Monthly Archives: January 2013

Vital Signs: Seattle’s Standardized Testing Revolt; Palestinian Settlement Evicted

from In These Times

The Standardized Revolt: This week, teachers at two Seattle schools are refusing to administermandated standardized district tests, arguing that such tests waste school resources and have little value in measuring students’ academic performance. The first such school-wide effort in a decade in America, the boycotts add to a growing movement of educators, parents and students against the use of standardized testing as a primary criterion for evaluation.

A Settlement for a Settlement: Over 200 Palestinian protesters briefly established a tent village, named Bab al-Shams (Gate of the Sun in Arabic), in the West Bank last week in what is being hailed as an inspired act of creative nonviolence. Spearheaded by the Palestinian-led Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, the encampment became the first new Palestinian village erected in the West Bank since 1967. But on Monday, two days after its establishment, the camp wasraided and dismantled by the Israeli Defense Forces. The construction of Bab al-Shams follows Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of Israel’s intention to build about 4,000 settlement housing units in the controversial E1 area, which would bisect the West Bank and compromise the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian state.

Squatters Strike Back: On January 12, reported 10,000 protesters marched in Athens in the latest protest against the December eviction of the city’s Villa Amalias squat house, which has served for two decades as a crucial focal point for the anarchist and anti-authoritarian countercultural movement in Greece. Protesters also called for the release of 92 activists who were arrested after briefly re-occupying the space on January 9. The battle over the Villa Amalias squat, located in a mixed Greek and immigrant neighborhood, reflects larger tensions, in a society crippled by austerity, between leftists and right-wing elements such as the nativist Golden Dawn Party, who many argue are unabashedly allied with Greek police forces. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Thessaloniki, Chania, Mitilini, Patra, Heracleon and other cities.

Zombies Protest School Closings: On January 15, dozens of youth from the Philadelphia Student Union, adorned in elaborate zombie costumes, danced to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ outside the Philadelphia School District’s Headquarters to protest a plan to close 37 schools across the city in June. Though officials estimate that the closings will save the district $28 million and will allow the city to funnel more resources into existing schools, one student protester insisted that “our hopes would be dead” if the schools are closed. The Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools is calling for increases in state aid to save the schools.

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Vital Signs: Stop Stop and Frisk Victory; An Electoral Rebellion in Israel, Kerry Cunneen,

from In These Times

Stop Stop and Frisk Victory: On January 7, a federal judge declared unconstitutional the Bronx’s ‘stop-and-frisk’ policy, which allows NYPD officers to stop and search individuals in or around New York’s high crime areas. The ruling, a victory for the New York Civil Liberties Union, demands that officers have reasonable suspicion, based on ‘more than just a hunch’, to carry out trespass stops in or around private apartment buildings in the Bronx. The NYPD’s ‘Operation Clean Halls’, established in 1991, has according to the NYCLU resulted in 1,137 unreasonable and potentially unlawful stops in 2012, out of a total of 1,857 stops.

Northwest Grand Jury Resistance: Another Portland activist has announced that she is refusing to cooperate with a federal investigation of radical networks in the Northwestern United States. Kerry Cunneen has choosen not to appear before a grand jury after being subpoenaed in December, according to a statement released January 9. “I will not cooperate with this grand jury,” she said, “nor will I in any way aid the state in its efforts to imprison people. I stand in solidarity with…all action taken against the state and capital towards the goal of a more liberated society.” In Portland, at least nine subpoenaes have been issued, three houses have been raided, and three activists have been imprisoned in Portland since the Nakamura Federal Courthouse in Seattle was vandalized during a demonstration on May Day last year.

Kurds Protest Killings: On January 10, hundreds of Kurds protested in Paris and throughout France after the assassination of three Kurdish women active with the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which has waged a struggle for independence from Turkey since the 1980s. Media sources have speculated that either the Turkish government or an infiltrator inside the PKK carried out the killings, which occurred at a Kurdish Centre in Paris. Amnesty International Europe released a statement urging that ‘no stone be left unturned’ in the search for the murderers of the three women, one of whom was a founding member of the PKK.

Electoral Rebellion in Israel: As Israel’s election draws near, some Israeli citizens are giving their vote to West Bank Palestinians through an online initiative. The Facebook page Real Democracy, premised on the idea that Palestinians living under Israeli occupation deserve to participate in the democratic process that determines crucial aspects of their lives, connects Israelis willing to give up their vote with counterparts in the West Bank so that they can vote in accordance with the latter’s wishes. Though the initiative is not projected to have an impact on the upcoming elections on January 22nd, the initiative’s organizers hope that it will serve as a powerful symolic statement, and increase the support given to underrepresented candidates.

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Vital Signs: Hong Kong Defies Jackie Chan; Global Demonstrations to End VAW

from In These Times

Protests Against Sexual Violence Spread: Mass demonstrations continued across India following the rape and torture of a 23-year-old student on December 16. Mass demonstrations broke out after the victim died of her wounds on December 29, and many New Year’s celebrations were cancelled. Five men have now been charged with the attack, but organizers are continuing to push broader demands related to women’s rights, and the protests are nowspreading across South Asia.

Meanwhile, for the first time since 1994, Congress failed at year’s end to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which funded the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed mandatory restitution on convicts, and allowed unprosecuted cases to be taken to civil court.

Hong Kong Defies Jackie Chan: On January 1, over 100,000 people marched in Hong Kong, demanding the resignation of the city’s leader, Leung Chun-ying. Allegations that he lied about illegal renovations at his mansion have led to wider condemnations of what demonstrators call his undemocratic and elitist rule. Since Britain returned the island to China in 1997, Hong Kong has enjoyed Western-style civil liberties that many say are threatened by Leung’s close ties to China’s leaders. 2,500 protesters blocked roads in Hong Kong, while thousands of other Hong Kongers joined a rival march in support of Leung. 
The demonstration followed a controversial statement by Hong Kong native Jackie Chan last month denouncing disruptive demonstrations and suggesting that there should be “regulations on what can and cannot be protested.”

Zapatistas Return: On December 31, 2012, thousands of families and supporters gatheredthroughout Zapatista territory in Chiapas, Mexico to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the EZLN’s liberation movement. The political-cultural festivals, many of which lasted until dawn, follow in the wake of the largest coordinated nonviolent mobilization in the history of the Zapatista movement December 21, when over 50,000 Zapatistas marched in silence through the streets of 5 Chiapas cities. On December 30, the Zapatistas released a communique affirming the success of their nearly 2-decades old movement and criticizing the new regime of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

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