1 Billion Rising

Neude Crowd
As a feminist from a very young age, I’m constantly frustrated and horrified by the treatment of women around the world. I’m not just talking about the horrendous rapes of women that have taken place in India and South Africa recently. I’m just as upset over the fact that the Violence Against Women Act in the US was not reauthorized and only given an extension yesterday. Don’t even get me started on the fact that the US is the only democracy in the world that hasn’t ratified the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (otherwise known as the international bill of rights for women).

ONE IN THREE WOMEN ON THE PLANET WILL BE RAPED OR BEATEN IN HER LIFETIME.

ONE BILLION WOMEN VIOLATED IS AN ATROCITY

ONE BILLION WOMEN DANCING IS A REVOLUTION*

Tomorrow, 14 February 2013, women (and men) all over the world will be rising up to protest the violence against women that takes place everywhere. This peaceful protest will take the form of singing, dancing, and flashmobs. Cities and countries all over the world have events planned and you’re free to take part, even if you haven’t learned the flashmob routine. Just dance and support women everywhere!

Utrecht will have its own event taking place, starting at Hoog Catharijne and then moving to Neude. The goal is to have one billion people around the world speaking out peacefully against this brutality. No matter where you are, look for an event near you. Or start your own! It doesn’t have to be big. Just find your own way to raise your voice.

*stats from onebillionrising.org

Utrecht’s Occupation

Wave the Flag
On 15 October 2011, people of all ages began gathering at the Domplein in Utrecht. The crisp, autumn morning saw signs being made, posters being hung, and people coming together to voice a frustration with the form of capitalism that has taken over in many countries. On this day, in cities and countries around the world, people joined together to show a solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not everyone there was an anarchist, nor were they all dirty hippies or a lazy bums (or any other needlessly pejorative terms). They were young and old, dreadlocked and neatly shorn, obvious protesters and people who look like someone’s granny. Many had different issues that they found particularly frustrating, but the point was that they were all feeling a bit fed up with how the super wealthy and the corporations seemed to be getting the better end of any and all deals.

Since that day many of the Occupy protests around the world, including the original Occupy Wall Street, have been closed down, sometimes with unnecessary violence and brutality. Other protests have popped up, often with mixed results, and frequently with seemingly unnecessary arrests. I recommend checking out some of the posts at nylondaze for some great photos and discussion of recent protests in New York.

While other groups have been shut down, often ages ago, the Occupy Utrecht group, which took over a small section of the square behind the old Stadhuis (city hall) in the center of town, has hung on through (lots of) rain, snow, and changing seasons. They’re still there, and while relatively small, they’ve been clean and organized and seemingly willing to talk every time I’ve gone past their camp.

However, they’re finally being asked to move. Well, at least for a day. You see, April 30 is a national holiday, Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). Mayor Wolfsen has decided that for the health of the protesters and others, the camp needs to go. The protesters obviously didn’t agree, especially when it was stated that they couldn’t return after the holiday. However, a judge has agreed with them and stated that they can return on 1 May. I’m not sure if they are going to move, but if they do, I suspect they will return, especially when you consider the history of 1 May, also known as May Day and International Worker’s Day. This is a day traditionally when labour and left-wing movements often take to the streets for demonstrations and marches throughout the world.

I’m not sure if I’ll be passing by the Stadhuisplein on Monday, although if the weather isn’t pouring down in buckets as it’s doing now, I may be tempted to go to see if they complied for the one day. I did stop by yesterday, though, and got a few photos. As you can see, it’s not a large, unruly camp. It’s actually condensed and become more organized over the months. With the current austerity measures vote and the recent collapse of the government, I don’t think it’s a bad group to keep around as a reminder that lower and middle classes shouldn’t be the only ones to bear the brunt of economic struggle.

Occupy Utrecht

Occupy Utrecht

M31 Utrecht Demonstration

End of M31 Rally in Utrecht
Ok, you got your cuddly cat posting from me early. Now a more political/news posting. Today, across Europe, it’s M31: The European Day of Action Against Capitalism. Cities across Europe have seen protests, marches, and rallies decrying the current state of affairs. From their website:

Current policies in the EU and in Europe as a whole are as speculative as capitalism has ever been. That’s because austerity measures are jeopardising economic stability just as much as debt-inflated growth. There can never be salvation in capitalism, only endlessly recurring crises.

We don’t want to save capitalism, we want to overcome it. We oppose nationalism. It is crucial to fight against the continued erosion of social standards, but we need to aim higher. We want to get rid of the fatal constraints of capitalism and its political institutions. That’s the only way the widespread demand for “real democracy” can be fulfilled.
Source

I understand some of their complaints. I’m not clear enough yet on how they want to effect changes. Regardless, I do think it’s worth some thought and while they raise awareness, I hope they can come up with effective alternatives. I’ll say no more, because it’s too large an issue for a simple blog like this and I don’t have all the facts.

Instead, I’ll share with you a few photos of the people’s meeting that is taking place in front of the Stadsschouwburg right now. This was the end event after a march and protest that began at the Overvecht station in Utrecht and worked its way to this end of town. For more information on the Utrecht event, you can read here (in Dutch). For more information (in English) about what they are trying to do, visit the M31 website and maybe check your local news tonight.

Shared Warmth

Protestor

Peaceful Gathering

Anticapitalism

I Predict A Riot

Don’t you just love when you’ve got friends visiting and you get to take them out, show them around, and get them to the fringe edge of a riot? That’s what I did yesterday when I took a visiting friend to Amsterdam. We had a bit of culture first, with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, and then took in a bit of political protest-turned-riot. Water cannons, included!

Student Protest in Amsterdam
A student protest had been taking place in the Museumplein behind the Van Gogh Museum. That explained the unusually large police presence we’d seen in front of the museum. There had been vans full of police who looked a bit more paramilitary than your average street copper. As we left the museum, we heard and saw a few fireworks coming from behind the museum, but I figured it was just people setting off New Year’s fireworks a bit early. After all, we’ve been hearing fireworks here in Utrecht for the past week or so.

The fireworks soon stopped and we decided to head over to the Museumplein to be touristy and see the I Amsterdam sign/sculpture. As we rounded the corner, we suddenly saw a lot of young people and a lot of police. Then we saw the water cannons. Then we saw people scattering, running toward us, as the huge tank-like vehicle with the water cannons started racing around the field where the protest had taken place.
Water Cannon Vehicle

Water Cannons

To be honest, I think the students who were left on the field were probably the ones least invested in the idea behind the protest. A lot of them just seemed to be having fun running away from the water. I think the more serious students had already left when the protest had broken down into small fights and random acts of idiocy. As we were leaving the museum, we had seen a large group of students standing together outside of the museum, many with purple scarves of some sort tied around their heads or necks. I honestly hadn’t known who or what they were, so I thought they were just one of the school groups visiting the museum or something similar. When I finally saw a news story about the day’s events, I realized they had been part of the protest.

Student Protest in Amsterdam

For the record, the protest seemed to be based on a proposal by the education minister for longer school hours. The students were protesting that they would be “confined” despite not having enough teachers to actually teach any classes for this additional time. For those of you who can read Dutch, there’s an article about the protest here at nu.nl. I suspect the original protest had some merit, but was ruined by those who just want to cause trouble.

Regardless, it was certainly an interesting sight to see. I’ve never seen water cannons in use in person before. The whole experience was a bit surreal. To go from admiring the works of a great artist to suddenly stumbling across rioting next to a major tourist spot in the middle of Amsterdam was odd. To be taking photos of the water cannons and then taking photos of the I Amsterdam sculpture while the water cannons continue behind me felt a bit weird, as well. A bit like fiddling while Rome is burning.
Student Protest in Amsterdam

Occupy Wall Street Via Utrecht

Meditation
Yesterday, across multiple countries, people gathered to “occupy” their cities in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protest that has been taking place in New York. Utrecht was the starting point for the occupy events in the Netherlands. It was a crisp, bright, autumn day and the Domplein was particularly beautiful with the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Occupy Utrecht

When we got back from the event, I figured that I’d try posting some of my photos to actual news sources, if possible, since it is part of a global event. I had limited time due to other plans for the day (more about that in another post), so I only had time to send them to one news site. I ended up going with CNN and their iReports, since I figured there might be more interest for the topic on CNN, a primarily US-based news service. You can see the report on the CNN site, including seven photos that I thought best represented the event. You may notice that there’s a CNN iReport badge on the corner of my photos, as well as the producer comment. That means that my posting was actually vetted by CNN and considered somewhat official! I had an e-mail from the producer waiting for me when I got home last evening. It was kind of exciting to have it included!

Occupy Our Minds

In the small-world category, it turned out I had seen the gentleman above the day before as I was going to the grocery store. I noticed his distinctive sweater that day, so it made him easy to recognize yesterday. He was there leading people in meditation, with his own sign that recommended that people “occupy” their minds through meditation.

It really was a nice event: peaceful, thoughtful, and supportive.

Occupy Utrecht

Beer and Protests

Ledig Erf
The forecast for Saturday is sunshine and decent temperatures, so I think we might head out to a couple of different things going on this weekend in town. It will be a bit of social consciousness and a bit of social libation.

First off, in support of Occupy Wall Street, there’s going to be an Occupy Utrecht event Saturday at the Domplein. With a general aim to global change, there will be speakers and open debate, beginning at noon. At 13:30, the event will move on to either Amsterdam or Den Haag. If you’re curious, there’s more info and other links at this site.

When the event moves on, I think we’ll move on to Ledig Erf to check out the annual Bockbier Festival. I think there will be around 65 bock beers available for tasting, including De Leckere’s Rode Toren. I’ve become quite the fan of De Leckere, the local Utrecht brewery with many beers named for historically important people and places here in Utrecht. The festival itself is free; the beers cost money, of course. It could be a fun way to spend some of the afternoon, especially since there will also be live music.

Let Loose The Kraken


There I was thinking I didn’t really have much to blog about these days when suddenly there arose such a clatter that I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. (Or, you could say that I eventually got up off the sofa to see where the music and yelling was coming from and if the students were having a party nearby.) It turns out that there was a protest march passing near our street. I’m not sure where they started from, but I suspect it was at the end of Lucasbolwerk, since there were a number of cars in the procession and Lucasbolwerk isn’t really a through-street. I saw banners and lots of dogs of the mutt persuasion and lots of young people with dreadlocks. They were, in fact, krakers (squatters).

It seems the Twede Kamer (the Dutch Parliament/Congress/political body) recently passed a ban on squatting. This obviously hasn’t gone over well with the squatters, so they’ve staged various protests, including today’s here in Utrecht. The banner in the photo above basically says: Squatting, not a problem but a solution. There are obviously mixed opinions on the matter and pros and cons to it, as well.

The bit of the march that I saw was peaceful and calm. Hopefully it stays that way.