Across the globe, states are moving towards the right, albeit at different paces, but the direction doesn't alter. The bogey man is always held up as the need for tighter legislation. That bogey man could be, war on drugs, a clamp down on the violent criminal element, the big global bogey man at the moment, is the war on terrorism. This particular big bogey man has fringe aspects such as, undeserving refugees endangering our wonderful way of life, and that other one, "radicalising", these engender an atmosphere of fear and anger, which helps keep the populace in quiet acquiescence of the state's ever tightening grip, a grip that if unchallenged, will eventually strangle any semblance of civil rights we may still have.
Mexico and Costa Rica:The so-called Ley Mordaza, or Gag Law, imposes heavy fines for “administrative infractions” and maintains a registry of the citizens who commit those infractions.
Though the expansive legislation threatens a variety of uses of public space and legalises prohibited border control practices such as summary expulsions, it is its aggressive attack on the right of citizens to protest that has attracted the most attention from media and human rights organisations.
The legislation especially targets the types of protest and disobedience favoured by the indignados movement, such as unauthorised protests, blocking evictions or surrounding high institutions of the state.
It also affects trade union protest by essentially prohibiting picketing and any disruption of services. Maria José Saura of the leading CCOO trade union told Equal Times that “the Gag Law turns conflicts over labour into an issue of public order. With no room for unauthorised actions, what we’re left with is protest as a farce.”
The Gag Law also works in tandem with a new reform of Spain’s penal code, which classifies transgressive actions in public space as administrative sanctions, thus leaving them to the discretion of police officers through the application of fines on the spot.
President Peña Nieto of Mexico brags about his neoliberal policies to privatize public resources, cut social services, and force anti-union education “reforms.” His government has also been exposed for its ties to drug cartels and the killing and jailing of political activists. There’s a connection. Increasingly, Peña Nieto’s economic plans hinge on crushing all opposition — by effectively making protest illegal.
To the south, Costa Rica does the same. Both countries are part of an international campaign to repress dissidents. They are backed by the USA, which launches offensives to hound its own movement leaders.
Among the most militant opponents of this strategy is Heriberto Magariño Lopez, a leader of the teachers union in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He is also a national leader of the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS), which has been active in defending and uniting all those fighting the regime’s attacks.
In the wake of the deadly attacks in Paris earlier this month, France declared a state of emergency and implemented sweeping anti-terrorism measures.
When lawmakers extended that state of emergency (and its security provisions) for three months, some eyebrows arched over the potential cost to French civil liberties. In an interview with NPR, Jean-Pierre Dubois, the president of France’s Human Rights League, raised the issue of how French authorities could overreach into matters beyond terrorism.But when you come to the articles of the bill, it’s not at all terrorism. It’s everything about security and public order. That means the exceptional extension of the police powers and the exceptional restraints of civil liberties is not at all only for the purposes of fighting terrorism but for anything during three months. And we don’t understand that because it’s not really very fair to tell people it’s about terrorism and to extend so much the exceptional law field in a way.On Sunday, demonstrators gathering in Paris to protest the global climate conference learned firsthand about France’s new security measures when they encountered riot police with pepper spray and stun grenades. According to reports, the vast majority of the roughly 200 people arrested after clashing with security forces were held in detention.
Torture is not currently a crime under Italian law. The legal shortfall is blamed for the acquittal of the most serious charges against baton-wielding policemen involved in the night time raid on the Armando Diaz school in Genoa.
In 2012, 25 officers were found guilty of falsifying evidence concerning the raid, in which some 200 masked anti-riot police swooped down on sleeping activists, breaking bones, chasing those trying to flee and beating many senseless.
The police planted two Molotov cocktails in the building to justify the raid and repeatedly lied about what happened.
The more serious charges of grievous bodily harm and libel fell by the wayside because the statute of limitations expired, and none of the convicted served time behind bars.
In a number of recent front lines of popular protest, state capacities have been reconfigured to meet the challenge. In some instances, as in Greece, this has meant periods of emergency government. In Chicago, in Quebec and now in Spain, it has meant the expansion of anti-protest laws. The Spanish government’s punitive anti-protest draft laws are, critics say, an attack on democracy.
Another example emerged in 2011, when Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, requested that the city council pass “temporary” anti-protest measures in response to the planned protests around the Nato and G8 summits. By early 2012, the legislation had been made permanent. Later that same year, tumultuous uprising of students against increased tuition fees led to emergency legislation named Bill 78. With the support of the state’s employers, it imposed severe restrictions on the ability to protest. The “public safety” legislation proposed in Spain has an essentially similar basis. Demonstrating near parliament without permission will result in steep fines, while participation in “violent” protests can result in a minimum two-year jail sentence. In each case, the logic is to put a chill on protest. It is not just that it is a protest deterrent; it has a domesticating effect on such protests as do occur. To understand why this is happening, it is necessary to grasp the relationship between neoliberal austerity and popular democracy.