TIME Crime

Missouri National Guard Called Ferguson Protesters ‘Enemy Forces’

Police and Missouri National Guard attempt to control demonstrators protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Police and Missouri National Guard attempt to control demonstrators protesting the killing of teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 18, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

Internal documents bolster claims of military-style approach

The Missouri National Guard referred to protesters in Ferguson last summer as “enemy forces,” according to documents obtained by CNN, bolstering claims the police adopted military tactics to react to protests over the death of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

In August, the state’s National Guard was called into aid local police agencies who were attempting to control demonstrators protesting the death of Brown, a black unarmed teenager, by Darren Wilson, a white police officer.

The protests began as a demonstration against police use of force. But the response by law enforcement agencies, which mobilized armored vehicles and utilized tear gas and M4 rifles, spurred a national conversation over the militarization of police and prompted Congress to hold hearings over the flow of military gear to local police agencies.

The documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request appears to support those who claim authorities used a excessively military-style approach in its response.

“It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” Antonio French, a prominent alderman in St. Louis, told the network.

[CNN]

TIME Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolutionaries Are Slowly Coming Back to the Streets

A poster of an umbrella with the words "We'll be back" written underneath is pictured on a wall at the main "Occupy" protest site at Admiralty in Hong Kong
Bobby Yip—Reuters A poster of an umbrella with the words "We'll Be Back" written underneath is pictured on a wall at the main Occupy protest site at Admiralty in Hong Kong on Dec. 11, 2014

A small pro-democracy encampment has started to take shape ahead of a crucial vote on electoral reform

It has been 200 days since tens of thousands of Hong Kongers flooded the city’s streets demanding the right to freely elect their own leader, and 126 days since the police unceremoniously cleared the tent-filled villages after almost three months of occupation.

The movement for democracy has largely been relegated to online forums and abstract discussions, but that isn’t the only place it resides. The handful of tents that remained in front of the Central Government Offices even after the Dec. 16 clearance has steadily grown over the past three months. Currently, 146 fabric shelters line the sidewalks of Tim Mei Avenue, where the use of pepper spray and arrest of student protesters on Sept. 27 was the spark that set the movement ablaze. Some have spilled over onto the sidewalks of Harcourt Road, which the protesters knew as Umbrella Square. Some of the most endearing elements of the camp, like an organic garden and a study corner, have been re-created.

And while the fervor of lore has been replaced with a quiet resignation, the protesters that continue to call the foreground of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Complex home are determined to make their voices — however small — be heard. “The government right now is doing many shameful things, and we want to let all the Hong Kong people know that we are still here, we will not back off,” says Thomas Hung, 57, a businessman living in the camp.

Hong Kong has been governed under the “one country, two systems” principle since it was handed back to China by the U.K. in 1997, meaning that its citizens enjoy rights like a more open economy and greater freedom of speech than their mainland counterparts. But Beijing’s refusal to allow residents full control over electing the city’s top political post of chief executive by 2017 has caused a resentment that continues to simmer long after the clearance of the streets.

Hung says he and his fellow residents want to “keep the pressure” on the government and ensure the controversial reform handed down last August — effectively allowing the Chinese Communist Party to screen candidates for chief executive — is not passed. (Protesters see this caveat as reneging on an earlier promise; Beijing retorts that this freewheeling metropolis of 7 million already enjoys significant autonomy and lacks patriotism.)

The protesters’ target, says Hung, are the 27 pro-democracy members of the city’s parliamentary body, the Legislative Council, who support the street sit-ins and have vowed to oppose the government’s effort to deny its citizens full voting rights.

“Under that sort of restriction, any election method being created will not be acceptable because it will not give the voters a genuine choice,” Emily Lau, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party and a prominent voice in the opposition, tells TIME. “This time Beijing actually said there should be universal suffrage, and if they propose something that is not and we support it, that means we are aiding and abetting. We can’t do that.”

Nevertheless, pro-government legislator Regina Ip, who represents the New People’s Party, says she is “cautiously optimistic” that the resolution — expected to be put forth within a matter of days — will pass, especially after certain moderate legislators from the democratic camp have advocated an acceptance of the reform as the lesser of two evils. “If the motion doesn’t go through I think many people will be disappointed,” Ip says, adding that “a great majority of the public will want a chance to vote albeit under a limited nomination model.”

Lau insists that the dissenting lawmakers within her party are a minority, although she admitted that she cannot speak for other parties in the pan-democratic camp.

The protesters and pro-democracy lawmakers alike are opposed to the reform even though the only alternative being presented by the government is to retain the current political system, in which a largely unrepresentative 1,200-member election committee would choose the city’s chief executive. It also represents the strong possibility of the city’s extremely unpopular chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, could return for a second five-year term.

Leung also expressed his faith in Hong Kong’s desire to implement political reform and said on Tuesday that he was “confident” that the proposal would be passed in the legislature and supported by the people, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The government is almost using it as a threat,” said Michael Davis, a political commentator and law professor at the University of Hong Kong, of the prospect of Leung’s re-election. “It’s a very interesting way to declare your campaign.”

Underlying these tensions is a distinct chauvinism among Hong Kongers regarding mainland China and its people, which manifested itself in the so-called shopping protests in February and March. The protests involved hundreds of locals gathering at shopping malls near Hong Kong–China border areas, heckling and sometimes physically abusing visitors from the mainland whom they perceived as parallel traders — individuals who come in as tourists and buy essential supplies like baby formula and diapers in bulk to resell in China. The protests were condemned last week by Leung for allegedly causing a sudden dip in mainland-visitor numbers over the usually busy Easter break. According to local media, the chief executive said the protests had “seriously tarnished” Hong Kong’s image as a tourist destination, although he admitted that the government needs to formulate policies to limit parallel trading. Concrete steps to achieve that goal were instated on Monday, with the Chinese government announcing that citizens of neighboring Shenzhen would be forbidden from visiting Hong Kong more than once a week.

“When it comes to political development, [the government] made no effort to respond to the protesters. In this area [of shopping protesters], we do see more efforts to respond,” said Davis. “They may be feeling the heat on this more than they did over democratic development.”

The struggle for democracy, on the other hand, remains trickier to address. The protesters at the camp insist they have no plans to reignite the mass sit-ins. “We have no plan to do Occupy again because it didn’t work,” says Anthony Kwok, a 50-year-old branding professional who helps manage the camp’s well-stocked library. He adds that it is more important for citizens to be educated about what’s at stake so they can use their vote more effectively.

“If the government wants to clear this area it can easily do so, right now the maximum strength is about a hundred people,” Hung says.

But the potential for those hundreds to grow to thousands always exists, depending on what the government does next.

“I think there are a lot of incidents that can potentially trigger public dissatisfaction, and that will become an opportunity for the public to regalvanize,” says Eliza Lee, head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong. “The sentiments [of the Occupy protesters] were very strong, and I can’t imagine that kind of strong sentiment has extinguished altogether,” Lee adds. “Some kind of large-scale confrontation or contention between the society and the government is very likely to happen within this year.”

TIME Indiana

Indiana’s ‘No Gay Wedding’ Pizzeria Has Closed

"We’re in hiding basically," says co-owner Crystal O’Connor

An Indiana pizzeria remained closed on Wednesday, embroiled in a national debate after its owners said they would not cater gay weddings because of their religious beliefs.

“I don’t know if we will reopen, or if we can, if it’s safe to reopen,” co-owner Crystal O’Connor told TheBlaze TV. “We’re in hiding basically, staying in the house.”

The Walkerton, Ind., pizza parlor is the first business since Indiana passed the highly controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act to publicly cite religious beliefs as justification to refuse a service to the LGBT community.

The owners said they would serve anybody who came into the restaurant regardless of sexual orientation, but drew the line at weddings. “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no. We are a Christian establishment,” O’Connor told local news outlet WBND-TV Tuesday evening.

The comments sparked social-media uproar, and the company’s Yelp page has been flooded with angry comments. Someone went so far as to buy the domain name www.memoriespizza.com to post a message against discrimination.

At the same time, people who support the owners’ stance have started a GoFundMe campaign aiming to “relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith.” The campaign has raised nearly $50,000 so far.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is a law prohibiting the government from infringing on the religious beliefs of a business, organization or person. Critics of the bill say it can be used to justify discrimination against the LGBT community.

TIME Burma

Seventy Burmese Students, Activists Charged for Taking Part in ‘Illegal’ Rally

Burmese activist on March 21, 2015, at the bank of Innya Lake in Yangon, Burma.
Khin Maung Win—AP Burmese activist on March 21, 2015, at the bank of Innya Lake in Rangoon, Burma

They face up to six years in prison for protesting an education bill they saw as regressive

Dozens of protesting Burmese activists and students are facing jail time on charges of insulting civil servants and refusing to disperse at an illicit demonstration.

The 70 protesters face up to six years in jail after violence broke out during a march from Mandalay to Rangoon calling for educational reforms, reports the BBC.

Although it was technically illegal, authorities had let the rally pass until they reached the town of Letpadan. There, incensed by the presence of a police line, the group attempted to break through.

Scores of students were injured in the ensuing confrontation. In one photo, four police prepare to strike an unarmed, prone man with their batons.

The quasi-civilian government of Burma, officially now known as Myanmar, insists it is legitimately prosecuting participants in the mid-March protests. However, critics see the case as proof of the Southeast Asian nation’s lingering authoritarianism despite the much-lauded transition from junta rule.

“People’s expectations are high because we’re a country in transition, but you can’t fulfill everything in one term,” said Burmese President Thein Sein told the BBC.

More charges relating to the protests are expected in coming weeks.

[BBC]

TIME Egypt

An Egyptian Activist Shot by Police Died Because She Was ‘Very Thin,’ Official Claims

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed by police in January

A spokesman for Egypt’s Medical Forensics Authority claimed in a broadcast Saturday that an activist shot by police in January near Cairo’s Tahrir Square succumbed to her injuries because she was underweight.

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, 31, died from close-range bird-shot pellets in a senseless killing that shocked the world after photographs of her death appeared in international media. A police officer is to face manslaughter charges for her death, reports the New York Times.

According to the Times, medical official Hisham Abdel Hamid said, “She was very thin. She did not have any percentage of fat. So the small pellets penetrated very easily, and four or five out of all the pellets that penetrated her body — these four or five pellets were able to penetrate her heart and lungs, and these are the ones that caused her death.”

MORE: Egyptian Activist Shot and Killed During Peaceful Protest in Cairo

Hamid argued that a man marching next to al-Sabbagh, who was also struck by police fire, survived the shots because he had more body fat.

The theory has elicited skepticism from activist groups. “These sorts of ridiculous claims just add a thick layer of absurdity to the government’s endless record of killings and impunity,” said Human Rights Watch’s Sarah Leah Whitson.

[NYT]

TIME brazil

Watch Tens of Thousands Demand Brazil President Rousseff’s Impeachment

Protesters say the President knew about a huge graft scandal at the state oil company Petrobras

More than 1 million people took to the streets across Brazil on Sunday to demonstrate against President Dilma Rousseff.

Many were calling for her impeachment over a massive corruption scandal while she was head of the state oil company Petrobras, Agence France-Presse reports.

Rousseff, 67, also faces anger over rising inflation and a weak economy, especially among lower-income voters who traditionally back her Workers’ Party, locally known as PT.

The biggest demonstration was in São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, where some 500,000 people took to the streets, dressed in the yellow and green of the national flag. “Get out, Dilma; get out, PT!” they chanted. Rallies took place in 83 other towns and cities across the country, including the capital, Brasilia, where 40,000 people marched toward Congress.

Opposition parties backed the protests but didn’t go so far as to call for the President’s impeachment.

Petrobras officials allegedly accepted bribes totaling a whopping $3.8 billion in exchange for contracts for refineries, oil tankers and deep-sea platforms, with payments channeled to powerful politicians and political parties.

An investigation into dozens of prominent political figures is under way, but the President, who was chairwoman of the company’s board at the time, has not been directly implicated and denies any involvement.

After the protests, the government said it would introduce measures to fight corruption and impunity.

[AFP]

TIME Venezuela

Venezuela Is Slowly Coming Apart—and President Nicolas Maduro May Pay the Price

A boy with blood on his chest kneels in front of police after 14-year-old student Kluiver Roa died during a protest in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.
Carlos Eduardo Ramirez—Reuters A boy with blood on his chest kneels in front of police after 14-year-old student Kluiver Roa died during a protest in San Cristobal, Venezuela, Feb. 24, 2015.

Hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods have Venezuelans angry—and looking for new leadership

CARACAS – Amid the death of a 14-year-old boy killed by a policeman during anti-government unrest, the arrest of a key opposition mayor by armed government intelligence agents and talk of a coup plot against the government spearheaded by Washington, this last week also saw another another turn in Venezuela’s growing crisis. At DolarToday, a website little known outside of Venezuela that has become a key indicator of the country’s black market exchange rate, the bolívar local currency passed the psychological barrier of 200 per greenback. Four years ago, the dollar cost eight bolívares per dollar; five months ago it was 100; now it is already at 221 and counting. This rapid deterioration in the value of the local currency, 61% drop against the dollar over the last year, is one of the best indicators of just how much trouble Venezuela—and President Nicolas Maduro—is in.

While many in Venezuela have little direct engagement with the dollar—the country’s foreign exchange is strictly controlled—the currency crisis pervades everyday life. It means many doctors and engineers earn the equivalent of just a dollar a day and prefer instead to drive taxis or smuggle pasta or gas across the border to Colombia. It means that those who want to buy basic goods for their families must line up for hours every day due to shortages, and hoping all the time that shelves won’t be empty. It means that stealing is more valuable than working, fueling one of the world’s highest crime rates and the murder of one police officer nearly every day.

It means that people like Yormina Alguilera, a street cleaner earning the same as the minimum wage of doctor or engineer, are giving up. “We’re in crisis,” she said, taking a break from the sun at a fruit stall in the square at Caracas’ 23 de enero barrio, as murals of Che Guevara and Hugo Chávez loom over. Alguilera voted for Maduro and his predecessor Chávez, “but never again,” she said. “At least under Chávez I could get things. It’s a mess with Maduro and there’s no end in sight. Things are getting worse every day.”

Maduro, who was elected after the death of Chávez in 2013, is in serious trouble. His approval ratings are in the low twenties, according to Datanálisis, a respected local pollster. This time last year, the president faced down Venezuela’s biggest anti-government protests in more than a decade, and now they appear to be starting up again. In San Cristóbal, on the country’s border with Colombia and where unrest was sparked last February by similar though less severe economic problems, 14-year-old Kluiberth Roa was killed with a rubber bullet by police. That tragedy has only sparked further public anger.

Supermarket lines often run into the hundreds if not thousands due to shortages of the most basic goods, from shampoo to condoms. Inflation last year was near 70%. The economy, which has long been propped up by high crude prices, is crumbling as oil has tumbled over the last few months. (A barrel of Venezuela oil sells for half what it did a year ago; the country obtains 96% of foreign currency from oil.) Maduro has blamed this on an “economic war” being waged by the opposition with a hand from the United States, but many ordinary Venezuelans don’t believe that. “They talk about an economic war but we’re certainly not winning it,” said Aida Guedez Álvarez, a 61-year-old housewife buying a watermelon in 23 de enero. “I voted for Maduro but I’ve been deceived, like everybody else.”

Maduro’s government faces tough legislative elections later this year. “The government isn’t necessarily falling but it is weak and losing its leadership,” said Reinaldo Manrique, 24, an accounting student and student leader who was one of the very first detained for protesting in San Cristóbal, last year, sparking nationwide unrest. “But you know what? The leaders of the opposition are even more weak.”

Though former Chavistas are much angrier than they were a year ago, they do not see the opposition, led loosely by two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, as a viable alternative. “Of course I’d never vote for Capriles,” said Alguilera, the street cleaner. “I give up. No one will change things.” Rather than protest, students are talking of finishing their studies and leaving the country. Many who took to the streets last year have left. “I’m studying to become a primary teacher,” said Leonardo Díaz, 25, in Caracas’ Plaza Altamira, a bastion of protest. “But as soon as I graduate, I’ll leave. All my friends at university are the same.”

Capriles, who stood against both Chávez and Maduro in presidential elections, is the more moderate face of the opposition. He continues to govern the state of Miranda and at least on paper lead the opposition. The government has cracked down on its more hardline critics. Leopoldo López, a major opposition heavyweight, has remained behind bars for more than a year for his role in inciting last year’s protests. “The government is working in a barbaric way to steal from public funds, destroy the country, rob the country’s oil while it says it’s constructing a homeland!” López’s father, also called Leopoldo, told TIME. Antonio Ledezma, Caracas’ mayor, was arrested and charged earlier this month in a conspiracy to overthrow Maduro.

María Corina Machado, another more radical leader, was charged in December with involvement in a plot to assassinate Maduro. “With Maduro there is more persecution than ever,” she told TIME. Next on the government’s list appears to be Julio Borges, an opposition party coordinator. The government requested a probe into his alleged conspiracies against Maduro this week. “Every year there are elections but this is the first time the government is up with a political crisis of this magnitude,” Borges told TIME. “In Venezuela everyone is scared—including the government.”

Maduro has remained tough. “Every fascist has his day,” the president said on Ledezma’s arrest. And he still has some support. As he completed a crossword on a park bench in the wealthy La Castellana area of Caracas, Emilio Neumann backed the government’s stance. “Lopez and Ledezma are exactly where they deserve to be, behind bars,” said the 69-year-old public administrator. “After calling so many people to the streets and committing who knows how many murders.”

President Maduro must hope, if he is to see out the next couple of years, that he can persuade people like Neumann to stay on side. To do this he must turn the country’s economy around, though with three official exchange rates as well as a black market on the dollar — with a spread between the highest and lowest of them of some 3,400 per cent — it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Pragmatic moves such as consolidating those exchange rates or raising the price of gas, currently the world’s lowest at just a few cents per tank, are politically dangerous especially when Chavistas are turning away from Maduro.

TIME Greece

Violence Erupts in Greece Ahead of German Vote on Bailout

Minor clashes in Athens
ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU—EPA Riot policemen try to avoid a molotov cocktail during clashes after the end of an antigovernment protest called by leftist groups in Athens on Feb. 26, 2015

Protesters clashed with police, throwing stones and setting cars on fire

Violence broke out in Greece’s capital, Athens, on Thursday for the first time since the new government came to power a month ago, and one day before Germany is set to vote on whether to extend the European bailout of the debt-ridden country.

Around 50 of the 450 protesters that took to the streets on Friday clashed with riot police, throwing stones and petrol bombs and burning vehicles, the BBC reports.

The outrage is directed toward new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who came to power promising to end austerity measures imposed on the country because of its spiraling debt. Tsipras is now defending a four-month financial-aid extension on the condition of government reforms, causing dissent even within his own Syriza party.

Although the bailout extension has been approved by the euro zone’s Finance Ministers, it will only go into effect following votes from the parliaments of several European nations.

[BBC]

TIME On Our Radar

Turkish Photographer Wins Two Top Awards at World Press Photo

http://time.com/66907/execution-stopped-iran-balal/
Bulent Kilic—AFP/Getty Images A young girl is pictured after she was wounded during clashes between riot-police and protesters in Istanbul on March 12, 2014.

World Press Photo, the premiere photojournalism competition, has recognized Agence France-Presse Bulent Kilic as one of the best wire photographers of the year

Last year was a great one for Agence France-Presse photographer Bulent Kilic. For this work in 2014, he was named Wire Photographer of the Year by TIME and by The Guardian, he won First Place in the Pictures of the Year International competition, and has now bagged the first and third prizes in the Spot News Singles category at World Press Photo, the most prestigious photojournalism contest.

Kilic’s winning image was the moody and powerful portrait of a girl wounded during clashes between riot police and protestors in Istanbul in March 2014. Just days before he shot that image, Kilic had come back from two months of reporting in Ukraine. He had planned to take a few days off to rest. That’s when a 15-year-old Turkish boy, Berkin Elvan, who had been in a coma after being hit by a gas canister during street protests in June of 2013, died. “I felt that I needed to shoot this situation,” Kilic told TIME. “It was my responsibility, and I didn’t ask for any time off and just went to photograph the boy’s funeral.”

Those photos helped defined the 35-year-old photographer as one of the best wire photographers of 2014 – a distinction only made stronger in October when he captured, in a series of four photos, an airstrike on Islamic State militants on the Tilsehir hill in Syria near the Turkish border. One of these frames won Kilic Third Prize in the Spot News Singles category at this year’s World Press Photo.

“A lot of people ask me if it was easy to see these people killed in front of me. They ask me if I felt something,” Kilic told TIME. “It wasn’t easy. But this is war, and these people are also killing other people. Sometimes, you can’t really feel anything. Sometimes, you don’t want to talk about it.”

Read TIME LightBox’s interview with Bulent Kilic, TIME’s Wire Photographer of the Year 2014.

TIME Crime

Ferguson Authorities Look to Identify, Prosecute Looters

US-CRIME-POLICE-RACE-UNREST
Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images People walk past a collapsed building where protesters and looters rampaged businesses following the grand jury decision of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., on Nov. 25, 2014.

Law enforcement officials are combing through surveillance footage to identify looters

Investigators in Ferguson, Mo., are working to identify arsonists and looters in order to potentially bring charges against them. A trail of destruction was last in the city during protests over the killing of Michael Brown last year.

Police are searching for the people responsible for setting over two dozen fires in the wake of a grand jury’s decision in Nov. 2014 not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the death of the 18-year-old Brown. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the arson investigations.

The looting investigations are being handled by the St. Louis County Police Department. Police are watching surveillance videos, a spokesperson for the police department said. Law enforcement officials are taking screenshots every time they get a clear image of someone’s face. Five hundred images have been captured so far, but only about 10 individuals have been positively identified, the spokesperson said, and no arrests have been made yet. Police are distributing 250 screenshots to local media and posting them on social media in order to identify the looters.

Police will be releasing videos to the public every Tuesday to see if they can help identify any suspects. Right now, the spokesperson said, they’re focused on finding repeat offenders. If identified, some of the more egregious offenders could face prosecutions, although authorities specified that non-looters who were caught in mass-arrests would not face charges.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com