Tag Archives: police state

Kazakhstan: Justice for Oil Workers! (LabourStart)

www.labourstartcampaigns.net

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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Notes from Blockupy Frankfurt

edu-factory.org
Notes from Blockupy Frankfurt
Monday, June 11, 2012

by SANDRO MEZZADRA
May 22, 2012

1. This is what democracy looks like

The meeting, on Thursday May 17, is in Paulsplatz, a place full of significance in German political history. Here (in the Paulskirche) people met after the March revolution of the 1848 constituent assembly that proposed the first German constitution before being overwhelmed by the reaction. Many of the protestors that approach the plaza in small groups have another Constitution in mind, that of 1949 federal Germany, and they carry signs recalling the articles about fundamental rights. For two days, Frankfurt lives a grotesque state of exception, with the consequent suspension of fundamental rights, principally the rights to demonstrate and freely express dissent, in theory (and for obvious reasons) strongly protected in Germany.

The concentration in Paulsplatz has also been prohibited, called for by a coalition of associations in defense of basic rights. When we meet in the streets in groups of a few hundred, the police shut down all access. Every time that someone speaks through a megaphone, the police loudspeakers repeat that the rally is prohibited, the power of decibels choking the voice of protest.

A few hours later, while groups of protesters are surrounded by police in other parts of the city, many of them detained and driven away from Frankfurt, in the city’s central square (the Römer) three hundred people manage to come together. A tent is erected and suddenly it is made clear that the police won’t tolerate such a thing. Thousands of agents immediately surround the plaza, they intervene forcefully, picking each protester off the ground, carrying them out of the plaza. Many of us continue showing the police the Constitution, the adrenaline of the men and women in uniform, children and old people being dragged out, someone ends up hurt. All of this to dissolve a peaceful sit-in.

These scenes are repeated on Friday but this time the police can’t stop a group of protesters from occupying a small space in front of the fences erected to protect the headquarters of the European Central Bank. The police pressure continues to be suffocating but anyone who has managed to make it here can console themselves with the view of Frankfurt’s financial district apparently paralyzed. A first account begins to circulate that will be used by the historic liberal newspaper “Frankfurter Rundschau,” after Saturday’s protest: the bankers have shut the banks, the police have blocked the city…

Mixed feelings after the first two days in Frankfurt: the press’s reaction is decidedly positive, more than a few will write in the main newspapers that Blockupy Frankfurt has won. Apocalyptic scenes constructed by the police to justify the massive security measures (five million euros, a considerable amount, even in Germany) are superposed with images of old women being grabbed by agents dressed as Robocops. Someone joked about Merkel’s indignation over human rights violations in Ukraine. On the other hand, the sensation is of having participated in a staged event, and, at the same time, in an experiment. There couldn’t be a more effective representation, in the heart of Europe’s financial district, of the gulf between capitalism and democracy, which is one of the themes that underlines the crisis in this part of the world. The crisis of capitalism’s legitimacy in the economic crisis has been made clear in Frankfurt in all of its potential violence, with a kind of experimental anticipation of what could happen if the celebrated “German model” begins to fall apart.

“This is their democracy,” chanted the protesters on the streets of Frankfurt. A slogan with a double meaning: “their” democracy is the police’s state of siege, “our” democracy is the real one, that of the encampments and the Occupy movement, and it is what feeds resistance and struggle in and against the crisis. There weren’t many of us in Frankfurt on Thursday and Friday: many buses were stopped at the city’s entrance and sent back, the climate of fear created in the previous weeks has certainly had its “effectiveness,” and every time you moved you physically felt the limit imposed by the police presence. But the determination and even the joy of those that were there was a great expression of their consciousness of being part of a much larger movement, materially building a horizon of a radical alternative to the crisis.

2. A-anti-anticapitalista

The day started early on Saturday, with meetings and preparation for the demonstration, the only authorized demonstration among all the initiatives planned by the Blockupy Frankfurt coalition. Once we arrived to the concentration, it was clear it would be a large protest. Buses and trains arrived from the Frankfurt region, from all of Germany, from across Europe. There are the banners of Attac and Linke, some trade unions (especially of services, verd.di), anti-nuclear ecologists, but above all young people. The atmosphere is serene, joyful, but there is also much concern: they are saying that the police will do anything to provoke, to obtain “images” that justify the state of emergency, that would somehow erase the images from Thursday in Römer….

That’s what is repeated during the demonstration. When the “anti-capitalist bloc” joins, the police surround it, attempting to break the protest in two. But this time they can’t: Attac and Linke, who find themselves in the back and at the head of the “anti-capitalist bloc,” reject every attempt by the police to separate the “peaceful” protesters from the “violent” ones. For hours the demonstration travels the streets of Frankfurt and arrives intact to the square where it’s scheduled to end. More than 25,000 protesters (German, therefore accurate, numbers) give a different meaning to the actions of the previous days, and above all, represent an optimal base for a political gamble over the future of the Blockupy movement in Germany.

“A-anti-anticapitalista” is the chant that’s repeated throughout the demonstration, first from the anti-capitalist bloc (the most numerous) and then by everyone. A slogan that’s maybe too “basic” but acquires a precise meaning in light of what’s happened in Frankfurt during the previous weeks and in general during the European crisis: the “real democracy” of the encampments and the Occupy movement can only qualify itself inside the anti-capitalist struggle. Today if we are witnessing a tendency toward a divergence between capitalism and democracy, the reinvention of democracy – far from being located in the sphere of “pure politics” – has to pass through a radical critique of capitalism.

3. Solidarität

As soon as the Blockupy Frankfurt proposal began to circulate, I began thinking about what was important in that proposal: the reason that it would be worthwhile to go, was precisely because the mobilization was in Frankfurt. The reopening of the initiative of the movement in Germany seemed to me essential from the point of view of struggles in Europe. The rupture of the consensus that the “German model” enjoyed, the development of conflicts and political initiatives around the cracks, like the “reform” of the welfare state put in march by the red-green government (the so-called Hartz IV), the politicization of the precarity that is so widespread today, above all for the youth… all of these are essential steps for the construction and consolidation of a European space of struggles. Obviously, this is not to deny that the impact of the crisis in Germany is different from in the rest of Europe. On the contrary, I think that one of the most urgent tasks is to reconstruct the crisis’s geography, the heterogeneity of its modes of manifestation and its different effects in different contexts (in Europe and at the global level). But this “cartography of heterogeneity” of the crisis’s effects has to be combined with an understanding of its systemic dynamics, of the interdependence based on which it unfolds. Above all in Europe.

From this point of view, the events of Frankfurt represent, without a doubt, as the comrades from Interventionistische Linke (http://www.dazwischengehen.org/) write, “a beginning.” There was important European participation, despite the emergency situation in which we had to move, and there were important moments of discussion between activists from different countries. However, we cannot deny that in the weeks prior to the days of action, communication was difficult; there were continuous problems of “translation,” in the literal sense (banally, the majority of the documents that circulated before and during the days of Blockupy Frankfurt were only in German) but also in the broader sense, in the difficulty to translate not only different languages, struggles, cultures and practices but also profoundly heterogeneous experiences of the crisis. In a way, we can say that in respect to the most recent cycle of struggle of of the global movement of the beginning of the century (being more “rooted” in specific situations), there has been a recession in Frankfurt in terms of working in network and of activism at a “transnational” level. This seems to me where we need to begin to work immediately, as much in the practical construction of transnational encounters for discussion and organization as in the more general problem of a “space” for political action.

From this point of view, the rhetoric of “solidarity” (with the Greek people, the Spanish people, the Italians…), dominant in both the planning and during the days of action in Frankfurt, is decidedly problematic. On the one hand, it proposes a language (that of proletarian internationalism) today that – far from being able to be reactivated in its classical terms – indicates the terrain where it is necessary to put to work the movements’ power of invention and theoretical production and, on the other hand, it suffers, limiting itself to a mechanical reversal in terms of “solidarity,” the representation of power relations within the European Union. The idea of the dislocation that is needed today, the invention of a new common area of struggles and movements, ends up being overshadowed.

4. Blockupy Europe

The days in Frankfurt highlight the problem of Europe, of a new European dimension of the movements’ struggles and actions. Within this dimension, as we have said many times before, we can (and we should) experiment with a combination of rooting the struggles in specific metropolitan areas and the construction of a space in which these same struggles can multiply their force and begin to construct an alternative political program. I’m well aware that this is only stating the terms of the problem, not a solution. But it’s a statement that should first assert its political realism: it’s only through the struggles’ capacity for dislocation within a European dimension that we can oppose the growth of the old and new right-wings in their attempts to “occupy” the spaces and rhetoric of national sovereignty; it is only within the European dimension that we can aim to build a new favorable relation of force with financial capital. In Frankfurt, also from this point of view, we have participated in a new “beginning,” we have seen the potential and difficulties. Already in the coming weeks, before falling to the times of crisis around the Greek question, we will not lack opportunities to test ourselves.

Originally in Italian: http://uninomade.org/note-da-blockupy-francoforte/

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Femen: Kidnapped and Abused in Belarus

December 21, 2011
Ukrainian Activist Group Accuses Belarusian KGB Of Kidnapping, Abuse
by  RFE/RL

A Ukrainian women’s activist group has accused Belarusian police of kidnapping and physically abusing them after they held a public protest against President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Minsk.

RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service reported that three members of the Femen group, held a press conference in Kyiv on December 21 to talk about their ordeal, which they said involved their abduction from Minsk by members of Belarus’s KGB to a distant forest, where they were stripped, doused with oil, and physically threatened.

Activist Inna Shevchenko pledged that her group won’t stop because of threats.

“If they think that by this bullying they will break us, I can only laugh in response,” she said. “We promise that we will continue coming to Belarus. We promise to support the Belarusian people. We will continue our work, now with greater strength.”

Femen is well known in Ukraine and throughout the region for its attention-grabbing strategy of stripping from the waist up at demonstrations for political freedom and women’s rights.

Their December 19 protest in Minsk was held to mark the one-year anniversary of Lukashenka’s disputed reelection.

Bare-chested and wearing fake Lukashenka-style mustaches at the December 19 event, the women held placards that read “Freedom to political prisoners” and “Long live Belarus,” a mantra of the protest movement.

RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service reported that security agents quickly broke up the demonstration and arrested several journalists.

Alleged Beatings

The three activists fled, Femen said, and hours later, were abducted at a Minsk bus station, blindfolded, and driven to the Gomel region, about 200 kilometers southeast of the  capital.

According to the three women, they were taken to a forest, beaten and forced to undress, doused in oil, and threatened with immolation.

The group says the assailants cut the women’s hair with knives and abandoned them in the woods.

The three found their way to a village, where they were given refuge by locals and were able to call Femen’s leader, Anna Gutsol, for help.

Gutsol told RFE/RL that the women said they were “alive but not in good health” and “very scared.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said the three women returned to Ukraine earlier today along with Kyiv’s consul to Minsk, who had traveled to the village to investigate.

Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Dikusarov told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that even though the women did not have permission to protest, “there are certain internal legal norms” that govern punishment for unsanctioned actions.

He added, “Thus, we absolutely do not support it if such actions took place on the territory of Belarus… This situation requires a thorough investigation, including on the territory of Belarus.”

In response to a question about Femen’s allegations, Ukraine’s foreign minister, Konstantin Grishchenko, also told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service that Ukraine should defend its citizens abroad. He did not mention Femen.

Belarus Calls Claims ‘A Provocation’

At the Femen press conference, Shevchenko claimed she and her fellow activists had told the police their story and were promised that there would be an investigation:

“We demand that the Belarusian ambassador [to Ukraine] be expelled,” she said. “We demand an investigation of the KGB employees who bullied us. We testified to the police, and we received a promise that a criminal case will be opened, but we have doubts about it because we understand that everybody is working to strengthen the Lukashenka regime.”

Vadim Zaitsev, a spokesman for the Belarusian KGB, told Western news agencies that Femen’s allegations are “a provocation” and denied security officers had harmed or threatened the women in any way.

Lukashenko, who is often called “Europe’s last dictator,” has been in power since 1994.

He was declared the winner in last year’s elections, but tens of thousands of Belarusians protested alleged vote fraud.

_____

Here is a video of Femen’s press conference in Kyiv following their arrival back in Ukraine:

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Valences of the Contemporary Police State: “The Rise of Street Extremism” in the UK

First this, from F for Philistine:

UK Uncut protested today [January 30] at Boots, who avoided a £87m tax bill last year by relocating their head offices to Switzerland. Protesters were today handing out leaflets, and occupying the store since the news of Boots’ tax-dodging comes at the same time as we hear of massive cuts (sorry, restructuring) to the NHS.

The protest was peaceful, and good-natured. Several shoppers joined the demonstration, and once we left the store to hand out leaflets on the street, passers-by were wishing us well and cheering us on. One woman marched up to the manager of Boots and asked “Is this true?” waving a leaflet in his face. He shrugged and told her, unfortunately, it was, but it wasn’t a decision he was involved in. I chatted to a Community Support Officer about his bike (it’s far superior to mine), and we spoke to the manager of Boots as well: there wasn’t any ill-will about.

Then, as I was stood next to the locked automatic doors, I noticed that a police officer was asking a woman to remove a number of leaflets she’d placed in the gap between the door. The woman asked why she was being asked to do so. The policewoman initially said “Littering” then claimed it was criminal damage. At this point the woman objected to being touched on the arm by the policewoman. A number of people started taking photos of the exchange, then she was arrested by two officers who led her towards a thoroughfare next to Boots.


A number of protesters followed to keep an eye on the situation, chanting “Shame On You”. At this point, one of the officers, CW2440, used CS gas on a number of protesters nearby. I decided to film from a distance, rather than follow, as can be seen in the footage below:


I saw at least 7 people who had been sprayed in the eyes including a journalist, with three men particularly badly affected. One protesters had contact lenses in, which reacted with the spray. If you’ve never been tear-gassed before, it’s horrific. You can’t see, you’re in extreme amounts of pain, and massively panicked by the fact that you have no clue where you are, or who is around you. I called an ambulance, who confirmed they’d be there as soon as possible. At this point, three police officers with slightly different uniforms arrived at the scene: Legal Observers later told me they were Diplomatic Police, and definitely had tasers, though may also have been armed. Boots staff were shocked by the scenes, and an optician and first aid team inside offered to help those injured. The ambulance arrived soon afterwards, and took the three worst affected inside, initially thinking they could treat them in the ambulance. After 15 minutes, they confirmed they’d be taking them to hospital. A police officer then started speaking to us, informing us of how to make a complaint, asked us if we had the contact details of those injured then told us the number of the officer who’d used CS gas. Another officer later came over to a legal observer I was talking to and confirmed that Officer CW2440 had been the one to use gas on the protesters. I’ve never seen police officers offer up this type of information before, though am happy to be corrected.

It was a hugely jarring thing to witness, and I wasn’t affected. The policing was initially calm, and hands-off then suddenly became massively over zealous. That CS gas was used on one of the busiest streets in London in response to people simply chanting is terrifying. I’ve often thought criticism of the police can be a little unproductive, but today has made me think otherwise.

__________

Well, that is all very nice, but what does it mean? Fortunately, the UK, like any other largish country with a proud tradition of democracy, has lots of experts on hand to defog our brains when nasty people try to hand us leaflets in high street shops. Like this blue-ribbon panel of well-spoken chaps in suits, who reveal that it is the Trotskyists who are to blame and make helpful suggestions on how to crush the current Red Menace:

Here is how the think thank responsible for convening this panel in its “Ideas Space” described it and the distinguished panelists:

There are increasing signs that significant sections of the extreme left have little intention of confining their opposition to Coalition policies to peaceful, democratic protest.  In recent weeks we have seen riots over student tuition fees, the forcible closure of high street stores by flashmobs and also growing demands for industrial action to undermine the Coalition administration, including from the leader of Britain’s biggest trade union.

Do these actions portend a dangerous new trend towards the use of physical force?  If so, what can and should be done to prevent this phenomenon becoming a regular feature of the national landscape?

Speakers:
Peter Clarke CVO OBE QPM – former Head of the Counter Terrorism Command and former Borough Commander in Brixton during the 1995 riots
Rt Hon David Maclean – former Minister of State at the Home Office and Parliamentary Adviser to the Police Superintendents Association
Paul Mercer – UK’s pre-eminent expert on extremist groups and author, Longman’s Directory of British Political Organisations
Henry Robinson –  Anti Terrorist community and street activist and former Irish republican prisoner

__________

Editor’s Note. Thanks to Comrade E. and Sons of Malcolm for the heads-up.

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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.

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Petersburg: Anti-Draft Movement versus the Police State

Sergey Chernov
Police Arrive in Force for Demo
The St. Petersburg Times
October 14, 2008

Dozens of policemen, commanded by high-ranking officers, dispersed a handful of protesters, arresting three activists on Sunday.

The Stop Prizyv (Stop Conscription) movement, which includes members of the Republican Party of Russia, the Yabloko Democratic Party, the United Civil Front, and the youth movements Oborona and DA!, had planned to hold a March for an All-Volunteer Army in Park Pobedy. The authorities, however, denied them permission.

According to a letter signed by Vladimir Korovin, the head of the Moskovsky District Administration, the march could not be held there because Moskovsky Prospect is a “federal” highway, Park Pobedy itself is a federal historical and cultural site, and the European Table Tennis Championships were underway at the nearby Peterburgsky Sports and Concert Complex.

Instead of a march, the administration proposed that Stop Prizyv hold a stationary demonstration at Chernyshevsky Garden, far from the Central District’s busy streets, on Oct. 19. The organizers agreed to this change of plans, but said they would sue the administration. They are arguing that according to Russian law the authorities do not have the right to change the form of a demonstration. Continue reading

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Official Gay Bashing in Petersburg: LGBT Film Festival Closed by Fire Inspectors

Gay Festival Hit by Fire Inspection
The St. Petersburg Times
Issue #1413 (77)
Friday, October 3, 2008

 

By Sergey Chernov
Staff Writer

Two popular local nightclubs are facing closure after they agreed to hold a gay and lesbian film festival on their premises. The Place and Sochi, two venues popular with students, the art crowd and expats, were targets of unscheduled fire safety inspections on the eve of the festival’s opening and were in the process shut down for breaking the fire code.

Side by Side, the first LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) film festival in St. Petersburg, featuring an international schedule of 17 feature films and five short film programs as well as personal appearances by a number of international filmmakers, was due to open at The Place and Sochi, on Thursday.

“We are indignant, upset and distressed,” said Irina Sergeyeva, one of the three organizers of the festival that features films from the U.S., Europe and Moscow.

“We have had the festival opening scheduled for tonight at two venues, and it became known earlier today that by the order of the fire inspectors, who paid visits to the both clubs yesterday, the clubs are closed, so the film festival will not be held at these venues,” she said speaking by telephone on Thursday.

Guests at the four-day festival which was due to end Sunday included John Cameron Mitchell, whose 2006 film “Shortbus” garnered many awards at such festivals as the Athens International Film Festival, Gijon International Film Festival and the Zurich Film Festival. Continue reading

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