Monthly Archives: June 2012

Kazakhstan: Justice for Oil Workers! (LabourStart)

Kazakhstan: Justice for Oil Workers!

In partnership with the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, the Confederation of Labour of Russia, and supported by the International Trade Union Confederation

Over a period of several months, court trials related to the tragic events in Zhanaozen of 16 December 2011 have taken place. Many months of dispute between oil workers and the management of oil companies, with the connivance of the authorities, resulted in disorders, violence and the uncontrolled use of force by police, which caused the death of 17 and injuries to dozens of people. Not only oil workers were killed and injured, but also citizens of Kazakhstan who had no involvement with the labour conflict.

Dozens of people, whose involvement is contestable, were subsequently charged. Many of them were sentenced to different terms in prison. During the process, international observers, representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and OSCE, human rights defenders and journalists recorded numerous violations in the trial processes. Almost all defendants and some of witnesses stated that they were tortured in the course of the investigation, but the trials were not suspended. The trials were conducted in an environment of extreme tensions and close to a state of emergency measures in the region.

The international trade union movement demands that the sentences be reconsidered, that all cases of torture and provocation be thoroughly investigated, and that national legislation that envisages criminal responsibility for “calling for social strife” and that is used selectively to put pressure on trade unionists, human rights activists and public figures, be changed.

Go here to sign a petition to the Kazakhstan authorities.

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What Passes for Good News in Russia These Days

The Supreme Court in the republic of Karelia overturned on Thursday a lower court’s order to put a critic of the Russian Orthodox Church into a psychiatric hospital.

But the man, rights activist Maxim Yefimov, remains on a wanted list on charges of inciting hatred toward the church by means of an internet article.

Yefimov, head of Youth Human Rights Group Karelia, published online in December an article titled Karelia Tired of Priests, slamming the church over its alleged interest toward real estate in the northern republic.

This earned him a criminal case for hatemongering, punishable by up to two years in prison.

Investigators requested a psychiatric examination of Yefimov, which ended with experts asking in May to place him into stationary care for a more extensive study of his “explicit deviations.”

Yefimov went on the run, while his lawyers appealed the court order, citing numerous rulings by prominent Russian psychiatrists, all of whom said the case does not mandate his placement in an asylum.

The Karelian Supreme Court eventually ordered a lower court to revise the request to confine Yefimov to a psychiatric hospital for a check. No date for a new hearing was set on Thursday.

Russian legislation on extremism and hate crimes is notoriously vague and criticized by many opposition and civil society activists, who accuse the authorities of abusing it for political persecution.

Punitive psychiatry was widespread in the Soviet Union and dissidents were often held and drugged for months for criticizing the government. It went largely defunct in post-Soviet Russia, though an investigation by The Moscow Times in 2011 produced a dozen separate cases across the nation where critics of authorities were allegedly put into asylums as a form of pressure.

In a separate case in Moscow, opposition activist Oleg Arkhipenkov, who is being held in custody over an anti-Putin rally last month, has been forced to take drugs during “psychiatric treatment” in detention, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Prison officials did not comment on the allegations as of Thursday afternoon.

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Petersburg Police Arrest Michael Jackson Fan for Holding “Illegal Rally”

Police Arrest Jackson Fan for Holding Rally
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
June 27, 2012

The police dispersed Michael Jackson fans near the U.S. consulate and arrested one for holding “an unsanctioned rally” in St. Petersburg on Monday.

The remaining 20 to 30 fans, who were carrying a tape recorder playing Jackson songs and a sign reading “We remember, we grieve,” were told to disperse.

The shrine of photos and flowers that they assembled outside the consulate was dismantled.

A report on local television channel 100TV shows a young man identified by his first name, Andrei, being told by a police officer that he has violated a local law by treading on the grass.

But after Andrei, wearing a Jackson-style white hat, was taken to a police precinct, he was charged with violating the rules on holding a public assembly.

“I don’t recall that people can be prosecuted for walking on the grass,” a police spokesman said Tuesday.

“If you trampled on the grass — especially if there were flowers planted there — that’s a different matter. [But the detention] was for organizing a rally; there were posters and sound-amplifying equipment.”

Fans who came to the site Monday denied that they were an organized group, BaltInfo reported.

Local fans have come to the U.S. consulate every year to pay homage to their idol since Jackson died on June 25, 2009.

According to amendments to the law “On Assemblies, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets” that came into force on June 9, Andrei faces a 10,000- to 30,000-ruble fine ($300 to $910) or 50 hours of community service.

The incident involving the Michael Jackson fans was the latest in a series of recent non-political arrests and dispersals of people who took to the streets of St. Petersburg for various reasons.

On June 10, about ten young people were detained and charged with violating the rules of holding a public assembly for participating in a pillow-fighting flash mob on the Field of Mars.

This month also saw several young people arrested near the Mariinsky Palace, the seat of the Legislative Assembly on St. Isaac’s Square, for attempting to draw on the asphalt with colored chalk.

Some media have attributed the recent unwarranted arrests and dispersals to the new law. It was passed in the aftermath of the May 6 March of Millions in Moscow, which ended in violent clashes after the police blocked the path of participants of the authorized demonstration and then broke up the rally altogether.

But non-political arrests had been seen in the city many times before the law introducing stiff fines was adopted early this month.

One of the most notorious episodes was the April 2010 bubble-blowing flash mob near Gorkovskaya metro station, which was first attacked by extreme nationalists, who threw a flare at and beat several participants, having mistaken them for gay rights protesters.

The police then dispersed participants, who were mostly teenagers, arresting about 30. They ended up in police precincts and were released after about five hours and charged with walking on the grass.

Some attribute the tightening of the authorities’ reaction to any unsanctioned outdoor events to the Kremlin’s fear of events such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004-2005, when massive protests against electoral fraud led to new presidential elections and the loss of the candidate — Viktor Yanukovych — in whose favor the first election results had been rigged.

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Musicians Unite in Support of Pussy Riot

Rockers of the world unite
By Sergey Chernov
The St. Petersburg Times
June 27, 2012

Soviet punk rock becomes relevant again when human rights are challenged, according to New York promoter Bryan Swirsky, who is currently working on a compilation of Soviet and Eastern European punk. Last week, he promoted a Pussy Riot benefit in Brooklyn to support the three imprisoned members of the Russian feminist punk group, whose pretrial detention was last week prolonged until July 27 in Moscow.

The women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 19 — were arrested in March and charged with “hooliganism motivated by hatred toward a religious group” for performing an anti-Putin song in a Moscow church. The offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Held at The Knitting Factory on Saturday, the benefit featured diverse music from klezmer, as performed by Frank London & Di Shikere Kapelye (The Inebriated Orchestra) featuring Michael Alpert, to alt-rock from artists such as singer-songwriter Alina Simone.

“I was raised in an era when punk rock was a viable form of protest, when political theater and satire and making bold statements to protest against the government was considered a normal thing to do,” Swirsky said by phone Sunday.

“It all comes out of free expression movements like the beatniks and the early hippies, and the punks were an extension of that. So when I caught wind of what Pussy Riot were doing, I got to thinking about how it relates to what was happening in America and England in the 1970s and the 1980s.

“And it also reminded me of what was happening in Russia and the Soviet Union when rock bands were first starting to germinate in the 1970s, especially bands like The Plastic People of the Universe from the Czech Republic, who were notoriously thrown in jail repeatedly and considered enemies of the state during the ‘normalization’ [period in Czechoslovakia between 1969 and 1987].”

The Soviet punk artists that Swirsky referred to and included in his compilation were Siberian musicians Yegor Letov and Yanka.

Letov, who gained underground fame in the 1980s as a singer-songwriter and the frontman of his band Grazhdanskaya Oborona, was persecuted by the authorities to the extent of being sent to a mental hospital — a notorious Soviet practice for treating dissidents — where he spent four months and was injected with neuroleptic drugs.

“Anyway, when I heard that these women were being persecuted by the authorities, I thought that something needed to be done,” Swirsky said.

“The idea to organize a concert actually came from a friend of mine, a client of mine in the Czech Republic who works with Plastic People and Uz jsme doma. Plastic People and Uz jsme doma organized a benefit for Pussy Riot [in Lucerna Music Bar in Prague in May], and the leader of Uz jsme doma called me up and said, ‘You need to do something because it’s a very serious issue; you need to get the Americans on board.’ That’s how the idea started.”

Some big names in rock were duly approached, but were unable to participate at such short notice, according to Swirsky.

“We reached out to a lot of famous musicians in America like Patti Smith and Lou Reed to Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Wayne Kramer of MC5. [If these artists had been able to participate] we would have organized a big concert that would have made the situation probably more global,” he said.

“Unfortunately, all those artists had to turn us down because of previous commitments on their tour schedules, so we ended up having to reinvent the concert to a pretty intense degree. I ended up contacting a Russian rock promoter here in Brooklyn by the name of David Gross, and David basically knew any decent talent in the Brooklyn area and hired them to put the concert together. So if anything, this is my idea, but David really added immeasurably to the situation. He had a lot of talent as a promoter and drew quite a lot of people in as the result of his efforts.”

According to Swirsky, the show did well in terms of the quality of music and expression of solidarity, but it did not break through to the general New York music-going public as he’d hoped it would.

“Musically, the show was outstanding, every musician that performed yesterday was an amazing talent and they all deserve a lot of credit for donating their talents to the cause,” Swirsky said.

“Attendance-wise, we didn’t do as well as we’d thought we would because we didn’t have an attraction for the American side of the community. The people who showed up were basically Russian Americans who were aware of the situation. But on the positive side, the Russian media was there in full force. There were a lot of people there writing about the situation — I gave probably four or five interviews in two hours — and there was general understanding in the room that these women need support, even if it’s coming from 8,000 miles away. So in this sense I consider the show a success, even if we didn’t have a slam dunk attendance.”

The concert at The Knitting Factory was New York’s third Pussy Riot benefit. Last Thursday, Shondes, Making Friendz, Ritz Riot, Bachslider and DJ Maura Johnston performed to support the imprisoned women at 285 Kent Ave in a series of concerts curated by Permanent Wave, a network of feminist artists and activists founded by Amy Klein of the feminist alt-rock duo Hilly Eye.

The first Pussy Riot benefit — which Permanent Wave was also behind — was at Death by Audio with Heliotropes and the Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock who performed a DJ set, making his first public appearance since bandmate Adam Yauch’s death in May.

Last week, support for the band expanded when Anti-Flag, a veteran punk rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, covered the song that so enraged the Kremlin (the one performed in the Moscow church) and released it on the Internet under the English title “Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin.”

“Pussy Riot embody the spirit of punk rock which speaks truth to power that inspired the members of Anti-Flag to start our band and dedicate ourselves to the punk rock community and the planet,” the band wrote in a statement.

“The Russian authority’s [sic] actions against Pussy Riot are clearly an attack on freedom of thought, opinion and artistic expression which must be protected for any society to be free. Anti-Flag calls for the immediate release of Pussy Riot and all prisoners of conscience. Whether it be trumped up charges levied by police against Occupy protesters, or the trumped up charges levied by the Russian authorities against the members of Pussy Riot, there is no difference in the police-state tactics that those in power will stoop to in order to oppress those who are willing fight [sic] for equality and justice for all, not just the wealthy few.”

According to Swirsky, awareness about the Pussy Riot situation is growing in the U.S.

“I think consciousness is growing, I think people’s attitudes — especially among young American people who really care about free speech and human rights — I think they are very concerned on a very positive level,” he said.

“The other folks that were doing the other Pussy Riot benefit in Brooklyn, they organized things very quickly and, to their credit, they did a very good job. I think the timing between our concerts was a little weird because we both had concerts the same week, and I think this was a bit of a bad move on everybody’s part; we should have combined efforts. But this is what happens at the stage of communication — sometimes people don’t communicate. Everybody’s got an idea, everybody’s got to run with it. Unfortunately sometimes points don’t connect.

“I think what would make the most sense is if there was one unified effort in New York as opposed to having all these small events that compete against each other — to make a strong show of the movement by organizing in a collective manner, as opposed to lots of little things going on simultaneously.”

Swirsky hopes that another, bigger Pussy Riot benefit will be held in New York in the near future.

“I would like to stay involved in this cause; I think it’s very important as a free speech issue, as a human rights issue,” Swirsky said.

“Our efforts are not to condemn Putin’s government or the church, but basically to make it clear that having church and state collude and suppress dissenting opinion is a very dangerous precedent that harkens back to the darkest Soviet era.”

Swirsky is a 46-year-old native New Yorker with Soviet roots, having being born to a Lithuanian father and a Ukrainian mother.

“I grew up in the punk era, that’s when I came of age,” he said.

“I grew up just after the Vietnam War had started to decline, so I was witness to a lot of protest at a young age and I always understood that being an activist is a very important part of one’s life and that one has to stand up against injustice as the result of government action as one sees fit. One has to respond and react and hopefully cause a change — even if it’s on a small level.”

Swirsky partly attributed the Soviet and Eastern Bloc punk compilation that he is working on to his Soviet roots. Even though the music dates back to 25 years ago and many of the artists presented on it, including Letov, Yanka and Automatic Satisfiers’ Andrei “Svin” Panov, have since passed away, the recent events both in Russia and the U.S. have made what could otherwise be an archive effort relevant, he said.

“How artists were treated in the 1970s and 1980s and the Pussy Riot situation have a very strong parallel,” he said.

“There are also some interesting parallels between Russia and the United States, because of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has been pretty suppressed politically and legally. They are making it very hard for people to assemble en masse like that. There’s a crackdown happening. The people don’t want to see dissent in the streets like that, it makes them uncomfortable, it makes people scared. And people who are scared are going to react in violent ways and they will hire politicians to basically express their will.”

The compilation album, which does not yet have an official title, is due out on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label within the next 12 months.

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Anti-Flag Release Song in Support of Pussy Riot

Dear Friends and Family,

Punk rock is much more than a t-shirt, a sound, a record, or a band, and it knows no borders or nationality. Punk rock is a community and a family that spans around the globe. By now you may have heard that three members of our community, three young women who are members of the band Pussy Riot, are being detained by the Russian authorities for performing their protest song ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February 2012.  The three have been charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to seven years.

Pussy Riot embody the spirit of punk rock which speaks truth to power that inspired the members of Anti-Flag to start our band and dedicate ourselves to the punk rock community and the planet. The Russian authority’s actions against Pussy Riot are clearly an attack on freedom of thought, opinion and artistic expression which must be protected for any society to be free. Anti-Flag calls for the immediate release of Pussy Riot and all prisoners of conscience. Whether it be trumped up charges levied by police against Occupy protestors, or the trumped up charges levied by the Russian authorities against the members of Pussy Riot, there is no difference in the police-state tactics that those in power will stoop to in order to oppress those who are willing fight for equality and justice for all, not just the wealthy few.

We need everyone’s help in this fight! We are trying to help in our small way by releasing this cover of Pussy Riot’s ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in order to raise awareness.

Here are some ways you can help…

-Spread the word to your friends and family about Pussy Riot’s unjust incarceration.

-DONATE!!! Pussy Riot need money for their legal defense fund! No amount is too small or too large.

-TAKE ACTION with Amnesty International! Help Amnesty tell the Russian authorities to drop all charges and release Pussy Riot!

“…The song calls on Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin. It also criticises the dedication and support shown to President-elect Vladimir Putin by some representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. The performance was part of wider protests against Putin and unfair elections in Russia. This, and the anti-clerical, anti-Putin content of the song’s message, appears to have been reflected in the severity of the charges that have been brought against the three women.” -Amnesty International

For more information please visit
In Solidarity, Anti-Flag

ANTI-FLAG: PUNK-PRAYER “Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin” (Pussy Riot Cover) by antiflag

Lyrics to Punk-Prayer “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away” by PUSSY RIOT


Filed under open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, Russian society

Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy

Editor’s Note. By way of introducing our readers to Tidal, a journal and web site focused on the theory and strategy of the Occupy Wall Street movement, we are reprinting, below, Conor Tomás Reed’s excellent article on the movement, public education, and the right to the city, from the Tidal web site. You can find out how to donate to Tidal here. (Thanks to Comrade O. for the heads-up.)


On the City as University: Occupy and the Future of Public Education
Conor Tomás Reed

For quite a long time now, we precariously situated students and faculty in CUNY have been practicing the art of what Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o calls “poor theory”—“maximizing the possibilities inherent in the minimum… being extremely creative and experimental in order to survive.” Unable to isolate ourselves within the velvety quicksand of armchairs and seminar table solipsism, we have instead pursued a kind of crowd scholarship that jettisons “interest” for “involvement.” Discussions among crowds of people—in and out of assemblies, street marches, virtual forums, shared meals, space-transformations, and yes, even jail stints—have assembled critical lessons and experiences not yet valued by scholastic frameworks of singularly rendered knowledge. Thousands have co-authored this document itself.

We are engaged in a process of defending our educational and social futures from a threadbare past and present. US student debt has surpassed $1 trillion—a third of this debt is held by graduate students. Crippling tuition increases and education cuts in some cases triple tuition and erase whole departments. Meanwhile, our campuses become increasingly militarized. As recently spotlighted in UC-Davis and CUNY’s Baruch and Brooklyn Colleges, administrators unabashedly welcome the surveillance, intimidation, and brutal arrests of students and faculty who peacefully dissent. But after our pulses shudder from being followed by armed officers, after our indignation roils from reading lies that presidents and chancellors print about our political acts, and after our bruised bodies heal from being treated like enemy combatants on our own campuses, we gather in crowds again because we have no other choice. In spite of these grim circumstances, we’re also witnessing and creating major explosions of resistance through education movements across the world—Quebec, Chile, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Spain, England, California, and around CUNY. Suppression of dissent is being met in resourceful ways. These struggles have demonstrated the power of creative action to mobilize millions—including street theater, public visual art, alternative models and sites of education, music, viral performance videos, and more. For activists in NYC, a few significant developments have arisen out of our own work—to conceive of education itself as a potential form of direct action, to rethink how we approach the call to strike, and to focus more acutely on dialectically connecting student/faculty work with wider community efforts at social change.

In the City University of New York and around the metropolis more broadly, our experiences in the Occupy movement taught us decades of lessons in a matter of months. As Tidal readers know, many CUNY folks were an active part of Occupy Wall Street, helping to maintain a multitude of working groups during the swift upsurge in city-wide radicalization. We facilitated thousands-strong public conversations and direct action trainings, built the People’s Library, and connected a global art and design community through Occuprint. At the CUNY Graduate Center, we began to hold regular general assemblies using the OWS model of direct participatory democracy. We claimed campus spaces that had otherwise not been used for political discourse (such as the recent week-long “Transforming Assembly” interactive exhibition at the James Gallery), and encouraged deeper undergrad students/grad students/faculty collaboration (including multiple open letter campaigns).

We worked on outside free public education initiatives, such as the People’s University series in Washington Square Park, as well as multiple-week open forums on the general strike leading up to May Day, all the while engaging in constant discussions of how to alter our pedagogies and institutional structures. Students and faculty explored consensual direct democracy in our classroom settings. This semester, several graduate student adjuncts team-taught a course at Brooklyn College entitled “Protest and Revolution: Occupy Your Education,” in which the students and facilitators together shaped how each class was used. 

And yet, after the White House-directed nationwide eviction of Occupy encampments this winter, the movement’s future was by no means foreseeable. Furthermore, when the May Day general strike call came out, a serious schism arose in activist circles in NYC and around the United States about whether to frame our efforts as a general strike when we knew that this was an actual impossibility. We queried whether this political action term could be used more as an act of prescriptive manifestation, rather than of descriptive demonstration. Students and faculty in the CUNY movement decided to build for the day with affinity for the language of striking, but not going to such lengths as setting up picket lines at our schools. We considered more fruitful ways to engage in a strike action that wriggled out of the negation-driven rhetoric that dominated initial May Day calls. “No/stop/don’t/shut down” left very limited visions of what the day would actually look like. We recognized that Occupy’s spring coming out party couldn’t be simply a long laundry list of what we opposed.

In early 2012, several graduate students wrote a short piece entitled “Five Theses on the Student Strike” in Occupy Wall Street’s Tidal journal, which set useful initial terms of the kind of affirmational, go-power, strike-as-on-switch tactics and political vision we wanted to create for the day. We sought to invoke the most dynamic and capacious political rhetoric to envision our specific goal of educational direct action, while using the weeks leading up to May 1 to theoretically and practically build for this, instead of standing still to debate whether the day’s actions should be called a strike or not.

By the time May Day had arrived, we had amassed a coalition of students and faculty from almost a dozen schools to produce the Free University: a “collective educational experiment” that ended up drawing almost 2000 participants in what is now delightfully considered the sleeper hit of the day’s event in NYC. We wanted to provide the best of Zuccotti Park’s legacy—unpermitted reclamation of public space, heterogeneous gatherings for radical discussion, and, what is still one of the best organizing tools out there, free food. The big secret is that around forty people coordinated this event within about a month. Our call for anyone to sign up to hold any kind of class or skill share was met with a deluge of exciting workshop submissions. Our call for anyone to attend meant that tuition, ID cards, costly books, security checkpoints, and many other chains tied to higher education were easily dissolved.

Educators conducted over forty workshops, classes, and collective experiences during the five hours we occupied and transformed the park. Over a dozen faculty members contractually prohibited from striking moved their entire classes off campuses and into the park in solidarity with the call to strike. Attendees shared and learned from front-lines movement experiences on occupying foreclosed housing, student organizing and debate skills, indigenous environmentalism, open access academic publishing, and anti-capitalist approaches to math and science. Collective poetry readings brushed up alongside figure drawings and collage projects. We welcomed such luminaries as Drucilla Cornell, David Harvey, Neil Smith, Ben Katchor, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Chris Hedges to join large crowds that gathered and mixed freely.

However, our ambitions mustn’t be misunderstood as creating a Free University to be a temporary utopian enclave, full stop. We promoted these outside classrooms as areas for generating rooted political content that could be catalyzed into movement activity. Indeed, at 3pm, our whole Free U campus marched to the main Union Square rally location, and then later swarmed the financial district, book shields and banners in hand. To focus on education itself as direct action suggests that we can transform public space into mobile classrooms—in public parks and community centers, as well as in street intersections, board rooms, and bridges. Future Free University initiatives can include radical think-tanks, hosting classes inside other classes, projecting our stories on various walls around the city, and performing pop-up Free U’s at annual city-wide events. We’re establishing the foundations for future attempts at dual power with such projects as People’s Boards of Education that decide and implement our own education plans while refusing those dictated from above.

Crowd scholarship of education outside walls can focus on such anti-disciplinary subjects as the compositional practice of street writing. Science lessons can observe as well as counteract neighborhood environmental devastation. Social geography can be taught through power-mapping areas of surveillance and gentrification, as well as routes for resistance. Poetry writing as a social and bodily practice can be differently imagined when we see ourselves as stanzas marching in the street, enjambing past police barricades, and breathing new life into words made collectively resonant through mic-checks. We can crowd-source syllabi in becoming students of urban revolutionary life—featuring Michel de Certeau, Jane Jacobs, Samuel Delany, and David Harvey alongside community texts and memoirs that academia has long overlooked. Harvey demonstrates the reflexive power in embracing our entire cities as universities when he says: “The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city.”

This work must also boomerang back into the academy walls in the process of ultimately decentering university spaces as the sole, tightly guarded sites where knowledge is made and trafficked. Each conference is a space to differently occupy, establish networks, and debate living strategies.  Each thesis and dissertation is an opportunity for multi-author, multi-modal scholarship to be evaluated by a committee of peers. Cross-department/cross-borough gatherings and actions can replace the vacuous insularity of academia. Our libraries can become true active repositories of 21st century movement life that is being daily archived in posts, streams, pamphlets, and feeds. Such participatory archive sources as and Interference Archive are excellent models for librarian archivists today.

Moreover, faculty nationwide will have to heed UC-Davis professor Nathan Brown’s recent challenge: “Student activists have understood the simple point that forms of action which do not pose an immediate and concrete barrier to the normal functions of the university will be ignored, deferred, and displaced. So they organize occupations and blockades. If faculty want to confront the totalitarian conduct of administrations, we will also have to organize and participate in occupations and blockades.” His jibe that faculty can organize international conferences, but not a twenty-person faculty sit-in, demonstrates how academics’ priorities will have to shift and grow, or else risk social irrelevance. I welcome our own CUNY professors to meet this challenge by considering the incredible power that mass faculty direct actions would contribute to our movement.

Occupy is at a crossroad, its development is not inevitable, we can become another mysterious blip (especially as the election season approaches), or we can do the patient and painstaking work of building a mass movement that will flourish in the face of what is an inevitable reality of further violence, crackdowns, and surveillance by the state. Academia has a role to perform in Occupy’s future, but one that employs both a step forward and a step aside. Academia must cede intellectual space for community members—the exiles of our current university systems—to raise their own critical voices while we listen and learn. And academia must also reconcile its own demons of the past 30+ years of significant yet extremely disillusioned and defensive theoretical positions. The current international spotlight on higher education can offer us the chance to make dramatic advances towards community control of our daily lives. Now that’s the  kind of education no school but ourselves can provide.

First printed in CUNY Graduate Center’s The Advocate.

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Occupy Everything (St. Lambrecht, Austria)

Occupy Everything
An exhibition organized by Oliver Ressler
for REGIONALE12 in St. Lambrecht, Austria, June 23–July 22, 2012

The financial and economic crisis intensified the related redistribution from the bottom up, this brought forth new protest movements in 2011: the Arab Spring, the movement of the squares in Spain and Greece, and the Occupy movement starting from the USA. Although these movements do not directly communicate with each other, they do have something in common: they are regionally active, non-hierarchical movements that reject representation and use direct democracy to make decisions. Occupying central public places serves as a catalyst to form and develop political projects and working groups. Successful occupations in one place can often inspire occupations in other cities.

The movements of the squares generally do not focus on particular grievances, but organize against the general way in which society and economy are controlled against the wishes and desires of the 99 percent.

The exhibition Occupy Everything in the pavilion at St. Lambrecht brings together projects that come directly from the square movements or deal directly with them.

The filmmaker Stefano Savona focused his film Tahrir, Liberation Square (F/I/Egypt, 2011) on the uprisings in Cairo, which ended with the resignation of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Savona systematically took the perspective of the insurgents at Tahrir, which he followed for several days without the camera’s view leaving the square even once. He makes tangible the conditions of a very specific time and place in the struggle that took place in Tahrir, which has since become synonymous with the possibility of successfully changing a social reality from below.

The New York artists collective Not An Alternative develops works to be used directly for occupations, demonstrations and other activities of Occupy Wall Street. They developed tactical and symbolic infrastructure that include eviction defense shields, multipurpose tents (“mili-tents”) and the yellow and black tape with “Occupy” lettering spread throughout New York. The works show the importance of practical artworks in the struggles for social change.

A central element in the pavilion is a 10-meter-long wall covered from floor to ceiling with 52 posters of the Occupy movement collected by Occuprint. The posters from around the globe have served to mobilize and disseminate political opinions; they express the amazing multiplicity of the movement. The posters come from activists, political groups and artists (including Paul Chan, Dread Scott, Noel Douglas).

The wall of posters has an opening that leads into the projection space of the 3-channel video installation Take The Square (2012) by Oliver Ressler. Three video projections show films of discussions that Ressler initiated with activists from 15M in Madrid, the Syntagma Square movement in Athens and Occupy Wall Street in New York. The video installation commissioned for REGIONALE12 re-enacts the working groups of the square movements; it deals with issues of organization, horizontal decision-making processes in the assemblies and the meaning and function of occupation of public spaces.

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Filed under activism, art exhibitions, international affairs, protests, urban movements (right to the city)

Reinstate Owen Holland! (Cambridge University)


22 June 2012

Twitter: @reinstateowen


  • Cambridge University upholds decision to punish protesting student
  • University staff and students outraged

The University of Cambridge has been accused of continuing to ‘clamp down on protest’ by students, staff and lecturers today.

The Septemviri, an internal body within the university, has ruled against an appeal to quash a sentence of suspension against Owen Holland, a graduate student punished earlier this year for protesting during a speech given by David Willets, Minister of Universities and Science.

The University decided to reduce the sentence from 7 terms to 1 term, through acknowledged that Owen Holland has already effectively spent most of the year under the weight of the previous ruling.

Asa Odin Ekman, a graduate student, said:
“The university is trying to appear magnanimous by giving a sentence which in any other circumstance would nonetheless appear absurdly draconian. Owen has already suffered financially and personally from this needless punishment, which follows a pattern of clamping down on protests by real courts as well as this sham one.”

Dr Priya Gopal, lecturer in English, said:
“While this is a welcome rejection of the absurd and unjust initial sentence of 2.5 years, it is a great shame that the university did not choose to uphold the right to protest that ought to be a fundamental to its ethos. The time has come to reform its antiquated and byzantine judicial procedures towards greater accountability.”

Caitlin Doherty, a graduating student, added:
“The University has a commitment to protecting the right to protest that must not be infringed in defence of a bogus concept of a government minster’s freedom of speech. Well we’ll be exercising our rights in the Autumn and continuing to protest against this outrageous sentence.”

The Reinstate Owen Holland campaign group say they will be continuing to protest against the ruling in the new academic year.

[1] David Willett’s lecture was due to be held on 11 November 2011, on the theme of ‘The Idea of the University’. It was disrupted by protestors from the Cambridge Defend Education Campaign. For more information on the scheduled lecture, see:

[2] On 22 March 2012 Owen Holland was sentenced to a suspension of seven terms by the University Court of Discipline, a statutory quasi-judicial body of the University of Cambridge. For more information about the University Court of Discipline, see:

[3] Owen’s appeal was held by the Septemviri, the University’s ‘court’ of appeal. For more information on the Septemviri, see:

[4] Photos of support for Owen are available at:


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Filed under activism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, political repression, protests, student movements

Friday Evening Musical Movement: Dancing on Water in Petersburg

It truly is a magical time of year in Petersburg, Russia’s Northern Capital and the Venice of the North. These limber school leavers decided to celebrate by dancing “on” water (as the caption has it) near the beach outside the Peter and Paul Fortress (and pimping for Bank Rossiya in the bargain).

Meanwhile, in other parts of town, the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was underway. The city’s non-elected governor delighted guests at a reception held in conjunction with the forum with “nine-year-old girls in the role of living statues” (as the fellow who posted this photo on Twitter put it).

But what Petersburg celebration would be complete without senseless arrests? Yesterday evening, police nabbed our comrade Filipp Kostenko on Saint Isaac’s Square and wrestled him into a paddy wagon. His crime? According to local news web site, Filipp was arrested and charged with violating city regulations on the use of parks and disobeying a police officer, adding that “next to him on a bench were blank sheets of paper, since activists were planning to draw posters for pickets.”

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Friday Evening Musical Moment: The Anthem of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation

The Anthem of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation:

While all the fanfare? Well, because there’s reason to celebrate. The Voice of Russia tells it like it is:

Bastrykin – Novaya Gazeta: conflict is over
Margarita Bogatova
Jun 14, 2012

Bastrykin - Novaya Gazeta:conflict is over                                         Alexander Bastrykin. Photo: RIA Novosti

One of the greatest public scandals recently seen by Russia is over: Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee, and the Novaya Gazeta chief editor Dmitry Muratov have made reciprocal apologies and shook hands in reconciliation.

The scandal began after newspaper’s deputy editor Sergey Sokolov had published an article which accused Russian law enforcement agencies of helping a mafia gang leader Sergey Tsepovyaz in Russia’s corrupted Kushchevskaya village in Krasnodar. The author was especially critical about Bastrykin’s agency.

The official invited the journalist to a meeting in Nalchik, where the Kushchevskaya massacre was discussed. They had a talk during which Bastrykin called the accusations a lie and demanded apologies. They ended up in a quarrel and the reporter was expelled from the meeting.

But this was not the end. Shortly after, Dmitry Muratov wrote an open letter in which he claimed that Bastrykin took Sokolov to a forest where he threatened the journalist’s life. No proof except Sokolov’s testimony was provided.

Reporters were impatient about June 14 when Bastrykin was to meet chief editors of top Russian media. The meeting went surprisingly peaceful and Bastrykin started with apologizing for being too emotional. Dmitry Muratov accepted the apologies and said that the conflict was over. Then he called the author of the article, Sokolov, and they exchanged apologies with the top investigator.

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