This week saw an amazing turn of events in the current reprise of the inter-factional protests that shook Thailand three years ago: riot police in Bangkok yielded to the protesters they were ordered to disperse, in apparent defiance of their commanders. The police removed barricades and their helmets as a sign of solidarity. Disobedience of orders for repression is an incredibly hopeful sign; if this sets an example for similar situations around the world, the horizons of possibility for nonviolent revolution are broadened almost dizzyingly. What complicates it is that while in 2010 it was the populist Red Shirts that were protesting the government and the patrician Yellow Shirts that were rallying around it, today the situation is reversed. The Yellow Shirts are seeking the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister (and perceived puppet) of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister who was ousted in a 2006 coup, and whose restoration to power the Red Shirts had been demanding last time around. (VOA, Dec. 13; Political Blind Spot, Dec. 6)
Riot police in Warsaw used rubber bullets on Nov. 11 to break up groups of masked far-right youths who threw fire-crackers and set fire to parked cars during a march marking Poland's Independence Day. It was the third year running that the annual thousands-strong nationalist march turned violent as extremists broke off to carry out attacks. As the throngs of marchers chanted "God, honor, fatherland!", the break-away militants this year singled out for attack two squatter buildings run by left-wing youth as community centers. A statement from the Syrena (Siren) and Przychodnia (Clinic) squatter collectives said: "They came well-prepared: hammers, bolt cutters and pipes in hand, they cut the lock on our gate, forced the doors, broke the windows, burned two cars and wounded our friends." The statement accused police of holding back and giving the attackers a free hand. The rioters also targeted Zbawiciela Square, Warsaw's bohemian district, where they set fire to an arch across the square, which residents had decorated in rainbow colors as a symbol of tolerance, diversity and esepcially gay rigts. The arch was a reduced to its charred skeleton.
Some 20,000 Romanians marched and formed a human chain around the parliament building in Bucharest Sept. 21 to protest plans by Canadian firm Gabriel Resources to establish Europe's biggest open-pit gold mine at Rosia Montana in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania. Bucharest has seen daily protests against the project for two weeks, organized by the campaign Salvati Rosia Montana, with thousands more taking to the streets in other Romanian cities. The protests began after the government proposed a law Aug. 27 to give extraordinary powers to Gabriel Resources' local partner, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation, allowing the company to relocate people whose homes are on the perimeter of the mine site, and guaranteeing all necessary permits within set deadlines, regardless of court rulings or public participation requirements. The operation would involve the destruction of three villages and four mountains. (EuroNews, Sept. 22; MondoNews.ro, Sept. 21; The Guardian, Mining.com, Sept. 17; BBC News, Sept. 9)
Over one and a half million Catalans on Sept. 11 celebrated their Diada Nacional—the national day marking the 1714 Siege of Barcelona—by forming a human chain stretching 400 kilometers across the territory, from Tarragona in the south to El Pertús on the border with France. The chain, dubbed the "Via Catalana," was the climax of days of demonstrations calling for independence from Spain, and was inspired by the 1989 Baltic Way chain across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that launched the drive for independence from the USSR.
Swedish police have repeatedly broken up a protest occupation by Sámi indigenous people against iron mining in a crucial reindeer herding area above the Arctic Circle. Two weeks ago, police had to dig protesters out of the ground after they buried themselves to the neck in order to shut down a road. Jokkmokk Iron Mines, subsidiary of UK-based Beowulf Mining, runs the Kallak (Gállok) site, on lands ostensibly coming under Sámi autonomous rule. Sametinget, the nascent Sámi general assembly, has issued a demand to halt all mining on Sámi lands without prior consultation. But the Swedish government does not recognize Sámi indigenous title. "The Sámi have no power to stop people coming here to exploit the land without giving anything back, not just to the local community, but also to the Swedish state," said Josefina Lundgren Skerk, chair of the Sametinget youth council.
Savvas Michael-Matsas, leader of a small radical-left party, went on trial in Greece Sept. 3, charged with "libellous defamation," "incitement to violence and civil discord" and "disturbing the public peace" in a case brought by members of the far-right Golden Dawn party. Michael-Matsas' Revolutionary Workers' Party (EEK) has a slogan of "The people don't forget, they hang fascists." Michael-Matsas himself had publicly boasted: "I'm the embodiment of every fascist's fantasy. I'm a Jew, a communist—and a heretical communist, a Trotskyist, at that. I don't fit anywhere. The only thing I happen not to be is homosexual." Co-defendant Konstantinos Moutzouris, a former rector of Athens Polytechnic, stands accused of allowing progressive news website Athens Indymedia to use the university's server.
Numerous media sources on July 29, e.g. CBS News, reported that the rebel monks occupying the sanctuary of Mount Athos in northern Greece attacked bailiffs who came to evict them, hurling rocks and petrol bombs. The mount's Esphigmenou Monastery, a World Heritage Site, has for years been held by ultra-orthodox monks who reject Eastern Orthodoxy's current Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (also rendered Vartholomeos) over his efforts to improve relations with the Vatican, Times of Malta informs us. The NFTU website, with a kicker of "True Orthodox and Ecumenical News" (the word "true" being a tip-off that they actually reject ecumenicalism), runs a statement from the rebel monks asserting that no bombs were thrown, but that security forces showed up with a bulldozer that "attacked the property and attempted to smash down the front door."
The on-again/off-again Parisian intifada has exploded again, this time over the arrest of a man whose wife was ticketed for wearing a face veil in the suburb of Trappes. Police say the man "tried to strangle" the officer doing the ticketing. The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) published a statement on its website from the wife of the arrested man, accusing the police of being abusive and using unnecessary force. The incident was on the night of the 18th, and Muslim youth have been clashing with the police in Trappes since then. (Islamophobia Watch, July 21; AP, July 20)