A Call from Egypt for Solidarity and Support for the Unfinished Revolution

Since protestors in Egypt inspired the world back in January and February, risking their lives — and sometimes losing their lives — in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to topple the hated Western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, and to demand fundamental political change, I have not devoted as much time as I would have liked to following up on the Egyptian story.

I reported with great pleasure the extraordinary invasion of State Security buildings in March, when torture cells and shredded documents were discovered, as Mubarak’s torturers fled, and in June and August I reported how former Guantánamo prisoner Adel al-Gazzar, who had returned to Egypt from his temporary home in Slovakia, was, sadly, imprisoned on his return. I also reported the first day of the trial of Hosni Mubarak, which enabled me, for the first time, to note how Egypt’s revolution had been hijacked by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mubarak’s former allies, who took over when he was toppled, but who have proven unwilling to manage a swift transition to democracy, and, along the way, have held thousands of unjust and largely arbitrary military trials — more, ironically, than took place under Mubarak.

In picking up on this story that I have sadly neglected, I am delighted to cross-post a call for international support from activists in Egypt (published on the website, No Military Trials for Civilians), who, as the Guardian explained last week, have “called for an international day of action to defend their country’s revolution, as global opposition mounts towards the military junta.” In their statement, “appealing for solidarity” from the worldwide Occupy movement that has followed the example of the Egyptians and “taken control of public squares in London, New York and hundreds of other cities,”the Egyptian activists point out that “their revolution is ‘under attack’ from army generals,” and that they too are fighting a 1 percent elite “intent on stifling democracy and promoting social injustice.” Read the rest of this entry »

“The Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out”: Students March in London

The slogan came from “Occupy Wall Street,” but it was a perfect fit for the thousands of student protestors marching today against the Tory-led government’s assault on students.

It was exactly a year since the first march against the government’s plans to cut funding to universities and to triple tuition fees, and, on that occasion, 50,000 people took to the streets, and the government was given its first notification that it might not be possible to force the people of Britain into submission without them putting up a fight.

That initial fight was lost, as Parliament approved the Tories’ bill in December last year. However, not content with endangering the future of university education and transferring the entire financial burden of arts, humanities and social sciences courses onto students, for nakedly ideological reasons, the government has now proposed further fundamental and damaging changes to the university sector in its white paper, which I discussed in an article last week, and which treats students purely as consumers, completely ignores the public value of higher education, and involves plans to introduce private providers into the university sector. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy USA: A Campaigning Message from Kevin Zeese in Washington D.C.

As the “Occupy” campaign continues to resonate throughout America and around the world, just seven weeks after “Occupy Wall Streetbegan in New York’s financial district, two campaigns in Washington D.C. — the October2011.org movement in Freedom Plaza (campaigning under the slogan, “Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed”), and the Occupy D.C. movement in McPherson Square — are both still going strong, and as the first issue of The Occupied Washington Post is produced — with a front-page feature by Chris Hedges, entitled, “A Movement Too Big to Fail” — I’m cross-posting below a rallying cry for support from Kevin Zeese, one of the organizers of the Freedom Plaza Occupation, who also has an article in the movement’s newspaper.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin in January in Baltimore, when, during a visit to the US to campaign on the 9th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, I was invited by David Swanson to take part in an event as part of the promotion for his book, War Is A Lie, and I’m looking forward to meeting him again at Freedom Plaza — and also visiting the “Occupy Wall Street” and “Occupy D.C.” campaigners — in January, when I will be visiting the US again to renew the campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of its opening. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Bank Transfer Day, As Campaigners Ask US Banks to Repay $108 Billion and Call on Citizens to Open Credit Union Accounts

Dovetailing with some of the key issues highlighted by the “Occupy” campaign,  which shows no sign of dissipating seven weeks after it began on Wall Street, other campaigners have declared that today is “Bank Transfer Day,” and are asking their fellow citizens to close their bank accounts and to open accounts with credit unions instead.

Over 80,000 people have declared that they are attending “Bank Transfer Day” on Facebook, where more than 48,000 people have also declared their support. The organizer, Kristen Christian, explained that she established the day as a result of proposals by banks to charge a monthly fee to customers with less than $20,000 in their accounts. “I started this because I felt like many of you do,” she said. “I was tired– tired of the fee increases, tired of not being able to access my money when I need to, tired of them using what little money I have to oppress my brothers & sisters. So I stood up. I’ve been shocked at how many people have stood up alongside me. With each person who RSVPs to this event, my heart swells. Me closing my account all on my lonesome wouldn’t have made a difference to these fat cats. But each of YOU standing up with me … they can’t drown out the noise we’ll make.”

While Kristen Christian has focused specifically on an alternative to the banks, others campaigners have also seized on “Bank Transfer Day” as an opportunity to highlight the $108 billon (out of $204 billion) that was given to the banks in 2008 but has not been paid back. The shocking details of how the banks still owe $108 billion are here. Read the rest of this entry »

How Iraq Veteran Scott Olsen, Beaten by Oakland Police, Became a Symbol of the Occupy Movement

Yesterday, in Oakland, campaigners from the “Occupy Oakland” protest movement — part of the global “Occupy” movement inspired by “Occupy Wall Street” — staged a general strike, after calling for “no work and no school on November 2,” and “asking that all workers go on strike, call in sick, take a vacation day or simply walk off the job with their co-workers,” and that “all students walk out of school and join workers and community members in downtown Oakland.” The “Occupy” camp also said, “All banks and large corporations must close down for the day or demonstrators will march on them.”

This is how “Occupy Oakland” described the day’s events on its website:

Huge, enthusiastic, crowds swarmed through downtown Oakland with half a dozen major marches on banks and corporations that shut down Wells Fargo, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and many others. Police stayed clear of the strikers who ranged freely, from Broadway to Grand Avenue and around the Lake. By late afternoon the crowds had swelled to over 10,000. Waves of feeder marches continued to pour into the Oscar Grant Plaza, including 800 children, parents, and teachers who had gathered at the Oakland Main Library.

The evening march to the Port stretched from downtown to the freeway overcrossing in West Oakland and thousands more protestors kept arriving as the third convergence of the day reached its peak. Over 20,000 people joined the march which made its way to the main entrance of the port and shut it down completely. Port officials confirmed that the workforce was sent home.

Although there was violence late last night between police and a minority of protestors, focusing on this misses the whole point about yesterday’s strike action, which came about as a response to violence, and not as an excuse for it — and, specifically, the violent suppression last week of the “Occupy Oakland” camp, when the police used tear gas, and fired what Reuters referred to as “crowd-control projectiles,” severely injuring one particular protestor, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen, a former member of the Marine Corps, who remains seriously ill in hospital. As Reuters explained, “Doctors and family members have declined to comment on his condition, saying last week that he was awake and communicative, though not able to speak.” Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As Possible Eviction Looms, the Canon and Chaplain of St. Paul’s Resign, and Protestors Challenge the City’s Unaccountability

Two weeks ago, the “Occupy London” protestors first set up camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, and it was apparent from the very beginning, as I noted the time, that the authorities were determined not to allow the movement to establish itself freely in the City of London.

First, Paternoster Square — the entry point to the London Stock Exchange, the original focus of the protestors’ indignation — was declared off-limits, and remains so to this day, as though it is some sort of forbidden territory in a war, and then the area around St. Paul’s, where hundreds of protestors gathered instead, was “contained” by the police — or, essentially, “kettled,” and the protestors bullied and physically intimidated — until Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, intervened, explaining, “People have a right to protest and I’m very happy that people have that right to protest. People have generally been respectful and I have asked the police to leave.”

With the support of Giles Fraser, the camp established itself, with a kitchen, information point, a media tent, a legal tent and a “tent university,” and with daily meetings to decide on the camp’s objectives, and sub-groups to discuss other issues in detail. I was busy during the week, but I went down last Sunday with my family, and was impressed at how it had developed into a base for an organised, but non-hierarchical response to the grave crisis we all face, as a result of 30 years of largely unregulated greed and opportunism by those involved in international finance. The “Occupy” protestors have confused those who are only able to comprehend a traditional party political model of organising dissent and challenges to the existing power structures (which also involve hierarchies and “charismatic” leaders), as they are primarily asking questions and seeking answers to them rather then being manifesto-driven, although a statement of intent was issued on October 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As the Canon of St. Paul’s Welcomes the Protestors, They Issue a Statement of Intent

On Saturday, as protestors in 951 cities in 82 countries took to the streets and public spaces to protest about the gross inequalities of modern life (with 1 percent of the population having a wildly disproportionate amount of money, power and influence), the thousands who gathered to “Occupy London,” hoping to establish a camp in Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, unfortunately found their day dominated by a heavy-handed police presence, as I reported in an article entitled, Occupy London: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

First of all, Paternoster Square was blocked, then the first few hundred protestors were “contained” in front of St. Paul’s, and then, as night fell, the police made a few violent efforts to clear the area, before giving up and allowing a limited overnight camp to proceed.

The end result was as the authorities hoped. An occupation that would have numbered in the thousands, and would then have attracted many, many more thousands of people, if it had been allowed to proceed unmolested, was indeed “contained,” with just 250 people camping the first night, and a clear message sent out to potential protestors, letting them know that the police don’t have any problems with violence if the “Occupy” movement shows any signs of becoming a significant irritant. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

October 15, as I discussed in an earlier article, was a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, which has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street.”

In London, the plan was to occupy Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the London Stock Exchange is situated, but from the moment I approached St. Paul’s yesterday afternoon (at about 2.30 pm, cycling from London Bridge), it was clear that a clampdown was in place — with police vans everywhere, and lines of police blocking all the entrances to Paternoster Square, where notices had been posted, stating, “Paternoster Square is private land. Any licence to the public to enter or cross this land is revoked forthwith. There is no implied or express permission to enter the premises or any part. Any such entry will constitute a trespass.”

When I finally found the crowd — in front of St. Paul’s and spilling onto Ludgate Hill — I was delighted to see that thousands of people had turned up, but bitterly disappointed that the police had sealed off those closest to St. Paul’s from everyone who arrived afterwards, and had shifted the focus of the event from the protestors to the police, and fears and doubts about what they would do. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London, Occupy the World: Get Out on the Streets Today, and Don’t Go Home

Today, October 15, is a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, according to 15october.net, where, under the heading, “united for #globalchange,” campaigners worldwide have been planning events over the last few months, with the intention of starting a global movement to change the world.

Inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, and the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, this movement has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street,” a manifestation of the movement in New York which, growing from a seed planted by Adbusters, began a month ago, was initially ignored by the mainstream media, but then became too big to ignore, spawning similar movements across the US (see the “Occupy Together” website), and both inspiring movements in other countries and tying in with already existing movements around the world, all of which have sprung up in the wake of the revolutionary movements in the Middle East.

While this global movement is confusing to the establishment because it lacks clearly defined leaders and manifestos written in stone, its aims are readily comprehensible, as is obvious from its statements. Those protesting recognize, as the British campaigning group UK Uncut states succinctly on its website, that banks, corporations and the super-rich are bleeding the rest of us dry, and that tax evasion and state subsidies to banks are equivalent to the cuts imposed on the rest of us in this new global age of cuts and austerity. Read the rest of this entry »

Protestors in Washington D.C. Call for an End to the Afghan War on its 10th Anniversary, and the Transformation of American Politics

Stop the Machine! Create a New World!” and “Human Needs, Not Corporate Greed!” are the rallying cries of a movement, October2011.org, that launched on June 6 this year, calling for the occupation, on October 6 (yesterday), of Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C. on an open-ended basis. The movement is calling for nothing less than the total transformation of American politics, but the immediate focus today is on the war in Afghanistan, which began exactly ten years ago.

Bringing the war to an end ought to be a priority for the American people on a number of fronts.

Firstly, the war is unwinnable. Ousting al-Qaeda from Afghanistan may have been a success, but the battle for hearts and minds was lost early on, through bombing raids that killed thousands of civilians, and the casual and imprecise violence that led to the imprisonment and abuse of hundreds of Afghan Taliban conscripts in Guantánamo and Bagram. To topple the Taliban, the US worked with brutal warlords, whose corruption, in many cases, had prompted the rise of the Taliban in the first place, and although the Taliban were ousted from power, the pointless diversion into Iraq was ruinous for the muddled and ill-conceived nation-building mission in Afghanistan.

Secondly, the cost is astronomical. According to the Cost of War project, the total cost to date is over $460 billion — and a useful breakdown of that figure, including some mention of what it could have been used to fund instead, is available here. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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