Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Protesting austerity measures is dangerous everywhere, even in Sudan

[I have long since ceased to post my Amnesty International letters.  That said, let me immediately contradict myself by posting this appeal for the freedom of another anti-austerity activist.]

Your Excellency,

Magdi Aqasha, leader and spokesperson of the Sharara and member of the Sudanese Conference Party, was arrested on June 24th, at the scene of a traffic accident, by Sudan's National Security Service. I am only writing to you to request that you exert your power to release Magdi Aqasha immediately and unconditionally. Please ensure Magdi Aqasha is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and ensure that, regularly, he has access to his family and a lawyer of his choice.

The harassment by Sudan's National Security Service of peaceful activists and journalists must stop. Sudan must honour its commitment to freedom of expression as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which you are a party.

Sincerely & Respectfully,


Monday, June 04, 2012

Bill 78

[I didn't write this, I'm just reposting it.  I agree with it wholeheartedly.]

This is a half-page flyer written about 'special law' and Bill 78, the anti-protest law 
passed by Quebec as part of a crackdown on the student movement. This was made to be 
distributed in Ontario at the 'casseroles,' or pots and pans demonstrations, inspired by 
and in solidarity with the struggle in Quebec.
Reading version available for download at Zine Library.
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep 
under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread. Anatole France 
"Violence was the law, and with the cannons in the hands of the whites,
 the law was white." Sunera Thobani 
The social struggle in Quebec, grown out of a student movement against 
tuition, has inspired many. But perhaps the central issue causing people to take the 
streets with pots and pans across the country is Bill 78, known as the 'special law.'
It criminalizes demonstrations not approved by police and imposes heavy fines for 
political activity on school campuses. It has been accompanied by a crackdown that has 
seen more mass arrests than the FLQ Crisis of 1970, at last count over 2,500.
But the special law is not special. It is a predictable response to a special 
mobilization, a struggle that is unprecedented in its size, popular support and ferocity 
in recent Quebec history. In Ontario, we got a taste of 'special law' in 2010 at the G20 
Summit, where government and police collaborated to create a 'no-go zone' around the 
security fence protecting G20 leaders. Rights were thrown out the window as downtown 
Toronto was transformed into a police state. Middle class white people were especially 
outraged, and will have their day in court now that the threat has temporarily subsided. 
But for people already criminalized under this system, this only represents an 
intensification of an everyday experience of targeted harassment. We see this same process 
happening in long-term ways on a federal level, with sweeping crime bills and specific 
laws aimed at pre-empting dissent, such as the anti-mask law with penalties of up to 10 
years in prison.
[Here I would have written also that whether or not such a law is in place,
the police use force to disperse gatherings that challenge the status quo, in any case.] 
This is about the interests of government and capital, not the evil conspiracies of 
Charest or Harper.
[I would have written "... and the evil conspiracies..."]
If we exceptionalize Bill 78, we ignore the fact that the law is a set of tools and 
weapons governments use to entrench the interests of the powerful, control and regulate 
the general population, and wage war against the ungovernables. The Canadian state is 
founded on the genocidal conquest of indigenous nations and land, and concessions such as 
the Charter are desperate attempts to create legitimacy where there is only a ruthless 
violence underpinning 'Canada'. So we shouldn't be shocked when we see these same rights 
instantly evaporate in a 'crisis'. And in these times of social upheaval and economic 
austerity, we are approaching perpetual crisis.
Focusing on a particular law or appealing to rights risks going on the defensive and 
getting drawn into a conversation with our enemies. It paints the movement as powerless 
victims. We should be inspired to action not just by images of police brutality, but also 
by images of masked rebels chasing riot police. Now is the time to build our grassroots 
power, prepare for repression, support those targeted by the state, but most importantly 
to go on the offensive.