Police clash with vandals in Sao Paulo
SAO PAULO — Brazilian riot police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse extremist protesters who ransacked bank branches, shops and a car dealership in central Sao Paulo. A police spokesman told AFP that a total of 20 people were arrested during the clashes, which followed a peaceful march by 300 demonstrators against Sao Paulo state Governor Geraldo Alckmin. The protest, called on social media by the Black Bloc anarchist group, also demanded the demilitarization of the state police, who have been accused of using excessive force in previous disturbances.
Riot police fought running battles with a small group of extremists, who, armed with hammers, went on a rampage in the Pinheiros neighborhood, smashing windows in banks, shops and other businesses. The police hurled tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades against the vandals, some of them masked, who set fire to piles of trash and sprayed graffiti on walls and buildings. There was no official word on casualties, but an AFP photographer saw one demonstrator injured by flying glass.
Police, who earlier warned that they would use force to stop “criminal acts,” tightened security to prevent the bulk of the demonstrators from reaching the city’s main Avenue Paulista, where 50 demonstrators chanted anti-Alckmin slogans. “We want Alckmin to go. He is a corrupt capitalist,” said 25-year-old Orlando Azevedo. Various police units were deployed on the Avenue Paulista, Sao Paulo’s financial heart, where last Friday some 300 extremists wrecked around 10 banks and set fire to a television news van.
PFLP: We Won’t Aggravate Tension With Abbas
On July 28, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a leftist political party, protested in Ramallah against the recommencement of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Around 200 protesters marched through the streets of downtown Ramallah before heading toward the PA compound in Muqata, where PA riot guards, armed with batons and shields, met them halfway. Clashes broke out after riot guards tried to grab the large banner denouncing the negotiations, with Khaleda Jarrar — a member of the PFLP and the Palestinian Legislative Council — being one of the assaulted.
Four of the riot police were also injured after the protesters threw rocks and beat them with the flagpoles they were carrying. Hanin Nassar was one of the demonstrators who was beaten up and later taken to the hospital. She described to Al-Monitor how they were surprised to find the riot guards waiting for them and not the police, as was customary. “It was evident that the riot guards had an order from above to attack us,” she said.
“They were being provocative while we were still chanting, and they hit me while I tried to take back the banner they snatched from us.” By then, Nassar had managed to slip behind the ranks of the riot guards, but tried to go back to the protest as she saw four guards descending on one fellow demonstrator with heavy blows. “The man fell to the ground. I felt myself grabbed by another four members of the riot police, and they began raining their batons all over my body. The last blow was to my head, which left me bleeding,” she recounted. “I went with the injured to Ramallah hospital, where the PA police was already waiting for us.”
Five protesters were arrested at the hospital while they were receiving treatment, as the police demanded to see their IDs and placed them under guard in the hospital rooms before they were taken away to the police station. That night, another protest took place outside the police station calling for the release of the five arrested. Dozens of Fatah supporters formed their own counterprotest, and began chanting in support of President Mahmoud Abbas. They chanted, “The people demand the fall of the PFLP,” in response to the protesters who were shouting, “The people demand the liberation of Palestine.”
The five protesters were released shortly after midnight. Jamal Nazzal, the Fatah spokesman, accused the protesters of blasphemy and of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. On his Facebook page, Nazzal wrote, “The Palestinian police force professionally broke up a gathering of people who were cursing God and chanting for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. No one can understand the effect of these atheists and their affiliation to extremists … the police exercised their right by law in preventing the scoundrels from reaching the grave of Yasser Arafat [located in Muqata] and desecrating it.”
The prisoner rights group Addameer strongly condemned the violent suppression of the protest and considered the attacks carried out by the riot guards “an illustration of the continuing political suppression that the PA practices against the Palestinian people, despite their right to express their refusal of the PA’s policies.” Omar Shehadeh, member of the Central Committee of the PFLP, announced on July 28 that the party will embark on a popular campaign to overthrow the Oslo Accords and to restore legitimacy to the Palestinian people as the lawful decision-makers.
But as PA and Israeli officials sit down in Washington on July 30 for the first round of talks since 2010, Sunday’s protest and the attacks by the PA forces were unsuccessful in triggering a chain reaction of spontaneous demonstrations across the West Bank. “There won’t be an escalation of events,” Jarrar told Al-Monitor, “but a continuation of popular movements against the negotiations and against the PA’s policy of acting against the will of the Palestinian people.”
The popular movements will include a series of events — including protests that will be organized in the West Bank, Gaza, the occupied 1948 territories and in the diaspora — which Jarrar said will be announced in detail on the official PFLP website. Yet, failure to capitalize on the PA’s show of force by mobilizing and calling for more immediate protests will most likely cause the violence committed against the protesters to be swept under the rug.
In the absence of mounting national pressure on the PA, the government will continue to praise the negotiations as the means for national achievements, such as the gradual release of 104 prisoners who have been in Israeli prisons since before the signing of the Oslo Accords. It should be noted that these prisoners were meant to be released before Oslo was signed. The PFLP protest and the heavy response from PA security forces show that Palestinians remain polarized over peace negotiations with Israel, which have amounted to little two decades after the Oslo Accords were signed.
One Thousand Chinese Protest Against Broadcast Towers
Over one thousand residents of Changsha, a city in China’s central Hunan Province, took to the streets on July 29 in 104F heat to protest a local government-led plan to erect broadcast towers in a heavily populated area of the city. The project would see a series of medium frequency broadcasting towers, mainly to be used for television, built on a small hill in Furong District, which is the center of Changsha. The towers would have been less than 650 feet away from the closest houses. The authorities responded by dispatching anti-riot police who put down the protests. Protesters had organized an online and street-based campaign to try to block the project.
They wore T-shirts with slogans “Build the Tower, Kill the People,” and held banners saying “No right to life! Tens of thousands of people look forward to abolishing the project!” In the online campaign the messaging attempted to hew closely to the specific concerns of the broadcasting towers, rather than making broader political demands and so allowing the authorities an excuse to retaliate. “We don’t want democracy! We just want survival,” one of the slogans said in the publicity materials prepared by the protesters. The facticity of the chief contention of the protesters—that the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the transmission towers will be strongly deleterious to their health—is difficult to definitively establish. Research on the matter has been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals suggesting that proximity to transmission towers can have health impacts.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, however, says there is no scientific consensus that such transmissions are a health risk. Whatever the niceties of scientific evidence, local authorities were not in the mood to negotiate with protesters. Instead, they sent armed riot police. “We didn’t get a response from the leaders, but instead suffered the might of special police and their vicious wolfdogs,” one part of an image they prepared, circulated online, said.
“The city government dispatched several hundred armed police and special police, and police dogs as well,” said a Changsha resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “Physical confrontation occurred. An elderly resident was beaten and had a rib broken. Another elder suffered a bleeding ear after being beaten. Blood was all over him. He’s still in the hospital.” The resident said that they were “sitting quietly and putting up banners” when the police arrived. He said that they contacted local media but no journalists were sent to cover the event. Information about the protest emerged on China’s largest social network, Sina Weibo, but there were no official reports.
Paraguay peasants occupy, then flee land where 17 deaths in protest led to president’s ouster
ASUNCION, Paraguay — Some 200 poor farmers on Tuesday temporarily reoccupied land where six police officers and 11 farmworkers were killed last year in a violent eviction that led to the ouster of President Fernando Lugo. Farmworker Martina Paredes said they reoccupied the disputed soy farm because they believe it belongs to the state and not the family members of a late senator. But Paredes said the protesters fled when police arrived, fearing another clash.
“Many people began panicking when they saw the patrols with heavily armed policemen, and they started running towards the forest because they said they didn’t want to die,” said Paredes, whose brother died in the June 2012 gunbattle. “Others were demoralized when police held three men without a court order. There was a lot of confusion. At the end, we got police to release them,” she added. Police said the group’s leaders were demanding the release of the 12 farmworkers charged in the June 2012 eviction as well as compensation for the family members of farmers killed in the gunbattle.
Load shedding protest: Furious crowd attack grid station in Kohat
KOHAT: An angry mob stormed a grid station and broke the main door while protesting against relentless load shedding in Kohat on Wednesday, Geo News reported. According to sources, local residents were protesting against the incessant load shedding and attacked a grid station on Pindi Road and damaged the main door of the station. The demonstrators, while expressing their agony, said that 20 hours of power failure during the holy month of Ramazan is unjust with the people, and demanded an end to the unannounced load shedding on a priority basis.