Tag Archives: police violence

Alexei Gaskarov. Bolotnaya Square, Moscow. May 6, 2012

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This is what our comrade Alexei Gaskarov looked like after riot cops got done with him on May 6, 2012, on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow. Yesterday, almost a year after the ominous events that took place there and the arrests, persecution and, in some cases, exile of several dozen opposition activists and ordinary citizens who were also there that day (and some who weren’t), Gaskarov was arrested while out buying food for his cat, transported to the Investigative Committee for questioning, charged with “rioting” and “violence against authorities,” and jailed. A Moscow district court will hear his case today and decide whether he will remain in police custody.

Thanks to an anonymous Facebook comrade for the photo.

_____

www.rferl.org

April 23, 2013
Russian Commission Blames Authorities For Bolotnaya Protest Violence
by RFE/RL’s Russian Service

MOSCOW — An independent investigation has blamed the Russian authorities and police for the violence that erupted at an opposition protest on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square last year.

The investigative commission, composed of leading public figures and rights advocates, released its findings late on April 22 at a public event in Moscow.

The report blames riot police for “excessive use of force” against demonstrators on May 6, 2012, resulting in numerous injuries.

Authorities have only recognized injuries sustained by police officers.

More than 20 demonstrators have been charged with participating in “mass unrest” and assaulting police.

Fifteen remain in pretrial detention and four are under house arrest. All face prison if convicted.

Georgy Satarov, the head of the INDEM think tank in Moscow and a former aide to Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, co-authored the report.

He told RFE/RL that the demonstrators’ reactions were understandable.

“They defended themselves and they defended others. Many of those who were not arrested and are now free would have done the same,” Satarov said.

The report says riot-police officers beat up “helpless, unarmed people,” including women and elderly people.

It blames police for deliberately creating bottlenecks by blocking the protesters’ path, contributing to tensions.

‘Agents Provacateurs’

It also accuses the authorities of sending a “significant number of provocateurs” into the crowd to spark clashes — a claim backed by witnesses as well as the Kremlin’s human rights council.

Satarov said the pieces of asphalt that some the defendants are accused of throwing at police had been placed on the square ahead of the rally.

“Bolotnaya Square was cordoned off overnight, it was surrounded by a tight fence inside which the asphalt was cut into pieces,” Satarov said.

“This circumstance was fully used by provocateurs. There are a multitude of other signs that indicate a planned provocation by authorities.”

One of the defendants in the so-called Bolotnaya case, Maksim Luzyanin, has already been sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty and cooperating with investigators.

Authorities say their probe into the other defendants is nearing completion.

Investigators are still tracking down some 70 other protesters they suspect of disruptive behavior at the rally.

The investigative commission plans to send its report to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Parliament, and the United Nations.

It was formed by the opposition party RPR-PARNAS, the December 12 Roundtable civil group, and the May 6 Committee. It includes top rights activists like Lyudmila Alekseyeva and a number of prominent public figures such as economist and former Economy Minister Yevgeny Yasin.

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Protest police killings of striking Kazakh oil workers! (London, Dec. 21)

Demonstrate – Support oil workers and their communities in Kazakhstan – Protest police killings

at:
Kazakh-British Chamber of Commerce
62 South Audley Street
Mayfair
London
W1K 2QR

on:
Wednesday
21st December 2011
12 noon

On Friday 17 December, the security forces violently attacked oil workers demanding better living standards in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan. Ten people were shot dead, more than 70 wounded, and 70 arrested, according to the government. Opposition activists and Russian media say that the number of victims could be much higher.

In spite of the massacre, the protests continued on 18 November. There were further clashes in nearby Aktau and Shetpe, and a 20-day state of emergency has been declared.

The Zhanaozen protests are part of a campaign for better pay and conditions by workers in the western Kazakhstan oilfield that started in May, grew in a strike of about 16,000 people in June, and continued through the year. (The Kazakh elite has become rich, thanks to oil – but in Mangistau, the largest oil-producing province, one third of the population are below the poverty line.)

Just like anti-capitalist protesters in Wall Street, the City of London and elsewhere, the Kazakh oil field workers established a “tent city”, in Zhanaozen’s main square, in June. When police tried to break it up in July, 60 of them covered themselves with petrol and threatened to set themselves on fire. Friday’s massacre took place in the same square.

Kazakh oil workers’ communities – we are with you!

Kazakhstan, oil and the City:

  • The companies where most of the protesting oil workers work are partly owned by Kazmunaigaz Exploration and Production, which is listed on the London stock exchange and has often raised loans from London-based institutions.
  • The UK is the third largest direct investor in Kazakhstan (after the USA and China).
  • Tony Blair, the former prime minister, is being paid millions of pounds to lobby in the Kazakh government’s interests. Many other British businessmen and politicians help, too. Richard Evans, the former chairman of British Aerospace, is chairman of Samruk-Kazyna, a state-owned holding company that controls a big chunk of the Kazakh economy.
  • The oil produced in Kazakhstan is traded in the offices of big oil trading companies and international oil companies in their London offices.

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Kazakhstan: Stop police violence against strikers!

www.labourstart.org

Kazakhstan: Stop police violence against strikers

Police attack strikers.On Friday December 16th a celebration of Independence Day in the Western Kazakhstan city of Zhanaozen ended up with violent clashes between police and protesting oil workers who have been striking since May, demanding wage increases. It has been reported that oil workers planned to have a peaceful rally on Zhanaozen’s main square but were attacked. According to report we have received, armed police were sent against the demonstrators. Some reports say the police used their weapons and some protestors were killed or injured.

Please send a message to the Kazakhstan authorities calling on them to cease violence against their own people.

Suggested message:

I call upon the government of Kazakhstan to immediately cease violence against peacefully protesting oil workers and their families in the city of Zhanaozen. I believe that no government should ever use weapons against its own people. Violence against workers exercising their fundamental right to strike is absolutely unacceptable. This situation might have grave social and humanitarian consequences. Therefore I urge you to use all your power to to resolve this situation it in a peaceful and just manner.

Please go here to send this message or your own message to Kazakh authorities.

_____

blog.platformlondon.org

December 16, 2011

London listed oil company at centre of Kazakh crackdowns

 

Today The Guardian reports that at least 10 people have been killed in violent clashes between police and oil workers in Zhanaozen, a small city in western Kazakhstan. Local oil workers have been protesting for higher wages and better working conditions throughout 2011. The oil and gas companies, among them KMG, (KazMunaiGaz) which is 39% owned by investors on the London stock exchange, and Ersai Caspian Contractor, a joint venture owned by Italian firm ENI, have sacked hundreds of workers for striking. Police have responded with arbitrary arrests, detention and shootings. The Financial Times suggests the number of recent casualties could be much higher:

An independent source in Astana put the death count as high as 70, with more than 500 wounded, when police fired on protesters.

In this guest blog, journalist Peter Salmon explores the background and root causes of the strikes and the repression that has rocked the Kazakhstan throughout 2011.

Repression intensifies against Kazakh oil workers’ uprising

by Peter Salmon

The Kazakh authorities have responded to the oil workers’ revolt with arrests, jailings and police attacks on demonstrations, while company managements have sacked hundreds for striking. Despite the repression, the unprecedented wave of protests, which erupted in the oil-producing province of Mangistau in mid-May, was continuing at the time of writing in late August. At the movement’s height in early June, labour movement sources reported that 12-18,000 workers were on strike, demanding pay rises and recognition of independent trade unions.

The protests started on 9 May at Karazhanbasmunai, a joint venture owned by Kazmunaigaz, the main state-controlled national oil company, and CITIC, a Chinese holding company. The immediate spark was Karazhanbasmunai’s refusal to recognise the results of a trade union election that had gone against a collaborationist official. On 9 May, 1400 workers refused to eat lunches and dinners, and on 17 May 4500 walked out. They demanded pay parity with workers at OzenMunaiGaz, KazMunaiGaz’s largest production subsidiary – who themselves had won a substantial increase in basic wages, and torpedoed company plans for a greater element of production-linked pay, with a 19-day wildcat stoppage in March 2010.[i]

On 11 May, activists called for a general strike across Mangistau region. Kazakh workers employed by Ersai Caspian Contractor, a joint venture owned by ENI, the Italian-based multinational oil company, and ERC Holdings of Kazakhstan, joined the protests. They demanded pay parity with foreign employees doing the same jobs, who they said were paid twice as much. Ersai refused to negotiate with the strikers, ten of whom went on hunger strike, and retaliated with sackings, according to a news agency.[ii]

In late May the action spread to the larger workforce at OzenMunaiGaz, where workers – including transport drivers and those conducting well servicing and well workover operations – demanded pay rises to make up for rapid inflation since their increase last year and the slashing of bonus payments. On 24 May a local court declared strike action at the company illegal, but on 26 May there was a mass walkout nonetheless.

The strikers in the three companies advanced various demands. The principle concern at Ozenmunaigaz was for a recalculation of the coefficients (i.e. regional weighting, industry premia, etc) on which pay depends, Kazakhstan’s main business newspaper reported. Other demands reported by the Association of Human Rights for Central Asia included: the right for independent trade unions (the Karakiyak union and others) to function; revision of collective agreements “on the principle of equality of parties”; a 100% wage increase to bring workers’ living standards up to minimum; and for wages and conditions to meet International Labour Organisation standards.[iii]

The strike now turned into a grand battle between the workforce on one side, and the companies and authorities on the other. KazMunaiGaz Exploration and Production (KMG EP), which owns all of OzenMunaiGaz and half of Karazhanbasmunai – and is itself state-controlled but with 39% owned by investors via a London stock exchange listing – announced that it now expected to lose 540,000 tonnes of oil production, 4% of its previously projected total of 13.5 million tonnes in 2011, due to the dispute. Ozenmunaigaz’s output had already fallen by 2% in 2010, mainly due to the strike in that year.[iv]

On 1 June, Natalia Sokolova, a lawyer who had advised the workers, was arrested and both OzenMunaiGaz and Karazhanbasmunai began sacking strikers. Tensions were heightened further when Sabit Kenzhebaev, a transport department manager at Karazhanbasmunai who had been instructed to sack strikers against his will, died of a heart attack. On 5 June, 500 Karazhanbasmunai workers gathered in Aktau, the capital of the Mangistau region, intending to march to the akimat (regional authority) building to protest – but were dispersed violently by police. Three strikers, including the prominent trade union activist Kuanysh Sisenbaev, were admitted to hospital with knife wounds after harming themselves as a protest. Local authority employees were instructed to go to work as strikebreakers, and threatened with sackings if they refused, according to labour movement information networks.[v]

During June, some strikers returned to work, but those who remained out grew more determined. Workers established a “tent city” in Zhanaozen, and on 8 July it was broken up by baton-wielding police – to which about 60 responded by pouring petrol on themselves and threatening to set themselves alight. Another thousand demonstrators were encircled by police outside the OzenMunaiGaz headquarters. There were repeated confrontations between police and a crowd of several thousand in the days that followed.[vi]

The movement has a political aspect. Not only was it first sparked by a row over union representation, and featured demands for the right to organise independent unions, but it has also led to mass resignations from Nur-Otan, Kazakhstan’s ruling political party. Workers at state-controlled enterprises are encouraged to join it, in a manner reminiscent of Communist Party recruitment in the Soviet period – and on 11 August a large group marched to the Nur-Otan regional headquarters in Zhanaozen to hand in their resignations. A spokesman told reporters that 3000 of them had quit, since they had been forced to join anyway, and their demands had not been met. The Nur-Otan regional leader, Koshbai Qyzanbaev, acknowledged only 1089 resignations.[vii]

As the summer wore on, the Kazakh courts and police stepped up repression against activists. Natalia Sokolova, the lawyer assisting the strikers, was on 8 August sentenced to six years in jail for “inciting social discord”; Akzhanat Aminov, a trade union leader at OzenMunaiGaz, and Natalia Azhigalieva, an activist, have been arrested and charged with the same crime, while Kuanysh Sisinbaev has been sentenced to 200 hours’ community service. On 16 August, Zhanbolat Mamay, a 23-year-old activist in an opposition political group, Rukh Pen Til, was arrested as he returned from Moscow – where he addressed a press conference and civil society meetings about the oil industry dispute – and sentenced to 10 days’ administrative detention. According to company statements, 373 OzenMunaizGaz employees and 160 from Karazhanbasmunai have been dismissed for “illegal” strike action. One activist, Zhaksylyk Turbaev, has been murdered by unidentified thugs.[viii]

The oilfield conflict makes a mockery of Kazakhstan’s long-standing efforts to present itself in the west as a democratic state, and human rights organisations in western Europe have not lost the opportunity to point this out. On 6 July, with encouragement from Amnesty International, the rock singer Sting cancelled a planned appearance in Astana at a $700-per-ticket concert, stating that he had “no intention” of crossing “a virtual picket line”. The legal persecution of labour movement activists has been denounced in the European parliament by Paul Murphy, a Socialist Party/United Left Alliance member of the parliament from Ireland visited Mangistau, and others.[ix]

The Kazakh oil workers’ struggle bears out the proposition of the labour historian Beverly Silver that “where capital goes, conflict goes”.[x] Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, western capital has made greater inroads into the oil sector in Kazakhstan than in Russia, where it has been somewhat constrained by statist and nationalist policies. In the last decade it has been joined by a gigantic inflow of Chinese capital. The Kazakh elite, who have been immensely enriched by the oil boom of the last decade, is the third part of the unholy trinity that workers face.

In Mangistau region, oil production has expanded at a healthy pace. But the riches have been divided unequally: while billionaires flourish, and living standards have risen in the new and old capitals, Astana and Almaty, Mangistau has in terms of the UN’s development indicators only been lifted to the national average, from below it. And, staggeringly, although Mangistau produces more oil than any other Kazakh region, in 2008 it had the highest proportion of people living below the poverty line (32.4%) and the worst poverty by the UN’s measures.[xi] The immediacy of this injustice, the stark chasm between rich and poor, and a tradition of worker activism that has resurged in recent years, is a potent mixture that has now exploded.


[i] “V Zhanaozene zakonchilas’ zabastovka neftianikov”, Ak Zhaiyk (Atyrau), 19 March 2010; “V Kazakhstane zavershilas’ dvukhnedel’naia zabastovka neftianikov”, Deutsche Welle web site, 21 March 2010, http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5376521,00.html; Linksunten, “Kazakhstan: Mass strikes and protest action”, http://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/41875.

[ii] Almaz Rysaliev, “Kazakstan’s Unhappy Oil Workers”, Institute for War & Peace Reporting web site, 24 June 2011, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4e0b2a552.html; Central Asia Newswire, “Kazakh oil workers begin hunger strike”, 24 May 2011.

[iii] “Bastuiushchie udarili po RD KMG”, Kursiv, 30 June 2011; Nadejda Atayeva, “Kazakhstan: vlast’ massovo raspravliaetsia s bastuiushchimi neftianikami”, http://nadejda-atayeva.blogspot.com/2011/07/blog-post_12.html.

[iv] KMG EP press release, 28 June 2011; KMG EP annual report 2010, p. 26. The 2% fall was in comparison to 2009 output.

[v] “Krovavyi razgon demonstratsii rabochikh v Aktau”, IKD, 5 June 2011, http://www.ikd.ru/node/17048; “V Moskve proidet aktsiia solidarnosti”, IKD, 6 June 2011, http://www.ikd.ru/node/17053; Nadejda Atayeva, “Kazakhstan: bezdeistvie vlastei”, http://nadejda-atayeva.blogspot.com/2011/06/blog-post_5744.html.

[vi] Nadejda Atayeva, “Kazakhstan: vlast’ massovo raspravliaetsia”, op. cit.

[vii] “Striking Kazakh Oil Workers Quit Ruling Party”, 11 August 2011,  Radio Free Europe, http://www.rferl.org/content/striking_kazakh_oil_workers_quit_ruling_party/24294248.html.

[viii] Nadejda Atayeva, “Kazakhstan: bespretsedentnoe davlenie na uchastnikov zabastovki”, http://nadejda-atayeva.blogspot.com/2011/08/blog-post_18.html; “Lider zabastovki neftianikov osuzhden”, Kursiv, 18 August 2011; KMG EP press release, 27 July 2011; “Bolee 400 bastovavshikh uvoleny”, Kursiv, 7 July 2011.

[ix] “Sting nakazal Kazakhstan”, Kommersant, 4 July 2011; the web sites of Sting Symphonicity and Paul Murphy MEP. Sting, who was touring the whole former Soviet Union and did not cancel dates in e.g. Belarus or Uzbekistan, was criticised for being selective in his protest.

[x] Beverley Silver, Forces of Labor: workers’ movements and globalization since 1870 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 41).

[xi] UNDP Kazakhstan, National Human Development Report 2009, pp. 103-109.

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London’s Finest

Mob must be punished, says Cameron

David Cameron today demanded that tuition fee thugs face the “full force of the law” amid calls for an independent inquiry into the mob attack on the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

But the Prime Minister defended Scotland Yard’s handling of the situation, insisting there was no excuse for the “appalling” violence and vandalism.

London police drag disabled journalist Jody McIntyre from his wheelchair (via Lenin’s Tomb):

Peter Hallward, “A new strategy is needed for a brutal new era”

Shortly after Thursday’s vote, a policeman hit one of my current MA students on the head with his truncheon. He said it felt like he was struck by a solid metal bar. After being bandaged by other students and released from the kettle on account of his obvious injuries, police medics took a quick look at him, and checked that his eyes were still responding to light. According to my student, they recommended that he make his own way to his local hospital in North London, where he received stitches.

At least a dozen of the students I work with didn’t escape the kettle so quickly, and were among the thousand or so people who were eventually forced back on to Westminster Bridge shortly after 9pm, without water or toilets, without information or explanation, in the freezing cold and wind, long after the media had gone home. They were then crowded together for a couple of hours between solid lines of baton-wielding riot police. Many students say they were beaten with truncheons as they held their open hands high in the air, in the hope of calming their attackers.

“I was standing at the front of the group with nowhere to go,” Johann Hoiby, a Middlesex philosophy student, told me. “My hands were open and visible, when a riot police officer, without provocation, hit me in the face with his shield, screaming ‘get back’ when I clearly couldn’t move. The most terrifying thing was the fact that everyone was screaming that people were getting crushed, yet the police kept pushing us backwards when we had nowhere to go.”

Around the same time, one of Johann’s classmates, Zain Ahsan, was “hit in the abdominal area with a baton; I shouted back at the officer that my hands were in the air and I was being pushed by the people behind me.”

My Kingston students say they saw people having panic attacks, people seized up with asthma, people who fell under the feet of the crowd.

“The fact that there were no deaths on that bridge”, one says, “is a true miracle.”

Some students claim that they were then kicked by police as they were slowly released, single file, through a narrow police corridor. Everyone was forcibly photographed, and many of the people detained on the bridge were then taken away for questioning.

The story of one Middlesex undergraduate who used to sit in on my MA classes, Alfie Meadows, is already notorious. He received a full-on blow to the side of his skull. My partner and I found him wandering in Parliament Square a little after 6pm, pale and distraught, looking for a way to go home. He had a large lump on the right side of his head. He said he’d been hit by the police and didn’t feel well. We took one look at him and walked him towards the nearest barricaded exit as quickly as possible. It took a few minutes to reach and then convince the taciturn wall of police blocking Great George Street to let him through their shields, but they refused to let me, my partner or anyone else accompany him in search of medical help. We assumed that he would receive immediate and appropriate treatment on the other side of the police wall as a matter of course, but in fact he was left to wander off on his own, towards Victoria.

As it turns out, Alfie’s subsequent survival depended on three chance events. If his mother (a lecturer at Roehampton, who was also “contained” in Parliament Square) hadn’t received his phone call and caught up with him shortly afterwards, the odds are that he’d have passed out on the street. If they hadn’t then stumbled upon an ambulance waiting nearby, his diagnosis could have been fatally delayed. And if the driver of this ambulance hadn’t overruled an initial refusal of the A&E department of the Chelsea and Westminster hospital to look at Alfie, his transfer to the Charing Cross neurological unit for emergency brain surgery might well have come too late.


London Student Assembly Press Conference for Alfie Meadows (December 10, 2010)


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Justice for Kofi!

http://www.fightbacknews.org/2010/3/17/gainesville-students-protest-police-shooting

JUSTICE FOR KOFI!

Gainesville students protest police shooting

By Jared Hamil | March 17, 2010

Gainesville, FL – Over 400 angry protesters – a coalition of students, local residents and university professors – rallied and marched to protest the racist police shooting of Kofi Adu-Brempong.

Adu-Brempong is an international graduate student from Ghana who was shot in the face by a University of Florida policeman. After receiving a call from a neighbor concerned that Adu-Brempong was screaming, due to stress over his studies and his immigration status, campus police stormed his apartment, tased him three times and then shot him in the face with an assault rifle.

Adu-Brempong is hospitalized in critical condition, having lost his tongue and jaw. Incredibly, the police action took less than 30 seconds. Having suffered a case of childhood polio, Adu-Brempong was unable to walk without a cane. To add to the outrage, the University of Florida police charged him with a felony for ‘resisting arrest with violence.’

Gainesville Area Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) led the campus action. Beginning with a rally and speakers at Turlington Plaza, the mass of protesters marched through campus to the Board of Trustees in the Emerson Hall Alumni Building. The Board of Trustees governs the entire university. Since the building was closed to the public, the protesters pulled the doors open, pushed past security and took over the building.

They presented the board with a list of demands, including dropping all charges against Kofi Adu-Brempong. The other important demand is the firing of Keith Smith, the officer who shot Kofi in the face. In 2008, Keith Smith was given a verbal warning by the Gainesville city police department where he previously worked. Smith and three other police officers were throwing eggs and harassing African Americans in the local community. The university police ignored this warning and hired Keith Smith.

As the students settled in, waiting to see how the Board of Trustees would respond, tension rose inside the boardroom. After a half hour, a trustee came out to speak to the protesters. Following his lead, the students proceeded to give speeches about stopping police brutality and continuing the fight for Adu-Brempong. An hour later, the protesters decided the demands of the coalition were clearly received by the board and left the building.

Then the protesters marched to the Tigert Hall Administration Building for another rally, targeting University President Bernie Machen. Unfortunately President Machen was “out of town.” The students chanted, “Justice for Kofi!” and “No justice, no peace! No racist police!”

Fernando Figueroa, of Gainesville SDS spoke: “We will not let up until we gain justice for Kofi. We are taking a stand against police brutality and racism on our campus and throughout the country.” Figueroa continued, “It is astounding to see so few reporters covering the point blank shooting of an African man in the face here. This is the same campus where you could not walk ten feet without bumping into a reporter or TV crew following a white student’s famous ‘Don’t tase me bro!’ incident.”

Late in the afternoon, the student protesters attended a student government meeting to demand a resolution calling for a grand jury investigation of the racist cop. With some persuasion, the resolution passed. With protests heating up in Gainesville, the Coalition for Justice Against Police Brutality vows to continue the fight for Kofi Adu-Brempong.

_______________________

We gratefully acknowledge receipt of this news from our comrades at Edu-Factory Collective and Occupy California.

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The Struggle for Democracy in Brazilian Universities

[This is a guest post by Comrade Rapha. He originally published the following comment yesterday on his own blog, Politika etc.]

Almost 25 years after the end of the military dictatorship (1964 – 1985), Brazil still faces the ghosts of authoritarianism. Surprisingly, these spirits came back in the context of an institution which played a remarkable role in the resistance to the military regime. In the past few days, professors, students and workers of the University of Sao Paulo witnessed a police action which made the community aware of the lack of democracy in its own academic environment.

On May 27th, workers blocked the entrance of four buildings in the State Capital campus. They asked for better wages and other labor demands. According to the rector, they were posting pickets during the strike to discourage other employees to work, an illegal act as stated by Brazilian laws. On June 1st, the administration called the police to intervene and stop the pickets. The police remained on campus and on June 9th, they attacked a group of students, professors and workers who were demonstrating against them.

The police used tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. This action generated lots of reactions. Several newspapers articles were published by those concerned, including faculty members, students and union members, showing anything but an opinion agreement on the police action. Part of the faculty supports the rector’s initiative to call the police and considered the intervention legitimate. On June 18th, more than 1,500 people demonstrated on the streets against the police reaction and its disproportion.

In 2007, students occupied the building where the rector’s office is located. They were against some decrees passed by Governor Jose Serra with the support of the rector Suely Vilela. The decrees considerably reduced the autonomy of the university in favor of the State Secretary of Education, concentrating more power in the hands of the Governor. After the occupation, Jose Serra stepped back and voided the decrees.

The University of Sao Paulo is responsible for 23% of all scientific production in Brazil. It has more than 86,000 students, 5,400 professors and 15,200 employees. The 2009 budget is about US$ 1.4 billion due to a disposition of the Sao Paulo State Constitution, which allocates 5% of all value added tax revenue of the State, which is the richest State in Brazil, to the university. It is clear that a major crisis in a university with these proportions reflects on local and national politics.

As the Philosophy professor of University of Campinas Marcos Nobre pointed out in a newspaper article, the police action is “the symptom, not the cause.” For him, this shows that despite having democratic institutions, “Brazilian society still has a low level of democratization.” The process to choose the university’s rector gives a good example of the way different groups are represented within the institution. Approximately 300 people vote to appoint 3 names to the State Governor, who is supposed to pick one. In this election, the group of “titular professors” (named chair professors) is majoritarian, and one must be a titular professor to become rector. Students and workers are not able to nominee someone to this position, even if both groups vote together.

By the moment, the rector and the union of workers started to negotiate again. The police are expected to leave the campus soon. The lesson which seems to have been learned till now is that the university needs to rethink its own structures. It has still to find the difficult tune for attending social demands of inclusion and participation.

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Police Teargas Workers and Students in São Paulo

Thanks to Comrade Rapha  for informing us about this story.

Scientific Community Teargassed in Brazil

Written by Pablo Ortellado
Sunday, 14 June 2009 13:25
[Originally published on EduFactory]

120 professors and about 1,200 students and university workers were beaten and teargassed in the main campus of the University of São Paulo in Brazil last Tuesday (June 9).

448648Conflicts started after a one month strike of university workers whose employment status is being disputed due to a legal controversy over university autonomy to hire its workers without approval of state representatives. Over one thousand workers might loose their jobs. Workers started a strike on May 5 demanding the preservation of their jobs and other labor demands. On May 27, workers started to block the entrance of four university buildings because, according to them, university management was threatening workers who were using their legal right to strike. On June 1, administration called the military police to intervene. On June 4 professors joined the strike protesting police occupation of campus. on June 5, professors had a two hours meeting with management asking for a non-military solution to the labor conflict. However, common sense did not prevail and military police attacked a peaceful demonstration of students and workers yesterday (June 9). 120 professors were discussing the crisis when the meeting was interrupted by news of a police attack. A few minutes later teargas and concussion bombs exploded inside the building. Several of our colleagues and students were hurt. The academic community is shocked.

We ask the support of the international scientific and academic community by demanding university management the immediate withdraw of military police from campus and the non-violent resolution of labor conflicts in the university.

Professor Pablo Ortellado (Public Policy)
Professor Rogério Monteiro de Siqueira (Geometry)
Professor Jefferson Mello (Brazilian literature)
Professor Thomás Haddad (Science History)
Professor Carlos Gonçalves (Science History)
Escola de Artes, Ciências e Humanidades
Universidade de São Paulo

Further information (in Portuguese):
Associação dos Docentes da USP: www.adusp.org.br
Sindicato dos Funcionários da USP: www.sintusp.org.br

Please send protest and concern letters to the University of São Paulo
administration:

Professor Suely Vilela
Rector of the University of São Paulo
E-mail: gr@usp.br, suvilela@usp.br

Professor Franco Lajolo
Vice-Rector of the University of São Paulo
E-mail: gvr@usp.br, fmlajolo@usp.br

Professor Alberto Carlos Amadio
Chief Staff of the Rector
E-mail: grcg@usp.br, acamadio@usp.br

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