Mar 2011 31

Aspecks was in attendance this weekend as the TUC organised March for the Alternative took place in London on Saturday 26 March 2011. The number of people protesting against the Government’s cuts was somewhere between 350,000 and 700,000 depending on who you believe, but the turnout was certainly higher than expected. Indeed, the carnival like atmosphere contained a real fruit salad of people, with greater variety in demographic than we at Aspecks have ever seen at a comparable event, as families, students, pensioners, trade unionists, environmental movements, the Green Party, the Labour Party, nurses, teachers and other public sector workers and general members of the public demonstrated peacefully together. This march was the biggest public demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003 and the diversity and humour at work in many of the signs and placards people carried reflected a real unity and expressed their collective frustrations and determination. You can see a quite a few of the signs in the footage we filmed below as well some scenes of the infamous “black bloc” walking peacefully down Piccadilly.

Now obviously there has been a tendency amongst some sections of the media to focus on the few hundred protesters who participated in more direct action than just marching and chanting (after all as Dan Hodges in the New Statesman points out – what are we marching to?), but are we really suggesting that such acts are not reflections of the real anger that is felt by many people? After all the minor damage caused will cost little to repair in comparison with the amount of money that some of the companies targeted (such as Fortnam & Mason, owned by Whittington Investments) manage to save each year through tax evasion. Indeed, even the Treasury admits that tax evasion costs about £40 billion per year to the UK economy which is significantly more than the £80 million worth of Government cuts happening this year even before you consider the fact that different sources (including the World Bank) put the tax evasion figure at somewhere more like £70 billion.

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Message from Jota Ramos
Nov 2010 10

We met up with Jota Ramos, a rapper and activist from Villa Rica (the last part of Columbia to be liberated from slavery) who is currently in the UK promoting is latest HAGA QUE PASE! (MAKE IT HAPPEN!) tour. It is a fundraising and awareness campaign utilising music and video documentary to highlight the land rights of traditional farmers whose livelihoods are under threat from large sugar plantations and industrial agribusiness corporations. He introduces himself below:

Speaking in further detail about his music and the tour:

The full background details on the Haga Que Pase! tour and cause can be found here.

Details of the final concert in London (at Nollywood in Camberwell) on Saturday November 13 2010 are available after the ‘read more’ jump.
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Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize
Oct 2010 17

A year on after Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize continues to hit the headlines with the recipient this year being the Chinese human rights activist and political prisoner Liu Xiaobo. In what appears to be a recurring theme, Liu Xiaobo is indeed an extremely deserving winner, embodying the attributes that represent the Committee’s designated goals, but is also someone who guaranteed international headlines and controversy. However, what the award has done is to perhaps commence the dialogue of what are truly universal human rights as rightly identified by the historian Timothy Garton Ash in an excellent article in the Guardian this past week. The problem is (as Garton Ash points out) that to many outside of the ‘western’ world universal are often equated as ‘western’ values. So what are universal human rights?

Well by in large most of us would agree with the fundamental human rights laid down by the UN’s universal declaration, many issues would need to be resolved before we see truly universal human rights. This is especially true where cultural and religious rights and freedoms conflict with political or individual ones; something which happens on a daily basis across the world. How many people are aware of the human rights abuses in the Seychelles for example where human rights are protected in law but not adhered to in practice? These are certainly not well publicised.

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You too may fit the profile
Mar 2010 04

Things have changed once again.  It used to be that you could get on a plane quite easily after your baggage was x-rayed for contraband – drugs, excessive cash etc.

However, the September 11th attacks ushered in a slew of aviation security changes which are now considered to be commonplace such as: metal detectors, pat downs and stricter check-in procedures to name a few. It seems unfathomable that knives were once allowed onto planes. The botched attack of the infamous shoe-bomber, Richard Reid, meant that some of us now have to accept being asked to take off our shoes for x-raying as part of the security measures. The 2006  transatlantic aviation attack plot led to hand luggage liquid bans/restrictions as well.

Things are different now. The attempted attack by the 23-year old Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, otherwise known as the “christmas or crotch bomber” on Detroit-bound Flight 253 has changed things once more. The latest slew of security measures in include full body x-rays, tighter immigration rules and behavioural profiling…
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Open letter from the Commissioner of Human Rights, Council Of Europe
Dec 2009 02

Europe today is not free from racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, anti-Gypsism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and other phobias directed against others.

Minorities are made targets of hate speech, violence and systematic discrimination, not least in the job market. Responsible politicians must take such negative tendencies more seriously. There is a need to analyse and address the very root causes of these human and political failures.

It appears that intolerance has spread during the economic crisis. During my travels, I have observed that extremist groups and parties have become more active and more threatening and have succeeded in recruiting supporters from amongst young, unemployed men.

Groups such as Roma, who are already marginalised, have been increasingly targeted and subjected to particularly violent attacks. The response from mainstream political parties and other majority representatives has often been meek and confused.

The impact of “globalisation” is seen as one explanation for these problems. Increased migration inside and between countries [read more..]

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