Monday, June 29, 2009

South Side Story - Beit Omar

A combination of busyness and poor internet access has prevented me from contributing to the blog for over a week. So many stories have built up in that time that it is impossible to tell them all here. For the sake of ease, I will start now with just the story of the place I am currently stationed: Beit Omar, a small town just north of Hebron. I am working with the Soleiby family, a family of Palestinian farmers living near the Saffa valley. They are regularly attacked by settlers from the Bat ‘Ayn settlement, who live on the hill overlooking the Soleiby’s fields.

The Bat ‘Ayn settlers are some of the most violent extremists in the West Bank
. In April, Abdullah Soleiby was beaten in the head with a rock by a settler, causing serious head trauma. Since then, Israeli and international activists have accompanied the family to their fields on a weekly basis. The settlers frequently harass and abuse the farmers and activists, throwing stones and vicious insults. Last Monday, settlers cut down and set fire to over 125 of the Soleiby’s grapevines and fruit trees.

Rather than arresting the settlers or interfering in the attacks, the army has responded by issuing a series of “Closed military zone” orders that forbid anyone, including the farmers, from entering the land. These orders have prevented the family from accessing their primary source of income. The supreme court has ruled the orders unconstitutional, but the army has continued to implement them.

Every Saturday morning, an entourage of between 30 and 50 activists accompany the farmers into their fields, where they usually pick for about an hour before being beaten, arrested and expelled from the land. In the last month, 37 Israeli activists and 5 international activists have been arrested in the Saffa valley. But the confrontation this past Saturday, which resulted in the arrest of 26 activists, seems to have had a different outcome. The soldiers have finally agreed to provide protection for the family, and have set up a tent on the road between the fields and the settlement. For the past two mornings, three of us have gone down with the farmers and safely picked their fields, hearing only the distant shouts of angry settlers. We don’t know how long this trend will last, but if it continues it could mean a profound change in the lives of the Soleiby family. Perhaps there is hope after all.

Bi'lin Invaded by Israeli Soldiers

June 29, 2009

At around 2:30am two groups of around 35 soldiers (70 total) descended on the village of Bi'lin. They raided several houses, detained their inhabitants, and searched the inside of the houses. When members of the ISM (including yours truely) and the Popular Committee of Bi'lin confronted the soldiers, they called all of Bi'lin a closed military zone and threatened to arrest anyone out of their house or anyone on top of a house taking pictures. In the course of these house raids, they kidnapped two 16 year old boys (Mohsen Kateb and Hamoda Yaseen) from their houses and took them away into the night. Haitham al-Katib, a respected Palestinian activist in Bi'lin was video taping the raids when soldiers aggressively pushed him against a wall and threatened him with arrest. We intervened on his behalf and were able to wrest him out of the grasp of the soldiers(which was really fortunate and only happened cause the rest of the soldiers hadn't arrived yet).

They then raided the house of Iyad Burant, the head of the popular committee. He unlocked the door when he saw them walking towards around the house. (I figured out that he didn't want them to destroy his door). I stood in the entrance and when the soldiers showed up they said "where is the upstairs?" I said, "upstairs" and pointed up. Apparently my sarcastic answer wasn't the one they were looking for and the soldier body checked me with his rifle and pushed his way into the house. Other soldiers followed suit but we were being very defensive in our stances and impeded their path. First we demanded to see proof of their closed military zone, then we kept blocking their access to the rest of the house.

One of the soldiers saw Iyad's 9 year old son (Abdal kalik) taking pictures and threatened him with physical harm if he didn't produce a camera he was holding. After myself and another international intervened by blocking the soldiers path, they threatened us arrest and pushed us around. After repeated efforts, the soldiers gave up and left that particular house.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bilin Nightwatchmen

Over the last week and a half, Bi'lin has been raided almost every night and men and young boys have been arrested and dragged out of their beds. So we got a call from the head of the popular committee of Bi'lin to send some internationals. I arrived yesterday and went on night patrol all night with men from the popular committee. Over the course of the night we saw 6 lorries let out soldiers in the darkness. They stayed out of site using the hills as cover and we did similar in the village. Everyone in the village gets the alarm (there are only 1500 people living here so any person arrested is a big deal and everyone knows them and their family). We try to stay in the darkness and quiet. Its a bit creepy knowing that some trigger happy 18 year old israeli soldier might decide to blow your brains out at any second, but you just put that thought out of your head and its a lot easier. We stayed vigilant in the dark and no one in Bi'lin ended up getting raided last night.

However, we found out that the soldiers circumvented us and raided the nearby village of Kafr ni'ma. We are going out again every night till the raids stop (so I will be going out again in 30 mins). The others in my original group are still split off in Nablus and Hebron and hopefully one of them will get to a computer to blog about their experiences soon.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Israeli forces arrest 24 solidarity activists and 2 hired Palestinian Israeli Drivers!!

For Immediate Release
27 June 2009: Israeli forces arrest 24 solidarity activists and 2 hired Palestinian Israeli drivers in the West Bank village of Saffa.

At 7.30am, 35 Israeli and 10 international solidarity activists joined 3 Palestinian families from Beit Ummar to harvest their land. As the group tried to go down to their lands, 50 soldiers and border policemen stopped them.

Before reaching the land, Israeli forces arrested 10 Israeli and international activists, under the premise that Saffa was under a Closed Military Zone*. The army was aggressive towards the group and used violence against them.

After pushing the group, border policemen arrested another 9 activists.
Yousef Abu Maria from the Palestine Solidarity Project, had his leg broken from the use of excessive force. Israeli soldiers tried to arrest him, but the solidarity activists negotiated for the soldiers to release him and allow him to be taken by an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent. He is currently being treated at a Hebron hospital.

A female Israeli activist from Tayyoush was also injured and is currently at an Israeli hospital seeking treatment for a potentially broken hand.

As 2 cars with hired drivers were leaving the area with other activists, Israeli forces stopped them and arrested 5 more activists and the 2 Palestinian Israeli drivers.
The arrested were taken to the Israeli prison in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion.

Please Contact:
Sahar Vardi (Hebrew & English) 054-568-3419

Bekah Wolf, International Coordinator for PSP (English) 054-203-7539
Sasha Solanas, ISM Media Office (Russian & English) 054-903-2981

The activists are members from Palestine Solidarity Project, Tayyoush, Anarchists Against the Wall, and the International Solidarity Movement. They have been accompanying Palestinian farmers to document and deter violence from Israeli forces as the farmers harvest their land.
Last Saturday, 8 Israeli activists were arrested as they accompanied Palestinian farmers.
*Israeli forces have declared the area in Saffa a Closed Military Zone (CMZ), in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court decision. The Israeli Supreme Court determined that Closed Military Zones cannot be issued on Palestinian agricultural land, cutting off Palestinian farmers, for prolonged periods of time. However, Israeli forces have been regularly declaring a Closed Military Zone on farm land in Saffa since 2 April 2009.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Some confrontations with soldiers.

We received an urgent distress call from Silwan last night that they thought that the bulldozers were to come this morning. I wont get into the details about how they knew or in the preparations that went into Silwan's defense. But I will say that they were extensive and if the Israeli military wants to come demolish homes, there will be an incredible and forceful defense. After arriving at 5am, we waited for hours for the inevitable onslaught which never came. While waiting we heard that Israeli soldiers were spotted in force with bulldozers in Esewiyeh in Jerusalem.

We arrived at around noon to find the soldiers already taking up residence in front of several houses, and on a hill overlooking us.
We found from the beginning that the Border Guards were going to try to impede our movement. They called it a "closed military zone". When we asked why, they refused to tell us and they also refused to show us written proof.

We tried walking around, but the border guards became angry and started yelling at us. They called in several police cars as backup. The head officer demanded our passports, which we were not carrying. He photographed us, but we stayed firm that we wanted to know what was going on. This left some heated discussions with the police and border guards.

Sky news, Reuters, and AFP showed up and the border guards let them through. They did try to intimidate the Palestinian children with dogs that they had. We found out that what they didn't want us to. There was construction going on further up the hill. It seemed possible that they were constructing a temporary separating ramp in order to cleave the outlying houses in east jerusalem from a massive hill where a settlement could possible connect with Male Adumim. (the largest settlement bloc in the west bank) This would cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sheikh Jarrah Families Go To Court.

Another family in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem went to court today over a settler's claim. We went with them to show solidarity and to make a statement for everyone there. The more spectacle and attention we can bring to these cases, the less likely they will try to ethnically cleanse additional families and the more likely the pressure could affect the likelyhood that the police force the families out.

The security at the court thought that they were being snide by refusing to let us assemble on the same side of the street as the court. (because it was in the shade) So we just put on tons of sunscreen and walked directly opposite the court entrance so that everyone that went near had to pass us.

Updates on our other comrades:

Nablus: One of our group went to Nablus and took part in a demonstration on friday to prevent the closure of the main gate out of the city. The day afterwords they took part in treeplanting. (which is really really hard work with the soil here)

Sousia: Settlers burned down a bedoin tent. (thankfully, the family wasn't inside it at the time)

Beit Omar: Seven Israelis activists in Tayoush were arrested after they approached soldiers who were watching settlers throw rocks at Palestinians and demanded that they do something. One of the Israelis had a document proving that settler encroachment was illegal. None of the Internationals or Palestinians who were there were arrested.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Splitting up

Due to the amount of activity happening here, we decided to split up. One of us went to Hebron, another to Nablus. I cant speak for what they are doing and they promised to blog when they get internet access.

I spent the last 3 days deathly ill from something I ate. That didn't stop me from going to the protest in N'ilin (which in retrospect was a really stupid idea given my condition) and though I dodged most of the teargas (as pictured left) I still managed to throw up quite a lot. After not being able to eat for 72 hours, my friends brought me to a hospital. I feel really drained but immensely better.

As for what has been going on:

The N'ilin protest was rather tame by comparison to the usual ones. The israeli soldiers had some media with them so they didn't use any live ammunition (they usually fire 22 caliber bullets) and even the amount of tear gas wasn't the norm. This allowed the Palestinan youth ample time to cut through extensive amounts of barbed wire. As far as I could tell no one was injured at the protest, though one media report says 3 Israeli soldiers were hurt. This was an obvious fabrication given the distance of the soldiers and the fact that every rock thrown fell 100 meters short.
Silwan: Today members of the Silwan community in East Jerusalem cleared out the rubble of a house that was recently bulldozed. They hope to reconstruct the house there again and to act defiantly to the proposed demolition of an additional 88 houses that are planned in the next few weeks
Jenin: Today near the Jenin refugee camp, olive trees were planted to make up for the many groves that have been uprooted by settlers and the military.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Updates and Arrested Friends

Two internationals were arrested in Beit Omar on Saturday morning for escorting Palestinian farmers to their farm lands. The Israeli Army had declared it a "closed military zone" which they have done often as a way of destroying the farms that Palestinians work on and making life impossible for them. The two had gone saturday morning and at first had been targets of settler violence as rocks were hurled at them. Next a police jeep arrived and tried to arrest one of the Palestinian farmers. The internationals tried to protect the palestinian and had him guarded for 20 minutes before the police took out their batons and beat them away. They stayed somewhat firm and were themselves arrested, while the Palestinian was able to get free.

They were in jail for about 12 hours without any food or water and were brough to a judge who said that they were banned from Beit Omar for 2 weeks.

Last night we got back to Sheikh Jarrah from Ramallah and a concert had been organized at the tent where the evicted woman is staying. Bands from Italy and Norway were playing to support the cause of the families fighting eviction. Lots of people came from all around to watch it. Settlers also came out of their houses to gather up the road and to intimidate women that walked nearby.

One of the Norwegian Band members told us that they had also played in Hebron and the settler kids stole their water and tried smashing their equipment. After their show in Hebron, one of the kids even tried to knife them. Settlers are scary.

Today is the last day that the court gave the Hannoun family to give 50,000 dollars as collateral to the court that they will leave by July 19th. We are worried that the patriarch of the family may be arrested again in the near future.

Friday, June 12, 2009

B'ilin and Ni'lin Protest Reportbacks

Maria and I went to B'ilin while Joe went with the Brits to the Ni'lin protests which happened simultaneously (he will write about his encounter when he gets back).

B'ilin is situated in the West Bank somewhat near Jerusalem. Part of Israelis separation wall is being built through it at the expense of its 1800 inhabitants. It also separates the town from 60 percent of its farming land. Protests have occurred there every friday for the last 4 years with support from internationals and Israelis. A protester was recently killed there at a protest and today, protesters carried his picture on top of metal sheilds towards the wall.

The Code Pink Delegation went to the B'ilin protest too and joined the march with a group of folks from Anarchists Against the Wall and some Israeli independent journalists... some folks from the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions was also there. The main protest took off from the village square after noon prayers following the local Palestinian committee and tons of Palestinian flags.

As soon as the march got near a barbed wire pen in front of the wall, one of the Palestinians used a big pair of bolt cutters to start cutting. At that second, the Israeli soldiers begin firing tear gas at us from their defensive position behind the wall.Some of the Palestinian youth (called "shabab" in arabic) began slinging stones at the Israeli position. The israelis kept firing tear gas at a near constant rate for the duration of the protest. Occasionally they also fired rubber bullets. One of the Palestinians was hurt during the protest, but it wasn't serious and he went right back to it.

After getting beaten back by volleys of tear gas, the main protest went right back up the hill towards the wall to get another devestating amount of tear gas canasters shot at them. Some didn't explode and the Shabab picked them up and hurled them back at the Israeli soldiers. When it became clear that the main gate of the fence was getting too many rubber bullets, the youth turned to a fence adjecent to it. A constant barrage of tear gas on them eventually forced them out. And with that, the protest was over. These protests happen every week and every week are met with intense violent reactions from the Israeli soldiers.
Joe will update soon on his attendence of the Ni'lin demonstration

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Silwan facing demolition

When the afternoon's sweltering heat subsided, an ISM volunteer took us to Silwan. Silwan is a Palestinian neighborhood on the south east side of Jerusalem. It is more slummish than the neighborhood we are staying in, with houses toppling over each other and people crowded on to stoops and balconies. It is a tight knit and politically charged area - when the second Intifada came to Jerusalem, it began here.

The Israeli government has condemned the entire neighborhood to be demolished. They want to build an archeological park- a tourist trap that would come at the price of at least 88 Palestinian homes (design plan pictured right). Unlike at the Hunnoun house, the Israeli government is not even pretending that these houses do not belong to the Palestinians living there. They simply do not care. They are using the Israeli equivilant of imminent domain, a legal device that allows the government to confiscate land when they deem it "in the public interest" to do so. And of course it is in the public interest, so long as Palestinians are not part of "the public." Silwan is a political threat - what could be more in Israel's interest than demolishing it? (left is repeats of 8 demolition orders they recieved yesterday)

The residents of Silwan have set up a large tent in a pull out from the main road. The tent has become a center of their struggle against the demolition. Every week they flier, send out press releases, and bring tour groups to the tent in an attempt to expose the blatant ethnic cleansing taking place in Silwan. Like at the Hunnoun house they have exhasted all legal options, and are now relying entirely on media exposure and international pressure. Unlike the Hunnoun house, there are no set demolition dates. The bulldozers could come at any time to any house, and there will be no time to call the media or bring in internationals.

Many families have removed all the furniture from their homes. They have survived demolitions before, and don't want to go through the process of replacing everything they own again. Many sleep with their belongings packed in bags by their beds, so that they are ready to flee when the time comes. But not all of them plan on fleeing. For some it is better to be buried in alive than to surrender their homes.

Fighting Ethnic Cleansing

So far we have spent two nights house sitting with little event. Our first night was spent chatting, drinking date juice and hearing a full account of the family's 37 year struggle to stay in their home. The house was built and given to the Hunnoun family in 1956 by the Jordanian government and United Nations Relief and Works Agency as part of an effort to house Palestinian refugees. East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel 11 years later in the 1967 war. Since then, Israel has been attempting to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem, using falsified documents and obstinent courts to force families one by one from their homes.

In 1998, after refusing to pay rent to the settlers, the Israeli government raided the house and confiscated their furniture. In 2002 the family was succesfully evicted, and Maher (the father) was arrested. He spent 3 months in jail, and his family spent 4 years exiled from their own property. During that time settlers broke in to the vacant property and spent three days in the house. They would have stayed longer, but the community backlash was so fierce that the police ordered them to leave the property. In 2006, after successfully obtainign Ottoman documents proving that they owned the house, the family was temporarilly moved back in. Since then they have been fighting an impossible legal battle, and in March of 2008 were issued a second eviction notice.

Though the deadline for their eviction notice is July 19, their rent is due this Monday. We don't know what will happen when they don't pay it. We are trying to keep a strong international presence in the house at all times, and to keep their mind off the pending eviction. But its hard when every night could be the last one they spend in their own beds. When the eviction comes the father will be sent to jail again. The fate of the rest of the family is less clear.

The Israeli government is trying to frame the case as a legal issue rather than a political one. They have offered to pay off the family, hoping that they will leave quietly. But in the words of Maher, "money can't by our memories, our hopes and our dreams." This isn't just about a house - it's about the silent destruction of an entire people.

Today hundreds of Israeli troops marched down the street and stopped near the house. We dont know whether this has anything to do with the coming eviction, but it probably does. The largest deployment occurred 5 minutes after a delegate arrived from the Czech Republic's embassy. The presence of Czech government officials made us feel a lot safer in that instance.
Nearby the house is a tent that was setup by a Palestinian family after their house was taken over by Police and then settlers. The husband died shortly after from a heart attack and the old Palestinian widow spends all her time in the tent as a way of fighting to regain her home(the tent is pictured to the left). Community members also facing eviction (in Sheikh Jarra there are 500) often convene at the spot to interact with internationals who occasionally visit the area. A few weeks ago some settlers threw a tear gas grenade into the tent where the old lady was sleeping. They often come to throw rocks at the tent too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

House Sitting

We all arrived in Tel Aviv and traveled to Jerusalem without any major issues. We are now currently staying in East Jerusalem. Today we got in touch with some folks in the ISM who are involved in stopping house evictions in East Jerusalem. Currently 28 families are in danger of having their houses evicted to give to settlers. The justification for these evictions are some fabricated documents the settlers registered a week or two after the 6 day war ended and East Jerusalem came under the jurisdiction of the Israeli military.

Documents of ownership have been obtained from the Turkish government after years of them stalling (to placate the Israelis) and they definitively prove that the families have had ownership since the Ottoman empire. However, the Israeli high court has refused to even look at this evidence and has instead ruled in favor of the Israeli settlers. After the homes were ruled to the settlers, the Palestinian families refused to pay them "rent as they refused to cede control over to settlers. The fathers of all the families were jailed for 3 months. Meanwhile the ISM has been conducting round the clock stay-ins in the houses to try to prevent eviction by force. One home has already been evicted a few months ago. 500 police forced their way into the house at 5am and arrested all the internationals there and forced the family out. There is another home that is destined to be forced out by July 19th (the court deadline) but the Israelis could come at any time before that to force them out. We have opted to spend a few nights there to make sure that doesn't happen.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Freedom Summer Begins!

Freedom Summer 2009: Defend the Land and Jerusalem

The International Solidarity Movement is issuing a call-out for internationals to volunteer as field activists and office workers in the West Bank, Gaza, and occupied East Jerusalem this summer.

Whether you can come for only few weeks or several months, your presence is needed to support Palestinian communities who are nonviolently resisting the Israeli occupation. Freedom Summer 2009, which will run from June 6th until August 15th, aims to challenge the continued theft of Palestinian land for the rapid expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and their infrastructure in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Volunteer training sessions will be held every week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Visit our “Join Us in Palestine” section to read more information about volunteering.

Below are some of the actions ISM volunteers can anticipate this summer:

  1. ISM volunteers will stand in solidarity with the Palestinian families of occupied East Jerusalem who face dispossession.
    International activists will join families in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Shu’fat, and other neighborhoods whose residences are threatened, in resisting evictions and demolitions with non-violent, direct actions methods. ISM volunteers will also participate in demonstrations against discriminatory Israeli policies and support ongoing organization of Palestinian heritage and cultural events.
  2. In the West Bank, volunteers will join Palestinian villagers in nonviolent demonstrations against the Wall, and other apartheid infrastructure of the occupation such as checkpoint, settlements, and Israeli-only roads. Activists will be working in communities such as Ni’lin, Bil’in, Jayyous, Husan and Tulkarem to support direct actions under Palestinian popular leadership. Recently Israeli military violence during nonviolent demonstrations has escalated, making it more important that international solidarity activists are present to help deter and document the repression from Israeli forces. Additionally, volunteers will accompany farmers and shepherds to deter violence from the Israeli military and settlers. In the South Hebron hills, the army’s designation of large areas as military closed zones will be challenged.
  3. The ISM volunteers in the Gaza Strip will continue to accompany Palestinian farmers who frequently face live fire from the army as they work their land in the buffer zone. Volunteers will stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza against the crippling siege and sporadic attacks on the region. Several ISM activists will be joining the Free Gaza Movement’s Hope Fleet that will sail into Gaza’s port at the end of May. International activists will mass on the Egyptian border with Gaza between the 22nd of May and the 14th of June, in an attempt to challenging the ongoing closure and isolation of the people of Gaza. Individuals interested in volunteering with ISM Gaza must have previous experience with ISM in the West Bank.

Come to Palestine to support the Palestinian people in their struggle against occupation. Become an eyewitness to the Palestinian struggle for freedom! ISM volunteers have become better advocates for the freedom and self-determination of the Palestinian people in their home communities.

This summer, support and participate in the Palestinian non-violent resistance to the Occupation by using direct action methods to defend the land of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Back in Exarchia

Today Maria and Ian ventured back towards Exarchia while Joe looked for a Greek Gym that had so far eluded him. En route to Exarchia it was clear that Greece was bracing for Sunday's European parliament elections (this picture on the left is one of the Communist Parties near the University of Athens) (The one on the right is an Anarchist group protesting the elections a block away). The center right wing New Democracy Party also had giant ads up everywhere. People are worrying that the Extreme Right wing is going to win seats in the election, while some of the Anarchists are trying to urge a total boycott of elections.

As always, Exarchia proved an interesting trip as there was new Graffiti and political posters and flyers everywhere. We wondered into a community center that we had heard serviced immigrants. Inside we found all sorts of literature and three classrooms set up to teach Greek. One was in use for Arabs and another for North Africans. Apparently the funding for the location came from the teachers who volunteered their time. The center is open every days for lessons in Greek and meetings for immigrant rights groups. It is also connected with immigrant detainee struggles and for immigrant LGBT and childrens issues. Apparently this center is associated with leftists (they werent specific but I think she meant it was associated with one of the trotskyist parties or the KKE (stalinist). There are also other ones run by far leftists and Anarchists.

There is a massive Gay Pride Rally being planned in Athens and we saw lots of of "Queer Revolution" tags spraypainted all over walls. Also the neighborhood adjacent to Exarchia was covered in Antifa messages. Apparently a group calling itself "The Antifa Panthers" or "Antifa Group 3" is based out of there. We found that out just as it became apparent that the Fascist group Golden Dawn struck another place. They stormed the International Press Center in Athens where a ceremony was taking place for the first Macedonian to Greek dictionary. It is important because the fascists do not consider Macedonians different from Greeks and them having a "separate language" is considered anathema. They smashed several film cameras, destroyed the film, and assaulted attendees. ALL THIS OCCURRED RIGHT AFTER WE SAW THEM THE OTHER DAY! Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) is a dangerous organization that will get whats coming to them one of these days.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Palestinan Condition

While news of Nablus surfaced that it had become a "closed military zone" something more insidious became apparent about the occupation. One of the friends of a Palestinian resident of our squat who we had hung out with and had drinks with on other occasions (around 21-23 yrs old) tried to kill himself by jumping out of his 3 story window.
The end result was that he broke through the glass, seriously cutting himself and crashed to the ground below. He didn't die, but he was really messed up. We saw him after he had gone to the hospital and had escaped before police came. (he came straight to our squat afterwards) He is an undocumented Palestinian from Ramallah and was worried that he would be imprisoned for a while. He had gashes all over his body and it look like he had broken his arm. His friends at the squat are really depressed about it and have been keeping him at the squat so at to keep an eye on him and to make sure he doesn't try again. From the little English the Palestinians at our squat speak, we ascertained that he was super depressed over living off the grid here (with fear of police and with little prospects) and also sad about his family in occupied West Bank. As of now he has just sorta been sitting still and quiet. Not even the new kittens and puppies at the squat have cheered him up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Our First Run-in With Fascists

So today was new for us for two reasons. It was our first Greek protest we attended and also our first experience with fascists. The protest was about elections and was commented on in a previous post so I wont go too much into the rationale. Joe didn't feel like going, so Maria and I ventured out by ourselves. What we learned was that it is actually illegal to refuse to vote. So what a lot of people do is they write ballots to dead people or "frodo baggins". But this protest was trying to get people to refuse alltogether. It was pretty cool.
The anarchists had an awesome newspaper and huge banners. One of the older anarchists who looked in his upper 50s spent 15-20 minutes spray-painting a slogan that said "boycott elections". It was amazing that someone could get away with spraypainting so blatantly in the middle of the day. The reason it was possible was because the police cannot venture onto university property and it was technically university property.
Another cool thing about the Anarchists there was that they were mostly normal looking. Yeah a lot of them wore black, but they didn't look like they were in the punk culture, or dressed really alternative. They also didn't have a bandanna around their necks. A lot of things about this were somewhat shocking and cool. There was a number of black motor cycle helmets that the group kept to the side for easy access. At first we thought that this was in case of police but after talking with some Greeks we learned that "these helmets are in case fasists attack". When asked if this happens a lot, the person replied "sometimes". He told us that the most extreme group, "Golden Dawn" has a lot of ex-special forces guys and is really tough. They often come with knives in addition to their clubs and he said "If you ever fight Golden Dawn, you wont ever be afraid of anything else ever again"

There is going to be another protest in the same place tomorrow and Maria and I plan on going.

After the protest, we headed back to Exarchia. We got some food, saw an eco art exhibit and were on our way back when we bumped into a massive amount of special police. The Greeks call them the "Mat", but they are essentially riot cops with sheilds and riot gear. They were on 2 major corners that we could see and there were cops on motor cycles one block away. We heard some loud Greek voice ranting about something so we figured we might as well check it out.

We wandered over to the direction of the voice only to find out that it was a huge gathering of Greek Fascists. They were all carrying giant greek flags on poles and some of them had long white clubs in their hands. There was also a big banner that we couldn't get close enough to check out.

Meanwhile, the man with the loudspeaker was yelling really loud about something in Greek and every other word out of his mouth was "Pakistani" this and "Pakistani" that. The gathering was mostly large dudes and they kept having these gutteral cheers. Then they all sang the Greek national anthem and repeated some sayings. I took a picture at a distance and when I went closer to take another picture, some dude with a club came over to me and pointed at my camera and started talking in Greek. I said "sorry dont speak Greek" and moved farther away from the rally. In all I would say that there was 150-200 of them. There was also a ton of cops 2 blocks away from them. What was interesting was that the cops werent facing the fascists, they were looking away from them in what appeared directed at a possible antifa response.

I dont know how strong Greek Antifa is, but you would have needed an army to get past the police and expect to be able to come out alive from any confrontation with the fascist group that was there. Shit is crazy here sometimes.