“This situation is untenable,” Burney said. “It’s unthinkable that the use of the Aboriginal flag is now governed by a secret agreement at the discretion of a for-profit company.

Related: Linda Burney demands government sort out Aboriginal flag 'secret agreement'

12.45am BST

Also from Paul Karp:

Labor has ridden to the defence of the Coalition’s $1.2bn Catholic and independent school package it formerly labelled a “slush fund” after the Greens revealed a plan to shut it down.

Guardian Australia understands Labor will not support the Greens’ move to disallow the “choice and affordability” fund, with the shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, instead welcoming the fact the Morrison government has restored funding for Catholic and independent schools.

Related: Labor defends $1.2bn private school package it previously called a 'slush fund'

12.44am BST

In the meantime, here are a few stories you may have missed. From Paul Karp:

Australians rorting a scheme designed to allow travellers to claim back the goods and services tax have cost the budget up to $557m over 20 years, according to the audit office.

In a scathing audit report released on Monday, the home affairs department and tax office were blamed for failing to undertake risk assessments and implementing only “limited systems” to prevent revenue leakage.

Related: Up to $557m in GST lost as Australians rort traveller rebate scheme

12.43am BST

It’s the usual party room/caucus quiet before the storm this morning.

Lucky, we have the latest Brexit insanity to keep us busy

12.15am BST

Reading through the Hansard from last night, and Liberal MP Ian Goodenough made a very Ian Goodenough speech about religious freedom, which seemed to actually speak about Indigenous recognition, and for some reason, the flag:

Looking to the future, I believe that all Australians should become more united through reconciliation and multiculturalism. Australians should all be united as one people under one flag, regardless of origins and history.

I strongly belief in the principle of flying one national flag of national unity, under the banner of the Australian flag. Indigenous Australians, new migrants and people from different ethnic backgrounds, and persons born in Australia should all be treated equally, with access to opportunity and advancement based on merit.

12.02am BST

The drought is about to bite even harder for people who live outside of drought-impacted zones – food prices are about to increase, if you read between the lines of the latest Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science statement into crop production:

“Winter crop production is forecast to rise by 11 percent in 2019–20 to 33.9 million tonnes but falls short of the 10-year average to 2018-19 by 16 percent,” Abares acting Executive Director Peter Gooday said.

11.49pm BST

Jim Chalmers stopped by doors this morning (which meant he had been tapped to deliver this morning’s missives).

He responded to Scott Morrison’s calls for Labor to support the drug testing trial policy:

The prime minister last night on 7.30 said that he couldn’t understand why people were resisting these drug testing trials. I mean, how out of touch can this guy be? It might be a 60-year-old trying to get back in the workforce for a long time, maybe having lost your job as a 50-year-old. The prime minister now wants you to pee in a cup in a demeaning way as a part of his picking fights with the Labor party. I mean this is – what he’s proposing here hasn’t worked overseas. It won’t work here. It is indiscriminate. It’s ineffective. It unnecessarily demeans people when they’re trying to get back in the workforce and the health experts, the law and order experts, experts right across the board, have criticised this approach.

That’s why I question the government’s motives here, its motivations. This, for the government, is not about getting people off drugs, or off welfare into work; it’s about chasing headlines, it’s about picking fights with the Labor party and I think people who are unemployed in this country deserve a government which actually cares about getting them into work, and prioritises that over these kind of political games.

11.42pm BST

This always makes for some great shots (insert puns about parliamentarians and endangered animals here).

Australia’s political leaders will come face to face with some of Australia’s most endangered native animals at Parliament House in Canberra today, to mark National Threatened Species Day.

11.29pm BST

Jacqui Lambie all but quashed the government’s hopes of passing its revived drug testing policy yesterday when she said she would not support it until she saw proper rehabilitation services put in place. Scott Morrison says his government will be talking to all the senators about the bill, including Lambie, but he says: “The question is, why won’t Labor support, a fair dinkum trial to try to actually try and deal with one of the biggest challenges we have which is to try and help people break addictions, and find themselves in employment and actually change their lives for the better.”

11.26pm BST

Scott Morrison, who just attended to suicide prevention breakfast, has stopped by for a doorstop.

Asked about criticisms that extending the cashless debit card program to more welfare recipients further stigmatises those on welfare, Morrison says “I don’t accept that” and moves on to the next question.

11.20pm BST

Not news, but for those of you who like to be in the know about this sort of stuff, Mathias Cormann and Peter Dutton, who famously walk together most parliamentary mornings, have switched from walking along Red Hill to walking along the lake.

It’s been noted no less than three times to me this morning. No idea why the location change, but there you go.

11.16pm BST

Anthony Albanese is chatting to Laura Jayes on Sky this morning.

It looks as though Labor will be continuing the attack we saw yesterday – that the government concentrates on “wedging” Labor instead of actually coming up with a plan.

10.57pm BST

We’ve woken this morning to more bad news on the fire front in Queensland and NSW, with more homes lost.

Meanwhile, the annual Climate of the Nation report is out, and people are more concerned with the impacts of climate change than ever before. From Katharine Murphy’s report:

The annual Climate of the Nation survey, which has been tracking Australian attitudes to climate change for more than a decade, finds concern about droughts and flooding has risen from 74% of the survey in 2017 to 81% in 2019.

Concern about climate-related extinctions – an issue highlighted dramatically in May when a major scientific report warned that a million species across the world faced extinction – has risen from 71% in 2017 to 78% in the 2019 survey, while concern about water shortages, an issue front of mind as a consequence of Australia’s prolonged drought, has increased from 67% to 78%.

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While Britain’s Parliament is suspended, its arms fair is open for business

Waging Nonviolence -

Activists with Trident Ploughshares and Extinction Rebellion used a boat to shut down a road in London last week, preventing arms dealers from reaching the DSEI fair. (Twitter/@CNDuk)

In any other week, the arrival of the world’s largest arms fair to Britain would have been big news. Thirty-six thousand people are expected to attend the Defense and Security Equipment International fair, which opens on Tuesday. More than 10 percent of the governments on the official invite list are recognized by the U.K. government as having seriously problematic human rights records. Among them are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel and — until they withdrew their delegation — Hong Kong.

But this hasn’t been an ordinary week. United by the decision to suspend Parliament — a move that was labelled by opponents as an attempted coup — MPs used their remaining few days together to pass legislation designed to impede a “no deal” exit from the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s threat to sack politicians of his own party who supported the measure backfired when Parliament also refused an immediate election, leaving Johnson stranded without a majority.

Previous Coverage
  • Broad coalition escalates campaign against London arms fair
  • While the tanks on the streets en route to the fair might not have received much media coverage, the new prime minister’s misogynist-militarist language has. It began when he branded supporters of the law discouraging “no deal” a “surrender bill.” It was then revealed that in cabinet papers he had called former Prime Minister David Cameron a “girly swot” and — while sitting in Parliament — decided to goad opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn by calling him a “big girl’s blouse.”

    These jibes might seem a long way from the tanks and guns of war, but the peace movement has long pointed out the link between toxic masculinity (especially hetero-masculinity) and militarism. In the school yard where male status has been typically defined by willingness to engage in fighting, and boys who refuse to inflict pain on others have been called “girl” or “faggot.” This is the start of socialization to a world in which most of the world’s soldiers are men, as are the majority of the politicians who send them to war. Meanwhile it is often women who are the worst affected by armed conflict.

    Previous Coverage
  • Court victory gives momentum to long struggle against London arms fair
  • In pursuit of a more peaceful world, seven consecutive days of protests have disrupted deliveries to the exhibition center where the arms fair is held. Peaceful sit down protests in the road have led to more than 100 arrests with hundreds more taking part. A notable aspect of the organization of the actions is an emphasis on co-operation, welfare and mutual support.

    The borough council for the area where the arms fair happens has voted to do all it can to stop the arms fair from returning. In perhaps the most high profile intervention, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called the fair “abhorrent” and said he too will take any opportunity available to prevent the arms fair in future. Maleness and militarism don’t need to go together.

    It is cruelly symbolic that even as the prime minister closes the doors on Parliament, his government opens the doors of the arms fair. By its presence though, the peace movement has shown that there’s a different way of doing things waiting at the gate.

    The London arms fair is an inexcusable disgrace – it’s a stain on the nation | Simon Jenkins

    The Guardian | Protest -

    British-made weapons fuel violence around the world – much of it perpetrated by repressive regimes. It must stop

    This week’s London arms market – decorously called a “fair” – is a national disgrace and the protesters currently calling attention to it are right. It is a shameless marketplace for global death and destruction, vitiating any work done by British diplomacy in support of a more peaceful world.

    The best apology the government can offer is that it “supports jobs”. The same line of argument applies to membership of the EU – and yet the government doesn’t support that job supporting measure.

    Related: Britain is behind the slaughter in Yemen. Here's how you could help end it | David Wearing

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    Hong Kong journalists warn of rising police violence against them

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Reporters covering protests say officers using pepper spray and teargas, among other abuses

    Journalists covering the protests in Hong Kong are experiencing increasing violence at the hands of the police, according to media groups and first-hand accounts from reporters.

    A range of abuses have been reported, including being shoved and indiscriminately hit with pepper spray or teargas by officers, prompting the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club to renew calls for an independent investigation.

    The complete withdrawal of the proposed extradition bill

    Related: Hong Kong's Carrie Lam vows to use 'stern law enforcement' to stamp out protests

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    West Papua: police investigate as bags of snakes thrown into student dormitory

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Masked motorcycle riders pull up around 4am at East Java building that has been the target of protests

    Indonesian police are investigating allegations of masked motorcycle riders throwing bags of snakes into a West Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya and “deliberately spreading terror”.

    The hostel was the site of anti-Papua protests last month, which then sparked rolling and often violent protests across Indonesia, including in the Papuan province.

    Related: West Papua students 'shot by militias' as video of soldiers firing on crowds emerges

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    Human rights groups protest as world arms fair returns to London

    The Guardian | Protest -

    At least 116 demonstrators have been arrested ahead of controversial trade show

    Europe’s biggest arms fair begins in London’s Docklands on Tuesday with 35,000 delegates and exhibitors expected to descend on the Excel centre for the controversial biennial trade show, which has become a focus for protestors.

    At least 116 people have been arrested for offences including aggravated trespass and obstruction of the highway in the past week near the convention centre, but regardless of their opposition, the DSEI event has increased in size by 7%, helped by the unwavering support of British cabinet ministers and senior officials.

    Related: DSEI weapons fair: authoritarian regimes descend on London

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    Hong Kong protesters gather in shopping district and vandalise rail station – video

    The Guardian | Protest -

    Riot police clashed with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, in an area crowded with banks, jewellery shops and luxury shopping arcades, which became littered by graffiti, broken glass and bricks torn up from pathways. Protesters started street fires and vandalised the district's MTR station

    Continue reading...

    Amsterdam: Pretoriusstraat 89hs resquatted

    House Occupation News -

    Today 8 september 2019, Pretoriusstraat 89 ground floor has been resquatted. Owner is the family van Zijl from Wilnis, known as infamous real estate speculators in Amsterdam. Until 2013, the building has been used by several butcheries. After, it stood empty for a few years until it was squatted in February 2016. The squatters had to leave in 2018, because the owner wanted to renovate the neglected building and convert its function to living. Since then, not much has happened, the floor is empty and stripped, draughts and rain further damage the property.

    The van Zijl family is known for its speculative real estate business, which is conducted through vacancy and neglect. Harry van Zijl, has been called the “Amsterdam King of the Slums”. His son, who takes over the company with a portfolio of more than 80 properties in Amsterdam, employs the same strategy. The more neglected a building, the easier it is to obtain different permits, for example converting its function. The longer it takes, the more it pays off. The housing shortage is not a social problem, but an opportunity for enrichment. That is why many of their houses have been squatted and re-squatted over the years.

    For example, Café Van Belle on Mosplein 26 in Amsterdam Noord, which was squatted in August 2014. Also here the squatters had to leave in 2018, because renovations were about to start. However, this property remained empty, until it was sold in July 2018 for 3 million euros. Another speculative object of the family van Zijl is Marnixstraat 388, which was squatted at least three times between 1982 and 2017. The last time squatters entered, the house was completely renovated and separated into five independent apartments. But no one was living in these typical Airbnb apartments.

    The government is talking about a new law against squatting, while vacancies, precarious contracts without legal protection and property speculation by investors only increase. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, and that’s why we are taking action!

    Some squats in the Netherlands:
    Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands:
    Events in the Netherlands:

    Amsterdam: “Free” Space and Squatting. No More Caged Chickens

    House Occupation News -

    Free Space Now. The slogan of ADEV in 2018 – an annual street rave organised by squatters and artists in the city of Amsterdam. The slogan refers to a lobbying initiative called the Free Spaces Accord (vrijplaatsenakkord). Inspired by the looming eviction of the ADM and by the new ruling coalition of the municipality’s rhetoric in support of counter-culture, the stated aim of the Accord is twofold: the legitimisation of existing Free Spaces (vrijplaatsen) and the stimulation of new Free Spaces.

    The initiative emerges from an influential part of the Amsterdam squatting movement. This loosely defined faction, which includes the ADEV organisation, the Free Spaces Accord, parts of the ADM community, and many legalised squats, believes in integration with the city, rather than attempting to oppose the authoritarian power structures and the social degradation they are responsible for.

    This faction campaigns for “the fringes”, hoping to secure a few buildings where a small minority (elite groups?) of artists and “free thinkers” can escape the rat race and be “free”. Only then, the argument continues, can such people make a contribution to the city and – according to one end of the faction’s political spectrum – to capitalism and wealth creation.

    It is telling that the narrow, questionable interests represented by the free spaces faction would choose a slogan – ‘Free Space Now’ – that reflects an individualism and lack of political substance that would not be out of place in an ad for the latest pair of Nikes. They represent a tendency within the Amsterdam squatting movement towards political incoherence and submission (in some cases with pleasure) to cooptation and repression.

    But the Free Spaces Accord/ADEV organisation are not alone in expressing such sentiments. They are commonplace (though by no means universal) in the Amsterdam squatting scene. So the first question is this: How did the Amsterdam squatters’ movement become largely reduced to a pressure group lobbying for more publicly subsidised, semi-commercial spaces for artists and their followers?

    Divide and Conquer

    In 1999, the city of Amsterdam introduced the breeding grounds (broedplaats) policy.
    The primary focus of the policy was to create workspaces for artists and cultural entrepreneurs. Specially designed to encourage creative industries, the city viewed the policy as a way of making the city ‘vibrant’ – urban planner marketing speak for ‘profitable’.

    The city probably didn’t make the decision to divide and co-opt the squatting scene consciously – at least not all the people involved – but it made sense to them. It fitted into their understanding of the world. It appeared to be logical. And that’s because they are a part of the state, and so their interests are the state’s interests, and the state doesn’t accept opposition.

    The breeding grounds concept offered the city a way to exploit the squatting movement for its own ends: principally, to facilitate the growth of creative, or cultural industries, but also as a tool for pacification and cooptation. A huge pot of money was created and used, partially, to buy the cooperation of ‘good squats’ and ‘good squatters’. Those that could become the “first link in the creative (thinking) process” [1], which ends in industry. In effect, the policy turned receptive squats into providers of cultural services.

    When implemented, the Amsterdam squatting movement had already become fragmented and weak, due to internal struggles as much as external repression [2]. The breeding grounds policy only exacerbated the divides. By providing opportunities to squatters the city deemed useful – the ‘good squatters’ – they automatically labelled the rest as ‘bad’ [fn:1].

    Despite their change in status, the threat of eviction did not necessarily decrease for those squats that became breeding grounds [3]. As it turned out, squatters who thought siding with the city would protect them from eviction, were fooled.

    The city chewed them up and spat them out. One academic writing on the subject summed up the attitude of the city as follows: `Squatters were great pioneers of breeding places, but we do not need them any longer’ [3]. And that was back in 2004…

    In 2010, squatting was made illegal. Since then, the last long-standing squats have been slowly, but steadily evicted. Not a single eviction was prevented by the cultural value of the squat. Even the Slangenpand, arguably one of the most integrated into the breeding ground logic, was not spared (unsurprisingly, unlike their neighbours, they left with the door open, thus showing zero solidarity with the rest of the squatters on the street).

    The Case of the ADM, among others

    The same story is playing out once again with the ADM. In vain, they have attempted to defend themselves against eviction by invoking the breeding grounds concept.

    The ADM describes itself as, “the largest cultural free-haven in the Netherlands” and, “one of Amsterdam’s biggest cultural assets.” They say they have made a massive effort to, “convince the council of the value of the ADM,” and to demonstrate all the ways the ADM fits “exactly into the brand new coalition priorities.” The description continues, “ADM is a fertile, vibrant space for local and international cultural climates, as well as playing a leading role in the Creative Industry.” [4] In essence, the ADM is claiming to be compatible with the state and an asset to the capitalist economy through its contributions to the creative industry. Hardly a radical position, or one that suggests much solidarity with those repressed by the city’s policies and capitalist exploitation.

    One banner created by the ADM and hung up around the city read: “Defend Autonomous Spaces: Because a city without free spaces is like a circus without a clown”, implying squatters are performing monkeys, existing for people’s entertainment, rather than a political movement focused on housing issues. Equally, the slogan devalues the notion of autonomy, presenting it as something frivolous and marginal rather than a radical assertion of principle [fn:2].

    If the ADM were to take a radical stand, it could describe itself as follows: “The ADM is a stronghold of squatting in the city of Amsterdam. An example of horizontally structured community endeavour. We call for the decriminalisation of squatting, an end to property speculation, and for houses and workspaces to be owned and managed by the people who live and work in them. We are an example of what can be achieved under such conditions. As such, we stand in solidarity with those who resist the oppression of the state and who reject its legitimacy.”

    Instead, “There is no culture without subculture!!” and “Free Space Now”, are the slogans of the ADM generation.

    Despite their best efforts to fit in by standing out, the city callously set the date of eviction for Christmas Day. After that, all bets are off.

    Considering this example, we see the problem isn’t even that squatters team up with the city by making use of the breeding grounds fund, but that a large segment of the movement has adopted the language of the ‘creative city’ concept – which inspired the policy – without considering the broader impact. As such, they have been working towards the city’s goals, rather than their own. And they are defending themselves by invoking the city’s own arguments rather than pushing their own agenda.

    Meanwhile in the real world…

    While artists fight for a cupboard under the stairs where they can go to “be free”, the rest of the city is being gentrified – full force! Social rents are going up, while the supply of social housing declines (waiting lists for a house are about 13 years); anti-squat and temporary rent contracts have become the new norm, as has building luxury accommodation for the middle classes and the rich. Communities are broken up to make room for developments and renovation projects, and in the process people are forced to abandon their homes and relocate to cheaper areas further out of the city.

    And all the while the social housing corporations, and property developers and speculators of all kinds, are having a party – with champagne, caviar, and Maseratis! The social housing corporations of Amsterdam are no longer social (if they ever really were!) – they are private and run for private gain, while continuing to receive preferential treatment from the state [fn:3]. Under the auspice of crisis, the housing corporations and property speculators have been making a killing.

    Some people call this phenomenon gentrification. We prefer to call it extortion, theft, and racketeering.

    The strangest part is that most of the squatting community are fully aware of this reality. Yet somehow, the majority remain incapable of articulating a clear critique of the situation and continue to allow themselves to fall into the creative city trap. They seem happy to remain breeding chickens (a derogative term for squatters who use, or try to use, the breeding ground funds supplied by the government), trapped in little cages, laying creativity eggs for the industrial capitalist culture system [fn:4].

    Now that the eggs have hatched, and the city is reaping the rewards, the caged hens are being sent to the slaughterhouse, apparently unable to understand why.


    The long and the short of it is this: the squatting movement has allowed itself to be backed into a corner, defending a narrative it didn’t write. In doing so, parts of the movement abandoned their principles – or proved they never had any – and have been parroting the goals of the breeding grounds policy in an effort to secure a bit of “free space” for themselves. Now that the government’s priorities have changed, it is taking every opportunity to remove the remaining squatters from the clinically clean city scape it has created.

    Divided and conquered by the combination of cooptation (creative city concept & breeding grounds policy) and repression (evictions & criminalisation), it is not really accurate to talk of a squatting movement any longer. What we see in Amsterdam is a squatting scene, or community (as pretty much everyone involved acknowledges). The scene reacts to threats to its existence but expresses no coherent political agenda of its own.

    Learn from the Past. Plan for the Future.

    Squatting is first and foremost about housing, not ateliers, or concerts, and certainly not about creating a ‘vibrant’ creative city. Squatting can facilitate social activities, but it would be preferable to do so within a political framework that emphasises social emancipation – as a few short-lived squats in Amsterdam have done, or tried to do, during the last few years – rather than assimilation into the existing (authoritarian) social order.

    Those places that have become breeding grounds – along with the places that have adopted the narrative of the creative city without necessarily receiving the breeding grounds subsidy (a phenomena that could be called voluntary cooptation) – have submitted to the interests of the state and, consequently, largely abandoned radical politics, along with all those people suffering the consequences of living in a profit-driven, authoritarian city.

    1980: NO HOUSING, NO CORONATION | 2018: FREE SPACE NOW. [fn:5]

    While it may be too late to save the last ‘cultural free spaces’ of Amsterdam, it’s never too late to start building a counter movement.

    A New Agenda of Resistance and Attack

    We’re on the back foot, taking punches left and right. It’s time to duck and counter. It’s time to write our own narrative, to reframe the situation, and to formulate our own agenda.

    Organising Ourselves

    In order to create a new agenda, we need to begin a discussion about our principles, our priorities, and our options. A debate has already been initiated by the Free Space advocates with the introduction of their Free Spaces Accord (Vrijplaatsenakkord). While the Accord amounts to little more than a watered-down version of the breeding grounds policy and echoes all the negative attributes of that policy, it does provide an opportunity for discussion. A discussion we desperately need to have if there is to be any hope of future success for the social struggle in Amsterdam and for squatting in the city.

    Consider this a small contribution to the conversation.

    Let us consider other possibilities rather than blindly jumping onto the Free Spaces bandwagon. One option could be described as a push back strategy or offensive strategy, while the Free Space Accord, in comparison, could be labeled an integration strategy. Let us examine the options.

    The Free Space Accord

    The Free Space Accord is an attempt to extend the categories of state-sanctioned creative zones. According to its proponents, the goal is to create Free Spaces that can develop “organically”, without regulations or influence from the city council, while receiving their blessing and implicit protection at the same time.

    According to the Free Spaces Accord website, Free Spaces are living and work spaces in the mould of commercial/semi-commercial venues such as NDSM and OT301. As such, they are primarily intended for people who consider themselves artists and are designed to encourage small-scale creative industries. The Free Spaces Agreement group hopes to achieve their goals through lobbying and negotiation with city authorities.

    The Accord calls for indirect financial support for Free Spaces, a dialogue with the city, and protection of the frayed edges (rafelranden). This means filling empty buildings with cultural, social, or sustainable initiatives for as long as possible and recognising existing free spaces (read: ADM). Their broadest goal is an end to large scale vacancies and a return to the policy of no evictions for emptiness (which was Amsterdam’s policy in relation to squatters for many years, but which seems to have been dropped in practice over the last 5/6 years).

    It is unclear how Free Spaces will benefit those without housing, in precarious housing situations, or suffering from extortionate rents. In fact, it may even undermine what little support they have left by legitimising the city authorities directly responsible for their situation. Even the broad goal of ending large scale emptiness will do little for those in precarious situations, if the answer to emptiness is ateliers and petite bourgeois creative industries. After all, not everyone wants to be (or can be) a state-sanctioned creative capitalist.

    Based as it is on a small glimmer of political hope offered by the city council’s new ‘left leaning’ coalition, the Free Spaces Accord has focused on lobbying politicians to achieve its aims. During a recent public debate on Free Spaces, a representative of the Accord argued in favour of talking to politicians using the old adage, “someone’s got to do it”. They also suggested we frame our demands in a way that will appeal to them (the politicians). Inevitably, we will have to deal with politicians, but there is a difference between catering to their desires and us demanding what we want. We can choose to work with our enemies or negotiate when it is strategically useful [fn:6].

    Indeed, recently the left coalition’s state appointed leader, (the Mayor of Amsterdam) Femke Halsema, demonstrated just how naive people have been to expect anything will be given freely by her and the city council. In an interview, Femke said she appreciates what the ADM has done for Amsterdam culturally, but the ADM residents should not squat other empty terrains. They are supposed to go to the Slibvelden in Amsterdam north; a temporary space available to residents of the ADM for just 2 years. The city went as far as to warn neighbours of the ADM of the possibility of squatting actions being carried out by residents of the ADM in their area [6].

    In the same interview, Halsema went on to repeat the breeding grounds logic, “especially in the free spaces or fringes, a culture arises, which in a later phase is profitable for the city”. She clearly demonstrates that her interest in the ‘fringes’, if she has any at all, is motivated by the same goal as for those who created the breeding grounds policy before her.

    If supporters of the breeding grounds policy are caged hens, then the Free Spaces Accord advocates are campaigning to become their free ranged sisters. Still under the thumb of an exploitative, authoritarian system, but with a little more space to run.

    Given the obvious flaws in the Free Spaces Accord, and the concept of Free Spaces generally, it is clear we need another plan.

    The Offensive Path

    Instead of asking the city, which has been systematically rejecting us and oppressing its inhabitants, to make a token gesture, we should aim to push the state back, to retrieve some of the ground we have lost and gain new ground in the process.

    An obvious starting point is the decriminalisation of squatting, and with it the eradication of anti-squat (anti-kraak) as a legitimate form of housing. Under such conditions, it is conceivable that those currently living without tenant rights, freedoms, or protections under anti-squat contracts, could squat their residences. This would offer them the chance to live far more freely, releasing them from the burden of paying for their precarity, and provide them with the opportunity of creating bigger living groups, thus better utilising the sparsely occupied square metres currently under the management of anti-squat companies.

    Unlike the Free Spaces Accord, calling on the state to decriminalise squatting is not asking for something. It is demanding the state back off. We aren’t asking them to support us in our efforts. We don’t want their money, or their political backing. We are simply telling them to fuck off.

    If we reject such approaches in favour of the Free Spaces/integration strategy, we will abandon the possibility of solving – or at least alleviating – some of the problems regarding housing in return for a few creative workspaces. Hardly a good deal, wouldn’t you agree?

    And we cannot follow both paths. We cannot pander to the city, highlighting all the ways we can live up to their expectations of us, while simultaneously demanding they change their expectations and take a step back. The city will not be keen to surrender the tremendous gains it has made against a movement it has always considered a nuisance and, at times, a threat. Decriminalisation and the end of anti-squat will not be achieved by cosying up to politicians and politely requesting “free spaces”. It will only be achieved through pressure.

    Turning the Scene into a Movement

    To have any chance of success we must start to view the squatting scene as a housing movement (and definitely not as a Free Spaces movement) – where squatting is one strategy among many, albeit a central one. Calling for a repeal of the squatting ban is certainly justifiable, but it does not count as a social or political agenda, rather it should be considered as a way to open up space for action. A battle to be fought rather than the war in itself.

    We don’t squat for the sake of it. We squat for housing. Housing where we control our living space and where we don’t have to pay for the privilege of having a roof over our heads. A house where we can live our lives the way we want to, rather than be forced to accept societies deranged expectations: work hard for someone else, pay rent to someone who has too much, buy things you probably don’t need, consume rather than connect, retire (maybe), and then that’s it.

    The conditions we pursue through squatting should be universal. Every inhabitant of the city should have (shared) control over their living space, and no one should have to contribute to the wealth of a landlord, capitalist, or housing corporation to have it. Our position is an ethical one, before it is a political one. This, in short, should be our agenda. Organised resistance, not compliance, is how we get there.

    A Final Word

    If we are able, through dialogue, to create a shared perspective and a shared vision of our future, the immediate steps will reveal themselves. We will be able to turn what remains of our infrastructure towards the achievement of our shared vision. This could include a revitalisation and reorientation of the KSUs – to emphasise campaigning and consciousness raising activities alongside the traditional functions – and perhaps the creation of new informal and voluntary organisations directed at specific aspects of the task ahead, such as challenging anti-squat companies and owners who hire them, supporting active squatters, and working with other groups dealing with precarious housing issues. This will require us to work with people not currently connected to squatting, people we may not always agree with, but with whom we share a common enemy. These are only suggestions, the details must be hammered out together.

    And for those of you who so predictably claim this plan to be unworkable, unrealistic, and so on, remember this: Capitalism has not always reigned supreme, and cities have not always been hotbeds of authoritarianism. Liberty was wrested from the people by force and deception, we must set ourselves the goal – however remote it might be – of taking it back.

    The fear is that it may already be too late for this discussion to be constructive. That the city of Amsterdam has already gone too far down the path towards political and social obsolescence. That it has become devoid of meaning and substance; no more than a play pen for the creative middle classes and rich tourists, presided over by an affluent authoritarian elite. Amsterdam, it’s time to break out of the creative cages.



    1. It’s not uncommon to hear, at a squatting action involving people from outside of the Netherlands, neighbours complain that the people are “not even Dutch”. As far as we are aware, no such hostility is directed at rich expats, despite the fact they outnumber non-dutch squatters by tens of thousands. There are good squatters and bad squatters, good foreigners and bad ones.

    2. Before you get all offended and start accusing us of attacking a beloved Amsterdam squatting institution, let us point out that we are merely analysing how the ADM has presented itself. We do not know whether the position presented by the ADM accurately represents all the people living there, we doubt it. And we also understand that they are desperate to prevent their home from being taken from them and are doing, very understandably, everything they can think of to stop this from happening. Clearly there is not a strong enough opposition to the current narrative for it to be altered. And that’s all that matters in the context of this article. We are also not saying that the ADM isn’t a fun place to hang out, it certainly is. But that’s not what a movement is all about really, is it?

    3. The chief executive of housing corporation Vestia, Erik Staal, is reported to have been paid nearly half a million per year, before being forced to resign for causing a financial disaster at the company in 2012 [5]. Hubert Möllenkamp, ex-director of Rochdale was seen driving a Maserati – in an effort to save face, Möllenkamp was fired from the company. And that is to say nothing of the excesses enjoyed by private property developers and speculators.

    4. A stellar example of the cognitive dissonance that pervades the squatting movement and would-be radicals of Amsterdam, appeared in the September 2018 issue of the Amsterdam Alternative – a magazine created and funded by a coalition of creative spaces, most are former squats or, such as the ADM, still squatted. This article exemplifies the way in which art takes precedence over all other considerations in the minds of ‘alternative’ types in Amsterdam. In a flurry of contradiction, the article starts out by condemning the public and private funding of art claiming that under such conditions, “you can succeed as an artist, just as long as you’re clean enough for corporate sponsors, or talented at jumping through the hoops of accessing public funding”, before going on to call on the city council to make public funds available for the support of artist workspaces through the creation of a “Space Force”, which, the author argues, could be, “a reinvigorated version of the broedplaatsen [breeding grounds] policy, looking for ways to help spaces that make creative opportunities for younger people, older people, minorities, and so on.” [7]

    5. A poster from 1980 demanding housing for the people of Amsterdam, otherwise there will be no coronation. Since there was, of course, no housing provided, squatters rioted on the day of the coronation. The event was described as “civil war” by segments of the press. Next to it, the ADEV 2018 poster, “Free Space Now”.

    6. Right now the Amsterdam squatting movement (or rather the housing movement) are no threat to the status quo, and will therefore not be taken seriously. The city holds all the cards. In France, the Gilets Jaunes are demonstrating what is obvious: one must negotiate from a position of strength, not submission.

    Some squats in the Netherlands:
    Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands:
    Events in the Netherlands:


    1. Futurologic Symposium and xx birthday ADM (2017):
    1. The Co-optation of Squatters in Amsterdam and the Emergence of a Movement Meritocracy: A Critical Reply to Pruijt (2004) Justus Uitermark
    2. Squatters in the Creative City: A Rejoinder to Justus Uitermark (2004) Hans Pruijt p.700
    3. ADM website:
    4. Dutch housing sector in crisis over Vestia’s €20bn rate swap gamble (2012):
    5. Halsema wil geen nieuwe kraakacties ADM-bewoners (2018) AT5: kraakacties-adm-bewoners-meldt-u-zich-bij-de-slibvelden-in-noord
    6. Amsterdam Needs A Space Force (2018):

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    The following excerpt is from Lisa Fithian’s new book “Shut It Down: Stories From a Fierce, Loving Resistance” and is reprinted with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing.

    The 2003 global justice mobilization in Cancún, Mexico, is a relatively untold story, though the ministerial conference there collapsed, just as in Seattle. At that time in the United States, there was a debate about local versus global activism, with some making the argument that international summit-hopping was just for the privileged few. Many chose to stay home. This was unfortunate, because local organizers in the Global South could have benefited from material support from the Global North, and organizers from the Global North could have benefited from the wisdom of the indigenous resistance.

    I became involved via my participation in the Root Activist Network of Trainers, or RANT, a small trainers collective founded in 2000 by Starhawk, Hilary McQuie and myself. Star and I attended an international planning meeting in Mexico City in November 2002 that included representatives from 89 Mexican organizations and 53 international ones from 16 countries [spanning Central and South America, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.]

    There was a general consensus that agricultural and environmental policy, including GMO policy, protection of forests, and energy extraction, should not be governed by the World Trade Organization, or WTO. The call to defend the water, forests and food sovereignty — defined as the right to eat, produce and decide agricultural policies locally — was very strong. An overall strategy was articulated that included support for developing countries to resist the WTO, breaking consensus between the European Union and United States on key issues, national civil society campaigns, and mass mobilization and street protest.

    Starhawk and I traveled extensively to support the mobilization. We worked with a group of youth from Mexico City who formed the Global Alliance S9. Their slogans were “We Say No to Institutional Violence” and “We Support Legitimate Self Defense.” We did a big training with them, and Star and I still remember the dirty, sweat-filled wrestling mats we slept on in a gym. RANT raised over $10,000 to pay for buses to take them to Cancún. These students were inspiring and experienced, sophisticated organizers. We also met with organizers and local activists in Cancún, many of whom were working with a global network of NGOs called Our World Is Not for Sale, along with Puente a Cancún (Bridge to Cancún), a collaborative of Mexican, Irish and U.S. activists. La Vía Campesina, the international peasants movement, was a big player, bringing thousands of campesinos to the mobilization.

    Cancún mirrors many problems and realities that the neoliberal world brings, especially the extremes of wealth and poverty. This land, on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula and historically inhabited by Mayan people, was mostly undeveloped prior to the 1970s, when the Mexican government decided to develop this lush, tropical region as a tourist destination. Today it is comprised of Cancún Centro, a city center on the mainland, and a resort area along a narrow strip of land that juts into the Caribbean. The former is a poor working-class city while the peninsula is a playground for the rich.

    In advance of the mobilization, we rented a four-story white building near Parque de las Palapas, the main city center park, to house our art making, meetings and legal support — along with a nearby house for the medics and a big space for the media center. Another location, Casa de Cultura, had large meeting spaces and was where the La Vía Campesina contingent would be sleeping. Together we partnered with a group of young punks from Mexico City to construct a model eco-village in the open fields to the north of Casa de Cultura. (In advance of the summit, they had given us a tour of their permaculture projects in the south of Mexico City.) In the fields we constructed solar showers, a solar oven, an educational display, and ingenious handwashing stations that used collected rainwater and a bike pump with funnels for basins that recycled that water back into the soil. This was real infrastructure that supported La Vía Campesina during their stay in Cancún, while also educating the thousands of people who came through that space about low-cost, simple systems to reproduce in their own communities.

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    [The first day of the ministerial was marked by the death of Lee Kyung-hae, president of the Federation of Farmers and Fishermen of Korea, who took his own life in protest of the WTO’s trade policies on South Korean farmers.] On the second day, we went forward with a powerful, youth-led, fiery night march filled with the clanging of pots and pans. It was called a cacerolazo, which was first used in Chile in 1971 during protests against food shortage. When this march approached Kilometer Zero and the memorial [to Brother Lee that was] under way, it went dead silent as everyone raised their fists in the air.

    We were more determined than ever to get into the Hotel Zone. The unique geography of Cancún made it easy for the government to keep us out; there were only two roadway entrances to the narrow strip of beach, one coming from the airport to the south, the other from the mainland to the north. It was nearly impossible for us to figure out an effective action from the south, and the government erected not one but two security fences to the north. The first, at Kilometer Zero, was breached the first day. The second, more elaborate fence was about a third of a kilometer farther down the road. We did not think we could break that fence or actually get to the ministerial itself. We were wrong.

    It didn’t seem realistic to enter the Hotel Zone en masse, but a smaller, disruptive action seemed possible if we could get into the zone. Our planning meetings were exhausting. Ideas arose, then fizzled out as the tactical impossibilities were discussed. Then a plan emerged — Operation Ballpark! What if we went into the zone as tourists? We could enter in small groups of just two or three, dressed the part, then converge around the Hard Rock Cafe and blockade the road next to the convention center. We would do this at dinnertime, when the ministerial’s delegates would be out and about at nearby restaurants.

    Early that evening Star, Juniper, our friend Brush and I drove in our rental car down Boulevard Kukulcan, easily passing through the checkpoint. We watched as the beautiful jungle scenery gave way to hotels, sparse at first, then densely packed. We parked near the Hard Rock Cafe and got some ice cream — great cover, and one of Star’s favorite things. Looking around, I saw others from our group milling about, staging as tourists, getting out of taxis, browsing at souvenir shops. So far, so good.

    Abruptly, as planned, a group of young folks bolted into the road. Taking their lead, the rest of us flowed into the streets. Out of inconspicuous tourists’ bags we pulled drums and bags of seeds. Some drummed and chanted, some sat down across the road, some danced in a spiral around two fruit trees, calling on the elements of earth, air, fire and water to be with us. We called on spirit to help in the healing of the environment against the ravages of globalized corporate industry. The road was blocked.

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    I called our media team to let them know we had taken the road, and they called some of our friends inside the ministerial, including Antonia Juhasz from the International Forum on Globalization who joined us in the street. She and other representatives with mainstream NGOs were credentialed to attend the meetings. Soon the media arrived and the sidewalks filled with onlookers. The police stood at the periphery, not making a move. As the evening grew dark, we gathered in an impromptu spokes council to decide our next move. Luke Anderson, a writer and organizer from California, urged everyone to acknowledge that we had achieved our goal and that it was wiser to be part of another action tomorrow than to go to jail. Part of the art of action is knowing when to end an action, and to me, this was a clear ending point. Much to our surprise, the police offered two luxury buses to transport us back to wherever we wanted to go. Those without cars took the buses back to Kilometer Zero.

    That night, we gathered together and worked late with the Koreans, discussing plans to tear down the second security fence. I was skeptical, but the Koreans were confident it could be done. They were unyielding, carrying a fierceness I can only describe as the spirit of Brother Lee working through them. They presented the plan of using ropes to tear down the fence, and a Mexican woman proposed that the women should go first, cutting the fence to weaken it before the ropes. I was thrilled. We had been dealing with a lot of sexism, part of the Mexican culture and also deeply rooted in some of the international male organizers, including some from the States, who had arrived in Cancún full of arrogance, assuming leadership in pretty unskillful ways. There had been growing frustration among the women.

    We presented our plan to the delegates assembly at La Casa de Cultura the next morning, and much to our surprise they all agreed. I raced to the nearest hardware store and bought every bolt cutter they had, along with wire cutters and heavy-duty pliers.

    By 10 a.m. we were ready. Thousands of us marched toward Kilometer Zero, including thousands of indigenous people in their beautifully woven clothes. The Koreans wore their tan vests and floppy sun hats, the students sang and banged on drums, and the Infernal Noise Brigade, from Seattle, brought great energy to the march. Several pushed the giant puppet my friend Gan Golan had built of Chac — the Mayan god of rain, thunder and lightning — and we asked for Chac’s support as we traveled the road that led to the ministerial.

    At Kilometer Zero we paused to honor Brother Lee, then walked toward the new fence that had been erected 100 meters closer to the Hotel Zone. The women coalesced into formation, row upon row of us wearing bandannas around our foreheads or as masks. We had learned from the Zapatistas that masking your face is a way to be seen. Before reaching the fence, we linked arms, feeling happy, excited and free. There was a crack of thunder and a brief rain poured down, cooling us all. The gods were with us! We were in our full power as we chanted “Bella Ciao,” an Italian anti-fascist song of resistance. Years later, I realized how appropriate it was in light of Lee’s suicide.

    The fence was just ahead, and it was formidable. Massive sections of thick, chain-linked metal were reinforced from behind with eight-foot boxes of steel and topped with barbed wire. Behind that were barricades, then battalions of riot police. I passed the tools out to the women and, singing our hearts out, we cut and unscrewed. The police did nothing, perhaps having confidence in the steel wall between us. Little by little, section by section, we weakened the chains and the links. As we worked, the men behind us kept pushing forward, wanting to break through the fence before it was ready to come down. Other men held the impatient ones back until we had completed our work.

    Lisa Fithian pulling the ropes attached to the police barricades. (Chelsea Green Publishing)

    Next it was the Koreans’ turn. Several of them came forward and tied the rope to the fence, then stretched the long ropes out into the crowd. When the ropes were tied tightly to the fence and secured in everyone’s hands, the man at the front yelled, “Pull!”

    The road was wide open before us, along with hundreds of riot police with their water cannons, tear gas, and Darth Vader suits, plus the brown-clothed, unarmed peasants the police had conscripted to add to their numbers. There was a moment of stillness, as nobody, police and demonstrator alike, had planned for what would happen next. We all sat down, forming rows as the Koreans lit candles in the road. We held this space for about an hour, then the Koreans led a chant, “Down, Down, WTO,” as we all rose together, drumming and singing. We marched back to Kilometer Zero, marching with joy, giving all we could to say “No Más, No More, the WTO Must Go.”

    The ministerial itself was several kilometers away. We would not get there, but we didn’t need to. We had opened the way, a political space that the state had closed.

    The next morning, news came that the Kenyan delegates — representing the desires of the Group of 22 developing nations — refused to go along with the WTO’s agricultural deal. They walked out, and the ministerial collapsed, again. There would be no deal. It was an overwhelming sight to behold as our beloved community at Kilometer Zero broke out in joy, hugging, singing, crying and dancing.

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    In Cancún, we demonstrated peacefully and powerfully with our humanity, our creativity and our hearts. Unlike in Prague and Genoa, the police did not attack, and therefore there was no violence. We voiced our opposition to the WTO through action, and the delegates inside the ministerial were emboldened to step away from deals that would have continued to do harm to their people and their lands.

    A few months later, in November, we mobilized again against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, at a summit in Miami. This led to the final unraveling of the deal we had first protested in Quebec. Bolstered by our street actions and emboldened by the growing collaborations and solidarity within the global justice movement, delegations inside the negotiating rooms from Central and South America said no. The FTAA was finished for good.

    These lessons from the global justice movement are needed now more than ever. With the rise of right-wing populism, many are afraid of violence, and fear leads to confusion and division. It is the empire’s most powerful tool for social control. We may be afraid, but we can still act. We don’t all have to agree on the best way forward, and we can work together with respect and agreements. There is no one way; there are many ways. This is what the Zapatistas have taught us: “One no, many yeses.” Our solidarity despite our differences in the midst of courageous, creative and collective action is the sweet spot where the greatest changes are possible.