Posts Tagged ‘protest’
On Sunday, 29 June 2012, a massive crowd gathered in central Tokyo to express their anger at the government’s decision to restart a reactor at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, as Japan Times reports.
The protest outside the prime minister’s office has become a weekly event in the past few months, with the number of participants increasing each time. “The best we Tokyo residents can do is to protest in front of the prime minister’s office, although this is really a last-minute action,” one of the protest organisers told media.
On 29 June, Japan witnessed its largest public protest since the 1960s. This was the latest in a series of Friday night gatherings outside Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko’s official residence. Well over one hundred thousand people came together to vent their anger at his 16 June decision to order a restart of Units 3 and 4 at the Oi nuclear plant, said this article on Japan Focus.
Japan shut down the last of its 54 reactors for inspections on 5 May 2012, the first time since May 1970 when Japan both of Japan’s two reactors were taken offline for maintenance. However, it now appears that Japan will only have been without nuclear power post-Fukushima for just under two months. On 8 June, Prime Minister Noda called for resumption of nuclear power generation in a nationwide address. Noda stated that he was ordering a restart of Units 3 and 4 at Oi, both pressure water reactors built in the early 1990s, because it was the ultimate responsibility of the state to “protect the livelihood of the people”.
The organisers said the rally a week earlier drew 45,000 people, while police said there were about 11,000 protesters. On Friday, organizers were aiming for a gathering of 100,000 people. Given the increasing number of participants, the police heightened security by stationing hundreds of officers there. It was the tightest security for a public protest in several decades, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.
The protest on Friday, which began at 6 p.m., saw a huge crowd gather beforehand, with participants calling on the government and Kepco not to restart the reactors. Organizers said around 200,000 people took part, while police said participants were in the tens of thousands. “I think it’s outrageous to restart (the Oi reactors) when the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident has not even been contained,” said protester Kazumi Honda, a housewife in her 40s from Minami Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture.
Honda said she lives just 60 km from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant and thus could not ignore the Oi reactors’ situation, especially when their safety status is still tentative, as the government admits. Honda said she has participated in other protests but never before in Tokyo. The number of protesters kept swelling as time passed, and the line of people expanded a few blocks from the prime minister’s office. Participants were chanting, “No to the restarts!”
Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India, has accused non-government organisations and citizens’ groups in the country opposed to nuclear power as serving a foreign agenda. Singh said this recently referring to the steadfast opposition to the two new 1,000-MW nuclear reactors proposed to be built in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu (southern India) with Russian help. The first of these reactors was to be commissioned in December 2011 while the second was to follow six months later. The continuing local protests since August 2011 – supported by dozens of NGOs and voluntary groups all over India – have halted the project.
Singh’s vilification of the protesting NGOs did not come as part of a speech at home or an aside to the Indian media – it was part of an interview conducted with him by the US magazine Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It is therefore worth understanding the deeper context in which Singh expressed his frustration over public opposition to his government’s dangerous nuclear power plans.
At the Indian Science Congress held in 2012 January, Singh talked about increasing the R&D budget in India from 1% of GDP to 2% by the end of the Twelfth Five Year Plan period (that is, 2017 March). In the USA, this is seen as being equivalent to a rise from US$ 3 billion last year to US $8 billion in 2017. He specifically mentioned the increasing contribution of private sector funding that will make this possible. The increase is meant to be used for the creation of elite research institutions (which will help bring expatriate Indian scientists home, mainly from the USA), to enrich science education, and equip smart new laboratories.
According to the journal Science, included in this push is South Asia’s first biosafety level–4 lab for handling the most dangerous pathogens. Over the next 5 years, an estimated US $1.2 billion of public money will be used to set up and run a new National Science and Engineering Research Board. Modelled upon the National Science Foundation of the USA, the board will fund competitive grants.
For all the fawning that has been done over the “scholar-prime minister” who “aims for inclusive development”, Singh’s government is anything but inclusive. During the second term of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, concerned Indian publics have demanded a universal entitlement to food under a food security act – and have been denied. They have demanded accountability from elected representatives – and are being denied. They have demanded local right to accept or reject industrial and urban development, which is part of Constitutional provisions and is an essential part of the village self-governance framework – and are being systematically denied all over India but especially in the mineral-rich regions. They have agitated against steadily rising food prices and fuel prices with some rural households having to spend over 65% of their income on food – and been rewarded for annual food inflation rates of over 10%.
Singh and his ministers and his government have at the same time permitted multinational retail food chains to begin business in India, over the considered opposition by tens of thousands of small traders. Singh and his ministers and his government have opened up the health, insurance and banking sectors to multinationals, guaranteeing thereby the demise of the public sector institutions which served this sector since India’s independence in 1947. The prime minister of India has complained about what he dreams is “foreign” interference in his nuclear plans – while his government’s consorting with foreign carpetbaggers of every description is wrecking the futures of millions of poor households in India.
And that is not all. In ‘Koodankulam: An Open Letter to the Fellow Citizens of India’ the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (distributed on 28 February 2012) has said:
“There is no foreign country or agency or money involved in this classic people’s struggle to defend our right to life and livelihood. Our fishermen, farmers, workers and women make small voluntary donations in cash and kind to sustain our simple Gandhian struggle. Our needs are very few and expenses much less. We only provide safe drinking water to the hunger strikers and visitors. People from all over Tamil Nadu (and sometimes from other parts of India) come on their own arranging their own transportation. For our own occasional travel, we hire local taxis. Instead of understanding the people’s genuine feelings and fulfilling our demands, the government has foisted serious cases of ‘sedition’ and ‘waging war on the Indian state’ on the leaders of our movement. There are as many as 180-200 cases on us. There have been police harassment, intelligence officers’ stalking, concocted news reports in the pro-government media, abuse of our family members, hate mail, death threats and even physical attack.”
Here is a selection of press reports on the matter:
The Hindu – When Dr. Singh, who has a reputation for reticence on sensitive subjects, drops dark hints about a foreign hand, it is surely something that needs to be substantiated and, if necessary, followed up with action. As if to bolster his argument, the licences of three NGOs have been cancelled and the foreign remittances received by them are being investigated. Meanwhile, the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, the organisation spearheading the anti-Kudankulam protests, has rejected the charge and demanded the Prime Minister substantiate his remarks. Adding to the mix, Jairam Ramesh has also clarified that his decision as Environment Minister in 2010 to place a moratorium on Bt Brinjal was not influenced by NGOs, but was based on objective factors.
However, the idea that NGOs with ‘foreign’ links are fuelling the protests seems more expedient than convincing. The charge is also, at some level, quite irrelevant. For what it’s worth, tens of thousands of ordinary Indians around Kudankulam, Jaitapur and other areas where reactors will be sited are apprehensive about what the placement of large nuclear installations in their backyard might mean for their health, environment and livelihood. The government needs to engage with them in a transparent and constructive manner and allay their fears with facts and arguments rather than innuendo and slander.
The Indian Express – In an interview to Science magazine, the Prime Minister had said that these NGOs do not appreciate India’s need to make use of high-technology like nuclear energy or genetically-engineered crops to move forward on its growth agenda. “You know, for example, what is happening in Koodankulam. The atomic energy programme has got into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don’t appreciate our country to increase the energy supply,” Manmohan Singh said.
Asked whether nuclear energy had a role to play in India’s energy sector despite last year’s accident in Fukushima, Japan, he said, “Yes, where India is concerned, yes. The thinking segment of our population certainly is supportive of nuclear energy.” He blamed these NGOs for his government’s 2010 decision to put an indefinite hold on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal as well. “There are NGOs, often funded from the United States and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces.”
Business Standard – The Congress, in its communication to Minister for PMO V Narayanasamy, noted that it had been experiencing similar protests from various NGOs and political organisations. “Till now, with few exceptions, the reasons were generally observed to be for financial gains of the NGOs and either personal and financial benefits or pure political gains to the leaders and workers of the political organisations,” it said. “We have seen in the past protests against the Dabhol power project by the Shiv Sena and many other projects by various NGOs and political parties.” The party said now a new threat has emerged considering the anti-Kudankulam demonstrations, asking the Centre to take them seriously.
Hindustan Times – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has blamed American and Scandivanian NGOs for fuelling protests at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, according to media reports. The Prime Minister has also blamed these NGOs for opposing genetically modified foods and the use of biotechnology to increase food production in the country.
India Today – The Prime Minister’s statement, in an interview to the prestigious journal Science, attributing anti-nuclear protests at Kudankulam to non-governmental organisations based in the United States, has stirred a familiar hornet’s nest, that of “the foreign hand”. The foreign hand of the CIA was of course frequently deployed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to deflect attention from domestic problems and, most memorably, to justify the imposition of the Emergency. It is deeply ironical coming from a Prime Minister whose government’s policies can be divided into two handy categories: those, such as employment guarantee and food security, that have the imprint of the Congress’s aam aadmi hand symbol; and those, such as its economic and nuclear policies, that bear the generous imprint of the foreign hand. It is amusing that the policy perspective of the US government should be so enthusiastically embraced, even as the views attributed to NGOs in that country are derisively dismissed. This has to be more than the common hypocrisy of everyday politics.
Clearly, what makes the government bristle is opposition to official initiatives. Popular protest provokes it to send its minions scurrying to sniff out a foreign conspiracy. The assumption is that any developmental project the government undertakes must be an unambiguous national good, and the support of its citizens for such projects must be the prime test of their loyalty.
A round-up of reports on austerity and debt:
‘Head of Greek Church questions austerity, troika’ – Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the Church of Greece, has taken the rare step of writing to Prime Minister Lucas Papademos to express serious concerns about the effectiveness of the government’s fiscal policy and the effect it is having on Greek people. In his letter, Ieronymos also raises doubts about the role of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – or troika – in the country and whether Greece should agree to further austerity measures to receive its next bailout, suggesting that they are “larger doses of a medicine that is proving deadly.”
“Greeks’ unprecedented patience is running out, fear is giving way to rage and the danger of a social explosion cannot be ignored any more, neither by those who give orders nor by those who execute their deadly recipes,” he wrote. “It seems clear now that our homeland’s drama will not finish here but may take on new, uncontrollable, dimensions,” he wrote. “There are, at the moment, demands for even tougher, more painful and even more unfair measures along the same ineffective and unsuccessful lines as in our recent past. There are demands for even bigger doses of a medicine which is proving deadly. There are demands for commitments that do not solve the problem but only put off temporarily the foretold death of our economy. Meanwhile, the put our national sovereignty up for collateral.”
‘Greek debt audit campaign calls new agreements impoverishing’ – The new International Treaty and Memorandum, which accompany the ‘haircut’ of Greek public debt, push the Greek people further into impoverishment. They mean a dramatic drop in both living standards and working conditions, and enslave us to the state’s creditors. The reductions in pensions and wages, the abolition of collective bargaining legislation (contrary to Article 22 of our Constitution), and the 150 000 public sector redundancies lead to mass hunger and wages of 300 or 400 euros a month.
‘Tanzanian govt rejects IMF plan on minerals royalties’ – The government has rejected a proposal by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to introduce a new system to calculate mining royalties because doing so would adversely affect tax collections. Had the government agreed to introduce the single royalty payment, the amount of tax the government collects from the mining firms would have dropped significantly.
‘Portugal unions slam IMF, EU’s “poverty agenda” ‘ – Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Lisbon to voice their opposition to government austerity policies. Unions organised the march in protest at spending cuts agreed in return for a seventy eight billion euro bailout. Armenio Carlos, the leader of the Confederation fo Portuguese Workers, said: “We are here to protest against exploitation, inequality and poverty. “That’s the agenda of the troika: the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank.”
‘Hundreds of thousands rally in Portugal against austerity’ – Hundreds of thousands protested in Portugal Saturday against austerity measures ahead of next week’s talks with international creditors, with unions vowing to keep up the pressure. Officials from the so-called Troika — the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — will next week evaluate progress on the country’s bailout programme. Demonstrators arrived in Lisbon from across the country in the rally described as one of the country’s biggest in three decades. Many were brandishing banners such as “The struggle continues” and “No to exploitation, no to inequality, no to impoverishment.”
‘Greece to pledge 20% cut in minimum wage, draft accord shows’ – Greece will pledge permanent spending cuts, including lower pension payments and a 20 percent reduction in the minimum wage, as the economy contracts this year at a faster pace than originally estimated, according to the draft of a new financing deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund. “To restore competitiveness and growth, we will accelerate implementation of deep structural reforms in the labor, product and service markets,” according to the letter of intent addressed to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in a document obtained by Bloomberg News.
Western mainstream media is tearing into the two countries which used their vetoes to stop a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria. In the views of China and Russia, the draft resolution was hasty, would have ended all consultation, and would instead have provided the means to begin the ‘regime change’ cycle of destabilisation and war that have marked several countries in the Middle East region over the last decade.
Within minutes of the draft resolution being blocked by China and Russia, western TV channels and press media lashed out viciously against the governments of both countries. Several news agencies linked the escalation of violence in the city of Homs to the vetos, cynically twisting the reasons for the vetoes into neglect of the civilian toll of the unrest in Syria – “amid reports of a brutal crackdown, Russia and China prevented action being taken” was the general tone of such agencies, UPI amongst them.
Television channels in the USA immediately ran sound-bites by Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, saying that it had not been possible to work with Russia on a UN resolution “backed by the West and the Arab League” which basically wanted Syrian President Bashar Assad to quit, or face the consequences (the same consequences witnessed by other government heads in the Middle East during a year of uprisings). Since these consequences are directed by the USA, Britain, a few NATO countries and endprsed by Americam allies in the Arabian Peninsula, it is not in any way representative of what the ‘West’ likes to call the ‘international community’. Childishly, the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told ABC media that her country was “disgusted” by the vetos. However, Clinton was reported as forecasting bloodshed and civil war in Syria as an outcome.
The human rights organisation Amnesty International, whose apporach on the matter has become openly political in favour of the US government line, chose to moralise its discontent by complaining that the vetos are “a betrayal of protesters” and that the “UN Security Council has remained virtually silent on the violent repression in Syria since March 2011. This is a completely irresponsible use of the veto by Russia and China. It is staggering that they have blocked the passage…” etc etc. The news magazine Time turned to tabloid tactics with a headline: “Reports of Hundreds Killed in Homs, While Diplomats Fiddle” and fulminated that the draft resolution backed the Arab League’s call for Assad to step aside (indeed, in favour of what variety of puppet?). “On Saturday, Russia and China vetoed a watered down resolution, shielding their stalwart ally,” screeched Time.
Sober reporting on the vetos came from the Chinese media. CRI English reported that China on Saturday had voiced its regrets that Russia’s “reasonable” revision proposal on a Syria draft resolution was not taken into account. The news channel said that Li Baodong, the Chinese permanent representative to the UN, made the statement after he, together with his Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin, vetoed an Arab-European draft resolution which backs an Arab League plan to promote a regime change in Syria.
“To push through a vote when parties are still seriously divided over the issue will not help maintain the unity and authority of the Security Council, or help resolve the issue,” Li said. “China supports the revision proposals raised by Russia, and has taken note that Russian Foreign Minister (Sergei Lavrov) will visit Syria next week,” Li said. “The request for continued consultation on the draft by some council members is reasonable. It is regrettable that these reasonable concerns are not taken into account,” he said.
In similar manner, Xinhua reported that Russia and China voiced their strong opposition to forced regime change in Syria. Xinhua said Russia warned some countries against meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, saying that the international community should prevent a replay of the Libya model, in which NATO military action help topple the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi. Hours before the Security Council entered into a scheduled meeting on Saturday, with Western powers pushing for a council vote on the draft, Russia insisted that the document be amended.
Xinhua quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: “We circulated an amended resolution which aims to fix two basic problems …(first), the imposition of conditions on dialogue, and second, measures must be taken to influence not only the government but also armed groups.” Lavrov had said this at a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference, adding that these two issues are “of crucial importance” from the view of Russia.
At the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep regret”. The UN press briefing mentioned the crisis in Syria, “where thousands of people have been killed over the past year since authorities crackdown on a pro-democracy uprising”. Thirteen of the Council’s 15 members voted in favour of a draft text submitted by Morocco, the UN release said, but China and Russia exercised their vetoes (a veto by any one of the Council’s five permanent members means a resolution cannot be adopted).
“This is a great disappointment to the people of Syria and the Middle East, and to all supporters of democracy and human rights,” Ban said in a statement. “It undermines the role of the United Nations and the international community in this period when the Syrian authorities must hear a unified voice calling for an immediate end to its violence against the Syrian people.”
The UN release did provide the views of the Russian Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, who said the text as it stood “sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties,” with no call on the Syrian opposition to distance itself from extremist groups. He said a solution to the Syrian crisis must be “objective” and said some Council members had actively undermined opportunities for a settlement and pressed for “regime change.”
Churkin said Russia was actively involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis and, to that end, the country”s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would lead a delegation to the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Tuesday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad. China’s Ambassador Li Baodong voiced disappointment that the draft resolution did not incorporate amendments proposed by Russia, which China supported. He said an “undue emphasis” on pressuring Syria”s authorities would prejudice the result of dialogue and only complicate the issue rather than ending the fighting. He said the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria must be fully respected.
The Occupy Wall St movement is spreading quickly across the USA. Mother Jones magazine has put together an interactive map on where the protests are spreading to, and at last count there were over 60 locations!
The ‘Occupy’ demonstrations are the blowback – long overdue – of the foreign-plus-financial policy of a great power which has for long dampened criticsm and fair a representative politics at home.
The ‘Occupy’ demonstrations express a broader public understanding that the basic source of the crisis facing millions of people lies in the social interests of the sprawling and powerful global financial system – of which Wall St is one symbol; a powerful symbol but nevertheless one amongst many similar symbols.
Dogged by debt and haunted by ever newer forms of deprivation, the American protesters have ‘taken’ Wall St to call and end to the reign of the giant banks that dominate the US and world economy. Their politics is determined not by the popular will, but by the interests of a cunning financial aristocracy ruthlessly absorbed with defending its wealth by impoverishing the majority of their fellow citizens.
The answer – Occupy Everywhere!
Mother Jones has provided a very useful timeline of the Occupy Wall Street movement:
- July 13: The Canadian magazine Adbusters makes a call to Occupy Wall Street.
- August 30: The hacktivist collective known as Anonymous releases a video answering the call and encouraging others to follow suit.
- September 17: Nearly 1,000 gather to protest corporate greed and begin occupying the financial district in New York City.
- September 19: Roseanne Barr is the first celebrity to lend support to the so-called NYC General Assembly.
- September 20: The NYPD starts arresting protestors for wearing masks, citing an arcane law that prohibits masked gatherings of two or more people with an exception: “a masquerade party or like entertainment.” The police soon become more forceful.
- September 22: Demonstrators interrupt a Sotheby’s Auction, “in a show of solidarity with the art handler’s union that had been locked out.” This is the first instance of labor unions and the movement locking step.
- September 24: 80 protestors are arrested during a peaceful march; a video of a police officer pepper-spraying a nonthreatening woman goes viral.
- September 26: Anonymous allegedly leaks the name and details of the police officer who wielded the pepper spray.
- September 27: The Occupy Wall Street campaign comes out in support of postal workers who are protesting their reduced five-day work week.
- September 28: Transport Workers Union votes to support Occupy Wall Street; over 700 Continental and United Airline pilots demonstrate in front of Wall Street.
- September 30: More than 1,000 demonstrators march on NYPD headquarters, protesting the police response against the demonstrators.
- October 1: Over 700 demonstrators are arrested for marching across the Brooklyn Bridge and blocking traffic.
- October 5: Major labor unions endorse the movement and join in a march on New York’s financial district. According to ABC News, as many as 15,000 participate in the march.
The New York Observer has 50 portraits of people who have been in on the action in New York City. The Nation‘s Greg Mitchell is blogging “Occupy USA” developments daily. The Guardian is also producing ongoing coverage.
- Live footage of Zuccotti Park can be found at the protest epicenter’s viral webstream, Global Revolution.
- The #occupywallstreet hashtag (as well as #ows and #occupywallst) has been the main engine on Twitter.
- OccupyTogether.org supplies a range of DIY downloadable posters.
- There is an Occupy Wall Street social app called The Vibe, which allows demonstrators to communicate anonymously.
- An Occupy Wall Street publication was launched on Kickstarter, originally asking for $12,000 in seed money to get the publication rolling. The project surpassed its funding goal and has now raised over $40,000.
- A Tumblr account, We Are the 99%, allows users to post personal anecdotes and stories about why they consider themselves part of the economically disaffected majority.
The immediate area around the New York Stock Exchange, “Wall Street,” has been closed to the public and protestors who are encamped at a nearby park, chanting, singing and dancing along with marching and bugling on surrounding streets accompanied by phalanxes of cops and motor scooters, to cheers and thumbs-up from tour buses and hand shakes from passersby and street workers.
There has been no sign of the commercial media. Mainstream media in the Asia-Pacific region have ignored the historic occupation entirely, not because of their failure to see the beginning of an American democratic awakening, but because the channels of cross-holding and control are now well-established.
These mercantile cables are tightly wound around the “emerging economies” and their growing middle class populations whose consumption patterns are seen as replacing those to be lost by social movements such as this in the West.
“On the 17th of September, we want to see 20,000 people to flood into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants.”
According to their website, the mission of the leaderless resistance movement is to flood thousands of people into lower Manhattan, set up beds, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months in order to persuade President Barack Obama to establish a commission to end “the influence money has over representatives in Washington.” Demonstrators gathered to call for the occupation of Wall Street, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in New York.
Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. The original call for this occupation was published by Adbusters in July; since then, many individuals across the country have stepped up to organize this event, such as the people of the NYC General Assembly and US Day of Rage. There’ll also be similar occupations in the near future such as October2011 in Freedom Plaza, Washington D.C.
This is from their statement:
“We agree that we need to see election reform. However, the election reform proposed ignores the causes which allowed such a system to happen. Some will readily blame the federal reserve, but the political system has been beholden to political machinations of the wealthy well before its founding. We need to address the core facts: these corporations, even if they were unable to compete in the electoral arena, would still remain control of society. They would retain economic control, which would allow them to retain political control. Term limits would, again, not solve this, as many in the political class already leave politics to find themselves as part of the corporate elites. We need to retake the freedom that has been stolen from the people, altogether.”
The ‘Zoo Project’ is a Franco-Algerian graffiti artist based in Paris, and who visited Tunis in March and April and created images of political struggle. As well as a series of murals, Zoo Project created 40 life-sized figures representing some of the 236 people who were killed in the uprising in Tunisia earlier this year.
This is a gritty, truthful, considerate and refreshingly public way to illustrate what happened in Tunisia, and the questions that remain. Here’s a selection from a terrific, socially highly carged gallery of street art. [Thanks to The Guardian global development news for posting this.]