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Posts tagged ‘Protests’

Police, protesters clash outside Barcelona-Real Madrid game

December 18, 2019

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Riot police clashed with protesters in the streets Wednesday night outside a soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid, as authorities sought to keep Catalonia’s separatist movement from disrupting the game viewed by 650 million people worldwide.

The match in Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium began without incident and was halted only briefly when some fans threw balls onto the field bearing a message for the Spanish government to open a dialogue with the separatists.

The game, which drew nearly 100,000 spectators, ended in a scoreless draw. Thousands of police and private security guards were deployed in and around stadium. In the street clashes, riot police used batons to force the crowd back, some threw objects at officers lined up behind shields and other protesters fought among themselves. Authorities said nine people had been arrested, and Spain’s national news agency Efe reported that 12 were injured.

At least four plastic trash cans were set on fire, and a smell of smoke wafted into the Camp Nou. When the game ended, fans were directed to leave on the stadium’s south side to avoid the clashes outside.

The separatists sought to promote their independence bid by using the media coverage of the game between Barcelona, the Spanish league leader, and its fierce rival Real Madrid. Known as El Clásico, the game was postponed from Oct. 26 amid violent protests by the separatists.

As crowds entered Europe’s largest soccer stadium Wednesday night, security guards confiscated masks of Barcelona’s Argentine star Lionel Messi from supporters, apparently to ensure they could be identified on closed-circuit cameras if they broke the law.

As the game began, some fans held up blue signs saying ‘Spain, Sit and Talk” and “FREEDOM.” Others chanted, in Catalan, “Freedom for the Political Prisoners.” Those messages referred to the Spanish government’s refusal to discuss the wealthy northeastern region’s independence, as well as the recent imprisonment of nine of the movement’s leaders convicted for their roles in a failed 2017 secession bid.

A shadowy online group called Tsunami Democratic, which was behind the protest, had posted a message on social media saying: “Hello, world! Tonight Tsunami has a message for you.” Protest organizers said over 25,000 people signed up to demonstrate near the stadium in Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital, although it was hard to distinguish between protesters and fans.

There was a festive atmosphere before the game, though some protesters briefly blocked main roads to the stadium. The Barcelona team asked its fans to behave with civility and not to affect the match.

Francisco Sánchez, a 60-year-old mechanic, was outside Camp Nou hours before the match. He did not have a ticket, but was one of several protesters who distributed small blue banners with the message urging Spain to begin a dialogue.

“I hope this movement will make our leaders realize that they have to lay off the law and start taking,” he said. “This can’t be solved with violence, but through words.” Miguel Ángel Giménez, a 42-year-old policeman in a Barcelona shirt and scarf, drove with a friend over 700 kilometers (430 miles) from the southern region of Murcia to attend the match.

“Our friends back home told us we were crazy to cross half of Spain to go to a game that might not be played,” he said, adding that “everything is quite calm. There is lots of security.” The U.S. Consulate in Barcelona advised people to avoid the area or use caution if near it.

Henrik Noerrelund, a 55-year-old electrician from Denmark, flew in with his wife to attend his first Barcelona match after a lifetime supporting the club. “In my parts, they used to say politics and football don´t mix, but today you have to accept it,” Noerrelund said. “It’s there, you cannot separate it, you have seen it for many years, and I don’t think they can manage to separate it and just play football.”

Separatist sentiment grew sharply in Catalonia during the global recession that hit Spain hard. The 7.5 million residents of Catalonia are about equally divided by the secession question, according to polls and election results.

Separatists have used the Camp Nou stadium as a protest platform for years. They shout “Independence!” at a set time during matches and sometimes unfurl banners. The Barcelona team has walked a fine line between supporting its fans’ right to free expression and aligning itself with the greater interests of Catalonia. Many feel it does not fully support secession so as not to anger its Catalan fans who are not separatists or its millions of supporters across Spain.

With its slogan “More than a club,” it presents itself as a Catalan institution, aligned with the region’s proud cultural traditions and language, which is spoken along with Spanish in the semi-autonomous region.

Its rivalry with Real Madrid has a decades-old political undercurrent, with many Catalans seeing the capital’s team as a symbol of domineering, central power and a hallmark of Spanish unity and authority.

Madrid supporters, in turn, see Barcelona as representing a traitorous region that wants to break up Spain. For many years, some Barcelona fans held up a massive banner at games that read “Catalonia is not Spain.”

Players from both teams usually get along. The Spanish national team that won the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships was packed with players from both sides. Security is always high whenever they play — just like at many soccer matches between fierce rivals — but there is no history of violence at the games.

Tsunami Democratic carried out its first major action in October when it organized a large protest after several of the secession movement’s leaders were sentenced to jail for their role in a failed secession bid in 2017.

A call by Tsunami Democratic led to thousands of angry protesters gathering at Barcelona’s airpor t. A street battle broke out between the most radical protesters and police inside and outside the terminal, and about 150 flights were canceled as ground transport was halted for hours. Protests by separatists left more than 500 people injured, half of them police.

Hatton reported from Lisbon, Portugal. Associated Press writers Joseph Wilson in Barcelona and Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed.

Australia fire survivors join global climate protests

November 29, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Australians affected by recent devastating wildfires in the country have joined young environmentalists kicking off a global protest Friday demanding governments act against climate change.

The “global day of action” was expected to see rallies in hundreds of cities around the world, days before officials gather Monday in Madrid for talks on tackling climate change. Janet Reynolds, who joined a protest in Sydney, said she had lost everything in an “inferno, an absolute firestorm that raced through my property.”

Speaking outside the local offices of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Liberal Party, student Daisy Jeffrey said “people have lost their homes, people have lost their lives. We have to ask: How far does this have to go before our government finally takes action?”

Further rallies were planned in cities worldwide, including Washington, London, Berlin and Madrid. Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who is traveling across the Atlantic by sailboat to attend the climate talks next week, sent a message of support to protesters.

“Everyone’s needed. Everyone’s welcome. Join us,” she said on Twitter. About two dozen environmental activists in the German capital symbolically jumped into the chilly waters of the Spree river in front of parliament to protest a government-backed package of measures they say won’t be enough to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The package was blocked Friday by Germany’s upper house, which represents the country’s 16 states.

Year on, Amnesty urges Sudan deliver on protesters’ demands

December 19, 2019

CAIRO (AP) — Amnesty International on Thursday urged Sudan’s new transitional government to deliver on the people’s demands for sweeping change as the country marked the first anniversary of mass protests that led to the ouster of former president and longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

A year ago, the first rally was held in Sudan to protest the soaring cost of bread, marking the beginning of a pro-democracy movement that convulsed the large African country. That led, in April, to the extraordinary toppling by the country’s military of al-Bashir, and ultimately to the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereign Council that has committed to rebuilding the country and promises elections in three years.

To mark the anniversary, activists have organized protests in cities across the country. “The transitional authorities must honor the commitments they made to restore the rule of law and protect human rights,” Seif Magango, Amnesty’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said in a statement. “The Sudanese people deserve nothing less.”

The global rights group said Sudan’s new government has shown positive signs of progress during its fragile transition to democracy, citing the repeal of a decades-old Islamist moral policing law and dissolution of the former ruling party — moves that have helped the Sovereign Council distance itself from al-Bashir’s disgraced rule.

Over the weekend, a court in Sudan convicted al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption, sentencing him to two years in a minimum security lockup. The image of the former dictator in a defendant’s cage “sent a strong message, on live TV for all of Sudan to see, that we are on the route toward justice,” said Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the protest organizers.

But in the view of protesters, Abdel-Jaleel added, “al-Bashir has not been held to account.” The deposed ruler is under indictment by the International Criminal Court on far more serious charges of war crimes and genocide linked to his brutal suppression of the insurgency in the western province of Darfur in the early 2000s. The military has refused to extradite him to stand trial in The Hague.

Amnesty also called on the new government to hold security forces accountable for killing scores of people in their efforts to stifle protests against military rule, especially those behind a deadly crackdown on a huge sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, in June. Since last December, nearly 200 protesters have been killed.

The government recently appointed independent judges to oversee investigations into the killings, a major achievement for the protest movement. But even the most high-profile cases have shown no signs of official action, said Amnesty’s Sudan researcher Ahmed Elzobier. Families still find it very difficult to bring cases against security officers, he added.

Sudan is under heavy international and regional pressure to reform. With the economy on the brink, the new government has made it a mission to get Sudan removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism so that it can attract badly needed foreign aid.

Many pro-democracy protesters say the revolution remains unfinished. The poverty, high prices and resource shortages that catalyzed the original uprising continue to fuel frustration. “We’re looking at a deep state that for thirty years has been plagued by corruption and economic crisis,” said Abdel-Jaleel. “But if the nation is given an opportunity to achieve democracy and development and peace, that will be an achievement for the world, not just for Sudan.”

Global climate protests ahead of Madrid meeting

November 29, 2019

BERLIN (AP) — Protesters in cities across the world staged rallies Friday demanding leaders take tougher action against climate change, days before the latest global conference, which this year takes place in Madrid.

The rallies kicked off in Australia, where people affected by recent devastating wildfires joined young environmentalists protesting against the government’s pro-coal stance. Janet Reynolds said she had come to the rally in Sydney after losing everything in an “inferno, an absolute firestorm that raced through my property.”

“It’s so unnatural that I started investigating, reading science and really exploring what’s happening with climate change,” she told Australian television. Student Daisy Jeffrey said protesters had come to help raise money for those affected by the fires and to demand action from the government

“People have lost their homes, people have lost their lives. We have to ask: How far does this have to go before our government finally takes action,” she said. Teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who is traveling across the Atlantic by sailboat to attend the climate talks, sent a message of support to protesters. “Everyone’s needed. Everyone’s welcome. Join us,” she said on Twitter.

Since starting her one-woman “climate strikes” in Sweden more than a year ago, Thunberg has drawn a huge following around the world and inspired thousands more students to regularly skip school on Fridays and join climate protests.

Further rallies took place in Germany, Hungary, Belgium, South Korea, Poland, England, Turkey, Italy, Spain and France — where environmental protesters took a swipe at Black Friday. In Berlin, about two dozen environmental activists jumped into the chilly waters of the Spree river in front of parliament to protest a government-backed package of measures they say won’t be enough to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The package was blocked Friday by Germany’s upper house, which represents the country’s 16 states.

Later, tens of thousands of students rallied in front of the Brandenburg Gate. “The generations before us messed it up,” said 17-year-old Robin Ebelt. “And we’re the ones that will feel the consequences. I would like to spend another 60 years on this planet, grow old and have grandchildren.”

Quang Paasch of the activist group Fridays for Future said governments attending next week’s annual climate conference should keep in mind the goals of the 2015 Paris accord, which set a target of keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). “We need to keep taking to the streets, we need to defend Paris.”

Thousands of demonstrators also marched in Skopje, the capital city of North Macedonia, protesting high levels of air pollution, among the worst in Europe. Organizers blamed the government for the weak implementation of safety standards that has led to some 3,500 deaths annually due to the exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment, according to United Nations health data.

In South Africa, a few dozen people holdings signs saying “Not Cool” and “Stop Pollution Now” protested outside the Johannesburg Stock Exchange in the summer heat of the Southern Hemisphere. One protester lay on the ground faking death, holding a sign saying “Black Friday Reason to Grieve.”

Africa contributes least to climate change and is the least prepared to deal with it. Temperatures in parts of the continent are projected to rise more quickly than the global average. “The reality is that we have a climate change emergency,” protest organizer Elana Azrai said. She noted water shortages in parts of the country amid a drought in southern Africa.

Elsewhere, officials have raised the alarm over unusually severe rainfall in East Africa and a pair of cyclones that ripped into Mozambique within weeks of each other early this year. Scores of young Nigerians marched in downtown Lagos displaying messages such as “There is no planet B” and “Stop Denying the Earth is Dying” as passing vehicles slowed and honked in support.

“Mother nature is lamenting and we are grieved,” declared one of the Lagos marchers, Omobolanle Eko. “The rise in temperature is real. The rise in sea level is real.” Student Folashade Gbadeola listed several possible solutions, some of them challenging, in Nigeria, whose economy is still deeply dependent on oil production.

“We should stop the use of fossil fuel,” Gbadeola said. And in a city of some 20 million people and epic traffic jams, the student suggested that people live near their place of work, ride bikes and share car rides.

The megacity is Africa’s most populous and is among its coastal cities threatened by rising sea levels.

Lekan Oyekanmi in Lagos, Nigeria, and Rob Celliers in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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.

Barring of Moscow council candidates draws 12,000 to protest

July 20, 2019

MOSCOW (AP) — About 12,000 people have turned out to protest the Moscow election commission’s decision to reject several opposition figures as candidates in the Russian capital’s city council election.

The commission last week rejected signatures the candidates gathered to get on the fall ballot. Demonstrator Maria Semyonova said at Saturday’s rally: “They are making North Korea of our country, depriving us of freedom and rights.”

Alexi Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, told the crowd that if the barred candidates were not allowed to register by next Saturday, he would call for protests at the office of Moscow’s mayor and “we won’t leave.”

Moscow police said the protest was sanctioned and no arrests were reported.

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