Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Warsaw Ghetto uprising commemoration

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. It was a great resistance of fewer than 1000 poorly armed people against the Nazi killing machine. They held out for almost one month, despite tremendous odds. Many non-insurgents were killed as a result: in total at least 7000 killed by Nazis, another 6000 being burnt alive or killed by smoke. The end of the uprising saw the liquidation of the ghetto, with most of its residents - about 50,000 people - being sent to death camps.

On this day we remember the dead, those killed by hatred and anti-semitism and we say "Never Again". Members of the Warsaw group of the Union of Syndicalists lit candles and left cards with commemorations and anti-fascist slogans throughout the area of the former ghetto, at the monument and at the Umschlagplatz. We will never forget.

As the plague of fascism and antisemitism lingers around the world, we vow to resist it, in the streets, in our hearts, in our minds, in resistance.

No Pasaran! Read more!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Action against American Military Bases in Poland

Members of ZSP from Warsaw who are involved in an antimilitary campaign had been preparing the first large protest against proposed installation of American missile defense bases in Poland. Comrades from ZSP from Szczecin and Olsztyn also took part, as well as people from many different groups and concerned individuals.

(Photo, members of ZSP giving the bullhorn over to the head lobbyist for the base, on the US payroll. He was promptly beaten by old women and booed away.)

Protest Against Proposed US Missile Base in Poland: Good public support, politicians and police against the people
On Saturday March 29, about 800-1000 people demonstrated against the installation of a US missile base in northern Poland. The base, which the governments of the US and Poland would like to build in Redzikowo, just outside of Slupsk near the Baltic Sea, would house elements of the American Missile Defense program, namely so-called interceptor missiles (which can also be used for offensive purposes. Despite the fact that 60% of local residents and over half of all Poles are strongly against the base, and only a small fraction of the rest support it, the government is intent to go ahead and build the base. A radar base is also to be built in the Czech Republic, again despite the opposition of most citizens.
The Demo
The demonstration started with a Hyde Park / open meeting in front of the town hall. A few hundred local residents came to hear the arguments against the missiles, to demonstrate and to speak out. Many people spoke only the meeting had to be cut slightly short due to an inpending downpour of rain. The only person who spoke in favour of the base was a paid lobbyist, Andrzej Jodkowski who was hired by the American Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance to make pro-missile propaganda in Poland. He was lously jeered by the crowd and some old ladies tried to beat him with sticks. People of all ages came out but it was quite noticeable from both this demonstration and a meeting the day before that survivors of WWII are especially angry about the base and concerned about militarism and a few elderly people in their 70s and 80s spoke out.

During the Hyde Park, free food was served by Food Not Bombs and some theatre was made by the Autonomist Collective and Anarchist Federation group from Torun. A lively demo followed through the city. Slupsk is a city of under 100,000 people which very few activists and the only other such demonstration held there since the fall of communism was a May Day march organized by the Anarchist Federation in 2002. It was quite a sight for local people, many who watched or joined in. Two nice samba bands played, a car went with music, people chanted "No Missile Shield" and lots of other slogans that don't rhyme in English translation.
At the Base
After the main demo ended, a group of a bit over 100 people broke off and marched to Redzikowo, the site of the future American base, a former Polish airforce base during the PRL times, currently disused but still guarded by the military. The police and military started to show their strength, sending out a military helicopter and lots of police vans. (Police had to be sent in from Gdansk for this action. Although Slupsk is home of a police academy and has an extremely large police presence, they were not available as many of them had been sent to Kosovo.)

A small action was made at the side entrance and some people removed the ridiculous barricade made there and went on the territory, at which time the police started to act. However nothing happened since the police claimed to demonstrators that there was "nothing there" and "no base there" and therefore could not give a legitimate reason to the anarchists why they were not allowed on that area. They threatened to arrest people for not following police orders but not for trepassing.

The demonstration moved to the main gate of the base where there was some symbolic attempt to jump the fence. Some local residents came out to talk despite the fact that the large police presence and the cops with dogs could look a little scary. Again local residents, despite the fact that many of them were relatives of former military, complained about the base to the protestors. Mr. Jodkowski the lobbyist, who followed us during the whole march, could only walk around sheepishly trying to give the demonstrators cookies.
Unpleasant Actions and Police Violence
The whole action went without incident, accept perhaps not including problems with vanguardist frauds from the Young Socialists who openly disregard requests not to come with self-advertising, party flags. (They are known throughout Poland as being sleazy party-sponsored parasites who fraudently present themselves as organizers of other people's demonstrations.) However as soon as people left Redzikowo and dispersed, the cops took the opportunity to vent their frustration on some scapegoats.

For whatever reason, a small group of people stayed in Redzikowo. Police used dogs against them and one woman was bitten. They started to give people bullshit fines. One guy was fined for having a black flag on his car. Later, one guy was arrested and fined for cursing. The fine was almost 300 dollars US, really an incredible exaggeration for something like that which in no way should be a punishable offense.

The real problem happened lately on, in the early hours of the morning just before 5 AM. There was a concert/ after party. A group of people were followed from the party by the police. They returned to one guy's place, where a group of people were already sleeping. Shortly later the police raided and attacked them, including people who were sleeping. The pretext was "disturbing the peace" although clearly sleeping people were not disturbing the peace. People were gased and beaten. 23 people were arrested. One guy had his arm badly hurt – in fact hey was sure it was broken. (It turns out not to be broken but just badly hurt.) The police also thought his arm was broken and he was taken to the hospital. He escaped and called people to tell them what happened.

The police at first denied that anything happened or that anybody was arrested but later changed their story (more than once). Few people were left in town, but those who were went down to the police station to demand the release of the arrested. The police are claiming that this brutal attack has nothing to do with the demo but present the arrested as being drunk and disorderly. They are charged with typical bullshit charges of "not respecting the police" and two are being charged with "violating the intouchability of the police", which is more or less assaulting an officer. This charge is used against demonstrators quite often, usually in situations where the police is beating somebody and they try to ward off blows or get the police off them.

As of the time of this report, all but two of the arrested have been released, 8 of them being charged with "not respecting the police". (The two still in custody will probably have the more serious charges against them.) They are going to file a complaint against the police.

Anarchist Solidarity and Anarchist Black Cross will try to help them: for more information or to send a donation for legal help, contact anarchistsolidarity@yahoo.com.
The Struggle will Continue
The event was covered widely by local, national and some international press, although the American media refused to cover the event. Perhaps the action was not big and "spectacular" enough, but surely that's not the only reason. No worry though; if they go ahead with the base, which looks to be a strong possibility, this will just be the beginning. The next demo will be much bigger and louder.

The demonstration was organized by the Campaign against Militarism (started by anarchists but open to others) together with big participation others like the Anarchist Federation, the Autonomous Collective, some local, non-affiliated activists, some members of Greenpeace and the Union of Syndicalists. Practically all of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups in Poland were in attendance as well as some anti-war activists and a small handful of leftists from different groups and parties. A good part of the crowd was also made up of Slupsk residents. Probably this was the largest and most successful action we have made in a couple of years and undoubtedly the most important action against this military base that has happened so far in Poland. Despite the fact that most people are against the base, few people publically demonstrate their discontent. Unfortunately. The Campaign has decided to continue its work and, should the work on the base be started, to organize more radical protests and actions.

The campaign can be reached at campaignagainstmilitarism@gmail.com

The website for the action includes lots of info in English about the missile bases: www.m29.bzzz.net

Also see: www.tarcza.org.

There are many press reports in Polish as well as photo reports. Here are a few links to photo and video:

http://www.kfp.com.pl/index2.html?p=szukaj&klucz=antytarcza&zid=120697782247f1051e1433a&strona=2 (Commercial photo agency shit)
http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/Wiadomosci/1,80708,5068992.html (Main newspaper in Poland, video from TV)
http://www.gp24.pl/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080331/MAGAZYN/393713386 (Voice of Pomerania, videos, article. First video (multimedia) has English with speaker from Catholic Worker. Second, talking head in Polish, third has part of march.) Read more!