Yest another protest in protection of the forest and national parks against construction, Sofia, 14 March

Another protest took place yesterday, 14 March 2012, in a series of rallies against planned changes in the forestry legislation in Bulgaria.
The proposed changes will make it easier
to cut down forests to construct new lift installations and skiing slopes;
to carry out complete clearance of forest areas that consequently causes mud slides and floods
this concerns the most vulnerable part of Bulgaria’s forests, those which have been designated as national parks and which represent only 5% of the territory.
With the gleaming examples of over construction and all the negative consequences both for the nature, as well as for the consumer, of the Black Sea coast and the ski resort Bansko, it is difficult to pretend we don’t know what the result of these new changes will bring.

Of the nearly 1 500 people that confirmed on Facebook they are coming, around 2 000 showed up and marched through the city passing by the Ministry of Agriculture, which has initiated the changes. Similar protests, although much smaller in numbers took place in Plovdiv, Varna and Kazanluk.

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OccupyLSX evicted from St. Paul’s

“This is not the beginning of the end but only the end of the beginning” these were the words tweeted out from St. Pauls’ occupation as it was finally being evicted in the middle of the night of the 28 February.

The School of Ideas at the former Moorfields School, near Old Street was also evicted that night without any legal order and in the morning a plan for demolition was brought forward and the school was in rubble.

However, the Finsbury Square Occupation is going strong and this evening at 7 pm “occupiers” gathered again for the usual General Assembly on the steps of St. Paul’s. There is no doubt in the minds of everyone involved with Occupy that this movement will continue and grow.

After holding out for four and a half months since its start on October 15 this occupation has achieved a lot and at moments like this it is good to reflect on those successes, as well as on the new objectives and strategies to achieve them.

Regardless of the continuous repetition that the movement has no message, the common statement was adopted by approx. 5000 people in the first two days of the occupation and set forth very clearly the disagreement with the current economic and political system that led to the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression; a system that was run for the benefit of the 1% and paid for by the 99%. And this was done through a brilliant example of participatory democracy, through debate, representation and consultation with everyone present and involved. In the months to come this process would be criticized for being slow and ineffective but the movement and its people remained firmly committed to following through with this as the way to ensure that all views are taken into account, that the majority is in agreement and that no one is seriously blocking a motion.

Over the following months, some of the achievements of this movement can be summarized as follows: it expressed its clear and determined disagreement with the cuts to public services; it spread the message that there are alternatives to these cuts; it raised issues of tax evasion and tax avoidance; executive pay; banking reform and regulation; established connections with over 150 occupations globally; established an open Tent City University giving both a platform for new ideas to be discussed, as well as a space where people could receive free education; started publishing the London Occupy Times, reaching a broader audience; drew attention to the lack of transparency of the Corporation of London as a private institution governing public areas; created a peaceful space where alternatives were debated, concerts held and diversity celebrated; it remained faithful to its message of peaceful protest and resistance, and engaged in dialogue and civility until the bailiffs and police moved in last night.

The main criticism has been that although it has pointed to the problems, Occupy has not come up with specific alternatives. It is however not for a movement like Occupy to deliver strategies, reform agendas and political compromises. What it has done is opened up the space for thinking and discussing various ways of going about change and the kind of society we want to live in. Although it may seem idealistic and utopian, this process of imagining alternatives and developing the new narrative of resistance is key in forming a successful movement.

For those who believe social and environmental justice to be the defining challenges of our time this movement has become a symbol of hope. And now come the next stage where this symbol needs to become a reality. For this to happen it now needs to grow its organisational structure and build strong local support by engaging with schools, community groups, local businesses, unions, students. It needs to keep coming up with creative ways of resistance and engage with the political system, without necessarily becoming institutionalised and drawn into a political process which it sees as dysfunctional. Learning from other occupations and their experience and building on its barely five month existence there is a lot that this movement has to offer. As spring comes the thirst for new ideas wakes up and as the cuts start to cut deeper this will present an opportunity for Occupy to spread from the steps of St. Paul’s and into the minds and hearts of people.

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Гражданското общество в България се събуди с вик “Не на шистовия газ!”/ Mass protests across Bulgaria against drilling for shale gas

Между 2000 и 2500 души се събраха днес на граждански протест в София. Под звуците на вувузели, свирки и кречетала бяха издигнати исканията за незабавен мораториум върху технологията на хидравличен удар (фрак) за извличане на шистов газ, вкл. и при проучване; законна забрана на употребата на тази технология и законови промени, които да осъвременят контрола върху новите нефтени и газодобивни технологии.
Освен в София, още 12 града с цялата страна и Стокхолм и Лондон видяха хиляди хора по улиците си.

С този масов протест Българското гражданско общество се оттърси от апатията и незаинтересоваността. Тук имаше оптимизъм и вяра, че нещата могат да бъдат променени, че “общественото мнение” е точно, ясно и много, много видимо.

Сред хората дошли днес имаше активисти от редица протести в последните години, самба барабани и маски на групата Анонимни (основни елементи от социалните движения обхванали Европа, Америка и Северна Африка), младежи, които участват за първи път на протест, майки и бащи с деца, които надуваха свирки, театрална група от дестина души носещи по един бял хляб увит с бинт… На много хора, това което се случи днес напомни на идеализма и надеждата за по-добро бъдеще от митингите в първите години на демокрацията. Когато мечтите ни все още не бяха смазани и вярата, че от свсеки един от нас нещо зависи беше истинска.

Това не беше политически протест в смисъла на подкрепа една или друга политическа партия, но беше политически в по-важния смисъл, ре-политизирането на обществото и твърдо изразеното му желание да участва активно във вземането на решения.

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A Russian Snow Revolution?

“It’s hard to say how many people came out to Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square today. Was it eighty-five thousand, like the protest’s organizers said? Was it twenty-five thousand, like the police said? Was it fifty thousand—the Russian media’s estimates? Whatever it was, it was definitely more than the thirty-five thousand that had R.S.V.P.’d on Facebook. The square was packed, a small pedestrian bridge studded with artificial trees hung with locks left there by lovers was packed to the point that police warned it would collapse into the river below. There were still more people on the other side. There were people in the trees. “Young man, come on down!” someone yelled. “We have a banana for you!”” Read more.

Writes the New Yorker about the protests that took place in Moscow on Saturday, December 10, against the now widely-agreed falsification of the Parliamentary election results.

The following analysis, although reportedly biased, gives a good understanding of the changes taking place in Russia over the last twenty years and the disappointment of 99% of the people with the way their country has fared since embracing capitalism.

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What does an occupation look like?

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Slavoj Zizek, “Now the field is open”

Interview of philosopher Slavoj Zizek for Al Jazeera

Brilliant Zizek talking about the Occupy protests, and the potential of this movement to formulate a new idea of society. The danger is who will appropriate the energy of these protests?
The current capitalist system has lost its self-evidence, its automatic legitimacy.
The end of the marriage of capitalism and democracy means if we don’t do something we approach a new type of totalitarian capitalism.

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Една седмица и Окупациите в Лондон вече са две ♯occupylondon

Седмица след окупацията на Лондонската фондова борса слънцето продължава да се усмихва на протестиращите пред катедралата Св. Пол в Лондон. Тази така наречена “окупация” е част от процес започнал в Ню Йорк през Септември и обхванал десетки градове в САЩ от Сидни до Сеул.

През уикенда повече от 3 хиляди души минаха през лагера с любопитство и интерес. Впечатли ги чистотата и подредеността. Както и миналата събота имаше семейсва с малки деца, хора работещи в Сити-то, студенти, безработни, пенсионери, професионалисти, представители на 99%.

Те бяха посрещнати в Инфо палатката от плакат, който съдържаше посланието гласувано от Общото Събрание миналата седмица обявяващо мирен протест срещу съществуващата недемократична и неустоичива икономическа система; отказ на обикновените хора и данъкоплатци да плащат за банковата криза; отказ да приемат орязването на публичните разходи; солидарност с подобни движения по цял свят; искане за структурна промяна на икономическата и политическа система, така че тя да работи в полза на 99те%, на базата на равенство и екологична устойчивост, а не в полза на финансовия и корпоративен сектор.

Денят започва със “Запознай се с движението” възможност посетителите да обиколят лагера и да се запознаят с някои от хората там.

За една седмица лагерът се е разраснал до 200 палатки, които покриват почти цялото пространство от лявата страна на катедралата. Това включва освен кухня, технически отдел и първа помощ, библиотека, пиано, зона за деца и най-интересното Палатков Университет, където се провеждат лекции и дебати за алтернативи на системата. Има бръснар, традиционните вече хора раздаващи прегръдки, кафе, чай и плодове, дарени от хората и бизнеси подкрепящи окупацията и разбира се музика и торта.

На стълбите на катедралата се сменят да говорят хора, които участват в окупацията, които спят там, и такива които идват за първи път. Идеята е чрез отворен микрофон да се даде възможност на всеки който иска да се изкаже. Един от тях е Нейтън, който е тук от първия ден и смята да остане “до края” (независимо кога ще е той или колко студено стане), той е впечатлен от подкрепата и топлината на всички, които идват и носят дарения, храна, вода или просто ги окуражават. Рейчъл е завършила право в Харвард и работила в корпоративния сектор, като майка на две деца осъзнава степента на консумеризъм, който е обзел обществото ни, и как то рефлектира негативно и върху децата. Дани, който работи във финансовия сектор е съгласен, че концентрацията на пари и власт в този сектор прави играта нечестна и неравнопоставена.

В 4ч. тръгва шествие, водено от самба групата, което обикаля Сити-то в знак на протест срещу институциите и техните политики, не срещу хората в тях. Наближавайки площада Финзбъри близо до Мургейт, малка групичка изненадващо се отцепва от мнозинството и започва да разпъва палатките си. Свикано е Общо Събрание с участието на всички присъстващи, които единодушно приемат предложението за втора окупация. Лагерът пред Св. Пол остава и двата лагера ще оперират заедно. За движение, което често е криткувано за липса на организация, тази операция е доказателство за обратното.

Разбира се има и проблеми.

В Петък, изненадващо, настоятелството на Катедралата, което миналата седмица обяви подкрепата си за окупацията и разреши на лагера да остане, си промени мнението, затвори катедралата на основата на съображения за здраве и сигурност и призова лагерът да се премести. Ако те оттеглят подкрепата си, полицията ще може да изиска разрешително за изместване от съда и на негово основание да изгони протестиращите от това място.

От друга страна разрастващото се движение, балгодарение до голяма степен на голямото медийно влияние, започва да привлича все повече движения с различни каузи. Това заплашва да се размие острото политическо послание на движението. Осъзнава се и нуждата да се работи още по-усилено за привличане на все повече хора от всички обществени и социални слоеве, за да отговаря все повече на името си 99%.

Всички тези и други въпроси ще продължат да бъдат обсъждани в работните групи и в Общото Събрание в рамките на едно уникално движение за социална справедливост и популярна демокрация.

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One week into the ♯occupylondon: two occupations, growing strong and clearing its voice

One week into the Occupation of the London Stock Exchange the sun kept smiling on the protesters in front of St. Paul’s cathedral. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, the Spanish 15-M and the anti-cuts movement in the UK, around 5000 people gathered on 15 October in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, called a General Assembly and declared an occupation.

This Saturday the occupation celebrated its first week birthday. Over a 1000 people wandered around the colorful tents, remarking on the tidiness around. There were families with young children, professionals working in the City and elsewhere, students, pensioners, tourists, the now common cross section of society that has come to define these movements across the globe – the 99% .

They were met by the new Information tent at the head of the camp, which help a placard of the 9 point initial statement agreed by the General Assembly: this was a peaceful protest against the current undemocratic and unsustainable system; a refusal to pay for the bank’s crisis; not accepting the cuts to public services; solidarity with similar movements across the UK and the rest of the world; demanding structural change towards a system that is based on equality and environmental sustainability not profit and the interests of corporations; calling for independent regulators, end of tax havens and end of military spending among others.

The day started out with a “Meet the Movement” opportunity to meet some of the people involved in the occupation and setting up the tent city. This by now includes around 200 tents, a Starbook Occupation Library with a growing selection of magazines and books among which the utterly brilliant Ha-Joon Chang’s “23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism”

, a Tent City University organising a series of lectures and events on viable economic and political proposals for alternatives, a drawing area for children and a piano. You could also get a hair cut, as opposed to spending cuts, listen to some acoustic music by a young man who writes cheerful songs about the things that make him angry, get the now emblematic free hugs, visit the kitchen and get some tea, coffee, fruits and a warm meal.

The special Public Assembly was held at the steps of the cathedral and shared personal testimonies of many involved in the occupation. They included Nathan, who was camping here from day one and planned to stay “till the end”, he was impressed by the amount of public support they were receiving from the community around expressed in bringing food and water, giving donations and just general positive feedback. Rachel, a Harvard educated lawyer and mother of two talked about how consumerism has entered and emptied our lives and how happy she was that this was a space where her children could hear speeches about justice and the value of the human spirit. And Danny who was working in finance said that “the game was not fair” as financial institutions concentrated both money and power.

At the Bank of England a roundtable on the State of the Nation gathered speakers Polly Toynbee from the Guardian, Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, James Meadway from the New Economics Foundation, John Christiansen of the Tax Justice Network and members of the OccupyLSX. They spoke about the current state of the economy and pragmatic ways of brining about systemic change that would both be economically viable and beneficial to the 99%. These included references to Keynes, and pro-growth policies, which are exactly the opposite of the current government spending cuts; the need to turn this protest into a strong political movement; the central issues of democratic control and transparency of institutions as part of the ways forward; the need for governments to regulate the existence of tax havens, that enable big corporations to evade paying taxes and others.

All seemed to send one clear message that there was an alternative to the current response to the crisis and there is the need to keep formulating these alternatives if a more fair and sustainable society is to be created. “This is fascinating, I can sit and listed here all day”, remarked a young lawyer working in a City bank.

As the speakers were making their final comments, the beat of the samba drums was heard and soon after the Tour of Corporate Greed marched by. As the crowd walked down City Road suddenly a group broke off and ran onto the patch of green that is Finsbury Square. With impressive swiftness and efficiency tents came up and a General Assembly was called. The crowd waved their hands in agreement that this would become the Second Occupation Camp (#occupyFS). The camp at St. Paul’s would remain and both camps will operate simultaneously.

The kitchen was quickly set up and it seemed about 50 people were getting ready to pitch their tents for the night. For a movement largely criticized for lacking organisation and efficiency, this was a very well thought through and carried out occupation and the police seemed neither ready nor willing to intervene.

There are however challenges as well.

On Friday, 21 October in an unexpected and unprecedented move St. Paul’s Cathedral was closed to the public on the grounds that the occupation constituted a health and safety risk to visitors (statement). This is only the second time the Cathedral is closed, the first being during the bombardment of London in the Second World War. Protesters who have been very eager to maintain good relations with the cathedral and had formed a special church liaison group for that purpose were clearly disappointed about the turn of events. They issued a statement that the camp had made every effort to accommodate the safety requirements of the fire brigade and there were no new requirements issued.

If the Cathedral withdraws its support, when the courts open on Monday, police may seek injunction on the basis of which they can evict the occupation. The same is valid for the second camp at Finsbury Square, which is a public park.

On a personal level, a cleaner working three jobs to support her family complained that she was fired from her job as a zero hour cleaner of Paternoster Square being told by management that now the square was closed, she was not needed anymore. Similar reports came from other workers engaged in the operation of the Cathedral, who were dismissed after the Cathedral was closed for the public.

There was also growing concern among many that as the occupation grew in popularity it attracted a wide range of causes. Although they are all welcome, the movement needs to assert its strong political message that it does not agree with the current response to the economic crisis.

It also needs to reach out and grow its support among wider and wider sectors of society if it is to really speak on behalf of the 99%. This can only happen if the message remains broad enough able to unify large groups of people.

These are all viable issues that would continue to be discussed and addressed through the working groups and at the General Assembly in this unprecedented and inspiring movement of popular democracy.

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This is what democracy looks like

October 16, the second day of the Occupation of the London Stock Exchange was spent debating and discussing in the General Assembly and in smaller groups the key message that the movement wants to send out. After a long day around 21h the General Assembly agreed on the following statement:

1 The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.

2 We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.

3 We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.

4 We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.

5 We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.

6 We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment and to stop wars and arms dealing.

7 We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.

8 We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.

9 This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!

This is an open document and in the coming days it will be further developed to include concrete proposals and alternatives.

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Its an official occupation

This morning, the vicar of St. Paul’s Cathedral has given his permission and blessing to the occupiers and has asked the police to leave. The occupation is official.

A Movement in Slow Motion

 

 

 

 

 

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