Yesterday – remember, remember? – was the fifth of November. Guy Fawkes Day.
This year the event wasn’t limited to Britain and the Commonwealth countries. It was worldwide. In an estimated 400 cities, people participated in the #MillionMaskMarch. I doubt that the objective of 1 million people was reached, but it sure produced some interesting images on Twitter. For your enjoyment, I made a small collection, plus footage from the demo’s in London and Washington by RT and ITN.
Washington DC (RT):
November 14, 2330 hrs.
‘Intifada’ is how the Portuguese news described the events in Lisbon today. Maybe it was a bit of an overstatement, we’ll have to see. In any case, nobody I spoke to ever witnessed something like this happening in Portugal…
A spectre is haunting Europe. For the first time ever, the proletarians of twenty countries joined together in a general strike. If anything, austerity measures are creating a sense of unity among the European peoples.
I’ve seen brief images from Greece, Italy, Spain and England. But today was too big to get a clear picture of everything. I will just tell you what happened here in Lisbon.
There were two feeder marches. One of the big unions and one of dockworkers, anarchists and social movements. Naturally I joined the latter.
It started off very small. A couple of hundred people gathered at Cais do Sodré near the harbour around one o’ clock. Once we got moving, the march had already swollen considerably. We had music, and we had firecrackers, courtesy of the anarchists. They could hear us coming from afar.
At the monumental Praça do Commercio an undercover police officer made a clumsy attempt to arrest one of the people throwing bombs. He almost got lynched by the mob. His colleagues in uniform stormed in to bring him to safety. The arrest was never made.
At Rossio we joined with the march of the unions. That was when the crowd really got big. Through the narrow streets we walked up to Bairro Alto, ‘high hood’. The firecrackers resounded frighteningly loud between the old buildings.
All the way, there was a clear distinction within the march between the unions at the front, and the movements at the back. At the top, we split. The red flags took the road, the black flags descended a small staircase to reunite at São Bento, the Portuguese parliament.
The building is on a hill, accessible through stairs, and surrounded by lawns. It was all fenced off with barriers. It’s an interesting sight, massive police protection of institutions against the rage of the people. It accentuates the ambiguity of the word ‘democracy’.
In front of the stairs, the union leaders staged their little piece of theatre, they were applauded by their members, and thankfully, they soon left.
But the people stayed. Something was about to happen. You could feel it from the beginning. For the moment, the drum band was drumming, the people were cheering. I was talking to a friend of mine. She said the crowd was actually pretty calm, too calm.
Before she even finished her phrase, it started. All along the line, people tore down the barriers. At the stairs, the front line moved up to face the police, but the crowd fell short of taking the stairs by storm. They could have succeeded, but the moment of hesitation was enough for police to organise and to form a line.
So the bombardment started. It was around four thirty. First came the paint bombs. When they were finished, there came the bottles. When those were finished, there came the stones.
Now, you have to know that the streets in Lisbon are made of typical small stones. They are easy to dig up and they are the perfect size for throwing. The anarchists pulled their scarfs over their faces and they had a ball. Behind them, the entire crowd backed them up. The line of police had orders to stand and resist. It went on for hours. Given the amount of ammunition at hand, it could have gone on for months.
At the start of the assault, there had been some small skirmishes at the stairs in which the anarchists conquered one of the officers’ shields. With spray paint, someone cancelled out the word ‘police’ and replaced it with grand capital letters spelling ‘PEOPLE’. The roar was awesome when they brandished their booty.
And the beat went on. The drummers accompanied the stoning. Another police shield was smashed, a lone molotov was thrown to the delight of the crowd. But after about an hour, some people were growing restless. To them it was of no use to go on. They wanted everyone to stop throwing, and charge. At that moment I witnessed the most amazing demonstration of courage by some unprotected citizens who defied the stones by taking the stairs. Two girls sat down on the steps with their hands folded in meditation. But the assault continued, and they finally had to retreat.
Among the people battering the shields of the police there was an adorable old man throwing pebbles. He was completely relaxed, and he had an excellent aim. With one stone after another he could hit the same police officer on his helmet. He didn’t care to hide his face, he was having the time of his life.
Around six, authorities had enough of it. Via megaphone it was announced that people had to disperse or police would charge. The answer came with firecrackers and an intensification of the bombardment.
So police charged. And after having resisted for so long, they were bloody pissed off. They clubbed people down like savages. I took the space that the first line had left open in their wake, shooting footage of the violence. It was not very smart, I should have counted with the second line coming down behind me. One of the bastards went for my camera, then he went for me, then he got assistance. So now I know what a billy club feels like. It makes you mad. Really really mad. In the heat of the moment, I managed to save my footage, to shout all kinds of bad things about these goons and their mothers, and to get the hell out of there in pretty good shape, all more or less at the same time.
Part of us regrouped in a narrow street. We built up barricades from big plastic containers full of trash, and they were set alight. When police advanced, we retreated and built more barricades. Within minutes there were piles of trash ablaze at every street corner. The stench was disgusting, but the sight was wonderful. There was a sense of liberation in the air. “It’s good this is happening. Things needed to be shook up here in Portugal”, someone said.
Meanwhile police were blocking streets left and right, and advancing. We descended towards the sea and the big avenues. At a certain point, police officers started shooting rubber bullets. That’s when most of the group dispersed.
We reunited again at Cais do Sodré, where the demo had started. Phones were ringing continuously, stories came in about police hunting isolated citizens in the alleys and beating them up. Then they came to the square, in full riot gear. They raided the bar where we had found refuge, they took away the usual suspects. One of them was the streamer from audiovisuals. He hadn’t been able to broadcast today, because they had already confiscated his equipment before it all went down. Now he was taken in for questioning. Unlike another person that was taken away from the bar, I haven’t seen him return.
“This is what democracy looks like”, one of my comrades commented.
By now the images have reached the far corners of Portugal. Tomorrow we will have to see what their influence will be on the Portuguese state of my mind. If it were for me, without a doubt, I’d be back at parliament.
Madrid. November 5, 2012.
Over twenty years ago, CNN brought us live war in the living room. And not just war, they brought every kind of live news, from all corners of the globe. Television had turned into a real time ‘window on the world’.
Back then, it was amazing. But to make it possible, CNN had to maintain an army of reporters, cameramen, editors and additional crew, working on different news desks in different countries. It was still Internet prehistory, and to lighten up the window with news was a very costly operation.
Now, November 2012, anyone, anywhere, can create CNN on his or her laptop. All you need is a decent Internet connection. The content won’t be provided by professional reporters or cameramen, but by the people themselves.
In occasion of Agora 99 we are launching ‘Occupy the Comms’, the ultimate toolkit for popular news reporting.
Occupy the Comms has been developed over the past five months by a dozen people in New York, California, Brussels, France, Madrid and elsewhere. The beta version has been online for a few weeks.
So what is Occupy the Comms?
In the first place, it’s a statement. The commons belong to everybody. You cannot occupy them. The only thing you can do is make them available, to all, as a means to cover the news and to spread it.
For the last decade and a half, step by step, Internet has offered people all the necessary tools to report on the news themselves. First came weblogs, then came photo and video sharing, then social networking greatly enhanced the quick exchange of information. The latest development has been live stream, the opportunity to broadcast video directly from your mobile phone.
Occupy the Comms is the next step in this evolution. It brings everything together. It allows everyone to participate in a horizontal way. And there’s no catch. Money is not an issue.
In short OtC works on three different levels. The first level is real time news, the second is editing, the third is all-round broadcasting.
The site is structured around groups. You create a group for a certain event. Automated bots can scan the Internet for all content related to that event, like live streams. The users watching those streams can collaborate by creating a pad that indexes what happens at what time and what additional information like photos, tweets and blog posts is available.
On the second level, contributors from around the world can use the primary information to create videos or articles that capture the event from any perspective in word and image. The site features a chat which enables online editors to work together on a project, to divide the tasks, and to minimise the time necessary to finish it.
On the third level, streams and edited content can be broadcast and mixed on specific channels like GlobalRevolution.TV, or any other channel you want to create yourself. Aside from those, they can be distributed through regular outlets like YouTube and Vimeo.
These are the basics. There are even more interesting features which make OtC a formidable weapon of 21st century news reporting.
For one, participation is completely anonymous, if desired. You don’t need a valid email to sign up. A fake one will do. You will not be asked to confirm. All communication is encrypted and will be automatically deleted after an hour. For two, a special application has been developed which anonymises the streamer. He or she will be known only by username. This will ensure the safety of people who are reporting from particularly repressive societies, where news casting is a dangerous activity. For three, the application features direct anonymous group chat from mobile phones. This will allow people not only to coordinate their coverage, but also to prepare and execute specific actions.
In many countries, journalists get threatened, molested or even killed every day, because their reports embarrass the powers that be. Through Occupy the Comms it’s no longer necessary for people to risk their lives to expose the truth.
The most powerful tool of contemporary media is live streaming. It’s still a very recent technology, we have only just started to understand the way it works and the limitless possibilities it creates. Technologically we are already able to live stream HD quality video, capable of matching professional broadcasting. The next step is to package it in a way that can rival any existing television station, and that can break the stranglehold of authorities and corporations on the dissemination of news.
Occupy the Comms creates the potential for popular media to compete with corporate media, and eventually to obliterate them. Corporate media can be made irrelevant by a joint popular effort in the same way that Wikipedia has made the Encyclopaedia Britannica and every other authority-based knowledge repository practically obsolete.
The reasons why this is possible are few and simple. First, we are omnipresent. At the moment there are almost a thousand streamers covering worldwide resistance. This number will keep growing fast. Streamers will invariably get to the scene before their professional colleagues will. Second, and most important, we have an immeasurable economic advantage. Because we don’t need to pay an army of journalists, we are completely cost effective. And third, we will be able to bring the news much quicker than any traditional news outlet. Streams will be live, and collaboratively edited videos or articles can be up in a matter of hours, sometimes even minutes. Once they go viral, we will reach millions of people, and we will ‘define the story’. No corporate medium will be able to manipulate the truth without being exposed almost instantaneously.
The Internet is reaching maturity. We are becoming aware of the full impact this will have, not just on the way we communicate, but also on the very structure of our society.
The nature of Internet calls for a society based on unity, equality and collaboration. It has already cancelled out borders, it has opened the doors to universal knowledge, and it is exposing corruption, manipulation, and oppression. In every sense it is causing a revolution.
Many of the features of OtC have been available for some time, thanks to websites like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Flickr etc. But all of these platforms have a fundamental flaw. They are hierarchical corporate entities. They will sell out data for profit. They will forcefully or voluntarily collaborate with authorities. They will extradite their users to any malevolent government in order to protect themselves, their shareholders, their revenues.
Occupy the Comms is not an organisation, it doesn’t have a board, it doesn’t serve any shareholders. It doesn’t respond to any authority. It’s a toolbox for people, and nothing else.
Obviously this is an enormous potential danger for anyone interested in maintaining the status quo. Powerful people may seek to destroy it. For this reason, most of the effort in developing OtC was spent on security.
The physical machine itself is invisible. It doesn’t have an IP address. It serves to run various virtual machines which host the content and the communications. There is a backup server in a safe country. Neither of the physical machines are located in the United States.
Instant torrents will be created for all the important content which is uploaded. In case of cyberattack, it can easily be mirrored on dozens of other sites. OtC is like a mythological creature. You can cut off its head, but then ten new heads will sprout up on the spot.
The communications part is not yet completely secure. Last month, Anonymous was asked to scan it for holes, and they found more than one. These issues are being addressed. They will be solved. Once they are, it will be extremely hard for even the most advanced intelligence agency to lay their hands on the communications. They would have to freeze the memory of the physical machine. And even if they did, they would have nothing more than a heap of encrypted data, which in general will not be linked to any personal identity, and which will only be related to the last hour of activity.
During the past few weeks I have had the privilege to witness the development of this ground breaking tool. The backbone of the project was created by comrade ‘Jack’, the man who started the Audiovisual commissions of Acampada Sol and Occupy Wall Street, and who continues to play a vital role in training people in the art of tactical media. He is a Russian-born mathematician who used to work as a Wall Street banker. In the 1990s he was among those who created the infamous collateralised debt obligations. “Dude, I was one of the people who built the bomb that blew up the economy.”
With Occupy the Comms, he has created a device that is potentially even more devastating.
OtC was built specifically for tactical media purposes, but its uses go far beyond the coverage of news. Collaborative art, science and entertainment projects are next. With all visual content generated around the world, and the evolving communications possibilities, you will soon be able to make feature length movies and documentaries on practically everything, at home, at zero cost.
Still, Occupy the Comms is very primitive. For the moment it even lacks an accessible, intuitive interface. But appearance is beside the point. Contrary to any institution, OtC doesn’t aim to last. People will create better technology to take its place in the years to come. What counts is that collaborative efforts can cover reality in all its dimensions. They can change our views, and in doing so they can change the world.
The tools to make it happen are already available. The revolution is already here. All you need to do, is plug in, and play the game.
Check out the OtC Manual
October 12, 2230 hrs.
Columbus day in Spain is known as the ‘Day of Spanishness’. It’s celebrated with a military parade over the boulevards near congress, and it’s the perfect thing to parody.
Thus, a peace parade was organised to celebrate the ‘Day of the Native Peoples’. It started with a popular lunch on the Opera square, with native food from the Americas, followed by a fancy dress party in all the colours of peace. Police were there, they moved to identify all participants.
I didn’t witness the parade, because there was another event at the same time which promised to be interesting. A concentration on the central square of Lavapiès to protest against the eviction of Casablanca social centre last month and to reclaim access to the Library and the Archive of the Acampada Sol stored there.
It wasn’t widely publicised. And there was a reason for that. Underground voices were saying it was a cover. The true motive of the call was to reoccupy the place.
And so it was. It became a perfectly orchestrated celebratory action. The peace parade served as a diversion. Police didn’t suspect a thing. We went marching there with a drum band playing happy revolutionary tunes. In the meantime, a commando squad had already entered the place. When we walked up to the building they stepped out on the balconies and to the crowd’s delight they launched a giant banner which rebaptised the place as Magerit Occupied Social Centre.
There were a few hundred people out on the street cheering. In a few minutes a police car arrives. After ten minutes there are three police vans with a couple of dozen riot police. People form a chain outside the building to protect it. They chant. “One eviction, another occupation!” became “One eviction, the same occupation!”. They keep on chanting. The crowd grows. Police don’t know what to do. Finally they leave and people stage a victory party.
When they evicted the Casablanca last month, it was without judicial consent, and as such, illegal. Maybe next time authorities will think first before they act.
Live news from the inside is that the library is all there. It used to be 4000 volumes during the acampada. Now it’s ten thousand. I have no news about the state and presence of the banners and artworks at the moment.
The bad news is another. Since a couple of days the Spanish government changed the penal code. In the face of current social unrest, they have raised penalties for resistance against authority. Inspired – maybe – by Obama’s NDAA, they have opened the doors for indefinite detention. And, most dangerous of all, it aims to criminalise internet activism.
Up to a year of prison for people who call for illegal demonstrations through social networks.
The time has come for all of us to put on a Guy Fawkes mask.
“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Check out the images. http://bambuser.com/v/3056971