Over 200 arrested in annual Montreal police brutality clash
MONTREAL — Police wasted little time Friday cracking down on an annual protest that has a history of getting rowdy, deploying charging squads of helmeted officers, cops on horseback and pepper spray to corral demonstrators. Montreal police, who have been dealing with regular protests since student unrest last year, usually let peaceful marches proceed even if they have been declared illegal under municipal bylaws.
On Friday, police massed platoons of officers around their downtown headquarters — which was the target of the annual rally against police brutality — and had made their first arrest before the march even began. “We sent up a message right at the beginning,” said Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere of the Montreal police at a late evening news conference after the march.
“They haven’t shared a route, they haven’t shared their itinerary, they refuse to give us a location where they were heading. That’s the reason we made a stop to that.” At the march, officers piled on one protester to catcalls from the crowd and quickly hustled him away. Once the march was declared illegal, other protesters were scooped from the mob and police tightened their cordon. They stopped people and rooted through their bags and backpacks.
Wedge formations were used to split the crowd into smaller groups and steer them off into side streets. Pockets were quickly dispersed and some areas were blocked off as people were herded along or rounded up. By the end of the evening, more than 200 people had been detained and given $637 fines for violating municipal bylaws and 12 others had been arrested for criminal acts including possession of incendiary materials, assault on a police officer, mischief and making threats.
Clashes in northern Peru leave two people dead
Clashes between miners and riot police in northern Peru have left at least two people dead. The government said five police officers were also injured. In a statement, the police said they had come under attack when evicting hundreds of miners working illegally at a gold mine in the region of La Libertad, about 500km (310 miles) north of the capital Lima. Police said the miners were armed with sticks and had explosives with them. Four people were arrested at the La Bonita mine. “About 500 illegal miners had invaded a mine owned by the Consorcio Minero Horizonte company,” said local official Luis Velezmoro, according to RPP radio station.
He said the company had sought police help to evict them. The company did not comment on the incident. Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator called on the government to stop using potentially lethal weapons when dealing with social unrest. At least 26 people have died in social unrest since President Ollanta Humala came to power in 2011, despite his promise that police would spill no blood under his mandate.
3 university students set fire to themselves in Senegal
DAKAR, Senegal — Three students set themselves on fire on the campus of Senegal’s largest university on Friday to protest changes in the way credits are being counted in the college’s geography department, witnesses said. All three survived after their friends threw sand on them, and only one was admitted to the hospital with burns on his arm and a portion of his face. “Today, I chose to die. I didn’t want to live anymore,”
Mansour Niang said, just before he was taken to see a psychiatrist at the municipal hospital. “I am very proud of what I have done. I’m happy with myself.” The students in the geography department launched a hunger strike last month to protest a change implemented by the university in how credits are counted for the three-year geography undergraduate degree.
Niang and his classmates say they were just one credit away from completing their degree, and the change means that they will need to spend another calendar year taking a class that is the equivalent of two hours of instruction per week. It also means they will not be eligible for the masters degree in geography. Student leader Seydou Niang, who organized the hunger strike at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop, said another 50 students are ready to set themselves on fire in protest. Self-immolation has become a potent protest ever since a vegetable seller in Tunisia set himself alight, an act that gave birth to the Arab Spring.
The state-owned Senegalese Press Agency reported that the rector of the university ruled out any discussion regarding the system by which students are being admitted to the geography masters program. “We cannot go back on our decision which was final,” Saliou Ndiaye is quoted as saying. The University of Cheikh Anta Diop was once one of the most prestigious universities in West Africa. It has fallen into disrepair and the campus is frequently immobilized by student protests and strikes by the relatively low-paid professors.
Bulgaria suffers spate of self-immolations as dreams sour
SOFIA – Security cameras captured the moment when a Bulgarian man, disgusted by corruption in his provincial hometown, quietly doused himself in gasoline and then set himself ablaze. On Wednesday, another man — the fourth in less than a month — carried out the same act of desperation in front of the presidential headquarters in the capital. The dramatic self-immolations, three of them fatal, bear a striking resemblance to events half a century ago in Eastern Europe when mostly young intellectuals rebelled against Soviet rule by setting themselves on fire, demanding freedom and democracy.
A quarter of a century after the fall of communism, dreams of prosperity have turned sour in the Balkan country, the poorest in the European Union. One in 5 Bulgarians lives below the poverty line, unemployment is at record levels, incomes are half the European average and bribe-taking, sleaze and a woefully inadequate justice system are part of daily life.
Plamen Goranov, a 36-year-old man protesting against graft in his hometown of Varna, died after pouring gasoline and setting himself on fire in front of a public building Feb. 20. The harrowing act was filmed by security cameras. He became known as the “Bulgarian Jan Palach,” after the Czech student who set himself ablaze in 1969 to protest the Soviet occupation of then-Czechoslovakia. Despite appeals by Bulgaria’s influential Orthodox Church against such desperate actions, two other protesters, one a father of five children, followed in Goranov’s steps, publicly setting themselves on fire.
On Wednesday another man, Dimitar Dimitrov, did the same in front of the presidency in Sofia. Relatives of the 51-year-old blacksmith, who is in critical condition, said that he had been left without income after losing his job two years ago. Security guards at the entrance of the building said they saw him sitting for some time next to a nearby fountain when he suddenly pulled out a bottle of gasoline, poured it over his head and lit a match.
They rushed to save him, but he sustained burns over 25 percent of his body and also is suffering respiratory problems from inhaling poisonous gases. “When you are unable to control the simplest things in your life, like buying food for the family or paying utility bills while the monopolies demand more and more, it is only normal to feel betrayed, left behind helplessly,” columnist Mila Avramova wrote in the Trud newspaper. “Then you see the fire as the only way to be heard.”
Protest over layoffs in Romania
Hundreds of workers protested across Romania on Friday fearing a wave of lay-offs at steel plants sold last month by Russian giant Mechel to an obscure trading company. “We are desperate. We are calling on the government to organise a meeting with the new owner to save our jobs”, Constantin Iarca, the union representative at a steel rolling mill in Braila told AFP.
Around 200 out of the plant’s 380 workers protested Friday in the centre of Braila, a city in eastern Romania. At the moment, production has been halted at the mill, which was once one a flagship of Romania’s metal industry, and the new owner has yet to unveil plans to restart activity. Mechel, a Russian metal group with revenues totalling $12.5 billion in 2011, announced on February 19 the sale of its Romanian assets, citing “unfavourable prices on the European markets”. The 4,000 employees of Mechel Romania heard the news through the media, and the identity of the buyer, Nikarom, a tiny, unprofitable firm owned by two Russian citizens without any experience in the steel industry, triggered controversy.
With 340,000 euros ($442,000) in annual revenues, Invest Nikarom will control five of Romania’s main steel plants which together report some 850 million euros in annual sales. Nikarom on Friday announced that it will cut 500 jobs out of 2,000 in its Targoviste steel plant, in central Romania. In Campia Turzii, in northwestern Romania, about 200 workers from the steel factory took to the streets, Agerpres news agency reported. “Russians go away,” angry protesters shouted according to Mediafax agency.
Two guerrilla groups claim responsibility for Athens bomb attack
ATHENS, March 15 — Two Greek guerrilla groups claimed on Friday responsibility for a bomb attack at a courier firm in Athens on March 10, which caused material damage, while warning of more violence ahead, local media reported. The so-called “Informal Anarchist Federation” and the “International Revolutionary Front- Intact Revolutionary Cell” groups released a statement saying that Sunday’s attack was to “take revenge” on an employee of the firm who helped in the arrest of terrorists two years ago.
In November 2010 a parcel bomb addressed to a foreign embassy in Athens went off at the hands of an employee inside the same courier company. The incident triggered a police investigation which led to the arrest of members of the “Conspiracy of the Nuclei of Fire.” Accusing the employee for “deadly curiosity,” extremists threatened that they intend to attack more targets on their black list, including police officers and judges presiding over the trials of “Conspiracy of the Nuclei of Fire” members.
Greece has a long history of domestic terrorism. Following the outbreak of the debt crisis in 2009 which has led the country to the brink of bankruptcy, several groups have linked attacks with harsh austerity measures implemented to resolve the crisis. In January, unidentified assailants opened fire at the ruling party headquarters, and a few days later, a strong bomb blast occurred inside a shopping mall, slightly injuring two guards.
Palestinians, Israeli troops clash in Hebron; 6 minors detained
HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained six Palestinian minors in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and al-Tuwani village east of Yatta near Hebron on Friday. Locals told Ma’an that clashes erupted Friday in Hebron’s Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood between young Palestinian men and Israeli troops who detained three minors. On Thursday, Israeli troops detained five minors in Hebron before the Palestinian military liaison department convinced the Israelis to release two of them.
Three remained in custody including a 10-year-old boy. The Israelis claimed they were involved in throwing stones at Israeli vehicles. In al-Tuwani, a small village east of Yatta south of Hebron, Israeli troops stormed several homes before they detained three minors. Local sources identified them as 15-year-old Sami Hafith al-Harini, 15-year-old Malik Ghanim al-Harini and 15-year-old Basil Suleiman al-Adra. During the Bab al-Zawiya clashes, Palestinian protesters hurled two fire bombs. An Israeli soldier caught fire and sustained minor burns. An army spokeswoman did not immediately return calls.