If you follow a good media Twitter like Danny Wicentowski you’ll know that things have escalated since the death of Michael Brown in St. Louis. Protests have intensified, as people feel that the institutions in this crime are going to do their historical dance of talk but no action.
Alderman Antonio French has been arrested, as have several journalists. Once again we see police that are increasingly indistinguishable from military units. What is depressing to think of is how any abuse doled out by these riot police will be subject to the same inadequate review and regulation as the shooting of Brown.
I have great, deep faith of activists and those that want to see justice done, but this is against the inertia of so many past crimes that have gone unpunished. One can work, and hope that This Time Will Be Different.
So this week is full to the brim with retrospectives about the Tiananmen massacre, and the end of the country-wide movement urging transparency and political rights in China. What makes these anniversaries unusual is these events unfolded in front of the entire world media. One reason this week has so many reflections is that many prominent journalists – in America, Europe, Asia and everywhere else – were there, and saw the movement grow, evolve, and die.
Often these pieces talk about how my Millennial compatriots in China have little or no knowledge of what happened in 1989. What isn’t much talked about is how many stories of this movement have never been recorded. It wasn’t just Beijing, it was cities all over China. Millions of people participated in at least some part of the protests. They didn’t all get shot, and most of them never even got arrested. They faded back into their normal lives and kept their mouths shut. But they still remember; someone my age when the tanks rolled in on the night of June 3/4 are in their late 40s today. It’s not just about the victims, the dead and the disappeared. The anniversary is also about those who saw the movement dry up, and the country engage in a concerted effort to forget.
Each year Hong Kong holds the largest remembrance of what happened on June 4th. They have the luxury of remembering the past, a right not afforded to their mainland counterparts.
Well, it appears that the funeral of Berkin Elvan was just the start. Widespread anti-government protests swept Turkey yesterday and today, with two dead, several wounded, and many arrests. This comes before key local elections on March 30th that would lead Prime Minister Erdogan (so he promises) to step down if his party, AKP, loses.
After a lull where dialogue between the Ukrainian government and opposition was conducted and some concessions were agreed upon, a government raid on Independence Square in Kiev kicked off the deadliest day in the months of protests.
It is increasingly apparent that the western part of the country is no longer in firm government control. Compared to a mostly quiet east, it shows for outsiders the divisions that exist, and how they come to a head in the capital.
The theme is emerging- a small protest is met with a draconian response. In Istanbul it was a small park slated for redevelopment. In Brazil it’s a fare increase on public transpiration.
It’d be silly to say these small issues lead to such fierce protesting down the road. But a harsh police response (point-blank pepper spray, water cannons, huge amounts of tear gas) can open a much larger, more powerful resentment.
In Turkey, it was the feeling by some that PM Erdogan has become autocratic and unfair. In Brazil, it is that the police are deeply corrupt, and the country wishes to build massive soccer stadiums rather than help its people.
In my area there’s a website called IndyBay. It’s part of a media apparatus that emerged in the aftermath of the 1999 World Trade Organization protests- something the activist left routinely refers to as the Battle of Seattle. The traditional media reaction to the protest, including a damaging accusation by the New York Times that protesters had used Molotov cocktails (which they had to retract) led to a shadow media devoted to organizing and defending activism.
There is a calendar where people can put up vigils, marches, or lectures. Some are important and straightforward- the Berkeley UU congregations post up their events, for instance.
But there’s a less colorful side of it. There are marches ostensibly to protest various injustices; a year ago I went to a march in Oakland in the aftermath of the Treyvon Martin shooting. However, they’re an illusion of sorts- the issues draw a diverse group of people in, but the event is actually more of a seminar for a political party.