Freddie Gray killed, big protests in Baltimore, USA


Rally in Baltimore against killing of Freddie Gray

By Nick Barrickman in the USA:

27 April 2015

Thirty-four people were arrested and six police officers were injured over the weekend after thousands marched against police brutality through downtown Baltimore, Maryland. The protest on Saturday had been called nearly a week after Freddie Gray, a young African-American man, died from injuries sustained after being beaten by police in West Baltimore.

The protest, which had been called by a coalition of local activist groups and was largely peaceful, was the largest in a series of demonstrations against police violence that have swept the city since Gray succumbed to his injuries last week.

On Sunday, thousands of people attended a wake for Gray, who will be buried today.

A group of protesters broke away from the main march on Saturday and began committing minor acts of vandalism to storefronts and police vehicles. Police responded by sending out helmeted officers to detain protesters and break up the march. Clashes between protesters and police continued throughout the night in parts of West Baltimore, near the area where Gray was beaten and killed.

The number of police flooding the streets over the weekend was comparable to the total number of demonstrators. Baltimore Police Chief Anthony W. Batts mobilized over 1,200 policemen. He made the ludicrous claim that deploying police across the city would safeguard protesters’ right of “peaceful expression.”

On Saturday night, a photographer from the Baltimore City Paper was arrested and beaten by police in front of the Western District Police Station. “They mobilized,” photographer J.M. Giordano reported of the ordeal as he and a bystander were swept up by heavily armed police amid a demonstration. “They just swarmed over me… I got hit. My head hit the ground. They were hitting me, then someone pulled me out,” he said.

Sait Serkan Gurbuz, a photojournalist for Reuters, was arrested by police at the same time.

Freddie Gray was beaten by Baltimore police April 12 after reportedly making eye contact with an officer and then fleeing. Six policemen gave chase and restrained the youth in a position which severely injured his spine. Gray was then tossed into the back of a police van and driven across town unrestrained by safety belts for over a half hour before being given medical help. The city has refused to release the names of the police officers involved, while suspending each with pay, pending an investigation.

At the protest on Saturday, representatives of local activist groups tied to the Democrats took turns making explicit appeals to leading Democratic Party figures. Malik Z. Shabazz, head of one of the event’s organizers, Black Lawyers for Justice, appealed to Barack Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder, and even demanded that Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential elections, come to address her “black Democratic voters” at the march.

Democratic Party officials, however, took the lead in praising the police. “I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances,” said US Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, referring to the Baltimore police force, adding that the march had been disturbed by a “few people, mainly from out of town.”

The Baltimore Police Department issued a statement declaring, “While the vast majority of arrests reflect local residency, the total number of arrests does not account for every incident of criminal activity,” adding that the department “believes that outside agitators continue to be the instigators behind acts of violence and destruction.”

The claim that so-called disturbances of the peace are the product of “outside agitators” has been used by authorities against protest movements dating back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. …

The disconnect between the sentiments of the organizers and those protesting police violence was clear in discussions held with those at the march. One resident of the West Baltimore district where Freddie Gray was murdered told the World Socialist Web Site that the police were “a gang in blue” and that any intervention by the federal government into the circumstances of the man’s death would only be a “cover-up.” (See: “Baltimore residents speak out against latest police killing”)

Another Baltimore resident said, “If you are not totally subservient to them [the police], they will escalate the situation… this is a part of the plan to militarize the country and intimidate the population.”

Last Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would open a federal investigation into Gray’s death after an open letter from Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, as well as Cummings and two other congressmen, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. The five Democrats suggested that such a move would “restore public confidence in the Baltimore Police Department.”

This follows the trend of other DoJ investigations into police departments in places such as Ferguson, Cleveland, Albuquerque and elsewhere that turn up a record of systemic police corruption and brutality, for which no further action is taken.

In pictures: Baltimore protests echo Ferguson: here.

See also here.

South Carolina cops face prison time for sadistically tasering mentally disabled woman: here.

Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano, RIP


This video series from the USA is called ‘Open Veins of Latin America‘ author Eduardo Galeano on Democracy NOW! 2006.

By Len Phelan in Britain:

Eduardo Galeano, writer and journalist

Saturday 18th April 2015

September 3 1940 – April 13 2015

“Our principal enemy is not imperialism, or the bourgeoisie, or the bureaucracy. Our principal enemy is fear and we carry it inside,” one of the women who helped overthrow the Bolivian dictatorship in 1978 once told Eduardo Galeano.

The great Uruguayan journalist and writer, who died last Monday, might have written those words as an epitaph to himself. If anyone consistently and courageously gave encouragement to those in struggle — particularly the indigenous populations of Latin America and the oppressed globally — it was Galeano.

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Galeano started work at 20 and in the early 1960s was a contributor and later editor of the influential weekly journal Marcha.

Following the 1973 fascist military coup Galeano was imprisoned and later forced to flee Uruguay. His seminal 1971 book Open Veins of Latin America — which catalogues the pillage of the continent by European and later US colonialism and imperialism over five centuries — was banned by the right-wing military governments in his native country, Chile and Argentina where he settled for a short time before being forced to flee again to Spain in 1976 following General Jorge Videla’s bloody coup.

The Open Veins was the book Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez gave to Barack Obama at the opening of the Summit of the Americas in 2009. US columnist Andres Oppenheimer described it as “a diatribe whose underlying theme is that Latin America’s poverty is caused by US imperialism” and, in lurid prose that must have amused Galeano, stated that Obama showed misplaced appreciation for the gift “considering that Chavez’s gesture was the equivalent of presenting Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to an Israeli president.” The book subsequently went to number two on the Amazon best-seller list.

When exiled in Spain he wrote Memory of Fire, regarded as one of the most powerful literary indictments of colonialism in the Americas. The trilogy — Genesis, Faces and Masks and Century of the Wind — combines history, journalism and biography in an incandescent prose.

As former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica has said of his writing: “He worked a gigantic path which helped all Latin Americans understand our roots. His work did more than illuminate truths — it painted our suffering and our shared feelings.

“Galeano imbued this work with a thorough effort unearthing even native-American legends and went on to discover a kind of telluric past depicting ancestral cosmologies which lay at the heart of the history of America.” He was a “sharer of dreams, of hopes, of pain, of frustrations and a gigantic love for life.”

In 1985 Galeano returned to Montevideo and, following the victory of the Broad Front alliance in the 2004 Uruguayan elections — which ushered in the first left-wing government in Uruguayan history — backed the new administration.

The Uruguayan people had used “common sense,” he stated, because they were “tired of being cheated” by the traditional Colorado and Blanco parties.

In 2005, Galeano joined the advisory board of the pan-Latin American television station TeleSur based in Caracas, Venezuela. He was a supporter of the Bolivarian revolution and an unswerving, though unromantic, friend of Cuba. “I have never confused Cuba with paradise so why should I now confuse it with hell?” he once remarked. “I am just one among those who believe that Cuba can be loved without lying or shutting up (about it).”

“Fidel Castro is a symbol of national dignity. For us Latin Americans — who have been humiliated for over 500 hundred years — he is an endearing symbol.”

Throughout his career, Galeano was showered with academic and literary awards in the US, Scandinavia, his native Uruguay and Latin America, where he gained the prestigious Casa de las Americas prize in 1975, 1978 and 2011.

One of his last books’ Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, typifies his extraordinary output. These short stories, some only a few paragraphs long, provide historical insights and radical perspectives on everything from the origins of fire to football — one of Galeano’s great obsessions — and along the way pays homage to communist leaders like Lenin, Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh.

In a recent interview, Galeano restated his literary mission. It was to give voice to “the nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be. Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.”

Galeano never lost sight of that mission and it is why his books will endure as long as the “nobodies” exist.

Oppositional journalist murdered in Ukraine


This music video says about itself:

Let Valentina Lisitsa play: Piano by Hussam Ezz Eldin

9 April 2015

Let Valentina Lisitsa play is a piano piece composed by Hussam Ezz Eldin just to stand with Valentina Lisitsa against any kind of controlling her political views.

I dedicate this piece for her and it is an objection for what happened to her.

Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa was paid by Canada’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra NOT to play.

No, it’s not about her skills, it’s about her political views. She’s been extensively twitting on Ukraine from afar and her thoughts don’t really fall in line with the western narrative. On Facebook the soloist appealed to thousands of her fans saying that her scheduled concert in Toronto was cancelled. Lisitsa says that an aggressive lobbyist group claiming to represent the Ukrainian community pressured the orchestra into banning her performance. Her tweets were used as ‘proof’ that she was inciting hatred and the orchestra bought it.

Open letter of Valentina Lisitsa concerning Canadians wanting to block her freedom of speech and embargoing her concern on Ukraine: here.

This video from Canada says about itself:

LET VALENTINA PLAY! Action in Toronto April 8. 2015.

In the week since the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) banned Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa from performing, the corporate media and its music critics have sought to downplay the ban’s significance: here.

From the BBC in Britain:

Ukraine conflict: Pro-Russia journalist Oles Buzyna killed

53 minutes ago

A Ukrainian journalist known for his pro-Russian views has been shot dead in the capital Kiev.

Oles Buzyna, 45, was killed by shots fired from a car, Interior Ministry spokesman Anton Herashchenko said.

Mr Buzyna is the latest in a series of allies of Ukraine’s pro-Russian former President, Victor Yanukovych, to die in suspicious circumstances.

His killing comes a day after MP Oleg Kalashnikov, who was close to Mr Yanukovych, was shot dead in Kiev.

Mr Herashchenko said he believed both killings were related to the victims’ involvement with Ukraine’s “anti-Maidan” movement, which opposed the popular overthrow of Mr Yanukovych in 2014. …

Mr Buzyna, who was an active blogger and briefly editor of pro-Russian daily newspaper Segodnya, was killed outside his home. …

At least eight other officials connected to Mr Yanukovych’s government have died suddenly in the past three months.

Authorities initially labelled some of the deaths suicides, but later they said it was possible that some of the people were killed or forced to take their lives.

See also here.

By Alex Lantier and Stefan Steinberg:

16 April 2015

On April 9, the NATO-backed regime in Ukraine passed laws rehabilitating Nazi collaborationist forces that carried out ethnic mass murder during World War II, while banning all communist symbols in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic.

The law, titled “On the legal status and commemoration of 20th century fighters for Ukrainian independence,” officially legitimizes dozens of nationalist groups, including the Nazi-collaborationist Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). It requires that state and local governments provide social benefits to members of these organizations and to their families.

The law also makes any public criticism of organizations on this list a criminal offense, stating: “Public denunciation of the role of OUN-UPA in restoring the independence of Ukraine is illegal.”

In the lead-up to the May 9 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, there has been an accelerating wave of political assassinations targeting critics of the Western-backed, far-right regime in Kiev. Yesterday evening, a group calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)—the name of a Ukrainian fascist militia that collaborated with Nazi forces in carrying out ethnic genocides of Jews and Poles during World War II—claimed responsibility for the killings. In a statement emailed to opposition legislators and political commentators, it also gave “anti-Ukrainian” persons 72 hours to leave the country or be killed if they stayed behind: here.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Tuesday that Canada will deploy 200 armed forces personnel to western Ukraine for two years to train the army and national guard of Ukraine’s rightwing, US-backed government: here.

Syrian journalists’ kidnappers Sunni, not Shia


This video from the USA says about itself:

16 April 2015

Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent at NBC News, was a member of the six-member news team that was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. He has recounted the group’s ordeal after information recently unearthed by the New York Times suggested that Engel had been wrong about the identity of their kidnappers. …

During the ordeal, the crewmembers thought that their kidnappers were Shiite militiamen loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times, however, has uncovered information suggesting that the Syrian rebels who ‘rescued’ the journalists had some kind of relationship with the kidnappers.

By Michael Calderone in the USA:

NBC’s Richard Engel Reveals Syria Kidnappers’ Ruse Misled Him And Fellow Journalists

Posted: 04/15/2015 11:47 pm EDT Updated: 04/16/2015 12:59 am EDT

NEW YORK — NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel revealed Wednesday night that the masked men who kidnapped him and five colleagues in Syria in December 2012 misled the captive journalists about their affiliation, leading him to misidentify them in accounts of the ordeal.

During a Dec. 18, 2012, appearance on the “Today” show following their escape, Engel identified his captors as members of the shabiha, a Shia militia loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. But as The Huffington Post reported Wednesday afternoon, new questions about the kidnappers’ affiliation recently prompted Engel and a team of journalists to revisit the harrowing five days in captivity.

After reporting for the past several weeks, Engel wrote Wednesday that his kidnappers were Sunni, not Shia, and had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince” the captured journalists they were the shabiha and linked to Assad, Iran, and Hezbollah. Engel had previously described the men as part of the Shia militia in TV interviews and a first-person piece for Vanity Fair in March 2013.

Though California State University professor As’ad AbuKhalil expressed serious doubts early on about Engel’s captors being the shabiha, and aligned with Iran and Hezbollah, the correspondent’s account was never seriously challenged in the news media. On the day Engel surfaced in Turkey, AbuKhalil wrote that graffiti visible in a video of the captured journalists included “clearly fake” slogans intended to falsely suggest the captors were Shiites. “If this one is believable” he wrote, “I am posing as a dentist.”

Following publication of Engel’s piece on Wednesday, AbuKhalil told The Huffington Post that the episode “shows the extent to which Western media were going out of their way to protect the armed thugs and terrorists of the Syrian armed groups.”

“Engel did not want to believe that he was kidnapped by the very ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels that he and other correspondents were promoting on a daily basis,” AbuKhalil wrote in an email. “This is a scandal of major proportion. The moderate rebels are the ones who perfected the art of kidnapping for ransom, of journalists and sectarian kidnapping of innocent Lebanese and Syrians. This should raise questions about the quality of Western reporting on Syria.”

The 28-month-old ordeal gained renewed attention in recent weeks after The New York Times asked Engel about the kidnapping. The Times reported late Wednesday that NBC News executives were informed during and after Engel’s captivity that a Sunni criminal gang may be to blame, but “moved quickly to put Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.”

The Times story raises questions about NBC News’ handling of the ordeal and brings more scrutiny on a network still reeling from “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams’ false claims of coming under RPG fire while reporting in Iraq. Williams was subsequently suspended.

There’s no dispute that Engel and his crew were kidnapped and endured psychological torture for several days. But Engel’s original conclusion about the ordeal — that a pro-government Shia militia seized the journalists and was delivering them to a Hezbollah stronghold in Syria — can no longer be supported. Engel now concludes that he and his crew were “kidnapped by a criminal gang for money and released for propaganda purposes.”

“We still cannot determine whether we were set up to be kidnapped from the start,” Engel said, “and we have found no evidence that the Iranian and Lebanese prisoners whom we were headed to see existed.” (In previous accounts, Engel said a rebel commander was bringing them into Syria to see these prisoners, proof of Iranian government and Hezbollah activity in the Syrian civil war.) Engel also wrote that the Syrian rebels who freed his crew after five days had ties to the kidnappers.

In his article Wednesday, Engel provides new details of the kidnapping, including how an emergency GPS system the crew carried had alerted NBC to their position. As word spread that the journalists were located, Engel wrote, his captors considered killing them and hiding the bodies.

Engel wrote that Abu Ayman, an Islamist commander in the area, feared that the death of American journalists could lead to the U.S. not providing arms to those fighting Assad’s regime. Abu Ayman, he wrote, contacted the Sunni leader of the criminal gang holding the journalists. The details of the intervention remain unclear, as two of the participants are believed dead and a third missing.

Engel and his crew were freed soon after the kidnappers stopped at a rebel checkpoint and were killed in a firefight — or, at least that’s what Engel believed at the time. The situation is increasingly murky, given that the rebels freeing Engel’s crew had some previous interaction with the kidnappers. Engel said a source insisted in his recent reporting that the kidnappers were indeed killed that night.

This article has been updated to include The New York Times report.

Journalist Richard Engel’s 2012 kidnapping account was part of drive to war with Syria: here.

Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel? Here.

After exposure of 2012 kidnapping story. Vanity Fair, Richard Engel and NBC attempt a cover-up: here.

Egyptian human rights activist arrested


This video from the USA says about itself:

Egypt Has A New Dictator

3 June 2014

Egypt’s president-elect, the former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, told Egyptians it is now “time to work” to rebuild the economy after he was officially declared the landslide winner of last week’s election, restoring a career military man to the country’s top office…

Read more here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Egypt: Top rights activist held for ‘illegal’ radio

Monday 6th April 2015

THE head of an Egyptian human rights organisation was held by Cairo police at the weekend following their raid on the group’s online radio station.

Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies director Ahmed Samih said that officers told him he was under investigation for broadcasting without a license on the web radio platform Horytna.

“One of the main questions was around our political affiliation,” he said in a phone call from the police station, adding that the radio station was not affiliated with a party and was focused on human rights.

Also on Saturday, Human Rights Watch urged Egypt to halt the execution of six men condemned to death for killing security forces, contending that some were in jail during the attack.

The rights group said that the men were among nine convicted of killing two officers in a 2014 shootout near Cairo.