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Stories | Occupied Stories - Part 2

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A Native at the ‘Lone Ranger’ Premiere, Part I: Jerry Bruckheimer and the Mosh Pit

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Indian Country Today.

From the story’s original editors: Late last week we received an unexpected call from our New York-based correspondent Simon Moya-Smith: He had obtained press credentials for the copy,000-a-ticket gala premiere of The Lone Ranger at Disneyland in Anaheim, outside of Los Angeles. He attended and was one of a few Native journalists on the scene for an event tied to a film that has sparked nearly endless debate in Indian country. We didn’t know what to expect — would he speak to Johnny Depp, who plays Tonto in the film and who has proven unresponsive to ICTMN’s invitations? Would he get to see the movie? Would anybody even talk to him? “Give it a shot,” we said. “It’s going to be a crazy circus. Get what you can.”

Anaheim, CA–At about 4 p.m., some slippery lookin’ reporter with a double chin and gigantic sweat beads on his brow asked me which outlet I was working for.

Indian Country Today,” I blurted.

“Hoping to interview Johnny Depp then?” he buzzed.

“No, man,” I said. “I’m here for the Ceremony. There’s going to be a fire later, and tobacco and spirits and all kinds of goodies. So keep the camera ready. They’re bringing in the wood now.”

My conversation with the portly camera handler was quick and ugly. Good, I thought. Talking to him was a waste of my time; I needed to watch this whole scene take shape. We, the journos, were huddled together like cattle ready for the slaughter. And any musician-turned-reporter will tell you that there’s very little difference between a press pit and mosh pit: throw your elbows. Avoid the wiggy drunkard in the middle. Gain the upper hand by staying low beneath the frenzy. Occasionally you may suffer a knee to the mouth, but it’s all in the name of The Story.

On my way out of the red carpet area, I caught a sudden glimpse of the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer. He was straggling far behind the herd of ticket holders; the B-list celebrities and even the stars of the film had long made their way to end of the path, which, it occurred to me, was the exact shade of blood. Jerry B. was talking to a gesticulating show host who seemed too jittery in her posture not to be doped up on caffeine or coke or Red Bull. A moment later, I swooped in like a vulture hoping to steal some last scraps of meat (or at least nibble on the bone) of what looked like a rich interview. The Disney gods favored me that day, because as soon as I walked to the metal partition separating Bruckheimer from myself, the interview between Jerry and the frazzled reporter was over.

“Sweet Jesus, Jerry, do you have a second?” I shouted. “Indian Country Today. Can I ask you a few questions?”

My curious cry caught him off guard (as you want to do as a reporter in high-octane, red carpet situations like this — if you don’t grab their attention, they’ll keep on truckin’ and you’ll miss some seriously good comments or wisdom).

Bruckheimer obliged, and then I went in with the business that mattered to me. I asked the question that has been gnawing at so many of us from day one:Why?

“Why should Native Americans support this film? Why should they watch it?” I asked.

“It’s a retelling of a tale from a whole different perspective,” he said. “… From a Native American telling of the tale.”

Then zip. He was gone.

-Simon Moya-Smith-

 

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‘Lone Ranger’ Premiere, Part III: Debauchery, Cleavage and Good Works

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Indian Country Today. This is the third and final installment of Simon Moya-Smith’s reports from the Lone Ranger premiere at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. (See his previous pieces here and here.) The movie, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, opens nationally on July 3. Photos by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

Anaheim, California–“Ah, god! Jesus!” I shouted. “Here they come!” Several reporters behind me clawed at my back to see what the Hell this savage reporter was staring at. Suddenly, a gaggle of white kids, clad in faux Native garb and face paint, sauntered down the red carpet; Mom dancing jubilantly in front of them, snapping photographs and goading reporters with mics to interview her brood.

They had Ritalin grins and privilege in their eyes … but also ignorance – yes, I knew it had to happen. Someone had to do it. Costumed-bodies crowded the red carpet, and wherever there’s face paint and fringe, there will be a white Indian. You can bet your ass, slick. #Halloween.

But I don’t want to get into that now. First thing’s first: the cleavage.

Stilts guy at the Lone Ranger premiere. Photo by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

The Lone Ranger has caused a serious division in Indian Country, but we’re no stranger to that, are we? Divide & Conquer. We know the phrase – all too well. Nobody on this goddamn continent knows the detriments of the D&C quite like the indigenous peoples of this place, our place. “Remove the head and you kill the body.” That might’ve worked in 16thCentury Europe, but not here. No. You remove the head we honor it and then sprout another. We’re relentless like that. We’re the rock in the American shoe. Rumor has it that, at least once a week, President Andrew Jackson would wake up and find several stones in his boots. Jagged Toe Jack, they called him, and so do I.

I digress. … We were about to discuss the bathroom scene before we went on some odd rant about the DCs and heads and Jagged Toe Jack, the bastard.

After the wildly luxuriant premiere, we ended up at the Piano Bar in Hollywood. I was completely stoned. “When in Rome,” they say. And I certainly was in the back alleys of Rome that day. The premiere was over – for good or vicious ill, and I found myself reflecting on the afternoon, listening to my tape recorded interviews with Jerry Bruckheimer, Armie Hammer, LaDonna Harris, Saginaw Grant and others, when this large black man lunged into the urinal beside me.

“What are you listening to?” he asked.

“I’m not sure yet,” I said. “Some hits. Some flops.”

He stumbled a bit, nodded, urinated and then left without washing his hands, massaging the doorknob on his way out.

Alone again, standing in the narrow bathroom of some seedy dive just off the Sunset Strip, I wondered how I’d conclude this journey, this sojourn of wisdom and anger and edification and booze. Would I endorse the film? How could I? I haven’t even seen the end product, and I never endorse things without trying them on. Right.

The author wondering what, exactly, he has just witnessed. Photo by Jonathan Wheelhouse.

Later, I found myself leaning over the bar and writing frantically on several available napkins. I scribbled things like, “Disney is a corporation. Not an advocacy group” and “the [American Indian College Fund] earned hundreds of thousands of dollars today” – which is true. According to Public Education Director Dina Howerdel, the College Fund raised an estimated $266,000 as result of the premiere. That’s what we call a headline in this business, folks – especially in Indian Country.

So it was a pleasant surprise to find this rumpled napkin in my jacket pocket the next morning. “Fine news,” I recall saying as I burrowed my toes deep into the sand of Venice Beach. I had a plane to catch, back to New York, and as I dug deeper into my jacket pockets searching for more evidence of debauchery, I found a ripped parchment with several letters etched into it. The words read, “Keep it pure.” … So I will, and do exactly as my elder in Denver instructed:

“Watch the fucking film and then get back to me. Until then, you’re no expert on it.”

Sweet Jesus, I thought. That’s a solid argument. He should’ve been a lawyer. Cheers.

-Simon Moya-Smith-

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Open Communiqué by Migs (Mark Neiweem)

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at NATO5 Support.

Comrade Migs, NATO 5 prisoner

Greetings of solidarity, comrades and friends.

I sincerely hope this communiqué finds all of you in the very best of health and highest of revolutionary spirits.

I am coming to all of you with all the love and admiration in my heart to thank you for the love, compassion, and solidarity you’ve given me since I was captured, along with 4 other comrades and brothers in struggle, in May 2012.

As most of you know by now, I eventually took a non-cooperating plea after deciding trial was not the best option for me. Though some of you may be disappointed I didn’t “prove my innocence” at trial like so many expected me to do, others were relieved to finally have some closure and an end in sight. I feel I should say why I chose what I did, for this is the first time I’ve been able to speak about this case without formal state persecution.

There is no justice or truth in the United Snakes of Amerikkka’s Justice System. It’s a lie. Propaganda. Laws and courts are about politics, power, and privilege, though of course the Authorities pretend otherwise. I am in political opposition to the state and clearly would never receive a fair trial even if such a thing existed in the system. I am an Anarchist and directly oppose The United States Government, its allies, institutions, armies, and courts. I perceive their very existence to be a direct and immediate threat to freedom and life.

We were targeted and arrested because of our beliefs and love of life and humanity. Though I had the best lawyers who did so much and in so many ways were just really huge emotional supports through this as well (Steve and Matt, I love you), I did not want to go to trial. They argued and fought for me to have the opportunity to be released before my trial would have even started.

I had total faith in both Steve and Matt and the NLG as a whole. However, for me trial would accomplish nothing. If I were to be found not guilty, then what? I still endured all of this time in jail, losing a year of my life already and many, many other things. All of those losses were well worth it to me to stand for Anarchism in the face of Global Capitalism’s military arm. Even if I were “proven innocent,” the system would never clean house or call for the lynching of the pigs, state prosecutors, Feds, warmongers, politicians – the tyrants who orchestrate political and social persecutions, who build a neoslave trade of prisons and prison labor, who send our youth off to die and kill the poor overseas for money, etc. There would be no accountability as usual.

Their decision in court means nothing to me because I will not be deterred and because I do not acknowledge them as my masters or a legitimate Authority, period. I feel, plain and simple, that I have a job to do as an Anarchist and Activist and a revolutionary. And that is to rebel, resist, and defy (as my comrade Hybachi says) against tyrants. Though many political prisoners continue from behind bars to do beautiful work and projects, to organize within these institutions – because it is not over, prison isn’t the end by any means – the fact remains that we are more efficient and have access to more resources outside these walls.

I felt I had an obligation to all of you and myself to do what I needed to do, without compromising my values, to get back to fighting and pushing the best I can. That meant taking this 3-year plea so I can get out soon and get back to our collective struggle. I felt it was the best option I had and was the best for my comrades, friends, family, and myself, as well as our struggle.

Now I have to speak about what is most important to me by far. More than anything else, I want all of you to know that your support, and compassion and solidarity, throughout all of this was and is so incredible. I fail to articulate the extent of how it has truly touched me. You showed us so much solidarity I could never forget. The countless letters of support (the guards hated that) and encouragement and inspiration moved me in ways I struggle to articulate. Having all of my legal expenses paid for and the NLG standing with us. Having money raised for us to be able to buy food, hygiene supplies, stamps, etc from commissary regularly. I received regular visits from so many people.

All of these acts of solidarity continue to prove how beautiful our humanity and “the people” really are and display why we need not a State and a force to regulate and stunt our growth, to keep us from experiencing our full humanity. I was not allowed to be forgotten. I was loved and supported the entire journey, and even now in prison, I’m walking with you. Never alone.

So many of you I did not know before this, and I have made new connections with many groups and individuals. Many of these new, beautiful relationships, forged and birthed from state violence and repression, I will have for the rest of my life. I am so fortunate to be part of such a strong and amazing community and network of communities. Local and global, we’ve stood together.

The State uses prisons and jails to divide and alienate us, to break unity and solidarity, to divide and conquer – attack us individually, break our “individual will,” and scare us collectively. As long as you do not let go of our hands and we do not let go of your hands extended in solidarity to us through the rows of razor wire, this entire tool and tactic of imprisonment as well as their intended outcomes will fail!

Solidarity is the strongest weapon we have, and it works.

The State uses prisons to destroy our movements and crush resistance. They are tools to maintain social control and psychologically destroy the mind and will of the prisoner. The support given me has enabled me to convert all of the abuse and violence of my incarceration into more pushups in my revolutionary boot camp and not paralyzing bullets, like intended.

I, like many “political prisoners,” was targeted, beat, threatened, thrown in segregation, starved, refused medical treatment, and on and on for most of my stay to varying degrees. Now, some of the most violent, volatile, and sick individuals I’ve ever encountered (including anti-fascist struggles and maximum security inmate populations) are employed as guards at Cook County Jail. Because of your campaigns and actions, these violent fascists were ordered to no longer put their hands on me, and then refrained from doing so. They eventually turned to less aggressive (and nearly laughable in comparison) forms of harassment. Your pressure got me released early from “the hole” more than once, and in many ways my treatment and handling improved altogether.

I want all of you to know this because we learn from experience. We learn to resist more effectively. What I want to convey is: because I was given the aid I needed, I have been able to use this terrible State repression and miserable incarceration to become a much more confident, strong, and determined Anarchist and Activist. I could not have done that without you. I give you my full love and gratitude.

I would also like to extend a special thanks to the NATO 5 Defense Committee, the Anarchist Black Cross, the NLG (National Lawyers Guild), the Occupy movement, and all of the people who’ve penpalled me through it all. Thanks to those who worked so hard to raise awareness of our cases, raise money for our defenses, representation, and commissary, and share information on the tactics the State employed to entrap and railroad us, in order to prevent and counter future attacks on others by the same means.

I will never forget you as you never forgot me.

I hope to be back out, side by side with you soon enough, continuing to fight for total Liberation.

No prisoner left behind! Dot your I’s, cross your T’s, and Always circle your A’s!

Til my coffin drops and til the end of days, long live Anarchism!

In solidarity and struggle,

Comrade Migs
NATO 5

Government name: Mark Neiweem
Slave #: M36200
Pontiac Correctional Center
PO Box 99
Pontiac, IL 61764

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The Turkish Uprising: First-hand Experiences from an American Photographer

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared at Jenna Pope’s blog.

I recently returned to the US after spending about two weeks in Istanbul, Turkey, photographing the uprising and resistance of the citizens there. What began with about 20 activists occupying Gezi Park in an attempt to stop the demolition of the park in order to replace it with a shopping mall turned into a countrywide uprising against the oppressive, authoritarian government after police attacked the peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannons. Below you can find my first-hand experiences and photographs from my time on the ground:

After making a last-second decision to travel to Turkey in order to photograph and report on what is happening there, I arrived in Istanbul on the morning of June 5th, camera in-hand. I had been following what had happened in Istanbul up until I arrived there, and had seen the situation change significantly, so I was unsure of what to expect. The police had viciously attacked the protesters in Gezi Park and Taksim Square the first few days of resistance, but had since pulled out of the area, leaving the protesters to govern themselves.

After arriving at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul, I caught a cab and told the driver to drop me off as close to Taksim Square as possible, as I was aware the protesters had built make-shift barricades on the streets leading towards the square. He ended up dropping me off directly in front of one of the barricades, telling me I would have to walk the rest of the way. So, I grabbed my gear, and headed towards the square. Below is a photo of where the cab driver dropped me off:

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The first few days I spent in Istanbul, there were no police officers to be seen near Taksim Square. It was quite amazing to see how well people behaved themselves without law enforcement in the area. During this time, the mood in Gezi Park and Taksim Square felt extremely free and festive. People were playing instruments, lighting off fireworks, sending Chinese lanterns into the sky, waving flags, and singing songs. Below are several photos that were taken between June 5th and June 10th:

Thousands of protestors fill Taksim Square.

Thousands of protestors fill Taksim Square.

Drummers in Taksim Square.

Drummers in Taksim Square.

Protestors holding up a flare while standing on a destroyed car in Taksim Square.

Protestors holding up a flare while standing on a destroyed car in Taksim Square.

Protestors carry a large Turkish flag through Taksim Square.

Protestors carry a large Turkish flag through Taksim Square.

Sports fans, who played a large role in the protests in Istanbul, march through Taksim Square.

Sports fans, who played a large role in the protests in Istanbul, march through Taksim Square.

Tents set up in Gezi Park, where thousands of people camped out every night.

Tents set up in Gezi Park, where thousands of people camped out every night.

Protestors dancing around a destroyed police car at the entrance to Gezi Park.

Protestors dancing around a destroyed police car at the entrance to Gezi Park.

Flowers planted into a peace sign at the location in Gezi Park where the first few trees were cut down before the occupation and resistance in the park forced construction to end.

Flowers planted into a peace sign at the location in Gezi Park where the first few trees were cut down before the occupation and resistance in the park forced construction to end.

Fireworks going off above Gezi Park.

Fireworks going off above Gezi Park.

Protestors marching through Taksim Square.

Protestors marching through Taksim Square.

Thousands of people fill Taksim Square.

Thousands of people fill Taksim Square.

While Taksim Square was void of a police presence, protesters used that time to build make-shift barricades on the streets leading into the square in hopes of making it more difficult for police to enter the area when they came back. Some barricades were made with city buses, while others were made with police barricades and other materials that the protesters found:

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On June 8th, I traveled to Gazi Mahallesi, Istanbul, which was about a 30 minute cab ride from Taksim Square. People there had been taking to the streets for several nights (as well as in many other cities and neighborhoods around Turkey), and police were responding to the protesters with water cannons and tear gas. Local activists said it was unsafe for me to go by myself, so they ended up connecting me to an activist who had been on the ground in Gazi for the past few nights. He didn’t speak any English, and I don’t speak any Turkish, so communication was a bit difficult. But, he watched my back, and helped keep me safe the entire night.

It was almost midnight by the time I arrived in Gazi that night, and many of the thousands of people who had been in the streets earlier had already gone home. A few hundred remained, and continued to face down water cannon trucks, tear gas, and flash bangs that were being used in an attempt to disperse them:

Protestors stand at the bottom of a hill, as water cannon trucks sit at the top of the hill before approaching the protestors to disperse them.

Protestors stand at the bottom of a hill, as water cannon trucks sit at the top of the hill before approaching the protestors to disperse them.

Protestors hold up peace signs as the headlights from two water cannon trucks shine on them.

Protestors hold up peace signs as the headlights from two water cannon trucks shine on them.

A water cannon truck attempts to disperse protestors.

A water cannon truck attempts to disperse protestors.

Protestors sit down to rest for awhile.

Protestors sit down to rest for awhile.

A protestor walks down the middle of the street as two water cannon trucks approach from behind.

A protestor walks down the middle of the street as two water cannon trucks approach from behind.

Three days after my trip to Gazi, on the morning of June 11th, police broke through the barricades that protesters had made and entered Taksim Square. As I had been awake all night, I was about to go to bed when I got word of what was happening. I quickly packed up my gear and headed towards the square. On my way, I passed many people who were frantically fleeing the area, coughing as their eyes watered from tear gas that had been deployed as the police entered the area. Many people were yelling at me in Turkish, clearly telling me to go back, but they didn’t realize that I had traveled many miles just to photograph this.

As I entered the square, my eyes stung from lingering tear gas. The police were announcing over loudspeakers that they only planned to remove banners and tents from the square, but did not plan to enter Gezi Park. Not long after, a small group of people began throwing molotov cocktails and rocks at police vehicles from behind a set of barricades. I spoke to many Turkish activists who said they believed this was staged in order to “justify” the actions of the police that day. The protesters found it odd that the police responded with less use of force on this small group of people than they had used during earlier protests. The police ended up using tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets on thousands of protesters in both Taksim Square and Gezi Park during clashes that went all day and into the night, lasting for over 20 hours:

Hundreds of police officers, along with water cannon trucks, sitting in Taksim Square.

Hundreds of police officers, along with water cannon trucks, sitting in Taksim Square.

Police officers stand behind two water cannon trucks in Taksim Square.

Police officers stand behind two water cannon trucks in Taksim Square.

Protestors stand on the edge of Gezi Park, watching as hundreds of police officers entered Taksim Square with multiple water cannon trucks and other armored vehicles.

Protestors stand on the edge of Gezi Park, watching as hundreds of police officers entered Taksim Square with multiple water cannon trucks and other armored vehicles.

Protestors stand in front of a water cannon truck before cops began attacking protestors with tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets.

Protestors stand in front of a water cannon truck before cops began attacking protestors with tear gas, water cannons, and plastic bullets.

A protestor throws a tear gas canister back towards police.

A protestor throws a tear gas canister back towards police.

Tear gas filling Taksim Square.

Tear gas filling Taksim Square.

Protestors standing behind make-shift barricades as they are sprayed with a water cannon.

Protestors standing behind make-shift barricades as they are sprayed with a water cannon.

My view from inside the tear gas.

My view from inside the tear gas.

Several hours after the attack on Taksim Square began, I was hit with a water cannon and was completely engulfed in tear gas so thick that I was unable to see. After making my way into Gezi Park to receive help from the medics for the effects from the tear gas, I decided it was best for me to head back to the apartment I was staying at in order to change into dry clothes and get a few photos posted. On my way back, I was hassled by a group of police officers who were several blocks away from the clashes. They saw my cameras and stopped me, then started grabbing at my arm as if they were trying to detain me. After I told them several times that I was leaving the area, they finally allowed me to walk down the closest street that led away from Taksim Square.

Later that night, I went back out with a couple of friends and we tried to get back to Taksim Square. We soon realized that police officers were keeping others from getting near the square, and were pushing protesters further and further down the streets away from the area. We ended up joining thousands of others on Istiklal Street, several blocks from the square where the police were launching tear gas into the crowd.

A protestor throwing a tear gas canister back towards the police.

A protestor throwing a tear gas canister back towards the police.

Tear gas hanging in the air above protestors as they are pushed further from Taksim Square.

Tear gas hanging in the air above protestors as they are pushed further from Taksim Square.

Tear gas floating down the street towards protestors as they are pushed further from the square.

Tear gas floating down the street towards protestors as they are pushed further from the square.

Once the situation calmed down, police remained in Taksim Square, along with several water cannon trucks and other armored vehicles. The next few days were filled with tension as protesters expected an attack on Gezi Park at any point. Make-shift barricades were erected at the entrance to the park:

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In an attempt to ease the tension, Davide Martello, a pianist who was on an international tour at the time, decided to stop by Taksim Square. He set up his piano in the square two days in a row, and played for the large crowds that gathered, creating a calming effect on anybody who listened. Even the police officers seemed to become more calm while listening to his music. On his second night in the square, Davide played for 12 hours straight:

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The calm didn’t last long, though, and on the night of June 15th, police attacked Gezi Park. They used tear gas and water cannons to clear protesters out of the park, and then continued to push them further away from the area. I had been taking a nap when the police first entered the park, but soon woke up and headed directly to the park. As I walked along the street next to the park with two other photographers from the US, police inside the park began yelling at us. Although we were the only three people in the area, they then shot tear gas directly at us:

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As we walked towards Taksim Square, I saw the tents and other items that had been in the park being thrown into large trucks. Police guarded the entrances to the park, keeping protesters from re-entering it:

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We then headed towards a large group of protesters who had been pushed onto one of the streets leading away from Gezi Park, and were waiting for police to advance with a water cannon truck. The clashes continued late into the night, with police officers pushing protesters further and further away from the park:

Protestors standing in front of a water cannon truck just moments before it began spraying them.

Protestors standing in front of a water cannon truck just moments before it began spraying them.

Protestors being sprayed with a water cannon.

Protestors being sprayed with a water cannon.

Police advancing towards protestors while shooting tear gas into the crowd on the street.

Police advancing towards protestors while shooting tear gas into the crowd on the street.

Workers at a restaurant near Taksim Square wearing gas masks.

Workers at a restaurant near Taksim Square wearing gas masks.

Thousands of protestors standing behind make-shift barricades on Istiklal Street as tear gas lingers overhead.

Thousands of protestors standing behind make-shift barricades on Istiklal Street as tear gas lingers overhead.

Protestors shooting fireworks at the police as the police shoot tear gas and water cannons at protestors.

Protestors shooting fireworks at the police as the police shoot tear gas and water cannons at protestors.

A man lying on the ground, disabled from tear gas inhalation. I ended up helping him get to his feet and get out of the tear gas, and a videographer also came over to help. Once we got him to safety, the injured protestors offered us both cigarettes as thanks for helping him.

A man lying on the ground, disabled from tear gas inhalation. I ended up helping him get to his feet and get out of the tear gas, and a videographer also came over to help. Once we got him to safety, the injured protestors offered us both cigarettes as thanks for helping him.

A police officer firing tear down the street towards protestors.

A police officer firing tear down the street towards protestors.

Thousand of protestors gathered on Istiklal Street.

Thousand of protestors gathered on Istiklal Street.

The following morning, police blocked the entrances to Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Turkey’s European Union minister, Egemen Bağış, had said that anybody who tried to enter the square would be treated as a terrorist.

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At this point, I had been in Istanbul for almost two weeks, and my flight back to the US was scheduled for the following afternoon. Although a part of me wanted to stay and continue documenting, another part of me realized I had already documented a lot, and I felt that I needed to go home so I could reflect on my experiences and share them with others through speaking and writing about it.

As I sit here now, writing this blog post from the safety of a coffee shop in my neighborhood in New York City, even through the images of tear gas, water cannons, and riot police that threaten to cloud up my memory, I am clearly remembering the faces of the courageous, inspiring citizens of Istanbul that I met and photographed while I was there. I will soon recover from the physical and emotional effects of what I witnessed and experienced, but the people I met, and the positive experiences I had, will forever remain with me.

Her yer Taksim, her yer direniş.
Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance.

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-Jenna Pope-

You can support Jenna’s work be making a donation here.

 

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The Abandoned Park

Amman, Jordan–Little mounds of dirt pushed one against the other. Small circular rocks outline each mound while small green bushes sit atop creating a make-shift hill. Rugged pebbles between each hill create a pathway, but the green underbush hides the pebbles, making it near impossible to see the pathway. The weeds, so tall, tell me no one comes here anymore. Benches outline the park. A large wooden door frame, an entrance. The bustling world of students and professors, of security guards and cars driving by on the street side only a few feet away from where I stand. The old wooden benches with paint peeling off, where names have been drawn, signatures, proclamations of love, all evidence that this park, although deserted now, had once been at the heart of all those lovers wishing to sit and talk, all those students who wished to rest in the comfort of their books, all those friends whose laughter once made car engines seem distant. Today the park is empty. The fence of benches awaiting to be remembered, but ignored by the continuous stream of students. Some are forgiven as they hustle late to a morning class. Others stroll by, oblivious to the world of freedom steps away. Dozens of boys sit right outside the logs that create the entrance. I look up, hopeful. Perhaps they will enter. They remain outside, seated on the blocks of cement left over from times gone by. They are so close, yet they choose to remain outside.

The most prestigious University in Jordan, as some will pledge. A flowering garden of youth, of energy, of will, and yet when one questions the politics, the student clubs, groups and activities, the movements, one is met with silence. A community of over twenty thousand students and I am shot down and told student voices are futile attempts. Is this no longer of importance to these minds, I wonder to myself. Am I in the wrong place, I ask myself as I choose a bench with the names Shareef and Noor sprawled in large letters across the seat? Have the demonstrations, the movements been washed away by the lies of those above?

The park, like the movements that came to Jordan in November, no longer exists in the minds of these students. It seems the boys outside prefer the gravel sidewalk over the greenery of the park. It seems the massive wooden doorway has hidden from them the freedom behind its frame. If they would only take a step, they would see. They are blinded into enjoying the gravel, not knowing that were they to simply turn around, a world of change awaits. As I close my notebook and retrieve my bag from the soil ground, I look up and see the shadow of a man lying beneath one of the hills. My lips flex into a smile. Perhaps, I think, perhaps there is hope.

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Report from Brasil: a Wild Swing to the Right

Sao Paulo, Brazil–Went out to the supermarket to buy some groceries. Decided to go through Avenida Paulista to check what was happening in the streets. If anything was going on, sure as hell it was happening in Avenida Paulista. Lucky we live so close. After all, Paulista has been the battleground where our collective will manifests, for about three weeks now. Indeed, people were occupying it, each person holding a homemade sign, some giving passionate public speeches, while others (usually from the lower classes) were selling popcorn or boiled corn to increase the family income for the month. The middle class was proud and parading, and yes, also 1%ers parading their Gucci + Louis Vuitton fashion for a change.

Like the sordid Che Guevara T-shirt, protesting became an experience for mass consumption.

This tendency became evident on Thursday, 06/20. Paulista Avenue was flooded with moderate and conservative messages that were far from the original keynote of social justice. The discourse now seemed to align with values and causes that the rightwing media and military support. The message that started to emerge is an abstract opposition against “corruption and violence”, many of them blaming PT, Lula or Dilma. After the 0.20 cents one demand victory, the box of Pandora was open and everybody decided to go out and broadcast their opinion, with no regard to consistency, dialogue or strategical analysis.

It began to stink.

Yesterday, each bloc showed more yellow and green popping up, national anthems, and abstract calls for an end to “corruption”, as if corruption weren’t part of Brasilian politics since its beginning. Voices defending the restoration of fundamental values such as family, property, morals and nation. Tradition. Values. I started to feel a bit dizzy. Was this really happening? The tide was rapidly changing in Brasil. The conservative media – actually the only one we have – operated swiftly, maneuvering to push the issue of corruption and violence up on the priorities through their unrestricted control of television networks and big circulation print magazines. The fact that we spent decades in political submission and consumerist alienation in the wake of our military dicatorship helped: people were embracing any cause, even the ones pushed by rightwing nuts.

I had to talk to a real person. Panic attack was coming. That’s when a corner for a deep breath and a homeless man preparing his sleep grounds changed everything for me. His name was Chico and he had a productive cough and one eye taken by massive cataracts. We talked a lot, about politics, food and our healthcare system, and of course about the crazy past weeks… He told me some mean people “threw five bombs” at him just for shits and giggles.

He was an alcoholic that never robbed or stole from anybody, “why would they do that?”

Went home and tried to sleep. Woke up this Sunday to a chilly morning and an internet meme invoking soldiers, police, and firefighters to side “with the people” against the corrupt government of PT and Dilma (?!). Similar rhetoric as in 1992, when Collor was impeached; I freaked out a little bit, because we do have a recent history of coup-d’etats and manufactured consent orchestrated by MSM. Did more research, and finally ended up ruining my day: found an open letter dated 06/22/13 published in the Military Society Magazine {source: http://www.sociedademilitar.com.br/} co-signed by 300,000 active and reformed members of the Armed Forces suggesting they would “side with the people” to fight “vandals”, “corruption” and the deterioration of moral values in our society. A subtle warning that if the crooks that always existed in Congress continued their ways, the military might be forced to “legally intervene”. Their rethoric is supported by polls from respected institutes whose numbers show that a significant number of people [19%] want the armed forces to come back, 20% don’t care, and 8 % don’t know {source: Datafolha}. The letter is transcribed below.

What is clear now is that the next few weeks are uncertain. The narrative has taken a wild swing to the right and co-optation is a reality. The struggle for social and economic justice needs to think and act strategically or suffer the consequences.

MILITARES em CAMPANHA NACIONAL ANTI-PT e Pró-Brasil.

Rumo a 2014. Precisamos impedir a destruição de valores fundamentais como família, honestidade e honra.

Militares entrevistados pela Revista Sociedade Militar em Copacabana, na passeata pelo reajuste de salários, manifestaram enorme decepção com administração do Partido dos Trabalhadores, marcada por escândalos como Mensalão e Cachoeira. “Pensávamos que seria um governo de um homem do povo para o povo, mas tudo indica que se transformou no governo dos escândalos e favorecimentos ilícitos”, disse um dos militares.

“No Brasil a família esta ruindo, no Rio a criminalidade só está sendo transferida para a Baixada e Niterói e a política de pão e circo só aumenta a cada dia… nos próximos anos vai ser só festa, e a roubalheira continua”. Diz outro militar, reformado.

Os militares das Forças Armadas somam mais de 600.000 entre os que estão em atividade e os da reserva. Somados com seus dependentes e círculos de influência esse quantitativo pode passar de 5 milhões de pessoas. Um número que definitivamente pode mudar os rumos de qualquer eleição.

Ainda que alguns pensem em criar um novo partido, para as próximas eleições a maioria parece ja estar se articulando para se candidatar dentro de legendas ja existentes, quase todos optam por partidos de direita.

Militares estaduais também estão muito insatisfeitos com o governo federal, que até hoje não facilitou para que as negociações sobre a PEC 300 prosseguissem. Na passeata em Copacabana verificou-se a presença de lideranças dos policiais e bombeiros do Rio de Janeiro, e isso acena para uma possível união de militares federais e estaduais. Se isso se concretizar e chegar às urnas certamente será um problema a mais para os políticos vermelhos.

Militares das Forças Armadas e auxiliares, comumente, são homens de conduta ilibada e bem relacionados, é freqüente assumirem cargos populares, como síndicos em seus edifícios, diáconos em igrejas católicas e evangélicas, pastores e líderes comunitários. Mencionamos ainda os milhares de militares reformados que atuam como professores em escolas particulares e cursos pré-concursos. Homens acostumados a liderar e aptos para discursar diante de pequenos e médios grupos, eles representam realmente um perigo em potencial para o partido da situação, principalmente se, unidos, resolverem usar sua influência para um objetivo comum.

Pesquisas demonstram que as Forças Armadas são as instituições com maior credibilidade no Brasil, o que confirma que os militares brasileiros gozam de boa reputação junto à sociedade.

Nos últimos meses há freqüente divergência entre militares das Forças Armadas e o governo. Manifesto Interclubes, abaixo-assinado dos oficias e marcha virtual, são exemplos de grandes questões surgidas redentemente, sem contar o reajuste de salários que não cobriu sequer a inflação.
Essa queda de braço com os militares pode causar bastante prejuízo político, já a curtíssimo prazo. A conquista de mais de 300 mil adesões em um abaixo assinado no Senado mostra que os militares de hoje já aprenderam a se mobilizar politicamente, e podem utilizar eu status moral para conquistar a população, em sites e revistas militares abundam as solicitações para que as forças armadas assumam uma postura diante do mar de corrupção que assola o país.

Temos certeza que nas proximas eleições, junto com os Militares federais e estaduais, os cidadãos honestos e conscientes expressarão sua insatisfação com a falta de perspectivas e a corrupção generalizada que assola o Brasil. A esmagadora maioria não acredita que qualquer tipo de autoritarismo seja a solução para o Brasil, mas se parcela significativa da sociedade tem falado nisso, é um indício de que ha muitos cidadãos insatisfeitos com a forma que tem sido conduzido o nosso país, e pode haver uma guinada à direita por parte do eleitorado, portanto, uma grande oportunidade para oferecer a opção de mudança. O momento é bastante oportuno.

Algumas pessoas parecem estar assustadas porque uma parcela da população resolveu se mobilizar legalmente contra o partido que quer se eternizar no poder, veja abaixo. Foram centenas de twitters e postagens desse tipo em blogs. Eles forçam a barra na interpretação e dizem que os militares pretendem dar dar um golpe!

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The People Woke Up

São Paulo, Brazil–A year ago I left everything that I loved, built and cherished when I left New York City. My US visa was expired and had to forcibly go back to Brasil to nothing waiting for me.

The Arab Spring, the Spanish and Greek revolutionaries taking squares and talking about direct democracy, and Occupy Wall Street of course: the world lit on fire.

This was back in 2011, when Brasil [including] was swept by OWS.

Then in late 2012, months after the Occupies of Brasil and USA were ejected from their communal squares, my shoes brought me back to São Paulo, a city of concrete, disparity, rain and gray. The speed and violence/the uncertainty of going and coming back/the neoliberal shrine…

Rio was still on my mind. And New York. But now all I had was São Paulo, working on the frontlines of our precarious public hospitals. Working as a physician with homeless populations and the poor city elderly gave me a clear view how much the city was in severe pain. Nobody on top or on the mainstream media seemed aware or to care; then, in early 2013 a streak of violent

no images were found

assassinations took the city by assault amidst the climate of municipal elections; everybody in São Paulo terrorized. If we kept quiet or fragmented, we would be fucked.

The 20-cent fare raise attempted by the elected Workers Party (our Democrats) on the price of public transportation was the last drop.

The spark ignited this huge powder keg to its ultimate becoming, a popular revolt. Now, though, an interesting phenomenon happens, and the radical left-wing messages of the beginning are small among the many-fold messages, some of them racist or pushed by right wing media, taking the stage. All flags are out now and the multitude parade avenues like Carnival samba schools. Every bloc in the march is a different political inclination, and the way we chant feels like how we do in soccer stadiums.

Everybody has an opinion and wants to be heard. The diversity of messages flooding the streets and front pages sends a clear message to politicians that things won’t ever be the same again.

Brasil finally remembered how to riot, and the powers that be are a little afraid. the social contract has been broken.

Communa.

-Alexandre Carvalho-

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VIDEO: Vem Pra Rua! Stories from the streets of Brasil

Pictures and interviews from two Occupied Stories members in Sao Paulo. Pictures & video editing: Nicole Rose Pace.  Audio: Alexandre Calvalho.

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VIDEO: What’s a City Indian?

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PHOTOS: Istanbul portrayed by Michele Sibiloni

Editor’s note: This is a condensed version of an interview published at  No Rhetorike. Visit the original for the full story.

Michele Sibiloni is an Italian photojournalist who covers East Africa and the Congo. He is currently based in Uganda where he is doing a long term project. He was in Italy for vacation and monitoring the Turkish protests since the beginning. After a couple of weeks he decided to go there, because it seemed to him like something that would not end in a few days. He knew that these protests were being super-covered, so he was ready to do some personal work also in case there was no assignment. Michele contacted the agency that he normally works with and filled a few days of work for them. Then he kept working for himself and tried to understand the situation and to find a story that could develop after the big news would be over. He says: “I actually find the current situation very interesting because of the stories of transition that these young Turks are living. They want to stand up no matter what, and that is something that I admire so much.”

Here you will find his pictures with comments by Michele about the situation where were taken and some of his reflections.

 

Voices XXIII: Michele Sibiloni. Italian photojournalist who shares his work and thoughts

Taksim Square from the building

Taksim Square from the building

This image has been taken from inside a big building in Taksim Square. People were walking in and out without asking permission from anyone, you could even go on the roof. Everyone was taking photos of the square and of each other. I felt something was not right; I thought, “This is a construction site and no one is controlling anything. People are walking around for no reason. Someone is playing the saxophone and a bunch of photographers are taking pictures.” At that point, I looked outside and wondered about the square. It was packed… the sun was setting, people sang together… there was a great atmosphere, a sense of unity. The question that came up immediately in my mind was, “How long is this going to last?” Not long, I thought.

 

Besiktas Çarsi soccer supporters reached Taksim

Besiktas Çarsi soccer supporters reached Taksim

After I was in the building, I wandered around the square, and suddenly fireworks started. It was nice, all those soccer fans with those red lights–people seemed to appreciate that. There was a lot of drinking; it was kind of a party atmosphere. Then I thought to myself, I don’t think Prime Minister Erdogan will allow this kind of atmosphere in Taksim Square for long.

 

A pharmacist in Gazi neighborhood looking outside the shop during a street battle

A pharmacist in Gazi neighborhood looking outside the shop during a street battle

This image has been taken in Gazi, a Kurdish neighborhood where very often people are rioting against police. People of every age are there, from young boys to old men; women band together against the common enemy, the police. The protesters were happy to have so many journalists around. The general feeling was that those people were used to doing what they did: very organized with cars ready in case of injured people, a pharmacist with his shop open, wearing swimming goggles and a mask, ready to help out. In the meantime, very close to the spot, life goes on normally inside a bar and cafe. There is some concert in a bar and people are doing normal things, while others are fighting in the street–very unusual.

 

Police getting teargas back from protestors in Taksim

Police getting teargas back from protestors in Taksim

 

 

 

People carrying  a guy who got shot in the head to the hospital 

People carrying  a guy who got shot in the head to the hospital

 

These guys are carrying a guy who got a teargas canister or plastic bullet straight in his head; he had a hole and the blood was gushing out, they were keeping a piece of clothes on his head to stop the bleeding. I’m not sure but think he is one of the few who passed out. While i was shooting the picture, I thought that I should be very careful, because when you work in such a situation, everyone is a target.

 

A protester throwing teargas back at Police in a street next to Gezi Park

A protester throwing teargas back at Police in a street next to Gezi Park

A guy was throwing teargas back at police. In one of the corners where many people got injured, I was protecting myself behind a truck, but I was kind of limited and i did not want to move too much because I had previously seen the guy getting hit in the head.

 

Exhausted police resting in Taksim after a battle in the morning.
(six police committed suicide since the protest started, according to the Turkish media)

Exhausted police resting in Taksim after a battle in the morning.

Police officers were resting in Taksim Square while the battle stopped for a while. I was surprised that they were resting there; some of them looked shocked, tired exhausted, and looked like they felt sorry for a second. People were not angry at them. Most of the protesters were pacifists; most of them were not fighting at all.

For those readers who don’t know, yesterday an interview with #durankadin was published

Michele Sibiloni’s website is coming soon; you can find his contact information here.

Click here for the Occupy Gezi Facebook page.

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Follow the blog updates on Twitter.

-Gabriel Yacubovich Japkin-

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