Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sting and the Dictator’s Daughter

Sting’s bollocks
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1551 (12), Friday, February 26, 2010
Chernov’s choice

Sting made the news on Sunday, when information about him accepting between $1.5 million and $3 million to play in Tashkent for Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s glamorous daughter and heir was picked up by the press.

The former Police singer and bass player is known as a human rights campaigner and Amnesty International supporter.

Karimov, the former First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, is known as one of the world’s harshest dictators, who has used torture, media censorship and false elections to remain the country’s president-for-life since 1990.

Gordon Sumner & Gulnara Karimova

Uzbekistan is a country in which children are employed to work on state cotton fields, and protest rallies are shot at (several hundred protesters were reported to have been shot and killed in Andijon in 2005).

Craig Murray, the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, who wrote about sweeping corruption and appalling human rights abuses in his 2007 memoirs, “Murder in Samarkand,” even reported cases of Karimov’s political opponents being boiled to death.

Tactfully, Sting’s official web site did not report the event — neither when it took place in October nor when the controversy arose on Sunday — but the singer reacted to media criticism with some remarks in his defense.

“I am well aware of the Uzbek president’s appalling reputation in the field of human rights as well as the environment. I made the decision to play there in spite of that,” Sting was quoted as saying by The Daily Mail on Sunday.

“I have come to believe that cultural boycotts are not only pointless gestures, they are counter-productive, where proscribed states are further robbed of the open commerce of ideas and art and as a result become even more closed, paranoid and insular.”

Former ambassador Murray disagreed. “This really is transparent bollocks,” he wrote on his blog.

“He did not take a guitar and jam around the parks of Tashkent. He got paid over a million pounds to play an event specifically designed to glorify a barbarous regime. Is the man completely mad?”

Sting chose the wrong line of defense.

The Scorpions, after performing at the Federal Security Service’s 90th anniversary concert in the Kremlin (yes, the FSB sees itself as the heir to Lenin’s murderous Cheka) in 2008, said they did not know what the concert was about.

Anti-capitalist Roger Waters, whose 2008 concert on Palace Square was promoted as a “gift” from the Economic Forum and was attended by oligarch Roman Abramovich — who traveled to St. Petersburg on his state-of-the art, missile-proof yacht — said that the promoters hadn’t told him that his show was part of the forum.

“What Uzbekistan? What Karimov? I wasn’t told what it was about,” would be the right answer. Or does Sting still have some conscience left?

— By Sergey Chernov

Editor’s Note: You have one day left to listen to Dave Hare’s brilliant radio dramatization of Craig Murray’s Murder in Samarkand, starring David Tenant as Ambassador Murray.


Filed under international affairs, political repression

Turin: Police Raid Radio Blackout

The following solidarity appeal has been edited slightly to make it more readable.

Turin: Police raided Radio Blackout

23 February 2010

In the early morning, a big police operation in various Italian cities (Turin, Mantova, Trento and Cuneo) led to searches of 23 people, including Radio Blackout HQ. Among the people that were searched, three have been given house arrest and three are currently under arrest.

The operation comes at a very particular moment for Radio Blackout, currently under eviction orders from the Turin municipality, and during a moment of very strong criminalization of the movement, particulary Centri Sociali and squats.

The operation seems to be linked to the Anti-Racist coalition that is protesting against Detention Centres (CPT) in Turin, but it is obvious that the intent is to additionally criminalize the movement, which is active on many fronts (from No-TAV to anti-nuclear, anti-racist, anti-fascist and squats).

Then the bastards used mainstream media to promote their oppressive message:

The main police operation was orchestrated by PM Andrea Padalino, known for his xenophobic and racist ideas, such as introducing fingerprint identification for immigrants.

The intention of the operation was clearly to censor and shut down the voice of Radio Blackout, which is currently under attack and is running a campaign entitled “Shut Down Censorship, Turn on Radio Blackout.”


Solidarity with all the people who were searched by police, the arrestees, and all the people who fight for freedom of speech.

To send letters to the arrested:

Andrea Ventrella, Fabio Milan e Luca Ghezzi
Via Pianezza 300
1011 Torino (To)


Source: email

We gratefully acknowledge receipt of this news from the Reclaiming Spaces mailing list.

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Filed under activism, anti-racism, anti-fascism, censorship, international affairs, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, urban movements (right to the city)

Defenders of the Fatherland (Rogov House, Petersburg)

“This Demolition Is Illegal”/“Petersburg Is Being Murdered Here”

Yesterday (February 23) was celebrated as Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia. Once upon a time not so long ago, February 23 was known as Red Army and Fleet Day. Now, apparently as a counterbalance to “International Women’s Day” (March 8), a holiday utterly emptied of its original radical/progressive/feminist content by the forces of consumerism and patriarchal reaction in Russia, February 23rd has become a kind of one-size-fits-all “men’s day.” The homely and sexual virtues of women are thus celebrated on March 8, while on February 23 the allegedly warrior-like traits of men are honored.

The reality of gender roles is, of course, more complicated. As is the question of what “defending the fatherland” means today. We would argue that this defense now entails work on very different fronts, such as the struggle against neofascism, rampant police abuse and violence, and lawless, union-busting employers. A no less important front in Russia today is the fight for the right to the city, whether this means battling  to save a humble albeit leafy courtyard in Petersburg’s new estates from the developers’ chainsaws and bulldozers, trying to stop the erection of a 400-meter-high skyscraper that would rape the city’s sublime skyline forever or, as you’ll read about below, keeping watch over historic landmarks that stand in the way of mindless redevelopment. This particular struggle is fought by men and women, the old and the young, communists, anarchists, and liberals alike.

Finally, we should stress that the “little” motherland/fatherland at issue here (Saint Petersburg) is the common property of all humanity (as our comrades from DSPA point out, below): the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you’re unhappy with what the combined forces of stupidity, greed, and bureaucratic corruption are doing to our common property, please write to UNESCO. Please write to us (at the e-mail address in the sidebar) if you need more information about the destruction of Saint Petersburg.

Vigil Set Up To Stop Demolition Of Building
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1550 (11), Wednesday, February 24, 2010
By Sergey Chernov
Staff Writer

A round-the-clock vigil has been established in central St. Petersburg by concerned locals attempting to prevent the demolition of a historic building.

Defenders of St. Petersburg’s cultural heritage set up camp near the Rogov House on the corner of Zagorodny Prospekt and Shcherbakov Pereulok as attempts to demolish the building continued during the weekend and into this week.

Sergey Chernov / The St. Petersburg Times
The Rogov House pictured on Monday, following demolition work that began over the weekend.

At every attempt by workers to start demolition, which the protesters describe as “illegal,” the activists called the police, who repeatedly came and stopped the work because the workers had no demolition permit.

But the workers, equipped with a hydraulic excavator labeled “Building Demolition Association,” managed to almost completely destroy the top floor of the three-story historic building in one sweep on Saturday and two sweeps on Monday.

On Saturday, two cars parked on Shcherbakov Pereulok were reported to have been damaged by falling stones due to the haste with which the work was carried out. After the third sweep on Monday, the workers present at the site were detained by the police, who ordered them to write explanatory statements.

The protesters say that Prestizh, which bought the right to develop the site from the city, deliberately started demolition work at the beginning of the long holiday weekend in order to complete demolition unhindered before Wednesday, when a court hearing about the legality of stripping the the Rogov House of its cultural heritage status is scheduled.

Prestizh is planning to build a seven-story business center with underground parking on the site.

The Rogov House, named after the merchant who built it in the late 18th to early 19th century, is the oldest building on Vladimirskaya Ploshchad. Located next to the Delvig House, it is valued as a relic of Pushkin-era St. Petersburg.

“The exact year of construction is unknown, which is often the case with buildings from that era,” Alexander Kononov, deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Association for the Protection of Monuments (VOOPIK,) said by phone on Tuesday.

“It was built between 1798 and 1808, because on the 1798 map of St. Petersburg this building isn’t yet featured, but it is already on the 1808 map of St. Petersburg — with the same dimensions and configuration as it has now.”

According to Kononov, the building is the oldest in the Vladimirskaya Ploshchad ensemble — older than the Delvig House, which was built from 1811 to 1813 — and, unlike the Delvig House, it has never undergone major renovation or reconstruction work.

“It has all the authentic elements of construction and decor inside and out — the staircase and everything — including large wooden cross-beams,” he said.

“It is precisely as it was built, except for minor changes on the first floor due to doorways having been moved.”

The Rogov House has been under threat since the 1980s, when it was damaged during the construction of Dostoyevskaya metro station. Kononov insists that the building could have been restored, but City Hall’s heritage committee stripped it off its heritage status in November last year.

According to Kononov, organizations such as Lenmetrogiprotrans (Leningrad Metropolitan State Institute for Transportation Design and Planning) and Giprostroimost (Institute for Bridge Design and Construction) said in writing that they were ready to design projects for the repair and preservation of the building, including strengthening weight-bearing structures and the foundations.

“Unfortunately, Prestizh, which currently manages the site, doesn’t want to get in touch with the organizations that are ready to preserve the building — quite the opposite, they look for experts who will say that it is impossible to preserve the building and that it is in a dangerous state of repair,” Kononov said.

Prestizh was not available for comment on Tuesday.

According to the preservationist organization Living City, more than 100 historic buildings have been destroyed in the center, including six on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg’s main thoroughfare, since Governor Valentina Matviyenko took office in 2003. [You can see more of Sergey Chernov’s photos of the Rogov House demolition here.]


Here Alexander Kononov talks to Petersburg Channel 100 about the battle over the Rogov House. Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s worth a look for the visuals at the end of the segment, when the Channel 100 anchor reads off a short list of the more than one hundred historic buildings demolished during the reign of Valentina Matviyenko.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


On the morning of February 23, activists from the Pyotr Alexeev Resistance Movement (DSPA) hung the following banner on the threatened Rogov House:

The text on the banner (“Citizens! Under Matviyenko’s Administration, This Side of the Street Is the Most Dangerous”) refers to the famous warnings stenciled on buildings during the Siege of Leningrad: “Сitizens! During bombardment this side of the street is the most dangerous.” Beginning in the early sixties, these stencils were restored on several buildings in the city, including the most well-known example, on the building at Nevsky Prospekt, 14.

DSPA issued the following communiqué in connection with this action:

By destroying Petersburg’s historic built environment and demolishing old buildings, the authorities violate the people’s right to aesthetic pleasure, which is no less meaningful than other civil and political rights.

The days when hi-tech buildings served as futuristic manifestos have long since passed; today’s glass boxes are built by dull and greedy bourgeois. They find it more profitable to demolish a historic building and erect a new one in its place: investing money in the restoration of an old building is too expensive. They thus infringe on the cultural property of all humanity.

A typical example of this infringement is the case of the Rogov House (Zagorodny Prospekt 3/17), an officially listed architectural landmark. Strictly speaking, little has survived of this neoclassical building complex, erected in the late eighteenth century: only the street-side wing remains; the rest of the building was barbarically destroyed during construction of the Dostoevskaya metro station in 1987. Preservationists successfully defended this part of the building, but in the twenty-some years that followed, the authorities dreamt not of restoring it to a condition befitting its landmark status, but of destroying it completely. Despite the fact that, in 2009, independent experts showed that it was still quite possible to restore the building, attempts to force through a demolition in order to build yet another commercial building on the site resumed with renewed vigor late last year.

During the six or so years of Governor Matviyenko’s administration, Petersburg itself has “shrunk“ considerably: the preservation zone in the central districts has been reduced by a factor of 4.5; the city has rid itself of 144 architectural landmarks and other historic buildings, as well as several dozen squares and green spaces; and the city’s central plazas — Sennaya, Kazanskaya, Vladimirskaya, and St. Isaac’s — have been irreparably disfigured.

We realize, however, that it is not so much Matviyenko herself who is personally to blame for all this, as it is the economic system of capitalism. The governor is merely a small fry in the big pond of the Market and a servant of High Profits. Only greed and the desire for profit are capable of demolishing works of art and erecting lackluster business centers. Big money is the only cause of all the horrible things that are happening to our city.

Governors come and governors go, but their policies remain the same. And during each of their reigns, both sides of every street remain the most dangerous.

There is only one solution — resistance!

Today, the Rogov House got a reprieve when a Petersburg district court declared a temporary halt to an earlier decision (on February 2) by the city’s heritage preservation committee (the now-notorious KGIOP, whose mission in recent years has been to rubber-stamp whatever atrocities the hearts of developers desire) to strip the building of its protected status. All the details of the suit, filed on behalf of the house by representatives of VOOPIK, can be found here (in Russian). The next court hearing of the case will take place on March 9. Activists, however, have promised to continue their vigil at the house.

“The Rogov House: Don’t Demolish It, Restore It!”

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Punitive Juvenile Justice: The Case of Sergei Pchelintsev and His Family

The following article has been translated and slightly adapted from the original Russian, as published on the website of the Institute for Collective Action. For information about how to help Sergei Pchelintsev and his family, see the end of the article. We have added details provided on the blog of the international solidarity campaign that has been mounted in their defense.

Politically Motivated Child Custody? Leftist Activist Sergei Pchelintsev Has Been Deprived of His Three Children Because of Poverty

We have already written about the political motives behind attempts by the child welfare authorities in Balashikh to remove Vladilena Lapina from the custody of her adoptive parents, leftist activists Alexander Lapin and Zinaida Smirnova. A similar story has unfolded in Nizhny Novgorod Region. Even if the persecution to which local activist Sergei Pchelintsev has been subjected has nothing to do with his political position and is merely the consequence of the heartlessness and unprofessionalism of local child welfare bureaucrats, the situation demands our focused attention insofar as reports of attempts to remove children from the custody of non-drinking albeit “poor” or “strange” parents have been coming from Russia’s regions more and more often.

On February 12, the room where Sergei Pchelintsev and his family live in the town of Dzerzhinsk was visited by a group of officials from several municipal executive authorities: the municipal child welfare department, the juvenile affairs commission of the local police, and the social welfare department. They even brought a crew from the local TV station with them.

The zealous juvenile defenders demonstratively took custody of three young children from Pchelintsev and his wife Lidiya Buzanova — Maxim (b. 2006), Anna (b. 2007), and tiny Dasha, who was born in the autumn of 2009. Despite the stipulations in Article 77 of the Russian Federation Family Code, these officials took custody of the children without presenting their parents with the proper documents from the municipal administration.

If you imagine that these bureaucrats merely followed the letter of family law as specified in Article 77 and saved the children from the extreme situation of having to live with parents who were alcoholics, drug addicts, mentally ill or merely indifferent to them, then you would be mistaken.

Sergei and Lidiya lead an absolutely normal (sober and healthy) lifestyle. They love their children and take care of them. The only crime they are guilty of is having a multi-child family in Russia. As they took custody of the children, the bureaucrats cynically told Sergei, “Your place is clean, but it’s too poor.”

In reality, Sergei does everything he can to feed his large family. Should we remind the reader that they live in one of Russia’s outlying areas, where the majority of population is poor even when they are employed? Pchelintsev’s average monthly wage is ten or eleven thousand rubles [approximately 245–270 euros], which is barely enough for the five of them. His wife is forced to stay home with the children: their oldest is only three years old, not to mention the necessity of taking care of a newborn baby. According to Sergei, his pensioner mother sometimes comes to help his wife. Sergei and Lidiya have no other close relatives.

In their hurry to defend the rights and interests of the children, the authorities did not even bother to find out the reasons for the poverty they blamed Pchelintsev and Buzanova for when they committed this act of lawlessness against them. If they had asked the tax inspectorate where Sergei diligently files his income declaration, they would have learned that the sum indicated above is exactly what he can earn with his honest labor. The bureaucrats did not offer Pchelintsev a high-paying job, and of course they will not offer him one. It would seem that this family should enjoy all the measures of state social support as outlined in the Russian Constitution. Article 19 established the principle that all citizens enjoy the same rights and freedoms no matter what their economic status. Article 39, Part 1 of the Constitution guarantees social assistance for everyone in the raising of their children and in other circumstances stipulated by law. The essence of this civil right is that the state guarantees that it will render assistance to those who give birth and raise children.

It is telling, however, that this multi-child, low-income family does not receive any of the assistance stipulated by the normative acts, including the federal benefits for multi-child families. According to Sergei, officials even refuse to grant them free baby food for their newborn child. The officials at the Dzerzhinsk municipal social welfare department give Pchelintsev various absurd arguments for this. It is possible that Sergei is insufficiently persistent in his demands that his family be allotted the benefits due to them. However, the prospect of begging from bureaucrats and court officials does not seem so brilliant when every day you have to earn enough to at least feed your family. On the other hand, during the demonstrative “defense” of the children that took place on February 12, the social worker was right on the spot.

The only assistance the state has rendered to this family is to give them a separate room — one room for all the members of the family and, as Sergei has put it, a “previously used” room. That is, a room that has not been renovated to European standards. This auspicious event took place literally a month ago. Today, when he visited  the child welfare office, the prosecutor, and a number of other official agencies, Sergei heard lots of interesting things, including the explanation by officials that he should have carried out cosmetic repairs in the room that he was granted. Because young children should not live in a room like the one assigned to them by the state.

It is clear that during the course of the various initiatives announced by high state officials (whether the Year of the Family or the latest program in defense of mothers and children) bureaucrats have to report about the work they’ve carried out. We will leave “off screen” the question of how funds set aside for these programs are spent (apparently, this is where these government funds end up — “off screen”). It is much simpler to fill the orphanages with new wards, who are thus cut off from the love and tenderness of their parents. It should be clear that hired nannies are no substitutes for parents.

In any case, the bureaucrats would never think of trying out the fate that lies in store for three-year-old Maxim, two-year-old Anya, and newborn Dasha on their own children. Their mentality wouldn’t allow them to do this.

A question naturally arises: why was the Pchelintsev family chosen to pad the statistics of welfare bureaucrats?

This was no accident. Sergei Pchelintsev is a political activist of leftist convictions, although he is not a member of any political party. In November and December 2009, he spoke on several occasions at pickets that took place in Dzerzhinsk. He spoke about the things that he himself had to face every day: unemployment and poverty, as well as about the illegal layoffs of workers at the GAZ auto plant in Nizhny Novgorod and the rapacious reforms to the pension system. After these appearances, Pchelintsev was invited to the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Center “E” (Center for Extremism Prevention) in December of last year. As Sergei tells it, during the course of the conversation Center “E” officials threatened him, offered him a “job” as an unofficial informant, and demanded that he stop taking part in civic actions. Among other threats, they promised to cause problems for his family.

After this conversation, Pchelintsev wrote out a complaint and delivered it to the regional police administration. As we can see, the reaction to his complaint was not long in coming.

At present, the Pchelintsev-Buzanova children are in the municipal children’s hospital. Although the law doesn’t forbid parents from meeting with children in welfare custody until such time as their parental rights are formally restricted or taken away, Sergei and Lidiya are not being admitted to see their children. [Because of the attention this case has generated in the local and national Russian media, Pchelintsev and his wife have apparently now been allowed to see their childrenThe Editors.] Within seven days of the removal of children from their families, child welfare officials are obliged to file a custody suit with the courts.

Pchelintsev has been told that he should be ready for just such a custody trial. Moreover, bureaucrats have given him to understand that the outcome of these legal proceedings is already known: Pchelintsev and Buzanov will have their custodial rights to all their children restricted. And then they will be deprived of custody altogether if they fail within a month to renovate their room, buy extra toys, books, a bed, and food. It is worth noting that family law establishes a period of half a year for such remedial actions.

In view of the “telephone justice” that law enforcement officials offended by Sergei’s complaint might resort to, it is also likely that Pchelintsev and Buzanova won’t be granted even this final chance to get their children back.

We should note that every child has the right to life and to be raised in a family, the right to know his parents, the right to their care, and the right to live with them. Every child has the right to be raised by his parents, the right to have his interests defended, the right to all-round development, and the right to have his human dignity respected (Article 54, Russian Federation Family Code).

According to Article 27, Part 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, “States Parties [including Russia], in accordance with national conditions and within their means, shall take appropriate measures to assist parents and others responsible for the child to implement this right and shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition, clothing and housing.”

Unless civic activists, civil rights defenders, journalists, and just ordinary caring people intervene in this situation, yet another family will suffer from the legal nihilism that is rampant in Russia.

The Pchelintsev family urgently needs informational, legal, financial, and material support. They need society to protest against the illegal and inhuman actions of Dzerzhinsk’s so-called child protection services.

Packages with children’s toys, books, clothes, and non-perishable food items can be sent to the following address:

Sergei Alexandrovich Pchelintsev
ul. Revoliutsii, d. 15, kv. 24
Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novogorod Region
606024 Russian Federation
You can also send money via the following WebMoney accounts:
Euros: E266912528242
USD: Z217596633352

Protest letters can be sent to the following addresses:

Dzerzhinsk Municipal Administration:

Vasily Vasilievich Olnev, Human Rights Ombudsman for Nizhny Novgorod Region:

This article was prepared by L. Romanova, an expert at the Civic Stance Center of the Committee for Civil Rights.

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Solidarity with Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth

Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth are activists from Minneapolis, MN, who were subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Iowa investigating animal rights vandalism from 2004. They both refused to cooperate with the grand jury, and were put in jail. Carrie is still being held on civil contempt of court. On 11/19/09, Scott’s civil contempt charge was dropped and he was indicted for conspiracy under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Scott was released on 11/30 pending trial.

For updates on their case, click here.

Carrie Feldman is 20 years old, and has worked with a variety of projects in the Twin Cities, including Coldsnap Legal Collective, EWOK!, and the Jack Pine Community Center. Carrie is a former student of the College of St. Catherine. Before she went to jail on 11/17/09, Carrie was taking a year off from school and spent her time traveling, doing personal care assistant work for her grandma, and working on activist projects.

Scott DeMuth is 22, and has been involved in several projects in the Twin Cities including the Anarchist Black Cross and the Jack Pine Community Center. He is currently a member of EWOK! (Earth Warriors are OK!), Oyate Nipi Kte, and the editorial collective for the Dakota community journal Anpao Duta. He is also a Dakota language student and a graduate student in the Sociology Department at the University of Minnesota.

For information about writing Carrie in jail or how you can support them, see our “What You Can Do” page.

January 25, 2010

Contact: Earth Warriors are OK! (EWOK!) hotline (Natalia Shulkin)

Carrie Feldman, Imprisoned Grand Jury Resister, Denied Release on Appeal
Supporters Decry the Secret Evidence that was Filed to Justify Her Continued Incarceration

Davenport, IA — On Friday, January 22nd, an appellate panel in Davenport, Iowa denied an appeal for the release of imprisoned grand jury resister Carrie Feldman. The decision means that Feldman may remain in custody through the remainder of the grand jury’s service, another nine months. Feldman was jailed on November 17th of last year for civil contempt after refusing to testify before the grand jury as a matter of principle. Judge John Jarvey had denied the original motion for her release on December 8th in federal district court.

The appellate ruling was marked by highly suspect processes. The judges allowed prosecutor Cliff Cronk to file secret evidence to substantiate the claim that Feldman’s testimony is still relevant to the investigation of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) action at the University of Iowa in 2004, in which research equipment was damaged and hundreds of animals were set free. Feldman’s lawyers are not permitted to view this evidence. Additionally, the judges asked Cronk to file a rare second reply to Feldman’s appeal.

“The lack of transparency in the appeal process is another demonstration of the federal government’s commitment to punishing people for their political beliefs and principles,” said Thomas Addo of Earth Warriors are OK! “Using secret evidence to justify Carrie’s unwarranted incarceration is a blatant violation of due process and justice.”

The appellate decision comes on the heels of a court appearance by Leana Stormont, who was recently subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in Davenport. Stormont was a law student and outspoken animal rights activist at the University of Iowa in 2004. After the ALF action at the university, she experienced overt intimidation and harassment by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Stormont’s attorneys are fighting the subpoena. Stormont, currently of Virginia, was the third person subpoenaed to the Davenport grand jury, following Feldman and Scott DeMuth, both of Minneapolis. DeMuth was indicted November 18th for conspiracy to “commit animal enterprise terrorism and cause economic damage to the animal enterprise in an amount exceeding $10,000” under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA).

Feldman and DeMuth both call the Davenport grand jury politically motivated and point to the federal government’s historical use of grand juries to repress social movements. Other high-profile examples include the San Francisco 8 case, involving former Black Panthers, and subpoenas targeting the Puerto Rican independence movement following the FBI assassination of movement leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios in 2005.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2009, Carrie Feldman and Scott DeMuth of Minneapolis were called before a federal grand jury in Davenport, Iowa. They were subpoenaed in the most recent use of Green Scare tactics in Minnesota, the government’s desperate attempt to obtain information about activists, grasp at straws to file charges against them, and disrupt radical animal-rights and environmental movements such as the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front. Rightfully so, Carrie and Scott refused to cooperate and testify.

At the request of Prosecutor Cliff Cronk, District Judge John Jarvey found them in contempt of court and had them taken into custody immediately. Scott was charged with conspiracy under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act two days later, becoming the seventh person charged under this dangerous law passed through shady procedures in 2006. Once he was facing a criminal charge, his charge of civil contempt was dropped and he became eligible for release. Cronk tried to keep him locked up by arguing that his political beliefs and associations make him a “domestic terrorist,” but his ridiculous arguments failed and Scott was released after about two weeks.

Carrie’s situation has been drastically different. She remains locked up in Iowa as the government punishes her for her political beliefs and resistance to the grand jury process. She could be held for the duration of the grand jury–another 10 months. Grand juries have historically been used to repress dissent and disrupt social movements by intimidating people into abandoning their activism, unjustly incarcerating them and separating them from their communities, and conducting fishing expeditions for information about movements. Despite the government’s claims that grand juries are necessary to uphold the law and create a just society, their true purpose has been demonstrated in the persecution of people ranging from journalists who refused to identify their sources to five of the Black Panthers known as the San Francisco 8 to activists involved in the Puerto Rican independence movement to earth and animal liberation activists.

The Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS) and Coldsnap Legal Collective have been involved in supporting people unjustly arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated since the Republican National Convention invaded St. Paul in September 2008. Many of us experienced state repression first-hand in the streets of St. Paul, and we all witnessed it in the courts as we saw person after person prosecuted more for expressing their dissent than for any illegal acts alleged to have occurred. We have not forgotten our experiences. And we are not blind to the connections between what we experienced, what Carrie and Scott are experiencing, and what all targets of state repression experience.

We demand that Carrie be released immediately, that the charges against Scott be dropped immediately, and that the government abandon its attempts to punish them for their political beliefs. We stand in solidarity with Carrie, Scott, and all those who are imprisoned for their political beliefs and for having the courage to fight back against the system that is destroying the Earth and threatening our lives.

We also call on all people of conscience who are working to change this world to support them. Visit for more information and updates. You can also donate to their support fund there and find out more about how you can support them. A movement is only as strong as its prisoner support, and Carrie and Scott need our solidarity now more than ever.

In solidarity and resistance,

CRASS & Coldsnap


More information on this case:

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Anarhisti na slobodi: Belgrade Six Update

There has been some very good news in the case of the Belgrade Six, which we previously posted on here. First, two reports from February 18 on B92 TV (in Serbian):

And here is a summary of the day’s events that has been posted on the Denver Anarchist Black Cross blog:

Serbia: Belgrade Six released, charges reduced

The fight is not over, the Belgrade 6 may still face serious charges when they return to court on the 23rd March. We must keep up the pressure on the Serbian state. But the fact that they have been released and the terrorist charges dropped is a massive victory, But the campaign must continue until all charges are dropped and the Serbian state is held accountable for [its] actions.

The following is a compilation of two reports, one being the translation from the FAU report, and the other report from the IWA Secretary.  In sum, they state that the Six are released “on bail” to return for trial the 23rd of March, and the terrorism charges have been reduced to some lesser charge:

A couple of hundred people came to court today to attend the trial of the Belgrade 6. Despite the fact that a large room was supposed to be ordered, the court was apparently too afraid of the crowd and very few activists were let in. (They also were insisting that nobody could sit in the first row of the court and claiming the room was full.) This was a very tense situation and during this, 3 people were arrested for hanging a sign on the door reading “Anarchism is not Terrorism.”

During the trial it came out that one of the six, Ivan Savic, was tortured and forced to sign a confession to yet another plot. The six were released for now and the next hearing is scheduled for March 23. There are rumours that the charges will be changed. [rumors confirmed; see below]

After the trial there was a discussion about the case with many people there. The surprise visitors to the panel discussion were Ratibor and Tadej who, as soon as they were released, showed up at the discussion. They were in a good mood; the others went home to get some rest after their ordeal.

IWA Secretary:

I am writing from the trial of Belgrade 6 and I wanted to give a brief report to the sections on what was happening, more information will follow.

There was a tremendous turn out of supporters for the start of the Belgrade 6 case. There was also many supporters from outside Serbia, which included many supporters from the IWA sections. All the main Serbian TV channels were also present.

Little information come from inside the courts, so it was a long day for supporters waiting outside with all sorts of conflicting rumors circulating about what was happening inside. Our concerns were only increased when several anarchist from Croatia were arrested for unfolding a banner which read ANARCHISM IS NOT TERRORISM. They now face up to a month in prison

At 3.30pm loud clapping come from inside the court. A few minutes later supporters, who had been allowed in the court, emerged to announce that the Belgrade 6 were going to be released in effect on bail. There was plenty of confusion but it later confirmed that they were going to be released until March 23rd when they would still face terrorist charges.

But the fact that they had been released was a tremendous victory. Later in the evening the Belgrade 6 were informed that the charges of terrorism would be dropped and replaced with a lessor charge. Needless to say the mood among the family and supporters was euphoric.

At the meeting after the release we were informed about some disturbing treatment the Belgrade 6 had received while they were in prison.

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Monument to Transformation (Montehermoso)

Babi Badalov
Schizopoetry, 2007
Courtesy of the artist

Centro Cultural
Montehermoso Kulturunea
Fray Zacarias Martinez, 2
01001 Vitoria-Gasteiz (SPAIN)

February 12 – May 2, 2010

Vyacheslav Akhunov, Ayreen Anastas+René Gabri, Babi Badalov, Chto Delat, Cristina David, Patricia Esquivias, Pedro G. Romero/Archivo F.X., Nicoline van Harskamp, Sharon Hayes, Sanja Ivekovic, Peggy Meinfelder, Ivan Moudov, Ciprian Muresan, Anatoly Osmolovsky, Dan Perjovschi, Lia Perjovschi, María Ruido, SASA[44]+MeeNa Park, Wisnu Suryapratama, Taller Popular de Serigrafía, Vangelis Vlahos, Haegue Yang

“Monument to Transformation” is a series of exhibitions, projections, publications, debates and lectures which have taken place over more than two years, in an interdisciplinary environment (art, humanities, economics and natural science theories).

The exhibition at Montehermoso is conceived as an imaginative and analytical space that – with a certain distance – enables the visitor to see and reflect upon the processes of change that started with the fall of the Iron Curtain (1989) in Eastern Europe, the student demonstrations in Indonesia in 1998 or the Revolution in South Korea (1987) and which have, to a certain extent, continued until today. The way this topic is approached is influenced by a feeling of affiliation to these changes, which are in a way co-formed by us and whose impact affects and influences us. It is therefore an attempt to look at “transformation” as a “lived out” and gradually receding process.

This way of thinking about transformation is conceived as structured in tension between various methods from the fields of the social sciences and artistic practice. The experience of transformation in “Eastern Europe” is an independent theoretical field. In the context of transformation studies, the so-called Eastern European region has its own specific elements, which originated in the geo-political division of the world, irrevocably decided at the Jalta Conference as a consequence of the Second World War. The power division of the world into East and West can no longer be mechanically adopted without reservation – it cannot be used when trying to understand the processes of cultural signifying, cultural production and representation in that region. If one automatically accepts such a division, one assumes that those geo-political power polarities are recognizable in the “cultural material” – which means that cultural production is not viewed a priori, as creation, as a polluting semiosis, but as a mere representative of the recognizability of the East-West power polarity.

Curated by Vít Havránek and Zbynek Baladrán.

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Free/Slow University of Warsaw: Readings for Artworkers, Vol. 1


theorists, activists and artists on the production and functioning of culture

This is the first volume of the Journal of the Free/Slow University of Warsaw and a recap of the first year of its activity. The internal diversity of the volume corresponds to the mode of operation of our para-institution, which experiments with various avenues of knowledge production and exchange.

The subject of the first edition of the Free/Slow University of Warsaw was “culture not for profit.” The initiative referred to the tradition of free education, with a focus on establishing an environment that would enable critical reflection not only on culture, but also on its social, political and economic background. The participants made an attempt at theoretical and practical research of the conditions of knowledge and culture production in late capitalism, an analysis of the life conditions of activists, artists and cultural operators, as well as at exerting an impact on cultural policy and participating in debates on the current and the future shape of our societies.

The publication is available in Polish in printed form and online in English >>.

WUW curator: Kuba Szreder
WUW organiser: Fundacja Bęc Zmiana
WUW partners: Fundacja Res Publica, Fundacja InSitu, Stowarzyszenie Komuna Otwock, Stowarzyszenie Artanimacje, Stowarzyszenie Duopolis

The WUW project is financed by subsidies from the capital city of Warsaw.

Readings For Art Workmen. Journal 1: Culture, Not Profit.
Edited by: Katarzyna Chmielewska, Kuba Szreder, Tomasz Żukowski
Authors: Jakob Jakobsen, Gerald Raunig, Marion von Osten, Peter Spillmann, Teresa Święćkowska, Martin Kaltwasser, Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, Ewa Majewska, NetzNetz, Adrienne Goehler, Katarzyna Chmielewska, Michał Kozłowski, Tomasz Żukowski, Michał Herer
format: 15×22 cm

Fundacja Bęc Zmiana
warszawa, mokotowska 65
+48 22 827 64 62

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A History of Irritated Material (London)

A History of Irritated Material

25 February – 2 May 2010

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
London E1 7LS
T +44 (0)20 7377 4300


‘A History of Irritated Material’ includes Group Material, Inspection Medical Hermeneutics, Sture Johannesson, Ad Reinhardt, and Lygia Clark, from Object to Event, produced by Suely Rolnik. Activist films from Disobedience, an ongoing video archive will also be shown.

The exhibition samples art’s relation to politics and the archive, using examples from each decade since the Second World War. The archive of the New York artists’ collective Group Material has been made available for the very first time to record four of their radical exhibitions from the eighties and early nineties. Sture Johannesson’s Cannabis Gallery from Malmö in the sixties will be revived, and the exhibition will also include two installations by Inspection Medical Hermeneutics (a collective from Moscow of the ‘Glasnost’ years), as well as both the abstract and graphic political work of Ad Reinhardt. Significantly, Raven Row has commissioned the translation of part of Suely Rolnik’s compendious research on Lygia Clark, Lygia Clark, from Object to Event, which documents the otherwise invisible culmination of Clark’s life-art project. Sections of this video archive will be shown for the first time in English.

Alongside these positions, a selection of activist films from Disobedience, an ongoing video archive, will be shown within a structure designed by Xabier Salaberría, and political films made by collectives in the UK from the seventies and eighties will be screened and discussed in a programme of events during the course of the exhibition.

Usually an archive draws its value from being placed in chronological relation with a past event. What, then, characterises these archives, with their unruly documents that are more concerned with activation in the present? The positions in this exhibition are borderline or subterranean, sitting at the edge of art history, or at the boundary of art proper. The title of the exhibition refers to the charged relationship plotted here between art and psychological and social reality. Art that criticises and confronts problems in the social world, but is also sceptical towards itself, can appear anxious and volatile as well as positively critical.

The exhibition is designed by John Morgan studio, Gorka Eizagirre and Xabier Salaberría, and curated by Lars Bang Larsen, with Petra Bauer, Dan Kidner, Alex Sainsbury, and Marco Scotini.

Artists, activists and filmmakers included in Disobedience at Raven Row are: Atelier d’Architecture Autogérée, Gianfranco Baruchello, Bernadette Corporation, Chto Delat?/What is to be done?, Critical Art Ensemble, Department of Space and Land Reclamation, Dodo Brothers, Etcétera, Marcelo Expósito, Harun Farocki and Andrei Ujica, Alberto Grifi, Grupo de Arte Callejero, Ashley Hunt, Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante, Park Fiction, Oliver Ressler and Zanny Begg, Mariette Schiltz and Bert Theis, Eyal Sivan, Hito Steyerl, and Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas.

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Pavilion UniCredit: An Artist’s Tale

Pavilion UniCredit: An Artist’s Tale

I would like the following text to serve as a continuation of the discussion on the economy of the contemporary art world and the place of art and creative labor in the world of capital.

Let’s begin with a simple tale.

Once upon a time there was an artist who was so naïve that he thought that artists, as workers, should receive compensation for participation in shows and screenings of their works. Despite the disappointing experiences he’d had when he’d tried to press these issues in many projects, he thought it made sense to try his best and see what came of it, especially when his art works were invited to spaces marked by the obvious presence of capital (or where one could presume its presence). When he made his modest requests, he usually received the answer that there was no money. Neither for artist fees, nor for travel, nor for production. Curators usually just asked him and his colleagues to send copies of their films or print files of their works – they would do the rest. Most artists thus had little chance to see the many beautiful, important shows that were made with their work and thus to grow professionally.

The artist was a member of a collective. This collective did not have a gallery, and most of the videos they produced were self-financed (or underfinanced) with the vague hope that one day they might be able to raise money for a new production. To make matters worse, they worked under public license.

One day the artist received a polite letter from a nice curator whom he had never met. The curator was pleased to invite the artist to screen a video work at a show. She explained how the video was crucial to the whole concept of the show. She even asked the artist to produce a new graphic piece that would work in conjunction with the video.

The artist was thrilled to receive this invitation. He read the concept for the show and discovered that it was filled with important ideas and stirring expressions that he liked a lot. The emancipatory aspect of modernity as an unfinished project… The question of the contemporary emancipatory potential of revolutionary ideas, of socialism and communism… The role of art in the transformation of society. And so on.

He thought to himself that it was terrific there were curators and venues that worried about the issues dear to his heart. He read the name of the place where he had been invited to exhibit: Pavilion UniCredit in Bucharest. This particular space was renowned for supporting the most radical (even revolutionary) practices and some of the most leftist and socially concerned international artists.

He recalled that this cutting-edge space with its radical agenda was run by a guy he had once met; this man had also invited him to a big biennale he was organizing. He also recalled that this fellow had complained his space was very poorly financed because his country was the poorest in Europe. They had begun to argue about just this fact. The artist felt that since this fellow’s space was named in honor of a big bank, it might make sense to push this bank for more solid support. Otherwise, when local institutions were not treated as equal partners, and their hard work was poorly compensated, you ended up with something that smacked of the neocolonial exploitation of resources and people, of local miseries and inequalities.There was nothing wrong with the bank’s sponsorship itself, he thought, but there was something perverse about featuring the bank’s name without securing enough funding to run a decent program and treat artists and contributors right.

The artist recalled all this when he got the invitation. He Googled the name of the bank’s Romanian branch and within minutes he learned that UniCredit, one of the most powerful banks in Europe, was also well known for its social responsibility and support of culture:

The banks who united their forces to create UniCredit Group have a long tradition in promoting culture and local artistic manifestations, in the countries where they are present. This involvement is proved by UniCredit Group’s vast art collection and by the tens of initiatives within the UniCredit & Art Project.

Being very close to the communities where we are present, we try to maintain a strong relationship with them, by encouraging all the initiatives that contribute to their cultural enrichment. Thus, we encourage cultural diversity, by supporting music, literature, film and plastic art projects.

As part of a banking group with a tradition in supporting the arts, UniCredit Tiriac Bank has a strong interest in cultural artistic projects. We already have a tradition in supporting social and environment protection projects. We believe in the power of example, and this is why we involve our employees in the various projects that we support.

Beyond its main objective of making profit, we think that a private company has a responsibility to give something back to the community. Without this, we cannot speak of sustainability.

[The UniCredit Integrity Charter] encourage[s] the growth of shared feelings and experiences among all our colleagues.

Our artist was not a purist. As long as UniCredit had such good policies, that meant it should respect artists and cultural initiatives, particularly when its name was on the marquee of the art space it sponsored. How could it show its respect for artists? By supporting their work with serious funding and providing decent working conditions for guest curators and everyone involved in their projects.

He imagined what it would be like if he ran a project space in Petersburg called Sberbank Chto Delat or Gazprom Chto Delat and then sat around complaining that there wasn’t adequate funding for its programs. Wouldn’t other artists expect to be paid for their work if they exhibited at a space with such a solid-sounding name?

After mulling over all these things, he agreed to participate in the show at Pavilion UniCredit.

In his letter, he modestly asked the curator whether a fee would be paid for his work and for screening his collective’s video.

The curator sent him a rather detailed reply. There was no money for artist fees: all the money had gone into building a new wall and dimming the windows and so on and so forth. There was no money left for anything else, but still it is a great space, etc. In short, it was the same old story.

This was no great surprise to the artist. But as someone who had been developing a class consciousness and who saw artists and other creative and intellectual workers as a new kind of exploited proletariat, he couldn’t help thinking that it was irresponsible to go on making his peace with this business as usual.

So he again modestly asked the curator whether it wouldn’t make sense for all the participants involved in this project (the organizers included) to raise in a general way the issue of financial support from rich corporate sponsors. Maybe it would be a good idea to challenge them to extend their nice-sounding concept of social responsibility to artistic workers – that is, to themselves and their colleagues? He merely wanted to spark a discussion in the good old spirit of institutional critique. He didn’t want to cause a scandal – just to get folks to start thinking.

And because the piece the curator wanted him to exhibit was a video about Brecht and the dialectic, the artist thought it would be great to bring this message into their present working situation and try to prove that things didn’t have to remain the way they were. He also thought that the graphic statement he had been asked to produce for the show should likewise reflect these questions.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The guest curator liked his idea a lot. What could be wrong with it? Radical spaces like Pavilion UniCredit usually savored these kinds of tough issues. It would be possible to organize a discussion of the precarious conditions of artistic labor. They could then publish a radical newspaper with support from UniCredit in which dozens of brilliant precarious contributors would ponder this business of not getting paid for their work. Of course they would do so for free (or, at very least, for the nice food stamps called per diems in the art world). There was no money to finance this important debate, which in reality would cost almost nothing, perhaps a millionth of the budget for a run-of-the-mill corporate dinner.

The artist’s dialogue with the curator was going well until the folks at Pavilion UniCredit got wind of what he was proposing. They informed him (indirectly, via the curator) that their board couldn’t permit anyone to exhibit an attack on their institution (even in the form of an artwork) within the institution itself. And that was that: the artist’s piece, allegedly so crucial to the concept of the show, was disinvited with amazing alacrity and without any further discussion.

Why? The artist could only guess at the real reasons because the managers of Pavilion UniCredit refused further contact with him and thus foreclosed the possibility of a real discussion. Was it because the artist was a greedy egomaniac with a passion for scandal? Or was it because artists could not be allowed to raise questions of any sort about production? Or was it because the artist had mildly challenged the grey economy of sponsorship?


What is the moral of this story?

We might say that this story is too local and too bound up with personal peculiarities and emotions to have any general significance. This is true to some extent. The artist, however, believes that such cases should be made public. If today’s undeclared status quo is that artists are expected to keep their mouths shut and let institutions decide how things should be done and what things should be discussed, then this is wrong. Radicalism in art, culture, and thought should not be the exclusive property of institutions backed with power and money.

In short, institutions should not be free to abuse artists with their arrogance and incompetence. They should face the consequences of their behavior, even when they are located in Europe’s poorest country and backed by the richest corporate sponsors.

– Dmitry Vilensky, Saint Petersburg, 17.02.2010

P.S. The exhibition Comrades of Time opens at Pavilion UniCredit in Bucharest on February 18. Angry Sandwichpeople, or In Praise of Dialectics, a work by the Chto Delat collective, was disinvited from the show by the board of Pavilion UniCredit because, in discussion with the curator, Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat collective) suggested raising the issue of the project’s funding and artist fees. The work can be viewed online at:


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