Contains selective news articles I select

Archive for the ‘Protests’ Category

Nearly 1,400 detained in Moscow protest; largest in decade

July 28, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Nearly 1,400 people were detained in a violent police crackdown on an opposition protest in Moscow, a Russian monitoring group said Sunday, adding that was the largest number of detentions at a rally in the Russian capital this decade.

OVD-Info, which has monitored police arrests since 2011, said the number of the detentions from Saturday’s protest reached 1,373 by early Sunday. The overwhelming majority of people were soon released but 150 remained in custody, OVD-Info and a lawyers’ legal aid group said Sunday.

Crackdowns on the anti-government protesters began days before the rally. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested and sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for calling for Saturday’s protest against election authorities who barred some opposition candidates from running in the Sept. 8 vote for Moscow city council.

Navalny was unexpectedly hospitalized Sunday with a severe allergy attack, his spokeswoman said. Kira Yarmysh said Navalny, who did not have any allergies beforehand, was taken from the Moscow jail to a hospital in the morning, arriving with severe facial swelling and red rashes. Hours later, she said Navalny was in a “satisfactory condition.”

Russian police violently dispersed thousands of people who thronged the streets of Moscow on Saturday to protest the move by election authorities. Several protesters reported broken limbs and head injuries. Police justified their response by saying that the rally was not sanctioned by authorities.

Along with the arrests of the mostly young demonstrators, several opposition activists who wanted to run for the Moscow City Duma were arrested throughout the city. Police eventually cordoned off the City Hall and dispersed protesters from the area, but thousands of demonstrators reassembled in several different locations nearby and a new round of arrests began. Russian police beat some protesters to the ground with wide truncheon swings while others tried to push the police away.

Police said the protesters numbered about 3,500 but aerial footage from several locations suggested at least 8,000 people turned out. Dmitry Gudkov, an opposition figure who was barred from running for city council office in Moscow, was detained Sunday afternoon as he delivered food to some of the Moscow protesters still in jail.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sunday decried the violent crackdown as “use of disproportionate police force” and the Russian presidential human rights council said it was concerned about the police brutality.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stayed away from Moscow over the weekend. On Sunday, he led Russia’s first major naval parade in years, going aboard one of the vessels in the Navy Day parade in St. Petersburg, on the Gulf of Finland. The parade included 43 ships and submarines and 4,000 troops.

Russian police crack down hard on Moscow election protest

July 27, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian police cracked down hard Saturday on demonstrators in central Moscow, beating some people and arresting hundreds of others protesting the exclusion of opposition candidates from the ballot for Moscow city council. Police also stormed into a TV station broadcasting the protest.

Police wrestled with protesters around the mayor’s office, sometimes charging into the crowd with their batons raised. OVD-Info, an organization that monitors political arrests in Russia, said 638 people were detained. Moscow police earlier said 295 people had been taken in, but did not immediately give a final figure.

Along with the arrests, several opposition activists who wanted to run for the council were arrested throughout the city before the protest. Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days in jail for calling for the unauthorized gathering Saturday in the heart of the Russian capital.

The protesters, who police said numbered about 3,500, shouted slogans including “Russia will be free!” and “Who are you beating?” One young woman was seen bleeding heavily after being struck on the head.

Helmeted police barged into Navalny’s video studio as it was conducting a YouTube broadcast of the protest and arrested program leader Vladimir Milonov. Police also searched Dozhd, an internet TV station that was covering the protest, and its editor in chief Alexandra Perepelova was ordered to undergo questioning at the Investigative Committee.

Before the protest, several opposition members were detained, including Ilya Yashin, Dmitry Gudkov and top Navalny associate Ivan Zhdanov. There was no immediate information on what charges the detainees might face.

Once a local, low-key affair, the September vote for Moscow’s city council has shaken up Russia’s political scene as the Kremlin struggles with how to deal with strongly opposing views in its sprawling capital of 12.6 million.

The decision by electoral authorities to bar some opposition candidates from running for having allegedly insufficient signatures on their nominating petitions had already sparked several days of demonstrations even before Saturday’s clashes in Moscow.

The city council, which has 45 seats, is responsible for a large municipal budget and is now controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its seats, which have a five-year-term, are up for grabs in the Sept. 8 vote.

Kazakh protesters dispute legitimacy of presidential vote

June 09, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — Hundreds of protesters held unauthorized demonstrations in Kazakhstan to oppose an early presidential election Sunday, drawing riot police and arrests. Police roughly broke up the demonstrations in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and Almaty, the country’s main commercial city. Deputy Interior Minister Marat Kozhayev said about 100 protesters were detained in all, news reports said.

The protesters complained the snap election was illegitimate, staged as a show to hand over power to a loyalist of the longtime president who resigned in March. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the upper house speaker who became acting president when President Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down, is expected to win Sunday’s contest easily.

Seven candidates are on the ballot, including a genuine opposition figure for the first time since independence. The resignation of the 78-year-old Nazarbayev, who had led Kazakhstan since it separated from the Soviet Union to become an independent country in 1991, came as a surprise to many who expected him to run for re-election next year.

The opposition candidate, Amirzhan Kossanov, said Sunday he had no complaints about violations during the campaign. “But the most important result, the peak of the election political process, is counting of the votes,” Kossanov said.

Preliminary results were expected early Monday. Kazakhstan has experienced rising opposition sentiment recently. Anti-government rallies were held in the spring to protest what opponents saw as an orchestrated handover of power and to call for a boycott of the early presidential vote.

One of the most prosperous former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan stands at a crossroads between neighbors China and Russia.

Protests choke communities in Haiti as aid, supplies dwindle

October 06, 2019

LEOGANE, Haiti (AP) — Gabriel Duvalesse squatted slightly as he prepared to push 50 gallons (190 liters) of cooking oil in an old wheelbarrow to an outdoors market an hour away so he could earn $1. It was his first job in seven days as deadly protests paralyze Haiti’s economy and shutter businesses and schools. Opposition leaders and thousands of supporters are demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse amid anger over government corruption, ballooning inflation and scarcity of fuel and other basic goods.

Seventeen people have been reported killed and nearly 200 injured in the protests. The political turmoil is hitting cities and towns outside the capital of Port-au-Prince especially hard, forcing non-government organizations to suspend aid as barricades of large rocks and burning tires cut off the flow of goods between the city and the countryside. The crisis is deepening poverty in places such as Leogane, the epicenter of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

“We are starving,” said 28-year-old Duvalesse, who has been unable to work. “I had to make $2 last one week.” The United Nations said that before the protests even began, some 2.6 million people across Haiti were vulnerable to food shortages, adding that roadblocks have severely impacted some humanitarian programs. On Sept. 16, the World Food Program was forced to suspend all food deliveries to schools as demonstrations started.

Meanwhile, cash transfers to some 37,000 people in need were postponed. U.N. officials also said that private transporters are reluctant to deliver goods given the security situation, a problem that Leogane business owner Vangly Germeille knows well.

He owns a wholesale company that sells items including rice, soap, cooking oil and cereal to small markets. But his warehouse is nearly empty and he struggles to find truck drivers willing to go to markets to deliver the goods because of thieves and barricades.

“It’s an enormous economic loss,” said Germeille, a father of two who is thinking of moving to the Dominican Republic if things don’t improve soon. “If there’s no way to make a living here, I can’t stay.”

Rice, coconuts, milk and diapers are among the dozens of goods that people in this coastal community of more than 200,000 inhabitants say are hard to find since the protests began in mid-September. On Saturday, a grocery store near the town’s center opened briefly to sell rice, said 40-year-old IT engineer Sony Raymond.

“In less than three hours it was gone,” he said. “Leogane is basically paralyzed.” The protests and barricades are increasingly isolating already struggling communities across Haiti, including those like Barriere Jeudi, where amateur bull fights on weekends provide some distraction from people’s financial problems.

Bruinel Jean-Louis, who repairs refrigerators and stoves, said he hasn’t been able to find much work because he can’t travel to find the parts he needs. “It takes a very long time, and that also makes me suffer,” he said as several bulls brayed behind him.

To make up for the financial shortfall, he sells halters for horses. Haitian economist Kesner Pherel noted that Haiti is a country of nearly 11 million people where 60% make less than $2 a day and 25% make less than $1 a day. He said the problem is worsening now that food is not going to Haiti’s capital nor manufactured goods to rural areas, causing a stoppage to the economy.

The situation angers 62-year-old Carolle Bercy, who moved back to Haiti last year after working in financial services for 30 years in Connecticut, both in Stanford and Bridgeport. She said she has seen people fighting over fuel on the rare instances that a gas station opens, and she worries about the future of Haitians.

“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “No country on earth should go what Haitian people are going through.”

Thousands rally against Haitian president, clash with police

October 05, 2019

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Thousands of protesters marched through the Haitian capital to the U.N. headquarters Friday in one of the largest demonstrations in a weekslong push to oust embattled President Jovenel Moïse.

At least two people were shot as police in riot gear blocked the main entrance to the airport and fired tear gas at the crowd, which threw rocks and bottles. Carlos Dorestant, a 22-year-old motorcycle driver, said he saw the man next to him shot, apparently by police, as protesters dismantled a barrier near the U.N. office.

“We are asking everyone in charge to tell Jovenel to resign,” he said, his shirt stained with blood. “The people are suffering.” Several protesters held up signs asking the U.S. for help. “Trump give Haiti one chance” read one, while another quoted a tweet by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A third referred to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who discussed the crisis with Haitians in Miami on Thursday.

The unrest on Friday came after almost four weeks of protests in which 17 people have been reported killed, the economy has been largely paralyzed, 2 million children have been kept from going to school and badly needed aid has been suspended, especially to rural areas. The U.S., United Nations and other important international players have yet to drop their support for Moïse, making it appear unlikely that he will step down, despite protests that have made gasoline, food and water scarce in some areas.

“We will continue until Jovenel leaves office,” said Sen. Sorel Jacinthe, who was once the president’s ally but joined the opposition earlier this year. The opposition has rejected Moïse’s call for dialogue and created a nine-person commission it says would oversee an orderly transition of power, with many demanding a more in-depth investigation into corruption allegations which involve the use of funds from a Venezuela-subsidized oil program. Critics say Moïse has not looked into the former top government officials accused, including ally and former President Michel Martelly.

To protest against the alleged corruption and a shortage of basic goods, Haitians have taken to the streets in force. Opposition leader and attorney André Michel said the international community should recognize the protesters’ demands and blamed Moïse for the country’s economic and social problems.

“He has plunged the country into chaos,” he said. Moïse’s ally, former Prime Minister Evans Paul, also met earlier this week with the Core Group, which includes officials from the United Nations, U.S., Canada and France to talk about the political situation. He has said that he believes Moïse has two options: nominate an opposition-backed prime minister or shorten the length of his mandate.

Moïse, who owned a company named in the investigation, has denied all corruption allegations. He urges dialogue and says he will not resign. Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and Duke University professor, said there is no clear answer on what might happen next as the turmoil continues.

“The thing that haunts all of this is … is this going to lead to the emergence of more authoritarian rule?” he said. Earlier Friday, police fired tear gas at thousands gathered under a bridge to urge the international community to withdraw support for the president. Some demonstrators were carrying guns, machetes or knives.

A police commander could be heard ordering officers to take up their positions. “It’s become more than a protest!” he yelled. At various locations, water cannon trucks were on hand. Getta Julien, 47, said she had enough of the protests and the president as she stabilized portions of rice, beans and vegetables she had packed into foam containers.

“He has to go,” she said. “He’s doing nothing for the country. Nothing at all.” Nearby, others cheered as Jacinthe arrived and greeted supporters, including an artist riding a white horse amid burning tires as he carried a large red and black flag that read, “Long live the economic revolution.”

One protester, 38-year-old electrician Delva Sonel, said he did not want the international community to interfere. “We’re trying to send a signal to the world that we’re not a little country,” he said. “We want to tell them to stay out of our business.”

Some questioned why international leaders had not spoken publicly against Moïse even as he and his administration face corruption allegations. “How can they support this government if it represents everything that is wrong?” said Israel Voltaire, a 35-year-old attorney. “With us being a democratic country, it’s like we’re losing the war.”

Haiti braces for new protest, demands that leader resign

September 30, 2019

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Opposition leaders are calling for a nationwide push Monday to block streets and paralyze Haiti’s economy as they press for President Jovenel Moïse to give up power, and tens of thousands of their dedicated young supporters are expected to heed the call.

People stood in lines all day Sunday under a brutal sun to get water, gasoline and other basic supplies before the next round of protests that many worried would turn more violent than a demonstration Friday during which several homes and businesses were burned as police fired tear gas at protesters.

Several people have died in the past three weeks amid the political clashes. “I have a feeling that the country is going to change,” said Yves Bon Anée, a mason standing next to eight empty plastic gallons that he would fill with gasoline at $2 a gallon for friends, family and himself. He planned to resell his portion to make some money because he hasn’t been able to find work in weeks amid Haiti’s crisis.

“My kids are suffering,” he said of his three young boys. Opposition leaders and supporters say they are angry about public corruption, spiraling inflation and a dwindling supply of gasoline that has forced many gas stations in the capital to close as suppliers demand the cash-strapped government pay them more than $100 million owed.

Protesters also are demanding a more in-depth investigation into allegations that top officials in the previous government misused billions of dollars in public funds that were proceeds from a Venezuela subsidized oil plan meant for urgent social programs.

Moïse, who took office in 2017 following an election redo, has said he will not step down despite the unrest and instead called for calm, unity and dialogue during an address televised at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was a rare appearance for the president since the new wave of protests began about three weeks ago.

Laurent Dubois, a Haiti expert and professor at Duke University, said he believes the country will face an increasing impasse unless the parties find a way to reach some kind of resolution. “There’s a lot of fear, a lot of anxiety … that things are going in a direction in Haiti that we haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “It seems like we’re going into some kind of new phase in Haitian history, but what it holds will be difficult to predict.”

Opposition leaders demanding Moïse’s resignation say they envision a transitional government after the chief justice of Haiti’s Supreme Court takes over as dictated by law if a president resigns. André Michel, an attorney and professor of human rights, said Haiti’s current political system has generated misery, underdevelopment and corruption that have led to poverty, noting that the country’s middle class has shrunk.

Michel said Haiti needs to rebuild a new society and state as he called on the international community to back the goal of opposition leaders to oust Moïse. “The will of the people is clear,” Michel said. “If he insists on remaining as president, he will lead the country into chaos.”

At a news conference Sunday, opposition leaders urged the dozens of supporters gathered around them to start blocking streets and to help them look for Moïse, whom they contend has gone into hiding. Among those leading the call to find Moïse was opposition Sen. Youri Latortue, who has denied corruption allegations that U.S. officials made against him more than a decade ago and once led a party allied with Moïse’s Tet Kale faction.

“We’re going to search for him everywhere,” Latortue said.

About 20,000 rally in Moscow to demand protesters’ release

September 29, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — About 20,000 people rallied in Moscow on Sunday to demand the release of those who were arrested during a wave of opposition demonstrations this summer. Those at the rally in downtown Moscow, which was sanctioned by Russian authorities, chanted “Free them all!”

Protests erupted in Moscow in July after officials refused to allow a dozen independent and opposition candidates to run for the Moscow city legislature in the Sept. 8 vote. Rallies drew crowds of up to 60,000 at a time, the largest show of discontent against President Vladimir Putin’s rule in seven years.

Russian police violently dispersed some of the election protests that weren’t sanctioned, detaining a total of more than 2,400 people. Most were quickly released, but more than a dozen were put into custody on charges of involvement in riots.

Amid the public outrage, the authorities dropped charges against some of the protesters, but several people have been sentenced to prison terms of up to four years and a few others are in still custody or under house arrest awaiting court verdicts.

“Let’s be confident of our power. If we come out in force, we will win their release,” Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin’s most visible foe, said at the rally. Lyubov Sobol, a Navalny associate and one of the opposition candidates denied registration who spearheaded the summer protests, vowed to maintain the pressure on the Kremlin.

“We have shown them that we are strong and will keep defending our rights,” she said.

Tag Cloud