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News: A year on, bitter Italians keep #M5S flying high

Posted 6 months ago on May 20, 2014, 10:48 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #EP2014, #M5S

ROME (Reuters) - Franco Picini, a schoolteacher in Italy’s capital city, says he has voted for the left all his life, but in this month's European parliament elections, he will back the 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.

“I know his political platform isn’t very clear, but enough with Italy’s old political guard! They all have to go,” says the slim 58-year-old, who teaches teenagers with special needs. “Grillo is the only alternative ... if we want to start over.”

The 5-Star Movement swept into Italy's national parliament for the first time last year, riding a wave of discontent with the country’s politicians and their mismanagement of the euro zone’s third largest economy.

But over the past year, 5-Star has been rocked by internal strife and has little to show in the way of new legislation.

Even so, with Italy still scarred by a three-year economic downturn, the 65-year-old Grillo’s grassroots populism remains a potent electoral weapon.

Polls put Grillo's support at about 27 percent for the European elections on May 25, up from the 25.6 percent he took in last year's national elections. That's behind the Democratic Party's 33-34 percent, but some say polls underestimate 5-Star as pollsters typically conduct telephone surveys on land lines, while younger voters, the core of Grillo’s support, tend to use mobiles.

“Since the crisis isn’t going to be resolved over the next few weeks, the political space for Grillo is still vast,” says Elisabetta Gualmini, political scientist for the Istituto Cattaneo research group and author of a book on the 5-Star Movement.

Italy, like other southern European states, is showing tepid signs of economic recovery, and investors are returning to a debt market they had shunned en masse, but business is still suffering, and unemployment high, especially among the young. Even before the crisis, Italy's real per capita gross domestic product had not improved since 1997, two years before the introduction of the euro, according to Eurostat.

Grillo’s critics say the party has wasted an opportunity over this past year to put their popular mandate to good use, maintaining a stance of opposition in parliament, and refusing to join with other parties to pass legislation. But it is seen as a badge of honour by supporters disillusioned with decades of political compromise that has kept coalitions together at the expense of much-needed reform.

And Grillo is having a broader influence on Italy's political discourse. The Democratic Party's new prime minister Matteo Renzi, at 39 Italy's youngest ever, peppers his speeches with slogans from Grillo’s hymnsheet, and last month announced he was selling dozens of official government cars on eBay as a way to reduce the fringe benefits of Italy’s politicians.

"Renzi and Grillo are very similar. Renzi is the only politician who could eat into the 5-Star Movement’s popularity, because he uses the same populist communication strategies that Grillo uses; he speaks directly to homemakers, factory workers," says Gualmini.

ACCOUNTABILITY

In last year's elections, Italians lapped up Grillo’s rhetoric that it was time to make government more accountable, especially after a year of austerity measures at the hands of the technocrat government of Mario Monti, who was appointed, not elected, to bring Italy back from the brink of default.

"Neither the right nor the left has done anything to make our life better, or to try something new," says Massimo Ornaghi, a 42-year-old information technology engineer who voted for Grillo in last year’s national elections. Ornaghi says that if 5-Star hadn’t run, he wouldn’t have voted at all.

The result gave 5-Star a formidable block of 163 lawmakers between the lower house Chamber of Deputies and upper house Senate.

"The attention we were getting, particularly abroad, was huge," recalls Vito Crimi, speaker of the party in the Senate.

"It was enough to give us all big heads, and some did get cocky."

From the start, Grillo, who founded and runs 5-Star but is not in parliament, said his party "was neither right nor left, but behind the scenes to check on those who govern”.

Sometimes they have been very much centre-stage, including a heated attempt to filibuster a property tax bill that led to scuffles in parliament. They failed on that occasion, but on others have exerted influence on government policy. On party financing, long a controversial issue in Italy, they helped push the former government of Enrico Letta to substitute state financing with voluntary contributions by 2017. 5-Star also say they influenced Renzi’s plans to reduce the power of various levels of local government in Italy.

"(Grillo) has managed to strip certain controversial issues that used to previously belong either to the right or to the left of the political spectrum," says Roberto Weber, from polling organisation Istituto Ixe’.

Perhaps 5-Star’s most effective move, in the eyes of its supporters, is to have agreed to halve their salaries to about 4,000 euros a month and use the savings to support small and medium-sized enterprises.

"The other lawmakers drone on about spending cuts, but when we asked them to follow our example and cut their salaries, there was no response," said Nicola Biondo, head of communications for the party in the lower house.

Though in terms of legislation the party has little to its credit, it did secure a popular amendment to the budget that allows private businesses to withhold tax for unpaid bills owed by the state.

Its popularity has survived what often proves fatal to mainstream parties - a series of bitter internal feuds and high-profile defections and expulsions. As many as 14 of its 54 senators and four of its 109 deputies are no longer with the party.

"The idea that everyone counts in the same way in 5-Star is pure hypocrisy," says Luis Orellana, one of the senators who was expelled in February.

SHIFT TO THE RIGHT?

Hurt by the defections and to counter the freshness of Renzi, who had not set foot in parliament until he became premier, 5-Star has been tweaking its policy platform. Grillo, in his blog, has recently tried to attract centre-right voters, in particular small businesses and entrepreneurs, traditionally on the right of the political spectrum, whose biggest complaint is Italy’s high taxes.

"The party has gradually been moving towards the right," says Mario Catania, a member of the centrist Civic Choice party and former minister of agriculture in Monti’s technocrat government.

That’s partly a strategic move, analysts say, as Grillo is trying to take disillusioned voters from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which has also suffered internal divisions.

On the blog, which is also an active debate forum, Grillo in April suggested abolishing Equitalia, a private tax collection agency, which he dubbed "the oppressor of small and very small companies, while closing an eye to rich people".

A major plank of Grillo’s strategy ahead of European elections is to fuel euroscepticism and seek a popular mandate to abandon the euro, unless there are changes to the financial and budgetary constraints the currency group has signed up to.

"We need to hold a referendum, and our vote will be 'no' if the conditions of the Stability Pact and the Fiscal Compact remain," says Crimi, the party’s Senate speaker.

He says 5-Star’s biggest achievement is to have restored credibility to Italian politics. "Thanks to us, many people have fallen in love with politics again, and we have opened a window into how our institutions are run."

"This is a model of transparency that we now want to export to Europe," he adds.

Millionaire Grillo has said that if 5-Star doesn’t poll first in Italy, he will step aside.

Many don't take him at his word, as they believe the party would fall apart without him.

"He’s saying so to shake things up," says Nicola Biondo, the party’s communication chief in the lower house. "He wants us to aim high."

(Editing by Alessandra Galloni and Will Waterman)

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Statement from #Justice4Cecily

Posted 6 months ago on May 19, 2014, 11:21 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

Today, Cecily McMillan was sentenced to 90 days in prison for being sexually assaulted by a police officer at a protest, and then responding to that violence by defending herself. We all know that Cecily did not receive a fair trial and this case will be fought in the Court of Appeals.

The sentencing of Cecily McMillan has elicited an array of deeply felt responses from a broad range of individuals and communities, and it has also created a moment to think about what solidarity means. For many of us who consider ourselves to be part of the Occupy movement, there’s first and foremost a simple and deep sadness for a member of our community who has endured a painful and demeaning physical and sexual assault, and now has had her freedom taken away from her. And it’s painfully clear to us that Cecily’s case is not special. Sexual violence against women is disturbingly common, and there is a tremendous amount of over-policing and prosecutorial overreach by the police and the courts, enacted predominantly upon black and brown populations every single day, generation after generation.

On a broader level, there’s been a tremendous outpouring of public support in the wake of the verdict, for which Cecily and the team are truly grateful. We’re heartened, too, by the outrage this blatant, heavy-handed attempt to quash dissent has elicited from the public at large.

The message this verdict sends is clear: What Cecily continues to endure can happen to any woman who dares to challenge the corporate state, its Wall Street patrons, and their heavy handed enforcers, the NYPD.

We certainly think outrage is an appropriate response from economic and social justice activists and allies who are concerned about the silencing of those who push for change. The DA and the courts want to make an example out of Cecily—to deter us, to scare us, to keep us out of the streets. And we won’t let that happen. This ruling will not deter us, it will strengthen our resolve.

At the same time we recognize that outrage is a blunt tool that can too often obscure important distinctions. Cecily’s story represents a confluence of a number of different kinds of structural and institutional oppression that impact different communities in different ways. Expressions of shock at the mistreatment and denial of justice for Cecily—a white, cisgendered graduate student—only underline how rarely we’re proven wrong in our presumptions that common privileges of race, class and gender-normativity will be fulfilled.

It’s no great secret that police brutality and intimidation and railroading in the court system are an all-too-predictable part of life for many low-income black and brown people, immigrants, and gender nonconforming New Yorkers—the vast majority of whom receive far less than Cecily in the way of legal support and media attention. And while we're furious that, in the wake of a violent sexual assault, Cecily might now be subject to the institutionalized sexual violence of the prison system, it’s only on top of our horror at the gross injustice that countless people with significantly less recourse experience daily at the hands of that same system.

While we believe Cecily’s story can provide a rallying point around which others may challenge police sexual violence and the brutal suppression of dissent, we recognize that, at best, Cecily is an awkward symbol for the broader issues of police brutality and a broken, biased legal system. This awkwardness is but one example of many awkward scenarios regarding race and privilege that played out in Occupy communities since the original occupation of Zuccotti Park. As a movement, we see in this moment a chance not to push past, but to sit with that awkwardness—to start to reach out in ways that at times may be uncomfortable and to further stretch our boundaries. To learn from communities who’ve been in this struggle long before Occupy existed: From feminist organizations who resist patriarchal domination and combat sexual violence, to anti-racist organizations who, in their struggle for justice, have been met every step of the way by a violent police force and a legal system committed to silencing dissent.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has been a catalyst for social and economic change. But, while we claim to be “the 99%”, building a movement that truly represents the diversity and strength of the people will require a principled approach in our activism centered around a love ethic. Bell Hooks describes the love ethic in All About Love as:

“The will to one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. Love is as love does, Love is an act of will—namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

To build solidarity, it’s not enough to simply be a slogan or a meme—Slavoj Zizek told us during the encampment to “not fall in love with ourselves”.

Solidarity means listening and extending ourselves when oppressed communities ask—not to try to lead, but to get our hands dirty and do the work.

Building solidarity across the 99% is the only way to effectively fight the 1%, and to create genuine change. Though Zuccotti Park changed us forever, the true work began when we went back out into the world.

Many of us are now are working in communities, figuring out how to most effectively demand justice for the 99%—from copwatch, to tenant councils that combat high rents and poor living conditions, to helping build community gardens. As we continue building support networks in our new communities, for the people who still interact with one another in the movement, we are more than friends now—we are family. We’re connected because we see in each other the strength to overcome struggles we couldn’t possibly win on our own.

A member of our support team went to Rikers Island yesterday to visit Cecily and she spoke of her experiences in prison:

“I am very conscious of how privileged I am, especially in here. When you are in prison white privilege works against you. You tend to react when you come out of white privilege by saying “you can’t do that” when prison authorities force you to do something arbitrary and meaningless. But the poor understand that’s the system. They know it is absurd, capricious and senseless, that it is all about being forced to pay deference to power. If you react out of white privilege it sets you apart. I have learned to respond as a collective, to speak to authority in a unified voice. And this has been good for me. I needed this.”

“We can talk about movement theory all we want,” she went on. “We can read Michel Foucault or Pierre Bourdieu, but at a certain point it becomes a game. You have to get out and live it. You have to actually build a movement. And if we don’t get to work to build a movement now there will be no one studying movement theory in a decade because there will be no movements. I can do this in prison. I can do this out of prison. It is all one struggle.”

As Cecily continues the struggle in prison, we will continue outside. We show that we are a family not just by words, but by our actions. Paulo Freire states in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that praxis is the "reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it. Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.”

Through praxis, we learn again and again that all of our grievances are connected. Our struggles are not the same. But our fates are tied up in each others. Solidarity is the only way we’ll see our way through.

To stay involved and help Cecily while she is in prison, please go to www.justiceforcecily.com for more details.

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Cecily McMillan Sentenced to 90 Days: A Call to Action

Posted 6 months ago on May 19, 2014, 10:17 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: #Justice4Cecily, Cecily McMillan, direct action

No #Justice4Cecily, No Peace. Rally at 7:30PM TONIGHT, Zuccotti Park

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan has been sentenced in New York City. Her imprisonment and botched trial are just the latest in a two-year trial of injustices that leads back to her brutal arrest on March 17, 2012 in Liberty Square. She has become another symbol of the two-tiered justice system in the United States: prisons overflowing with nonviolent offenders, whistleblowers and political dissenters while thieving executives and banksters walk free.

As Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” The perpetrators of the crime of poverty not only walk amongst us but are elevated by a broken system to the highest offices of government and corporate power. Enough!

When we took to the streets across our country in 2011 in dignified and peaceful protest, we were brutally arrested by militarized police officers sent to destroy our solidarity and resolve. By the thousands we occupied jail cells and courtrooms and learned of the atrocities committed to the ‘other 1%’: the 1 in 100 Americans who are currently ensnared in the prison system in some form. This is the highest rate of incarceration this country, and the world, has ever seen. Enough!

We need a mass and militantly non-violent movement to bring down the broken prison system in the USA and restore justice.

This is a call to action.

Take a one-day vow of silence against their violence. Take a picture of yourself with duct tape covering your mouth and on it write the name of a prisoner you know. Post it online. Join with others at your local District Attorney’s office for a rally or direct action. Create or join a silent candlelight vigil in your community against police brutality and for freedom for all political prisoners.

You will not be alone in your silence. We will join your silence with ours and unite in a deafening roar to let the country know we will not stand by while you destroy our loved ones’ futures.

At the end of the one-day silence, we will take bold and brave direct action together to shut down the prison-industrial complex. We will have your back.

Our silence against their violence.

Justice for Cecily!

Justice for Trayvon!

Justice for Troy Davis!

Justice for Marissa Alexander!

Justice for Chelsea Manning!

Justice for Ramarley Graham!

Justice for the victims of poverty!

Justice for the victims of systemic racism!

Justice for all.

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Hail to all who has come to show solidarity with #OccupyITU!

Posted 6 months ago on May 17, 2014, 11:49 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: occupyitu

We have OCCUPIED ITU Mining Faculty to demand the perpetrators and their collaborators in our university to account for what happened in Soma on 13th of May, Tuesday.

After our occupation has begun, the Dean of ITU Mining Faculty Fatma Aslan has declared that all collaboration with the Soma Holding has been canceled. With our demand, Secretary General to Rectorate Tayfun Kındap has also declared that none of the students who have participated in occupation will be subjected to investigation. In addition, Orhan Kural apologized publicly from his own web site. Although our basic demands have been verbally accepted, this occupation cannot be limited by demands. We still do not accept the declaration of the Rectorate considering the situation far from scientific view, similar to government. ITU administration must make an official declaration that they have consented to our demands and that the Soma incident was a massacre.

The former governments’ multiplication of worker-hating and out-sourcing policies today, with AKP government, has become the greatest worker massacre of the century.

This massacre is neither the first, nor the last. As the labor organizations and Chamber of Mining Engineering, who has fought against the governments’ policies of privatization and out-sourcing, have been repeatedly saying for years, the most important reasons for accidents and murders in work are privatization and out-sourcing. Even though 95% of the accidents can be prevented, 5000 work accident has occurred only in Soma in 2013. The privatization of supervision and the interest of the greedy bosses to reduce costs, have cost to the lives of workers; Soma massacre was no surprise.

With this occupation, we declare that we will not be a part of this massacre and we do not accept ITU to have any part in this crime against humanity. ITU must raise science and knowledge for the interest of the people, the labors who work with their honorable stand, not for the bosses who multiply their fortune from them. The involvement of ITU Mining Faculty with the companies aiming to provide them more profit with the cost of workers lives, is not in harmony with science and conscience at all.

The number of workers who are left to die under the mines is still unknown, yet the government continues to attack the people in Soma from every direction possible. But, the spark of Soma has built up a fire in ITU. Now, we call for all our friends in universities to demand the perpetrators to account for Soma, to start occupations in their universities for Soma and to rise up against the collaboration of universities with the capital and the policies of out-sourcing.

We declare that we will participate in the process of retribution of those responsible from Roboski to Reyhanlı and to Soma.

We demand worker-hating AKP, partisan Rectors, and collaborating academicians to account for what they have done. We continue our occupation and we continue to make it grow.

We will be the engineers and architects of the people, not those murderers!

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, LONG LIVE OUR RESISTANCE!

http://isgalinguncesi.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/hail-to-all-who-has-come-to-show-solidarity-with-the-occupyitu-and-who-multiplied-the-occupation/

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I’m making $21 an hour at McDonald’s. Why aren’t you?

Posted 6 months ago on May 16, 2014, 9:13 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: organizing, global protest, fast food forward

No, that isn’t a typo. It’s really my salary.

You see, I work for McDonald’s in Denmark, where an agreement between our union and the company guarantees that workers older than 18 are paid at least $21 an hour. Employees younger than 18 make at least $15 — meaning teenagers working at McDonald’s in Denmark make more than two times what many adults in America earn working at the Golden Arches.

To anyone who says that fast-food jobs can’t be good jobs, I would answer that mine isn’t bad. In fact, parts of it are just fine. Under our union’s agreement with McDonald’s, for example, I receive paid sick leave that workers are still fighting for in many parts of the world. We also get overtime pay, guaranteed hours and at least two days off a week, unlike workers in most countries. At least 10 percent of the staff in any given restaurant must work at least 30 hours a week.

Many of the U.S. workers I meet make less than $9 an hour. And unlike in Denmark, where most fast-food workers are young people looking to make extra money while in school, the vast majority of U.S. fast-food workers are adults trying to support their families. Roughly 70 percent are in their 20s or older, according to a recent study, and more than a quarter are raising kids.

Jessica Davis, for example, who works at a McDonald’s in Chicago and has two daughters— one 4 years old and the other 4 months old. After working four years at McDonald’s, she makes $8.98 an hour and has no stable work schedule.

How can fast-food companies expect employees to work hard but not pay them enough to live on? All fast-food workers should be able to support themselves while helping large companies like McDonald’s make huge profits.

Employees also deserve a voice in their workplace — as we have in Denmark — and McDonald’s should respect the right of employees in all countries to organize and speak for themselves.

McDonald’s didn’t give us our union. We had to fight for it. It was a five-year struggle that involved many demonstrations like the ones that will stretched across the globe on Thursday.

Written by McDonald's worker Louise Marie Rantzau. Originally published on Reuters.

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