To inaugurate our new “Weaving the Streets” blog, I’d like to take a trip down memory lane—back to 2003, to be exact. Shortly after the US war in Iraq began, I traveled to Spain to promote the Spanish-language edition of Collateral Language, a book I co-edited on the rhetoric used to justify the US response to the September 11 attacks. Traveling with my co-editor and another of the book’s contributors, I had the chance to speak with a number of local journalists and activists and also participate in one of the massive anti-war demonstrations in Madrid. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards were in the streets that day to say “No a la guerra! (No to the war!).”
One of the journalists we met, a freelance contributor to the mainstream El Paísnewspaper, was kind enough to take the three of us to visit a remarkable example of how people’s movements can make use of the urban landscape. During this visit we learned that young people in Madrid had taken over an abandoned printing warehouse in the Lavapies neighborhood in 2002, renaming it El Laboratorio 3 and turning it into a vibrant squatter community complete with public art and music space, a communal kitchen, and a fully-functioning media center. It was given the number “3” to indicate its role in a longer history of establishing similar community centers stretching back to 1997.
Given the tremendous lack of media coverage of the World Social Forum, held this year in Tunisia, I am reprinting the March 29 Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly. It deserves to be circulated and discussed widely, and something tells me we can't rely on CNN or even MSNBC (which likes to "lean forward" but not nearly far enough to reach the WSF) to do the job.
Declaration of the Social Movements Assembly – World Social Forum 2013 - 29 March 2013, Tunisia
As the Social Movements Assembly of the World Social Forum of Tunisia, 2013, we are gathered here to affirm the fundamental contribution of peoples of Maghreb-Mashrek (from North Africa to the Middle East), in the construction of human civilization. We affirm that decolonization for oppressed peoples remains for us, the social movements of the world, a challenge of the greatest importance.
The cable networks were certainly doing their thing last night. Between CNN’s desperate attempt to keep viewers in suspense about the outcome of the election to MSNBC’s absurd “Democracy Plaza” theatrics to Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News, there was plenty of infotainment available.
Eight years ago today, on December 22, 2003, two of my undergraduate students were denied entry into Israel at the southern border with Egypt. The reason, the helpful border guard told them, was that they were "friends with Arabs." He also told them that they would never be welcome again in Israel. The problem, in other words, was not that they wanted to go to Israel; the problem was that they wanted to go to Palestine. In the eight years since then, the experience of these two young Americans has proven, in its own small way, to be quite prophetic.
Spain's recent pro-democracy movement, 'Los Indignados' (the outraged), has attracted a lot of international attention because it is directed against both Left and Right, both culpable of ignoring their voters, pushing austerity measures which hit the poorest hardest, and doing nothing for unemployment which stand currently at around 20% nationally. And foreigners have begun to notice that #ItalianRevolution is trending on Twitter. But Italy has had a series of protest movements over the past few years -- e.g.