South-Koreans are protesting against Donald Trump ‘War Mongering’ – and in support of it

Photograph: South Korean antiwar protesters at a rally for peace in Seoul, South Korea, November 7, 2017. (Sipa via AP Images) Less than a year ago, South-Koreans stood united in their call for the impeachment of their leader Park Geun-hye. Several weeks of massive protests against Park and the political scandal she was involved in led to the resignation of the former President. With new President Moon Jae-in pursuing a more liberal course, South-Koreans are mobilizing again, and this time Donald Trump is their target.  The American President, on a 12-day Asia tour, landed in South-Korea on Monday, while a coalition of antiwar, trade-union, and civil-society groups organized a “No Trump, No War National Rally”. On Saturday, days ahead of President Trump’s visit, hundreds of South Koreans took over their capital in protest. Just a few days later on Tuesday, thousands of Koreans flooded the streets in eight Korean cities to tell the militaristic president to go home. The core of their message is that, while South Korea is not seeking a conflict, Trump’s outspoken and sometimes aggressive tone does the situation on the Korean peninsula more bad than good! “He could be welcomed here, if he was the messenger of peace,” one activist told CNN. “But he is the messenger of war […], and he is not afraid of war again in this world.”  Activists also protest a hidden agenda they seem to see underlying Trump’s tough stance against the North-Korean regime. According to ABC-news, demonstrators accused the outspoken president of not only raising tensions with North Korea but also “pressuring Seoul to buy more U.S. weapons. They also criticized him for pressing Seoul to re-do a bilateral free trade deal between the countries so that it’s more favorable to the United States.”    However, not all South-Koreans stand united...

Bonn Protests at COP23 – How do mass-protests cause change?

Photograph: People march during a demonstration under the banner “Protect the climate – stop coal” two days before the start of the COP 23 UN Climate Change Conference hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany November 4, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay A smartphone without an operating system. Or a brand-new car without the road-network to drive it on. The 2015 landmark Paris agreement at COP21 delivered the first truly global deal to tackle climate change, but national action needs to be significantly toughened to meet the goal of keeping global temperature rise on the low. That is why half of the world moves to Bonn this week. Where the Paris agreement set out principles, the 23rd annual ‘conference of the parties’ (COP23) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is looking to build structures and rules that will enable the Paris deal to work.  With all the world-leaders and influencers in the field of climate in one place, Bonn seems to be the place where everybody wants to show their stance. As the COP23 Climate Summit has started on Monday, several activist groups and protesters have tried to make their mark. Over the weekend, thousands of people had gathered in Bonn ahead of Summit, calling for the measures set out in the accord to be implemented faster. For Germany specifically, this means a move away from coal to renewable resources. More protests were staged in the nearby town of Kerpen on Sunday.   Early July, we have seen similar forms occurring, with mass protests surrounding the G20-Summit in Hamburg. In most recent years the G20 has caused mass protest in the host-city. And also the 2015 Paris based COP21 saw thousands defy a protest ban to call for climate action. Where the nature and goals of these protests differed from those in Bonn (as...

“Dictators aren’t known for their sense of humor” – Cartoonist arrested in Equatorial Guinea

When Equatoguinean cartoonist Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé returned to his home country this September to renew his passport, he was arrested. Since then, he has been kept in detention in a notorious prison in the capital Malabo, and Equatoguinean authorities might be preparing a criminal defamation case against Esono. Public Radio International (PRI) writes: “Moore Gerety [see below] says Esono is not likely to see a courtroom. It’s a political case.“ Human Rights Watch reports that it had documented an increase of incidents “in which the government has retaliated against artists and cultural groups”, and that art has been used for independent voices to provoke public debate on social issues in Equatorial Guinea where political dissent is met with little tolerance. “Dictators aren’t known for their sense of humor. At least when the jokes are about them” commented PRI. This reminds us of the power of humor in nonviolent struggle. What initially brought us to the cartoons of Ramón Nsé Esono Ebalé alias “Jamón y Queso” (Ham and Cheese), was this in-depth article about Esono’s work in criticism of (political) life in Equatorial Guinea and especially its longstanding President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. In his article “Comics without Captions: Can a cartoonist help unseat a dictator?”, Rowan Moore Gerety recounts how Esono came to draw cartoons, how he started his “career” when such was not really possible from within Equatorial Guinea, and what the cartoonist had to tell about his work. But Gerety also includes accounts from other African countries, such as Nigeria or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which he describes as “the closest thing there is...

“Cows are more important than a woman’s life” – cow mask photo protest in India

Earlier this year, the photographer Sujatro Ghosh started a photo project on Instagram, receiving widespread (social) media attention for addressing the status of women in India. In a contribution for “The 51% – A show about women reshaping our world”, France24 talked to him about his photo project. Sujatro took pictures of women from different parts of society, sometimes posing in front of known monuments, other times simply in everyday situations – always wearing cow masks! Sujatro Ghosh stated that for him, this photo project was a silent form of protest and that he wanted to raise awareness for the issue. On his pictures on Instagram he writes: “In my country Cows are more important than a woman’s life with more security”. Sujatro refers to the current social and political situation in India. An ongoing debate addresses the status of cows in India, where a lot of Hindus worship the animals while Muslims would eat their meat. Following the photographer’s statement, sexual assault and abuse of women on the other hand, are a severe problem, but should receive more attention. Though a rape is reported every 15 minutes (according to France24), waiting times for convictions are long and conviction rates remain low. The photographer has not only received praise, but people have also sent him threats. Sujatro recognizes that such a deep-rooted problem “cannot change overnight” and points out that implementation of existing laws is difficult. But through his photos, he hopes to make people think about the issue and eventually contribute to change in India, in this generation or the next. For more information and pictures, watch the...

Using Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha – Land acquisition protest in India

On Tuesday, hundreds of farmers who had been protesting in Nindar village in Rajasthan, Northwestern India, ended their monthlong strike. What was special, was their unusual form of protest which they called zameen samandhi satyagraha, which translates to Burial Satyagraha* (for more information see below). At the occasion of Gandhi’s birthday on October 2, men and women buried themselves until their waist or neck, going on a hunger strike. They did so in protest against acquisition of their land for a housing project, refusing to accept the proposed compensation. Different claims estimated the number of families who would be affected, leaving them homeless, between 1000 and 5000 (see Al Jazeerah). Since 2010, the Rajasthan government has involved itself in the process of acquiring an area of about 540 acres of land (according to Vice), a majority of which is privately owned. A group called Neendar Bachao Yuava Kisan Sangharsh (NBYKS) led the protest to gain the government’s attention and initiate talks addressing a proposal of a new land survey. Besides claims of inadequate compensation, they accused the former survey of falsely marking the land. A state official, on the other hand, declared “that people with ‘vested interests’ were behind the agitation” and “accused protest leaders of playing politics over the issue of development”, reported Al Jazeerah. After about a month of deadlock, the protest ended when representatives from NBYKS and the Rajasthan government met on Tuesday. The government assured in written to conduct a new survey, while the village agreed to give part of the land for construction to start, awaiting the survey to re-evaluate the rest of the area, wrote The...

Activists blocking Tower Bridge – successful disruption or missing their point?

Yesterday, a group of activists blocked the road crossing Tower Bridge, halting traffic in England’s capital to protest air pollution. The blockade on Monday was only the first of several to come this week by “Stop Killing Londoners”. An interview showed people in London agreeing with the importance of the issue and supported the agenda of the group. “Stop Killing Londoners” certainly caught attention and caused disruption in the form of traffic jam in London. However, some have criticized the group for missing its point. Critics pointed out that causing traffic to stand still, the group might have caused even more pollution. Whether one agrees or not, this supports one important lesson to remember when planning nonviolent action, which is to be clear about your message and “evaluate how the methods you are considering relate to the goals of your overall movement or your campaign” (CANVAS Core Curriculum, p. 76). Read more about the blockade and some reactions here, and here. Photo: Stop Killing Londoners, via...