At least 25 are reported dead and more than 240 injured in clashes that erupted when Ukrainian protesters mounted a march on parliament Feb. 18, apparently ending a "truce" that had been worked out to allow negotiations. The march took place before a scheduled debate on reinstatement of Ukraine's 2004 constitution, which would rein in President Viktor Yanukovich's powers. The situation on the streets escalated as the bill was blocked by parliamentary staff who refused to register it on procedural grounds. The 2004 constitution was repealed in 2010, shortly after Yanukovich came to power, replaced by a new one granting him sweeping powers, including to appoint regional governors—a critical issue in Ukraine, with its divide between the more Russian-identified east and more European-identified west. (Jurist, WP, UN News Centre, Feb. 19; BBC News, EuroNews, Feb. 18)
Riot police in Istanbul used water cannons against demonstrators Feb. 9 in the latest protest against a bill that would increase government control over the Internet. Last month, demonstrators attempted to occupy Istanbul's main Taksim Square in protest of the law, before being evicted by riot police with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. The bill, granting Turkey's telecommunications authority the ability to block websites or remove content without a court order, has been approved by parliament and awaits the signature of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey made almost 1,700 requests for Google to remove material from the web in the first six months of 2013—more than three times any other country, and a rise of nearly 1,000% in one year. Google says most of the requests were turned down. (AFP, Feb. 9; Jurist, Feb. 7; Euronews, Jan. 18)
Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro, ordered to step down last month by Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordóñez, won a reprieve Jan. 14, when Magistrate José Armenta of the Supreme Tribunal of Cundinamarca department ruled that the order should not be carried out until it has been established that it complied with the law. Petro, who is allowed to remain in office while the case is on appeal, responded to the ruling by saying "justice had won." But Ordóñez did not say that he would honor the court's ruling, and Petro told supporters in the Plaza de Bolívar just one week later that he believed he will be ordered to step down by the end of January. He suggested he would acquiesce, saying: "This is the final week; this story is over." (Caracol Radio, Jan. 23; BBC News, Jan. 15; El Tiempo, Jan. 14)
Spain's El Mundo and El Periodico on Jan. 17 reported the heartening news that after weeks of angry protests, Burgos Mayor Javier Lacalle announced a definitive end to his planned redevelopment of one of the city's main traffic arteries, citing the "impossibility" of moving ahead with the plan. Protesters had opposed the 8 million euro project both as a waste of money better spent on social programs and as a scheme to accelerate the city's gentrification. BBC News reports that the project to trasnform Calle Vitoria into a new boulevard called for a bike lane and green spaces to replace two of the thoroughfare's four traffic lanes. Free parking spaces were also to be replaced with a paid underground car lot.
On Christmas Day, some 500 riot police in Mexico's Federal District destroyed a protest encampment that had been maintained for months at San Pedro Márti barrio in Tlalpan delegation, on the southern outskirts of Mexico City. The camp, dubbed "Ixtliyolotl" for the indigenous place-name for the locale, was launched by supporters of the Movement of Neighborhods and Pueblos of the South, to oppose construction of a gas station along the highway linking Mexico City to Cuernavaca. Activists say the petrol station—being built by CorpoGas, which was spun off from state oil monopoly Pemex in 1982—has not received proper environmental review, and will accelerate the transformation of their neighborhod into a traffic-clogged commuter artery. Residents vow to continue the fight. (SeraPaz, Jan. 6; Desinformémonos, Jan. 5, translated by Angry White Kid; La Jornada, Dec. 25)
Four people were killed when Cambodian military police opened fire on garment factory workers marching to demand higher pay in a Phnom Penh industrial zone Jan. 3. Hours later, police dispersed a protest camp that supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had maintained since mid-December in the city's Freedom Park. The move came as the government announced emergence measures barring public protests by the CNRP, which accuses the Hun Sen government of rigging elections held in July. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) accused the CNRP of using the deadly street clash as a "pretext" to suspend talks over the impasse. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Huamn Rights LICADHO decired the police violence as "horrific." (AFP, AP, Jan. 4; Reuters, Xinhua, Jan. 3)
This week saw an amazing turn of events in the current reprise of the inter-factional protests that shook Thailand three years ago: riot police in Bangkok yielded to the protesters they were ordered to disperse, in apparent defiance of their commanders. The police removed barricades and their helmets as a sign of solidarity. Disobedience of orders for repression is an incredibly hopeful sign; if this sets an example for similar situations around the world, the horizons of possibility for nonviolent revolution are broadened almost dizzyingly. What complicates it is that while in 2010 it was the populist Red Shirts that were protesting the government and the patrician Yellow Shirts that were rallying around it, today the situation is reversed. The Yellow Shirts are seeking the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister (and perceived puppet) of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and whose restoration to power the Red Shirts had been demanding last time around. (VOA, Dec. 13; Political Blind Spot, Dec. 6)
For a second consecutive day Dec. 10, thousands of protesters continued to occupy Plaza Bolívar, the central square in Bogotá, to oppose the removal of the Colombian capital's populist mayor, Gustavo Petro. A left-wing populist and former guerilla fighter, Petro was ordered to step down by Colombia's Prosecutor General Alejandro Ordoñez—officially over irregularities in a reform of the city’s garbage collection system. Under the decision, Petro is barred from holding public office for 15 years. But Petro told his supporters in the plaza, "I am still mayor," and assailed Ordoñez's decision as a "coup against democracy." Protesters pledge to remain in the plaza until the decision is overturned, with banners reading "Respect my vote," and accusing the conservative Ordoñez of being a "golpista" (coup-plotter.)