Friday 28 June 2013

A day of protest across the globe

Chilean protesters in street battles with police
More than 100,000 join demonstrations as students seize 30 polling stations to be used for presidential vote on Sunday

17 June, 2013

Hooded protesters have vandalised shops and fought running street battles with riot police in Chile's capital after more than 100,000 joined mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country to demand education reform.

The violence began early on Wednesday when masked youths attacked a police station and left burning tyres at road junctions hours before thousands of university and secondary school students marched through central Santiago.

While riot police battled a flurry of rocks and molotov cocktails, students seized an estimated 30 locations scheduled to be official voting sites for Sunday's presidential primary vote.

The president, Sebastián Piñera, warned the students that squads of riot police were prepared for massive raids if the students refused to peacefully surrender the voting areas. "We are not going to let a minority, jumping over the law, pretend to usurp the 13 million Chilean citizens who have a democratic right to participate [in elections]," he said.

"They are not students, they are criminals and extremists," the interior and security minister, Andrés Chadwick, said. "They have acted in a co-ordinated and planned way to provoke these acts of violence."

Police arrested 102 people and four officers were injured.

The students were led by Moisés Paredes, a high school leader who held a press conference suggesting the government find an alternative location for their elections. The face-off between the billionaire businessman turned president and teenage student shocked many older Chileans who wondered aloud who was in control.

"We are talking about underage children who by law are not able to vote nor buy a pack of cigarettes. Children who need their parents' permission to leave the country … who can't by law even drive a car," wrote Teresa Marinovic, in the influential online newspaper El Mostrador.

The rejection of Piñera and elections in general is part of a broad attack on politics as usual. As in neighbouring Brazil, Chileans of all ages have joined the protests, which are driven by a range of issues. In Chile, marchers have demanded a wider redistribution of Chile's copper wealth, a reform of the educational system, which would put the state back in control of mostly privatised public universities, tax increases for the rich, and the legalisation of marijuana.

While protests are hardly new in Chile, where the 1980s were notable for massive street uprisings against the military government of Augusto Pinochet, the current protests are more diverse.

Much of the energy comes from the ranks of public schoolchildren aged 14-17. Though not old enough to order a beer, they are connected by Facebook and able to marshal massive marches and flashmobs in the hundreds when a single friend is arrested and held by Carabineros de Chile, the national police force. Instead of football or skateboarding, teenagers often gather after school in public parks to draft declarations and manifestos.

In the hours before the national march, students attacked and briefly occupied the ministry of education. Another group protested outside Codelco, the state-run copper mining company, with signs reading "Copper for Education" in reference to Chile's massive revenue from copper exports and student demands for free university education for all

Turkey protests: hundreds set up barricades in Ankara
Main road is blocked in working-class district of Dikmen as small core of protesters continue daily demonstrations

27 June, 2013

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in a residential area of the Turkish capital, setting up barricades and lighting small bonfires.

Weeks of often violent anti-government protests have mostly died out in Istanbul and the centre of the capital, Ankara, but daily demonstrations have continued in its recently developed working-class Dikmen district.

The protesters, numbering no more than 1,000, blocked Dikmen's main road with makeshift barricades and started small fires late on Wednesday, some chanting anti-government slogans.

Riot police and water cannon trucks initially kept their distance but moved in to disperse the protesters in the early hours, footage from the anti-government channel Halk TV showed.

The images showed police firing at least two rounds of teargas and detaining at least one protester.

Several thousand people had marched through the neighbourhood the previous night in protest at the release pending trial of a policeman accused of shooting and killing a protester this month. Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse them.

The weeks of protests have highlighted divisions in Turkish society, including between religious conservatives who form the bedrock of support for the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and more liberal Turks.

Four people were killed in the broader unrest, including one policeman, and about 7,500 wounded with injuries ranging from lacerations to breathing difficulties from teargas inhalation, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

A report by the children's rights group Gündem Çocuk said at least 294 people under the age of 18 had been detained between 28 May and 25 June in relation to the unrest. It said some had been exposed to teargas, pressurised water and percussion bombs and had been beaten by police with batons.

Turkey has come under international criticism for its handling of the protests, which began in late May as peaceful resistance to plans to redevelop an Istanbul park.

The EU rebuked Turkey this week, postponing a new round of membership talks for at least four months.

Erdoğan has held a series of mass rallies across the country since the trouble started, dismissing the protesters as pawns of Turkey's enemies and calling on his supporters to back his party in municipal elections in March.

Egypt braced for protests as Mursi stands ground
Egypt faces a showdown in the streets after President Mohamed Mursi failed, in an address to the nation, to satisfy the demands of opponents who want to force him from office.

27 June, 2013

Days of brawling between his Islamist supporters and their rivals have already left several dead and scores injured and the camps now plan mass rallies, raising the risk of bigger clashes that the army warns could prompt it to take command again.

On Friday, Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood and their allies will gather in Cairo, as will some opposition groups. On Sunday, the opposition hopes millions will heed the call, a year to the day since Mursi became Egypt's first freely elected leader.

"Dr. Mohamed Mursi's speech of yesterday only made us more determined in our call for an early presidential vote in order to achieve the goals of the revolution," the liberal opposition coalition said after its leaders met to consider a response.

"We are confident the Egyptian masses will go out in their millions in Egypt's squares and streets on June 30 to confirm their will to get the January 25 revolution back on track."

With the start of the weekend, people began to gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square, site of the uprising of January 25, 2011, and at venues in other towns. The atmosphere was largely festive but there were widespread fears of trouble in the days ahead.

It is hard to gauge how many may turn out but much of the population, even those sympathetic to Islamic ideas, are deeply frustrated by economic slump and many blame the government.

The army, which helped protesters topple Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and is on alert across the country guarding key locations, says it will act if politicians cannot reach consensus. The United States, which continues to fund the military as it did under Mubarak, has urged Egypt's leaders to pull together.

In a late-night marathon speech, Mursi called opponents "enemies" and "saboteurs" loyal to the ousted dictator, whose "corruption" had thwarted him and undermined the economy, though he conceded he had made some mistakes and promised reforms.

He also offered talks on "national reconciliation" and changes to a controversial new constitution to end the polarization and paralysis that he said threatened democracy.

Opponents dismissed that as nothing new. Mursi and his allies complain that their opponents, defeated by the highly mobilized Islamist groups in a series of elections last year, are bad losers who have repeatedly snubbed offers to cooperate.

They in turn say Mursi makes such proposals in bad faith, accusing him of usurping the revolution by entrenching Brotherhood control of the state and "Islamising" society to the detriment of more secular Egyptians and religious minorities.

"Our demand was early presidential elections and since that was not addressed anywhere in the speech then our response will be on the streets on June 30," said Mahmoud Badr, the young journalist behind a petition which has garnered millions of signatures calling on Mursi to quit. "I hope he'll be watching."

Islamists say the opposition tactics amount to a "coup" and many who were jailed under Mubarak fear a return of army rule.


Warning "violence will only lead to violence", Mursi urged his opponents to focus on parliamentary elections, which may be held this year, rather than on "undemocratic" demands to overturn his election on the streets: "I say to the opposition, the road to change is clear," he said. "Our hands are extended."

Instability in the most populous Arab nation could send shocks well beyond its borders. Signatory to a key, U.S.-backed peace treaty with Israel, Egypt also controls the Suez Canal, a vital link in global transport networks between Europe and Asia.

"Egypt is historically a critical country to this region," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is on a tour of the Middle East, said on Wednesday.

"Our hopes are that all parties ... the demonstration that takes place on Friday or the demonstration that takes place on Sunday, will all engage in peaceful, free expression," he said.

With the government short of cash and seeking funding from allies and the IMF, Kerry said Egypt should curb unrest in order to attract investment and restore vital tourism income. The U.S. ambassador in Cairo has angered opposition activists by saying explicitly that their protests risked being counter-productive.

Egypt's financial markets have suffered. Government debt costs have risen, and the stock market and pound have fallen.

"Financial markets in Egypt have been hit by a triple whammy of rising political tensions, growing concerns over the fiscal position and the continued deadlock in negotiations with the IMF," said London-based analysts Capital Economics.

"The markets are now pricing in a 50 percent chance of a government default within the next five years."

The secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Cairo-born Turkish academic Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, raised the alarm about the fragility of the democracy Egyptians secured in the Arab Spring uprising two and a half years ago:

"I hope ... polarization does not turn into clashes," he told Egypt's state news agency MENA. "Because if that happens, then it means that there will not be a democratic solution."

The Muslim Brotherhood's insistence on its right to rule as it sees fit because of its electoral mandate has drawn comparison with the way Turkey's Islamist-rooted government dismissed street protesters earlier this month. In both cases, critics say large minority voices have been ignored.


Mursi threatened legal action against several named senior figures and raised the possibility of using military law codes in some cases. He said some judges and civil servants were obstructing him, and accused liberal media owners of bias.

Hours after he publicly accused one TV channel owner of tax evasion, the businessman Mohamed al-Amin found he was under investigation and barred from leaving the country, prompting his lawyer to tell Reuters: "This is dictatorship." Amin's channel notably airs satire modeled on that of U.S. comic Jon Stewart.

Those attacks on critics, as well as flashes of humor in the speech, showed a more animated Mursi than Egyptians have seen since he emerged from obscurity as a last-minute stand-in to carry the Brotherhood's banner in the presidential election. It may play well with his core supporters, if not opponents.

With protesters planning to gather around the presidential palace in a Cairo suburb, the head of the Republican Guard was quoted by the state news agency saying his men would not be deployed outside the walls of the compound and so would not confront them - unless "there is an attempt to storm the gates".

On Tahrir Square, people pitched tents and were preparing to demonstrate. As Mursi spoke on television overnight, Ayman Anwar, a 55-year-old computer engineer, watched with disdain.

"I didn't come out tonight to listen," he said. "I came out because I'm angry. No one could have imagined that this would happen to Egypt. We've replaced one dictator with another."

Egyptian troops move to bases near cities ahead of protests

27 June, 2013

Troop reinforcements and armour have been brought to army bases near cities ahead of protests this weekend aimed at forcing the Islamist president out, security officials have said.

Clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi erupted, killing at least one person in the coastal city of Mansoura.

The troop movements accompanied speculation over the army's role in the crisis leading up to Sunday's protests. Islamists accuse activists of paving the way for a coup, a charge that the opposition vehemently denies.

Brazilian riot police caught firing CATAPULTS at crowds near World Cup stadium in latest round of violent clashes with anti-government protesters

27 June, 2013

Brazilian riot police have been caught firing catapults at crowds as they clashed with anti-government protesters near a World Cup stadium.

Thousands of demonstrators trying to march on the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte were met by tear gas and rubber bullets.

The protesters, who have been angered by the billions spent in World Cup preparations, are said to have picked up tear gas canisters and lobbed them back at police, along with a shower of rocks.

A dense fog of the acrid gas enveloped the mass of protesters, who were about a mile away from the stadium where Brazil were playing Uruguay in a semi-final match of the warm-up tournament for next year's World Cup.

Police set up a one-mile perimeter around the stadium, normal procedure for international tournaments. Mounted police and riot units maintained another security line about half a mile from the stadium.

Thousands of demonstrators trying to march on the site were met by tear gas and rubber bullets

Demonstrators run as riot police fire tear gas during clashes at a protest on the streets of Belo Horizonte. Tens of thousands of Brazilians have taken to the streets this month in the biggest protests in 20 years

The riots have been fuelled by an array of grievances ranging from poor public services to the high cost of World Cup soccer stadiums and corruption

By the time last night's Confederations Cup match ended in a 2-1 Brazil victory, most of the protesters had dispersed. In another area of Belo Horizonte, a group of masked young men shattered the windows of car showroom and set the shop on fire.

About 50,000 protesters had earlier massed in a central plaza in Belo Horizonte.
'We don't need the World Cup,' said Leonardo Fabri, a 19-year-old protester. 'We need education, we need better health services, a more humane police.'

It is the latest protest to turn violent as Latin America's biggest country has been hit by nationwide protests since June 17.

Elsewhere in Brazil the situation was mostly calm, in part because Brazilian politicians were taking action to meet protesters' demands.

A dense fog of the acrid gas enveloped the mass of protesters, who were about a mile away from the stadium where Brazil were playing Uruguay in a semi-final match of the warm-up tournament for next year's World Cup

The senate yesterday approved legislation to ratchet up penalties for those found guilty of corruption and would take away the ability for a pardon, amnesty or bail for those convicted.

The measure must be approved by the lower house before it is signed into law.

The wave of protests that hit Brazil began as opposition to transport fare rises, then expanded to a list of causes including anger at high taxes, poor services and high World Cup spending, before coalescing around the issue of rampant government corruption.

It has become the largest eruption of public demonstrations Brazil has seen in two decades.

'This movement scored a big victory by the killing' of that legislation, said Leila Marques, a 19-year-old protester in Brasilia.

Bulgarian protesters pelt lawmakers with tomatoes, eggs
Bulgarian protesters pelted lawmakers with tomatoes and eggs and chanted "Mafia!" and "Resign!" on Wednesday in a sign of mounting frustration over the new Socialist-led government's refusal to quit over a security scandal.

26 June, 2013

Thousands of mostly younger Bulgarians have been staging protest rallies for more than a week demanding the cabinet step down over its bungled bid to impose a media mogul as head of national security, a highly sensitive post, without any debate.

Bowing to the protesters, parliament canceled Delyan Peevski's appointment and Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has apologized, but refuses to resign, saying this would destabilize the European Union's poorest member state and harm its economy.

The protests, which are fueled by impatience over the politicians' failure to tackle graft and organized crime, had been peaceful and good-natured until Wednesday's gathering, which was organized via social network sites.

Bulgarian television showed some protesters hurling food at a group of lawmakers entering the parliament building. A deputy from the ethnic Turkish MRF party, junior partner in the ruling coalition, was slapped with a newspaper and doused with water.

The media mogul Peevski is a former MRF lawmaker. Bulgarian media says Peevski, 32, stands behind a powerful network of newspapers and television channels owned by his mother.

The abortive bid to appoint Peevski, who has no experience of security issues, is viewed by the protesters as symbolic of the murky ties between Bulgarian politicians and businessmen.

As well as the government's resignation, the protesters are also demanding a raft of reforms they hope will cut corruption and bring greater transparency to Bulgarian public life.


Lawmakers had been due to approve on Wednesday banker Daniela Bobeva as deputy prime minister but not enough turned up for the vote to go ahead, adding to a sense of political drift in a country with pressing economic and social problems.

Worryingly for Oresharski, deputies from a small nationalist party whose passive support his government needs to stay in power failed to show up in parliament on Wednesday.

The Socialists and the MRF, who placed second and third respectively in May's snap election, formed their coalition after the biggest party, the center-right GERB, failed to find allies to form its own government.

Street protests over corruption and high energy prices toppled the previous GERB government in February.

A Bulgarian poet and former right-wing deputy, Edvin Sugarev, said on Wednesday he was going on hunger strike in protest against the Socialist-led coalition.

"Thousands of Bulgarians have demanded your resignation and you keep pretending you do not hear their voices below the windows of your office, that you do not understand their demands and that you cannot feel their insistence," he said in an open letter to the prime minister.

Canada: National protests will support Hamilton Enbridge activists
Protestors from across the country will take to the streets in nearly a dozen cities tomorrow in support of activists who took over an Enbridge Inc. pumping station in Hamilton last week

24 June, 2013

The action, titled “Swamp Line 9,” is in protest of the Line 9 pipeline that runs from Montreal to Sarnia. Enbridge is seeking to reverse the direction of the pipeline in a bid to send tar sands oil from Alberta to the east coast. The protesters moved on to the North Westover site on June 20.

It’s important to show people in the struggle out east that there are people in Alberta that are happy with what they’re doing,” said Chelsea Flook.

Flook’s Sierra Club Prairie Chapter will be hosting a local solidarity action in Edmonton.

Related: Enbridge protesters hope to be in 'for the long haul' at Hamilton site
At the same time, it’s locally important to show Edmontonians that people are united across Canada against tar sands expansions and they are raising their voices,” she added.

The National Energy Board has already approved the first leg of the project, with public hearings on the second leg scheduled for the fall. Enbridge has already began construction on the project.

These communities along the route are giving voice to their concerns. They have a right to say no,” said Maryam Adrangi, spokesperson for the Rising Tide’s Vancouver chapter.

They’re saying that we care about the land we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe — they’re incredibly legitimate concerns,” Adrangi said.

Line 9 crosses several major rivers that drain into Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River as well as Spencer Creek, Hamilton’s largest watershed.

Protestors say that the drinking water of millions of people would be at risk in the event of an oil spill.

The protest is part of “Sovereignty Summer,” a series of protest actions promoting Indigenous rights and environmental protection led by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land.

Enbridge told CBC Hamilton last week that the company is willing to listen to concerns.

"We are willing to speak with these individuals about their concerns," said Ken Hall, a senior advisor for community relations. "I'm sure we can try to resolve this in due course"

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