Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Violence: Women Burn Veils in Yemen

From the Guardian: Yemeni women burn veils in Sana'a. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA
The women spread a black cloth across a main street in Sana'a and threw their full-body veils, known as makrama, on to a pile, sprayed it with oil and set it ablaze. As the flames rose, they chanted: "Who protects Yemeni women from the crimes of the thugs?"

Women have taken a key role in the uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh's authoritarian rule. This month the Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman was awarded the Nobel peace prize along with two Liberian women, for their struggle for women's rights.
This traditional Bedouin way to call for help proves once again that nonviolent methods are anything but passive. Seeing these women in Yemen signaling to be saved from the violence engulfing their society made me feel that I ought to be doing something similar. But who can save us, except ourselves?

A two-time Iraq war vet was knocked out and had his skull cracked by a tear gas canister -- that was in Oakland, CA, near where I grew up and where my family lives, not the West Bank of occupied Palestine. I saw one report suggesting that up to 16 different jurisdictions had sent their law enforcement officers to Oakland last night ("For practice," says my husband), and that Scott Olsen, 24, may have been shot by a Palo Alto policeman.

For those of you not familiar with the SF bay area, here's a map showing how close these two cities are together. Not very.

View Larger Map

Mark again: "I wonder if they are clearing out the ones in warm places first, because they won't have winter to drive people out." Hmm, interesting theory: Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland are on the hit parade. NYC has had its flare ups, including massive arrests, but as yet none of the occupation site has been torn down. Why did NYC's Liberty Plaza owner back down on needing to "clean" the space? Was it really the numbers swelling early that morning, with the unions marching down en masse in support? Or a wait until they're already freezing strategy that made city officials turn on a dime.

What made Oakland, CA think it could get away with treating the occupation like a violent mob? It appears that the reports of people throwing paint and maybe other projectiles at the police are true. I also heard that a rape was followed by a vigilante-style beating within the last few days. I'm not excusing the decades of police brutality practiced in Oakland, don't get me wrong. But I am analyzing the unfolding drama of the occupations, and what they mean, and how they work.

Isn't perfectly clear that the self-discipline and nonviolence of Tahrir Square made it possible for people bring their whole families, and for the numbers swell into the millions -- and that police can do little to control such crowds?

Make nonviolent action, not war.

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