Tag Archives: austerity

Firefighters vs. Austerity; Anonymous Hacks Hate Group; Occupy Istanbul Launches

Anonymous Hacks Hate Group: On Wednesday, hackers linked with Anonymous released a list of the full names and addresses of members of the far-right, anti-immigrant English Defense League (EDL), including phone numbers of senior members and records of criminal convictions. Following the May 22 murder of soldier Lee Rigby by an individual with reported links to Muslim extremists, England has seen waves of anti-Islamic protests and attacks, including the attempted arson of a mosque. On June 1st, more than 50 demonstrations across England have been planned by the EDL and the British National Party, in what anti-racism activists call a “day of hate.”

Occupy Istanbul Takes Off: Protesters occupied Taksim Gezi Park in the center of Istanbul, Turkey on Tuesday to protest its imminent destruction. The public park is reportedly slated to be replaced by a shopping mall. After setting up tents and sleeping in the park, protesters were attacked with tear gas on Wednesday morning, prompting them to manufacture homemade gas masks and physically block police and demolition vehicles in their attempt to prevent the clearing of trees. Though Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has affirmed that the park will be demolished as planned, political leaders have voiced opposition, and the Occupy Taksim Park movement continues to grow.

Firefighters vs. Austerity: On May 29, firefighters in Barcelona, Spain clashed with riot police in a demonstration against austerity Catalonia. Hundreds of public employees burnt coffins labeled “public services” as they gathered in front of Catalonia’s parliament building. Firefighter unions charged that proposed staff and spending reductions jeopardize the safety of Catalonian workers and community members.

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Party-Crashing for the Climate; Indignados Turn Two; Bus Ads Promote Equal Rights for Palestinians

Party-Crashing for the Climate: On Monday, over 500 protesters gathered outside of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, where a fundraiser for Obama was underway, to demand that the president reject the permit to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. The crowd also expressed their opposition to local natural gas pipelines such as the Spectra and Rockaway pipelines. Representatives from Hurricane Sandy relief organizations, asserting the connection between climate change and disasters like Sandy, and demanding that local and national government commit to a transition to clean energy. The event was sponsored by a broad coalition of local and national environmental and social justice organizations, who have begun turning out large crowds to nearly all of Obama’s public events to demand that the president take a stand against the proposed pipeline.

Bus Ads Promote Palestinian Rights: Public buses throughout Seattle have beenemblazoned this week with messages advocating “Equal Rights For Palestinians: The Way To Peace.” The messages are sponsored by the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign, whose ad campaign stretches back to 2010 and also run in local Seattle print weeklies. The campaign has also taken aim in the past at Israel’s segregated transportation and education systems and denounced American aid to Israeli military occupation, sparking controversy in Washington state and around the country.

Indignados Turn Two: On May 12, thousands gathered in Madrid, Barcelona and 30 other cities throughout Spain to mark the second anniversary of the nation’s ‘indignados’ protest movement. Last month, unemployment hit record levels of near-30% in the debt-scarred country. Protesters carried signs on Sunday insisting “the fight continues” and asserting “together, it’s possible.” The movement, which sparked Occupy and similar protests around the world, continues its resistance in the face of planned austerity measures, including tax hikes and pay cuts for public sector workers.

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Oil Giants for Feminism; Maple Spring Revival

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.

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Clocktower Occupation at Cooper Union Enters Second Day

published at In These Times

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At noon on December 3, 12 students from New York’s Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art entered the top floor of their school’s Foundation Building, slid wooden barricades across the doors, and released a communique announcing their occupation to the public. Calling themselves Students for a Free Cooper Union, the occupiers took direct action in protest of the school administration’s decision to begin charging tuition to students of the historically tuition-free university. While a “Day Of Action,” featuring presentations, performances and public educational events, unfolded outside the building, students inside threw their bodies against the barricade as maintenance crews attempted to drill through the blockaded entrance.

“It was definitely a really scary moment for us,” said occupier and Cooper Union senior Victoria Sobel in a phone interview later that afternoon. “Our bodies were literally pressed against the doors. It took about a half hour of yelling back and forth—‘Get off the door!’, ‘We’re not gonna get off the door! Stop drilling, you’re gonna hurt us!’—before they stopped, but we were prepared to do that. That’s the length we were willing to go to.”

Today, all 12 students are still barricaded inside. They insist that they will continue holding their space until their demands are met or they are forcibly removed.

Since its founding by industrialist and inventor Peter Cooper in 1859, Cooper Union has offered full scholarships to all its students, regardless of economic background. Though today’s administration, besieged by an unprecedented budget crisis, insists that it must “creatively alter” this legacy of free education, university organizers claim, in the words of the communique released by Students for a Free Cooper Union, that “an expansionist strategy and lack of accountability have put this college in a financial deficit,” and that “all tuition-based revenue-generating programs are a departure from Cooper Union’s historic mission, and will corrupt the college’s role as an ethical model for higher education.”

In 2009—when then-President George Campbell’s compensation package totaled $668,473, including a $175,000 cash bonus—Cooper Union took out a $175 million high-interest loan to finance the construction of a  new, $111 million academic center. Today that building serves, in the words of architecture senior Jake Lee, as “a nice photo on their website.” Two years later, the administration revealed a budget deficit of more than$16 million and embarked on a structural adjustment campaign that, according to students, alumni and faculty, has barely involved the Cooper Union community. In October 2011, information was leaked that the Board of Trustees was considering charging tuition to students, and shortly afterwards, plans were revealed to charge tuition for certain graduate programs.

As news of the building occupation spread Monday afternoon, Students for a Free Cooper Union received another document, leaked from an anonymous source, detailing the findings of a behind-closed-doors administrative committee at the Albert Nerken School of Engineering. The document confirms what activists had long suspected- that within 10 years, the administration, contrary to its claims, is ready to charge between $40,000 and $80,000 in tuition to undergraduates at the engineering school.

In addition to insisting on a tuition-free education, Students For A Free Cooper Union want the administration to abide by democratic decision-making structures and are calling for the resignation of President Jamshed Bharucha, whose Revenue Task Force has spearheaded Cooper Union’s plan for financial “reinvention.” By demanding that Cooper Union remain tuition-free, student activists are not seeking to save their own bank accounts; indeed, the administration has assured them that any tuition will only affect future students. The occupiers understand their action as part of a multi-national student movement against austerity, debt and the corporatization of education.

“Our conversation is one of legacy,” insisted Sobel, her voice nearly drowned out by waves of applause from the nearby Summit on Debt and Education. “In New York, there’s a very rich history of student occupation and student protest, whether it’s at the New School, NYU, CUNY, SUNY or here. We are also inspired by the student movements in Quebec, Mexico and Guatemala, and we are grounded in the momentum that’s come out of Occupy…we align ourselves absolutely with all of these struggles, and that’s why the community is behind us.”

“We want to tell people that now is the time to affirm that education is a right,” Sobel continued. “Recently, a lot of my peers and my generation feel like this is a battle that has been lost, because of the rapid development of the student loan bubble, tuition expansion programs and the globalization of education. But it really is not too late to take it back, to reclaim it, and to realize that we are the right people, at the right place, at the right time, to take this back.”

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