tear gas

A protester is arrested while walking down the street on West Florissant Avenue in Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday. On Aug. 9, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year old, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It has been a difficult month for the victims of state violence, as well as their families, friends, and those in solidarity. The month-long Israeli assault on Gaza involved a litany of war crimes, including the killing of trapped civilians, multiple bombings of hospitals, and the destruction of Gaza’s only power plant — all with critical U.S. support. And after the U.S. population reeled in shock from the NYPD murder of unarmed black man Eric Garner in broad daylight, Ferguson, Mo., was the site of another police murder — this time of unarmed, black 18-year-old Michael Brown, who, according to an eyewitness, was surrendering as he was shot six times. When people took to the streets of Ferguson in outrage, militarized police forces responded with armored vehicles, riot gear and riot weaponry, including rubber bullets and tear gas, which they used against not only the protesters but also reporters. Such instances of disproportionate force are unfortunately common, but there is at least one consistent pattern: When people resist subjugation, the state responds with violence.

Take Israel: It is a capitalist settler-state whose economy, in author Naomi Klein’s words, has “lost its economic incentive for peace and is heavily invested in fighting and profiting from an endless and unwinnable War on Terror.” So, the Israeli state depends on the subjugation and removal of Palestinians in order to continue economic expansion — this means the rejection of peace is built into its current existence.

In June, the two major factions of official Palestinian leadership, Hamas and Fatah, formed a unity government in the Palestinian Authority — this presented a major geostrategic problem for Israel. As public intellectual Noam Chomsky explains, a 20-year-long Israeli strategy has been “separating Gaza from the West Bank” in order to prevent the West Bank — which is geographically trapped between Israel and Jordan — from using Gaza as “an outlet to the outside world.” This strategy arose due to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which “declared that the West Bank and Gaza are a single territorial entity whose integrity must be preserved.” The Hamas-Fatah unity threatened to unite the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as a single political entity — this could be a powerful force for peace, and so Israel responded with the opposite.

First, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a terrorist for working with Hamas, which is the democratically elected governing organization of Gaza (but considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel). Second, Israel stated that it would maneuver to prevent further Palestinian elections. And third, it cynically used the murder of three teenage Israeli settlers in the West Bank to unleash a new siege on Palestine — first came the arrests of hundreds of innocents in the West Bank and then the destruction of Gaza, which, in addition to the demolition of mosques, schools, hospitals, and vital infrastructure, has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians, disproportionately children and overwhelmingly civilians. As Amnesty International and other human rights groups have stated, this is collective punishment.

If Israeli capitalism relies on the total subjugation of Palestinians, then U.S. capitalism relies on something similar of black people and has done so since its beginnings under slave labor. The late historian Howard Zinn explains that the “United States government's support of slavery was based on an overpowering practicality,” which was that at their peak, Southern plantations were producing a million tons of cotton annually. And at this country’s founding, that capitalist practicality soundly rejected revolutionary spirit and led to the Constitution’s institutionalization of slavery. Thus, subjugated black labor was placed at the core of U.S. existence — the ending of one could end the other, and as Zinn explains, that meant fear of slave revolt was “a permanent fact of plantation life.” I will not get into the brutal horrors that were inflicted upon slaves in order to control them, particularly following revolts.

After the Civil War, racism continued not simply as a “legacy of slavery,” but because the capitalist economy still required obedient labor to function – as W. E. B. Du Bois put it, the “American Negro” had to be convinced that “his greatest enemy is not the employer who robs him, but his fellow white working-man.” Zinn explains that the American Federation of Labor and other dominant trade unions of the time only fought for limited workers’ rights and embraced the philosophy of “business unionism” – this involved mimicking hierarchical business practices, and thus “the Negro was excluded from most AFL unions.” Fundamentally, this practice perpetuated all the divisions of capitalist society — it was only the anti-capitalist unions, such as the Industrial Workers of the World, that sought to organize all workers, “undivided by sex, race, or skills.” In the midst of such radicalism, the worst sorts of violent coercion of black people were condoned or even actively carried out by the state. Lynchings, for example, typically involved publicly humiliating and murdering a black person, and regularly occurred without punishment in both the North and Jim Crow South – in fact, sociologist Arthur Raper estimates that 90 percent of lynchings were actively encouraged by police and that 50 percent had police participation.

When black students began sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in the 1960s, the norm of subjugation was again threatened. White racists heckled and violently beat them, but it was only the nonviolent students that were “hauled off to jail,” in “mass arrests that [filled] the jails to overflowing.” Malcolm X (and others in the Black Power movement) offered a solution to young black people, one that terrified the state: “You get freedom by letting your enemy know that you’ll do anything to get your freedom.” This is a total refusal to be subjugated, and it is the reason that the overwhelmingly white Ferguson police have gone to war against the majority black protesters. After the Missouri State Police took over from their Ferguson counterparts, there were naïve hopes that they would de-escalate the situation — these were quickly dashed, as they also began using tear gas and militarized crowd-control tactics.

However, the U.S. state apparatus and the people are on opposite sides of this issue. Across the country, vigils with hundreds of people have been held in solidarity with the protesters, including in Austin. Even more amazing has been the international solidarity between subjugated peoples — Palestinians have advised the Ferguson protesters on how to deal with tear gas, tweeted messages and images of solidarity, signed a statement in their support and a Ferguson protester even brought out a Palestinian flag. This empowerment is necessary, because the state will not back down, for the inherent reasons explained. As such, Israel has ended peace talks and launched missile strikes at the family home of a Hamas military commander, killing his wife and child, in retaliation for alleged (and unconfirmed) rockets launched into Israel from Gaza. In either case, Netanyahu has called for a “continued campaign” of strikes in Gaza, which already has a civilian-majority death toll. The St. Louis police have shot and killed yet another black man, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, and a cellphone video shows that the official police account of the incident contains falsehoods. The state’s violence will continue and so must the struggles against oppression — those of us in Austin must show solidarity for both Palestine and Ferguson.

Rathi is a computer science honors junior from Austin.

 

CONAKRY, Guinea — Residents of the town of Labe, 155 miles northeast of the capital, Conakry, say that riot police fired tear gas at hundreds who gathered to protest the firing of a teacher who allegedly criticized the Guinean government in class.

A student said Monday during the march that Mariama Tata Diallo was an exemplary teacher and shouldn’t be fired for being active in Guinea’s opposition. Another student, Binta Diallo, said that police fired tear gas at the students and some were hurt but that they would not give up until Diallo is reinstated.

Other witnesses said Monday that anti-riot police and a mobile security force remained on the streets of Labe.

MARIKANA, South Africa (AP) — Lonmin miners celebrated a wage deal Wednesday that ended a deadly and prolonged strike but labor unrest continued with police firing rubber bullets and tear gas at strikers at a different platinum mine.

Some warned that the deal struck by Lonmin to give its 28,000 workers up to 22 percent pay raises would incite other miners to similar action. Lonmin also employs 10,000 contract workers not covered by the agreement.

“It sets a dangerous precedent and illegal actions to enforce wage increases could occur at other mines in future,” said Gideon du Plessis, head of the mainly white Solidarity mining union.

The Lonmin agreement reached Tuesday night does not resolve the union rivalry that was at the heart of the violence, nor the class struggle that it exposed between a small, politically connected black elite and the majority of impoverished South Africans who feel the government has failed to keep its promise of a better life for all.

And the political and economic fallout likely will hurt the re-election campaign of South African President Jacob Zuma, whom miners blame for the police shootings of 112 striking miners, which killed 34 on Aug. 16. The total number of those who died during the strike rose to 46 Wednesday when a woman died in hospital after being shot on Saturday when police raided the Wonderkop settlement, according to mediator Bishop Joe Seoka.

At the Lonmin mine at Marikana, the world’s third largest platinum mine, thousands gathered and sang the national anthem in piercing heat, holding up umbrellas to block the sun. Workers cheered and laughed as they walked into the mine stadium. Many hurt by the no-work, no-pay stoppage said they would be happy to return to work Thursday.

Lonmin agreed to a gross pay of 11,078 rand ($1,385) for rock drill operators who had been demanding a monthly take-home wage of 12,500 rand ($1,560). They also agreed to give all miners a 2,000 rand ($250) bonus for returning to work. A statement from the company said that miners will receive between 11 and 22 percent wage increases.

“If everyone is happy with the money, I am also happy with them because I am here to work for my children,” said miner Stan Chayisa.

“I am so happy,” said Mvenyeza Luhlaziyao, 48, a painter at the mines. “I try to forget the past and continue to move forward ... We must continue to build the company and management must listen to us in the future. People didn’t care about us, that’s why we decided to go on strike.”

Zolisa Bodlani, one of the strike leaders, said the agreement is noteworthy. “If no people were killed, I’d say this was a great achievement,” he said. “We’ve never in the history of South Africa had such an increase of pay as 22 percent.”

Two wives of winch operators expressed their pleasure that the strike had ended. “The weeks without pay were terrible,” said Plaxedes Matemba, a 39-year-old mother of two.

“It will make life better for us,” she said of the pay raise. “We expect better changes again ... there will be no more provoking, no more noise, no more beatings,” she said.

Still, many expressed anger toward the government, questioning Zuma’s leadership as he prepares for a crucial governing party congress in December that will decide whether he gets another term as leader of Africa’s richest economy.

They “brought the police to shoot us, so I don’t believe the current president of South Africa should be the president again. There must be change,” said miner Michael Maleswa.

Another, Johannes Hlkela, said “I don’t believe he (Zuma) should be president again because of the way he has killed people like animals.”

Strikers had spoken against the huge economic inequality and the government’s failure to address massive unemployment and poverty. Most Lonmin miners live in tin shacks without water or electricity.

The strike has highlighted the country’s widening gap between the majority poor and a small black elite enriched, often corruptly, through shares in mines.

Government plans in the aftermath of the brutal apartheid regime to share the wealth of a country that provides 75 percent of the world’s platinum, a fourth of its chrome and is in the top 10 of gold producers have made a small handful of blacks billionaires, joining a small white elite that continues to control an economy dominated by mineral resources and agriculture.

The exuberant crowd at Lonmin was addressed by Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union that has poached thousands of members from the dominant, government-allied National Union of Mineworkers this year.

“From the 16th of August, you have known who are your proper leaders. Now you know who is the leader of the boardroom and who is the leader of the people,” he said. “The right leader is the one who comes forth to its people without security or bodyguards to talk to its members. The leader who is afraid to come forth to workers or miners, he is afraid because he knows what he has done.”

Many miners said they were angry at Zuma for not visiting the site of the police shootings when he belatedly came to address them.

The National Union of Mineworkers said the Lonmin deal will open the way for new demands from other miners.”

Spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said the NUM will try to set up a forum with other mining companies.

“Of course this is going to set a precedent,” he said. “We want the companies to come together into bargaining so that we can deal with this thing. The challenge is going to be whether the other companies will be able to do 22 percent.”

At Anglo American Platinum’s Amplats mine near Rustenburg, northwest of Johannesburg, some 400 to 500 strikers tried to march Wednesday. The workers at Amplats, the world’s biggest platinum mine, have said that they are better paid than Lonmin strikers and want even more than the Lonmin strikers’ demands for a monthly take-home salary of 12,500 rand ($1,560).

Police ordered the Amplats strikers to lay down their homemade weapons - machetes, spears and clubs. “Police asked them to disperse and when they wouldn’t, police used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd,” said police spokesman Dennis Adriao. “We’ve said from the start that we would not tolerate illegal gatherings.”

He said 19 people were arrested.

Zuma gave police the go-ahead for a crackdown on the strikers, further angering miners.

Anglo American Platinum spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole said all five mines in Rustenburg had reopened Tuesday. But she refused to say how many miners have returned to work. Anglo released a statement late Wednesday that said legal avenues may be pursued for workers who do not return by Thursday’s night shift.

South Africa Press Association reported that the head of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, left the group’s conference Wednesday to deal with a strike at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine in Carletonville. It said that 15,000 workers have been on an illegal strike for 10 days.

Vavi said the mineworkers were also demanding a salary of 12,500 rand, according to SAPA. He said of Lonmin: “If those workers forced the hand of the company in that fashion through an unprotected strike, what stops Driefontein in doing the same,” according to SAPA, which also said that leaders from the National Union of Mineworkers went with Vavi to the mine.

Occupy Wall Street protesters run from tear gas deployed by police at 14th Street and Broadway in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — The display of police force in Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta has unnerved some anti-Wall Street protesters.

While demonstrators in other cities have built a working relationship with police and city leaders, they wondered on Wednesday how long the good spirit would last and whether they could be next.

Will they have to face riot gear-clad officers and tear gas that their counterparts in Oakland, Calif. faced on Tuesday? Or will they be handcuffed and hauled away in the middle of the night like protesters in Atlanta?

“Yes, we’re afraid. Is this the night they’re going to sneak in?” said activist William Buster of Occupy Wall Street, where the movement began last month to protest what they see as corporate greed.

“Is this the night they might use unreasonable force?” he asked.

The message, meanwhile, from officials in cities where other encampments have sprung up was simple: We’ll keep working with you. Just respect your neighbors and keep the camps clean and safe.

Business owners and residents have complained in recent weeks about assaults, drunken fights and sanitation problems. Officials are trying to balance their rights and uphold the law while honoring protesters’ free speech rights.

“I understand the frustration the protesters feel ... about inequity in our country as well as Wall Street greed,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said. “I support their right to free speech but we also have rules and laws.”

Some cities, such as Providence, R.I., are moving ahead with plans to evict activists. But from Tampa, Fla., to Boston, police and city leaders say they will continue to try to work with protesters to address problems in the camps.
In Oakland, officials initially supported the protests, with Mayor Jean Quan saying that sometimes “democracy
is messy.”

But tensions reached a boiling point after a sexual assault, a severe beating and a fire were reported and paramedics were denied access to the camp, according to city officials. They also cited concerns about rats, fire hazards and public urination.

Demonstrators disputed the city’s claims, saying that volunteers collect garbage and recycling every six hours, that water is boiled before being used to wash dishes and that rats have long infested the park.

When riot gear-clad police moved in early Tuesday, they were pelted with rocks, bottles and utensils from people in the camp’s kitchen area. They emptied the camp near city hall of people, and barricaded the plaza.

Protesters were taken away in plastic handcuffs, most of them arrested on suspicion of illegal lodging.

Demonstrators returned later in the day to march and retake the plaza. They were met by police officers in riot gear. Several small skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas.

The scene repeated itself several times just a few blocks away in front of the plaza.

Tensions would build as protesters edged ever closer to the police line and reach a breaking point with a demonstrator hurling a bottle or rock, prompting police to respond with another round of gas.

The chemical haze hung in the air for hours, new blasts clouding the air before the previous fog could dissipate.

The number of protesters diminished with each round of tear gas. Police estimated that there were roughly 1,000 demonstrators at the first clash following the march. About 100 were arrested.

Among the demonstrators injured was Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

Dottie Guy, of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, a veterans advocacy group, said Olsen was hit by a projectile while marching toward city hall and suffered a fractured skull. A hospital spokesman said Olsen was in critical condition.

It was not clear who threw the projectile.

Demonstrators planned to try again on Wednesday night to march, and could clash again with police.

In Atlanta, police in riot gear and SWAT teams arrested 53 people in Woodruff Park, many of whom had camped out there for weeks as part of a widespread movement that is protesting the wealth disparity between the rich and
everyone else.

Mayor Kasim Reed had been supportive of the protests, twice issuing an executive order allowing them to remain.

Reed said on Wednesday that he had no choice to arrest them because he believed things were headed in a direction that was no longer peaceful. He cited a man seen walking the park with an AK-47 assault rifle.

“There were some who wanted to continue along the peaceful lines, and some who thought that their path should be more radical,” Reed said. “As mayor, I couldn’t wait for them to finish that debate.”

Reed said authorities could not determine whether the rifle was loaded, and were unable to get additional information.
An Associated Press reporter talked to the man with the gun
earlier Tuesday.

He wouldn’t give his name — identifying himself only as “Porch,” an out-of-work accountant who doesn’t agree with the protesters’ views — but said that he was there, armed, because he wanted to protect the rights of people to protest.
People who were arrested trickled out of jail as a crowd of several dozen supporters chanted “freedom” as they left.

Riot policemen assist a colleague whose clothing caught fire after being hit by a petrol bomb during rioting in central Athens.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece— Clouds of tear gas choked central Athens as rival demonstrators fought with stones and firebombs outside parliament Thursday, leaving one man dead and dozens injured. Inside, the Socialist government grappled with dissent over the deeply unpopular new cutbacks demanded by creditors to keep the country afloat.

Greece has been kept solvent only by international bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone nations since May of last year. Creditors have demanded that Greece pass the extra austerity measures before they give the country more funds from that $152 billion bailout loan. Greece says it will run out of money in mid-November without the next $11 billion installment.

On the second day of a general strike that has paralyzed the country, demonstrators marched to Syntagma Square before parliament to protest the new measures that include pay and staff cuts in the civil service as well as pension cuts and tax hikes for all Greeks. The draft law calls for 30,000 public servants to be put on reduced pay and for collective bargaining rights to be suspended.

State hospital officials said a 53-year-old man died of heart failure and at least 74 people were injured after hundreds of rioting youths attacked some of the 50,000 peaceful demonstrators with firebombs and stones. Some of the injured were covered in blood from head wounds.

Police said at least six people were arrested and another 24 detained. Six officers were injured.

Youths set mounds of trash on fire in Syntagma Square and across the city. Young men in crash helmets and gas masks used crowbars and clubs to smash marble from building facades and rip up paving stones to throw at riot police.

Parliament approved the new round of austerity cuts in principle late Wednesday and was to vote on individual articles late Thursday. The Socialists have a four-seat majority in parliament.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos issued an impassioned appeal to Socialist and opposition lawmakers alike, warning that not approving the measures would be disastrous.

“The country will be exposed to the danger of a non-rational development, and will once again serve as the scapegoat on which Europe’s historic, political and institutional shortcomings will be dumped,” he said Thursday.

But Greece’s international creditors, meanwhile, warned that the second rescue package may not be enough to save the country from bankruptcy, according to a draft of a debt inspectors’ report obtained by The Associated Press.

Printed on Friday 21, 2011 as: Riots erupt after Greek austerity law

Police uses a water cannon against a demonstrator during what has been a 37-week-long student demonstration in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean police used water cannons and tear gas to break up a student march for free public education on Thursday, hours after protesters’ talks with the government collapsed.

A huge deployment of riot police surrounded students in the Plaza Italia, Santiago’s traditional gathering place, where student leader Camila Vallejo tried to lead the march while holding a sign saying “United and Stronger,” only to be pummeled by water cannons and forced to retreat by tear gas.

Protesters hurled rocks at police and set blockades ablaze in the streets as officers on horseback chased students onto nearby campuses. Vallejo said officers shot tear gas into their student government offices in “a direct attack against our organization.”

Students occupied the Alameda, one of Santiago’s main avenues, by dancing in large numbers, but were blasted with water from police. Small groups managed to elude officers and approach the presidential palace before being beaten back by police.

The regional governor, Cecilia Perez, said 132 people were arrested and 25 officers and five civilians were injured. At least a half-dozen journalists were arrested. She called this “lamentable” and said their arrests would be investigated.

Thursday’s march was the 37th weekly protest since the movement against Chile’s largely privatized education system in began in April, demanding higher taxes on the wealthy so that quality public education can be free for all.

With both sides accusing the other of intransigence, Chile’s government has focused on criminalizing the protests, proposing tough new penalities including up to three years in prison for occupying schools and other public places.

Reporters Without Borders, among other journalism groups, condemned the proposal as an attack on freedom of expression.

Polls show 89 percent of Chileans support the students’ call for reform, and only 22 percent support President Sebastian Pinera’s performance. The president finally agreed to let the students sit down with his education minister, Felipe Bulnes, to discuss their core complaint: that private institutions benefit from public funding while public institutions are starved for resources.

But Pinera, who has said that “nothing in life is free,” ceded no ground, and the talks quickly broke down Wednesday night.