News in brief

Bradley Manning

On 25 July, exactly two years after the WikiLeaks release of the Afghan war diaries, the following banners were unfurled at the summit of Snowdon in Wales: ‘Free Bradley Manning’, ‘Don’t shoot the messengers! Free Manning. Free Assange. End the wars.’

WISE Up Action, a solidarity network for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, held the demo to support US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (who has Welsh roots) who has been held for two years in pre-trial detention on charges of leaking secret documents to WikiLeaks.

On 16 August, US supporters of Bradley Manning were arrested while demonstrating at US president Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California. Protests were also held in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

Six people were arrested in Oakland, and another six in Portland, all for refusing to leave the campaign offices.

In Los Angeles, Iraq War veteran Kevin Baker said: ‘Generals say Bradley Manning put lives at risk, but they’re the ones who put us at risk, keeping these things secret and lying us into war.’

Police clean up streets

On 12 July, Occupy LA organised a ‘chalk walk’ in Los Angeles, California, in support of 12 fellow-demonstrators who had been charged with vandalism for chalking political messages on pavements during the city’s monthly ‘art walk’ event.  The support action involved handing out free chalk and leaflets giving details of the arrests.

The LA Police, in full riot gear, arrested anyone who chalked on the pavement. Matters escalated and police were soon using batons, tear gas, rubber bullets and ‘bean bags’.

Eight days later, 25 Metropolitan police in London arrested seven protesters for alleged criminal damage caused by allowing green custard to drip onto Trafalgar Square. This was during a ‘Greenwash Awards Ceremony’ during which actors representing BP, Dow Chemical and Rio Tinto were anointed with green custard after being awarded gold medals for being found ‘worst Olympic sponsors’ in a poll.

Fracking trial

On 17 July, four members of “Frack Off”, which campaigns against fracking for shale gas, were found guilty by Preston magistrates’ court of ‘disrupting lawful activity’, and sentenced to two years’ conditional discharges with £750 costs each.

During the four-day trial, expert witnesses testified to the threat to the global climate and human health posed by the expansion of fracking.

The four had occupied the Cuadrilla Resources drilling rig off Lancashire for 11 hours last November.

Nepal crisis

The Nepal peace process has been staggering on now for nearly six years, since the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) of November 2006. The CPA deadlines for agreeing a new constitution and electing a new government have been broken again and again.

Nepali politics are now floating in a void, with no agreement on how to move forward given that there is no constitutional basis for the government that now exists. The options being pushed at the time of going to press were: fresh elections; the temporary revival of the constituent assembly elected in April 2008 and laid to rest on 27 May 2012; and ‘a round table conference between major stake holders of the country’.

On 15 August, the main Maoist party (Unified Communist Party of Nepal [Maoist]) formed a coalition with a number of ethnically-based political parties from the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), and other Madhesi and Janjati groupings. Madhesis are people from the lowland Terai area; the Janjati are indigenous peoples from the middle hills.

The new coalition, the Federal Democratic Republican Alliance, is committed to an ethnically-based form of federalism, which may be able to draw federalist supporters away from other political parties.


Western Sahara

On 25 August, the UN rebuffed Morocco’s attempts to replace Christopher Ross, the UN peace envoy on Western Sahara.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon rang king Mohammed VI that ‘the United Nations does not intend to modify the terms of its mediation, whose purpose is to promote the achievement of a mutually acceptable political solution to this conflict.’

Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has illegally occupied the territory since then.

At the same time, as a US human rights delegation arrived in the territory, 12 jailed Sahrawi activists reportedly began a 48-hour hunger strike in the city of Laayoune, protesting against the conditions under which they are being detained.

The 12 were sentenced to three years in prison for their alleged involvement in clashes with Moroccan nationals that led to seven deaths last year in Dakhla, in Western Sahara.

In late July, it became known that the Moroccan government had tried unsuccessfully to access UN clean energy funds for a massive wind farm that it planned to build in occupied Western Sahara – but that it claimed was in southern Morocco.

Campaigning group Western Sahara Resource Watch has uncovered more dishonest Moroccan applications for funding under the Clean Development Mechanism.

More Bobby Sands

Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails have continued to hold hunger strikes in protest at Israeli breaches of an agreement reached after the mass hunger strike that ended on 14 May.

The prison authorities have often released a prisoner or negotiated to end their strike at the last possible moment to avoid prisoner deaths.

Thus on 23 July, Akram Rikhawi ended his 102-day hunger strike after Israel agreed to his early release and Bilal Diab was released on 9 August after a 77-day fast.

On 26 August, prisoner Samer Al-Barq was on his 97th day hunger-striking; Hassan Safadi on his 67th day; and Samer al Issawi on his 26th day. Samer Al-Barq and Hassan Safadi had their administrative detention without trial renewed, in violation of the 14 May agreement.

G4S occupation

On 2 June, two campaigners from Stop G4S climbed onto the roof of security company G4S near Crawley, West Sussex, displaying two banners. One read: ‘G4S – Profiting from: Israeli Apartheid, Prison Slavery, Deadly Deportations’.

The duo secured themselves with superglue and bike-locks, while another dozen protesters surrounded the building, shouting slogan and holding anti-G4S placards.

The occupiers were charged with ‘aggravated trespass’ under the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, and bailed to appear before Horsham and Haywards Heath magistrates’ court on 3-4 December.

CO 18 months

Pentagon prayers

On 6 August, Hiroshima Day, members of the Atlantic Life Community (ALC) witnessed for peace in a Washington museum by demonstrating next to the refurbished Enola Gay, the aircraft that dropped the Hiroshima bomb. 

The activists then went to the Pentagon and, wearing sack-cloth and ashes, held a vigil to remember the victims of the nuclear attack.

As ALC members prayed by a Pentagon entrance they were arrested and given a court date of 19 October.


Occupy acquittals

On 8 August, all 16 OccupyLSX activists arrested at banner drop at Panton House, home of Xstrata, the international mining company on 30 November were acquitted of all charges after a five-day trial.