Khader Adnan is a 33 year-old Palestinian baker and master’s candidate in economics at Birzeit University. He lives in Arrabeh—a small village in the Occupied West Bank, just outside of Jenin with his wife and two—soon to be three—children. On December 17th, 2011 at 3:30 in the morning, Israeli Authorities raided his home, arresting Adnan in front of his family and taking him away to be interrogated, and later detained for alleged involvement with the Islamic Jihad.
On Friday, the headlines read that Tahrir Square was burning.
Soldiers and military police raided the square in an unprecedented bout of violence and brutality, firing weapons and using batons and teargas to chase protesters, burning blankets, tents, medical supplies, and anything else that stood in their way. Thirteen people have been killed and over 400 wounded in a series of violent assaults that eventually forced the protesters to leave and decimated Tahrir Square.
Now, five days later, Tahrir Square has burned and all that remains are the scattered remains of charred tents, blood stains on the pavement, and an imposing line of military police encircling the square to ensure that above all else, it is not reoccupied.
I got the text message at 1:07 AM: URGENT: Hundreds of police mobilizing around Zuccotti. Eviction in process.
I made the decision to go at 1:08 AM.
I got off the train at Rector Street—this was before all the subways except the R train were shut down only an hour later. Muscle memory took me to towards the nearest exit—the exit from which you can almost immediately see the characteristic red structure and flags, signs and bodies crowding the park—and was immediately stopped by a transit worker.
“You can’t take that exit. They are evicting those people from the park tonight.”
That’s when I knew this had just gotten serious.
The Occupy movement was supposed to be ideal. It had momentum; it had unifying, “universal” potential; most importantly, it was never tied to any one figurehead or charismatic leader. Having a leader often ruins protests — makes them as simple as one perceived failure or weakness on that leader’s part. The Occupy movement was “leaderless,” based on a consensus decision-making process in which a motion could be brought forward, or definitively blocked, by any one person. Everyone had a voice. At least, in theory.
You wouldn’t know it from the news headlines in the United States, but for the past ten days hundreds of activists have been protesting 300 metres from the heart of Wall Street. On September 17th, activists converged in the heart of New York’s financial district, intent on occupying Wall Street. They were rebuffed by the police from that goal, and have instead began occupying the nearby Zuccotti Park, now renamed Liberty Plaza. The movement, called Occupy Wall Street, was sparked by the Canadian group Adbusters, and has captured the imagination of many on the Left hopeful for signs of an American version of the Arab Spring.
I’m thinking about violence a lot lately.
It seems appropriate, now, to write about it, as we just saw actions around the U.S. to commemorate the anniversary of nonviolent activist Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death by a violent act.
As I arrived at work April 4, the anniversary of King’s murder, my boss read us the article in Haaretz about actor/director/activist Juliano Mer-Khamis‘s death in a refugee camp in Jenin. More violence taking the life of another nonviolent activist.
I’ve commented many times that I don’t consider breaking windows or property damage “violence.” I consider violence to be harm against a human, not a pane of glass. Yet when I retweeted that statement in reference to the March 26 protests in London, I was reminded by Jack Aponte, via Twitter, that smashing windows or walls can be used by domestic abusers to threaten their victims. And Molly Crabapple noted that it’s only a short step from smashing a shop’s windows in the name of “feminism” to smashing art. And we’ve seen more than enough art censorship lately.
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I hate to admit it, but sometimes I am not quite sure why I go to protests. While my idealistic heart tries to lead me toward joining the masses demanding justice, my cynical mind tells me that my time is better spent reading trashy magazines while doing my laundry.
Nevertheless, protesting has become my personal addiction. Like a drug, I thrive off the momentary highs of hope, change, and political agency in the air. I relish the strange looks from camera-sporting tourists, supportive car honks, and even the occasional a**holes. A few days later, however, I crash back into cynical hopelessness.
However, this has not been the case in Paris. Continue reading
A cell-phone video of the flogging of a 17-year-old girl in Swat has garnered much public attention in Pakistan over the last two days. Barely recovered from the previous attack on Manawan police station, the nation was not ready, perhaps, to come face to face this way with what dissident forces in the Northwest, the military and the government have wrought in Swat.
It is important to witness that this violence took place, but be warned that it is very disturbing and will be triggering for a lot of people. A young girl, wearing a shalwar-qameez and covered in a burqa is held down by two men while a third lifts up her burqa and flogs her over her clothes. It’s unclear if he is hitting her lower back or her posterior. She is squealing and screaming in pain and protest, begging them to stop and promising them that she will never leave the house unescorted again. A large number of men ring the woman and her assailants, watching.
Before this news came to light, a protest was announced for Saturday afternoon, “against terrorism.” It was organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the Women’s Action Forum and various organizations the represent Pakistani civil society. When this video starting appearing on the news channels, SMS messages went around to the effect that, given the flogging of this girl, whose name is reported to be Chand Bibi, it is even more important for us to protest. Continue reading
There are no words to describe the feeling of adrenaline spiking through my system right now. There are no words to describe the feeling of being pushed by a police officer, someone who is paid with your tax dollars to serve and protect you.
Yesterday, in San Francisco, on the 6th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, what started out as a peaceful demonstration against war and oppression rapidly escalated into a violent clash between aggressive riot police and the substantially outnumbered and unarmed civilian demonstrators. The demonstration, sponsored by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), was peaceful and calm. It was not unlike many other anti-war demonstrations that have taken place there on many occasions. Sadly, yesterday was different. Continue reading