Ron MacLean's Headlong is a gripping, timely novel about a middle-aged, washed-up Boston newspaperman who returns to his childhood home from a wasted existence in LA to care for his father after a bad stroke. Nick, the protagonist, was once an idealistic muck-raker, but a failed business and a failed marriage have left him adrift and purposeless.
But his return to Boston coincides with a citywide uprising centered around a janitor's strike. Young anarchists, anti-poverty church activists, and a mass of disaffected and unhappy people take to the streets, and a long, hot summer of street-fighting, vandalism, dirty tricks and pitched battles kicks off. As Nick's father lingers in his unpaid-for hospital bed, Nick finds himself drawn back into the fray, as a journalist, a mentor to a young activist, and as an old friend to some of the key players.
Headlong is a claustrophobic, noirish novel about the news business, labor politics, protest, and murder, and it's beautifully told and smartly concluded. It has the grace to be empathetic with all sides of a hard fight where no one has perfectly clean hands, and ultimately presents a tale of redemption and hope arising from even the most impossible circumstances.
James sez, "Chinese artist Li Chen embedded with the Bay Area Occupy movement and created this beautiful film that's also about the frailty of memory and language. 'I was there because I had never witnessed a protest before in my life,' she says in her artist's statement. "As a Chinese citizen, I spent many sleepless nights with hundreds of American protesters." The film is one of eight entries in Love of Sun, an online exhibit curated by Rachel Kennedy depicting California artists' visions of China --
and Chinese artists' visions of California."
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Hugh sez, "EFF'r Parker Higgins tells me this sign was at a rally he spoke at in Berlin recently."
Grumpy Cat builds a GNU Internet [Frerk Meyer/CC BY-SA]
Organizers of the United Students Against Sweatshops in DC had wondered about "Missy," an activist who always seemed to be on the scene, though no one seemed to know anything more about her. One thing they did know, however, was that Missy's appearances were correlated with DC cops showing up at the stores where they were planning (lawful, peaceful) protest actions, preventing them from taking place.
A couple of lucky coincidences and some online sleuthing revealed that Missy was an undercover DC police officer named Nicole Rizzi, who had inflitrated a law-abiding, peaceful group whose purpose was to pressure clothing retailers to buy from suppliers in Bangladesh that met minimum standards on pay and working conditions. The group has filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, and they've asked the judge for an injunction prohibiting the police from further infiltration and spying of their group.
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Yesterday was George Orwell's birthday, and to celebrate, people in Utrecht perched little party hats atop CCTV cameras in public places.
By making these inconspicuous cameras that we ignore in our daily lives catch the eye again we also create awareness of how many cameras really watch us nowadays, and that the surveillance state described by Orwell is getting closer and closer to reality.
No one tried this in London, because there are not enough party hats in the universe.
George Orwell’s Birthday Party
(via Making Light)
(A protester in Sao Paulo kisses a Turkish flag. Brazilians say they were, to a large extent, influenced by #occupygezi)
Yup, they're still in the streets in Turkey. And Brazil. And it's not just because Turkish cops buy their tear-gas from Brazil. Yesterday's Brazilian protests widened the causes under discussion, expanding to cover new laws that will make it harder to punish corrupt public officials. Photos from the excellent OccupyGeziPics Tumblr.
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Two members of Pussy Riot have travelled to London under a cloak of secrecy to speak to the press about the plight of their bandmates in Russian labor camps. Laurie Penny was one of the reporters who got to interview them in a small, no-photos press conference:
These girls are young. Very young. For their safety, I can’t say how young, but imagine how young you think they might be. Are you imagining it? They’re about five years younger than that. When they arrived I wondered, for a second, who let a couple of moody work experience kids into a clandestine meeting...
And then there’s the cultural backlash - including sexist attacks on what Pussy Riot stand for. "The simplest example is the idea that there’s a [male] producer behind us, or that we must be being paid by foreign governments - nobody can imagine that women themselves are expressing their opinions!" says Schumacher.
"In the Russian mass media they're saying we're stupid girls, not able to think. Among the orthodox believers, in the media, they tell us to stay at home, do cooking, give birth to children," says Schumacher. "And Masha and Nadya are attacked for not fulfilling their roles as mothers." This last is particularly cruel, because not only is it the Russian state that placed Masha and Nadya in Labour camps far from their children, but both have been denied the usual clemency that allows mothers of young children to receive suspended sentences.
Pussy Riot: "People fear us because we're feminists"
Above, footage of a protester's quadcopter in Gezi Park getting shot down by the Turkish Police. Below, the footage of police violence the drone had been capturing (complete with music that sounds like it came out of an orc-fighting scene in the Hobbit). Ahead of us: a long, weird future history of protest.
Tuesday afternoon on June 11th 2013, Police was violently attacking peaceful protestors. Police fired guns at one of our RC drone during the protests in Taksim square, Istanbul. Police aimed directly at the camera. Due to the impact on the camera (it did have a housing) the last video was not saved properly on the SD card. The camera and drone were both broken. Managed to keep the SD card. Here is the footage from that camera! This footage you are about to see is from the prior flights minutes before the incident.
Turkish drone shooting heralds a new age of civillian counter-surveillance
The street protests in Brazil have gained momentum, with huge crowds in the streets. At issue is a kind of corporatist corruption symbolized by two upcoming football tournaments that are to be held at enormous public expense, even as poor Brazilians find themselves struggling with substandard infrastructure and price-hikes for public services. As in other BRIC nations, Brazil seems like a place where the economic future is here, it's just not evenly distributed -- not by a long shot.
The Brazilian president has praised the protesters for demanding justice but the state's spies have ramped up their social media surveillance, and the Brazilian police have met the protesters with extreme use of force, including gas, rubber bullets, and shotgun-toting cops on horseback and motorcycles:
Simultaneous demonstrations were reported in at least 80 cities, with a total turnout that may have been close to 2 million. An estimated 110,000 marched in São Paulo, 80,000 in Manaus, 50,000 in Recife, and 20,000 in Belo Horizonte and Salvador.
Clashes were reported in the Amazon jungle city of Belem, in Porto Alegre in the south, in Campinas north of São Paulo and in the north-eastern city of Salvador.
Thirty-five people were injured in the capital Brasilia, where 30,000 people took to the streets. In São Paulo, one man died when a frustrated car driver rammed into the crowd. Elsewhere countless people, including many journalists, were hit by rubber bullets.
The vast majority of those involved were peaceful. Many wore Guy Fawkes masks, emulating the global Occupy campaign. Others donned red noses – a symbol of a common complaint that people are fed up being treated as clowns.
Brazil protests: riot police scatter crowds in Rio [Jonathan Watts/The Guardian]
From the Occupy Gezi Pics tumblr: "A young girl in a Burger King restaurant on Sunday, after she managed to escape the tear gas outside.
The caption reads: 'Spring will come again. I promise you.'"
A young girl in a Burger King restaurant on Sunday
Molly sez, "I wrote this short essay over at iO9 on what the future of civil disobedience could look like. Though in the past civil disobedience was enacted in the streets, with people placing their bodies in harm's way for their cause, now online activists can engage in digitally-based acts of civil disobedience from their keyboards. I lay out three major lines along which digitally-based civil disobedience is developing: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure. The future of civil disobedience online lies in affinity groups combining these three styles of activism, and using a diversity of tactics to support a common cause."
Infrastructure-based activism involves the creation of alternate systems to replace those that have been compromised by state or corporate information-gathering schemes. In other words, if the government is snooping on the internet, activists build a tool to make it harder for them to see everything. Tor, Diaspora, and indenti.ca are some examples of these projects, as are the guerrilla VPNs and network connections that often spring up to serve embattled areas, provided by activists in other countries.
Similar to living off the grid, these projects provide people with options beyond the default. Open source or FLOSS software and Creative Commons use a similar tactic: when the system stops working, create a new system. The challenge is to bring these new systems into widespread use without allowing them to be compromised, either politically or technically. However, these new systems often have to fight network effects as they struggle to attract users away from dominant systems. Diaspora faced this issue with Facebook. Without being able to disrupt dominant systems, user migration is often slow and piecemeal, lacking the impact activists hope for.
The Future of Civil Disobedience Online
(GENTE, olha esse reflexo na fachada de um prédio na manifestação do Rio, no centro da cidade! #ProtestoRJ/@brunoernica)
Brazil is up in arms. Hundreds of thousands are in the streets. The capital building in Brazilia was surrounded, then stormed. Here's some pictures of last night's goings-on, and above, a video explaining some of the reasons for the uprising.
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Between Syria, Turkey and the G8, it's hard to keep track of popular resistance to oligarchy and corruption, but please don't forget São Paulo, where the police are treating public anti-corruption demonstrations with all the bedwetting cowardice of a tinpot dictatorship. Here's
Feridos no protesto em São Paulo, a multilingual tumblr devoted to covering the protests, and above, an excellent video from Change Brazil explaining what's at stake.
Barricades at Nisantasi, at 4:50AM Sunday
Poiu is in Turkey; he writes: " Since yesterday evening, everything has worsened. Unfortunately it is not really covered by local media, the consequence of that being that it gets a lot less international attention than it should. People are gassed here non stop, in all central Istanbul areas. Tens of thousands of people are out in the streets.
The only two channels who cover the street events are ULUSAL KANAL CANLI YAYINI and artı bir tv. You should check them out just to get an idea of the scale and the drama."
Meanwhile, there's a lot of astounding stuff in the Occupy Gezi Pics Tumblr.
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From Sao Paulo, where the the cops are violently attacking protesters, a video of a cop smashing his own police-car window, presumably to blame it on the protesters later.
Policial Quebra Vidro da Própria Viatura - São Paulo 13/6/2013
And here's a glimpse of the Sao Paulo police's advanced media strategy.
Diego sez, "Protestors - mainly students - are taking the streets of Sao Paulo. The problem: the government just raised the bus fare from R$3 to R$3,20. The protests are getting a really violent reception from the police. You can see a video of the police action. The problem isn't the 20 cents. I think the real problem is that we are having so many issues of inflation, very high taxes, corruption - 2014 World Cup stadiums being built with public money, costing about $1 billion each pop - so future looks really bleak here. Everything seems to be boiling after this 20 cents. If you ask me, Brazilians are getting tired of being treated as clowns. Tonight (6/13), there's going to be a new protest. People won't stop until they get what they want.
Hopefully, with some international attention, Sao Paulo's police may stop hitting students with their batons and tear gas."
Zeynep Tufekci, a Turkish-American Princeton/UNC sociologist who studies social movements and the Internet is presently in Istanbul's Gezi Park at the protests. She follows up on her earlier piece on the "social media style of protest" with a long and thoughtful look at what the protesters on the ground in Gezi Park are doing and why they're doing it:
After talking to the park protesters for days here is a very quick compilation of the main complaints and reasons people say brought them to the park:
1- Protesters say that they are worried about Erdogan’s growing authoritarian style of governance. “He thinks we don’t count.” “He never listens to anyone else.” “Why are they trying to pass laws about how I live? What’s it to him?”
Erdogan’s AKP party won the last election (its third) and is admittedly popular with many sectors of society, including some who are now in the Park have voted for him. It has accomplished many good things for the country through a program of reform and development. Any comparisons with Mubarak and pre-Tahrir 2011 Egypt are misplaced and ignorant. The country is polarized; it is not ruled by an unelected autocrat.
However, due to the electoral system which punishes small parties (with a 10% barrier for entrance to the parliament) and a spectacularly incompetent opposition, AKP has almost two-thirds of the deputies in the parliament with about 50% of the vote. Due to this set up, they can pass almost any law they want. People said to me “he rules like he has 90%.”
So, that seems to be the heart of the issue. People have a variety of grievances, but concentrate mostly about overreach and “majoritarian authoritarianism.” For example, Erdogan recently announced that they would be building a third bridge over the Bosphorus strait. Many people felt that the plan was not discussed at all with the public and concerns about environmental impact ignored. Then, he announced that they had decided the bridge would be named “Yavuz Sultan Selim”–an Ottoman king (“padisah”) famous for a massacre of Alevi (Turkey’s alawites) populations. Unsurprisingly, Alevis who compromise a significant portion of the Turkish population were gravely offended. In the predominantly “GAzi” (not Gezi) neighborhood, people have been marching every night since the Taksim protests began. Last night, they blocked the main TEM highway for a while before voluntarily dispersing.
Read on for an excellent on-the-ground view of the mood of the protesters, some important observations on censorship, and a sickening look at the police violence directed against the protesters.
What do #occupygezi Protesters Want? My Observations from Gezi Park