On January first, the president of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan ended what many considered to be an 8 billion dollar fuel subsidy program. Many people in Nigeria considered the subsidy their share of the oil wealth as well as one of the few effective welfare programs present in Nigeria. President Jonathan states that it is a good idea to end the fuel subsidies because Nigeria’s economy will benefit from the austerity measures. He has stated that some of the money saved would be transfered to infrastructure building which could eventually offset commuting costs.
quote:When subsidies on imports of motor fuel were scrapped on January 1, many citizens saw what they regard as their only welfare benefit disappear and the price of petrol more than doubled to 150 naira ($0.93) a liter.
By January second, people were gathering.
quote:Young activists have begun a series of protests against the withdrawal of gasoline subsidies announced by the Nigerian government on New Year’s day. Activists marched to the Eagles Square to hold a demonstration but were turned by back by fierce-looking soldiers and police teams.
The action of the police did not stop the groups from staging symbolic actions around the Eagle Square.
There are reports of sporadic protests in other cities around Nigeria as activists vow to shut down Nigeria over the increase in prices of gasoline prices they said is bound to make life more unbearable for a country where most of citizens live on less than $3 a day.
Within several days, the gatherings exploded into nationwide protests and union strikes demanding the reinstatement of the oil subsidies. Various reports of police firing on protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets abound.
On January 10th, thousands of protesters converged on the governors office in Kano.
quote:KANO (AFP) – At least five people were shot dead Monday during protests over an oil price hike while a nine-year boy was reportedly trampled to death by a crowd, officials and medical sources said.
Sixteen others suffered gunshot wounds, with most of the violence in the northern city of Kano, where police clashed with demonstrators.
The head of Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, said three people were shot dead in the economic capital Lagos while another was shot in Kano, where a boy also crushed to death in a stampede.
“My understanding is that the nine-year-old appears to have been trampled in what looks like a stampede in Kano,” he told AFP.
Earlier, a hospital source in Kano reported at least two dead — a 25-year-old and 27-year-old — from gunshot wounds, bringing the nationwide toll to up to six.
A union leader accused police of shooting dead a protester in Lagos. Police spokesman Samuel Jinadu confirmed the death and said an officer had been arrested.
Police fired tear gas and shot into the air as thousands of protesters converged on the governor’s office in Kano, the largest city in the north.
Trade unions stated yesterday that they will be shutting down Nigeria’s oil industry on Sunday if the subsidy is not reinstated. In response to both the strikes/protests as well as a surge in acts of violence linked to Boko Haram, President Jonathan has ordered the closing of Nigeria’s borders.
Over 25 people have been killed during protests.
quote:Since 9 January, tens of thousands of Nigerians throughout the country went on strike to protest against the removal of fuel subsidy and to demand good governance. The protests are generally peaceful, however in some instances violence has been reported.
In Kaduna, on 10 January a man was seriously injured after he was shot in his head by the police. The state government subsequently imposed a 24 hour curfew and the police have threatened to arrest anyone who would protest.
In Benin City, the capital of Edo State, according to unconfirmed reports three people were injured on 10 January after the police shot in the air. Some of the leaders of the protests in the state are currently in hiding and fear for their safety.
In Kano, on 9 January at least one person was killed and 22 people were injured when the police fired live ammunition at demonstrators in an attempt to disperse the crowd near the gates of Government House. Unconfirmed reports suggest another two persons may have been killed. The police issued no warning before using lethal force, but opened fire and used teargas simultaneously. At least one bystander who was not participating in the protest was shot and injured. According to eyewitnesses, the protesters were unarmed. Following the incident, the union in Kano state halted further public protests and asked people to strike by staying at home. The government has put in place a curfew from 6 pm till 8 am.
On 9 January, at least five people were shot; three were reportedly injured and two were killed in Lagos. The police announced the arrest of one police officer suspected to have fired at demonstrators.
Intentional use of lethal force against people in a public order situation violates the right to life as guaranteed by Nigeria’s Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
In January 2006, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said that the force order (referring to Force Order 237) provided “carte blanche to shoot and kill at will.” He recommended the amendment of the force order to meet with international standards. The government took no action.
Some pictures of the protests in Nigeria.
When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support.
Howard Zinn, A People’s History of The United States, “A Kind of Revolution”
This is really hitting home for me right now, after a 3 or 4 hour long discussion I had with my dad last night about Occupy Wall Street. It boiled down to us both agreeing that the system is broken, but he doesn’t understand where I think a solution could lie- he thinks the movement is about passing more laws, making more regulations, which he disagrees with (my dad and I pretty much completely disagree on fiscal issues), and which I see as wholly unproductive. And it ended in him and his friend telling me I should get into politics, which I’m VERY hesitant to do- not just because I’ve said enough on here about my dislike of the system that would come to bite me in the ass should I run, but because I don’t have faith that my getting involved will actually foment real change because the system was designed NOT to change, or at least not radically.
I’m still working my way through this book, which I read about a 1/3 or 1/2 of over the summer. This part, more than anything, is what has stuck with me so far, and this is what I was looking for this morning when having a conversation with a friend about our respective goals and hesitance to get into politics. There’s more in the chapter that explains this if you want to read it. Aside from the fact that I doubt either of us could handle all the manipulation and BS, the simple fact is that both of us doubt we’d be very powerful as politicians, and would be able to create more change if we put our efforts elsewhere.
If you’d like to read the book (and I would strongly encourage you to do so!), but you’re low on funds, the website History Is a Weapon has it all available for you to read for free.(via lostgrrrls)
Sister/Comrade Stephanie Gilmore, who spoke at SlutWalk Philadelphia, is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the ONLY anti-racist White Feminists who has PUBLICLY SUPPORTED the IDEA/PREMISE of SlutWalk while PUBLICLY CHALLENGING its CURRENT RACIST REALITY.
With her FULL PERMISSION, I have re-posted the text of her essay so that people who are not on facebook will be able to read it in its entirety.
“Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity” by Stephanie Gilmore
On September 21, 2011, I joined hundreds of my friends and millions of people around the world to watch, through tears and in abject horror, as Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the State of Georgia. In the twenty years between Davis’ trial for the murder of police officer Mark McPhail and his execution, Davis maintained his innocence while witnesses recanted the testimony that sent Davis to death row. Despite conflicting testimonies and inadequate evidence, the state put aside lingering and longstanding doubt and instead, put Troy Anthony Davis to death.
On Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets, I saw virtual and real friends declare that “I am Troy Davis.” They changed their profile pictures to a picture or image of Davis, or a black box, all in an attempt to articulate a sense of solidarity, a stand against the injustice of the prison industrial complex and a state thoroughly entrenched in the murder of a man who may not have committed the crime of murder. I agree wholeheartedly that the state was wrong in executing Mr. Davis and I grieve for his death as well as that of Officer McPhail. But in the weeks since Davis’s execution, I have been wondering if people really understand how and why Davis came to be murdered at the hands of the state. People insist that “I am Troy Davis,” but what does that mean?
In many ways, I am not Troy Davis. I am a middle-class, 40-something-year-old white woman. According to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report, one in 36 Hispanic adults is in prison in the United States. One in 15 Black adults is too, a statistic that includes one in 100 Black women and one in nine Black men, age 20-34. Although one of my parents spent time in prison, and through incarceration joined the swelling ranks of 2.3 million imprisoned people and many more in the system of probation, halfway houses, and parole, I and my white peers do not face systemic racial injustice in the structures of imprisonment. And it does not begin or end with the prison system. Black children are suspended and expelled from school at 3 times the rate of white children. Racial discrimination in funding for education also affects children’s success in school, as cash-poor school districts are also overwhelmingly Black and Latino neighborhoods. Schools have been and remain a pipeline to prison for many Black and Latino children, and generations of families, prison is a reality. One in 15 Black children currently has a parent in jail. People say that the system is broken, but I (along with others in the prison abolition movement) admit that the system is working exactly as it was set up to do. Can I really say, “I am Troy Davis” without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism in the prison industrial complex? Does that just become little more than the adoption of a slogan and a picture, without a real awareness of the racist realities of the prison industrial complex?
On August 6, 2011, I joined Slut Walk Philadelphia. It was a beautiful day and hundreds of people moved through Center City to end up at City Hall, where even more gathered to speak out against sexual violence. I had been following Slut Walks with great delight because I see the people power in the sheer numbers of women and men who are fighting back against sexual violence. So when I was asked to participate, and to stand with queer people of Color in a more racially inclusive Slut Walk than I had seen to date, I said “yes” because the fight to end sexual violence is my fight. And fighting against a culture that perpetuates and promotes rape; cheers on rapists; and diminishes, humiliates, and silences victims through law, education, and entertainment will demands knowledge that the system, again, is not broken. It is doing the very work it was constructed to do – sexual violence is a tool of ensuring white status quo. And if we are to end sexual violence, we must acknowledge how it operates.
I have struggled to accept a movement that does not acknowledge the very problematic word “slut” and how historically many women have not been able to shake the label of “slut.” I participated in the struggle – the movement as well as my own internal struggle – because I wanted to engage in, create, and sustain dialogue. Indeed, many criticize the apparent move to claim “slut” – how can you pick up something you’ve never been able to put down? Black women have been most vocal about the longer legacy of sexual violence done onto their bodies – often against the backdrop of slavery and colonialism — simply for being Black. But I continued to push into these bigger conversations and analyses. I listened and engaged when Crunk Feminist Collective challenged Slut Walks, when BlackWomen’s Blueprint issued their “Open Letter from Black Women to Slut Walk Organizers,” and when individual women of Color (and only women of Color) spoke publicly about racist actions within individual marches as well as racism within the larger movement. White women I know made private comments about different expressions of racism, but never spoke up to challenge individual actions or larger frameworks of analysis, leaving me to wonder “why?”
And then I saw the sign from Slut Walk NYC bearing the words “Women are the N*gger of the World.” I don’t care that the quotation is from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I don’t care that the woman was asked to take down the sign – although I certainly do care that a woman of Color had to ask her to do so while white women moved around her, seemingly oblivious. I am angry when I continue to see so many white women defending it expressly or remaining complicit in silence, suggesting that “we” (what “we”?) need to focus on sexual violence first, as if it is unrelated to racism. And I wonder, can I really claim to be a part of the nascent Slut Walk movement without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism within very publicly identified facets of it? Can I be a part of it when so many women – my very allies and sisters in antiracist struggle – are set apart from it, or worse, set in perpetual opposition to it?
My question is, how can we be in solidarity when we are not willing to be reflexive and to check ourselves, check each other, and be checked? Bernice Johnson Reagon acknowledged that coalition building is hard work, made even harder by people who come to coalition seeking to find a home. My sense, or perhaps one sense I have, is that many people came to the “I Am Troy Davis” momentum or the Slut Walk marches looking for a home, a place where they can sit back and feel comfortable in their hard (very hard!) work, and comforted by others who pat them on the head and tell them “good job.” This is not to dismiss genuine concern for the state of our world. Perhaps we’re all lonely, as the realities of social justice work have taken on different and palatable forms since WTO and 9/11. So many people are down for the immediate issue – the indefensible execution of Troy Davis, the indefensible perpetuation of sexual violence — and that matters. But I worry that many white people aren’t paying attention to the larger structures in place. They are not being reflexive about the realities of racism that undergird prison incarceration, death penalty, and sexual violence.
I am not Troy Davis; I never will be. A system built on the foundation of racism ensures that I will not confront the realities of prison incarceration in the same ways as Black and Latino people. I am a strong advocate against sexual violence, but I cannot fight in and for a movement that is not interested in the realities of racism and the ways that racism undergirds sexual violence, and instead so blindly employs racist language. (The “Occupy Wall Street” actions call for me again the realities of racism and its necessity within the existing structure of capitalism – and the insistence among white people that people of Color indulge a luxury of time and money to sit in with them is untenable and racist. Many others have pointed out that the language of “occupation” is inherently problematic because bodies and lands have been historically occupied, often through sexual violence and criminalization. The movement itself needs to be decolonized.) Even as I support openly the prison abolition movement, the end to sexual violence, and the uprooting of a socioeconomic system that ignores the 99%, I cannot do so without deep awareness of racism that is operating within and among these movements. It is my work as a white activist to speak to and be aware of these legacies and histories of racism. Women and men of Color need not be alone in the front lines of identifying racist action and reaction within the movement. Insisting that people of Color have a voice only when it comes to identifying racism perpetuates, rather than alleviates racism. As I look at the actions of some people within these movements, I am reminded again that the racism of the supposed left is even more damaging and hurtful than the naked racism of the right.
If we are to work together in solidarity, we must do so reflexively, conscious of our actions and the potential outcomes before we act. This is not a call to focus on criticism and self-reflection to the point that we are inactive. That is unproductive, to be sure. But it is a call to be mindful and vigilant about racist action and reaction, to come to terms with the fact that we must do the work of understanding racist underpinnings of prison incarceration, the death penalty, and sexual violence if we are to make significant progress. Undoing racism must be at the core of our collective work across movements. To echo Dr. Reagon’s statement, we need to be honest and ask if we really want people of Color or if we’re just looking for ourselves with a little color to it. So much of the movement work, as it stands, seems to be looking for a little color, when we need to be exploring the realities of racism as part of the problem, not an additive to the “real” issue. In the absence of reflexivity about the structural forces that are keeping us apart, we will never be able to engage in real coalition work that will be required if we are to take seriously our goals of ending sexual violence and the death penalty. These movements as they are going now may continue, but they will not do so in my name and certainly not without my consent.
So no, I am not Troy Davis. I am not a slut. I am not an occupier of Wall Street or any street. The fights are my fights, but the current methods and analyses are not mine. I cannot sit by and listen to people debate the efficacy of the death penalty without understanding that it is the larger complex of incarceration and the “elementary-to-penitentiary” path that tracks and traps Black and Latino youth by design. I am done with the handwringing and “white lady tears” of so many white women who keep defending racist approaches and actions and, at times, respond with violence when confronted and challenged. Such behavior only reinforces the fact that these movement spaces as they are currently defined are not safe. My friend, colleague, and sister-in-spirit Aishah Shahidah Simmons said it best when she commented, “It’s sobering to observe how White solidarity is taking precedence over principled responses…. ” Sobering, indeed. I will most assuredly fight to end the prison industrial complex, sexual violence, and unbridled capitalism, but I will do so from a space that centers the racist roots of incarceration, criminal “justice,” capitalism, and sexual violence. Thankfully, those spaces already exist – even if they remain peripheral in the mainstream media (and in much of what is left of the lefty media). But it is time to pivot the center. Without reflexive analysis of racism and coalition work grounded in antiracist movement, we miss the real root of the problem as well as real opportunities to create change.
Stephanie Gilmore is a feminist activist and assistant professor of the women’s and gender studies department at Dickinson College. For the 2011-12 academic year, she is a postdoctoral fellow in women’s studies at Duke University. She is completing “Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America” (Routledge, 2012) and has started a new research project on how students negotiate sexual violence on residential college campuses in the United States.