Occupy Earth Day: On Earth Day this year, 75 protesters staged an occupation of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s offices in Pennsylvania to protest what they called its “failure” to protect the Allegheney River from the fossil fuel industry. Meanwhile, a coalition of more than 60 environmental groups staged similar actions throughout the state as part of an ‘Earth Day protest against fracking’. The coalition demands an end to Marcellus shale gas extraction, comprehensive reports on levels of water contamination, and an expansion of state-wide renewable energy programs.
Mexican Teachers Take Over Highways to Protest Education Reforms: On April 22, thousands of teachers in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero went on strike to protest new education measures put into place by Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto. Last week, teachers armed with Molotov cocktails and metal bars blocked key highways in a series of demonstrations that have gained in intensity since Nieto’s bill was signed into law in February. As 42,000 children are left without classes, and parents, along with community members, may begin to hold their own classes in local parks.
BDS Movement Expands Its Reach: This week, Members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions, becoming the first American scholarly institution to join the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. Their resolution states that the boycott is “in protest of the illegal occupation of Palestine”, in which Israeli academic institutions are “deeply complicit”.
Togo Teachers On Strike: On April 15, thousands of students demonstrated in the West African nation of Togo to demand better working conditions for their teachers, who have been on strike for a week. One student was killed and another wounded when security forces fired into the crowd. Public and private schools were closed in the capital city of Dapoang following the protests.
Miners Cheer Maggie’s Death: As Margaret Thatcher’s coffin passed through London Wednesday, hundreds of protesters in the audience turned their backs to her, shouted insults such as ‘what a waste of money’ or ‘Tory scum’, or otherwise demonstrated against the former Prime Minister and her neoliberal regime. Several communities that once bore the weight of a government crackdown on striking miners held celebrations, while other progressive communities used the day to reaffirm their commitment to social justice.
Anti-Nuke Protesters Arrested During Blockade: Nearly 50 people were arrested outside of the Faslane naval base in Argyll, Scotland on Monday as they demanded that the Trident nuclear weapons stored in the base be dismantled, and that government funding for the weapons be used instead to promote national welfare, education and health. Members of the Scrap Trident coalition, joined by more than 100 supporters from student, trade union and environmental movements, chained their arms inside sections of drain pipe tubing and blockaded the entrance to the naval base. As tensions heighten in the North Korean peninsula, protesters accuse the UK government of playing up the hype to affirm the need for nuclear weapons.
Daniel McGowan Back in Prison: Earth Liberation Front activist and political prisoner Daniel McGowan was re-arrested by authorities yesterday, only months after being released from 6 years of imprisonment. McGowan was allegedly taken back into custody in response to an article published on the Huffington Post on April 1, in which he charged the Federal Bureau of Prisons with transferring him to a high security prison unit to restrict his political speech. McGowan was arrested in 2006 as part of the Green Scare that saw federal forces crack down on environmental activists nationwide.
Prisoner’s Death Ignites Mass Hunger Strikes in Palestine: On Wednesday, thousands of Palestinian prisoners began refusing breakfast to protest the death of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh in prison. Hamdiyeh was diagnosed with cancer in January, and lawyers insist he was given only antibiotics and painkillers by Israeli authorities. Protests and mourning erupted throughout Palestine upon news of his death on April 2nd, but it is unclear how long the mass hunger strike by prisoners from all political factions will continue.
Grammatically Speaking, No Human Being is Illegal: The Associated Press has announced that it will drop the phrase “illegal immigrant” from its popular stylebook. Under the new AP guidelines, the word “illegal” can be used to describe an action, such as an illegal border-crossing, but not a person living in a country without legal permission. The decision marks a victory in a campaign by immigrants rights advocates to replace the epithet ‘illegal’ with terms such as ‘undocumented’ or ‘without papers’.
Anti-Privatization Protesters Evicted: On Tuesday, more than 20 students at Sussex University were evicted from a building on campus they had occupied for weeks in protest of privatization at the UK university. In May 2012, Sussex University announced that campus facilities and catering would be privatized, displacing over 200 employees. In response, the group Sussex Against Privatisation has mobilized a wave of protests, including an 8-week occupation of the university’s Bramber House. On Monday, the university was granted permission to evict the students by a high court; the ruling also banned students from “entering and remaining on the campus and buildings of the University of Sussex for the purpose of protest action” without permission from the university.
Cree Teenagers End Trek Through Snow: Last week, six Cree teenagers from Canada concluded a ten-week, 600-plus-mile journey on foot to Ottawa, the nation’s capital, on behalf of Cree solidarity as part of the Idle No More movement for indigenous rights. The half-dozen travelers, joined by nearly 300 people along the way, endured snowstorms and temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius, and were greeted with hospitality and kindness in many Canadian towns and cities throughout the way. The Cree activists were inspired by the much-publicized hunger strike of Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, and were given counsel and guidance by leaders of the Cree community.
Pro-Palestine Ads To Grace New York Metro: On March 26, the group American Muslims for Palestine unveiled a campaign of ads it plans to roll out at Metro stations throughout New York City. The ads condemn ‘Israeli apartheid’ and call on the U.S. to stop sending aid to Israel. Timed to coincide with President Barack Obama’s visit to the Middle East, the new campaign comes just a few months after a series of “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad” ads were placed on New York subways by a right-wing activists. Previous pro-Palestinian ad campaigns have graced New York’s subways and Metro-North stations, including one last year by the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine that showed maps of a shrinking Palestinian territory through time.
Six-Week Abortion Ban Draws Fury: More than 300 pro-choice activists converged in Bismarck, N.D. on March 25 to protest a wave of some of the most draconian anti-abortion laws in the nation. Three anti-abortion laws were signed by the governor that day, including one measure banning abortion as early as six weeks from conception. The rally was organized by the new Stand Up for Women North Dakota coalition, and occurred alongside rallies in Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot.
Rolling Jubilee Gains Momentum: Last week, Strike Debt activists announced that they have purchased and forgiven over $1 million in medical debt. The Rolling Jubilee campaign, launched earlier this year, used donations to forgive the emergency room bills owed by 1,000 randomly chosen people in Kentucky and Indiana, acquired for “pennies on the dollar.” Strike Debt has also launched a national week of action to demand cancellation of the country’s medical debt.
Palestinians Unwelcome Obama: On Wednesday, over a hundred Palestinians erected a 15-tent village on a hilltop in the disputed E1 area of the West Bank to protest Barack Obama’s visit to the region. The demonstration represented the latest in a series of Palestinian tent cities erected in defiance of Israel’s plans 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. Palestinian activists assert that the Obama administration has rubber-stamped this state of affairs.
Chicago Students Fight Book-Banning: Nearly 400 students at Chicago’s Lane Tech College Prep School attempted to stage a sit-in on Monday to protest the Chicago Public School’s removal of the graphic novel series ‘Persepolis’ from its seventh-grade curriculum. The demonstration, organized through Facebook and other social media, started at 8 a.m. with students flooding the hallways, and was broken up twenty minutes later by faculty, who locked the library doors to prevent students from entering. CPS officials say they removed the series of autobiographical novels–which depict the life of a young Iranian woman before, during and after the country’s Islamic revolution–due to their use of strong language and scenes of graphic violence. According to American Libraries, CPS has backtracked on the decision to remove the book from libraries, which students and faculty said amounted to censorship: “Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has reversed a directive to pull Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, from CPS libraries, though she maintains the book is not appropriate for 7th graders and should be removed from classrooms.”
Tar Sands Week of Action: Environmental activists staged a ‘Stop Tar Sands Profiteers’ week of action nationwide to protest companies profiting from the destruction that could be caused by the Keystone XL Pipeline. In New Orleans on March 17, protesters blocked buses full of oil executives headed to the Howard Well Energy Conference, and disrupted corporate dinners throughout the French Quarter. On March 21st, 20 religious leaders from several denominations led an interfaith demonstration at the White House, followed by one at the Canadian Embassy. All in all, over 30 events were planned and executed by over 50 grassroots organizations opposed to the pipeline and the corporations that profit from it.
The Changing Face of International Women’s Day: The first International Women’s Day in 1911 was the conception of socialists who wanted to expand women’s participation in the parties and trade unions. The idea behind it was that men would stay home and care for the children, while women went out and attended meetings. Since then, the holiday has been corporatized to the point that we’re now being asked to “Discover BP’s Feminine Side.” But the holiday hasn’t been completely evacuated of its political edge: Check out this article on international women’s day celebrations aimed at ending femicide in Mexico over at Bitch.
Expose AIPAC: On March 1st, activists from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Code Pink descended on Capitol Hill to greet members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The pro-Israel lobbying group is urging lawmakers to exempt aid to Israel from slated across-the-board cuts to government spending, by passing legislation to label Israel a ‘major strategic ally.’ Hoping that times of austerity would would change the conversation around AIPAC, activists staged a series of protests and workshops with the aim of eroding the near-unanimous support the lobbying group has enjoyed on Capitol Hill. Second only to Afghanistan, Israel receives more than $3 billion in U.S. aid every year.
Down With ‘Athena,’ Say Greeks: Thousands of university students marched in Athens this week to protest a new higher education reform bill that will cut deficits in the education budget by closing or merging more than 350 departments in universities nationwide. The proposed plan, ironically named ‘Athena’ after the Greek goddess of wisdom, has come under fire from students, many of whom will have to move to different cities to continue study, or else end up with a different degree entirely. As chants of ‘we want our diplomas, not worthless documents’ echoed across the streets of Athens, Greece shows little sign of recovering from the severe debt crisis that has thrown the country into tumult since 2009.
Maple Spring Revival: Montreal’s ‘Maple Spring’ may not be over just yet. On Tuesday,thousands of students demonstrated in Montreal against tuition fee increases levied by Montreal’s Parti Québécois (PQ). Quebec’s vibrant student movement had declared victory last after the newly-elected PQ cancelled the tuition hike that sparked a massive student strike last year. But students are returning to the streets following an announcement by Premier Pauline Marois at an education summit last week that her government will increase tuition fees by 3%, only slightly less than the previously ruling Liberal party.