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Posts tagged ‘Protests’

Thousands protest Spain’s health care austerity

December 09, 2012

MADRID (AP) — Thousands of Spanish medical workers and residents angered by budget cuts and plans to partly privatize the cherished national health service marched through some of Madrid’s most famous squares on Sunday.

More than 5,000 people rallied in Puerta del Sol, according to police estimates, after marching from Neptuno and Cibeles squares. Organizers estimated attendance at 25,000 protesters, many dressed in white and blue hospital scrubs. The march, called “a white tide” by organizers, was the third such large-scale protest this year.

Fatima Branas, a spokeswoman for organizers, said privatization plans were short-sighted because they did not take into account that savings could be made without selling off services. “What their plans really mean is a total change of our health care model and a dismantling of the system used,” she said.

Madrid’s government, under regional president Ignacio Gonzalez, maintains cuts are needed to secure health services during a deep recession. Health care and education are administered by Spain’s 17 semi-autonomous regions, rather than the central government, and each sets its own budgets and spending plans. Regions account for almost 40 percent of public spending. The Madrid region is governed by the Popular Party, the center-right alignment also in power centrally under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Many regions are struggling as Spain’s economy contracts into a double-dip recession triggered by a real estate crash in 2008. Some, having overspent and being unable to borrow on financial markets to repay their huge debts, are cutting budgets.

“We face a really difficult situation because the Spanish health service is under threat of being sold off,” said Dr. Gerardo Anton, 58, who said the changes proposed by Gonzalez would likely attract investors more interested in profit than public service.

Spain’s regions have a combined debt of €145 billion ($185 billion) and about €36 billion must be refinanced this year. The country is trying to avoid following Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus in having to ask for international financial bailouts.

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Protest in Albania over Serbian minister’s visit

October 22, 2012

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Scores of Albanian nationalists have peacefully protested the first visit in eight years to their country by a Serbian foreign minister.

Supporters of the small Red and Black Alliance party shouted slogans and held banners reading “Kosovo is Albania” at Tirana’s airport Monday as Ivan Mrkic arrived. The nationalists feel an affinity with ethnic Albanians who dominate Kosovo, the former province that infuriated Serbia by declaring independence in 2008. The nationalist party also is unhappy with the Albanian government’s ties to Serbia.

Despite tensions, Serbia and Kosovo are engaging in growing diplomacy. Last week, Hashim Thaci and Ivica Dacic became the first prime ministers of the two countries to meet since NATO bombed Serbia in 1999 to stop the war in Kosovo, forcing Serbia to relinquish control there.

Bahrainis use traffic jams to protest

Tue Oct 4, 2011

Anti-government protesters continue to cause huge traffic jams on the streets of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, in a protest campaign against the repressive policies of the Al Khalifa regime, Press TV reports.

As part of the protest campaign, which is dubbed “Manama Storm,” protesters have created massive traffic jams in Manama, according to Press TV sources.

The campaign continues in defiance of an Interior Ministry’s warning in late September that warned the protesters of losing their driver’s licenses for up to one year if they deliberately created traffic jams.

Meanwhile, a Bahraini court handed out three-month jail terms to two people on Tuesday and fined each USD 265 for blocking traffic.

This comes following Monday rulings of a Bahraini military court which sentenced 14 protesters to life imprisonment and handed long jail terms of up to 18 years to 22 others.

The military court, however, rejected pleas by attorneys of those sentenced for an independent probe into the reported torture of defendants.

Earlier on Thursday, the Bahraini court also sentenced 20 medical workers to jail terms of between five and 15 years for treating injured anti-government protesters.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters have been staging regular demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling on the US-backed Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.

On March 14, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist Bahraini rulers in their brutal crackdown on peaceful anti-government protesters.

According to local sources, scores of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in the regime crackdown.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/202693.html.

Saudi forces clash with protesters

Mon Oct 3, 2011

Security forces have clashed in Saudi Arabia with pro-reform protesters in the Qatif Governorate in the Eastern Province of the country, Press TV reports.

The Saudis had gathered in an anti-government demonstration in the province’s Awamiyah village, a Press TV correspondent reported. They chanted slogans against the province’s Governor, Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, — the son of the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Reports say the forces arrested a 70-year-old man, whose son had participated in the protests, demanding the son to surrender himself in exchange for his father’s release.

A larger demonstration is scheduled for Monday in the city of Qatif, where protesters often take to the streets despite a heavy security presence to condemn Riyadh’s role in the brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Bahrain.

The Saudi demonstrators call for respect for human rights, implementation of further reforms, freedom of expression, and the release of political prisoners, some of whom have been held without trial for more than 16 years.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, known for its intolerance of dissent. Earlier in the year, the Saudi Interior Ministry imposed a ban on all kinds of demonstrations and public gatherings.

Human Rights Watch says hundreds of dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government’s suppression of anti-government protests.

According to the Saudi-based Human Rights First Society (HRFS), the detainees were subjected to physical and mental torture.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/202435.html.

London protesters bash Britain’s austerity drive

October 20, 2012

LONDON (AP) — Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the British capital Saturday in a noisy but peaceful protest at a government austerity drive aimed at slashing the nation’s debt.

Unions, anti-war campaigners, left-wing leaders, community groups and other activists poured down London’s streets in a demonstration against reductions to public sector spending which officials are pushing through in order to rein in the Britain’s debt, which stands at more than 1 trillion pounds ($1.7 trillion).

Although the austerity program has had some modest successes — the country’s deficit has dropped slightly — the U.K. economy has shrunk for three consecutive quarters amid cuts at home and economic turmoil on the continent.

Brendan Barber, whose Trades Union Congress helped organize the march, said that the message of Saturday’s protest was that “austerity is simply failing.” “The government is making life desperately hard for millions of people because of pay cuts for workers, while the rich are given tax cuts,” he said.

Britain borrowed 13 billion pounds in September alone, and with other European countries — including next door neighbor Ireland — struggling to make good on their debt, and there is a general consensus that the U.K. budget needs to be rebalanced.

But the right-leaning government did little to endear itself with ordinary Britons when it reduced income taxes for the country’s wealthiest citizens earlier this year. And its leadership has struggled to fight perceptions of elitism which rankle many in this class-conscious country.

On Friday, the Conservative Party’s chief whip stepped down following a dispute over whether he’d described officers guarding the prime minister’s official residence at Downing Street as “plebs” or warned them to “learn your (expletive) place.”

News of Andrew Mitchell’s resignation broke just as word was getting around that Treasury Chief George Osborne had been spotted by a journalist sitting in a first class train carriage with a second class ticket. Osborne paid for an upgrade, but the story’s humor was irresistible. Newspapers lavished coverage on what many nicknamed “The Great Train Snobbery,” and Osborne’s misadventure was a popular talking point at the rally, which marched through the city beneath huge red and purple balloons emblazoned with union logos.

Even opposition Labor Party leader Ed Miliband, known for his close ties with unions, was booed when he told protesters gathered in London’s Hyde Park that some cuts would have to be made one way or the other.

“It’s right that we level with people,” he argued. The cheers returned after he criticized what he described as “self-defeating austerity.” Jeers and booing aside, the protests were good-natured. One group of children dressed up as government workers, including a nurse and a traffic warden. Another child, dressed as a chef, held up a sign warning that Prime Minister David Cameron was “a recipe for disaster.”

Following the rally a splinter group of demonstrators — some wearing the Guy Fawkes masks associated with the Anonymous movement — ran through the streets of London with officers in tow. There were disruptions along London’s busy Oxford Street shopping area throughout the day as police and protesters played cat and mouse, but no property damage was reported. A Scotland Yard spokesman said there had been no arrests.

Official crowd estimates were not immediately available, although Associated Press journalists at the scene said the protesters were tens of thousands strong. Organizers said that more than 250 buses were booked to bring people to London.

Similar protests were also held in Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital, and Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city.

AP photographers Matt Dunham and Alastair Grant contributed to this report.

Protests as Ireland’s 1st abortion clinic opens

October 18, 2012

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — The first abortion clinic on the island of Ireland opened Thursday in downtown Belfast, unleashing angry protests on the street and uniting Catholic and Protestant politicians in calls to investigate the new facility.

The clinic, run by the British family planning charity Marie Stopes, will be permitted to provide abortions only in exceptional circumstances to women less than nine weeks pregnant. But the opening caught Northern Ireland’s socially conservative politicians off guard, and they vowed to launch an investigation into how the clinic operates. About 400 protesters who lined the sidewalk outside the facility all day said they were certain that public pressure would force authorities to shut it.

“I expect the heads of government to run Marie Stopes out of Northern Ireland,” the protest leader, Bernadette Smyth of the pressure group Precious Life, told supporters through a bullhorn. “Those who have come … storm heaven with your prayers!”

Abortion is one of few issues that unites Northern Ireland, a predominantly Protestant corner of the United Kingdom, and the mostly Catholic Republic of Ireland. Both jurisdictions keep abortion outlawed except in cases where doctors deem the woman’s life at risk from continued pregnancy.

Both effectively export the controversy to Britain, where abortion on demand has been legal since 1967. An estimated 4,000 women from the Irish Republic, and 1,000 from Northern Ireland, travel there for abortions annually, often lying to family, friends and colleagues about their absence.

Inside the clinic on Thursday, doctors and counselors dealt with several women in crisis pregnancies. They reported being deluged with calls from women, including Republic of Ireland residents, seeking appointments.

Outside, protesters displayed posters with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses, sang hymns and sparred verbally with passing pedestrians, who made clear they want liberalized access to abortion in Northern Ireland. Protesters didn’t directly heckle people entering or leaving the clinic, which is inside a much larger building with several offices.

Directors of Marie Stopes emphasized they would comply fully with Northern Ireland’s law permitting abortions only when the woman’s life or long-term health is endangered. They said while such exceptional abortions are already carried out in secrecy in Northern Ireland hospitals, between 30 and 50 a year, many more eligible women travel to Britain rather than confront stern anti-abortion attitudes at home.

Tracey McNeill, director of Marie Stopes clinics across the United Kingdom, said some of the approximately 1,000 women who travel each year to Britain for abortions “would have been entitled to have that care within Northern Ireland, but they didn’t know where to go, they didn’t know who to talk to.”

The Belfast clinic, she said, “is not about increasing the number of terminations of pregnancies in Northern Ireland. It’s about providing it to that small number of people who will be eligible for it within their own country.”

The senior legal adviser to Northern Ireland’s Catholic-Protestant government, Attorney General John Larkin, said he would be happy to aid any legislative investigation into the clinic. Lawmakers quickly accepted the suggestion and said they would summon clinic officials to fact-finding hearings, with Larkin free to ask questions, too.

“Given the contentious nature of their support for abortion, it is necessary that the law is fully complied with and that we are assured by Marie Stopes,” said Alban Maginness, a Catholic member of the legislature’s justice committee.

“There is huge public interest. It’s only appropriate to examine (the clinic). The public expect us to do something,” said Jim Wells, a Protestant member of the health committee. Clinic directors say the only form of abortion they will provide are pills that induce miscarriages in women up to nine weeks pregnant. Such pills are already easily ordered from British suppliers on the Internet, though receipt of such pills in Ireland could be treated as a criminal offense.

Suzanne Lee, a 23-year-old student from Northern Ireland who had a pill-induced abortion last year in Dublin after ordering it off the Internet, said she would have liked to be able to go to a Marie Stopes clinic for medical support, because taking the medication was “quite an ordeal to go through.”

She said it involved “severe cramping, a lot of bleeding. I bled for four weeks after it, but because I terminated my pregnancy at six weeks, it was nothing worse than a very bad period.” She expressed disgust that many people in Northern Ireland “believe I should spend life in prison for what I did.”

Protesters warned that the clinic, if not closed, would become a beachhead for expanding abortion rights in Northern Ireland and, eventually, the Republic of Ireland. “For Marie Stopes, this is only a first step,” said Liam Gibson from the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a predominantly Catholic pressure group.

The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland this week launched a monthlong campaign to press the Irish government to strengthen its constitutional ban on abortion. It has denounced the Belfast clinic’s opening but shied away from calling for protests.

“We are in the middle of a struggle for the soul of Northern Ireland,” said Bishop Donal McKeown, the senior Catholic in Belfast, who didn’t attend the protest. He said directors of Marie Stopes were seeking “to promote the acceptability of abortion.”

Only one of Northern Ireland’s 108 legislators, Anna Lo, has expressed support for the clinic. While opinion polls indicate public opinion is split roughly 50-50 on the issue, taking a pro-choice stand is seen as a vote-loser. As a result, Northern Ireland has failed to produce legally binding guidelines for doctors explaining the precise circumstances when abortions can be performed legally here.

Doctors and nurses have asked repeatedly for clearly written government rules to guard them from protests or lawsuits if they’re identified as abortion providers. This inaction means that the only legislation dates to 1861, outlawing the “procurement of a miscarriage,” and a 1945 amendment creating the exception that permits abortions to preserve the mother’s life or health.

The law is even messier in the Republic of Ireland, which won independence from Britain in 1922. Its constitution bans abortion, but in 1992 the Irish Supreme Court ruled it was legal to receive abortions there, if the woman’s life was in danger — including from her own threats to commit suicide if denied one. Successive governments have refused to pass legislation in line with that judgment.

Protesters block roads in Lebanon after car bomb

October 20, 2012

BEIRUT (AP) — Protesters burned tires and set up roadblocks around Lebanon on Saturday in a sign of boiling anger over a massive car bomb that killed a top security official and seven other people a day earlier — a devastating attack that threatened to bring Syria’s civil war to Lebanon.

The Lebanese Cabinet was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting Saturday as the country’s opposition called for Prime Minister Najib Mikati to resign. The state-run National News Agency said security commanders would attend the meeting to discuss how to keep the peace.

The government declared a national day of mourning for the victims, who included Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, head of the intelligence division of Lebanon’s domestic security forces. Dozens were wounded in Friday’s blast in Beirut’s mainly Christian Achrafieh neighborhood.

Many observers said the attack appeared to have links to the Syrian civil war, which has been raging for 19 months. Al-Hassan, 47, headed an investigation over the summer that led to the arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s most loyal allies in Lebanon.

Samaha, who is in custody, is accused of plotting a campaign of bombings and assassinations to spread sectarian violence in Lebanon at Syria’s behest. Also indicted in the August sweep was Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, one of Assad’s highest aides.

Lebanon’s fractious politics are closely entwined with Syria’s. The countries share a web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, often causing events on one side of the border to echo on the other. Lebanon’s opposition is an anti-Syrian bloc, while the prime minister and much of the government are pro-Syrian.

The civil war in Syria has laid bare Lebanon’s sectarian tensions as well. Many of Lebanon’s Sunnis have backed Syria’s mainly Sunni rebels, while Shiites have tended to back Assad. Al-Hassan was a Sunni whose stances were widely seen to oppose Syria and the country’s most powerful ally in Lebanon, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

On Friday, protesters in mostly Sunni areas closed roads with burning tires and rocks in Beirut, the southern city of Sidon, the northern city of Tripoli and several towns in the eastern Bekaa Valley.

The highway linking central Beirut with the city’s international airport was closed, as well as the highway that links the capital with Syria, the officials said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Rafik Khoury, editor of the independent Al-Anwar daily, said the assassination was an attempt to draw Lebanon into the conflict in Syria, which has been the most serious threat to the Assad family’s 40-year dynasty.

“The side that carried the assassination knows the reactions and dangerous repercussions and is betting that it will happen. Strife is wanted in Lebanon,” Khoury wrote.

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