Silent Protest Erupts in Singapore after Uncontested Presidential Election

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

SINGAPORE – Thousands of Singaporeans held a silent protest on September 16th to express their discontent with the recent uncontested presidential election. Mostly dressed in black, the protest started with a crowd of about 200 people but grew to around 2,000 people.

Former presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock attends the silent protest at Hong Lim Park. Photo courtesy of Yahoo.

Two former presidential candidates, Tan Cheong Bock and Tan Jee Say, both attended the protest. On Facebook, Tan Cheng Bock wrote: “It is not President Halimah as a person that Singaporeans are unhappy about. It is about the way our government has conducted this whole walkover presidential election.”

In order to unite the country, Singapore had decreed that the presidency would be reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community. In Singapore, the presidency is viewed as a ceremonial six-year post.

There were five total applications for the presidency, but two were not Malays and two did not meet other requirements to be considered for the position. Halimah Yacob, a former speaker of parliament, was selected as the country’s first female president. She had automatically qualified as she held a senior public post for over three years. Halimah was declared elected as soon as the nomination period closed on Wednesday, September 13th.

Gilbert Goh, one of the main organizers, stated that the protest was silent as the organization needed a special permit from the police if speeches made during the protest touch on race and religion.

In Singapore, displays of dissent are very unusual. As one of the richest and most political stable countries in the world, political protests are rare.

The People’s Action Party (PAP) has been ruling the country since 1965. The current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, is considered as the country’s founding father.

For more information, please see:

Channel News Asia – Silent protest held at Hong Lim Park against reserved presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Yahoo – Hundreds turn up at Hong Lim Park for silent protest against reserved presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Reuters – Singaporeans protest against uncontested presidential election – 16 September, 2017

Venezuelan President will not address UN after shocking human rights report

By: Emily Green
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America

CARACAS,Venezuela – After a scathing human rights report by the UN, Venezuelan President Maduro cancels plans to address the UN Human Rights Council on September 11, 2017. Maduro will send newly-appointed foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, in his place to address the Council on its opening day.

Venezuelan President Maduro. Image Courtesy of Venezuelan Analysis.

Many see Maduro’s decision not to speak as a response to the U.N.’s human rights report and increased activism against his policies. The report calls for further investigation and accountability by the Venezuelan government. It also asks the UN Human Rights Council itself to take measures to prevent these human rights violations.

On August 30th, The UN reported extensive human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela. These come in the wake of anti-Government protests as tensions between the Government and the opposition increase. The report indicates a repressive policy with the use of excessive force and arbitrary detention against protesters. The government’s actions toward protesters, led by Maduro, point to “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations.”

The President, as one of the 47 current member states, planned to speak at this three-week UN Human Rights Council session. He last addressed this audience in November 2015. The Council does not invite dignitaries to participate in meetings, but it is protocol to honor member states’ requests to speak.

Although he was granted speaking time, a Council spokesman released a statement that Maduro would not address the council without giving a specific explanation.

The U.N. report paints a disturbing picture of the country. Reliable sources estimate the number of people detained since the beginning of April to be 5,000, including 410 children. Many detained victims have described it as “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Other detainees, both men and women, also reported threats of sexual violence and death perpetrated by the guards. Conditions in detention centers are alarming with accounts of over-crowded cells, rat and insect infestations, and lack of drinking water and bathroom facilities. The U.N. found these victims’ accounts to be consistent and corroborated by medical records.

President Maduro does not allow the U.N. investigation to enter the country, so this report is based on phone interviews with victims, families, NGOs, journalists, lawyers, first-responders and doctors. There are reported attacks to journalists and media workers to stop them from covering the demonstrations. These demonstrators and journalists have been designated “terrorists” and “enemies” by authorities.

Maduro’s spot at the podium was already being criticized. Critics were outraged and did not want to see the UN stage used by a dictator. Days earlier, 12 human rights activists called for an urgent Council meeting to discuss Venezuela’s membership and protest Maduro’s appearance.

For further information, please see:

CNS News – Maduro Cancels Plans to Address UN Human Rights Council; Activists Want Venezuela Expelled – 6 September 2017

Reuters – Venezuelan President Maduro will not go to U.N. rights forum – 5 September 2017

Fox News – UN rips Venezuelan human rights abuses, as government orders opposition leader’s wife to court – 2 September 2017

UN News Centre – Human rights violations indicate repressive policy of Venezuelan authorities – 30 August 2017

Thousands of Hungarians Protest in Support of Central European University

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Over 70,000 people rallied in Budapest on Sunday in support of a university founded by American George Soros.  Soros, who was born in Hungary, founded Central European University (CEU) in 1991.  CEU has been operating in Hungary as a partial American institution with little Hungarian oversight and control.  The bill was set forth by the ruling Fidesz party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.  Hungarian President Janos Ader must sign the bill by Monday in order to make it law.

Protestors rally against the proposed higher-education law in front of the Hungarian Parliament on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 (Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post).

The bill arguably affects two dozen universities, however many believe its main target to be CEU.  The bill would require CEU to change its name, open a campus in the United States, and become part of binding university agreements between Hungary and the U.S.  The bill also includes a provision which would restrict the independence of universities that offer diplomas from countries where they do not have a campus or offer courses, which is a restriction that would only affect CEU.

Many see the university as a target for Orban and his “illiberal policies.”  The proposed law has been criticized by the U.S. government, European Union, and leading academics across the world.  Protestors shouted phrases such as “What do we want Ader to do? Veto,” and “Free country, free university” in hopes of convincing Ader to reject the bill and consider it under constitutional review.

Kornel Klopfstein, a protest organizer and PhD student at the University of Bielefeld, commented that “[t]he government wants to silence pretty much everyone who doesn’t think the same as them, who thinks freely, who can be liberal, can be leftist.”  Michael Ignatieff, CEU rector, assured that CEU will remain open and demanded the law be thrown away.  Ignatieff also suggested that additional international safeguards for academic freedom should be added to current legal policies.

On Friday, Orban commented that CEU’s status as a partial American institution gives it an unfair advantage over other Hungarian universities. Orban also commented that CEU conducted a “fraud” and that billionaires are not above the law.

CEU enrolls over 1,400 students from 108 countries, and is currently an accredited school in New York state.

Orban and his party have recently faced criticism for targeting nongovernmental organizations, most of which rely on financing from Soros and are critical of Orban’s administration.

 

For more information, please see:

ABC — Hungary: Thousands Rally in Support of Soros-Founded School — 9 April 2017

The Guardian — Thousands Protest in Hungary Over Threat to Soros University — 9 April 2017

The Washington Post — Why is Hungary Trying to Close George Soros’s Prestigious University — 7 April 2017

NY Times — Hungary’s Parliament Passes Law Targeting George Soros’s University — 4 April 2017

Women in U.S. Strike – ‘A Day Without a Woman’

By Sarah Lafen


Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America

 

WASHINGTON D.C., United States — Last Wednesday, on the holiday designated International Women’s Day by the United Nations, the female activist group who organized the Women’s March on January 21 organized a strike by women in the workplace.  Women across the nation skipped work, wore red to signify love and sacrifice, and refused to spend money to support the cause.

Protestors rally at Washington Square Park in Manhattan on Wednesday (Photo Courtesy of The New York Times)

One thousand people gathered on a city block in New York City, and eventually moved to Trump International Hotel.  According to the Women’s March on Washington group, 10 organizers were arrested in NYC for blocking traffic.  In Providence, Rhode Island, the municipal court shut down because eight employees stayed home from work for the day.  Schools in Alexandria, Virginia, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, North Carolina, and Prince George’s County, Maryland were all closed for the day due to the amount of teachers who skipped work.

Spokeswoman Cassady Findlay explained that organizers of the strike were inspired by the recent “Day Without an Immigrant” protests which were held last month.  Findlay said that the goal of the strike was to highlight the effect of women on the United States’ socio-economic system, and would demonstrate how the work of women keeps communities and economies functioning.  Findlay told reporters that “[women] provide all this value and keep the system going, and receive unequal benefits from it.”

Shannon Craine, of San Francisco, told reporters that while it was a diverse crowd, everyone was at the protest for the “same reasons.”  Craine emphasized that everyone who attended the strike “care[s] about women’s rights” and that there are some things “[they] are just not willing to negotiate about.”

Conservative group Right2Speak is organizing a “positive counter-movement” to the strike.  Right2Speak wants to encourage women to “to continue working, serving, giving, sharing and loving their communities, their families and their endeavors.”  The group is also encouraging women to use the hashtag on social media #NotMyProtest and #WeShowUp accompanied by pictures of them working.

Protestors held signs reading “Resist like a girl” and “Power to the resisters forever!”

 

For more information, please see:

CBS New York — ‘Day Without a Woman’ Celebrates Female Power on International Women’s Day — 8 March 2017

The Huffington Post — ‘A Day Without a Woman’ was a Day of Activism Across the Country — 8 March 2017

The New York Times — ‘Day Without a Woman’ Protest Tests a Movement’s Staying Power — 8 March 2017

USA Today — Conservative Group Counters #DayWithoutAWoman with #WeShowUP — 7 March 2017

Women’s March Organizers Plan General Strike

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON DC, United States — The organizers of the Women’s March last month announced a plan to hold a general women’s strike on a date that is yet to be determined.  The plan for the strike has been announced across the official social media accounts for the Women’s March, declaring there will be a “General Strike: A Day Without a Woman.”  The idea of a general strike comes from labor-oriented political movements where people leave their place of employment to demand political action.

The will of the people will stand.

A post shared by Women's March (@womensmarch) on

(Photo Courtesy of Salon)

The general strike comes on the heels of the Women’s March which took place last month, in which over three million Americans across the nation protested their dissent for the new president.  The official website of the Women’s March thanked participants, however also noted that the “march forward does not end here.  Now is the time to get friends, family and community together and make history.”

Organizers of the Women’s March have voiced their praise for boycotts of companies that support President Trump, and reinforce their commitment to engage in “actions that affirmatively build community, strengthen relationships and support local, women- and minority-owned businesses” at a time when “foundational principles of freedom and equality are under threat.”

Many other organizations have called for strikes against the new presidency as well.  Strike4Democracy has a general strike planned for February 17, and according to its Facebook page, over 16,000 people will be participating.  The organizers of this strike are encouraging people to strike from work or school and spend the day doing community service.  The strike is also calling upon members of Congress to defend the Constitution.  Writer Francine Prose wrote an article in the Guardian, calling for a general strike following President Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven countries.

There are no other details about the women’s general strike aside from the caption on the Instagram picture announcing the strike, which reads “The will of the people will stand.”  The Instagram post is the only public announcement that has been made about the general strike so far.

 

For more information, please see:

CNN — ‘A Day Without  Woman’ — Women’s March Organizers Plan General Strike — 7 February 2017

The Huffington Post — Women’s March Organizers are Planning a ‘Day Without a Woman’ — 6 February 2017

Marie Claire — The Woman’s March Organizers are Planning a Women’s Strike — 6 February 2017

Salon — “A Day Without Women”: Women’s March Group Announces Plan to Hold a General Strike — 6 February 2017

Women in France Stage Walkout to Protest Unequal Pay

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France — This past Monday, at 4:34pm, women across France staged a walk-out from their jobs in order to protest the disparity in salaries and wages between women and men.  Women’s rights group Les Glorieuses called for the protest, deciding that the issue of wage disparity finally needs to be addressed in France.  200 women were gathered in Place de la Republique by 5pm on Monday, and there were protests staged in other cities across France as well.  Thousands of women were seen on social media leaving their jobs on Monday afternoon.  The movement became known as “7 november 16h34.”

Women gather at Place de Republique to protest unequal pay (Photo Courtesy of BBC)
Women gather at Place de Republique to protest unequal pay (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

Les Glorieuses was inspired by a similar and successful protest in Iceland last month.  For the past 11 years, women in Iceland have been walking out on the same day and time that they should leave if they were to be paid the same hourly wage as men.  Iceland’s pay gap between men and women’s hourly wages is 14%.

In France, women were urged to leave at exactly 4:34pm because according to their calculations, after this point women will have been essentially working voluntarily.  In 2010, the gap between men and women’s average hourly wage was 15.5%, which means that a woman in France must work 38.2 days more than a male counterpart in order to be awarded the same salary.  Rebecca Amsellem, founder of Les Glorieuses, “thought the difference would maybe be 10 working days, not a month-and-a-half.”

Amsellem urged that at exactly 4:34pm on Monday, “women essentially stop being paid.”  Osez le Feminisme, another women’s rights group, is supporting the movement as well and has called on French companies to be fined if they do not respect equal pay laws.  Les Glorieuses also claims that factored in to the percentage of pay difference between men and women is the notion that women do 1.5 more hours of unpaid housework every day than men.

In recognition of the movement, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo suspended the city council for the afternoon. French minister for women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, voiced her support for any women from her office who wished to take part in the protest. Rossignol told reports that “[w]hen women protest, they make visible what is invisible, when they speak their outrage and raise collective indignation even higher, I support it.”

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Why did some French Women Walk out of Work Early? — 7 November 2016

IBT — Following Icelandic Example, Women in France Walked out of their Jobs at 4:34pm — 7 November 2016

The Local —  Women in France Urged to Walk out of Work Early — 7 November 2016

RT — French Women Stage Mass Walkout in Protest Against Wage Gap — 7 November 2016

The Washington Post — Women Across France will Leave Work at 4:34pm Today.  Here’s Why. — 7 November 2016

Turkish Riot Police Use Tear Gas, Water Cannon and Plastic Bullets to Disperse Protest

by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish police have used tear gas, a water cannon, and plastic bullets to disperse a protest against the imprisonment of nine journalists from the secularist opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet.

Turkish police use water cannon to disperse crowds protesting arrests of journalists (Photo courtesy of Newsweek)

The protest took place hours after nine journalists were formally arrested. Approximately 1,000 demonstrators gathered outside a mosque in central Istanbul, shouting slogans denouncing the “fascist” state and vowing not to remain silent. Riot police sprayed freezing water from trucks, fired plastic bullets and used tear gas in an attempt to prevent crowds of protestors from marching to the offices of the Cumhuriyet newspaper.

The nine arrested individuals include some of the most prolific journalists of the Turkish press. They were detained as part of an intensifying crackdown on oppositionists by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Following the arrests, the Turkish courts ordered a media blackout, prohibiting the press from reporting on the detention of Cumhuriyet journalists. The newspaper is known for being one of the few media outlets still critical of President Erdogan. Its reporters are suspected of crimes committed on behalf of Kurdish militants and U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of organizing the coup attempt.

The arrests come after the shutdown of over 100 media outlets and detention of dozens of journalists following July’s failed coup attempt. Prominent Turkish journalist, Can Dundar, declared his outrage over the current administration by stating “our ‘crime’ is our writing, our headlines, our news. We will write again. We will write even more…” The government has stated that the crackdown is necessary to identify terrorists, whereas critics of President Erdogan state that he is using the coup as an attempt to defeat the opposition. Recently arrested politicians stated that they are victims of a “civilian coup by the government and the palace.” Furthermore, the head of Turkey’s main opposition party outraged “What are you trying to do? Are you trying to create a Turkey where everyone is in jail?”

The recent wave of opposition arrests has sparked concern among Turkey’s allies. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief stated that she was “extremely worried” over the detentions. The U.S. State Department spokesman noted that there was a “worrisome trend” in Turkey over limiting freedom of speech.

For more information, please see:

The Guardian—Turkish police use water cannon to disperse protest over journalists’ arrests—5 November 2016

Newsweek—Protesters clash with Turkish authorities in continuing crackdown—5 November 2016

The Independent—Turkish police use water cannon and tear gas to disperse protest against arrest of journalists—5 November 2016

BBC News—Turkey coup aftermath: Pro-Kurdish Istanbul protests broken up—5 November 2016

 

 

 

Anti-Gay Protesters March in Paris

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

PARIS, France — Thousands of protestors marched in Paris on Sunday to demonstrate their opposition to same-sex marriage laws.  Police estimated the crowd to be at approximately 24,000, however organizers of the event estimated the turnout to be about 200,000.  The protest was led by the anti-gay marriage movement “Manif Pour Tous,” which translates to “Protest for Everyone.”  Participants waved French flags and wore the movement’s colors – blue and pink.  Some brought signs which read “All together for the family” and “In 2017, I’ll vote for the family.”

Tens of thousands of protestors gathered on the streets in Paris on Sunday to protest same-sex marriage laws (Photo Courtesy of DW)
Tens of thousands of protestors gathered on the streets in Paris on Sunday to protest same-sex marriage laws (Photo Courtesy of DW)

In 2013, France’s socialist government legalized same-sex marriage in a movement they called “Marriage for All.”  The protestors on Sunday hoped to put pressure on right-winged politicians, who are about to take part in a presidential primary in November, to repeal the law if elected.  One 29-year old protestor stated that he wanted a “return to the principles of Christian civilization in terms of family, institutions and work.”  Manif Pour Tous also opposes surrogate pregnancies, assisted reproduction technology, and adoption by same-sex couples.

One hundred gay rights activists staged their own demonstration in opposition to the anti-gay marriage protest to “respond to the hate propagated by Manif Pour Tous.”  At the demonstration, same-sex couples kissed at the city’s central Place de la Republique.  The protest was also briefly interrupted when 13 people were arrested following a protest by six topless women from the activist group Femen.  Some of the women had the phrase “Hate is not a family value” written across their chests.

Former French President and 2017 presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy stated that he would not repeal the law if he were to return to the presidency.  Sarkozy believes that “France has many other important issues to deal with such as security, terrorism and unemployment, rather than recreate conditions for another hysterical debate.”

Manif Pour Tous last orchestrated a large demonstration in 2013 against the Marriage for All law, claiming to have gathered 1.4 million people in the streets of Paris.

So far, none of the leading presidential candidates from the right-wing party have said they intend to repeal the same-sex marriage law if elected.

 

For more information, please see:

DW — Tens of Thousands Protest Against Gay Marriage in Paris — 16 October 2016

France 24 — Anti-Gay Marriage Protesters Return to Streets of Paris — 16 October 2016

Reuters — French Anti-Gay Marriage Protesters March to Revive Issue Before Polls — 16 October 2016

Yahoo — Anti-Gay Marriage Protesters Return to French Streets — 16 October 2016

Black Lives Matter Protest Shuts Down London City Airport Runway

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

 

LONDON, England — Nine activists of Black Lives Matter UK (BLMUK) staged a protest on a runway of London City Airport in London last Tuesday.  Protestors reportedly swam or traveled via a dinghy across the Thames River from a dock across from the airport in order to reach the runway.  Once on the runway, the protestors constructed themselves into an interlocked tripod formation.

Law enforcement officers work to remove protesters from the London City Airport Runway (Photo Courtesy of CNN)

Flights at the airport were suspended until the protesters were arrested and removed from the runway.  According to local police, the seven of the nine protestors were arrested on charges of aggravated trespass, being unlawfully airside, and for breaching the bylaws of the London City Airport.  The remaining two protestors remained interlocked on the runway and continued to engage in negotiations with police officers.

BLMUK stated that London City Airport is planning to expand, which would likely impact the surrounding neighborhoods which are located in a highly deprived part of London.  One reason given by BLMUK for the protest was to highlight the economic disparity between airport travelers and the people who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport.  The activist group claims that the airport was “designed for the wealthy,” and compares the salaries of the average London City Airport user (€136,000) to the average population in the surrounding town of Newham (£20,000 or less).

In this same sense, BLMUK provides that the reason for the protest was to “highlight the environmental impact of air travel on the lives of black people locally and globally.”  The group estimates that by 2020, there will be 200 million climate refuges across the world.  They claim that in 2016, 3,176 migrants either died or went missing in the Mediterranean as a result of fleeing conditions they did not create because cheaper, easier, and safer avenues of travel have been blocked or ignored by the UK.

The protest aggravated many affected travelers at London City Airport.  One traveler whose flight was delayed said she understood the purpose of the protest and the concerns surrounding it, but highlighted that there are other ways the group can get their point across without impacting “young families.”  Another set of African American travelers recognizes that “many issues always affect the poorest in society…but it has stopped these two black lives from going on holiday.”

 

For more information, please see:

BBC — Black Lives Matter Protestors Close London City Airport Runway — 6 September 2016

CNN — Black Lives Matter Protesters Removed from London Airport Runway, Police Say — 6 September 2016

The Guardian — Black Lives Matter Protest Stops Flight at London City Airport — 6 September 2016

The Independent — Seven Arrested as Black Lives Matter Protest Hits Flights at London City Airport — 6 September 2016

Black Lives Matter Protests Across Britain

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

LONDON, England —  As part of an emerging Black Lives Matter movement in Britain, black rights activists staged several protests across the country on Friday in efforts to demonstrate their opposition to racial injustices.  Black Lives Matter U.K. called for a “nationwide shutdown” to protest these injustices, which include police brutality, racial disparities in arrests, treatment of immigrants who are being held in detention, and a reported increase in hate crimes since the Brexit announcement on June 23, 2016.  Activists also brought attention to deaths that occur during stop-and-searches in Britain.

Onlookers congratulated protestors in Nottingham who lied across on the tram tracks (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

One of the demonstrations took place at Heathrow Airport, where Black Lives Matter campaigners blocked one of the major roads leading in to the airport.  Activists at the Heathrow demonstration unrolled a giant banner reading “This is a crisis” and laid down across an access road leading in to the airport.  Traffic was blocked for several hours, and the police arrested 10 people in connection with this particular demonstration.

Other cities were affected by these protests as well.  Activists in Birmingham linked themselves together to block roads leading to Birmingham airport, and activists in Nottingham laid down across train tracks so as to halt the tram network.  In Altab Ali Park, approximately 300 protestors gathered to support unbiased treatment for people of color.  Police were present at the park, which was named after Bangladeshi man who died in 1978 as a result of a racially-motivated killing.

London-based Black Lives Matter Activist Adam Elliot-Cooper explained that the reasoning behind staging one of these demonstrations at Heathrow was appropriate because many people are being killed at the borders of Britain, or alternatively are being sent back to “certain death” in their countries of origin.  Black Lives Matter protest organizer Joshua Virasami called for “black people all over the world to come together” to achieve justice in Britain and across the world.  Cara Thompson, organizer of the Nottingham protest, brought attention to the global presence of this issue, telling reporters that they “need people to listen…to what is happening to black people – not just in the USA.”

The protests were purposely staged to take place on the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, a 29-year old black man shot and killed by police in London.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Black Lives Matter Movement ‘Needed in UK — 5 August 2016

CNN — Black Lives Matter UK Blocks London’s Heathrow Airport — 5 August 2016

NY Times — Black Lives Matter Activists Stage Protests Across Britain — 5 August 2016

USA Today — Black Lives Matter Protestors Block Airport Road in U.K. — 5 August 2016

Berlin Anti-Gentrification Riot Leaves 123 Police Officers Injured

By Sarah Lafen

Impunity Watch Desk Reporter, Europe

BERLIN, Germany — In what authorities are calling the most violent protest in Berlin in over five years, 3,500 leftist protestors marched Saturday through Friedrichshain to oppose the gentrification of a district in the eastern part of the city.  Over the past decade, investment money has flowed into the German capital, making its way to previously run-down neighborhoods of Berlin.  This surge has increased rents in neighborhoods formerly home to artists and squatters.

Leftist protestors light flares on top of R94 in opposition to gentrification efforts (Photo Courtesy of BBC)

The protest began peacefully, and police used a helicopter to monitor the crowd.  The scene quickly turned violent as missiles, cobblestones, firecrackers, flares, and glass bottles were eventually thrown at the police officers.  123 of the 1,800 officers on scene were injured, and 86 protestors were arrested on charges of disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, causing injury, and illegal use of explosives.  Police used tear gas, pepper spray, and billy clubs to break up the riot.  Residents who live in housing collectives in the neighborhood banged spoons on pots and pans in support of the leftist squatters.

Since June, there have been movements to evict squatters on the land in furtherance of efforts to gentrify neighborhoods that have been home to the squatters for decades.  The eviction of a house called “Rige Street 94” (R94) occupied by squatters in Friedrichshain on June 22 sparked the onset of aggressive demonstrations, the smashing of shop windows, and the burning of dozens of cars in opposition to the gentrification movement.

These leftist activists protest the invasion of what they call “yuppies” and “big shots” into the area of Berlin which they currently occupy.  Various leftist websites have supported the anti-gentrification movement, encouraging their followers to cause as much disruption as possible to voice their opposition to the gentrification.

Frank Henkel, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, categorized the riots as “arbitrary terror” and stated that his political party will not allow “lawless areas” to exist in any part of Berlin, including R94.

For more information, please see:

BBC — Berlin Riot : 123 Police Injured in Anti-Gentrification Protest — 10 July 2016

NY Times — Berlin Protests in Support of Squatters Turn Violent — 10 July 2016

Wall Street Journal — Berlin Leftist Rioting Leaves 120 Police Officers Injured — 10 July 2016

Breitbart — Berlin Rocked by Nightly Riots from Left-Wing Extremists — 5 July 2016

Members of Punk Band to Continue Their Protest While Awaiting Band Mates’ Verdict

By Connie Hong
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe

MOSCOW, Russia — Three members of a Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, currently face up to three years of jail time for performing an anti-Putin piece on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral. The three women, Maria Alyokhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, have all been charged with “hooliganism” and incitement of religious hatred. Despite the arrest of their band mates, the remaining members refused to back down on their protesting activities.

Alyokhina, Samutsevich, and Tolokonnikova, during their trial. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian) Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and Samutsevich during their trial. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian) Continue reading “Members of Punk Band to Continue Their Protest While Awaiting Band Mates’ Verdict”

New Delhi Authorities Detain Protesting Yoga Instructor

By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

NEW DELHI, India – Today, New Delhi authorities arrested Baba Ramdev, a popular yoga instructor and Hindu talk show host, for his participation in an anti-corruption protest near Parliament.

Authorities arresting Baba Ramdev. (Photo Courtesy of The Guardian)

“Remove the Congress party and save the nation,” urged Mr. Ramdev amongst thousands.

Mr. Ramdev and his supporters marched in protest of the government’s failure to control corruption and retrieve black money stashed away in foreign countries.

According to the Times of India, a Congress representative declared the protest a stunt.

“Lok Sabha polls will be in 2014 and 99 per cent could be in 2013.  This protest is to ensure that no dishonest person enters Parliament.  Such people should be boycotted.  We do not have a political agenda,” shared Mr. Ramdev.

After his detainment, authorities moved Mr. Ramdev to a bus expected to transport the yoga instructor to a Bawana police station located outside of New Delhi.  However, a large number of Mr. Ramdev’s supporters climbed on the bus, delaying its movement.  In the end, authorities ordered ninety buses to round up the protestors.

“We’ve deployed adequate security for Ramdev’s march.  Everything should be in control,” said a New Delhi police spokesman to Reuters.  However, he refused to comment on whether Mr. Ramdev received permission for the protest.

“Delhi Police is a puppet in the hands of the Central government.  We will not do anything that disrupts peace.  We wanted to march towards Parliament in a peaceful manner to make our voices heard,” said Mr. Ramdev.

For further information, please see: 

The Guardian – Indian TV star Baba Ramdev arrested at anti-corruption walk – 13 August 2012

New Delhi – Ramdev detained by police, fails to reach Parliament – 13 August 2012

News of India – Baba Ramdev taken into preventive custody – 13 August 2012

Reuters – Baba Ramdev’s detention lifted, protest continues – 13 August 2012

Heinous Killing of Battered Wife Sparks Protest

By Mark McMurray
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

RAMALLAH, West Bank — On Monday, scores of people witnessed a woman having her throat slashed in an open-air Bethlehem market in broad daylight.  The prime suspect, the woman’s husband, was arrested at the scene.

Protesters demonstrate in the area where Nancy Zaboun had her throat cut.  (Photo Courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Nancy Zaboun, a 27-year-old mother of three, had recently sought a divorce from her abusive husband.  According to the Ma’an News Agency, the police reported that her husband had beaten her Sunday evening.  When the police arrived at the scene that night, they only asked him to sign a pledge not to beat his wife again.  The next day, she was fatally wounded on a path at a market situated near the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ.  She was walking on the path after having just attended a hearing in her divorce case from her husband of ten years.

Khaula al-Azraq, director of a counseling center in the West Bank where Zaboun went for assistance, said Shadi Abedallah, Zaboun’s 32-year-old husband, beat his wife regularly.  The beatings were so severe at times that Zaboun would have to be hospitalized after the attacks.  Despite having repeatedly assaulted his wife, Abedallah was never arrested.  Similar to their response to Sunday’s beating, the police would only make Abedallah, himself a former police officer, sign promises not to hit his wife in the future.  That makes the response to his behavior even more suspicious.

Almost immediately after their wedding, Abdellah began beating Zaboun.  Local authorities reportedly stepped in at some point to resolve the violence, only to later rule the situation a family dispute.  Abdel Fattah Hemayel, the district governor of Bethlehem, confirmed the description of the situation by police and the pledges they had Abdellah sign.

The heinous nature of the attack has caused a strong reaction within Palestinian society.  On Wednesday, several dozen women and women’s rights activists held a rally in the area where Zaboun was killed.  They called for stronger laws to end violence against women.  While holding signs stating things such as “Shame Palestinians for killing our women,” the demonstrators chanted, “No to violence against women.”

Rabiha Diab, the Palestinian government’s women’s affairs minister, has also called for justice.  “We should set an example because…he slaughtered her like a sheep,” she said.  Diab has called on the police to look at what they can do to end violence against women.  “Every once in a while, there is a case that makes us feel worried and afraid that we are going back to square one [as women],” she added.

For further information, please see:

Arutz Sheva – Arab Protest in Bethlehem Slams Violence Against Women – 2 August 2012

LA Times – Palestinian Women’s Killings Spark Outcry Over Lax Laws – 2 August 2012

Al Jazeera – Palestinians Protest Murder of Battered Wife – 1 August 2012

Ma’an News Agency – Protesters Call For Stricter Laws After Woman Stabbed to Death – 1 August 2012

Mexican Protesters Decry Election Results as Fraudulent

By: Stuart Smith
Impunity Watch, North America Deck

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – On July 22, 2012, thousands of protesters marched through the center of Mexico City to protest the official result of the country’s recent presidential election, which declared Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto Mexico’s presumptive President-elect.

Protesters in Reforma Avenue, Mexico City. (Photo Courtesy of BBC News)

According to Xinhua News, protesters, organized by “Yo soy 132” (I am 132), a student movement, and supported by runner-up Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, took to the streets Sunday expressing their outrage at the result of the July 1 election with banners decrying the “imposition” of the PRI’s Nieto on Mexico and chanting slogans such as “Pena Out” and “Fraud, Fraud.”

The protest began when thousands of demonstrators rallied outside Los Pinos, Mexican President’s official residence and office, who then marched down the capital’s main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma, to the city’s square. Reuters reported that Mexican officials estimated as many as 30,000 protesters took part in the rally. Yet, despite the large crowd, authorities said the protest was peaceful.

Nieto and the PRI are accused of buying votes and arranging favorable media coverage from Televisa, one of Mexico’s main television networks, reported BBC News. In an interview with Reuters, Luis Martinez, a 25-year-old engineering student from Mexico City, said, “the people have woken up. The people realize that the PRI violated the elections.” Echoing similar sentiment, marcher Marlem Munoz told Fox News, “Mexico didn’t vote for fraud. Mexico wants a country that is honest and democratic. What happened in the elections was a total mockery directed at the Mexican people.”

However, the PRI denied the charges, countering that Lopez Obrador is attempting to “disqualify the entire electoral process with lies.” Televisa, also, denied accepting money in exchange for positive coverage.

Yet, despite these denials, the PRI has a history of employing fraud to win elections. The PRI’s 71-year rule, reported Reuters, which ended in 2000, was marred by allegations of corruption, vote-rigging, and violent repression of dissent.

Lopez Obrador is currently seeking to nullify the election result at the federal election tribunal. Last week, Obrador and opposition parties presented to the tribunal evidence which, they claim, shows that the PRI purchased votes with money earned from drug trafficking activities.

The election tribunal has until September 6, when the final vote count must be certified and an official President-elect must be declared, to rule on the challenge. The President will then be sworn in on December 1.

For further information, please see:

Xinhua News – Thousands march in Mexico City to protest election results – 23 July 2012

Reuters UK – Thousands march in Mexico to protest Pena Nieto win – 23 July 2012

BBC News – Mexicans in new protest at Pena Nieto election victory – 22 July 2012

Fox News – Thousands turn out to march against election results in Mexico – 22 July 2012