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Media personnel wearing gas masks to protect against Israeli tear-gas attacks at a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Nov. 2
Andrew Beale
Media personnel wearing gas masks to protect against Israeli tear-gas attacks at a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Nov. 2

news

Freedom of the press in Ramallah

The pictures were the centerpiece: Photos of Palestinian journalists beaten, arrested, bleeding and screaming, journalists subjected to horror simply for practicing their craft. For doing their jobs.

The pictures hung on a metal structure created for the demonstration. West Bank journalists gathered in central Ramallah in support of a global call to action to end impunity for people who attack journalists.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of advocacy groups working for greater press freedom internationally, called for 23 actions across the globe in 23 days, leading up to the International Day to End Impunity on Nov. 23.

On each of the 23 days, the Day to End Impunity website highlighted a different person who has been attacked, tortured or arrested for sharing information. Nov. 8, was dedicated to Jaffar Ishtayeh, a Palestinian photojournalist who suffered frequent repression from the Israeli military. According to IFEX, Ishtayeh has been arrested, beaten with batons and hit in the back with a tear gas canister while covering demonstrations in Palestine. Reporters Without Borders ranks the Palestinian Territories as 153 in press freedom out of 179 countries measured. (America is No. 47.)

The demonstration in Ramallah was organized by the Palestinian Media Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA, for its acronym in Arabic), a group dedicated to greater press freedom in the Occupied Territories. Riham Abu Aita, the spokesperson for MADA, said the demonstration's goal was "to let the world know about Israeli violations against Palestinian journalists."

"For example, in the past 10 years, (the Israeli military) killed at least 20 journalists, in addition to other forms of violation, like gas bombs, pellets, beatings," she said.

Palestinian security forces are also guilty of human-rights violations against journalists, Aita said, although these violations are usually not as destructive, and Palestinian security forces are less likely to kill journalists. She said the severity of violations committed by Palestinian forces increased after the 2007 split between Gaza's elected government of Hamas and the West Bank's ruling Fatah party.

Clearly, one demonstration in Ramallah will not end attacks against journalists in the West Bank. And as the Day to End Impunity website makes clear, this is a global problem.

But the demonstration was one small step toward a world with true freedom of the press globally. And the pictures MADA hung in Ramallah made certain that, for one day at least, the sacrifices so many people have made in the cause of spreading information were not forgotten.

Andrew Beale, an Alibi contributor and native New Mexican, works as a freelance journalist in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Look for more of his work in the print edition on stands Dec. 6.

News

In Mexico: an election or an imposition?

Following a hotly contested and seemingly fraudulent round of elections, a new president will soon take power in Mexico, representing the party that oppressed the Mexican people for more than 70 years. As the opposition to presumptive President Enrique Peña Nieto grows stronger, an enthusiastic student protest movement takes to the streets. But will they be able to save Mexico?

opinion

On being arrested

Dear UNM Administration,

Thank you for arresting me Tuesday night. Thank you for dragging more than 30 of my comrades with me to the Metropolitan Detention Center. Thank you for providing a continuing show of force at Yale Park, arresting two more people Wednesday afternoon and, now, closing the park to the public indefinitely.

Thank you for calling in the State Police and APD Tuesday night, with their riot gear, their helicopter and their SWAT team dressed in military fatigues. Thank you for sending so many police cars they formed a line literally as far as the eye can see. Thank you for your decisions that led to a gray-haired older woman being handcuffed, while hundreds of people yelled “Shame! Shame!”

Thank you, also, for informing us ahead of time that you would be arresting those of us who chose to continue exercising our First Amendment rights, allowing us to alert the public and ensure heavy exposure of your injustice. I heard the arrests were broadcast live, via Internet in Palestine, Libya and Egypt, adding legitimacy to our assertion: “The whole world is watching.”

You may think my thanks are insincere. I’d like to assure you that I am writing this in earnest. I truly thank you for your ridiculous authoritarian display of the power of the state.

The reason for my gratitude is this: You have revitalized our movement and added more to our numbers in one night than we could have in weeks. All the people that came out of Brickyard and the other surrounding businesses got a firsthand view of the violent suppression of free speech. The students, faculty and staff that have stopped by the last few days and wondered why there are so many police in Yale Park have been given a quick education in the way the First Amendment works in this country“You have the right to free speech, as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it,” as the English revolutionary Joe Strummer so eloquently put it.

Perhaps a little explanation of what actually happened that night might make this clearer. As I said before you, as a faceless, corporate entitythat is, the administration as a wholedecided to stop the protesters from staying overnight and distributing food on campus. You basically cited the rationale that the rich, respectable Popejoy patrons and UNM foundation donors don’t want to look at homeless people any more.

It may be that a lot of people agreed with you in that decision. But I expect you will find far less support in your decision that there is absolutely no expression of the First Amendment right to free assembly allowed on campus.

Spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair personally explained to me on Monday that the protesters would still be allowed to gather on campus during “normal business hours,” they would just have to remove their semi-permanent structures and leave at 10 p.m.

“If they want to come back during the actual day and be in that area with their signage, they’re still welcome to do that,” Blair said during her meeting with me and Alibi news editor Marisa Demarco.

But on Wednesday, during the general assembly meeting, UNMPD’s Sgt. Trace Peck arrived at the general assembly meeting and told us we had five minutes to be out of the park or we would be arrested.

The group moved across the street and held the general assembly meeting in front of Schlotzky’s. The next day, we gathered on the sidewalk directly in front of Yale park.

This creates an interesting spectacle for anyone passing by. They can clearly see an organized group peaceably assembled being closely watched by over a dozen police officers. They can see for themselves that the paddywagon parked on Redondo Drive is completely unnecessary. They can see for themselves what it looks like when those in authority are terrified of the power of the people’s voices and simply don’t know how to react.

The arrests served another purpose, too, as they made those of us who were arrested aware of the incompetence and waste of the jail system. Most of us were released on our own recognizance in under 24 hours, but we got a brief glimpse of the inside of the prison-industrial complex.

I had my documents lost by the clerks at the jail, meaning I had to repeatedly agitate in order to be processed instead of being left to sit indefinitely. It quickly became clear to all of us that no one among the police and correctional officers had a clear idea of what they were doing. First in the paddywagon, and then in the cell, officers came by seemingly every 15 minutes looking for someone they had already moved or who was never there to begin with. The fact that there were two Andrews arrested also seemed to present a huge problem for all officers involved, and I quickly learned to ask “Andrew Beale?” every time they called my name.

We also saw firsthand the mean-spirited callousness of your system. A man who, apparently, was simply walking his dog through the area and stopped to see what all the fuss was about was arrested with us. His dog, as it turns out was a service dog, a fact that didn’t stop the police from carting him off to jail simply for trying to walk through the park. Many of us, myself included, witnessed several corrections officers literally laugh in his face when he asked for nutritional information about the food they served usinformation that was critical to him, as he is diabetic.

I suppose we were lucky that no one was seriously injured. At the same time you were attacking our peaceful assembly, police in Oakland fired a rubber bullet into the head of Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen, who is now in critical condition in the hospital with a fractured skull and brain swelling. We realize that next time, you may elect to use force like this, and we are prepared to take that risk. We know you can beat us with brute force, but we will win more hearts and minds every time you do.

I would like you to know, as well, that you have not broken the spirits of anyone you arrested (except, perhaps, the guy we shared a jail cell with who was there to shout at us to go home and ended up arrested himself). To the contrary, in fact, we sang “Solidarity Forever” in the paddywagon and passed the time laughing and joking in the holding cell. Several people are still in jail for various reasons (including prior records that caused them to have elevated bond amounts) but we are raising a bail fund for them and will soon get them out, and they will immediately rejoin our struggle.

So again, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have picked an ill-advised and unnecessary fight with us. It is a fight that you cannot win. You cannot win because you are simply wrong. You cannot win because every move you make against us only adds to our numbers and makes it clearer that any system that deprives people of their right to free speech is doomed to fail.

As folk singer and labor organizer Utah Phillips said, “The state can't give you free speech, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears.” Thank you for reminding so many people of that fact.

In solidarity with oppressed people everywhere,

Andrew Beale

Alibi contributor Andrew Beale has followed the occupation since it reached Albuquerque. His opinions are solely his own and do not reflect those of the Alibi or the (Un)occupy group.

Eric Williams ericwphoto.com

opinion

UNM disrupts class-based movement because of “transients”

To start, let’s admit something that hasn’t been talked about much in public yet: Thanks to its offer of free food and blankets, the (Un)occupy Albuquerque camp functioned as an improvised homeless shelter almost since the beginning.

This fact is the central theme of University of New Mexico’s news release announcing that the protesters’ permit would not be renewed after 10 p.m. last night.

“The nature of the (Un)occupy Albuquerque protest is that it attracts many different types of individuals, and there is no way to assess whether people are or are not part of the (Un)occupy protest, so as a result the university has chosen not to approve a permit extension,” the statement reads. It makes passing reference to “a number of incident reports” received by UNM’s Police Department, including an accidental death that occurred near the Yale and Redondo bus stop (which, incidentally, is not actually part of Camp Coyote).

According to police report, on Saturday, Oct. 22, officers were directed to the scene by a homeless man, who had been with a woman when she died. He told the officers that she said she had “finished a gallon of vodka prior to the incident.”

UNM writes in the release that the university sought suggestions from the city to help “address the issues with the transients who have been attracted to the protest.”

This could have served as a powerful wake-up call to the administration. Homelessness and substance abuse are not new problems at UNM. The fact that someone died on campus should have been met with a promise to implement social programs, to stop handing so much money over to construction companies and instead reinvest in making Albuquerque a better, kinder city.

Instead, the administration decided to scuttle the protesters so the unsightly homeless people won’t tarnish the university’s image. The basic message of all this? If you’re going to die in the street, that’s fine with usjust do it somewhere else.

It’s not like this is a new position for the university to take, either. UNM’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Lobo, published a story last month about UNMPD’s efforts to remove homeless people from campus.

For the first 90 minutes of every day, the university police force kicks homeless people off campus, a UNMPD spokesman told the Lobo. He went on to say the department has “a zero-tolerance policy” for homeless people that are bothering students.

UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair says it was no single person, but the university administration as a whole, that decided to remove the protesters.

“It was a collaborative decision. It was an administrative decision,” she says.

So what we have here is a literally faceless bureaucracy deciding that it’s unacceptable for the most disadvantaged members of society to be on campusa decision which, conveniently, disrupts a class-based protest at the same time.

Blair references safety concerns on campus. “The concern is, there are people with families out there. There are people that have their kids and their spouses, and they’re just out there to protest and mind their business,” she says.

The problem with this reasoning is that there’s at least one homeless familya father, mother, and childthat’s been taking advantage of the resources Camp Coyote offers. Walking by the camp on Central late one night last week, I saw the kid’s tiny shoes sticking out from under a tarp laid out next to the sidewalk, an image that has haunted me ever since. UNM claims to be concerned for families’ safety but offers no assistance of any kind to this particular family.

In fact, sleeping at Yale park was prohibited under the terms of the permit, denying the family even the relative comfort of sleeping on grass instead of sidewalk.

The safety issue is spurious for another reason: It’s not like UNM was such a safe place before this. A woman’s throat was cut outside the campus’ anthropology building in February 2010, a full year and a half before Camp Coyote was set up.

But there’s another part of Blair’s explanation that really gets to the heart of why the protesters have to go. She explained the university had to consider the safety of “all of (its) constituents” including students, demonstrators and “people coming in for cultural events over the weekend.”

Therein lies the most logical explanation for the university’s actions. It had to consider its other constituents, particularly rich, well-dressed Popejoy patrons who don’t want to pass a homeless shelter on their way to see the Blue Man Group.

The administration has therefore come down clearly on the side of the top 1 percent of Americans, the group that makes up its “cultural event patron” constituency. To be fair, it has also expressed that it may be willing to tolerate the next 98 percent, assuming they follow the rules. But as for the bottom 1 percent? Well, go die somewhere else.

Alibi contributor Andrew Beale has followed the occupation since it reached Albuquerque. His opinions are solely his own and do not reflect those of the Alibi or the (Un)occupy group.

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news

Occupation, Interrupted

Wall Street protesters removed from UNM campus for trying to stay overnight.
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