South African police break up anti-immigrant protests

Somali nationals argue with police during clashes in Pretoria, South Africa, February 24, 2017. REUTERS/ James Oatway

By TJ Strydom

PRETORIA (Reuters) – South African police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse rival marches by hundreds of protesters in Pretoria on Friday, after mobs looted stores this week believed to belong to immigrants.

Anti-immigrant violence has flared sporadically in South Africa against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from citizens and involvement in crime.

Armed police had formed a barrier between rival crowds of citizens and non-nationals marching in Pretoria, but both sides began shouting at one another and brandishing rocks and sticks, prompting police to disperse the angry mobs.

Shops were shuttered in Marabastad, an area of western Pretoria where many foreign nationals have their stores, and roads were blocked as the marchers gathered. Some of the foreigners carried rocks and sticks, saying they were ready to protect their stores.

One Somali shopowner, 37, said he feared for his life. “My shops get looted a few times a year,” he said.

The marches follow the looting this week of at least 20 small businesses believed to belong to Nigerian and Pakistani immigrants. Residents said they had attacked the shops because they were dens of prostitution and drug dealing. Some said they had lost jobs to the foreigners.

A 34-year old South African, who declined to be named, said a Zimbabwean took his job at a manufacturing plant because he was willing to work for less.

“The police must leave us alone so we can sort them out,” he said, pointing at a group of foreign shop owners.

Random acts of violence, looting and destruction of property had occurred, Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane said.

“Over 24-hour period, 156 have been arrested,” Phahlane told a news conference, and “those inciting violence will face prosecution.” It was unclear how many of those in custody were South Africans and how many foreigners.

President Jacob Zuma condemned acts of violence between citizens and non-nationals, his office said in a statement on Friday. Zuma appealed to citizens not to blame all crime on non-nationals.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday acknowledged violence had flared up against foreigners this year, adding that “unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa.”

In retaliation, Nigerian protesters vandalized the head office of South African mobile phone company MTN in Abuja on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Nigeria’s foreign ministry said it would summon South Africa’s envoy to raise its concerns over “xenophobic attacks” on Nigerians, other Africans and Pakistanis.

(Writing by James Macharia, editing by Larry King)

More anti-Trump rallies planned in U.S. cities

Day Without Immigrants protest

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A second consecutive day of protests against U.S. President Donald Trump’s month-old administration will unfold on Friday in cities across the country, with activists urging Americans to skip work and school in a show of dissent.

Strike4Democracy, one of the groups organizing what it calls the #F17 General Strike, said more than 100 public protests were expected. About 16,000 people responded to a Facebook page for a march at New York’s Washington Square Park on Friday.

“This is how we stop Trump and the entire corrupt political establishment before they destroy us and the planet we call home,” the F17 Facebook page said.

Protests also were planned in large and small cities across the country, including Chicago, New Orleans and Mason City, Iowa.

Strike4Democracy urged Americans to stay away from work if possible and take part in a community service. It suggested people refrain from making purchases and instead donate their lunch money to a worthy cause and contact congressional representatives about the strike.

Michelle Rodino-Colocino, an organizer for Strike4Democracy, told NBC News that after the idea of a “general strike” was floated online, it took off on its own, with dozens of organizers working independently to stage events.

The Strike4Democracy website said the protest was aimed at halting “the authoritarian assault on our fundamental, constitutional rights” and the victimization of women, Muslims, immigrants and others.

The planned actions follow the Day Without Immigrants nationwide protest on Thursday against Trump’s immigration policies. Businesses shut their doors, students skipped class and thousands of demonstrators gathered to highlight the importance of immigrants to the U.S. economy.

Trump, who took office last month, has signed an executive order temporarily banning entry to the United States by travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries and all refugees. Federal appeals court judges have temporarily blocked the travel ban.

Since his Jan. 20 inauguration, Trump has faced a steady stream of protests and marches, highlighted by a series of mass rallies that drew hundreds of thousands of people on the day after he was sworn in.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott)

Cars torched as Paris suburb seethes over alleged police violence

PARIS (Reuters) – Cars and rubbish-bins were set ablaze in a night of violence in a tense Paris suburb following allegations of police brutality in the arrest of a 22-year-old local man.

One policeman has been placed under formal investigation for suspected rape and three others for unnecessary violence on Feb. 2 during the arrest of the man in Aulnay-sous-Bois outside the French capital.

The area is one of several where riots erupted in 2005 after two youths who fled police died electrocuted in a power station where they took cover.

That incident sparked three weeks of rioting in which 10,000 cars and 300 buildings were set on fire, prompting then interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy to declare a state of emergency and drawing worldwide attention to the contrasts between Paris and the bleak suburbs that surround it.

In Aulnay, where the unemployment rate of 19 percent is near double the national average, petrol-bombs were thrown and police used tear gas in the overnight confrontation around, a suburb some 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) north-east of central Paris.

“This violence is incomprehensible,” Aulnay-sous-Bois mayor Bruno Beschizza said of the incidents.

One report on BFM TV spoke of police firing real bullets into the air to escape when surrounded by a group of angry locals at one point in the night of Monday. It spoke of 24 arrests.

Local police said in a statement the man arrested on Feb. 2, who was only identified by his first name, Theo, accused one of the policemen involved of inserting a baton in his anus.

A hospital examination had revealed wounds to his rectum, face and head, it said.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said an investigation would see to establish exactly what had happened, adding that: “Police officers must always behave in exemplary manner.”

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux, questioned in parliament, said the arrested man was now in hospital with serious injuries but called for calm in the area.

The area where the arrest and subsequent violence took place is a spot where thousands of low-cost, low-rent apartments were built at the end of the 1960s to house workers at a nearby Citroen car factory that hired a lot of its workforce from French former colonies in Africa.

The factory closed in 2013.

(Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Brian Love)

Eleven arrested during protest against conservative comedian at NYU

NYU sweatshirt

(Reuters) – Eleven people have been arrested outside New York University during a heated protest against a conservative comedian who gave a speech at the school, police said on Friday.

A group that organized the protest against Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes said he was known for using incendiary language, according to local media.

McInnes said on Twitter he had been sprayed with pepper spray, but “being called a Nazi burned way more.”

The protesters face charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief after they were taken into custody during a demonstration against McInnes, who made an appearance at the university late on Thursday, a New York City Police Department spokesman said.

Protesters scuffled with police officers and McInnes supporters outside the university’s student center in New York City, where he was invited to speak by NYU College Republicans, local media reported.

The arrests came a day after protesters smashed windows and set fires at University of California at Berkeley during a demonstration against the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly headed by presidential adviser Steve Bannon.

NYU College Republicans on Facebook described McInnes as a Canadian writer, actor and comedian who has appeared on Fox News and The Blaze.

“Our intention was not to advocate for McInnes’s views, in fact many of us differ with him when it comes to certain ideas,” the group said in a statement posted on social media. “The purpose of this event was to promote free speech and not to promote certain ideas.”

Student Tamara Fine said to an NBC affiliate: “I’m dumbfounded that NYU would invite somebody who is a hate speaker.”

McInnes’ speech was cut short when protesters rushed into the room where he was speaking and began interrupting him, NYU spokesman John Beckman told News 4 New York, a NBC affiliate reported.

Early on Friday, President Donald Trump appeared to weigh in on recent protests, tweeting: “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Eric Walsh in Washington; Editing by Ralph Boulton and Bernadette Baum)

Protesters force UC Berkeley to cancel far-right speaker’s speech

vandalized bankf of america at scene of "protest"

(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters at the University of California at Berkeley on Wednesday smashed windows, set fires and clashed with police as they forced a right-wing speaker to cancel his appearance at the liberal-leaning institution.

Two hours before far-right Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos was to give a speech at the student union, protesters tossed metal barricades and rocks through the building’s windows and set a light generator on fire near the entrance, footage from news outlets showed.

Police ordered protesters to disperse as the school put the campus on lockdown. Protesters also tossed bricks and fireworks at police in riot gear who fired rubber pellets back at the crowd, according to SFGate.com, a news outlet in San Francisco.

“We shut down the event. It was great. Mission accomplished,” a protester told CNN.

Some 150 “masked agitators” were responsible for the violence during the otherwise largely peaceful protest of about 1,500 people, the university said in a statement, noting that the school “is proud of its history and legacy as home of the Free Speech Movement” in the 1960s.

President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, previously headed Breitbart News and CNN reported that many of the protesters voiced opposition to the Republican president.

Many of Trump’s executive orders and proposed policies, including his suspension of the U.S. refugee program and temporary ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, have been met by largely peaceful protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people across the United States.

One protester at Berkeley held a sign that said “No Safe Space for Racists” while other protesters danced to hip hop music, footage from a Facebook Live feed showed.

Protesters later marched along streets near the campus where some smashed storefront windows and car windshields while clashing with police, the feed showed.

Yiannopoulos, whose account on Twitter was suspended last year after he was accused of participating in the online harassment of an African-American actress, criticized “the Left”, saying in a statement it was “absolutely terrified of free speech and will do literally anything to shut it down.”

He also said on Fox News that he was evacuated by police after protesters began throwing rocks and other objects at the building.

“Obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses,” he said. “They particularly don’t like me.”

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Sandra Maler and Nick Macfie)

Venezuela’s opposition revives push to end Maduro’s rule

Protesters in Venezuela hold sign that reads "Let us vote"

By Diego Oré and Anggy Polanco

CARACAS/SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) – Offering prized bags of flour to police and hurling empty medicine boxes on the floor, Venezuelan opposition protesters launched a new push on Monday to force President Nicolas Maduro from power and end 18 years of socialist rule.

Turnout for the opposition’s first rallies of 2017 was not massive, reflecting disillusionment over last year’s failure to bring about a referendum to recall the 54-year-old leader and successor to Hugo Chavez.

But those who did march in a string of rallies around the country turned creative in their complaints about the South American OPEC nation’s unprecedented economic crisis.

In the politically volatile western state of Tachira, long a hotbed of anti-Maduro sentiment, some demonstrators proffered flour – an increasingly scarce and expensive commodity during the nation’s three-year recession – to police, witnesses said.

In Caracas, where several thousand opposition supporters marched, some threw empty medicine cartons on the floor to symbolize shortages afflicting the health sector.

Security forces fired teargas in Tachira to stop protesters from reaching an office of the National Election Council, while in Caracas they used tear gas against people blocking a highway.

With many of Venezuela’s 30 million people skipping meals, unable to pay soaring prices for basic goods and facing long lines for scarce subsidized products, Maduro, who won a 2013 election to succeed Chavez, has become deeply unpopular.

Polls showed a majority of Venezuelans wanted a referendum last year which could have brought his rule to an early end and sparked a presidential vote. But compliant courts and election authorities thwarted the move, alleging fraud in signature collections.

“This government is scared of votes, and the election council is the instrument they use to avoid them,” said housewife Zoraida Castro, 46, during a march to the election council’s office in southern Ciudad Bolivar city.

The opposition Democratic Unity coalition is demanding dates for regional elections that are supposed to happen this year, and also urging Maduro to hold a new presidential ballot.

“It’s a day of struggle in Venezuela,” said coalition secretary general Jesus Torrealba, in Barquisimeto town to show solidarity with a Catholic archbishop whose residence was recently attacked after he criticized the government.

Maduro’s six-year term is due to end in early 2019.

Red-shirted government supporters, who accuse the opposition of seeking a coup with U.S. connivance, were also marching on Monday, a politically significant day for Venezuelans: the anniversary of the 1958 fall of dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez.

They gathered at the National Pantheon building to honor leftist guerrilla Fabricio Ojeda, who was murdered in 1966.

(Additional reporting by German Dam in Ciudad Bolivar, Anggy Polanco in San Cristobal; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and Paul Simao)

Arab Israeli and policeman killed in suspected car ramming attack in southern Israel

Arab Israelis clash with Israeli police

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Police in Israel said an Arab Israeli on Wednesday rammed his car into a group of policemen in the southern Negev region, killing one before being shot dead, though a rights activist who was present disputed it was an attack.

Police said the violence sparked a riot in the village of Umm al-Hiran, where an operation was underway to demolish Bedouin dwellings deemed by a court as having been built illegally on state-owned land.

Police spokeswoman Merav Lapidot said the suspect was a local teacher who “surged towards the forces intending to kill” and that riots erupted after he was shot.

But human rights activist Michal Haramati, who had come to Umm al-Hiran to observe the demolitions, said she witnessed the event and that the driver was not heading towards police when he was shot.

“Suddenly the car started to go down the hill, without control, absolutely,” she told Reuters in English. “The driver was obviously dead by the time that he lost control this way. That’s when he hit the cops.”

Most of Israel’s Bedouin, who predominate in the desert area that accounts for two-thirds of Israel’s territory, are nomadic tribes which have wandered across the Middle East from Biblical times. Arab citizens make up about 20 percent of Israel’s population of eight million, and 200,000 of them are Bedouin.

Bedouin leaders in Negev say Israel has long discriminated against their communities, denying them public funds and services. Half of Israeli Bedouin population live in towns and villages recognized as formal communities by the government. Others live rough, in tents and shacks on patches of desert.

Israeli forces have been particularly wary of car ramming attacks since a wave of Palestinian street assaults began in October 2015.

On Jan. 8, four Israeli soldiers were killed in Jerusalem by a Palestinian who drove his truck into them.

In all, 37 Israelis and two visiting Americans have been killed in the past 15 months, while at least 232 Palestinians have been killed in violence in Israel, the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the same period. Israel says that at least 158 of them were assailants while others died during clashes and protests.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Brazil to transfer gang leaders after prison massacre

Relatives of prisoners react near riot police at a checkpoint close to the prison where around 60 people were killed in a prison riot in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, Brazil

By Ueslei Marcelino

MANAUS, Brazil (Reuters) – The Brazilian government will relocate gang leaders to other federal penitentiaries after the country’s deadliest prison massacre in decades left 56 inmates dead in a scene of mutilated and burned bodies this week, officials said on Tuesday.

Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes said authorities would move quickly to identify and transfer the gang bosses out of the crowded jail in the remote jungle state of Amazonas where the riot occurred on Monday.

A local drug gang known as North Family, which controls the prison complex in the city of Manaus, attacked inmates from a rival criminal group that encroached on its turf, exchanging fire with police and taking a dozen prison guards hostage, officials said.

Machete-wielding gangs decapitated inmates and threw their bodies over a wall of the Anisio Jobim prison, which houses more than three times as many prisoners as it was built for in 1982.

The riot was the deadliest since the 1992 rebellion at the Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo state in which 111 inmates were killed.

Police hunted for more than 100 inmates who escaped from the prison during the riot, which lasted about 17 hours.

An escalating war for control of the lucrative drug trade between rival gangs has fueled more violence in recent months in Brazil’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons, home to an estimated 600,000 prisoners.

Amazonas state authorities will move dozens of inmates from other prisons to an abandoned jail in Manaus to protect them from rival gangs amid fear that Monday’s massacre could lead to retaliation.

Four inmates were found dead in another prison in the rural area of Manaus on Monday. State officials were not able to say whether there had been a riot there.

(Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Police clash with North Dakota pipeline protesters, arrest one

police surround north dakota pipeline protesters

By Chris Michaud

(Reuters) – Hundreds of protesters opposed to a North Dakota oil pipeline project they say threatens water resources and sacred tribal lands clashed with police who fired tear gas at the scene of a similar confrontation last month, officials said.

An estimated 400 protesters mounted the Backwater Bridge and attempted to force their way past police in what the Morton County Sheriff’s Department described as an “ongoing riot,” the latest in a series of demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

A media statement from the agency said one arrest had been made by 8:30 p.m. local time (0230 GMT Monday), about 2 1/2 hours after the incident began some 45 miles (30 miles) south of Bismark, the North Dakota capital.

The Backwater Bridge has been closed since late October, when activists clashed with police in riot gear and set two trucks on fire, prompting authorities to forcibly shut down a protesters encampment nearby.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Department said officers on the scene of the latest confrontation were “describing protesters’ actions as very aggressive.”

Demonstrators tried to start numerous fires as they attempted to outflank and “attack” law enforcement barricades, the sheriff’s statement said.

Police said they responded by firing volleys of tear gas at protesters in a bid to prevent them from crossing the bridge.

Activists at the scene reported on Twitter that police were also spraying protesters with water in sub-freezing temperatures and firing rubber bullets, injuring some in the crowd.

Police did not confirm the use of rubber bullets or water.

The clashes began after protesters removed a truck that had been on the bridge since Oct. 27, police said. The North Dakota Department of Transportation closed the Backwater Bridge due to damage from that incident.

The $3.7 billion Dakota Access project has been drawing steady opposition from Native American and environmental activists since the summer.

Completion of the pipeline, set to run 1,172 miles (1,185 km) from North Dakota to Illinois, was delayed in September so federal authorities could re-examine permits required by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Plans called for the pipeline to pass under Lake Oahe, a federally owned water source, and to skirt the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation by about half a mile. Most of the construction has otherwise been finished.

The Standing Rock tribe and environmental activists say the project would threaten water supplies and sacred Native American sites and ultimately contribute to climate change.

Supporters of the pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer Partners, said the project offers the fast and most direct route for bringing Bakken shale oil from North Dakota to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries and would be safer than transporting the oil by road or rail.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud in New York; Editing by Steve Gorman and Paul Tait)

U.S. protesters march against Trump presidency for fifth day

Protests on Las Vegas Strip

By Alexander Besant

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Demonstrators in major U.S. cities took to the streets on Sunday for a fifth straight day to protest President-elect Donald Trump, whose campaign manager said President Barack Obama and Democrat Hillary Clinton should do more to support a peaceful transition.

Following several nights of unrest, crowds of people marched in parks in New York City, San Francisco and Oakland, California, according to social media.

A few thousand joined a march at the south end of Manhattan’s Central Park, beginning at a Trump property on Columbus Circle and walking toward the real estate mogul’s skyscraper headquarters less than a mile (1.6 km) away.

They chanted: “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcomed here,” and held signs such as “White silence = violence” and “Don’t mourn, organize.”

One protester said demonstrators were reclaiming what the American flag he was holding stood for.

“The flag means freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal protection under the law and other values like diversity, respecting differences, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press,” said Daniel Hayman, 31, of Seattle, who was in New York for work. “We’re trying to reclaim the flag and push forward those values.”

Thousands in several cities have demonstrated since the results from Tuesday’s election showed Trump, a Republican, lost the popular tally but secured enough votes in the 538-member Electoral College to win the presidency, surprising the world.

Largely peaceful demonstrators in urban areas have said Trump threatens their civil and human rights. They have decried Trump’s often inflammatory campaign rhetoric about illegal immigrants, Muslims and women, as well as allegations, which he denies, that the former reality TV star sexually abused women.

Dozens have been arrested, including 71 in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday night, according to police, and a handful of police injured.

‘LET’S MAKE WAVES’

In San Francisco on Sunday, about 1,000 people marched through Golden Gate Park toward a beach where they chanted: “Let’s make waves.” They held signs such as “I resist racism” and “Down with the Trumps.”

Across the bay in Oakland, thousands of protesters joined a festival-like atmosphere, holding peace signs and blowing soap bubbles in the sunshine. Many had brought their children, aiming to hold hands around the 3.4-mile (5.5-km) circumference of Lake Merritt in a popular urban park.

Civil rights groups have monitored violence against U.S. minorities since Trump’s win, citing reports of attacks on women in Islamic head scarves, of racist graffiti and of bullying of immigrant children. They have called on Trump to denounce the attacks.

Trump said he was ‘so saddened’ to hear of instances of violence by some of his supporters against minorities, according to a transcript released on Sunday of an interview with the CBS program ’60 Minutes.’

‘THIS MAN IS OUR PRESIDENT’

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said on Fox News on Sunday that she was sure many of the protesters were paid professionals, although she offered no proof.

Suggesting a double standard, Conway said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that if Clinton had won the election and Trump supporters had protested, “people would be freaking out that his supporters were not accepting election results.”

“It’s time really for President Obama and Secretary Clinton to say to these protesters: ‘This man is our president,'” she said.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told CNN on Sunday that protests were protected by the First Amendment as long as they were peaceful.

Neither Obama nor Clinton has called for an end to the protests. Obama told Trump at the White House on Thursday that he was going to help Trump succeed, “because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”

Clinton told supporters at a New York hotel on Wednesday: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

Trump on Sunday attacked the New York Times for coverage he said was “very poor and highly inaccurate.”

“The @nytimes sent a letter to their subscribers apologizing for their BAD coverage of me. I wonder if it will change – doubt it?” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The newspaper published a letter in Sunday’s editions from publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Dean Baquet, not apologizing, but thanking readers for their loyalty and asking how news outlets underestimated Trump’s support.

The Times plans to “hold power to account, impartially and unflinchingly” during the Trump presidency, they wrote.

(Additional reporting by Alana Wise in Washington, Beck Diefenbach in San Francisco and Noah Berger in Oakland, Calif.; Writing by David Ingram; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney)