Something that fascinates me is the continuing stream of innovative ways that people act collectively, and build power from the streets. To kick off a more “web-log”-ish side to this page, I want to share three stories worth following for their tactical innovation in New Jersey, Egypt, and Thailand. Rarely is a tactic really “new,” but innovation also comes when a tactic is brought into a new context, as well, suddenly empowering people who weren’t before. Also, while I’ve been vaguely following the protests in Thailand over the past couple years, I confess to not having any idea which side I would be on if I lived there, I’m just trying to learn vicariously from their experiences in the streets.
Social networking aids mass walkouts against statewide education budget cuts by New Jersey high school students: In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age, New York Times
Sit-ins by labor activists in Egypt outside of Parliament.
Day after day, hundreds of workers from all over Egypt have staged demonstrations and sit-ins outside Parliament, turning sidewalks in the heart of the capital into makeshift camps and confounding government efforts to bring an end to the protests. Nearly every day since February, protesters have chanted demands outside Parliament during daylight and laid out bedrolls along the pavement at night. The government and its allies have been unable to silence the workers, who are angry about a range of issues, including low salaries.
These actions are vitally important because Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East, has lived under an “Emergency” Law that suspends constitutional freedom since 1980 (and except for an eighteen month period, since 1967). Among the freedoms denied are freedom of the press, of speech, of assembly, and the rights to a public trial and to freedom from searches unauthorized by courts. The suppression of basic rights and democracy in Egypt (consistently one of the top three recipients of US military aid) has been one of the great silences of both American diplomacy and of US activists of all political persuasions who talk about the region. the AFL-CIO–funded Solidarity Center offers this report on how labor movements are getting active despite that silence.
Thai “Red Shirts”: Radio, Road Blockades, Mass Presence
Honking horns, singing folk songs and waving red flags, protesters converged on Abhisit’s house in an affluent Bangkok neighborhood where they splashed blood — a few spoonfuls donated by each — on the gates and fences amid pouring rain.
“We have washed Abhisit’s house with the blood of the common people to express our wish,” said Nattawut, as thousands of supporters rattled plastic clappers.
Protesters say the splashing of blood was a “symbolic sacrifice for democracy.” (Thai “red shirts” splatter blood at PM’s hom, Reuters, March 17)
A new red-shirt radio station went on air yesterday in the Rajprasong intersection protest-site area, in a move to counter the continued shutting down of red-shirt media by the government under emergency rule.
“They should allow us to criticise [the government], but instead they shut our ears and eyes,” Chinawat Haboonpak, a red-shirt leader told the crowd at the intersection yesterday morning. “We ask for just one television channel, but they have taken it away from us and shut our ears and eyes again.” The new station – on FM 106.80 – broadcasts from a new tower installed near Lumpini Park and calls itself Rajprasong Community Radio. Its reception can be received all the way to Bang Na area, in eastern Bangkok. (Defiant red shirts put new radio station on air, The Nation [Bangkok], April 19)
A stubborn “red shirt” anti-government movement holding Bangkok hostage has its roots here in the country’s impoverished northeast, where Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is widely reviled. … The town that once supported a nearby air base where the U.S. military operated during the Vietnam war, and whose lively bars and hotels are a reminder of that time, has 400,000 registered members of the red shirt movement. …
Red shirts here and in at least six other provinces have blocked roads to stop convoys of armed troops and police from traveling to Bangkok, fearing an imminent crackdown on protesters occupying a Bangkok shopping district for 27 days.
In many of the provinces, the police and army are outnumbered and seem powerless — and apparently reluctant — to tackle them. (Protesters rule the roost in Thai “red shirt capital”, MSNBC, April 29)