Burgos and Gezi Square: contradiction?

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.

Mexico City barrio resists spread of car culture

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)

Occupy Phnom Penh dispersed

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)

Ukraine, Thailand, Italy: hope and contradiction

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)

Protesters occupy Bogotá over municipal 'coup'

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.)

Argentina: students occupy to protest 'reform'

As of Sept. 20 Argentine high school students had occupied 10 schools in Buenos Aires to protest an "educational reform" program that the capital's rightwing mayor, Mauricio Macri, plans to institute at the beginning of the next school year in March 2014. The students held assemblies at each school to decide whether to take action. Some schools voted against the occupations: 495 of the 565 students at Julio Argentino Roca voted not to occupy, as did 340 of 420 students at Normal 6. Students from the occupied schools held a joint assembly and announced plans for a Sept. 23 press conference.

Occupy Tel Aviv —again

More than 3,000 marched in Tel Aviv July 13 for a rally marking the two-year anniversary of the mass movement against inequality which saw major demonstrations in the summer of 2011. Protesters marched from Habima Square to Kaplan Street, the heart of Israel's administrative center, chanting against the economic policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid. Chants and banners also opposed tax hikes, and Israel's new gas export plan. Some slogans compared Netanyahu to Egypt's recently ousted President Mohammed Morsi, calling for "revolution" and declaring that "the rule of capital is criminal." Protesters blocked  traffic on Ayalon freeway, Tel Aviv's main thoroughfare, until they were dispersed by police at around 1 AM. A few remained, however, setting up encampments in front of the Kiriya, the central government complex, and Ministry of Defense headquarters. (Times of Israel, Ha'aretz, July 13)

Egypt: Tahrir Square occupied again

Street clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi shook Egypt's port of Alexandria June 28, in a day of rival protests nationwide that left two dead—including a US citizen who was photographing. Several Muslim Brotherhood offices were ransacked and some torched across the country, including the offices in Alexandria and the Nile Delta governorates of Beheira, Gharbiya, Daqahilyah and Kafr Al-Sheikh. The Brotherhood released a statement holding members of the anti-Morsi Tamarod ("Rebel") campaign responsible for the violence, slamming them as "thugs." Cairo's Tahrir Square was again occupied, as thousands marched on the iconic plaza to demand Morsi's ouster. 

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