car culture

Anti-protest bills give motorists license to kill

A maddening account on CNN April 24 informs us of the "anti-protest" bills now pending in several states around the country, and contains this utterly harrowing line: "Under a bill in the Tennessee state legislature, drivers who injure protesters blocking traffic would be exempt from civil liability..." The escape clause is "so long as they were 'exercising due care.'" But the article describes an incident in Nashville earlier this year, in which Spencer DesAuteles, working as a volunteer to keep anti-Trump protestors safe from traffic, was thrown onto the hood of a car that drove through the intersection where he was standing. Miraculously, he was not hurt—and says he had the right of way when the motorist assualted him. DesAuteles blames the pending legislation. Perhaps too generously, he says: "The sponsor was very clear that the wording of the bill is not to say that it's OK to go and hit people with your car. But that's the way that people are reading it. The only way it's being read by the vast majority of people is: 'I can hurt protesters and get away with it.'" The bill's sponsor, Republican state Rep. Matthew Hill, did not respond to a request for comment.

'Car Intifada' comes to England?

Four are dead, including the attacker, and 20 injured after an SUV mowed down pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge, just outside the Houses of Parliament. Prime Minister Theresa May called it a "sick and depraved" terrorist attack, although nobody has claimed responsibility and the motive remains unknown. The bloody incident does come on the one-year anniversary of Brussels airport attack. So now we will once again be treated to endless debate about whether the perp was a "terrorist" or just an angry lone nut—a question which is pathologically politicized, and denies the possibility of the hybrid phenomenon: that is, an angry lone nut inspired by jihadism. And, of course, the critical factor of car culture will be overlooked in mainstream discourse.

Anti-terror 'security state' in Xinjiang

The Uighur people of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region are coming under unprecedented surveillance and militarization amid official fears of terrorism in the far-western territory. In the latest draconian measure, residents of one prefecture are being ordered to install a government-developed GPS tracking system in their vehicles. By June 30, all motorists in Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture must have the BeiDou navigation satellite system installed in their vehicles, under an order aimed at "ensur[ing] stability and social harmony." Gas stations will only be permitted to serve cars that have the system. Installation is free, but vehicle owners will be charged 90 yuan a year for the Internet fees.

Israeli soldier guilty of killing wounded Palestinian

An Israeli soldier who killed a wounded Palestinian in the West Bank city of Hebron last March was found guilty of manslaughter Jan. 4. The three-judge military panel in Tel Aviv ruled against Sgt Elor Azaria. Chief judge Col Maya Heller gave a lengthy verdict reading in which the court ruled that accounts of the incident that he had given were "unreliable and problematic." The panel rejected the defense's arguments. "We found there was no room to accept his arguments," the Chief judge said. "His motive for shooting was that he felt the terrorist deserved to die." Israeli politicians have called for Azaria to be pardoned and this case has caused division among the Israeli population.

Lima: indigenous squatter camp burns

A fire swept through the Cantagallo shanty-town, just across the Río Rímac from downtown Lima, on Nov. 4, leaving some 2,000 residents of the informal settlement facing an uncertain future. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and a child badly injured in the blaze, which authorities say started near a leather workshop that used flammable chemicals. The settlement was established by Shipibo-Konibo indigenous migrants from Ucayali in in Peruvian Amazon in 2001. Lima's conservative Mayor Luis Castañeda is proposing to relocate the community to the Barrios Altos area east of downtown. But community leaders say they will refuse to move, and intend to rebuild where they are.

Bogotá: controversy over urban clearance

Authorities in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, last week began demolishing a notorious district near the city center locally known as "the Bronx"—but seemingly no plans were made for the displaced residents. The "urban renewal project" was announced in May, following a series of drug raids on the district, which Mayor Enrique Peñalosa characterized an "independent republic of crime"—rife with gangs, prostitution and addiction. Peñalosa was personally on hand as the clearance commenced Aug. 10, and 66 dwelling demolished by heavy machinery. Since then, however, downtown merchants have been protesting that the evicted Bronx inhabitants have been camping on the streets of the central business district. Some 400 began camping in a drainage canal along downtown's 6th Street, but were forced to flee Aug. 17 when the canal was suddenly flooded by heavy rain. At least one woman was injured by a car as she fled the inundation. Colombia's rights ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo, criticized the lack of planning in the clearance operation. (ColPrensa, El Espectador, Aug. 18; Colombia.com, Aug. 17; UPI, Aug. 11; BBC News, Aug. 10; Miami Herald, May 31)

France extends state of emergency after Nice attack

French President Francois Hollande announced that he will extend the state of emergency for another three months in light of the Nice attack—just hours after saying he would lift it. Both Hollande's earlier Paris announcement that he would lift the emergency provisions and the Nice attack came amid official Bastille Day celebrations. Speaking to a crowd on the Champs-Elysées, Hollande said that the state of emergency—in place since November's Paris attacks— would not extend beyond July 26: "We can't prolong the state of emergency forever. That would make no sense, it would mean that we were no longer a republic with laws which can apply in all circumstances." The state of emergency was extended three times by parliament—most recently in an effort to to ensure security through the Euro-2016 soccer match.

Paris: police suppress climate protests

Several thousand gathered for the planned march on the eve of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP 21) that opened in Paris Nov. 30. But the march was banned under the State of Emergency declared following the Nov. 13 terror attacks. Defying the ban on public gatherings, some 10,000 Parisians and international activists joined hands to form a human chain along Boulevard Voltaire. When they later attempted to march on Place de la République, police deployed concussion grenades, tear-gas, pepper spray and baton charges. Some 150 who made it to Place de la République were detained for hours as police surrounded and sealed off the square. At least 174 were arrested. (Revolution News)

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