- America's First Amendment guarantees free assembly. No
matter. Demonstrators for social, economic and political justice are assaulted
- For weeks, hundreds of peaceful environmental protesters
in front of the White House against a controversial 1,661-mile Alberta,
Canada to Port Arthur, TX pipeline have been arrested for exercising their
constitutional rights - whatever the issue.
- This one's important, involving TransCanada Corporation's
history of spills, as well as plans to transport toxic oil from environmentally
destructive tar sands.
- Nonetheless, Obama backs construction to feed America's
dirty oil appetite. To hell with environmental sanity and public health.
- Friends of the Earth says the Keystone XL pipeline "will
carry one of the world's dirtiest fuels: tar sands oil." Moreover,
its route "could devastate ecosystems and pollute water sources, and
would jeopardize public health."
- If completed, the pipeline will double dirty tar sands
oil into America, making its toxic environment more noxious. Bipartisan
Washington criminals support it. So does Obama. Only profits and corporate
favoritism matter. The public interest be damned as on so many other issues.
- Angry protesters reacted peacefully. Their reward - arrests
and for some roughed up. It's the same fate global justice, anti-war, and
other demonstrators at times face. Too many times, in fact.
- Palestinians Face Worse
- Palestinians on their own land, in their own country,
face much tougher crackdowns. B'Tselem addressed the issue in a new report
titled, "Show of Force: Israeli Military Conduct in Weekly Demonstrations
in a-Nabi Saleh."
- West Bank a-Nabi Saleh is a Palestinian village near
Ramallah. For over 18 months, every Friday, residents rally peacefully
against Israel's Separation Wall and settlers stealing their land.
- As a result, Israeli security forces regularly assault
them. On May 13, it was especially violent with use of tear gas, stun grenades,
pepper gas spray, and brutal beatings. Numerous injuries resulted.
- B'Tselem documented four subsequent demonstrations in
June and July. They studied available volunteer-produced video footage,
collected testimonies from village residents, and monitored other demonstrations.
- A-Nabi Saleh has about 550 residents in a largely farmland
area, covering over 2,700 dunams. Since at least 2008, settlers increasingly
encroached on them.
- Residents filed unaddressed complaints. All got responses
like "offender unknown" or "lack of evidence."
- In January 2010, authorities ruled al-Qaws Spring used
by residents an archeological site. The area was declared a closed military
area. Palestinians were denied access.
- In February 2010, land owners and residents of a-Nabi
Saleh and Deir Nidham petitioned Israel's High Court of Justice to no avail.
- Henceforth, they lost access to their own land. At the
same time, settlers built on it, planted trees, installed irrigation systems,
besides other development activities. They have free access. Palestinians
- On December 15, 2009, the Popular Committee for Opposition
to the Fence and Settlements began holding weekly demonstrations, following
Friday prayers. Other nearby village residents joined them.
- At issue is lawless land theft. Demonstrators act peacefully.
Security forces disrupt them violently. Confrontations at times last hours.
- Security forces also enter a-Nabi Saleh other times,
including night raids to make arrests. Dozens have been affected, including
- Prosecutions followed, including for violating Order
101, prohibiting West Bank demonstrations.
- Arrested villagers include Naji Tamimi, a protest leader,
arrested on March 6, 2011. He was then convicted of incitement and support
of a hostile organization for having "organized, incited and executed
disturbances of the public order and violent demonstrations."
- He was also convicted for instructing children to throw
stones. As a result, he got a year in prison, two years of conditional
imprisonment, and a 10,000 shekel fine.
- On March 24, another leader, Bassem Tamimi, was arrested
and indicted for "incitement and support of a hostile organization....taking
part in a procession without a permit, (and) conspiracy to throw objects
(sic) at a person or property."
- He's still in custody awaiting criminal proceedings against
- Israel imprisons Palestinian children for allegedly throwing
stones. When Israeli security forces bludgeon and injure Palestinians,
they're ordered to keep doing it. No charges are filed, even for cases
- The Red Crescent told B'Tselem that from January through
August 11, 2011, 35 Palestinians were treated for injuries, some requiring
hospitalization. Five were struck by rubber bullets, four by shrapnel,
and ten affected by tear gas inhalation. Two others suffered shock. Others
also sustained injuries.
- Documentation of Demonstrations
- Security forces deployed early each day, blocking roads,
establishing checkpoints, and placing a metal gate at a-Nabi Saleh's main
entrance. They also patrolled to prevent demonstrators from assembling.
- After prayers ended around 1:15PM, residents began a
procession at the village's center, then headed toward demonstrating at
al-Qaws Spring. Peacefully, they carried placards and flags. They also
chanted slogans as they walked.
- Each time, security forces blocked their way, dispersing
them violently. B'Tselem documented "confrontations of varying intensity....Often,
youths and small children threw stones....usually from a considerable distance."
- B'Tselem said security forces lawlessly infringed on
peaceful demonstrators, used excessive force dispersing them, causing injuries.
- Infringement of the Right to Demonstrate
- Security forces did it multiple ways, including:
- -- preventing demonstrators from reaching al-Qaws Spring,
having illegally declared their property a closed military area;
- -- declaring demonstrations "unlawful assembly;"
on June 24, even children in costumes flying kites were designated the
- -- everyone (including Israelis and foreign nationals)
were prohibited from participating in demonstrations;
- -- curfews, arrests and violence accompanied them; on
July 22, soldiers "went from house to house looking for Israelis and
foreign nationals to remove them from the village;" in some cases,
they broke in violently, weapons drawn; assaults occurred.
- Use of Force and Crowd Control Measures
- Israeli security forces systematically employ violence
against peaceful demonstrators. Included are indiscriminate use of rubber
bullets, tear gas canisters, stun grenades, "skunk" liquid, beatings,
and at times live fire.
- Tear gas causes severe eye irritation and burning. It
also affects breathing, and creates a choking sensation. Two kinds are
used. One made of rubber may be hurled manually or fired by special launchers.
- The other is made of aluminum, fired from launchers or
a separate device. Serious injuries and at times death can result if struck
on head by canisters. Elderly or infirm persons may also be greatly harmed.
- B'Tselem said security forces used tear gas excessively,
at times firing canisters directly at individual demonstrators.
- Canisters also damage property. In addition, some ignite
and cause fires.
- Stun grenades cause loud noise when they explode. They're
used to distract, cause confusion and incite fear. Though not meant to
inflict injuries, they can ignite and damage ear drums.
- Pepper spray is used to moderately neutralize demonstrators.
However, spraying directly at faces at close range impairs breathing and
- "Skunk" is a smelly liquid sprayed from tankers.
It sticks to skin and gets absorbed in clothes. The foul odor is used to
disperse crowds. Washing doesn't eliminate it entirely. In some cases,
security forces "intentionally sprayed the liquid on houses and at
demonstrators standing in the street."
- Harming Civilians
- Civilian bystanders are harmed as well as demonstrators.
"The entire village, including the elderly, children, ill persons,
and pregnant women, are exposed weekly to large quantities of tear gas,
from which they have no place to flee."
- Even in homes it's felt, though more intensely outside.
Moreover, "anybody who leaves (their) house is met with another round
- In addition, blocking roads, setting up checkpoints,
and other repressive tactics "directly affect the 12,000 Palestinians
living in five villages" nearby. Their lives and Friday activities
- Israel calls peaceful demonstrations illegal "disturbances."
This is how police states operate. It's the same in America where constitutional
rights are violated with impunity.
- Protected rights are infringed. Victims are called criminals.
Arrests, prosecutions, imprisonment and fines follow. Freedom in both countries
is a four-letter word with no meaning when authorities act outside the
- Armed with plenty of muscle, everyone's at risk, especially
society's best willing to confront them.
- It's time everyone joined in to help before what few
democratic remnants remain in both countries are gone.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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