Tag Archives: Protest

The London Underground strike in Tweets

London’s underground is midway through five days of transport disruption, after discussions between the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union and the London Underground (LU) collapsed.

After strike action in February, the RMT again took strike action from 9pm (BST) 28th May over two days and will do the same from 5th May for three days.

The RMT expected a station-by-station review over the London Underground’s plans to close all ticket offices by 2015, to see if there is merit in keeping some ticket offices open. The proposed plans would lead to the loss of 953 frontline jobs. Yet, the LU did not conduct a review of the closures, leading to the current impasse.

The RMT has been circulating the following advert in its campaign to stop these changes, which the London Underground argues is vital to the modernisation of the underground system. They also used Storify to document its members during strike action.

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The LU plans to transform ticket offices into ‘customer service’ centres, which means it is automating the sale of tickets to machines. According to Transport for London (TfL), fewer than 3% of tube journeys start with passengers visiting a ticket office.

Furthermore, TfL says six major central London stations will have special customer points to help tourists and that every station will be staffed while the tube is running, with workers moved out of ticket offices into station booking areas.

While media focus remains on the general disruption to commuters, the original reason – the loss of over 900 workers’ jobs has been somewhat overlooked. This included UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who labelled the strike as ‘unacceptable’.

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Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, when running as a candidate in 2008, opposed ticket office closures, and even signed a petition in 2010 for the same cause. He broke this pledge in late 2013 to back London Underground’s modernization plan.

Johnson also suggested that a new Tory government would curb the right of London Underground workers to strike. The Mayor introduced the comparison to New York, where some public service workers cannot strike, adding that “The number of people participating in the ballot should be 50%.” The ballot turnout for the current strike was 47%, with the RMT union stating that 1,000 staff had backed the action 3-1.

The RMT denied that the strike was a result of internal politics, with elections on the horizon to replace the late Bob Crow as general secretary of the Union.

The proposed changes to the underground includes 24-hour service on certain lines over the weekend from 2015, Wi-fi coverage across all below-ground stations, and disabled access at a further 27 stations.

There are also plans to introduce contactless bank card payment to make it easier to pay for tickets, although this makes the future of the Oyster card unclear. Some have argued that if the Oyster card is eventually phased out, then those without contactless bank cards will be forced to pay the full ticket price, while tourists will be vulnerable to international exchange rates.

These changes all come under the context of the fact that the UK government is cutting £80m from the TfL over next two years. These cuts, a part of the coalition government’s austerity measures, will delay spending on improved infrastructure and value (i.e. closed ticket offices) for money. In January, passengers saw a 4.2% increase on average in fares across the Tube, buses and trams. London’s metro fares are among the costliest in the world, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The response to the strike was strong on UK social media with #tubestrike and #TubeStrikeMakesMe both trending. Reactions of London commuters varied from blunt disdain for strike action, to more considered responses and supportive tweets.

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There were wider comments on economic inequality in the UK, celebrity spotting and typically British misanthrophy.

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By Viral Shah

Picture credit: London Underground and Westminster by Doug88888

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Protests and Strikes – Iceland Fast News

Við viljum kjósa #vor14

Iceland was in the midst of an application process to join the European Union. However now Iceland’s government has decided to pull out. This has not pleased the Icelandic public and Svanlaug Árnadóttir gets to the heart of the matter for Pandeia.

Iceland’s government recently decided to withdraw the application to the European Union, without consulting the people of Iceland. In last spring’s elections, the government promised in a public referendum, that such decisions would not be made unsupported by public opinion. The Icelandic people will not stand by silently and for the past three Saturdays, Icelanders have gathered outside of Austurvöllur, a public square in Reykjavík.

They are protesting the decision made by the current government, which is a coalition between the right wing Independence Party and Centre-left Progress Party.

Prominent Protesters

Up to 8.000 people have been gathering for the protests and a number of famous people have attended to show their support. Amongst those are Ólafur Stefánsson, a former national handball player, who spoke to the crowd last week asserting that the government was no longer doing what was ‘right’ and suggested that it changed its path.

A matter of principle

The protestors said that they might not even want to join the EU, but it was mainly a matter of a principle, to have a say on the matter and to make sure the government keeps its promises. Around 50,000 Icelanders have already signed a petition against the decision to withdraw the application.

Við viljum kjósa #vor14

 

According to Bergrún Helga Gunnarsdóttir, a 53-year old nurse, who has already attended eleven protests, the demonstrators come from all political parties, or sometimes are not even affiliated to one. “It is just normal people, who were fed up and started a Facebook group, which is funded by free donation.” Bergrún describes how people are walking around the protests with plastic barrels to gather money for audio equipment and necessities in order to keep the protests going.

 

 

 

Armed with bananas

The demonstrations took a fruity turn as protesters showed up armed with bananas last Friday. They greeted the government with the bananas held up to the air or taped to their foreheads calling Iceland the “Banana Republic” – indicating that Iceland is loosing its status as a serious democracy.

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Við viljum kjósa #vor14

 

Teachers strike – students suffer

There is even more evidence that its the time of protest in Iceland: University students recently protested planned cut-downs by the government for student loans and high school teachers just started a strike last Monday. The strike has left high school students in the dark about their future. Their final exams were supposed to start in a month and some students have already applied for further education abroad, relying on their exam results to get accepted. Other students have already dropped out to work during the strike, and plan to return to school next fall.

University teachers intend to follow this example and have planned a strike from the 25th of April to the 10th of May. This is in the middle of students’ final exams. The timing is no coincidence as the exam period is characterised by a heavy workload for the teachers, and the results of the exams will affect the school’s funding. If the strike actually happens, it will severely harm the student. In Iceland students do not get their student loans until having passed their exams. With no exams – student’s pockets will be empty.

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Við viljum kjósa #vor14

Venezuela: The Horror of an Unknown Struggle

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Venezuela is going through a period of social upheaval.  Andreyna Valera and Ana Escaso explain, through this series of shocking eyewitness reports for Pandeia, just how bad the struggle for transparency, democracy and freedom has become.

Despite being the largest deposit of oil reserves in the world, Venezuela is facing a difficult financial situation. All economic indicators have been declining; inflation is presently at 56% and still increasing; and food staples have been scarce in supermarkets. Meanwhile, President Maduro disagrees. In an interview with Christine Amanpour for Al Jazeera, Venezuelan President assures that the GDP has grown dramatically, unemployment has dropped from 40% to less than 10% during the revolution and extreme poverty is minimal at 6 % compared to 25% before the presidency of Hugo Chavez.

In the words of Maduro: “Our democracy is so strong because we do not belong to any economic group, no international arms company. I’m not a businessman in the power to enrich a minority. And I don’t think the whole opposition is fascist”.

However, insecurity and social unrest is palpable in the Caribbean breeze. Testimonies coming from different parts of the country describe a situation quite different from what we would consider – in theory – a democratic system.

An Unstoppable Uprising

Graffiti in Avenida Don Julio Centeno, Valencia.

Graffiti in Avenida Don Julio Centeno, Valencia.

 

The tide of protests that has shaken the Venezuelan presidency began with a very specific and representative episode of what is actually happening in Venezuela. On the twelfth of February , a number of students entered the streets showing their unhappiness with Maduro’s administration. In that protest, a member of the military attempted to rape a student in the city of San Cristobal, Tachira . As a result, students took to the streets to protest against the abuses of power. The government in response arrested some of them. This caused more civilian reactions calling for condemnation of the military for the attempted rape. The government responded violently to the pacifist demonstrations. The protests spread to other states and began to take place in working class neighbourhoods, in which people cried out for change and pointed the finger at President Nicolas Maduro as the guilty party.

As the death toll rose to ten during the protests the opposition leader, Leopoldo López, was accused of conspiracy against the government and for inciting violence. “My arrest will make people wake up, Venezuela will realize what the majority wants. My arrest will not be in vain,” declared Lopez in a video released after his imprisonment in Ramo Verde military prison, where he remains detained.

The Maduro government supporters, both inside and outside of Venezuela, have attempted to politicize the student demonstrations, naming them as “the most radical and fascist right wing of the opposition.” However, words and testimonies of young protesters clearly explain that they do not take to the streets for political reasons; they do it for the simple reason that Venezuela bleeds, as Caracas has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

“I’m just asking for justice”

Several young people who are actively participating in demonstrations in Caracas and Valencia have told their stories. All have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. “It does not matter if they know our names. Everyday we are vulnerable to anything and the government doesn’t care,” mentioned one of the students.

Joseph, a health sector student, complains of continued abuses by the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB): “We have been pushed to put the slogans down and start throwing stones to defend ourselves […] They charge at us so disproportionately, as if they were attacking criminals”. On the twentieth of February, the FANB attacked demonstrators with guns and armoured tanks in San Diego during the concentration of Tulips; children and the elderly suffered from suffocation due to tear gas, Joseph tells us.

GNB patrols and motorised overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

GNB patrols and motorised overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

 

Mary, another protester, spoke about the media control from the government: “The demonstration on the twelfth of February in Valencia passed peacefully. I found it amazing the amount of people that were there but I was surprised the lack of media’s presence. It was a very high attendance march, it was an important event in our country and no national media cover the event ( … ) the only way to know how things were going in different States was through social media , Twitter especially”. She also tells of how supporters of Chavez attacked the protesters: “Two cars tried to sweep along the crowd. The first one succeeded: the car literally drove over a girl who was next to us squashing her legs”. During that first day of protests, a young man had already died in Caracas for a headshot, allegedly by the FANB.

Teresa, another student of physiotherapy, tells how the eighteenth of February took a radical turn when protesters were aware that they had to begin to defend against FANB’s attacks and supporters of Chavez. On that day, she came to reside in Valencia as they were doing since February twelfth, all day until nightfall. “Suddenly there were no more cars in the streets and in the distance we saw many lights. No cars lights but motorbikes. About twenty of them arrived and stopped 100 meters from us. Within seconds, they started firing pellets. The next thing a tsunami of people running, running from the guards, shots everywhere and the sound of motorcycles could be heard behind us”. Teresa claims that so far this year, she has learned more about how to make Molotov cocktails to defend against GNB’s attacks rather than techniques of physiotherapy exercises.

One of the youths arrested in the protests and led to jail Core 2, Valencia, claims to have met with fifteen soldiers also detained in the same prison during the first week of March. This shows how some of military had come to join the uprising. One man told of how these military encouraged them to keep fighting, because they felt more guards would do it as well. The same student also claims to have seen Cuban military around demonstrations: “They don’t even try to be discreet by dressing in the Venezuelan military uniform, they feel free going out in the Cuban uniform”. He also describes how the GNB try to camouflage in CANTV’s vans (Venezuelan phone company) to be closer to the barricades. “Some are in uniforms, others in civilian; they got out of the vans and shoot against the ‘guarimbas’ (barricades)”. He claims he is not on the street for political reasons: “I ‘m just asking for true justice for those demonstrators that have been murdered”. He further claims that there is evidence that government-armed groups have killed many protesters.

Robert Redman, killed by a headshot at the hands of an unidentified motorbike last 12th of February overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

Robert Redman, killed by a headshot at the hands of an unidentified motorbike last 12th of February overnight in Chacao, Caracas.

 

Cristina, the mother of a three-year-old child, reported that on the night of the eleventh of March  at approximately 23:14, the GNB used tear gas against civilians indiscriminately in Chacao, Caracas. She tells how the GNB committed an abuse of power and an attack on public health using expired tear gas against civilians. Her son was hit by tear gas and got sick, and then she denounced these events through social media.

 

 

Expired tear gas used by the GNB in which is written, "Warning, it is dangerous to use after the expiry date". In the bottom picture 2013 appears as deadline.

Expired tear gas used by the GNB in which is written,
“Warning, it is dangerous to use after the expiry date”.
In the bottom picture 2013 appears as the date.

There is no official number of deaths, nor the number of wounded and detained people after a month of protests. La Mesa de la Unidad (opposition block) held a press conference last week that had been posted so far: 21 deaths; 350 injured by bullets, choking, lacerations, buckshot and tear gas; 1322 under arrest, of which 1195 are under precautionary measures; 92 prisoners; and most disturbingly there have been 33 confirmed cases of torture.

State media intervention

Despite military repression there remains a diminishing international media coverage, “half the country does not pay attention to what happens unless it affects your daily life (…) is the schizophrenia of a country divided into two,” says a journalist from Cadena Capriles in Caracas. This journalist showcased an investigation into the claims military forces were shooting from close range at students. “Then motorbikes went out to intimidate the population. The streets were still closed due to barricadas. They were shooting at buildings, we couldn’t get out from the newsroom…” the journalist claimed in an article for lanacion.com.

The international media have faced difficulties when reporting on what is happening in Venezuela, with more than a dozen journalists arrested during the protests. According to President Maduro, the safety of the media has always been guaranteed in Venezuela, as long as they do not cause harm to the Venezuelan people. After the closure of the Colombian television channel NTN24,  the case of the CNN in Spanish came to light. CNN showed a false image of the protests, according to the Venezuelan President, and for that he had to interfere personally causing an intervention in the signal.

Already during Hugo Chávez’s administration, despite many protests complaining about the lack of press freedom, threats to media from the government continued. First they took control of Radio Caracas Television, following their takeover of Globovision, the main news channel in Venezuela. Now the few surviving channels are hesitant to report on the demonstrations. The press has also suffered political pressures, even having difficulty finding paper for printing newspapers.

Meanwhile, most large foreign media has not given enough importance to these events and what it means for Venezuela and the international community. While protests in Ukraine has been monitored and analysed, the crisis in Venezuela has been barely told, and when it has it’s been delayed and muted. All this has meant that the main source of information for both journalists and citizens, is social media and in particular Twitter, which remained down in different parts of Venezuela during protests.

The people responsible for the testimonies and images in this article have asked for their identities to remain anonymous. This video has been launched and promoted by the civic platform SOS Venezuela.

A view from the ground in Ukraine

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

Ukraine: A view from the ground

In instances such as the one currently taking place in Kyiv, the maxim that “a picture paints a thousand words” is never more appropriate. In these stunning shots from Sasha Maksymenko for Pandeia, we view the city’s inhabitants caught in a piece of history. 

Russia, Ukraine and The West: Social Media Reactions to the Mounting Crisis

Sasha Maksymenko

What started as a ‘people’s revolution’ in Kyiv has spread to ‘foreign invasion’ in Crimea, as the future of the Ukraine hangs in the balance. Pandeia’s Jamie Timson, Daria Sukharchuk,  and Rebecca Thorning Wine look at the reaction to the crisis across social media in Russia and the UK.

Since Saturday evening, when President Putin  officially declared his intent to deploy the Russian army in Crimea, both countries have been living in a state of constant anxiety, eager for more news. Major media outlets worked all night, providing fresh news of the crisis. Countless editorials appeared, speculating about the consequences of the situation and reasons behind this decision, and ‒ most importantly  ‒ the possible economic sanctions facing Russia.

An hour after the Federation Council (upper house of Russian parliament) had ratified Putin’s decision, the first unrest spread across  social media and small scale protests could be seen in Moscow from Saturday.

 

On Sunday, 2nd of March, hundreds of people in Moscow and St. Petersburg went to demonstrations for and against military action in Crimea . All of them proclaimed peace in Ukraine as their ultimate goal ‒ but disagreed upon the actions that should be taken.

In Crimea meanwhile, the tension quickly escalated as the Russians took control of the Navy base in Simferopol and as this video shows, wasted no time in marking their territory:

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// Not all of the social media reaction from the region was completely negative, with some Crimeans beginning to take photos with the Soldiers.

This reaction to the presence of Russian soldiers may say more about the predominance of ethnic Russians who live in the area than the supposed civility of the impending conflict.

У нас все хорошо 😉

A post shared by Игорь Слипец (@igor_slipets) on

In Moscow, intervention supporters  marched around the ring of boulevards in the centre. Most of them were Putin supporters, and members of ationalistic, Orthodox Christian and communist organisations, with slogans emphasising unity of Russia and Ukraine.

Anti-war protests took place on Manezhnaya square, next to the Kremlin wall in Moscow, and at Isaakievskaya  square in St. Petersburg.

“I see some 300 people…”

At least 200 people were arrested (the number differs across sources).

Arresting the demonstrators in St. Petersburg: people began screaming “Shame!” and “Berkut” (the name of infamous Ukrainian military police that fought with activists on Maidan in Kiev).

Задержания. Люди кричали беркут, позор. #нетвойне #спб pic.twitter.com/ebwzjMVrEV

UK Reaction

The BBC were quick to get their former US ambassador Christopher Meyer’s viewpoint:

While The Sun helpfully came up with this graphic laden image to explain the conflict:

Protests weren’t confined solely to affected region, as demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square in Westminster:

The Telegraph led with a story which suggests Angela Merkel has questioned whether Putin is in touch with reality:

Meanwhile The Guardian produced a graphic to show the military imbalance between Ukraine and Russia:

 

* European Updates to Follow*

 

Oil Hungry: Spanish Government Plan Controversial Drill in Canaries

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The global energy company Repsol has finally obtained permission to begin drilling for oil next May near the Canary Islands, amidst protests and failed attempts to halt the project. Victoria Medina assesses the Canary Islands government’s referendum request to ask citizens whether they approve or reject the initiative.  

There has been nothing but controversy since the Spanish Conservative Party led by Mariano Rajoy announced it would be allowing Repsol to explore the seabed in hopes of finding oil, less than 70 kilometers from the coasts off the Canary Islands. Politicians and experts have warned of the devastating effects oil spill could have on the Islands economy and how it would also be harmful to the rich wildlife that inhabits the area.

Plans to extract oil were first announced in 2001 when then president, José María Aznar, also  Conservative, put forward a motion to claim the valuable fuel that allegedly lies underground between the Islands and the African continent. Repsol was to be the sole beneficiary and the only company that would have the right to drill for oil, but the Canary government was quick in appealing to the Supreme Court and achieved a suspension due to the inexistence of an environmental impact report.

More than a decade later and still without the pertinent report the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, José Manuel Soria, born and raised in Gran Canaria, reopened the case and set the final date. Years of dispute will end in less than three months when the work finally begins without a general consensus.

Referendum proposal
The Canary Islands has the highest rate of unemployment in Spain, 33% versus the nations average of 26% that equates to a total of more than 4.800.000 people. Furthermore, the seven Islands are one of the most attractive holiday destinations in Europe and depend enormously on the tourism industry to sustain their unsteady economy. According to the Canarian Institute of Statistics (ISTAC) in 2013 more than 12 million tourists visited, one million more than the previous year.

The regions president, Paulino Rivero, recently argued during an interview on the public news channel ’24 Horas’ that he had followed proper procedure when presenting the Spanish president Mariano Rajoy with his plans to summon a referendum. He also defended his actions against claims issued by Soria stating it was illegal to request such a referendum.

On the same news channel and during the same program aired on the 12th of February, ex TV presenter Cristina García Ramos shed light on the existing dilemma between oil and tourism. She said it would be significant to control such an energy resource but “at what cost” would it come if it meant serious environmental issues and conflict.

According to the Spanish Constitution, article 92.1, “political decisions of special importance may be referred to a consultative referendum of all citizens”. However, it is still unclear whether the Canarian population will have a say about the matter.

The population is divided, as there are still those who believe oil drilling could generate thousands of jobs for the unemployed. Repsol claimed in 2012 that it would create 5.000 jobs, but experts say that these would only be for the extremely qualified and would not help significantly reduce the local unemployment statistics.

A national issue
The Balearic Islands have also been dragged into the spotlight regarding the same issue since the government decided to search for oil near their coasts using seismic tests. This has been met with protests that it could affect the fishing industry and eventually result in an environmental hazard if any oil were to spill into the ocean. Both national authorities and oil companies say that this rejection is based on a “profound lack of understanding” and that there is no risk involved.

The Spanish government long ago set out to reduce its oil dependency that currently generates the importation of 1.4 million barrels of oil a day to satisfy the high demand of the product. Furthermore, Soria has stated this week before the Senate that if the Canarian Islands proved to be rich in oil it would mean a 10% reduction of all imports from other countries. Environmentalists, however argue that there are far more valuable energy sources that are not being exploited to their maximum potential, such as solar energy and wind power amongst the many renewable and clean resources that the islands have to offer.

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