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Trouble In The Streets


Dissent Everywhere - What Is Going On?


By James Donahue

In the United States the big news is about the clashes stirred by Muslim dissidents in at least 20 countries from North Africa throughout the Middle East and as far East as Indonesia. They say the issue is over a privately-produced film that belittles the Prophet Mohammad and the Islamic faith.

But these events are among a barrage of similar clashes occurring almost everywhere that are going unreported by most of the world media. And why is this?

According to the German news outlet Deutsche Welle, thousands of protesters are also mobbing the Japanese embassy in Beijing and on the streets of at least a dozen other Chinese cities. The protests appear to be over Japan’s efforts to move people displaced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster to an uninhabited chain of islands in the East China Sea. Apparently China claims ownership of the islands.

The protests reflect a growing tension between China and Japan. The situation has become so serious that Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gema has cut short a trip to Australia to address the issue.

The Japanese government claims it has bought the Senkaku Island chain from its private Japanese owner. But China claims it has always owned the islands. The demonstrations in China broke out after a group of Chinese activists landed on the island and were detained by Japanese authorities.

In Moscow, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the street in protest against what they say was an illegal takeover of the government by recently elected President Vladimir Putin. Putin won a parliamentary election back into office in December, but Russian citizens claim the win was the result of widespread fraud. Huge rallies of sometimes more than 100,000 people have been occurring despite the Kremlin’s efforts to muzzle the dissent.

In South Africa, an estimated 40,000 gold and platinum mine workers have been on strike near Johannesburg. Reports are that the strikes are over wages. Clashes at the Lonmin platinum mine at Marikana have left 34 people dead and another 78 wounded. The killings, apparently by the police or military authorities, have sparked a national outrage. The striking miners have been fighting back with machetes.

In Quebec and Montreal, Canada, thousands of university students have been participating in a strike against government imposed tuition fee hikes. Over 31,000 students were involved in the strike and boycott of classes in spite of a government imposed back-to-school law. Citizens got involved by banging pots and pans from their windows and doorways during the protests. Eleven students were arrested. The University of Montreal suspended 49 classes because of a lack of attendance.

In Chicago, the 29,000-member teacher’s union has been on strike for the past week over wages and teaching conditions. An estimated 400,000 students have been affected by the strike. The teachers are expected to vote this week on a tentative agreement that would put everyone back in the classroom. The courts are considering action to force them back to work.

In Brazil, the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu River, a tributary to the Amazon River, has sparked a protest launched by the indigenous tribes living in the area, and now spread world-wide. Thousands of demonstrations have been occurring not only in Brazil but in cities in Australia, Canada, Iran, Mexico, Turkey and the United States. A volume of protest letters has been arriving in Brazilian embassies demanding that construction of the dam be stopped. The natives say the dam will destroy the land where they live and depend upon for their survival. The Kayapo Indians of the region warn that if the dam is completed, the Xingu could become a “river of blood.”

And lastly we must mention the Occupy Movement that spread from its origin on Wall Street, in New York City, across the nation and then around the world in 2011 and 2012. Severe clashes with police and a lack of media attention served to quell the movement, but not before it helped change the political climate within the United States and draw attention to the middle class and poverty stricken people living in the streets. About 1000 people returned to New York’s lower Manhattan this week to march in commemoration of the anniversary of the first occupation. Of course the police moved in and arrested about 100 demonstrators on charges of disorderly conduct.