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 getwestlondon.co.uk

“March of the Mummies” – Halloween Protest for Parents’ Rights

On the 31st of October, Halloween is an occasion for many people around the world to dress up in costumes, eat candy and go to Halloween parties. For the organization “Pregnant then Screwed”, it was an occasion to organize the demonstration “March of the Mummies” to advocate for parent’s rights.

The organization invites families to join their protest on Halloween, dress up as bandaged-wrapped mummies and make a statement for the rights of working mothers as well as fathers in several cities throughout the UK. “Pregnant then Screwed” offers a platform for those who have faced discrimination related to their pregnancy, offers help in various ways and stands up for the rights of (to be) mothers and fathers. Among other things, their specific demands address parental leave options and flexible working arrangements.

We think, that their humorous approach of organizing a protest and making use of the popular day of Halloween to create awareness for their cause through the “March of the Mummies”, deserves some attention. To read more on challenges some women have faced and what “Pregnant Then Screwed” advocates for, you can read this blog article on the Guardian, or visit the March’s website.

Photo: A poster advertising the March (via viewdigital.org)

Weekly Report: 27 October, 2017

Photo: Rights activists gathered in Turkey before the trial of other activists (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

Zimbabwe

After Zimbabwean President Mugabe’s appointment as a WHO goodwill ambassador for non-communicable diseases last week had caused national and international criticism, the organization’s director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revoked the decision on Sunday. Reactions included surprise and disappointment, as critics stated that in contrary to Tedros’ statement on Zimbabwe prioritizing the issue of health in its policies, the country has faced a highly deteriorating health system. News24 also reported on Zimbabwe’s severe health situation and reactions after the WHO’s decision(s). The media outlet further wrote that Zimbabwe’s government declared Mugabe did not have notice of the appointment and would have declined anyway.
At the same time, there have been reports about ongoing intimidation and violence, especially by Zanu PF supporters against those in favor of the MDC, during the Biomentric Voter Registration (BVR) that started earlier this month. The NGO Election Resource Center (ERC) called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to take actions against those parties and supporters hampering the process of registration in preparation for peaceful, free and fair election, wrote allAfrica on Wednesday.
Late last week, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai had taken further steps to form his alliance with five other opposition parties, announcing Welshman Ncube to be the new spokesperson. The alliance also established numerous natioal alliance committees, to create joint efforts especially for voter education and registration mobilization. Meanwhile, all Africa reported on MDC opposition spokesman Obert Gutu voicing his doubts about the ZEC’s capabilities and pointed out the likelihood of next year’s elections being rigged in favor of the ruling party. Gutu “suggested it was therefore important that the nation consider pushing forward the election until the voters’ roll is ready and other proposed electoral reforms have been addressed”, besides pointing towards current ill-preparedness of the opposition.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/22/robert-mugabe-removed-as-who-goodwill-ambassador-after-outcry
https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/zimbabwes-grim-hospital-wards-fuel-outrage-toward-who-20171025
https://allafrica.com/stories/201710260125.html
https://allafrica.com/stories/201710250219.html

Democratic Republic Congo

The UN recognized the Kasai, South Kivu and Tanganyika regions as Level 3 (L3) emergency territory, highlighting the graveness of the current humanitarian crisis. The only three other countries labeled L3 are Syria, Irak and Yemen. The Norwegian Refugee Council hopes that the labeling of L3 will attract much-needed financial support for the underfunded crisis, “having the highest increase of newly displaced in the world in the last year”.
Meanwhile, one of DRC’s key opposition parties, the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), announced on Monday to withdraw Pierre Kangudia Mbayi from the transitional government. Kangudia is currently serving as minister of state supervising budget. News24 writes that the UNC had stated it decided to pull out Kangudia “after “an evaluation of the level of implementation of the agreement’”, while lamenting the delay and non-organization of elections as well.
On Wednesday, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) opposition supporters were released, after they had been dispersed with teargas and arrested on Sunday and Monday during a visit by opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi in Lubumbashi. “The releases followed diplomatic pressure in the form of a joint statement from EU officials and UN diplomats” from the US, Switzerland and Canada, wrote New Vision.

https://www.nrc.no/news/2017/october/un-level-3-emergency-declared-in-dr-congo-highlights-scale-of-crisis/
https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/key-opposition-figure-quits-drc-coalition-government-20171025
https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/video/1464408/drc-releases-detained-opposition-supporters

Venezuela

On Thursday, the EU Parliament announced the democratic opposition and political prisoners in Venezuela to be this year’s winners of the EU Sakharov Prize, which had been created in 1988 to honor defendants of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Through this decision the European Parliament “wanted to reward the courage of students and politicians fighting for freedom in the face of a repressive government”, reported the Independent.
The media has also been addressing concerns about a possible Venezuelan default, considering two due repayments of bonds this and next week, without having ‘grace periods’ for its payments. While the Financial Time reported of a Venezuelan Think Tank hinting at the country being able to pay, other experts have pointed out that a possible Venezuelan default could entail an even worse economic situation than already now. While sanctions had been imposed by the US, “Venezuelans continue to look to Russia for help”.
In the meantime, Human Rights Watch called on “international pressure to restore democracy” to continue after “Questionable elections in Venezuela” on October 15.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/sakharov-prize-eu-venezuela-opposition-political-prisoners-students-a8020746.html
https://www.ft.com/content/b1f9373e-b987-11e7-8c12-5661783e5589
https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/23/questionable-elections-venezuela

Myanmar

On Tuesday, Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement for repatriating Rohingya who had come to Bangladesh back to Myanmar. So far, no details on the exact proceedings are known, and hundreds had protested in Rakhine, urging the Myanmar government not to repatriate the Rohingya. The US signaled on Monday that it was considering further action against Myanmar, following their treatment of the Muslim minority. There have been numerous reports about what the Rohyngia have been facing during this humanitarian crisis and especially women and girls have suffered. Médécins sans Frontiers accounted that more than half the girls treated after sexual assaults are under 18. Speaking to the Guardian, a leading Red Cross official warned the international community to take the situation seriously and that it was failing in its response so far. The South China Morning Post also reported on a large numbers of Rohingya women prostituted in overcrowded Bangladeshi refugee camps.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya/myanmar-bangladesh-agree-to-cooperate-on-rohingya-refugee-repatriation-idUSKBN1CT29C
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/26/world-failing-myanmars-rohingya-muslims-top-red-cross-official-says

Syria

As a new round of Syrian peace talks have been scheduled for November 28th, a UN investigation found that Assad’s forces are responsible for a deadly sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhun in April this year. New talks in Geneva are said to focus “on drafting a new constitution and holding UN-supervised elections in a country devastated by several overlapping bloody civil conflicts”, wrote the Guardian. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has stated that the United States do not see a role for Bashar al-Assad, or rather the whole Assad family, for the future of Syria. Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, on the other hand, stated that “we should not pre-empt any future for anybody”.
While the US-backed coalition efforts against the Islamic State (ISIS) have captured Syria’s largest oil-field which had been in the hands of ISIS forces since 2014, a rising number of civilian deaths caused during coalition operations become also known. Moreover, reports have pointed out the devastating humanitarian situation in eastern Ghouta near Damascus, currently being blocked by the Syrian regime. As the regime has tightened its siege, basic supplies were not able to reach the region, leading to lack of food and medicine, causing a large number of infant death and general malnutrition.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/26/syria-gas-attack-bashar-al-assad-un-tillerson

The United States of America

This week, traditional and social media continued addressing the #MeToo campaign which reached the European Parliament on Wednesday, as a session in Strasbourg was addressing sexual harassment and assaults. Another topic which of interest in the US, was lawmakers deciding over the passing of a bill addressing child marriage in Florida, which is among the states with the highest child marriage rate in the US. A HRW article stated that for now, “Afghanistan has a tougher law on child marriage than Florida”, but also said that if passed, the new law would make Florida the first state to ban any marriage under 18. The first step was taken on Tuesday, when a Senate committee unanimously approved a bill. What caught attention on the federal level, were rising tensions within the Republican Party about Donald Trump, as two senators accused Trump of “debasing U.S. politics and the country’s standing abroad.” Via Twitter, Trump had been criticizing the two Republicans as well.
Causing new criticism, the US is now left as one of the only two countries, beside Syria, not having joined or signaled to join the Paris Climate Accord (anew), after Nicaragua had announced it would do so a few days ago. In June this year, President Trump declared the US would withdraw from the accord as it was, according to him, “excessively onerous and hampered American business”, wrote the New York Times. Nevertheless, US officials will be travelling to Germany next month for United Nations climate change discussions, “effectively putting them in the position of negotiating a deal they have said they are leaving.”

https://apnews.com/63488138c5e544cf9a92dd2b0c9f9170/Woman-who-married-at-11-seeks-to-change-Florida-marriage-law
https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-trump-republicans/two-republican-senators-blast-trump-as-party-feud-deepens-idUKKBN1CU0L0

Cambodia

On Wednesday, Cambodia‘s Prime Minister Hun Sen pardoned a senator from the main opposition party CNRP from a seven-year jail sentence. The senator had been sentenced after a Facebook post last year. While the opposition welcomed this pardon, Hun Sen did not ease his stance on the CNRP, which he reiterated would be dissolved and those officials who defected to his party could stay in office.
The Economist published an article about foreign textile companies lobbying for Cambodia’s government to loosen its tightening labor laws. The government had been introducing stricter regulations throughout the last year, especially affecting the heavily unionized textile industry – Cambodia’s biggest. Activistst have stated that the foreign companies should acquire the sewing mills and make them into subsidiaries if really wanting to help on a greater scale. Regarding the struggle for land rights in the country, Reuters reported on Buddhist monks who are highly regarded within Cambodian society, taking a leading role in this issue.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-politics/cambodian-opposition-member-pardoned-at-pms-request-idUSKBN1CU17M
https://www.economist.com/news/business/21730633-textile-workers-find-unlikely-ally-against-state-repression-cambodian-government

Spain

Yesterday, Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had been expected to call for new regional elections “to break the deadlock between Madrid and separatists”, wrote Reuters. However, Puigdemont did not, arguing that the government had not given sufficient guarantees to hold an election and eventually left further steps to the Catalan Parliament. Meanwhile, the Spanish Senate will decide on Friday on approving the government’s take-over of Catalonia’s institutions and provide them with the power to remover the Catalan president. Not only did Puigdemont’s move sharpen the political crisis which could possibly turn into direct confrontation, but it also further drove apart a divided Catalan independence movement.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-spain-politics-catalonia/catalonias-leader-rules-out-snap-election-crisis-deepens-idUSKBN1CV2B9

The Maldives

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on ongoing injustices against RaajjeTV station which had faced various fines under the  Maldives’ controversial defamation act introduced last year. “Criminal defamation laws are often used as tool to jail journalists and silence dissent, particularly by authoritarian governments”, stated CPJ. Meanwhile, RaajjeTV asked for a review of two dimissed cases which they had filed earlier this month regarding a 2013 arson attack and a fine imposed by the Maldives Broadcasting board.

https://www.raajje.mv/en/news/20173
https://raajje.mv/en/news/20218

Other News

Kenya – Following confrontations between the police and protesters, part of Thursday’s re-run elections in Kenya were postponed until Saturday. Though most of the voting happened peacefully, at least three people had been killed yesterday. The contested elections with incumbent Kenyatta’s main opponent Odinga boycotting the vote, happened after the Supreme Court had been unable to hear a case that could have postponed the elections on Wednesday. – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/26/world/africa/kenya-elections-police.html

Poland – This week, a Human Rights Watch report drew new attention to Poland and how the ruling party has used its parliamentary majority to curb various human rights and the rule of law. In an article, a HRW researcher called on the EU to sanction Poland more harshly and trigger Article 7 (1) of the EU treaty which could result in the suspension of a member’s rights to vote on the Council. – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/24/poland-dismantling-rights-protection

Hong Kong – Two Hong Kong activists who had been jailed in August for their involvement in the 2014 ‘umbrella movement’, were released on bail at the beginning of the week. On Thursday, a lower Court of Appeal rejected their appeals to jail terms, but they had already filed a separate case directly at the Court of Final Appeal scheduled to hear their case on November 7th. – https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/2117122/hong-kong-court-rejects-appeal-bids-two-jailed-occupy

Turkey – This week, international attention focused on court trials being held in Turkey. Eleven human rights activists, one Swede, one German and nine Turks, had been detained and remained in prison for several months, causing widespread European criticism. Charges against them included having connections to “terrorist organizations” such as the Gulen group and Kurdish separatist factions. As the trial continues, two activists had been released on bail prior to the trial and eight of them were released from prison in Istanbul this Wednesday, while one remained in prison in Izmir.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-security-rights/turkish-court-releases-eight-rights-activists-on-bail-in-terrorism-trial-idUSKBN1CU0BM
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/10/amnesty-turkey-chair-taner-kilic-remanded-custody-171026142521574.html

Vietnam – This week, a Vietnamese student was convicted “for propaganda against the state” criticizing the government online, and now faces six years of prison plus four years of probation, reported Reuters. Citizens have been facing tight media censorship and intolerance of criticism by the government. Human Rights Watch also called on Vietnam to release the student and drop all charges against him, while a Vietnamese lawyer stated the proof being vague. – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vietnam-dissident/vietnam-jails-student-activist-six-years-for-propaganda-against-the-state-idUSKBN1CU11D

Iraq – On Wednesday, Kurdish authorities offered to put a hold on the independence referendum’s result and proposed an immediate ceasefire to start dialogue with the Iraqi federal government. However, an Iraqi military spokesman suggested the military offensive would continue. The Iraqi Prime Minister had called on the Kurds to cancel the referendum’s outcome for good as a pre-condition for talks. – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-referendum/kurds-offer-to-suspend-independence-drive-seek-talks-with-baghdad-idUSKBN1CT37M

China – At the end of China’s quinquennial Communist Party Congress, President Xi Jinping further consolidated his power, the party elevated him “to the same exalted status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong” and there was no introduction of a younger member as a potential predecessor in the reshuffled Politburo Standing Committee, as had been an unwritten convention in past years. Some have speculated that this could indicate Xi Jinping’s aspirations to continue dominance after the next five-year term, or to further assess possible successors. – https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/24/world/asia/xi-jinping-china.html

Rome’s Trevi-fountain turns red – Graziano Cecchini’s vandalism art-protests

Late on Thursday, the water in Rome’s famous Trevi-fountain turned red. It wasn’t just a mistake which drew big crowds to one of the Italian capital’s best known tourist hotspots. Protesting against Rome’s “corruption and filth”, Italian activist Graziano Cecchini managed to climb onto the side of the fountain and pour the dye in. According to the Guardian, Cecchini said the protest was a “cry that Rome isn’t dead, that it’s alive and ready to return to be the capital of art, life and Renaissance.”

The stunt performed at the fountain was not Cecchini’s first public performance. His first red Trevi-protest dates back to 2007. After the act was initially considered some kind of hooligan prank, Cecchini told the New York Times that “if it had been me, wink wink, I’d say that this had been a media-savvy operation in the face of a very gray society.”

Early 2008, half a million multi-colored plastic balls bounced down Rome’s famed Spanish Steps, in another self-styled protests at on of the city’s landmarks. “Italians’ balls are broken,” was written on leaflets distributed at the time. Talking to Reuters, the Italian artist said his protest was “an artistic operation which shows, through art, the problems we have here in Italy”.

This work reminds us of the power of ‘Guerilla-art‘, or artwork which has no external boundary between the image and the environment, as a form of protest. Cecchini’s protests, or works of art, have also been conceptualized under the name of ‘vandalism-art’, which makes us think about these performances: While acts of civil disobedience might include aspects with are technically a crime, should they be judged in the same light?

Read more about Cecchini’s latest protest here. Want to see some more positive acts of vandalism-art? Check this link.

Picture: Antonio-Masiello/Getty-Images

The Post-Marches and -Rallies era: Trump protests get creative

In the era of social media and 24/7 news coverage, people tend to get creative. Almost a year after Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America, we have seen a unprecedented amount of anti-Trump protests, in the U.S. as well as in other parts of the world. The January 2017 Women’s March, (which was not exclusively but definitely) aimed at the Trump-administration, might have even been the largest protest in U.S. history.

But marches and major rallies of the kind of proportions as the Women’s March are not an easy thing to pull off. How can the agitated individual, make his or her contribution? Although their impact might not be as big, many small, creative initiatives can be an outcome for those who are willing to act, now. Almost a year after Trump’s inauguration, the storm of ignorance and negativity has not stopped causing stupefaction yet. With ammunition provided to them by their own President on a daily basis, people get creative. A brief anthology:

On October 6, a small group of protesters neared the Washington Monument. At a spot with a good sight line to the White House, they set up a 160-square-foot video screen, hooked it to a laptop and hit play. What ran on the screen for the next 12 hours was a relentless rewind of Donald Trump’s infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.” Three minutes of vulgar chatter by the U.S. President, (“Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”) looped over and over through the day, within view of that same guys new office. Dozens of onlookers posted their own videos of the video, a brainchild of protestgroup UltraViolet, with the White House in the background, causing countless mentions in the mainstream news media and on social media.

The Washington Trump International hotel has functioned as a second White House for creative protesters, one without fences and security agents. D.C. based artist Robin Bell has projected provoking slogans onto the building, including “Pay Trump bribes here” and “The president of the United States is a known racist and a Nazi sympathizer.” Washington marchers have made it a proper tradition to dump their protest signs at the hotel after a rally.

“This is Washington protest in the age of Trump, when public actions increasingly combine performance art and catchy visuals to toss a made-to-go-viral insult straight at the president. It is trolling as dissent,” according to Steve Hendrix and Perry Stein for the Washington Post.

Finally, the newest form of protesting the Trump-administration: Screaming helplessly at the sky! What started with a Boston based event organized via Facebook, has snowballed into a national movement of people wailing into the void, with similar events all over the United States. Productive? Maybe not, but for a lot of people, it is an expression which is as close as one can get to their current feelings of frustration.

“Listen, there’s a lot of shit I care about […] But frankly, I can’t keep up with it all. Every time I think of the laundry list of social injustices on top of my own shit like my actual laundry I get overwhelmed. Every news notification on my phone is a reminder of something over which I am powerless. And I think a lot of people feel that way. So fuck me for thinking it’d be nice to yell about it,” according to New York organizer Nathan Wahl.

Read the full Washington Post article on creative protests here, or (if WP puts you in front of a paywall) check the article via this link. Read more about the screaming-protests right here. Based in New York and want to join for some screaming? Check the Facebook-event here.

Photograph: Still of a video by Robin Bell – Twitter/bellvisuals

Taking Over Trump Tower – Pussy Riot is at it again

Early this week, the headquarter of The Trump Organisation was taken over by members of the Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot. Several activists staged the action in New York to draw attention to the incarceration of political prisoners, two of them in specific; Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov and anarchist Olexandr Kolchenko, both of who are currently in Russian prison. The trial of the both men was labeled ‘unfair’ and ‘marred by credible allegations of torture’, by Amnesty International halfway 2015.

“While Sentsov got 20 years in prison, Kolchenko got ten years. Because they, like you, did not sit by – they were fighting for their freedom in Crimea, which was annexed by Putin,” Pussy Riot stated on their Facebook. In that same statement, the group referred to a time in which several of their members were imprisoned, and the importance of the support they received in those days:

“We remember when we were imprisoned, we received news about hundreds of activists around the world putting on balaclavas and going to the streets to support us. That was the moment we understood we are not alone. But we should not forget that even though we’ve come to the other side of the fence, there are still hundreds of political prisoners behind bars waiting for your support. We received a lot of letters, smiles, and noise from you.”

Their statements strongly accords with one CANVAS-publication in particular: Making Oppression Backfire by Srdja Popovic and Tori Porell. This work does not only focus on the key element of supporting your fellow activists when they end up behind bars, but also looks at the essential features of making the particular form of oppression public and supporting your activists during the trial phase. In this same work, CANVAS captures the importance of not only executing nonviolent actions, but also recording and spreading these actions, to have maximum outreach and impact.

With their action in the Trump-tower, Pussy Riot does exactly that. The location to perform their action was not chosen randomly. Although the direct cause for their protest was the imprisonment at the hands of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, there are clear parallels with the American President and his style of leadership. “We are acting in solidarity against leaders like Putin, who has exercised authoritarian force and Trump, who is displaying authoritarian tendencies — because we all need to be fighting together on behalf of dissidents everywhere,” according to Pussy Riot.

Read more about Pussy Riot’s New York protest here, here and here.

Photograph: Screenshot Video Pussy Riot Facebook

Taxi Industry’s Protest Against Ridesharing Apps – Backfiring Methods?

On Monday, thousands of taxi drivers protested transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber, in the Colombian capital Bogota. The protesters blocked roads and clashed with police, as drivers object to what they say is an unfair advantage awarded to app-based services in their country.

In recent years, almost every major town around the world has seen similar forms of protests. Taxi industry groups argue that TNCs are illegal taxicab operations which take away their business. The decline in ‘traditional’ taxi rides, according to these organizations, has to do with unfair competition, through which TNCs can simply offer cheaper rides. The protesters are calling for more regulation on technology companies like Uber and Cabify, who they say are not obliged to pay insurance.

Where some federal and local governments engage with all parties involved, to create a level playing field, other argue that it is simply a better and more affordable quality of transportation offered by apps as Uber, Cabify and Lift that makes the difference. “A point that rarely gets talked about is how you can’t reverse the consumer behavior,” sharing economy expert Rachel Botsman told The Huffington Post. “The public has experienced a new way to get from A to B and in many instances decided the new way is better. Once the genie is out of the bottle, that new way exists, you can’t reverse the story.”

Whatever your verdict on the TNCs takeover of the transport-industry is, one thing we could argue is that taxi-drivers’ methods for defending their position might not be all that effective. First of all, the common goal of their effort seems to ignore the root of the issue they are battling. Where the protesters in Bogota demand a level-playing field in their sector (or rather a ban on TNC-services all together), shifting consumer behavior seems to be guided by convenience and quality of service, rather then simply depend on the price of the ride.

Building on the latter, protest-techniques used by the taxi-drivers might not be the most suited to win back the consumers confidance. Where their disruptive techniques of  blocking roads or ‘go-slow‘-actions seem to speculate on forcing the authorities to act, these actions will be counterproductive in winning back consumer confidence.

Finally, the protesters might have to reconsider their Vision of Tomorrow; is their goal to eliminate the competition, which offers better quality for less money? Or should the goal be to assure stable work for a decent pay? If that is so, the traditional taxi-industry could incorporate their apparent enemy in their struggle. Less then a year ago, London’s Uber-drivers protested their San Fransisco-based employer, disapproving the low pay for long hours. Could drivers from both sides of the divide work together towards their shared interests?

Read more about taxi-protests all over the world here, here and here!

Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

How Protest Works – A Sociologist view on the Impact of Protest and Social Movements

“Do protests and social movements matter? Do they really bring about change?”

Every day, we can see tens, maybe hundreds of individuals and groups, fighting for their different causes, everywhere around the world. Their effort is not focussed on the fight itself, but is pointed towards social impact. Activist want to make a difference; they want to cause change where they can! But measuring this change, or the influence a movement has, is a tricky challange. Sociological conceptions of measuring impact can help us to learn about the structures of change, to analyse the movements we see around us, and in setting up our own.

Kenneth T. Andrews, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, studies the impact of movements. “When social scientists do uncover evidence of a movement’s influence, we have tended to focus on three main pathways by which movements gain power: cultural, disruptive and organizational,” according to Andrews.

Cultural influence refers to the power of movements to “shape public opinion, language and everyday behavior.” If a movement is able to introduce a new lingo, or spark a debate around a new concept or idea, this is one way to conceptualize influence. Then, a movement is said to be disruptive, when it has the power “make it more costly for people to support the status quo.” Finally, organizational power makes it possible to make a long term player out of a movement, by sustaining participants and their short term efforts.

On their own, Andrews argues, cultural, disruptive, and organizational influence are limited in their effect. Where the Occupy movement was able to spark a new conversation about “the 99 percent”- concept, their organizational and disruptive capacities were not able to translate these cultural gains into other kinds of lasting institutional changes. Therefore, movements that have managed to combine all three factors, can be said to have had a more influential and lasting impact, Andrews concludes.

Can we think of other examples of cultural, disruptive and organizational power? And what are the risks every of these forms of influence incorporate? Read the full opinion-article by Kenneth Andrews in NY-Times via this link.

Photograph: Marion Fayolle – New York Times

Weekly Report: 20 October, 2017

Photo: Jordi Sànchez (Catalan National Assembl) and Jordi Cuixart (independence group Omnium leader) were arrested and faced a judge in Madrid on Monday, in an investigation for alleged sedition. The arrests of the both ‘Jordis’ is the first imprisonment of senior secessionist figures since Catalonia’s 1 October independence referendum. Photograph: Reuters (via bbc.com)

Also this week we are proud to inform you that executive director of CANVAS Srdja Popovic has been elected rector of St Andrews, one of the oldest English-speaking schools of our world. Read what the BBC wrote about the election here.

Cambodia

On Monday, Cambodia’s parliament voted to make it part of party-law that if a political party is dissolved, seats in parliament should be re-distributed. The vote happened after the government filed a lawsuit earlier this month to dissolve main opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), part of an escalating political crisis. Monday’s parliamentary vote on the new amendments was supported by all 67 parliamentarians present from Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), while the CNRP boycotted the morning session. According to Reuters, under the new laws, “if a political party abandons its seats, is delisted, is disbanded or dissolved, a list of candidates or members of parliament of that party are no longer valid and beneficial.” The vote comes at a time when around half the opposition members of Cambodia’s parliament have allegedly left the country in fear of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s repressive regime, as we reported earlier this month.

On Thursday, the South Chinese Morning Post publishes an interesting column dealing with particular historical explanations behind Hun Sen’s current crackdown against opposition forces ahead of next year’s election. “To understand, we must go back 47 years,” Jonathan Power writes. When the North Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1979, they installed ex-Khmer Rouge dissidents as the country’s leaders. One of them being current Prime Minister Hun Sen. As a counter-action, the US, who had then only recently lost the Vietnam war, started backing the Khmer Rouge. The frustration of over a decade of US-backed killing by the Khmer Rouge has contributed to Hun Sen cling to power, Power concludes. “The long period when the US and Europeans supported the Khmer Rouge embittered Hun Sen and most Cambodians. It helped build his popularity.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cambodia-politics/cambodias-parliament-votes-for-party-law-changes-as-opposition-future-in-limbo-idUSKBN1CL0CB?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29
https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2115900/two-million-reasons-why-cambodias-prime-minister-fears-us?utm_content=buffer18f5e&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Zimbabwe

Late on Friday last week, Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF has called for an extra-ordinary congress in December. Where the next congress was only scheduled for 2019 (the gathering takes place every four years) an early congress is necessary to deal with internal divisions threatening to destroy the party, ahead of next year’s general elections. “Team Lacoste” is led by one of Mugabe’s deputies, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The other camp, made up of young Turks calling themselves “Generation 40”, is backing First Lady Grace Mugabe to block Mnangagwa’s presidential ambitions. According to an anonymous source who spoke to news platform News24, “a meeting of the Politburo took note of the infighting within the party and it was suggested by members of the G40 that we turn our annual conference into an extra-ordinary congress that would address the problems that we have.”

Late this week, former Vice-President Joyce Mujuru’s National People’s Party (NPP) were to launch a separate opposition-alliance ahead of the 2018 general elections. Mujuru’s NPP would team up with smaller opposition parties Zapu, People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Democratic Assembly for Restoration and Empowerment (Dare). The alliance would counter the MDC Alliance led by MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai. “The main reason we refused to get into bed with MDC Alliance is because we said we want a neutral name. We are, therefore, not going to be forming an alliance that bears our name. Those who have proposed that name are just mere dreamers,” NPP spokesperson Jeffreyson Chitandosaid told NewsDay. A split opposition vote could frustrate the opposition’s effort to counter the 2018 ZANU-PF campaign.

https://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/zanu-pf-calls-for-extra-ordinary-congress-20171013

The Maldives

Where the DRC secured a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council early this week,  the Maldivian mission to the United Nations had announced in July that it would withdraw its candidacy from the vote. The withdrawal was partly guided by  allegations of harboring human trafficking cells and being used as a hub for large-scale money laundering. Maldives is also under considerable fire for restrictions to the freedom of expression in the country, caused by recent laws, such as the re-criminalization of defamation in 2016.

Reacting on the UNHRC’s electoral process, former president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has now insinuated that Maldives would never have been able to secure a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council anyway. Nasheed insinuated on his official Twitter account on Tuesday that the nation is an ‘international outcast’ under President Yameen, where he also said to have recognized why Maldives withdrew its candidacy only months before the election.

Also, this week, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) has begun investigating the death of Abdul Rasheed, a local activist who passed away on October 10th, while serving a jail sentence. Rasheed was serving a jail term for assault during the ‘May Day’ protest, a mass opposition rally held following the conviction of former president Mohamed Nasheed.

https://raajje.mv/en/news/19728
https://raajje.mv/en/news/19631

Spain

As regional President Puigdemont called for new negotiations with his federal counterpart early this week, Spain signals a hardening line over the Catalonian independence issue. Although Puigdemont failed to respond to Madrid’s ultimatum to clarify whether he had declared unilateral independence in a speech last week, he instead made a “sincere and honest” offer of dialogue over the next two months. In reply, Rajoy said Puigdemont’s stance had brought Madrid closer to triggering article 155 of the constitution, under which it can impose direct rule on any of the country’s 17 autonomous communities if they break the law.

In the meantime, the Spanish high court ordered the heads of the Catalan National Assembly and independence group Omnium to be held without bail, pending an investigation for alleged sedition, in the first imprisonment of senior secessionist figures since Catalonia’s 1 October independence referendum. Both Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart allegedly played central roles in orchestrating pro-independence protests that last month trapped national police inside a Barcelona building and destroyed their vehicles. Puigdemont regretted the arrests, stating that “sadly, [Spain] has political prisoners again.”

https://catalannews.com/politics/item/puigdemont-calls-rajoy-for-a-two-month-negotiation-period
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/17/madrid-jails-catalan-separatist-leaders-jordi-cuixart-and-jordi-sanchez-pending-investigation

Venezuela

Early on Monday, a socialist win in regional elections caused allegations of irregularities and a new risk of rekindling unrest. Despite devastating food shortages and salary-destroying inflation in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro’s candidates took 17 out of 23 governorships, versus six for the opposition, in Sunday’s poll with turnout of more than 61 percent. “The results are difficult to believe, obviously, given pre-electoral polling that gave the opposition in the range of 15 to 18 governorships, with normal turnout (around 55 percent or above),” political scientist John Polga-Hecimovich told Al Jazeera. As a reaction, opposition leaders decried irregularities and called for street protests on Monday. They also demanded a full audit, but did not immediately offer any evidence of fraud.

On Tuesday, reactions on the election-results could not be any more diverse. Although most opposition leaders claimed the elections to be rigged by the Maduro-state apparatus, some opposition figures acknowledged failures in their counter-campaign. The abstention by their supporters, disillusioned by the failure of street protests to dislodge Maduro earlier this year, was a big factor, opposition figures told Reuters. The United States accounted for the strongest foreign reaction, as Washington slammed Maduro’s “authoritarian dictatorship,” while other major nations from France to Colombia also expressed concern about the adherence to democratic process in Venezuela. “With the opposition coalition’s dozens of parties arguing over whether there was fraud, what went wrong, and where to go next, it will need to regroup and map strategy quickly heading into the 2018 presidential campaign,” according to Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-election/venezuela-vote-dispute-risks-rekindling-unrest-sanctions-idUSKBN1CK06A?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics/venezuelas-maduro-defends-disputed-vote-opposition-divided-idUSKBN1CM2JG

Syria

This week, after four months of Western backed fighting, Syrian forces re-established themselves in Raqqa, ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital. The battle has damaged almost every building in the Syrian city. Although the ISIS-forces have fled Raqqa, the battle continuous to take lives, as hundreds of mines and explosives litter the streets. Now that the extremists are being rolled back, other disputes are coming to the fore. According to Australian ABC-news, “in Raqqa, it is not clear how long local Arabs will continue to cooperate with the Syrian Kurds who dominate the Syrian Democratic Forces, or whether the Syrian Government will continue to tolerate the SDF, negotiate or fight to regain control of the large swathe of Syria now under its control.”

On Tuesday, in-depth Syria platform Syria Deeply writes about the changing role women are playing in the country, focussing on Syrian politics. “The conflict in Syria has shifted traditional roles within communities. More women are starting to play roles in politics at all levels,” according to Federica Marsi, “but their overall influence remains minimal, leaving Syria’s destiny in the hands of men.” Although the feminist movement in Rojava, the Kurdish-controlled Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, might not be comparable to the situation in other Syrian territories, groups of non-Kurdish women also reportedly created similar female popular assemblies and battalions in villages liberated from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), including in Manbij and Raqqa. Also, beyond the country’s borders, Syrian women in the opposition are taking new steps to increase their representation. Mariam Jalabi, a member of the Women’s Advisory Committee at the U.N. and director of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces’ Representative Office, told Syria Deeply about a forthcoming “women’s political movement for Syria” that is set to launch its mission for effective female political representation in mid-October and present at the U.N. later this year.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-18/syria-war-islamic-state-raqqa-free-devastated-and-empty/9060570
https://www.newsdeeply.com/syria/articles/2017/10/17/amid-war-women-are-starting-to-make-a-mark-on-syrian-politics

Democratic Republic Congo

On Monday, the Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the UN Human Rights Council, serving on the 47-member council from January 2018 until the end of 2020.  Despite opposition from the United States, “Kinshasa now finds itself in the rare position of sitting on the Geneva-based council while the body investigates allegations of killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers in the Kasai region of the DR Congo,” according to New Vision. Human Rights Watch called the election of the DR Congo “a slap in the face to the many victims of the Congolese government’s grave abuses across the country.

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1463784/dr-congo-wins-seat-rights-council

Myanmar

Early on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch published a series of newly released satellite images, which are said to reveal that at least 288 villages were partially or totally destroyed by fire in northern Rakhine State in Burma since August 25 of this year. “The destruction encompassed tens of thousands of structures, primarily homes inhabited by ethnic Rohingya Muslims,” according to HRW.  The publication claims that at least 66 villages were burned after September 5, when security force operations supposedly ended, according to a September 18 speech by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/17/burma-new-satellite-images-confirm-mass-destruction

The United States of America

Late on Sunday, the New York Times reports on the newest developments in the NFL-protests. Instigator and main protagonist of the recent protest movement against racial injustice Colin Kaepernick, has filed a grievance against the N.F.L., accusing all 32 teams of colluding to keep him from playing in the league. When the protests led to condemnation by US President Trump and other high-ranking figures, team-owners were quick to restrict the protests, which fueled a national conversation on the propriety of protesting during the national anthem. According to the NY-Times, “Kaepernick’s inability to find a team, and the broader debate over the anthem protests, will now become a legal tug of war that could potentially amplify the dispute for months.” In the meantime, other sports teams, also outside of the US, join NFL-players in solidarity.

Since that same New York Times published an investigative report detailing decades of sexual harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein (early October), social media has provided a galvanizing platform for women to discuss their experiences. Building on this case, and the impact it had on American society and societies all around the world, women worldwide were posting messages on social media under the hashtag #MeToo, early this week, to show how commonplace sexual assault and harassment actually are. The hashtag refers to the fact that they, too, have been victims of such misconduct.

Finally, this week the third travel-ban which was proclaimed by the Trump-administration late September came across new restrictions from a federal court. The new travel restrictions, which were supposed to come into force on Wednesday, were overruled by Derrick Watson, a judge in Hawai. Where earlier counterarguments focused on the question if the travel ban targeted Muslims in an inordinate way, this time the argument challenged if Trumps new restrictions would actually be a solution to the supposed problem (national security). The policy “lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the interests of the United States,’” Watson wrote.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/17/trump-travel-ban-blocked-hawaii-judge

Other News

Hong Kong – After China countered the Hong Kong national anthem protests with fierce new regulations, the Hong Kong government now considers adopting similar legislation – https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/2115503/after-china-makes-insulting-national-anthem-illegal-hong?utm_content=bufferdcaa7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Iraq – While bickering continues in the Iraqi Kurdish region early this week, Reuters on Wednesday writes about the risky Kurdhish trade-gamble for a region that is heavily dependent on food imports and oil exports, via a pipeline that passes through Turkey – https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kurds-economy/defiant-kurds-shrug-off-risk-of-trade-war-after-independence-vote-idUSKBN1CN0QS?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Reuters%2FworldNews+%28Reuters+World+News%29

Kenia – As Kenia heads towards the scheduled October 26 rerun of the 2017 presidential election, Human Rights Watch releases a report on violations by security forces in the electoral period of August 2017. Meanwhile, Kenyatta’s competitor Raila Odinga pulled back from the rerun, and here is why – https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/15/kenya-police-killed-beat-post-election-protesters

Malta – In Malta, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed using a car-bomb on Monday, as a sudden plot twist in the islands’ unfolding governmental corruption saga – https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2115644/malta-car-bomb-kills-star-investigative-journalist-who-reported?utm_content=buffer9af12&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Argentina – Ahead of congressional elections on Sunday, Major political parties in Argentina have suspended their election campaigning after the discovery of a body thought to be that of a missing activist. According to BBC, “Mr Maldonado’s disappearance caused a national outcry and has since become highly politicised.” – https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-41674565

Ukraine – Thousands of protesters clashed with the police on Tuesday, before setting up more than 50 tents in central Kiev, demanding the creation of an anti-corruption court, the lifting of lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution and a fairer electoral law – https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/protesters-set-first-large-tent-camp-since-euromaidan-revolution.html

Srda Popovic izabran za rektora skotskog univerziteta

Aktivista i jedan od osnivaca Otpora Srda Popovic izabran je za rektora skotskog univerziteta Sent Endruz, preneo je BBC.

Studenti univerziteta u gradu Sent Endruz izabrali su Popovica za rektora, koji je na skotskim univerzitetima predsednik univerzitetskog suda i predsedava sastancima na kojima se donese odluke od raspodele budzeta do akademskih politika.

Popovic, koji je osnovao i nevladinu organizaciju Kanvas (Centar za primenjenu nenasilnu akciju i strategiju), bio je kandidat za rektora na predlog studenta Dzejmija Rodnija koji je procitao njegovu knjigu “Mustra za revoluciju”.

Na glasanju studenata, Popovic je dobio vise glasova od bivseg lidera skotske liberaldemokratske partije Vilijama Renija.

BBC navodi da je Popovica ubedilo da bude kandidat to sto je na toj funkciji bio i komicar Dzon Kliz iz Monti Pajtona.

“Citav zivot volim Monti Pajton i njihov apsurdan humor je nesto sto je inspirisalo moju kreativnu taktiku protesta”, rekao je Popovic.

Univerzitet Sent Endruz u istoimenom gradu osnovan je 1413. godine i najstariji je u Skotskoj, a treci najstariji u zemljama engleskog govornog podruja u svetu.

Vise o Srdji Popovicu i njegovom izboru za rektora univerziteta u Skotskoj procitajte ovde

Fotografija: N1 Info